With its focus on the small things, Sam Steiner’s play You Stupid Darkness! is a delicate but delicious thing at the Southwark Playhouse
“I’ll go and get a Jaffa Cake”
The world outside is going to shit and all you can rely on is the kind word of a gentle soul, if any still exist. So far so 2020, but this is also the set-up of Sam Steiner’s warmly inclusive You Stupid Darkness!, a Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth production seen on the south coast last year and now making its bow at the Southwark Playhouse.
Something apocalyptic has happened, society seems to be on the edge of collapsing and the shops are beginning to run out of doughnuts. Despite this catastrophic breakdown, volunteers still come once a week to answer the phones at Brightline, listening patiently to outpourings of woe from strangers, offering the hope of connection – a hope they come to rely on just as much. Continue reading “Review: You Stupid Darkness!, Southwark Playhouse”
The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”
I end up liking, rather than loving Spitlip’s Operation Mincemeat at the Southwark Playhouse
“Step to the left
Jump to the far-right”
I’m very much the Johnny-come-lately to Spitlip’s Operation Mincemeat, revived here at the Southwark Playhouse after a run at the New Diorama last year which saw them slowly build up a head of steam that has resulted in award-winning success. I had my opinion swayed by a couple of people who didn’t enjoy it but with their return, I decided to go along and make up my own mind.
In a nutshell, I thought it was good, excellent in places, but quite a bit too long. Based on a real-life secret mission from WWII, it plays fast and loose with the conventions of musical theatre to create something that defies genre. From song to song we move through a wide range of MT references – a bit of Hamilton here, The Producers there, and it all sounds great – there’s just a lot of it and its focus isn’t always the sharpest. Continue reading “Quick Review: Operation Mincemeat, Southwark Playhouse”
I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”
2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it.
3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.
4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.
5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving.
6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.
7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.
8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.
9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.
10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling!
Shows 11-25 under the cut
The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway
As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island.
Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!
Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.
Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels
Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre
Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre
Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices, Islander is another success for British musicals at the Southwark Playhouse
“What would they have to say to us?”
Ever with my finger on the pulse, I made it to the final performance of Edinburgh hit musical Islander at the Southwark Playhouse. Conceived and directed by Amy Draper, with music and lyrics by Finn Anderson and book by Stewart Melton, it’s an inventive take on Scottish folklore that revels and rejoices in the power of both storytelling and music.
Kirsty Findlay and Bethany Tennick are hypnotically engaging as they open the show singing unaccompanied at first, and then layering in harmonies, counter-melodies, percussion and sound effects through electronic looping and not an instrument to be seen. It’s a truly magical way of constructing a soundscape that is both arresting and affecting (and technologically so intriguing, I could have gone again just to watch how their computer panel worked!) Continue reading “Review: Islander, Southwark Playhouse”
An extraordinary piece of boundary-pushing musical theatre, Preludes is a special delight at the Southwark Playhouse
“Dangling on the melting edge of sleep”
You’d think there would come a point where it barely seems worth mentioning that musical theatre is a genre which contains multitudes, yet the stereotypical image of jazz hands prevails, people so easily writing off ever seeing any musical. I’m not saying that Dave Malloy’s Preludes would be the first choice to try and convince them otherwise, but it would certain shatter their preconceptions.
Malloy’s study of a crucial period in the life of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov is startlingly imaginative. Using the hypnotherapy sessions Rach endured in real life, Malloy delves into the realm of all their possibilities, to explore the demons that plague him, the complexity of his creative process, the society that trammels him, endlessly slipping between past and present, fantasy and reality. Continue reading “Review: Preludes, Southwark Playhouse”
A sensationally good new British musical that I couldn’t recommend more. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at the Southwark Playhouse is something special
“It’s only a matter of time”
Jethro Compton has made me cry before. At the Southwark Playhouse too no less, albeit in its former location, as a young JM Barrie in a truly imaginative staging of The Boy James. This time though, he’s wearing the multiple hats of book-writer, co-lyricist and director of this adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald short story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And reader, I bawled!
Some of those tears were of joy, at the unexpected discovery of a sensationally good new British musical. With the story’s relocation to Cornwall, Darren Clarke’s (composer, co-lyricist and musical director) score leans heavily into folk song and shanty rhythms to glorious effect. These are songs that feel like they have always existed, elevated by powerful dynamic changes and harmonies to live a life in reverse for. Continue reading “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse”
I gif my way through the good times of Fats Waller tribute show Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Southwark Playhouse
“Give em what they want, and when they want it, without a single word to say”
Ain’t Misbehavin’ sees the directorial debut of Tyrone Huntley
And the theatrical choreography debut of Strictly queen-in-the-making Oti Mabuse.