Review: The Antipodes, National Theatre

Annie Baker returns to the National Theatre with The Antipodes – she does not change my mind about her

“We don’t feel like we have to self-censor and we can all just sit around telling stories. Because that’s where the good stuff comes from”

I’ve tried with Annie Baker, I really have. And Circle Mirror Transformation did it for me, both times. But the plaudits rained on The Flick and John baffled me as both left me extremely cold and her latest play to premiere in the UK, 2017’s The Antipodes, is very much in that latter mould, creeping naturalism that seems to defy the laws of time themselves.

Insomuch as a Baker play is about anything, The Antipodes is about storytelling, kind of. A group of people sit in a conference room telling stories and pulling them apart, looking for inspiration but for what, we never really know. And as any kind of leadership offers by the chairman-ish Sandy fades away, something apocalyptically dark looms outside. Continue reading “Review: The Antipodes, National Theatre”

News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years.  Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”

The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced

The clocks have gone back and so it’s time to start reflecting on the year gone by. And first out of the gate in terms of the major theatre awards, the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards have released their shortlist. Winners to be announced on Sunday 18th November at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

The expansion to five nominees feels like a good thing, making the lists feel a little less random, but I remain piqued at the differentiation between best actor/actress in a play and best musical performance, not least since it means no-one from Hamilton or Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is up for an individual nod, and Patti LuPone and Jonny Bailey end up robbed!

But that’s the joy of these things, they’re entirely subjective even when your panel consists of Henry Hitchings, Baz Bamigboye, Mark Lawson, Sarah Crompton and Matt Wolf. And I’m liking the love for Nine Night and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, wondering whether I should have made the effort to see Translations, and pondering whether I should be re-booking for Caroline or Change

EVENING STANDARD THEATRE AWARDS 2018 – SHORTLIST

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
Bryan Cranston Network, National Theatre (Lyttelton)
Ralph Fiennes Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Ian McKellen King Lear, Minerva Chichester & Duke of York’s
Colin Morgan Translations, National Theatre (Olivier)
Kyle Soller The Inheritance, Young Vic & Noël Coward Theatre

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Laura Linney My Name Is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre
Carey Mulligan Girls and Boys, Royal Court
Cecilia Noble Nine Night, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Sophie Okonedo Antony and Cleopatra, National Theatre (Olivier)
Lia Williams The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse Continue reading “The 2018 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced”

News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference

All sorts of goodies were announced today for the upcoming slate of productions at the National Theatre, including Small Island, Peter Gynt, and Top Girls 

Olivier Theatre

Small Island, a new play adapted by Helen Edmundson from Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize-winning bestselling novel, will open in the Olivier Theatre in May. Directed by Rufus Norris, the play journeys from Jamaica to Britain through the Second World War to 1948, the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Small Island follows the intricately connected stories of Hortense, newly arrived in London, landlady Queenie and servicemen Gilbert and Bernard. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as, with epic sweep, the play uncovers the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Small Island will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide as part of NT Live. Continue reading “News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference”

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Home

Director Bijan Sheibani works wonders on Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester

“Slow down and start noticing everyone around you”

A cheeky trip up north for this criminally short run of Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation at Home in Manchester, for a top-notch cast and a director – Bijan Sheibani – who when on form, is one of the country’s best. And here he really is at home in the unfussy naturalism and quiet intimacy of this deceptively striking play.

My abiding memory of the Royal Court’s 2013 production is not the amazing cast it also assembled – Staunton, Woolgar, Jones… – is that it was absolutely hotter than sin in the Rose Lipman Building where it was hosted. It was also a time when I didn’t really know who Annie Baker was. Or rather, a time before the hype around her wasn’t quite so overwhelming. Continue reading “Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Home”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2016: the winners in full

 

Even without trying, I end up being contrary! The Critics’ Circle Awards have announced their winners for 2016 and as I cast my eyes down the list, I was amused to see that their best new play and best musical were shows that I did not hugely enjoy (The Flick and Groundhog Day) and their best actor pick – Stephen Dillane – was another that did not register with me at all.
After that, things chime a little better with me, with Billie Piper’s excoriating work in Yerma, which is returning this summer, and Glenda Jackson’s extraordinary Lear (whatever you thought of the production, her production was a stonking return to the stage) both being recognised. And deservedly, the creatives behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child gain just as much recognition, if not more, as its cast. Lovely to see Charlene James getting a nod too for  Cuttin’ It as most promising playwright.
 
