2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations


It’s that time of year again and getting in early with the announcement of their nominees is What’s on Stage. Voted for by the public, they’re often skewed a little towards the bigger ‘names’ but this year’s set of nominations are relatively controversy-free. There’s something a little odd about the way that regional theatre has its own separate category but its actors appear in the main ones – I feel like regional theatre productions should either be considered entirely in or out, rather than this halfway house.

Naturally, big shows rule the roost – 42nd Street and Bat out of Hell lead the lists with 8 nominations apiece – and they’ve even found a way to shoehorn in Hamilton by nominating it for the two new categories of Best Cast Recording (which somehow includes Les Mis??) and Best Show Poster, thus being able to get round it not actually being open yet and grabbing the requisite headlines once it does, inevitably, win.

Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Andrew Scott, Hamlet
Bryan Cranston, Network
David Tennant, Don Juan in Soho
Martin Freeman, Labour of Love

Eve Best, Love in Idleness
Imelda Staunton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Olivia Colman, Mosquitoes
Natalie Dormer, Venus in Fur
Tamsin Greig, Labour of Love Continue reading “2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

The announcement of the new cast for Broadway’s hugely lauded Hello, Dolly! has been a most strange affair – names trickling out one by one, rather than one big splash. However, it is Bernadette Peters (from 20th January) who has the unenviable task of following in Bette Midler’s shoes and trying to maintain the hefty box office that she’s managed to garner, and maintain. Victor Garber and our very own Charlie Stemp (making his Broadway debut) have also been revealed and doubtless by the time you read this, more will be have been announced too, one by one.

Producers Tim Levy (Director, NT America) and Jordan Roth (President, Jujamcyn Theaters) announced today that the National Theatre Production of Tony Kushner’s epic and seminal masterwork, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, will return to Broadway for the first time since its now-legendary original production opened in 1993. This spectacular new staging of Part One of Angels in America, Millennium Approaches, and of Part Two, Perestroika, had its world premiere earlier this year in a sold-out run at the National Theatre, where it became the fastest selling show in the organization’s history. This strictly limited, 18-week engagement will begin performances at The Neil Simon Theatre on Friday, February 23, 2018, with an official opening on Wednesday, March 21. Public on sale is: 27 October at 10am NYC time.

Starring two-time Tony Award® winner Nathan Lane and Academy Award® and Tony Award nominee Andrew Garfield, the cast of Angels in America will feature fellow original National Theatre cast members Susan Brown, Denise Gough, Amanda Lawrence, James McArdle, and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. (Additional casting will be announced shortly – Russell Tovey is the only main cast member not to travel, it would be neat if Luke Norris were able to step in as it was Tovey who stepping into his role in the transfer of A View From The Bridge which Norris couldn’t do). Two-time Tony Award winner Marianne Elliott (War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) once again directs. 

As if there was any doubt about the target market for the soon-to-open Bridge Theatre, they’ve released details of the catering that will be available, most notably their collaboration with the acclaimed restaurateurs of St John. Apparently they have famous madeleines, and these famous madeleines are available to be pre-ordered hot as an interval snack. Let it not be said I don’t give you the important news!

And as predicted, the Oscar Wilde season is throwing up even more casting that will prove hard to resist. Kathy Burke’s Lady Windermere’s Fan now has its principal parts filled and so we have the delectable Samantha Spiro as Mrs Ernylee, Kevin Bishop as Lord Darlington, and none other than Jennifer Saunders as the Duchess of Berwick.

Review: Angels in America, National Theatre

“It isn’t easy, it doesn’t count if it’s easy, it’s the hardest thing. Forgiveness. Which is maybe where love and justice finally meet”
In the many aspects of Angels in America that there are to enjoy and appreciate, the richness of Tony Kushner’s writing was not one that I was particularly expecting. But at several points throughout the many, many hours of the two-show press day, it felt like Kushner was almost writing in pull-quotes, such was the vividness of the language that was resonating from the stage of the Lyttelton. So to reflect that, I’m structuring this post a little differently to a traditional review, using some of those quotes to trigger and collect some of my thoughts. 

“The great work begins”

Such was the ‘noise’ around this 25th anniversary production of these shows that it was impossible to ignore the fevered level of expectation and that’s something I find a little hard to deal with. I’d never seen them onstage before, nor succumbed to the temptation of watching the HBO miniseries, wanting to be able to make up my own mind about them. But it is so difficult in this day and age, to dissociate from the chatter around the theatre I love. Plus the fact that so many exciting names were attached to the cast and creative listings – Marianne Elliott directing the likes of Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield, Olivier winner Denise Gough, bona fide cultural institution Nathan Lane…I mean who couldn’t get just a bit excited.

