Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse”

Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening

My top 10 Losing My Minds post has been one of the most popular on the site (the most recent spike sadly being because of Marin Mazzie’s untimely passing – RIP), so I thought I would repeat the exercise with what is arguably Company’s most iconic song ‘Being Alive’. 

“Somebody make me come through”

1. Alice Fearn
An unexpected favourite mainly due to the combination of its achingly beautiful strings (arranged by Ben Goddard) and the delicacy of Fearn’s beautiful delivery.

2. Raúl Esparza
This. In all its ferocious power, I just can’t imagine it being better done by a man.

Continue reading “Someone to hold you too close – 10 takes on Being Alive to celebrate Company’s opening”

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

 

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.

Continue reading “News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)”

DVD Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000)

“I feel so absolutely stumped on the floor”

Proving that not even Kenneth Branagh is infallible when it comes to Shakespearean adaptations, this musical version of Love’s Labour’s Lost sees him really come a cropper. Relocating the story to 1939 on the eve of the Second World War and swapping out three-quarters of Shakespeare’s text for a handful of Cole Porter songs to evoke the feel of a classic Golden Age musical, it is a curiously insubstantial enterprise and at its worst, somewhat smug.

It doesn’t help that the play itself ain’t a classic, as evidenced by the rarity with which it is produced but still, the approach here just doesn’t work. There’s a game cast of actors who are clearly up for it but their every weakness in singing and dancing is left exposed, there’s a paucity of triple threats here which just leaves you wondering why bother? And when you see the amazing moves of Adrian Lester or the sweet tones of Alessandro Nivola’s voice, you get hints of what might have been. Continue reading “DVD Review: Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000)”

DVD Review: As You Like It (2006)

“We are not all alone unhappy”

As the fifth of his big screen Shakespeare adaptations, there’s a slight sense of Kenneth Branagh chomping at the bit, determined to do things differently whether they work or not. Not content with mutating Love’s Labour’s Lost into a 1930s musical, he then turned his hand to a more beloved play in As You Like It and adopted another approach, relocating it – notionally at least – to the striking world of late 19th century Japan.

There, the characters are turned into merchants seeking a foothold in the newly opened up trading routes and the battle between Dukes Senior and Frederick is over control of the family business. But aside from the wrestling match being turned into a sumo contest, there’s disappointingly little real purchase in this new world. Once in the forest, it could be any old Arden and the opportunity to explore something differently culturally is abandoned.  Continue reading “DVD Review: As You Like It (2006)”

2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Farinelli and the King by Claire van Kampen – Duke of York’s
Hangmen by Martin McDonagh – Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court / Wyndham’s
People, Places and Things by Duncan MacMillan – National Theatre Dorfman
The Father by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton – Wyndham’s

Best New Musical
Bend It Like Beckham – Phoenix
In the Heights – King’s Cross
Kinky Boots – Adelphi
Mrs Henderson Presents – Noël Coward

Best Revival 
Hamlet – Barbican
Les liaisons dangereuses – Donmar Warehouse
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – National Theatre Lyttelton
The Winter’s Tale – Garrick Continue reading “2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Review: Red Velvet, Garrick

“…now begrimed and black as mine own face”

For all the excitement of Kenneth Branagh’s announcement of his year long residency at the Garrick, the programme was lacking a certain diversity. So it’s pleasing to see that the Tricycle Theatre’s production of Red Velvet has been slotted in for a month, featuring a barnstorming lead performance from Adrian Lester and a fascinating insight into a piece of sorely neglected theatrical history.

My four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be found here.

 

Shakespeare Solos – Part 1

“But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall”

There’s going to be a lot of Shakespearean content coming our way in the next couple of months as we approach the 400th anniversary of his death and the Guardian have got in early with the first part of their Shakespeare Solos. Six leading actors performing favourite monologues from the Bard, directed by Dan Susman, it’s all rather luxurious, especially when we get the delights of Eileen Atkins in beautifully conversational mode as Othello’s Emilia, Adrian Lester returning to Hamlet and Roger Allam whetting the appetite for a King Lear which will surely be one of the wonders of the modern world once it happens.

And if a couple of the choices here smack a little of sneaky advertising, then so what. Better to have opportunities for people to book and see more if they are so inspired by these clips. Atkins is reprising her solo show at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Ayesha Dharker (here as Titania) will open in the RSC’s mammoth tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream later this month. It might not be Hamlet but Adrian Lester can be seen being differently Shakespearean in Red Velvet and most tenuously of all though still thoroughly theatrical, David Morrissey (a hypnotic Richard III) can be seen for another month in Hangmen.

TV Review: London Spy

 “People lie Danny, they lie very well” 

Well this was a disappointment wasn’t it, there’s no two ways about it. Tom Rob Smith’s London Spy started its five episode run most promisingly with its forthrightly modern gay love story – between emotionally reclusive Secret Service operative Alex and Danny, a shift worker and regular on the hard-partying Vauxhall gay clubbing scene. Edward Holcroft and Ben Whishaw made a powerfully effective couple, negotiating their differences beautifully and believably so that by the time Alex went missing, the substance of the emerging conspiracy theories actually meant something.

But as the plot wound vaguely into labyrinthine dead ends and red herrings, it became increasingly hard to get a handle not just on what was happening but what Smith was trying to say. And directed in would-be sepulchral (but actually just frustratingly dark) gloom by Jakob Verbruggen, the joys of recognising bits of my local Vauxhall soon wore off as you realised that such a stunning supporting cast as Adrian Lester, Clarke Peters and Harriet Walter were indeed being criminally underused or landed with heinous dialogue and what started off irresistibly disintegrated into implausibility. Continue reading “TV Review: London Spy”

DVD Review: Born Romantic

“Have you never been in love?
‘No, too much choice.’”

Now this is a curious thing – released in 2001 but feeling very much a child of the 90s, Born Romantic is a British rom-com written and directed by David Kane, centring on a salsa club in London and the romantic capers of the men and women to attend. It has a highly personable cast – and there’s always fun in seeing familiar faces with a much fresher hue about them – but this is fairly bog-standard, low-budget stuff. It says nothing new about relationships, metropolitan living or indeed anything exciting, it just putters along in a rather inoffensive manner that makes it hard to recommend.

For those who know their US late-night chat-show hosts, there’s still fun in seeing Craig Ferguson in a straight acting role, one of three main “romantics” of the multi-stranded story. His Frankie is a hapless divorcee, still co-habiting with his ex played by Hermione Norris, and struggling to wangle his way into the affections of emotionally distant art restorer Eleanor, the divine Olivia Williams who like everyone else here is treading water. Kane’s writing hits on some interesting points but rarely gets the opportunity to delve beneath the surface as the narrative skips around the numerous other storylines, barely scratching the surface of any. Continue reading “DVD Review: Born Romantic”