Best new play:

The Flick by Annie Baker
 
Best musical [new or revival]: 
Groundhog Day

Best actor: 
Stephen Dillane in Faith Healer

Best actress:
Billie Piper in Yerma
 
Best Shakespearean performance:
Glenda Jackson in King Lear
 
Best director:
John Tiffany for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Best designer:
Christine Jones for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Most promising playwright:
Charlene James for Cuttin’ It

Most promising newcomer: 
Anthony Boyle in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

 

 

Anthony Boyle & John Tiffany (c) Peter Jones

 

Anthony Pins, Billie Piper, Stephen Dillane, Paul Taiano (c) Peter Jones

 

Tim Firth & Joanna Riding (c) Peter Jones

 

 

2016 BroadwayWorld UK Awards – Winners’ list

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Michael Xavier – Sunset Boulevard – London Coliseum

Best Actor in a New Production of a Play
Ian McKellen – No Man’s Land – Wyndham’s Theatre

Best Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Carrie Hope Fletcher – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – UK Tour

Best Actress in a New Production of a Play
Billie Piper – Yerma – Young Vic

Best Choreography of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Polly Bennett – People, Places and Things – Wyndham’s Theatre

Best Costume Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Gregg Barnes – Aladdin – Prince Edward Theatre

Best Direction of a New Production of a Musical
Matthew Warchus – Groundhog Day – Old Vic

Best Direction of a New Production of a Play
Adam Penford – The Boys in the Band – Park Theatre

Best Lighting Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Hugh Vanstone – Groundhog Day – Old Vic

Best Long-running West End Show
Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre

Best Long-running West End Show Performer (Female)
Katy Secombe – Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre

Best Long-running West End Show Performer (Male)
Craige Els – Matilda the Musical – Cambridge Theatre

Best New London Fringe Production
I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road – Jermyn Street Theatre

Best New Play
Annie Baker – The Flick – National Theatre

Best New Production of a Musical
In the Heights – King’s Cross Theatre

Best New Regional Production
Half a Sixpence – Chichester Festival Theatre

Best Revival of a Musical
Show Boat – New London Theatre

Best Revival of a Play
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Shakespeare’s Globe

Best Set Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Rob Howell – Groundhog Day – Old Vic

Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Musical
David Bedella – In the Heights – King’s Cross Theatre

Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Play
Tom Burke – The Deep Blue Sea – National Theatre

Best Supporting Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt – In the Heights – King’s Cross Theatre

Best Supporting Actress in a New Production of a Play
Natalie Simpson – Hamlet – Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Outstanding Achievement in a New Dance Production
Drew McOnie – Jekyll & Hyde – Old Vic

Outstanding Achievement in a New Opera Production
Iris – Opera Holland Park

Theatrical Event of the Year
Groundhog Day – Old Vic

Theatrical Venue of the Year
Arts Theatre

Understudy of the Year in Any Play or Musical (Female)
Alice Stokoe – American Idiot – Arts Theatre

Understudy of the Year in Any Play or Musical (Male)
Cellen Chugg Jones – American Idiot – Arts Theatre

The 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best actor
Sir Kenneth Branagh The Entertainer, Garrick Theatre
O-T Fagbenle Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, National Theatre, Lyttelton
Ralph Fiennes The Master Builder/Richard III, Old Vic/Almeida Theatre
James McArdle Platonov, Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier
Ian McKellen No Man’s Land, Wyndham’s Theatre

Natasha Richardson Award for best actress
Noma Dumezweni Linda, Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs
Helen McCrory The Deep Blue Sea, National Theatre, Lyttelton
Sophie Melville Iphigenia In Splott, National Theatre, Temporary Theatre (a Sherman Theatre production)
Billie Piper Yerma, Young Vic
Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard Continue reading “The 2016 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: The Flick, National

“Sometimes I worry that there’s something really, really wrong with me but that I’ll never know exactly what it is.”

Already garlanded with a Pulitzer Prize and bolstered by articles insisting that “slow theatre” is a thing, it is clear that we’re meant to think that Annie Baker’s The Flick in all its 3 hours plus glory is close to the Second Coming. The reality is a play that it is just a very long time in a theatre for deliberately muted rewards. And it is deliberate, it is precise. Along with frequent collaborator and director Sam Gold, the simple act of mopping up the floor of a movie theatre is strictly regimented, the many pauses surrounding it measured down to the last, slow, tick of the second hand. 

The Flick is set in small-town Massachusetts in a run-down, single-screen cinema and lets us follow the lives of regular folk that work there, three people living humdrum lives in a humdrum world. At 35, Sam has worked there the longest but he’s still just sweeping popcorn; 24 year old Rose has been promoted over him to projectionist but her spiky exterior belies a vulnerable uncertainty; and just turned 20 and taking a break from college, Avery is dealing with emotional issues that set him at odds with his co-workers, especially once a pseudo-love-triangle starts to form.  Continue reading “Review: The Flick, National”