The 2018 Ian Charleson Awards nominees announced

I remain unconvinced we should be rewarding classical roles over the breadth of the theatre out there but hey ho, it’s not my award! A good selection of performances nominated here nonetheless – winner to be announced in May.

Daniel Burke for Diomed in Troilus and Cressida at RSC
Bally Gill for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the RSC
Heledd Gwynn for Katharine and Dauphin in Henry V by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory 
Tyrone Huntley for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Watermill, Newbury
Martins Imhangbe for Bagot and Aumerle in Richard II at the Almeida
Toheeb Jimoh for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Crucible
Hannah Morrish for Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre
Luke Newberry for Malcolm in Macbeth at the RSC
Aaron Pierre for Cassio in Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe
Ellora Torchia for Emilia in Two Noble Kinsmen at Shakespeare’s Globe
Helena Wilson for Mariana in Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse

Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag

Caught in a bad romance, a gayed-up take on Romance Romance does nothing for me at the Above the Stag theatre

“There are days he blows his fuse now 
And there are nights he’s just not there”

Romance Romance was nominated for 5 Tonys in 1988 and performance nods aside, you have to wonder what the standard of the other nominees was (actually, they included The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods…!) as its charms really rather eluded me. 

Steven Dexter’s production reframes Barry Harman’s book and lyrics into a gay context which certainly has interest. But the disparity of the two acts, based respectively on Arthur Schnitzler’s The Little Comedy and Jules Renard’s Le Pain de Ménage, means it is a curiously disengaging watch. Continue reading “Review: Romance Romance, Above the Stag”

Review: 10, VAULT Festival

Theatre continues to lead the way in the feminist recasting of history as Lizzie Milton’s 10 introduces more forgotten heroines at the VAULT Festival

“Does that count for nothing?
Do I count for nothing”

Stuck at Six? Try 10. The truth is, sadly, that there are endless women whose histories have been misrepresented, or not even told but thankfully, there does seem to be a desire to tell those stories right now, accompanied by an appetite for them to be seen. Six is nominated for five Oliviers, Emilia has transferred into the West End and other shows at the VAULT such as The Limit have also got in on the act.

And why wouldn’t this be the case. Pretty much half of history has gone untold, unexplored, under-represented in our textbooks and in our culture, so it stands to reason that there’s acres of potential here. Lizzie Milton’s 10 identifies ten such women from across the centuries and across many disciplines, from medieval Mercian queens to Second World War heroines, abolitionists to painters, this is our real history. Continue reading “Review: 10, VAULT Festival”

Review: Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible, VAULT Festival

Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible tackles mental health awareness through the medium of burlesque at the VAULT Festival

“You can feel whatever you want to feel, within reason”

One of the more pronounced trends at this year’s VAULT Festival has been a multiplicity of work promoting mental health awareness, both in and outside of the officially curated Let’s Talk strand. There’s still a long way to go in fully destigmatising conversations about these difficult topics but it is gratifying to see so many creative dedicated to the cause.

Among that group is Invisible Cabaret, a cabaret and burlesque troupe whose show Let’s Get Visible is tackling these taboos in their own inimitable style. And though burlesque may not seem like the most obvious artform in which to do so, it proves surprisingly effective here, not least in the skilled compering from Rosie Verbose and her magnificent headpiece. Continue reading “Review: Invisible Cabaret – Let’s Get Visible, VAULT Festival”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s DROLL, VAULT Festival

The Owle Schreame’s A Midsummer Night’s DROLL is a supremely silly and highly enjoyable Shakespearean adaptation at the VAULT Festival

“This is the silliest stuff that I ever heard”

The Owle Schreame’s A Midsummer Night’s DROLL begins with a bit of a lecture, informing us how theatre survived during the Puritans’ purge, by going underground. Rough and ready adaptations of plays, called drolls, were performed guerilla-style – anticipating today’s pop-up theatre festivals…?! – wherever there was a Will and a way.

