Review: PLAY – The Subterranean Season, VAULT Festival

“We’re gonna Jean Valjean the shit out of this”

PLAY – The Subterranean Season takes in plays 23-26 in their ever-growing programme of short plays, devised in just two weeks by a collaboration of writers, directors and actors up for the challenge of creating something sparklingly, spankingly, brand new and fresh. I saw PLAY Theatre Theatre Company for the first time at the VAULT Festival last year and fell for them hard, as is evident from the pull quote they’ve opted to use on their publicity this year (one for my scrapbook!). 

As ever, the four PLAYs cover a wide range of themes and styles, from the deceptively whimsical to the psychologically acute, sometimes within the same 15 minutes. For me, Aisha Zia’s 24 and Miriam Battye’s 26 achieved this balance perfectly, the former (directed by Holly Race-Roughan) mixing hipsterish shenanigans with guitars and cardboard boxes with a darkening look at the desperation of flat-hunting in South London. And the latter’s portrayal of an intense friendship was breath-takingly good, Matt Harrison teasing some sensational work from Emily Stott and Jessica Clark. Continue reading “Review: PLAY – The Subterranean Season, VAULT Festival”

Preview: VAULT 2017

Established now as one of the major arts festivals in London, the VAULT Festival returns from 25th January to 5th March 2017 at its original home beneath Waterloo Station and, for the first time, at satellite venues Network Theatre (just to the side of Waterloo) and Morley College (a little further away past Lambeth North). As ever, the programme features an exciting selection of shows exploring many themes via many more mediums. Full information and tickets are available now via VAULTFestival.com.

I’m still working out exactly what and how much I am going to see but I have got a few selections of the things that have definitely caught my eye.  Continue reading “Preview: VAULT 2017”

Review: Boys Will Be Boys, Bush Hall

“How do you enter a man’s world when you’ve got a vagina?”

 
The Bush Theatre may have closed its door as it undergoes a year-long renovation project to improve its accessibility and sustainability but in the meantime, it is stretching out its branches locally. And first up is Melissa Bubnic’s Boys Will Be Boys, playing a few minutes further down the Uxbridge Road at Bush Hall, an atmospheric Edwardian dance hall which has served time as a WWII soup kitchen and a bingo hall before transforming into an established music and cabaret venue.

Such an illustrious history seems ideal for this Headlong co-production, which blends in its own elements of cabaret and choreography alongside brilliant pianist Jennifer Whyte’s musical accompaniment. Which makes for a fascinating backdrop for Bubnic’s play about women in the City in which all the roles are played by women. So there’s women playing women, women playing men, and women playing women playing men at their own game. Continue reading “Review: Boys Will Be Boys, Bush Hall”

The 2015 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize
James McArdle
, for Platonov in Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre)

Second prize
Elliot Barnes-Worrell, for Straker in Man and Superman (National Theatre)

Third prize
Freddie Fox
, for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (Sheffield Crucible)

Commendations

Joel MacCormack, for Orestes in The Oresteia (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Ken Nwosu, for Silvius in As You Like It (National Theatre)
Jack Colgrave Hirst, for Clown in The Winter’s Tale (Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company at the Garrick Theatre)
Joshua James, for Konstantin in The Seagull and Nikolai in Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Emily Barber, for Imogen in Cymbeline (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Jenny Rainsford, for Miss Prue in Love for Love (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Jessica Baglow, for Marina in Pericles (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Jessica Brown Findlay, for Elektra in Oresteia (Almeida Theatre and Trafalgar Studios)

Review: Cymbeline, Sam Wanamaker

“Fear no more the frown o’ the great”

You wait for a production of relatively little-performed Shakespeare play and then three come along in the same year. Melly Still is doing Cymbeline for the RSC in the summer, Emma Rice is reclaiming and renaming it Imogen for her inaugural season at the Globe and inside at the same venue, it is being performed as part of a run of the Bard’s late plays in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, directed by Sam Yates.

Ah yes, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I’ve not been much of a fan of this theatre, for purely practical reasons rather than artistic ones, but with this programming that has allowed me to tick off Pericles and see Rachael Stirling, Niamh Cusack and John Light onstage, I’ve succumbed to a rash of bookings. With that, I’ve opted to be brutally honest about the experiences as a paying customer. Continue reading “Review: Cymbeline, Sam Wanamaker”

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Vaudeville

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple”

On the other side of the Strand, Sondheim is telling us “you gotta get a gimmick” in Gypsy and so it is across the road at the Vaudeville with the second major production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest to hit the West End in (just) under a year. Lucy Bailey’s am-dram take last summer featured a company of older actors and taking that gauntlet, Adrian Noble’s production has a cross-dressing David Suchet as Lady Bracknell. My full review is now live on Official Theatre but suffice to say that I still find the pilfering of already-scarce roles for older women problematic. 

