Review: Nell Gwynn, Apollo

“The girl in this tale isn’t quite half as predictable”

Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn took the Globe by storm last autumn so it was delightful news to hear that it would transfer into the West End. Sadly, it wasn’t able to hold onto Gugu Mbatha-Raw as its leading lady (nor the riotously scene-stealing Amanda Lawrence as her lady) but in finding Gemma Arterton to take over the role, Christopher Luscombe has ensured that the production makes the journey seamlessly as she is simply stunning in the role. 

My 5 star review for Official Theatre can be read here.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Booking until 30th April


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fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical


Best Supporting Actor in a Play

John Simm, The Homecoming

Anyone who has seen Doctor Who knows Simm can do menacing but it has never been as appealing as it is here, giving Lenny a directly sexual charge that fair flew off the stage. I’m no big fan of Pinter but I could watch this performance over and over.

Honourable mention: David Moorst, Violence and Son
If it’s good enough for the Oscars (Alicia Vikander as Best Supporting Actress for The Danish Girl, gurl?!), it’s good enough for me. As the younger half of the titular pair, Moorst was heartbreaking, and horrific in the same moment, a thoroughly complex performance for a thoroughly complex part. 

Harm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn

7-10

Jolyon Coy, Creditors; David Mumeni, Lela & Co.; Pearce Quigley, The Beaux’ Stratagem; Luke Thompson, Oresteia



Best Supporting Actor in a Musical


Emmanuel Kojo, Show Boat

You may think that you know the song ‘Ol’ Man River’ but Kojo’s incandescent rendition(s) of this standard imbue it with an extraordinary power that is just memerising. Don’t wait for a transfer which hasn’t been confirmed yet, get to Sheffield while you still can!

Honourable mention: Ako Mitchell,
Little Shop of Horrors
‘Here he is folks, the leader of the plaque!’ I’ve seen Mitchell in a range of roles but as dastardly dentist Orin Scrivello DDS, he really unleashed his devilishly fun side with memorable results.

Matthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

7-10

Paul Harwood, Singin’ In The Rain; Stephen Matthews, Anything Goes ; Sam O’Rourke, The Smallest Show on Earth; Renato Paris, Close To You

DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 1


“War has always been the handmaiden of progress”

From its opening moments of buttocks and blood (both belonging to an uncredited Hugh Bonneville if that floats your boat), it’s clear that Da Vinci’s Demons is going to have its fun whilst playing fast and loose with the early life of its subject, Florentine polymath Leonardo Da Vinci. Conceived by David S Goyer and a co-production between Starz and BBC Worldwide, it’s a good-natured romp of a drama series much in the mould of Merlin, Atlantis or the lamented Sinbad but perhaps tied a little closer to reality as it dips in and out of the tangled history of the Italian city states. 

And it is its historical connections that serves as a main driver for the technological innovations for which Leonardo is famed and which form the ‘issue of the week’ around which most of the episodes hang. So as Da Vinci climbs into bed with the ruling Medici family, he’s sucked into their political machinations whilst battling rival families in Florence and the ever-present threat of the Catholic Church in Rome. Alongside this sits a more fantastical series-long arc about the mystical Book of Leaves and the Sons of Mithras who believe Da Vinci has only just begun to tap into his true power. Continue reading “DVD Review: Da Vinci’s Demons Series 1”

Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe


“What must the king do now”

A late trip to the Globe to catch Richard II (for which I had a ticket months ago but was waylaid by an exciting game of tennis) at its final Friday matinee. It’s a little funny how this theatre programmes its runs well into Autumn, especially with the vicariousness of British weather, as there was a decided chill in the air even in the afternoon so heaven knows how it feels in the evening. It might be fine for a rip-roaring delight like Nell Gwynn but for the more measured qualities of Richard II, it’s a bit more of a challenge.

Simon Godwin’s production has had quite strong notices and is blessed with the fine Charles Edwards in the title role, but something about it never quite gripped me and so I was a tad more ambivalent than amazed. It’s a singular interpretation of the role, flippant and fabulous to the gold-plated extreme but Edwards’ performance style is so far removed from the rest of the company that it almost feels as if it belongs in another play, the emotional complexity (from everyone really) that marks this venue’s best productions doesn’t quite feel present.  Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe


“The lady’s a wit”

As a director, Jessica Swale has proved herself one of the finest at reinvigorating Restoration comedies and as a writer, has demonstrated a clear interest in illuminating tales of historical women so it is only right that her latest play for the Globe combines these two worlds in a heady rush of delightfully comic theatre. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Nell Gwynn brings to life an ultimate rags-to-riches tale of an East End orange-seller who became a long-time mistress to King Charles II, also finding the time to become the most famous actress of the era along the way, a vital and vibrant part of theatre history. 

