Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre

Who knew that fascists could rhyme? WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood tackle inter-war Europe in The Dog Beneath The Skin at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

“Places sometimes look different when one comes back to them”

Proud Haddock’s production of Mrs Orwell was quite the success last year, earning a deserved transfer from the Old Red Lion to the Southwark Playhouse. And they continue their ethos of celebrating “unearthed stories from classical playwrights” with this revival of WH Auden and Christopher Isherwood’s 1935 play The Dog Beneath The Skin which rounds off the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Scandal season.

Mixing an almost fairytale-like quest with a stark warning to guard for the rise of fascism, it’s a fascinatingly drawn play. And Jimmy Walters’ production leans heavily into its curiosity with voiceover segments, drag cabarets and multiple songs (by Jeremy Warmsley) accompanying the lyrical twist of the rhyming couplets threaded throughout the script. With cleverly expressive movement work from Ste Clough, all this strangeness has a compelling quality to it. Continue reading “Review: The Dog Beneath The Skin, Jermyn Street Theatre”

Review: Sunny Afternoon, Harold Pinter Theatre

 

To the tune of ‘Waterloo Sunset’

“First on in Hampstead, now Harold Pinter, this is a musical
‘Bout how The Kinks did, become a huge band, back catalogue got full
So a show, it got wrote
Joe Penhall’s book and, Ray Davies’ music, tell us their ups and downs

Brothers Ray and Dave and their friends Mick and Pete, oh
They really, really wrote some good music though, lots of it sounds the sameStalls in the theatre, have regular seating, apart from front and rear
Where seats are nailed down, round cabaret tables, chairs that don’t move are weird
But the show, it is strong
Three hours fly by, telling the story, most entertainingly
John Dagleish is good as Ray, George Maguire’s Dave too
But really, really Ed Hall’s cast is all fine, Dominic Tighe is mine

Went with my friend Chris, liked it but I wish, I could have brought my dad
Music is more of, his generation, would have made him feel glad
But I will, see him soon
And maybe I’ll take him, one day to this show, it’s bound to run and run

Sunny Afternoon’s fine.”

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 23rd May
Photo: Kevin Cummins
NB: in all seriousness it is most enjoyable, even for someone who still can only really recognise 4 songs by The Kinks even though this is the second time I’ve seen the show. The accapella rendition of ‘Days’ is a spellbinding moment (pictured below) and I suppose it would have been nice to have had a little more of that musical invention though I’m just being extremely picky now. The soundtrack has been recorded by the cast and is available to buy here, feel free to buy me a copy 😉

 
 
 

Short Film Review #43

Expectation Management – Episode 1

 

 

A blokey sitcom of sorts – episode 1 of Tupaq Felber’s Expectation Management has a great comic energy that centres on Owen’s inability to hold down a relationship with a girl. The advice he gets from his friends isn’t necessarily the most constructive though but highly entertaining to watch.

 

 

Supermarket Girl

 

Directed by Matt Greenhalgh and written by Alex Walker, Supermarket Girl is a delicately moving love story between two solitary misfits working in a large supermarket somewhere in the north. Andy and Michelle share more than they realise as their loneliness manifests itself in self-destructive behaviour but slowly, they edge towards a better place. Matthew Beard and Nichola Burley are both excellent as the sweet pair and it makes for a lovely film. 

Continue reading “Short Film Review #43”

Review: Sunny Afternoon, Hampstead

“I am so lazy, I don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night”

I am the wrong age for a Kinks musical to make me particularly excited, nor were they really a part of my family’s soundtrack whilst growing up so there was little reason for me to get too excited about Sunny Afternoon at the Hampstead Theatre. Indeed, even my personal alert service notifying me that Dominic Tighe appears in a police uniform (albeit briefly) scarcely raised my attention which is most unlike me. But with the end of the run fast approaching, a rumoured transfer as yet unconfirmed and someone willing to queue, I found myself at the final show.

Where I enjoyed myself mostly. Aiming itself above the jukebox format but still coming across as a luxury version thereof, it is paper-thin stuff, clearly far too in reverence of its still-living protagonists (one imagines Joe Penhall writing the book with Ray Davies hovering over his shoulder). The focus is far too much on Ray rather than the band as a whole or even the excitement of 60s Britain and so one is left waiting for the songs, which are undoubtedly extremely well done. Miriam Buether enjoys the chance to reconfigure the auditorium once again with her design and Ed Hall keeps a pulsing energy about the piece although it would be nice to see a show like this that doesn’t force the jollity quite so much at the end… 

So whilst glad I caught it, my instinct that it was missable was on the nose. And for my money, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ is a Cathy Dennis song (and I had the cassingle to prove it).

