2018 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Cecilia Noble, Nine Night
A peach of a role for this most characterful of performers, Noble fits Aunt Maggie so well the part could have been written for her. And as with Nine Night at large, the beauty is in the simultaneous specificity and universality of the character. Though rooted entirely in Jamaican traditions, she’s also the archetype of the opinionated elderly relative that is recognisable no matter where you come from and Noble imbues her with just enough heart to go along with the hilarity. 

Honourable mention: Martha Plimpton, Sweat
A late but indisputable arrival, the ferocity with which Plimpton permeates her performance makes an already excellent production into something unmissable. Obviously it helps that she’s an iconic figure from my childhood movie days but seriously, do what you can to see her at the Donmar.

Adjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia

8-10
Lucy Cohu, The Height of the Storm; Sylvestra Le Touzel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Kayla Meikle, Dance Nation

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Patti LuPone, Company
A triumphant return to the West End stage for this most iconic of performers whose every mmm-hmm turns another theatregoer into a homosexual. Every time I’ve seen the show, her interpretation of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ has brought different colours and textures – and check the moment when her eyes pin down Bobbie with “the girls who just watch”. Plus she does furniture-shuffling choreography like a real trouper – a privilege to watch (and watch again).

Honourable mention: Amber Gray, Hadestown
I’d thought LuPone would walk this category but the elemental force with which Gray blew onto the Olivier stage had me in raptures as her every move and utterance had me absolutely gripped. Is there any way we can keep her in the UK or entice her back as soon as possible please.

Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary MacLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors

8-10
Cherelle Skeete, Fun Home; Susannah van den Berg, Once; Vicky Vox, Little Shop of Horrors

Review: Hadestown, National Theatre

Way down in Hadestown at the National Theatre is one of the best musicals of the year

“Damned if you don’t. Damned if you do.
Whole damn nation’s watching you”

I loved Hadestown so much that I had booked to see it for a second time before I even got home from the first. Read more about that trip here, including me trying the National’s new smart caption glasses, and read on for a review that focuses properly on Anaïs Mitchell’s brilliant musical here. An adaptation of the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, developed with director Rachel Chavkin, it riffs on the myth by relocating the action to a dive bar in the Deep South and redefines hell for our capitalist age. And they fill the Olivier with music, such music, that transforms Hadestown into the kind of experience that lingers long in the mind. 

Mitchell’s score succeeds so much because it establishes such an identity for itself that it dares you not to be seduced into the world of the gods, or at least New Orleans. At its best, its simply elemental – ‘Way Down Hadestown’ has the kind of tune that sounds like it has always existed and will not quit your brain anytime soon. And as you collect the influences – hints of Jason Robert Brown on ‘All I’ve Ever Known’, the Johnny Cash-esque call and response of ‘Why We Build The Wall’, the straight up musical theatre emotion of ‘Wait For Me”s chorus, to name but a few – you realise a new form of Americana has evolved here. Continue reading “Review: Hadestown, National Theatre”

Review: Hadestown, via smart caption glasses at the National Theatre

I try out the new smart caption glasses while watching Hadestown at the National Theatre and am blown away both by the show and the frankly amazing technology 

Eurydice knew how to survive
Orpheus…knew how to live”

The exceedingly kind folk of the National Theatre allowed me to go and see Hadestown a few days after the press night, as I was most keen to have a try of the Smart Caption Glasses which were brought into circulation on Friday. Acclaimed as “a revolutionary new way for people with hearing loss to enjoy performance”, for once the blurb more than lives up to its billing as I found them to be truly innovative and potentially life-changingly good. 

Without wishing to open a whole can of worms about access and diversity within the critical community, it has to be said that as a (deaf) reviewer, I never get to go to captioned performances. If and when they’re scheduled, the timetables just don’t allow for it, so – as in most of my daily life – I make do. I hear what I hear and guess the rest. So the idea of this facility becoming available was one I was most keen to investigate at the earliest opportunity.  Continue reading “Review: Hadestown, via smart caption glasses at the National Theatre”

CD Review: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (2013 Original Cast Recording)

“Gonna have to study up a little bit

If you wanna keep up with the plot”

It might seem a little disingenuous to wish that Hamilton had won one more Tony than the eleven it scored but the deserving Philippa Soo stood no chance against the juggernaut that is Cynthia Erivo’s Celie in The Color Purple for the Lead Actress award, despite her name being part of a Beautiful South lyric (Jennifer, Alison…). So I was interested to listen to the only other cast recording I could find with her on it, 2013’s Off-Broadway production of Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.
Described as an “electropop” opera (although electropop evidently means something different across the ocean) and with a story filleted from the mid-section of War and Peace (Volume 2, Part 5 to be precise), it’s a rather startling but hugely imaginative piece of writing that folds in musical influences far beyond that descriptor. There’s elements of electro-pop and other contemporary pop sounds including indie rock and they’re somehow combined with Russian folk and classical music in some unholy alliance.

It is effective though – complex and tangled as much musically as lyrically, the score is fiercely demanding but in the way that makes you want to listen to it, I’m on my fourth full run-through and I still keep discovering entirely new facets to the layering of the writing, in some ways it’s a wonder this hasn’t caught on like Hamilton – maybe the forthcoming Broadway run will rectify that… Sadly Soo won’t be with that production (she’s going onto new show Amélie) but it’s glorious getting to hear her tenderly romantic voice here as the conflicted Natasha.
Other standouts are Lucas Steele’s Anatole in all his seductive glory, Brittain Ashford’s Sonya, Amber Gray’s Helene whose ‘Charming’ is superb, and Malloy himself as Pierre, a smaller contribution that one might expect for a title character but you’ll soon see why once you give Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 a good listen or 3 and fall under its strangely compelling spell.