Not-a-review: The Effect, Boulevard Theatre

The effect of coronavirus on The Effect at the Boulevard Theatre, is robbing us of what was sure to be a striking revival of Lucy Prebble’s play

“We are facing an everyday epidemic”

With lines like the above, you wonder how Lucy Prebble’s The Effect would have gone down at the Boulevard Theatre, especially directed by Anthony Neilson at this moment in time. Sadly, we won’t get to find out any time soon and though the current crisis isn’t good for any theatre, it feels particularly cruel on a new venue still finding its feet in the London theatre ecology.

I’d wager this production would have gone some way to establishing the Boulevard’s dramatic credentials. Prebble’s play was a huge hit at the National in 2012, and got even better in its regional premiere in Sheffield a few years later. And with a cast as talented as Eric Kofi Abrefa, Christine Entwisle, Tim McMullan and the ever-excellent Kate O’Flynn, I hope this doesn’t wind up a case of what might have been. 

For The Boulevard Theatre
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2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

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