Review: Regolith, Finborough

“This we have craved. This is our nightmare. This is tomorrow.”

Running in repertoire for just six performances, Regolith is a chance to catch a world premiere of a play by the Irish Chris Lee, a former Playwright-in-Residence at the Finborough.

There’s just the two characters, Sharp and Bitter, dressed the same, and they play out a twisting and turning mother-daughter relationship over the space of an hour in a number of short scenes. The play is set in some unspecified dystopian future, “the wrecked ruined rubble of the world” as described in the programme (which is also the meaning of Regolith: rubble), and the closest point of reference it called for me was the film Children of Men. Continue reading “Review: Regolith, Finborough”

Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy

“You can’t come in here with all your singing, dancing and…ethnic movements”

If Priscilla Queen of the Desert was the marshmallow on top of the whipped cream on top of your cocoa, then Legally Blonde is the full mug of the best Viennese hot chocolate you can imagine. Sticking closely to the story of the film, with just a little streamlining, we follow Elle Woods, a Malibu princess and sorority queen whose world is rocked when her boyfriend leaves her for Harvard Law School and the pursuit of someone more ‘serious’. Elle then follows him but ends up finding out a lot more about herself than she anticipated. The book is completely original and I found it surprisingly good, the opening numbers of ‘Ohmigod you guys’ and ‘What you want’ were both great tunes, ‘Ohmigod’ in particular will not leave your head for hours! There are of course some weaker numbers in there, but never any boring ones which is achievement enough. Continue reading “Review: Legally Blonde The Musical, Savoy”

Review: Generous, Finborough

“What do you think politics is? It’s ‘a little bit here’ and ‘a little bit there’, it’s all short-term measures.”

Generous, by Michael Healey, won the Best New Play award in its native Canada in 2007 but has been somewhat neglected here in the UK, so the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court with its long tradition of supporting Canadian playwrights has given it its first full run.

Structurally, it is described as 2 four-act plays which is just a fancy way of saying there’s four stories on show here. It’s an examination of altruism, the desire to help people and the motivations behind this. The first act of each story makes up the first half and then after we return from the interval, we see the concluding parts, some of which take place 15 years later, and suddenly we see that these disparate stories actually have some connections. Continue reading “Review: Generous, Finborough”

Review: Red, Donmar Warehouse

“One day the black will swallow the red”

Red, at the Donmar Warehouse, is a new play by John Logan about abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko (Alfred Molina) and his fictional new apprentice (Eddie Redmayne) and is spread over a couple of years so that we get a chance to see how their relationship progresses from that of master and pupil to something more as we come a crucial point in Rothko’s career: his acceptance of a massive commercial commission for the Four Seasons restaurant.

Alfred Molina is mesmerising as the darkly intense painter, his unpredictable eruptions are convincingly protrayed, his flawed confidence in himself unshakeable and he is evenly matched by Eddie Redmayne whose portrayal of the intimidated apprentice with his own personal demons. We see him growing into someone unafraid to challenge his master, unwilling to let Rothko off the hook and hence matches Molina’s energy with a wiry burgeoning intellect. Swiftly directed, it’s over in just over an hour and a half and I never once got bored, the lighting is also an excellent contributing factor to this, helping the canvases to pulsate as Rothko desired and constantly drawing the eye in, shedding a whole new light (pardon the pun) on his work for me. Continue reading “Review: Red, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Innocence, Arcola

“I, confused by this white dialectic…”

Opening a season of German plays at the Arcola Theatre is Dea Loher’s Innocence and I attended the first preview last night. Translated by David Tushingham, it is a series of vignettes about people struggling along on the edge of society, separate stories that slowly being to intertwine to form a portrait of a dark and depressed urban existence.

Things get off to a very sticky start with a horribly awkward scene where two characters consistently refer to themselves and their actions in the third person, whilst the other character delivers her lines in a regular manner. The cumulative effect of this is disorientating and really quite annoying, I was most definitely not a fan of this style, fortunately the rest of the first half was free from this strange device. It does recur for one scene in Act 2 but the rest is mercifully delivered straight.

One would imagine things will be tightened up before opening night, the current running time is 2 hours 45 minutes which could be shaved down with a much needed injection of pace into the second half, bhe main problem though for me was the lack of a dramatic hook to bring the piece together. The different strands amble slowly throughout the play, some of them connecting, some remaining discrete, but it lacks a defining moment to bring it all together and make it genuinely coherent and as it currently is, there’s not enough energy driving the stories along. Continue reading “Review: Innocence, Arcola”

Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Vaudeville Theatre

“You have to speak up, Little Voice”

The last time I saw Diana Vickers was in the less than salubrious surroundings of the delightful Nightingales nightclub in Birmingham and I was less than sober. Having just been evicted from The X-Factor semifinals, one might have expected the predictable slide into obscurity but she surprised many when announced as the titular character in this revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.

