2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations

As we move towards the year end, so award season gets into full swing and What’s On Stage have now revealed their nominations celebrating everyone who works in theatre apart from sound designers and musical directors. As ever, these awards tend to work around which fanbase can weaponise the strongest and so there’s lots of love for shows which might not necessarily be troubling many other shortlists…

Still, am liking the recognition for Milly Thomas and Dust, Es Devlin’s luminous set work for Girls & Boys, and Six and The Grinning Man getting into the cast recording category (though can’t quite work out how Come From Away fits into there as well…). And it’s a bit sad that the way their eligibility period works means that Hamilton comes up against Company, making the supporting actress/actor categories ridiculously difficult to choose between.

You can vote here until 31st January, and winners will be announced on 3rd March.

Continue reading “2019 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Re-review: Girls and Boys, Royal Court

One of the absolute hottest tickets in town – Carey Mulligan scorches the stage in Dennis Kelly’s Girls and Boys at the Royal Court in London

“I don’t remember exactly when things with us started to go properly wrong – I just remember suddenly finding myself in it.”

A cheeky revisit to a matinée of Girls and Boys and one definitely worth making as knowing what was coming, having the 360 about the subject matter, brings with it a wonderful but terrible weight. New significances emerge, preconceptions are recalibrated, the heart sinks a lot heavier a little earlier.

My review from last time can be read here and there’s not too much more to add, aside from it is well worth stalking the website for returns or putting an early evening aside to queue at the theatre. Oh, and the show was definitely robbed in the Olivier nominations.

 

Review: Girls and Boys, Royal Court

“If it gets difficult – and it will get difficult – I want you to remember two things: remember that this did not happen to you, and that it is not happening now”

Credit where credit is due – Es Devlin’s design for Girls and Boys, aided by Luke Halls’ video work, is simply stunning – the simplest of ideas realised with perfect execution. A modern flat smothered in dreamy turquoise, punctuated at each scene change with a flash of the ‘real’ flat superimposed on top. The effect is literally blink-and-miss-it but somehow sears onto the retina, as if caught in a hallucination or reverie.

But such deceptive simplicity is far from effortless as no less than four associate set designers are credited – Jack Headford, Jed Skrzypczak, Angie Vasileiou and Machiko Weston – and two associate video designers – Charli Davis and Zakk Hein. No matter how the work was divvied up, all should get to take a bow as it is deeply thrilling work (I want someone to write a longform piece on the subtly changing orange objects). It also helps that Dennis Kelly’s monologue, delivered by Carey Mulligan, is exceptional. Continue reading “Review: Girls and Boys, Royal Court”

Review: Pinocchio, National

“Do you want puppets?”

No matter the weather, as you walk into the Lyttelton’s auditorium for Pinocchio, you’ll find that it is snowing. A simple trick but one that inspires just the right childlike wonder for an adaptation of such a popular fairytale, but it is also a sense of magic that John Tiffany’s production of Dennis Kelly’s adaptation sometimes struggles to hold onto, as darkly disturbing as it is exuberantly heartfelt.

That darkness comes from several directions. The narrative cleaves closely to the moral instruction of a fable so Pinocchio’s struggle with the dark side is presented as a straight-up choice between good and evil – make the wrong choice in dealing with the Fox or the Coachman and things could end up pretty grim, as we witness in a particularly brutal bit of puppet mutilation (it shocked even me!). Continue reading “Review: Pinocchio, National”

Re-review: Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre

“Please don’t cry, dry your eyes, wipe away your tears”

Despite naming it my show of the year in 2011 (or maybe because of that), I’ve not been back to see Matilda the Musical since it opened at the Cambridge Theatre four years ago. I had such the perfect emotional journey with the show that I just didn’t want to alter that experience by going back and risking it being something of a disappointment, especially with such impossibly high standards to live up to from that amazing original cast and Bertie Carvel’s iconic Mrs Trunchbull.

Four years is long enough though I think, and when the opportunity to revisit the show presented itself, I accepted the offer with just a little trepidation. Those nerves were quickly dispelled, even as soon as entering the theatre to witness the infectious enthusiasm of an audience of all ages, and the reassuring sight of Rob Howell’s design with its multi-coloured letters strewn across the set. And as Laurie Perkins’ orchestra launched into the familiar strains of ‘Miracle’, my heart leapt and I wondered how I had left it this long. Continue reading “Re-review: Matilda the Musical, Cambridge Theatre”

Review: Debris, Southwark Playhouse

“He is now aware
That there are lives different from ours
Things won’t be the same”

One of Dennis Kelly’s earliest plays, Debris is being revived at the Southwark Playhouse for its tenth anniversary in a co-production between Openworks Theatre and Look Left Look Right and what a spiky little thing it is. A two-hander coming in at just a shade over an hour long, it depicts a brother-sister relationship unlike most others, the dysfunction in their childhood so warped that it could be taken from a Philip Ridley play, sibling rivalry taken to the next level.

