Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic

Gorgeous chocolate-based musical Romantics Anonymous works another coup de foudre as it briefly returns to the Bristol Old Vic before a US tour

“What if we try and take a chance?
Whit if we simply shift our stance?
I’ll admit that just the thought of change terrifies me too.
But what if we try something new?”

In this remounting, Romantics Anonymous proves that rare thing – a show that can survive losing Joanna Riding from its cast. It’s a good couple of years since this musical adaptation of the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes took the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by storm and in the meantime, it has reached an almost mythic status among its devotees calling for a revival. This might not be what they had in mind but it’ll certainly do for now.

Wise Children and Plush Theatricals are taking the show on the road in the US, so this short opening stop at the Bristol Old Vic feels like a bit of a treat. For its new outing, Romantics Anonymous has been spruced up a bit – composer Michael Kooman and lyricist Christopher Dimond have added a couple of new songs and director and book writer Emma Rice has rejigged here and there too, whilst necessarily recasting some of her ensemble. Continue reading “Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: Ghost Quartet, Boulevard Theatre

London’s newest (and one of the swankiest) theatre opens with the weird but wonderful Ghost Quartet

“I will become the next big thing”

I remain unconvinced that London needs any new theatrical venues but the Boulevard Theatre, building on its impressive historical legacy, has at least made its case by striking out on a different note with a programme that embraces Soho’s late-night nature as much as London’s theatre ecology at large. And as such, it is a hugely impressive venue with high quality bars, menus and seating to dream of.

And its opening salvo, Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet, is a pleasingly quirky thing. London recently had the pleasure of his Preludes and though this is less sonically arresting, it is no less inventive. A song cycle of sorts, it pulls together stories of love and loss from past and present, fact and fiction, and meshes them with a true pick’n’mix of musical styles that range from haunted folk to hushed hymnals. Continue reading “Review: Ghost Quartet, Boulevard Theatre”

Not-a-review: Sylvia, Old Vic

I’m opting not to review Sylvia but rather to haul the Old Vic over the coals for a bit of a shambolic handling of the situation

“Time’s up, there’ll be no more waiting”

Hindsight is a great thing but the team at the Old Vic will have to look back at how they handled the difficult genesis of Sylvia and take some severe lessons. Some things were unquestionably out of their control, like the disruption of cast illness, but others were not. The apparent development of the show from a dance-led piece to a full-blown musical did not happen overnight and so to cite that as an excuse for the piece not being ready, to reclassify the production as a work-in-progress midway through the run is disingenuous to say the least, especially when people are still being charged £45 to see it.

It is a piece that is bounding with potential, clicking into a theatre landscape in London which feels unusually switched on at the moment (Misty and Emilia to name but two kicks up its backside), but we do still feel like we’re in rough draft territory here, hence my decision not to review. (It has provoked some strange reactions in the press though – four stars from Billers? Time Out showing their ass about colour-blind casting?) The music by Josh Cohen and DJ Walde and the book by Kate Prince and Priya Parmar both need substantial refinement from its baggy three hours plus, but you can see the work being put in, and which will continue to be put in until Sylvia re-emerges (next year apparently) better equipped to smash that patriarchy.

 

Re-review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker

“Je suis émotif

I’m a big fan of chocolate and an even bigger fan of Romantics Anonymous so naturally I had to head back to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for second helpings (and with somewhat less calories than your usual festive chocolate offerings!). Not too much more to add to my original review and I’d recommend booking in before it closes next week but there’s not a ticket to be had! Returns queue…?

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 6th January

Review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“Prenez vos chocolats…et mangez-les”

Like the squares of chocolates handed out for us to magically access automatic translation, there’s a bittersweet note to much of Romantics Anonymous. And it is perhaps predictably that Emma Rice scores one of her biggest hits on Bankside with a musical that couldn’t be more Emma Rice if it tried. As it is, it fits perfectly into the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, shaking up the established order once again as she brings amplification and neon lights along with the huge generosity of spirit of this show, uncompromising to the end in her relationship with the Globe.

Romantics Anonymous was adapted by Rice from the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes, and takes a wonderfully Gallic spin on your typical romantic comedy. Jean-René has inherited a chocolate factory, Angélique is a chocolatier par excellence in need of a job, they seem perfectly suited for each other but both are chronically, painfully shy. She faints if she has to speak to people, he has precisely zero confidence and even in the act of finally striking up a relationship together, both working and personal, their awkwardness is a constant threat to their happiness.

Continue reading “Review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse”

Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe

“I would you were as I would have you be”

Emma Rice’s Summer of Love got off to a slightly sticky start at the Globe with a mystifying take on Romeo and Juliet from Daniel Kramer and as we move onto Twelfth Night, which she is directing herself, there’s a similarly uncompromising attitude in place. For the production reminded me nothing so much as a camp episode of Monarch of the Glen (sadly not Monarch of the Glum) and whilst it is often fun to watch, it’s not always the most effective treatment.

Rice’s iconoclastic approach is there from the get-go – a prologue set onboard the SS Unity before its shipwreck sees the company dancing merrily to Sister Sledge. And once in this decidedly Celtic Illyria, Orsino has a Lionel Richie mullet, Andrew Aguecheek is a would-be b-boy, serenades are played on cassette decks…why we’re in 1979, as good a time as any to explore cross-dressing hijinks of gender exploration.  Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe”

How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015

“It’s from that play with lots of words…”

My first ever trip to the institution that is the National Theatre Christmas Quiz saw teams of four from current shows Husbands and Sons and wonder.land doing battle for the honour of, well, several bottles of fizz as it turned out. With Emma Freud as Quizmistress and Angus Deayton keeping the scores, it was a light-hearted 45 minutes of festive fun.

Rounds varied from odd-one-out, working out song lyrics from a dry line reading by Deayton, guess which NT show the costume was from, to Taboo-style-guessing-games, and a surprising array of knowledge troves and hidden talents soon came to life – Anne-Marie Duff was very up on her theatrical knowledge, Julia Ford is clearly itching to do a musical and Anna Francolini bossed everything (apart from Katie Mitchell…). Continue reading “How-could-it-be-a-review: The National Theatre Theatre Quiz 2015”

Review: McQueen, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“Am I going to make it?
‘You already know the answer to that question’”

One of the more surprising transfers of the year has to be McQueen’s journey from the St James to the Theatre Royal Haymarket, its commercial success over-riding a (largely) critical drubbing (here’s my original review). The play has been rejigged to insert an interval, rewritten to extend some scenes and add one whole new one, and recast to bring in fosterIAN award winner Carly Bawden for Glee’s Dianna Agron – this last change proving the most effective in altering the show for the better. My full 3 star review for Cheap Theatre TIckets can be read here.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Booking until 7th November