“This is the very threshold of revelation”

We clearly live in a different world as far as AIDS is concerned, both in terms of its treatment and the stigma attached to it, albeit with much work still to be done, but it is remarkable how much of Angels in America is so insightfully pertinent. Whether intolerance of race or sexuality, the intersection of religious values and personal identity, lofty national ideals against uncompromising self-interest, the play remains imaginatively but indelibly important.

“History is about to crack wide open”

Marianne Elliot’s previous credits loom large in many different aspects of her production here, but none more so than in the spectacular way in which Amanda Lawrence’s Angel crash-lands into the final moments of Millennium Approaches. Combining elements of War Horse (Finn Caldwell on duty again) with a sprinkling of The Light Princess (levity!), it’s a properly awesome moment of theatre which also brings a touch of the cliff-hanger ending which you rarely get to experience in plays. Historically speaking, I also loved Nathan Lane and Russell Tovey’s work as Prior 2 and Prior 1.

“Bless me anyway. I want more life”

Andrew Garfield is outstanding as Prior Walter, powerfully convincing as a proudly queer man, the contrast between the increasing frailty of his body and the growing fierceness of his spirit is really something to behold. All that rage and fear so deeply felt, Garfield makes him vulnerable but never a victim, especially as he tries to untangle his relationship with James McArdle’s Louis. Also giving literal life is Denise Gough’s Harper, whose pill-popping, hallucinatory ways are agonisingly well-portrayed.

“This is my ex-lover’s lover’s Mormon mother”

One of several roles covered by Susan Brown, who may be one of the more unsung names of the acting ensemble, but who deserves much love for the scope of her multi-roling, the sheer conviction she brings to such diverse characters, whilst anchoring much of Perestroika in real heart as Hannah Pitt, whose revelatory journey is as profound as anyone’s. 

“Oh my queen; you know you’ve hit rock-bottom when even drag is a drag”

I love how Kushner managed to work in a side-eyed future reference to the new series of Rupaul’s Drag Race – a timely revival indeed…

“You cry, but you endanger nothing in yourself. It’s like the idea of crying when you do it. Or the idea of love”

Given how Holding The Man utterly pole-axed me and the warnings I’d been given in advance of this, I was a little surprised that I didn’t progress beyond the artful single tear down the cheek. The tear reappeared on a number of occasion but I wasn’t in any danger of sobbing at any point (not that that is a particular mark of quality, just more what I was expecting from the shows).

“When your heart breaks, you should die. But there’s still the rest of you”

I’ve not had time to mention Nathan Stewart-Jarrett’s deeply compassionate performance as nurse Belize, Russell Tovey’s tightly buttoned gay Mormon coming to terms with his desire, the way in which Ian McNeil’s design plays with the gargantuan space of the auditorium, the neon dashes of Paule Constable’s lighting… There’s huge amounts to enjoy here in this huge amount of theatre, whether you go for the mammoth feat of the two-show day or split them over separate night.

Check out photo galleries of Millennium Approaches and Perestroika

News: Olivier Awards presenters revealed

The Olivier Awards 2017 has announced the list of people who’ll be handing out awards at the ceremony, hosted by Jason Manford of all people, on Sunday 9th April in the august surroundings of the Royal Albert Hall.

Presenters this year include – deep breath – David Baddiel, Alfie Boe, John Boyega, Michaela Coel, Leanne Cope, Julian Clary, Robert Fairchild, Ben Forster, Phoebe Fox, Andrew Garfield, Denise Gough, Matt Henry, Ruthie Henshall, Amanda Holden, Rufus Hound, Cush Jumbo, Nathan Lane, Rose Leslie, Maureen Lipman, Danny Mac, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laura Mvula, Paul O’Grady, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Sophie Okonedo, Charlotte Ritchie, Mark Rylance and Russell Tovey.

The presenters join the previously announced line-up of incredible performers which will include Gary Barlow & Tim Firth with the company of The Girls, Amber Riley from Dreamgirls, Tim Minchin from his musical Groundhog Day and the companies of School Of Rock The Musical, Jesus Christ Superstar and Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes. Six-time Tony Award-winner and divine being Audra McDonald, performs exclusively as part of the In Memoriam section.

