Critics’ Circle Awards 2019: the winners in full

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer 
Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen 
Noël Coward Theatre

The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Hammed Animashaun for A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Bridge Theatre 

Most Promising Playwright
Jasmine Lee-Jones for seven methods of killing kylie jenner
Royal Court

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Come From Away
Phoenix Theatre

Best Designer
Tom Scutt for A Very Expensive Poison
Old Vic 

Best Director
Jamie Lloyd for Evita, Betrayal & Cyrano de Bergerac
Open Air Theatre, Harold Pinter Theatre & Playhouse Theatre

Best Actress
Juliet Stevenson for The Doctor
Almeida Theatre 
and
Sharon D Clarke for Death of a Salesman
Young Vic & Piccadilly Theatre

Best Actor
Andrew Scott for Present Laughter
Old Vic

The Michael Billington Award for Best New Play
A Very Expensive Poison
Old Vic 

Special Award
Paule Constable for services to theatre

Review: The Sugar Syndrome, Orange Tree Theatre

A fine revival of Lucy Prebble’s first play The Sugar Syndrome features a strong debut performance from Jessica Rhodes at the Orange Tree Theatre

“I’m not sure anyone sets out to be cruel. 
‘But they get there’

The references to the dial-up age of the internet may raise a chuckle but there’s something distinctly chilling about Lucy Prebble’s 2003 play The Sugar Syndrome in its evocation of the darker corners online. In scenes that take places in chatrooms, Elliot Griggs’ lighting illuminates a digital cage around the stage of the Orange Tree and the rumble of Daniel Balfour’s sound design leaves us in little doubt as to the potential danger therein.

Where Prebble delights though, is in wrong-footing her audience. Convicted paedophile Tim may think he’s talking to an 11 year old boy but in actual fact, it’s 17 year old teenage girl Dani on the other end of the modem. And when they meet IRL, a strange kind of friendship develops between the pair as her recovery from being institutionalised for an eating disorder elides with his struggles post-incarceration. A rehabilitation meet-cute, how sweet! Continue reading “Review: The Sugar Syndrome, Orange Tree Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

August theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw in August.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, aka the Sheridan Smith show
Queen of the Mist, aka the surprisingly affecting one
Appropriate, aka all hail Monica Dolan
Waitress, aka ZZZZZZZOMGGGGG STUNT CASTING oh wait, Joe Suggs hasn’t started yet
The Doctor, aka all hail Juliet Stevenson
A Very Expensive Poison, aka it was a preview so I shouldn’t say anything
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
The Night of the Iguana, aka justice for Skyler Continue reading “August theatre round-up”

Bridge Theatre new season – excited by new writing or disappointed by lack of diversity?

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr have announced the opening programme for their The Bridge Theatre venture – the 900-seat commercial venue near to Tower Bridge which marks their re-entry into the London theatre landscape. The first three productions, all booking now, are:

Continue reading “Bridge Theatre new season – excited by new writing or disappointed by lack of diversity?”

Review: The Effect, Sheffield Crucible

“I can tell the difference between who I am and a side effect”

Lucy Prebble’s The Effect ranked as my 12th favourite play of 2012, Rupert Goold’s Headlong production for the National Theatre proving to be a quietly devastating piece of theatre exploring notions of self and identity through the prism of depression and drugs. Two willing volunteers take part in a medical trial for a new kind of anti-depressant, despite not suffering from depression themselves, and are monitored for any side effects by a doctor and a medical rep who have their own tangled history which further impacts the study.

Stuck in isolation together, guinea pigs Tristan and Connie swiftly fall head over heels – Henry Pettigrew and Ophelia Lovibond giving two stunning performances of a palpable chemistry – and Prebble raises the question of whether love is the drug or is their connection is due to the actual drugs in their veins. From that, she also probes into perceptions of depression – Stuart Bunce’s trial director believes his pill can cure or do anything but sinking into her own bleak mental morass, Priyanga Burford’s achingly fragile Dr James isn’t so sure. 

Daniel Evans’ production is beautifully cast – all four actors play the twists of character astutely and assuredly as priorities shift and relative truths come to light to shattering effect. Without giving anything away, it is a stunningly powerful ending in all its hushed beauty as science and sympathy battle and heartstrings tugged mercilessly. Amanda Studley’s design for the Crucible’s Studio space plays effectively on hospital waiting room and clinical atmospherics to suggest we could well be a part of this or the next trial, David Plater’s lighting adding to this unremitting feel.

The Effect might even be better now than it was 3 years ago, about 30 minutes or so has been junked from the running time which certainly helps, but it also really benefits from the intimacy here. Whether the anguish of Burford’s increasing inability to cope or Pettigrew and Lovibond showing us just how mysterious the human mind is with or without chemical alteration, this is an exceptional revival.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 18th July

The 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards


BEST ACTOR
Chiwetel EjioforA Season in the Congo (Young Vic)
Rory Kinnear, Othello, National (Olivier)
Adrian Lester, 
Othello, National (Olivier)

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Linda BassettRoots (Donmar Warehouse)
Lesley ManvilleGhosts (Almeida)
Helen Mirren, The Audience (Gielgud)
Billie Piper
The Effect, National (Cottesloe)
Kristin Scott ThomasOld Times (Harold Pinter) Continue reading “The 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2012: the winners in full


Best New Play
The Effect by Lucy Prebble

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Merrily We Roll Along

Best Actor
Adrian Lester in Red Velvet

Best Actress
Hattie Morahan in A Doll’s House

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Simon Russell Beale in Timon of Athens

Best Director
Benedict Andrews for Three Sisters

Best Designer
Miriam Buether for Wild Swans

Most Promising Playwright
Lolita Chakrabarti for Red Velvet

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer [other than a playwright]
Denise Gough in Desire Under the Elms

 

2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations


THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic
Billie Piper – The Effect, Headlong at the National, Cottesloe
Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
Jill Halfpenny – Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Wyndham’s
Julie Walters – The Last of the Haussmans at the National, Lyttelton
Sally Hawkins – Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs & Duke of York’s

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss at Hampstead
Adrian Lester – Red Velvet at the Tricycle
David Haig – The Madness of George III at the Apollo
David Suchet – Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo
Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the National, Cottesloe
Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night & Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe & the Apollo Continue reading “2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: The Effect, National Theatre


 

“Call it what you want, just don’t let it define you”

Though it has arguably had a variable strike rate in terms of hits and misses, the Cottesloe Theatre seems determined to go out roaring in stylish flames before it closes for renovation to re-emerge as the Dorfman, as huge successes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and This House are now followed by Lucy Prebble’s new play The Effect in a co-production with Headlong which, if there’s any justice in the world, should have some kind of further life as with the previous two plays which are transferring into the West End and the Olivier respectively.

Miriam Buether works her transformative magic once again to reconfigure the theatre into the waiting room of a modern private clinic, one in which a clinical trial is about to begin. Two people have signed up to try out this new drug and two doctors monitor them, looking for the answers that they hope will be provided. What they are looking for is to see how much their medicine can influence what we call our feelings, our emotions, as they try to figure out if the highs of love and attraction and the lows of deep depression can be controlled with just a tweak of the dosage. But though they are seeking to run a scrupulous experiment, their human subjects respond in unexpected ways as they try to tease apart what is real and what is manufactured in the world of heady emotion they are now feeling. Continue reading “Review: The Effect, National Theatre”