June theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.

Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
J’Ouvert, Theatre503
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”

Film Review: Walking on Sunshine

“I’m not one of those people who goes wobbly when a boy take his shirt off”

You had me at 80s jukebox musical… Sometimes, after a crappy Wednesday in the office, all you really need is some uncomplicated, good-natured fun and that is exactly what Walking On Sunshine provides. A fresh-faced cast, the glorious Puglian sunshine, some nifty group dance routines and a track-listing that opens with the holy trifecta of Madonna’s ‘Holiday’, Bananarama’s ‘Venus’ and Whitney’s ‘How Will I Know’ – you pretty much know what you’re getting with this film (I won a bet by guessing one of the final plot flourishes just 10 minutes in) and on leaving the cinema, its fun and exuberance had done its job.

Joshua St Johnston’s writing is naff in the extreme, never quite living up to the (Italian) tongue-in-cheek spirit it opens with as Maddie (Annabel Scholey) invites her sister Taylor (Hannah Arterton) and erotic novelist friend Lil (Katy Brand) to her holiday home to surprise her with news of a lightning fast wedding to a man who just happens to be Taylor’s holiday romance three years prior, although she remains blissfully unaware of the fact. Scholey and Arterton are great value for money, throwing themselves whole-heartedly into the whole shebang – the former turns out to be quite the dancer too – and delivering 80s fierceness. Continue reading “Film Review: Walking on Sunshine”

Review: A Little Hotel on the Side, Theatre Royal Bath

I’m the headless hunter of Honfleur, I’m the strangled Sister of Soissons, I’m the noseless Nun of Nantes”

Those who know me will attest to how firmly I tend to hold my preconceptions, but I do try to test them fairly regularly on the off-chance that a certain production might prove me wrong, if not about the whole genre then at least about that particular show. And despite its much-beloved status by the likes of Billington, Spencer et al, farce is one such genre of which I am no particular fan. I am one of the few who found One Man Two Guvnors painful in the extreme but I found myself tumbling easily for the charms of Noises Off, so whilst I might not ever call myself a fan of farce, I do know that it is impossible to lump them all together dismissively.

Which is a most long-winded way to say that I went to the Theatre Royal Bath to see Georges Feydeau and Maurice Désvallières’ A Little Hotel on the Side. Adapted by John Mortimer and directed by Lindsay Posner with an amazingly luxurious cast including the likes of Richard McCabe, Hannah Waddingham and Richard Wilson, it seems incredible that the run is just two weeks long but I would struggle to recommend dropping everything to try and see this. My only previous experience of Feydeau was with the Old Vic’s 2010 A Flea In Her Ear, which decidedly didn’t tickle my funnybone, and this felt far closer to that than to the delirious pleasures of Frayn’s backstage antics. Continue reading “Review: A Little Hotel on the Side, Theatre Royal Bath”

Review: Three Sisters, Young Vic

“It’s like a nail being hammered in my head”

Back when the Young Vic announced their forthcoming shows as being A Doll’s House and Three Sisters, I was a little surprised at how safe the programming seemed, on the surface at least. For as it turned out, Ibsen was revitalised by Simon Stephens to stunning effect in one of the shows of the year so far and so expectations were high for Chekhov’s turn, adapted and directed by Benedict Andrews, the Australian auteur whose Cate Blanchett-starring Big and Small proved to be somewhat divisive.

And this production, set in an abstract modern day, also seems set to provoke strong opinion. From Helen Rappaport’s literal translation, Andrews has thoroughly modernised the language of this story of three young women trapped in a stultifying provincial Russian town, dreaming of heady love affairs and escaping to the Moscow of their childhoods yet unable to fully wrest control of their lives from the cruel twists of fate. But dislocating the play from the social and economic context in which Chekhov conceived it seriously undermines a central aspect of the drama.  Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, Young Vic”

Review: Boys, Soho Theatre

“You want to believe someone will catch you whatever happens, but they won’t”

In a hot Edinburgh summer with the binmen on strike and riot police on a knife edge, four young men approach a major milestone. For two of them, it is graduation from university; for the others, it is the end of being able to piggyback on their flatmates’ hedonistic student lifestyle; for all of them, it is the unavoidable realisation that they have to face up to the future, however unfriendly it may seem. This is the central premise behind Ella Hickson’s newest play Boys, a HighTide/Nuffield/Headlong co-production now playing at the Soho Theatre, which I suppose will strike fear into the hearts of many about to graduate from university themselves.

In the somewhat blinkered world of Benny, Mack, Timp and Cam, the focus remains squarely on partying until the last possible moment with alcohol, drugs and sex and stories of the same to be found in great abundance. But beneath  the bravado lies fear, different kinds of fear for each boy and these slowly play out as the reality of the situation finally begins to hit them and the import of the big questions facing them, as the entry into adulthood lies straight ahead, weighs heavily in the air. Continue reading “Review: Boys, Soho Theatre”

Review: Jerusalem, Royal Court

My heart sank when I saw the running time for this play: another play at the Royal Court over 3 hours long. After Grasses of a Thousand Colours sucked the life out of my companion (he left after two hours) and numbed my bum unforgivably, I even thought about shifting these tickets to someone else. But upon reflection, I remembered that the playwright, Jez Butterworth, was also responsible for the excellent Parlour Song which I enjoyed hugely at the Almeida earlier this year, and so off I trotted to Sloane Square.

Jerusalem is a new play, a dark comedy, which purports to be a critical look at what it means to be English in these times and specifically explores this issue of identity in rural England. Set on St George’s Day, the central character is a man called George Byron who lives in a caravan, and who has built up a little community of sorts around him, living a life of general hedonism and with little care for traditional ideas of society. However, Byron’s easy life looks to be coming to a halt as the walls start closing in on him: his children, eviction notices and angry fathers are just some of the things he has to face up to. Continue reading “Review: Jerusalem, Royal Court”