This year’s ceremony will: 

  • be broadcast on ITV on Tuesday 11 April from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. 
  • be broadcast worldwide at the same time, outside the UK, on Facebook 
  • stream to China for the first time ever via YouKu
  • have a new Red Carpet Live show, from 4:30pm to 6:00pm, hosted by Anita Rani, Jamie Lambert and Frank DiLella, exclusively on Facebook Live. 
  • be broadcast on Magic Radio live on Sunday 9 April, hosted by Alice Arnold and Olivier Award-winner Ruthie Henshall, with build-up on air from 5:30pm. 
  • and also on Sirius XM for US radio listeners




Angels in America – a fantasia on how to get tickets for a sold-out show.

Tickets for Angels in America sold out very quickly- a mark of the excitement for this 25th anniversary production of Tony Kushner’s epic, but the folks at the National have come up with three ways that you can still catch the show and this bunch of jobbing actors (pictured by Helen Maybanks) have kindly re-enacted the experience of trying to get tickets for the show…

Sorry guys, but all the tickets for Angels in America have sold out 
What do you mean its sold out. I’m Nathan bloody Lane

Listen darling, less of the language – we’re at the National doncha know

I’m just so upset, look at me tying on this tie when I’ve got a jumper on 
Oh woe is me, I’m so sad that all the tickets for Angels in America have sold out
Oh poor Academy Award-nominated Andrew, what are you going to do? Maybe Marianne can help us someway…

Don’t panic boys, there are still 3 ways you can see the show. Denise has got one of them

Yeah I do. You can enter The Angels Ballot and Ballot One is now open. Russell’s got the second one
Or you can Day Seat. On the day of performance, a number of £15/£18 seats will be available to purchase in person at the ground floor box office from 9.30am, limited to two tickets per customer. Day Seats for two-show days are £30/£33 and are available as a combined ticket to attend both Part One and Part Two that day.

Best to get there early though, I will fight you to be at the front of that queue. And here’s Amanda with #3

Listen carefully, I will say this only once. Pop your jumper on and crouch down with me

Angels in America will be broadcast by NT Live to cinemas around the UK and internationally in July.

Oh my, you’ve saved the day. Maybe I will get to see the show after all

Sheesh I thought we’d get company comps
…and nobody even noticed that your hair had changed colour? Classic. Let’s go join the ballot

So to recap – although sold out, there are still three ways to see Angels in America which starts previewing on Tuesday 11th April:

The Angels Ballot presented by Delta
Ballot One is now open. Enter for the chance to buy from hundreds of £20 tickets across the run. Click here for more information

Day Seats
On the day of performance, a number of £15/£18 seats will be available to purchase in person at the ground floor box office from 9.30am, limited to two tickets per customer. Day Seats for two-show days are £30/£33 and are available as a combined ticket to attend both Part One and Part Two that day.

NT Live
Angels in America will be broadcast by NT Live from the Lyttelton Theatre to cinemas around the UK and internationally. Part One: Millennium Approaches will be broadcast live to cinemas on 20 July. Part Two: Perestroika will be broadcast live to cinemas on 27 July.

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.
The Up Next Gala was held to raise vital funds for the NT’s Learning Department, ensuring that young people from across the country have the chance to access the arts, develop new skills and experience live theatre performances. NT Learning works with schools, young people, families, community groups and adult learners from all corners of the UK and in 2015-16 engaged with more than 181,000 participants. The nationwide youth theatre festival Connections has helped to launch the careers of many of the UK’s brightest and best actors, from Andrew Garfield to John Boyega.
Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, who hosted the gala evening said:

‘Every child has the right to a creative education and the opportunity to fully participate in the arts. Theatre gives us the chance to stand in other people’s shoes, to tell compelling stories and to be able to see the world from different perspectives.
It’s our responsibility as one of the leading arts institutions to help fertilise the creativity of this country, giving more children the chance to experience and take part in theatre, and to enable them to fulfil their potential as human beings and as members of society. We thank everyone who helped raise vital funds at the 2017 Up Next Gala and look forward to working with children and young people from across the country, thanks to the overwhelming support we received this evening.’

The event was generously support of the Pigott family and the Wall Street Journal, and in-kind support from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Floris Van Den Hoed, Nyetimber, Umbrella World and Voss Water.
Now let’s have a look how some of our top actors scrub up in their finest on the red carpet… (all photos courtesy of Cameron Slater)

Oliver Chris and Lois Chimimba

Oliver Chris and Lois Chimimba
Adrian Lester
Jonathan Bailey
Billie Piper
Elliot Cowan

Denise Gough

Hal Fowler and Kim Wilde. KIM WILDE!

