September theatre round-up

A quick round-up of the rest of September’s shows

Mary Said What She Said, aka how far I will go for Isabelle Huppert
The Provoked Wife, aka how far I will go for Alexandra Gilbreath
A Doll’s House, aka if we must have more Ibsen, at least it is like this
Falsettos, aka finding the right way, for me, to respond
The Comedy Grotto, aka a sneaky peak at Joseph Morpurgo
The Life I Lead, aka something really rather sweet
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, aka well why not go again Continue reading “September theatre round-up”

Review: Viva Forever, Piccadilly Theatre

“Do you still remember, how we used to be…”

Producer Judy Craymer reinvigorated a whole new theatrical genre when she masterminded the ABBA jukebox hit Mamma Mia! to huge box-office success, and so proved the natural choice to steer a show featuring the back catalogue of the Spice Girls and a script by Jennifer Saunders into the West End. The resulting show – Viva Forever – is a story of a young woman who is forced to ditch her bandmates in pursuit of her reality show dreams, the mentor who is determined to exploit her in order to secure her own media career and her mother who is on hand to make sure she never forgets who she is. But it is one that doesn’t quite so much fill the Piccadilly Theatre with girl power as a sense of what might have been.

Crucially, the discography isn’t always sufficient for the task in hand of a jukebox musical. Delving into some of the lesser-known works of the Spice Girls isn’t as much as a problem (though front-loading them so is a curious choice as we have to wait a while for a stone-cold hit) as the way in which the lyrical content has to be shoehorned in, resulting in some awkward fits – ‘Say You’ll Be There’ suffers particularly here. But equally, there are moments that do work. The act 1 closer weaves together ‘Goodbye’, ‘Mama’ and ‘Headlines’ in a rather stirringly affecting manner as the three women reach crucial points in their journey; ‘Spice Up Your Life’ becomes a dazzling fiesta of a Spanish street festival; and the titular ‘Viva Forever’ is recast as a tenderly intimate acoustic ballad. Continue reading “Review: Viva Forever, Piccadilly Theatre”

Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse

“Dat’s de stuff! Let her have it! All togedder now! Sling it into her! Let her ride! Shoot de piece now! Call de toin on her! Drive her into it! Feel her move! Watch her smoke!”

I loved Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie at the Donmar last year and thought his Long Day’s Journey Into Night was truly exceptional when I caught it earlier this year, so the prospect of one of his lesser known works – The Hairy Ape – at the ever-inventive Southwark Playhouse was one that intrigued and so I let myself be talked into catching it just before it closed. It is definitely closer to the former of the above-mentioned plays in its primal expressionism, tales of the sea and the search for belonging.

In the engine room of a transatlantic liner, Yank is the king of his world, leading his team of workers as they shovel away. His certainties are stripped away when a young upper class lady makes her way below-deck, leaving shocked and horrified at what she sees but opening Yank’s eyes to life beyond what he knows. His reaction is to try to find out what disgusts her but he soon discovers that she represents a whole world that doesn’t or won’t accept him. Continue reading “Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Million Dollar Quartet, Noël Coward

“What does rock’n’roll mean?”

At first glance, there’s little that can be said about Million Dollar Quartet really. It is not a show I would normally ever have thought of going to see, the music not being of my era or a genre that I know much about. But when a ticket was wafted in front of me combined with the knowledge that the show is closing mid-January, I thought ‘what the hey’ and trundled along to the Noël Coward Theatre for the evening. What was most surprising about was that I really rather enjoyed myself.

The show is based around the real life meeting of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins (have to admit I hadn’t heard of Perkins) on 4th December 1956 at the Sun Records recording studio in Memphis. Over the course of the evening, the four rip through over 20 of the songs for which they became hugely famous with the help of two additional musicians and Presley’s girlfriend Dyanne who’s on hand to provide the odd bit of vocal support. There’s also something of an attempt to work in some proper story: mainly around the record label shenanigans with professional rivalries coming to the fore, testing friendships and loyalties of these four men at different stages in their career. Continue reading “Review: Million Dollar Quartet, Noël Coward”

Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange

“What is it you long for?”

The second part of my double bill at Manchester’s Royal Exchange was the production in the main theatre Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea. Presented here in a new version by David Eldridge, using a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund, it marks the third time Eldridge has delved into the Nordic playwright’s work, this time working his stuff on one of his lesser-performed works. Just as a quick aside, I can highly recommend the blueberry cheesecake muffin from the bar at the theatre, it was a little piece of heaven!!

Set in a small fjordside Norwegian town, living a passive half life between sea and mountains, Ellida broods over her past love, despite having settled into a comfortable marriage of convenience with Doctor Wangel. Her reluctance to play the role of doting wife and stepmother results in Wangel bending over backwards to try and please her by inviting a man from her past to stay and cheer her up yet a web of misunderstandings and frustrations, that stretches all the way throughout this household, as the pull between domesticity and emotional freedom is explored. Continue reading “Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange”