The 2019 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced

Proper award season is starting to kick into gear now with the reveal of the shortlist for the 2019 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards and an uncharacteristically strong set of nominations that will surprise a fair few. I had little love for Sweet Charity so I’d’ve bumped its nod for something else but generally speaking, I’m loving the love for Dorfman shows and the Royal Court and I hate the reminder that there’s a couple of things I mistakenly decided not to see (Out of Water, …kylie jenner)

BEST ACTOR in partnership with Ambassador Theatre Group
K. Todd Freeman Downstate, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Francis Guinan Downstate, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Tom Hiddleston Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre
Wendell Pierce Death of a Salesman, Young Vic & Piccadilly
Andrew Scott Present Laughter, Old Vic

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS in partnership with Christian Louboutin
Hayley Atwell Rosmersholm, Duke of York’s
Cecilia Noble Downstate, National Theatre (Dorfman) & Faith, Hope and Charity, National Theatre (Dorfman)
Dame Maggie Smith A German Life, Bridge
Juliet Stevenson The Doctor, Almeida
Anjana Vasan A Doll’s House, Lyric Hammersmith Continue reading “The 2019 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards – Shortlist announced”

Preview: Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory

“Angry men don’t write the rules and guns don’t right the wrongs”

The season to be jolly is fast approaching but if the idea of Christmas cheer in the theatre leaves you, well, less than cheerful, then the Menier Chocolate Factory’s festive offering this year may well be up your street. The highly prolific director Jamie Lloyd is taking on Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, which sees Sondheim’s music and lyrics coiled around John Weidman’s book exploring the men and women who tried (whether successfully or not) to assassinate a President of the United States.

It’s hardly the most Christmassy of shows and I think that is pretty much the point. And Sondheim’s enduring popularity (especially at this venue) makes it a safe bet even before the luxurious quality of the cast and company comes into the equation. I saw the first preview on Friday, my booking radar having gone a little awry as I was away when the tickets were released, so instead of reviewing the production, I’m offering you 10 things to look forward to and look out for and if I get to see the show later in the run, I’ll review it ‘properly’ then. Here be mild production spoilers (all hidden behind links).

Continue reading “Preview: Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory”

DVD Review: Dead Babies

“The jokes, the drugs, it all gets so tedious”

If you use Lovefilm, then you might have experienced that moment when you open the packet and you have no earthly clue as to what the film is that they have sent you. Compiling the list of films that you want to watch starts when you first open your account, which in my case was a good couple of years ago and the thought processes that go behind adding things, as you browse through various categories and names, remain a mystery as all sorts of random things end up on there. So I was genuinely intrigued by the prospect of Dead Babies and decided to pop in the DVD without googling it to if it would become clear to me.

And sure enough it soon did and in the most delightful of ways as two of my favourite actresses, Alexandra Gilbreath and Olivia Williams, popped up in the opening scenes. And based on a novel by Martin Amis, my hopes were fairly high. But good Lord they were soon dashed with what was really quite a terrible film. Set in a country house over a long weekend where a group of self-involved old college friends invite some American pals over in anticipation of some hard-core experimental drug taking, but William Marsh’s directorial debut revels far too much in depicting scenes of hedonistic debauchery at the expense of anything else. Continue reading “DVD Review: Dead Babies”

2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic
Billie Piper – The Effect, Headlong at the National, Cottesloe
Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
Jill Halfpenny – Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Wyndham’s
Julie Walters – The Last of the Haussmans at the National, Lyttelton
Sally Hawkins – Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs & Duke of York’s

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss at Hampstead
Adrian Lester – Red Velvet at the Tricycle
David Haig – The Madness of George III at the Apollo
David Suchet – Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo
Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the National, Cottesloe
Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night & Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe & the Apollo Continue reading “2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Re-review: Abigail’s Party, Wyndhams

“Our nation’s culture. Not something you can actually read, of course.”

There’s something mildly amusing about the above quote, which refers to Shakespeare by the way, given the Bardathon currently going on at the Globe and beyond and it is one that I didn’t pick up the first time I saw Abigail’s Party. I’d never seen it before despite the Alison Steadman version being a cult classic and so the whole show was a revelation to me, especially in how dark it was given I’d assumed it was more of a comedy. That original review from this production’s original run at the Menier Chocolate Factory can be read here but it has now made the leap into the West End at the Wyndhams where it will run for the summer after it sold out at the Menier.

I don’t really have much more to add about the show second time round, except to say that the Wyndhams is a great fit for it, the sense of intimacy is still there as Beverly’s living room occupies a letterbox set on the larger stage and has brought with it all the beautifully observed period details. Performances remain sharp across the board, Natalie Casey really is excellent as the gin-soaked Ange, Andy Nyman oozes unreconstructed machismo as Laurence and Jill Halfpenny sweeps all before her as the acidic Beverly. Continue reading “Re-review: Abigail’s Party, Wyndhams”

Review: Abigail’s Party, Menier Chocolate Factory

“We’ve got whiskey, gin, vodka, whatever you like”

Whisper it quietly, but I’ve never actually seen Abigail’s Party. I came to Mike Leigh rather late and carrying so much cultural baggage and expectation with it, it’s never been a film I’ve felt a particular inclination to take in. So when the Menier Chocolate Factory announced it was producing a revival of the play, it didn’t really register on my radar of things that I needed to see. But excellent word-of-mouth and general expressions of shock that I’d never seen it before encouraged me to book a ticket when a chance visit to the theatre’s website offered up a return for sale.

Jill Halfpenny takes on Beverly, the role iconically made famous by Alison Steadman (I know that much at least) and though it is her outrageous ‘fantasticness’ that forms a large part of the play and the excruciating comedy it contains, it remains thoroughly a Mike Leigh piece at heart. So painful marital discord abounds and if the prevailing tone is comedic, it is piercingly dark and cutting. For someone watching it for the first time, I didn’t find it half as funny as nearly everyone around me. Continue reading “Review: Abigail’s Party, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: You Me Bum Bum Train 2011, plus news about extension

“If the experiences are expected, they feel less real, lessening the psychological and emotional impact the scenes have on unsuspecting passengers”

Are things ever as good as the first time? Well, it is usually different to say the least and so it was with the latest incarnation of You Me Bum Bum Train which has taken up residence in a disused office block on New Oxford Street for the next few weeks. I was able to ride the Train last year due to a completely random piece of booking on the Barbican website whilst snowed in at my parents’ house, I knew nothing of the show and it was pure chance that I happened to pick up tickets for what was apparently the fastest-ever selling show for the Barbican. That first experience was absolutely sensational, completely unlike anything I had ever done before and it initially thrilled and terrified me in equal measure before the sense of sheer wonderment set in at what I had been through.

The Train is a site-specific, interactive, personal journey that you take on your own through a series of experiences, encounters and adventures, populated by literally hundreds of volunteers, which range from the surreal to the exhilarating to the challenging to the everyday. Taken together over a non-stop 40 minute period, they form an unparalleled adventure which has to be one of the most liberating things you will ever do. Participants are honour-bound not to reveal the details of the show in order not to detract from the mystery that surrounds it – a tough job for a reviewer! – and ultimately that forms part of the beauty of entering this world – the unexpectedness of it all is what makes it so much fun. Continue reading “Review: You Me Bum Bum Train 2011, plus news about extension”