The Globe proves itself to be an ideal venue for a show about the theatre and from the moment Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s wonderfully self-possessed Gwynn first calls out from the audience in amongst the groundlings, we’re just as smitten with her as Jay Taylor’s Charles Hart, the leading man du jour who sweeps her under his wing from where she blossoms into the leading performer of their company, ruffling a fair few feathers along the way, especially once she attracts royal attention and discovers matters of heart are also now matters of geopolitics in one of the play’s most striking and amusing scenes.  Continue reading “Review: Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Globe


“I will not hear thee speak; I’ll have my bond”

Following the exceptional Rupert Goold/RSC adaptation which played the Almeida over Christmas, it seemed a brave decision for the Globe to also lead their 2015 season with The Merchant of Venice but Jonathan Munby’s production proves to be just as revelatory, albeit in a completely different way. With Jonathan Pryce making his debut here at this venue, accompanied by his daughter Phoebe no less, it is no surprise that his beautifully realised Shylock is at the heart of the show here but it is also good to see Jessica (played by Pryce junior, natch) also take her turn in the spotlight.

In some ways, this echoes the Al Pacino version, showing us how Jessica is cruelly caught in the middle – torn between duty to her father and her Jewish faith, and the delight that a genuine love match with Ben Lamb’s Christian Lorenzo brings to her life. This conflict is fiercely felt – she argues ferociously in Yiddish with her father but there’s no doubting the haunting anguish of the production’s end, her Hebrew lament powerfully affecting as Shylock faces yet another disgrace as we’re reminded that – even if she has shunned him – it is still a familial bond being sundered here. Continue reading “Review: The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: The White Devil, Swan


“Sum up my faults, I pray”

It feels a bit of a shame that one of the centrepieces of the RSC’s Roaring Girls season is a play that doesn’t manage gender parity in its cast, even with some cross-gender casting. This may speak of the nature of Jacobean Theatre, for it is Webster’s The White Devil of which we speak here, but Maria Aberg’s reputation precedes her and so it was a little disappointing to see that the opportunity hasn’t been seized here – if not now, then when?
 

And though I’d heard such great things about this production, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed here. Part of lies in the play itself – I can’t deny that I just don’t really like it and though it is updated to the debauchery of the 1980s Rome club scene here, the messy chaos of the pursuit of naked self-interest that proves Aberg’s main focus dominates too much and often to the detriment of the storytelling. Continue reading “Review: The White Devil, Swan”

Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre


“If you marry me you’ll never be a candidate for the Vatican”

Originally seen at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2006 and 2007 as In Extremis, Howard Brenton’s newly retitled Eternal Love marks the 21st birthday year of English Touring Theatre and the first instalment in a three-year-long project to tour quality drama across the country. On a personal note, it also saw my first ever visit to Cambridge (too brief for my liking, I look forward to a return) and the Cambridge Arts Theatre (very friendly, I like the fact I found the bar before I found the box office!).

The retitling offers a further clue to its subject matter in a subtitle The Story of Abelard and Heloise but in some ways, this feels a little bit of a misnomer. For though the enduring love story between the medieval theologian Peter Abelard and his fearsomely intelligent student Heloise is a central part of the play, Brenton also focuses on the key philosophical debate of the time, as intense rival Bernard of Clairvaux declares his determination to defeat this heretical foe and maintain the doctrine of absolute faith. Continue reading “Review: Eternal Love, Cambridge Arts Theatre”

Review: A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange


“I did it out of love, didn’t I?”

Part of the thrill of watching new actors explode onto the scene is the knowledge that in at least a few of the cases, we are watching the Judi Denches, Maggie Smiths and Michael Gambons of our time at the beginnings of their careers. If I were a betting man, I’d wager that Cush Jumbo will be someone we are watching for decades to come and it has been a particular pleasure to watch her work at Manchester’s Royal Exchange progress over the last few years. Her creative relationship with director Greg Hersov has seen successful takes on Pygmalion and As You Like It and reunited once again, they now have a go at A Doll’s House.

Bryony Lavery has slightly retooled Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, sprinkling it lightly with modern touches which perfectly suit Jumbo’s striking presence as Nora, a woman who unblinkingly does what she can to protect her husband and family until finally, she realises that it is herself that she needs to look after the most. It remains a compellingly foresighted piece of writing – 130 years old now – challenging social conventions about marriage, motherhood and the role that money has to play in all of this. Continue reading “Review: A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange”