2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

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”

Review: Islander, Southwark Playhouse

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”

Review: Preludes, 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”

Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 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”

Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’, 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.


Continue reading “Review: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Wasted, Southwark Playhouse

“Fuck off! I’m writing Jane Eyre.”

Mad short of time this week so I’m just firing this up to say don’t miss the final few performances of Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Wasted is booking at the Southwark Playhouse until 6th October

Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse

I have a gay old time with warm-hearted new musical Unexpected Joy at the Southwark Playhouse

“I wanna show you what a woman can do”

One way to assess whether we’re getting closer to true equality when it comes to telling LGBT+ stories is when we can safely say that there’s a diversity in those stories. I can fully appreciate why some might feel frustrated at the simple primary colours of this coming-out story, of its (relatively) uncomplicated emotion but at the same time, isn’t it great to see a lesbian take on a mainstream rom-com trope, aimed at the silver pound to boot.

The Joy of Unexpected Joy is a baby-boomer era who is marking the one year anniversary of the death of Jump, her creative and life partner. And as she prepares for a concert celebrating his music, she invites her estranged tele-evangelist daughter and grand-daughter to share in the moment. And also to break the news that she is getting married, to a woman – that’s the unexpected bit, testing the familial bonds between these three generations of women.  Continue reading “Review: Unexpected Joy, Southwark Playhouse”

Casting news aplenty!

I round up some of the recent casting news, including Queen Margaret at the Royal Exchange, Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse, Measure for Measure at the Donmar and The Woods at the Royal Court.

Shakespeare wrote more lines for Queen Margaret than he did for King Lear yet we know very little of her. Jeanie O’Hare re-acquaints us with one of Shakespeare’s major but rarely performed characters in her new play Queen Margaret. In a production that draws on original language from Shakespeare, director Elizabeth Freestone and Jade Anouka as Margaret, retell an iconic moment in British History through the eyes of the extraordinary Margaret of Anjou. This captivating exploration of The Wars of the Roses seen through the eyes of this astonishing, dangerous and thrilling woman opens the Royal Exchange’s Autumn Winter 2018/19 Season.

Anouka is joined by Islam Bouakkaz (Prince Edward/Rutland), Lorraine Bruce (York), Samuel Edward-Cook (Suffolk/Clifford), Dexter Flanders (Edward IV), Helena Lymbery (Hume), Lucy Mangan (Joan of Arc), Roger Morlidge (Gloucester), Kwami Odoom (Somerset/Richard), Bridgitta Roy (Warwick) and Max Runham (Henry VI). Continue reading “Casting news aplenty!”

Review: For King and Country, Southwark Playhouse

For King and Country at the Southwark Playhouse proves an ineffective revival in this centenary year of  WWI’s end

“It’s a bit amateur to plead for justice”

Belatedly, I found out that this play hasn’t been performed in London for 30-odd years and in this case, it is tempting to say you can see why. The intent behind John Wilson’s 1963 play For King and Country is certainly honorable, a courtroom drama about a WWI soldier who deserted his post. And Dilated Theatre’s production at the Southwark Playhouse has merit, the idea that it might serve as an investigation into the issues that we now label as PTSD.

But a contemporary lens reflects harshly on the play, particularly through the prism of the writer’s decade. Watching his interpretation of what happened with our current knowledge of war’s psychological impact doesn’t feel like the most effective tribute to our armed forces as we commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. My mind constantly wondered why we weren’t hearing either a) a fresh new piece of writing or b) something more historically direct. Continue reading “Review: For King and Country, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse

Get your roller-skates on and over to the Southwark Playhouse for a croking revival of Kander & Ebb’s The Rink with a stonkingly good Caroline O’Connor

“Noisy boys, long and lean.
Giggles of girls in the mezzanine”

All sorts of thoughts pass through your mind as you watch The Rink, at least they do if you’re me. Wouldn’t Gemma Sutton be perfect casting in the lead of the inevitable Lindsay Lohan: The Musical; does Jason Winter have the longest legs in musical theatre; does Caroline O’Connor have any trace of a Lancashire accent at all; didn’t Kander and Ebb write fricking fantastic songs for women; and does an ability to roller-skate in a musical make you a quadruple threat?

That’s not to say I was distracted whilst sweltering in the Southwark Playhouse during this preview on Saturday, but rather that my mind was entirely stimulated (not least when Winter does some kind of windmill move on the floor…😃). The Rink is one of those musicals that history hasn’t treated too kindly, despite a premiere that starred Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli but with Adam Lenson’s expert hand at the tiller, this is a revival to treasure. Continue reading “Review: The Rink, Southwark Playhouse”