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with 2 intervals)
Booking until 7th November

The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full

Best actor: Harry McEntire, Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

Best actress: Clare Foster, Duet For One and Separation, Bolton Octagon

Best supporting actor: David Burrell, Journey’s End, Bolton Octagon

Best supporting actress: Gillian Bevan, Hamlet, Royal Exchange

Best actor in a visiting production : Sir Antony Sher, Henry IV, Royal Shakespeare Company at The Lowry

Best actress in a visiting production : Katherine Kingsley, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Manchester Opera House

Best productionAngel Meadow, Anu Productions for HOME (Manchester)

Best visiting production: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, National Theatre at The Lowry

The Brynteg Award for Best Musical: Jersey Boys, Palace Theatre

Best opera: Gotterdammerung, Opera North at The Lowry

The Robert Robson award for dance: Le Corsaire, English National Ballet at The Lowry

Best design: Romeo and Juliet, HOME (Manchester)

Best newcomer: Emily Barber, Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

Best new play: An August Bank Holiday Lark, Northern Broadsides at the Oldham Coliseum Theatre

Best studio production: He Had Hairy Hands, The Lowry Studio

Best fringe production: Thick as Thieves

Best studio performance: Sinead Matthews, Pink, Royal Exchange Studio

Best fringe performance: Kaitlin Howard, The Alphabet Girl

Best ensemble: Angel Meadow, Anu Productions for HOME (Manchester)

Best special entertainment: Barry Humphries, Manchester Opera House

Youth Panel Award: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Lowry Young Actors Company

Special achievement award: David Slack

The Stage Door Foundation award for excellence: Monkeywood Theatre

The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Best Actor
Rob Edwards, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Michael Hugo, in Around The World In 80 Days, at the Royal Exchange
Harry McEntire, in Billy Liar, at the Royal Exchange
Dan Parr, in Britannia Waves The Rules, at the Royal Exchange
Michael Shelford, in Early One Morning, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton

Best Actress
Clare Foster, in Duet For One and Separation, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Natalie Grady, in Hobson’s Choice, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Suranne Jones, in Orlando, at the Royal Exchange
Maxine Peake, in Hamlet, at the Royal Exchange
Lauren Samuels, in Love Story, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton Continue reading “The 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

Review: Billy Liar, Royal Exchange

“You’ll need a clean shirt, they don’t have dirty necks on the BBC”

Hmmm. Trekking my way through this list can prove a little hard-going when it throws up plays like these… Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall’s Billy Liar might have been acclaimed as a Great British classic but in Sam Yates’ production for the Royal Exchange, its charms weren’t immediately clear to me. Much of it lies in the play itself I feel, a slice of late-1950s northern life from which dreamer Billy frequently escapes through the flights of fancy in his mind.

Trapped by immutable social strictures and parental expectation, he fantasises and lies his way through the day, as he dreams of leaving the day job (at the undertakers) and moving to London to become a writer for comedians. But the excitement is in the dreaming rather than the doing, so a strange state of affairs exists where he spins and invents and even destroys his actual world without any real sense that he might actually get up and go. Continue reading “Review: Billy Liar, Royal Exchange”

Review: Cornelius, Finborough

“So all the time, while you were pretending to work, you’ve been having the most astonishing adventures in that corner?”

Continuing their well-trodden path of delving into the dusty shelves of neglected British plays, the Finborough have come up trumps yet again with this neatly amusing and unpredictable little curiosity Cornelius. Written in 1935 by J.B. Priestley, especially for his friend Ralph Richardson, it was something of a flop and consequently remains little produced – this will be the first time in over 70 years that the play has been seen in London – but Sam Yates’ production flows with an undeniably persuasive energy to make this a revival worth paying attention to.

Set in the Holborn office of an aluminium import firm that is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, junior partner Jim Cornelius sets about trying to keep the creditors sweet and the office spirits from flagging, in the hope that salvation will come at the last minute from the firm’s senior partner. He suspects it is a vain hope though and as he swings from poignant reflections on lives that have been lived and exuberant positivity in the potential that still remains out there, a delicately touching portrayal of office life emerges which is hard to resist. Continue reading “Review: Cornelius, Finborough”