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 24th May

TV Review: WPC 56, Series 1

“Never forget your sole responsibility is to help the men”

I somehow managed to let the first series of WPC 56 pass me by last year. It may have played in the afternoons on BBC1 but anything starring Kieran Bew ought to have been much more firmly on my radar. So in advance of the new series starting, I was pleased to see a rerun which I was able to catch on the good old iPlayer. Created by Dominique Moloney, it tells the story of Gina Dawson, the first Woman Police Constable to join Brinford Constabulary in the West Midlands.

The show managed a great balance between following Dawson’s struggles to be accepted in such a male-orientated work environment – battling not only misogynistic colleagues but also an uncomprehending family and partner – and the series-long narrative about a potential serial killer and the disappearance of two local boys. Over five episodes of 45 minutes, I have to say I really enjoyed it, and not only for Bew’s DI Burns (although that was something of a boon). Continue reading “TV Review: WPC 56, Series 1”

Review: Symphony, The Vaults

“I do enjoy a skimpy short”

Originally commissioned in 2012 when it played festivals like Latitude, nabokov’s Symphony is a great fit for the ethos of the Vault Festival taking place underneath Waterloo and this sparky revival proves to be one of the highlights of the programme so far. Three short plays by three of the UK’s most exciting playwrights which mix together spoken word and live music, the show treads a blurred line between theatre and gig and pulses with an exciting spirit.

The way that the three writers utilise Ed Gaughan’s music in their stories is quite different but always interesting. Jonesy by Tom Wells is a riff on sporting underdog movies, with an asthmatic student determined to prove himself in his GCSE PC class but ending up in the netball team when rugby turns out to be too rough. Iddon Jones makes a lovable lead and Wells’ quirky sense of humour shines through, not least when Jonesy’s personal theme song finally plays. Continue reading “Review: Symphony, The Vaults”

Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall

“So the night recedes too, until at last it must die and join all the other long nights in nirvana”

So Ruth Wilson is a god amongst mere mortals, you all know that right? Probably one of the most exciting actresses working at the moment, Hollywood has now come a-calling and she should surely have been a shoo-in for Doctor Who if she were so inclined (although given her inimitable excellence as the devilish Alice Morgan in Luther, perhaps she is destined to be the next regeneration of the Rani…) and so her return to the stage in any shape or form is something to celebrate. And in The El. Train, this triple bill of Eugene O’Neill one-act plays, her artistic wings fledge even further as whilst she appears in the first two, she makes her directorial debut in the third.

Wilson has form with O’Neill of course – her Anna Christie at the Donmar was rightfully hugely lauded and she slips right back into the groove perfectly. She effortlessly holds the stage as the busying Mrs Rowland in Before Breakfast, struggling to make ends meet whilst her feckless husband languishes out of work, ballsily confident whilst yelling at him from the kitchen and sneaking guiltily satisfying sips of grog from the cupboard. Likewise in The Web that follows, her ability to conjure the most intensely felt of emotions at the drop of a hat is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to witness, especially in the intimately historical surroundings of Hoxton Hall. Continue reading “Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall”

Review: Backbeat, Duke of York’s

“Do you want to be part of the group, or do you want to be an individual?”

Telling the ‘origin story’ of the Beatles, how they paid their dues as a rock’n’roll covers band in Hamburg with their original line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, Backbeat is actually less Beatles-centric than one might expect. The focus of the show, written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys from Softley’s 1994 film of the same name, is actually the relationship between original bassist and visual artist Stuart Sutcliffe and the two main figures in his life: best friend Lennon who teaches him guitar so that he can join the band on their trip and abandon art school, and Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer who falls passionately for him and recognises his true artistic potential.

It is this conflict that forms the backbone of the show – Sutcliffe struggling to balance his best friend and his lover, the band and his art – all underpinned by the knowledge that his cruel early death from a brain haemorrhage came just as the Beatles were about to hit the big time. And it is clear that these are the only really fully-fleshed characters in the show: Nick Blood’s achingly cool and handsome Sutcliffe strikes a magnetically seductive pose, connecting beautifully with Ruta Gedmintas’ coolly composed Astrid and sparking well with Andrew Knott’s bolshy, hero-worshipping Lennon. They make an intriguing threesome and in some ways it is a shame that the show doesn’t get to delve more deeply into these relationships, particularly between Sutcliffe and Lennon. Continue reading “Review: Backbeat, Duke of York’s”