And once the intro is out of the way, we dive headlong into this raucous version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, claimed as the oldest surviving adaptation of a Shakespeare play. With its focus almost entirely on the Rude Mechanicals, it is huge amounts of fun, full of songs, silliness and a real commitment to the value of crowd-pleasing entertainment. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s DROLL, VAULT Festival”

Review: Lucy Light, VAULT Festival

Sarah Milton’s Lucy Light is a powerful tale of female friendship tested to the max at the VAULT Festival

“You don’t have to do any of this on your own”

Is it wrong to like Atomic Kitten’s cover of ‘The Tide is High’? I suspect the answer would be a resounding yes for most people but for Lucy and Jess, two teenage girls from a northern seaside town, (and let’s face it, me), they’ve even got the dance routine from the video down pat, complete with brilliantly improvised wind machine.

They’ve just finished their GCSEs and life ought to be hunky dory but Lucy’s mum has got breast cancer, casting a shadow not only over this summer but over the next ten years as we see in Lucy Light. For the genetics of the c word, particularly when BRCA 1 is concerned, is a bastard but Lucy is prepared to make some tough decisions. Continue reading “Review: Lucy Light, VAULT Festival”

Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales’ cabaret show The Ginger Snapped mixes music, musings on mental health and moments of queer solidarity at the Leicester Square Theatre

“Take it from the whore’s mouth”

The best cabaret shows always find the sweet spot between concert and confessional and in The Ginger Snapped, Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales manage to do just that. As a promised show disintegrates into a pseudo-therapy session, the pair delve into the murky waters of fame and fabulousness to reveal some of the toll it can take on one’s mental health.

Winner of season five of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Monsoon’s strengths are immediately apparent with the opening number which encapsulates everything about the kind of performer she is. Bantering with the audience, cracking jokes, working in all kinds of interplay with accompanist Scales and delivering some straight-up powerhouse vocals, there’s no mistaking this is the real deal. Continue reading “Review: Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales – The Ginger Snapped, Leicester Square Theatre”

Review: Medea, Barbican

The incomparable Marieke Heebink astonishes in Simon Stone and ITA-ensemble’s production of Medea at the Barbican Theatre

“I remember us
That’s that I do now”

I first saw Simon Stone’s Medea in Amsterdam, in Dutch, without surtitles, and it was a revelatory experience which has lingered long in my memory as one of the best classical adaptations I’ve ever seen. So the chance to revisit it at the Barbican, once again anchored by the incomparable Marieke Heebink in Bob Cousins’ stunning design was unmissable.

And it did not disappoint in its ferocious retelling of Euripides’ classic, as Stone makes it feel urgent and chilling and all-too-appalling believable in its depiction of a woman pushed to the edge. Poleaxed by the revelation of her husband’s affair with his boss’s daughter, her extreme actions saw her committed to a psychiatric institution. A year later on her release, she craves a fresh start but finds the world has moved on without her. Continue reading “Review: Medea, Barbican”

Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre

Tom Ratcliffe’s Circa feels just too fragmentary and ephemeral at the Old Red Lion Theatre to really convince

“Most people get to be happy with one person. I don’t see why I should have it any different”

I was a big fan of Tom Ratcliffe’s VELVET at the VAULT Festival and so was intrigued to catch this production of his debut play Circa at the Old Red Lion Theatre. But where VELVET taps right into contemporary culture with its gay perspective on the #MeToo era, Circa feels curiously dated.

The play follows the amorous adventures of a gay man at different stages in his life, ostensibly tracking the way in which gay relationships have developed over the decades. It’s a nifty conceit but one which struggles to come to full fruition here, one man’s shags over 30 years not necessarily equating to the evolution of modern gay life. Continue reading “Review: Circa, Old Red Lion Theatre”

Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre

Fresh from Broadway, hit musical Waitress proves funnier and lighter than you might expect at the Adelphi Theatre

“Let’s see the next amazing thing baking does now”

True story, I didn’t love Waitress when I first saw it in my Broadway Blitz of 2016. But as it sometimes the way, upon listening to the cast recording again and then again, I fell for the show that way, and so was delighted with news of its UK premiere at the Adelphi Theatre.

To think of it as a big Broadway show is to misinterpret what it is trying to do though. Jessie Nelson (book) and Sara Bareilles’ (music and lyrics) adaptation of Adrienne Shelly’s 2007 indie flick is a subtler thing than much West End fare, an intimate story of pies, pregnancy and just how much we’ll put up with. Continue reading “Review: Waitress, Adelphi Theatre”