Michael and Michelle have been brought up somewhat reluctantly by their alcoholic father after their mother died and it is clear that such trauma has resulted in emotional instability. Harry McEntire’s Michael starts off by telling us the story of his 16th birthday to find his father crucifying himself and then Leila Mimmack’s Michelle relates how her mother died at the time of her birth but it soon becomes evident that these are not necessarily the most reliable of narrators. Continue reading “Review: Debris, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: From Morning to Midnight, National Theatre

“Well, that was a bit odd”

Sometimes, one knows from the first moments of a show that it just isn’t going to be your cup of tea. And so it was with the opening montage of Melly Still’s new production of From Morning to Midnight, a landmark of German expressionism apparently but for me, a hugely ambitious piece of stagecraft that indulges far too much overt theatricality at the expense of dramatic integrity. It is worth noting ‘twas a preview that I saw and one in which understudy Jack Tarlton had to step in for the injured Adam Godley in the lead role.

Georg Kaiser’s 1912 play uses an episodic form to tell the story of an everyday clerk who is jolted from the mundaneness of his existence when a sultry Italian wanders into his bank, inspiring him to seize the day and make a change to his dull family life. That he does by stealing 60,000 marks from the bank with the intention of eloping with this woman but when she rejects him, the clerk delves into a journey of the soul – both actual and metaphysical – that lasts for a day but feels like a lifetime. Continue reading “Review: From Morning to Midnight, National Theatre”

Review: The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, Royal Court

“It is fair to say at that stage Gorge’s judgement became…clouded”

Already reeling from the news that the play was running at 3 hours long despite the 8pm start time, the further blow of a half-hour long opening scene that recalled nothing so much as the central section of the divisive In The Republic of Happiness meant that Dennis Kelly’s The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas had it all to do to win me over. The play marks the official ‘regular’ debut of new AD Vicky Featherstone after Open Court, the wide-ranging writers’ festival that occupied the Royal Court over the summer and rather than being a bold statement of intent of a new and different era, it’s an arguably gentler transition for a theatre already accustomed to the adventurous tail end of Dominic Cooke’s reign cf: Republic, Narrative, The Low Road. The fiddling with the start times does look here to stay though – in this season, the majority of shows upstairs are starting at 7.30pm, and downstairs at 8pm.

And as with much of this kind of theatre, it provokes a Marmitean reaction. Many laughed heartily all night long and lapped it up, I was left cold by its strained theatricality and languorous verbosity. This interview with The Observer reveals that the play was originally written for a theatre in Germany and in retrospect, that makes sense. The story of Gorge stretches over the whole 80 years of his lifetime but is played out in just a handful of lengthy scenes, key encounters that shape his existence as he comes of age in a time of rampart capitalism and is offered the Mephistophelian opportunity to have it all and more. Three grasping golden rules govern his ethos, maxims such as “whenever you want something – take it” but as greedily huge success comes his way, the cocoon of well-designed lies upon which it is built starts to crumble. Continue reading “Review: The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas, Royal Court”

Re-review: Matilda, the Musical – Cambridge Theatre

“Never again will I doubt it when my mummy says I’m a miracle!”

More so than with straight plays, I find musicals tend to benefit from re-views (as opposed to reviews!). There’s just more to take in with book, music and lyrics all demanding the attention, especially if they’re richly detailed, staging and choreography offering much inventive potential and by no means least, a wide range of performances, which altogether offers a lot to soak in on a single viewing. Returning to a show also offers the opportunity to reassess one’s initial reactions to it, and so it was with the RSC’s Matilda, the Musical which has now made its long-awaited transfer from Stratford to the West End.

I saw the show at the beginning of the year, fairly late in the run, so had been unable to avoid the effusive praise coming from all angles and the sense of anticipation that came along with it. So predictably, whilst loving the show, there was a nagging sense of a slight disappointment too, which mainly stemmed from it not matching up with my childhood memories of the book and how I thought the show would go. It was still a strong 4 star show for me though, just not quite the saviour of musicals it was being acclaimed as, and so though I was pleased it gained the transfer it deserved, I felt little need to revisit the show. Continue reading “Re-review: Matilda, the Musical – Cambridge Theatre”

Album Review: Matilda the Musical Cast Recording

“When I grow up, I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown-up”

Darn it darn it darn it. I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t going to go and see Matilda the Musical once it had made its long-awaited West End transfer from the now-defunct Courtyard in Stratford to the Cambridge Theatre. Not because I didn’t like it, I really did (though not quite as much as others) – you can read my thoughts here – but because of the eye-watering ticket prices: the vast majority of the stalls and dress circle are £60 or more, rear stalls coming in at a mere £50. That pretty much made up my mind for me but on purchasing which has now been released on CD, I have fallen well and truly back under the spell of this show and so it looks like I will have to do some careful budgeting next month!

When it was first announced, the marriage of individual Australian comic Tim Minchin with Roald Dahl’s source material seemed the ideal match but I don’t think anyone could have imagined just how well it would work. The score is simply joyous, the lyrics perfectly crafted – witty enough to make adults laugh and carefree enough to perfectly evoke childhood thinking and the combined package fits together in a way that one imagines that Roald Dahl would be proud of. Chris Nightingale’s full-bodied orchestrations give depth to the music, especially in the swirling sections of incidental music that are included (that’s probably my one criticism is that not enough of that is kept in here) and an enthusiastic cast give marvellous voice to these quirky but perfectly suited songs that will undoubtedly leave a smile on your face. Continue reading “Album Review: Matilda the Musical Cast Recording”