Hattie Morahan and Blake Ritson
John Heffernan

James Graham

Jessica Raine
Indhu Rubasingham and Dominic Cooke

Jim Carter

Kate Fleetwood

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Lenny Henry

Lily James

Lucian Msamati

Miles Jupp

Monica Dolan

Nathan Lane

Olivia Colman

Pandora Colin and Rory Kinnear

Penelope Wilton

Rosalie Craig

Rufus Norris

Simon Callow

Tamsin Greig

Tim McMullan

Dispatches from the Vaults #2

“I didn’t think you all look the same”

I saw Tim Foley’s Astronauts of Hartlepool at the end of a long weekend and truth be told, I was just too tired to enjoy it properly. I’d love to read it and see it again, and then probably read it again, to get a fuller appreciation of how complex its hour. Layers upon layers are built up by Foley in his political sci-fi epic (Battlestar Galactica (the remake) as done by BBC3) in which Sophie Steer’s Aidan encounters multiple versions of Rakhee Thakrar’s dimension-hopping Nadia. They always meet in Hartlepool but all is not what it seems, even for the Brexit-voting North-East and Foley intelligently works in a deep critique of where we’ve let our country get to as well as keeping the tone admirably light. I just need to be less tired so I can concentrate more, sorry y’all.
Borderland/Calais was formulated as a response to not just the closure of the Calais refugee camps but also the media coverage thereof, using verbatim theatre techniques to give voice to those disenfranchised, dehumanised, demonised even by being part of what could be called one of the great humanitarian crises of the 21st Century. Over the week of the run, the programme featured a range of guest performers, from Rudi Dharmalingam, Lucy Ellinson and Yusra Warsama, to Denise Gough and Vera Chok who I saw deliver Borderland, written by Prasanna Puwanarajah and Stephanie Street, and Inua Ellam who performed Calais, woven from the Twitter Feeds of the Help Refugees and the Refugee Info Bus by Maddy Costa.
I found Borderline to be the more effective of the two, a distillation of hard statistics and human realities into a brutally affecting report of what feels like something close to the truth of what trying to live on the camp might have been like. As ever, tales of the incredibly indomitable human spirit sit alongside the most appalling horror stories and short and sharp as it was, Gough and Chok pierced the heart. Calais has no less honourable intentions behind it but its reportage of the last hours of the camp from the Twitter feeds of those there was a real challenge, pummeling the audience emotionally but not offering much by way of theatrical compensation.

TV Review: Apple Tree Yard

“Before I met you I was a civilised woman”

Based on the novel of the same name by Louise Doughty, psychodrama Apple Tree Yard has proved itself most watercooler-worthy with its twisting plot, classy cast and yes, controversial moments making it a hit thriller for the BBC. The story revolves around Yvonne Carmichael – celebrated scientist, mother of two, wife to Gary – who, when a chance encounter at work leads to an unexpected quickie with a literal tall dark and handsome stranger, finds her entire world tipped upside down by the consequences that follow.
Written by Amanda Coe and directed by Jessica Hobbs, the first episode plays out as a rather marvellous exploration of a 40-something woman rediscovering her sexuality and having the kind of illicit affair that makes you write naff diary entries (as Yvonne does…). But by the end of the first hour, the drama takes the first of several hard turns as [spoiler alert] she is brutally raped by a colleague. The use of rape as a dramatic device is one which should always be interrogated but here, coming from the text as it does and its devastating impact detailed as painstakingly as it was in episode 2, it felt appropriately handled and never gratuitous.
Photograph: BBC/Kudos/Nick Briggs
It helps that an actor of the quality of Emily Watson is playing Yvonne, the two-time Oscar nominee offering up some extraordinary work in both the good times and the bad here, bouncing well off Ben Chaplin as her enigmatic lover Mark and also Mark Bonnar as her slightly dull husband. And as the affair becomes more serious, more entangled in the day-to-day life from which she’s tried to keep it separate, there’s a terrible momentum to the chain of events that follow on, ending up as they do in a Crown Court trial which dominates the latter part of the series.
The twisting nature of the plot provides a continual level of viewer anticipation, and enough excitement for you to forgive the occasional moments of stretched credulity, and the mystery behind who Mark really is is unspooled cleverly. There’s strong work from a brutal Lydia Leonard and Rhashan Stone as opposing counsel, and a lovely cameo for the glorious Denise Gough, but the consistently excellent Watson and Chaplin carry the day with this apocalyptic version of ‘what if…’, showing how even the most conventional of lives can be shattered in the blink of an eye and a rash decision to have a shag in a cupboard. 

Apple Tree Yard is released on DVD & Blu-ray on Monday 20th February 2017