The story is of the painfully shy LV who lives a hermit-like existence at home with her horrendous mother, Mari, and her only release is singing along to the vinyl records of female singers left to her by her deceased father. She has a prodigious talent for this which is only recognised by one of her mother’s latest pickups who then sees this as an opportunity to be exploited for his own personal gain. Despite the name of the play, this is Mari’s show. Sharp opens with a 20 minute blast of self-absorbed narcissism which exposes the full heartlessness of her character and she only becomes more vindictive as we and LV progress. It is stunning to watch, but sadly becomes a little repetitive, a fault of the play rather than Sharp though. Continue reading “Review: The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Vaudeville Theatre”

Review: The Waste Land, Wilton’s Music Hall

“Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow”

Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner first performed T.S. Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land here at Wilton’s Music Hall back in 1997 and have returned to these special surroundings as part of the fundraising initiatives trying to keep this interesting venue open and in a usable state of repair. It is presented simply in the crumbling main hall and given a great sense of atmosphere by Jean Kalman’s beautiful and effective lighting, the shapes and shadows thrown behind Shaw are endlessly interesting.

But this is Shaw’s show and it is a magisterial performance, it’s 40 minutes of intense showmanship giving her the opportunity to stretch her vocal muscles as she inhabits all of the different images, ghosts and characters of this work. Shaw effortlessly evokes the multitude of locations contained within Eliot’s work, taking us on a quite a journey in a way I never imagined a poetry recital could: a personal favourite was the scene where she brought to life the entire populace of a noisy London pub, quite spellbinding. Continue reading “Review: The Waste Land, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace

“Everyone likes to dress up, wear some sequins, get in touch with their feminine side…apart from lesbians that is”

When I found out a great Canadian friend who just happens to be a huge musicals fan was stopping in town briefly in the festive season, I had little doubt of what would be the best thing for us to see: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. For this is not a show about about subtlety: using a carefully judged collection of familiar pop songs, some amazing costumes and a production design team whose maxim was clearly ‘more more more’, this is a fun-packed, crowd-pleasing spectacular that was the perfect anecdote to the horrible weather.

It’s based on the film of the same name, where three ill-matched drag performers take a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs to meet up with the estranged wife and son of one of them, and little has been changed. Of the three leads, Tony Sheldon is superb as the transexual Bernadette, armed with a lifetime’s collection of quick one-liners, a steady grace and an unerring conviction in who she is. The trumpet anecdote is one of the funniest things you will hear all year and Sheldon’s performance holds the show together, elevating it beyond a series of drag turns. Continue reading “Review: Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Palace”

fosterIAN awards 2009

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayRachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Nicholls/Lisa Dillon, When the Rain Stops Falling; Chris Nietvelt, The Roman TragediesImelda Staunton, Entertaining Mr Sloane
Juliet Stevenson, Duet for One
Anna Chancellor, The Observer
Best Actor in a PlayHans Kesting, The Roman TragediesJude Law, Hamlet (Donmar)Dominic Rowan, The Spanish Tragedy
David Troughton, Inherit the Wind
Dan Stevens, Arcadia
Henry Goodman, Duet for One
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRebecca Hall, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)Kate Fleetwood, Life is a DreamJessie Cave, Arcadia
Michelle Dockery, Burnt By The Sun
Alexandra Gilbreath, Twelfth Night
Ruth Wilson, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayAndrew Scott, CockSimon Paisley-Day, Entertaining Mr SloaneMark Dexter, Inherit the Wind
Tom Goodman-Hill, Enron
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project)
Barnaby Kay, A Streetcar Named Desire
Best Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!Julie Atherton, The Last Five YearsMelanie Chisholm, Blood Brothers
Donna King, Frank’s Closet
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Tamzin Outhwaite, Sweet Charity
Best Actor in a MusicalSimon Burke, La Cage aux FollesCarl Mullaney, Frank’s ClosetRoger Allam, La Cage aux Folles
Mark Umbers, Sweet Charity
Aneurin Barnard, Spring Awakening
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJosefina Gabrielle, Hello, Dolly!Sheila Hancock, Sister ActJosefina Gabrielle, Sweet Charity
Tiffany Graves, Sweet Charity
The Lovely Debbie McGee, Frank’s Closet
Jodie Prenger, Oliver!
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalOliver Thornton, Priscilla Queen of the DesertDaniel Crossley, Hello, Dolly!Rowan Atkinson, Oliver!
Clive Carter, Priscilla Queen of the Desert
John Marquez, Annie Get Your Gun
Jason Pennycooke, La Cage aux Folles