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.

 

Album Review: Six the Musical cast recording

Thwarted in my attempts to see Six the Musical this week, the release of the brilliant cast recording couldn’t be better timed

“Too many years lost in his story”

We only got about 15 minutes of Six the Musical on Thursday night before a technical problem halted the performance, which was eventually then cancelled. So the release of the cast recording of the show couldn’t have been better timed until I work out how when I can fit in a rescheduled visit to the Arts Theatre.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ raucous reclamation of history…sorry, herstory, had a hugely successful run in Edinburgh after its initial showcase at the Arts at the beginning of the year. And it has maintained that buzz in fine style in capturing the attentions of a devoted audience, a portion of whom made the atmosphere for that initial quarter of an hour totally electric. Continue reading “Album Review: Six the Musical cast recording”

Review: Collective Rage – A Play in Five Betties, Southwark Playhouse

“My PUSSY is not gonna do the acting. 
I am gonna do the acting. 
In THE THEA-TAH.”

As Collective Rage‘s sub-title suggests, there’s a whole lotta Betty in Jen Silverman’s play. From an Upper East Sider unhappy with her husband to a disillusioned Latina, a younger woman also unhappy with her husband to a genderqueer ex-con via a lesbian would-be mechanic, it turns out – in some ways – we are all Betty, #JeSuisBetty, #BettysArmy.

For these five particular and very different Betties though, being brought together by the power of theatre provides an opportunity to explore something more about their Bettiness. They investigate hidden desires, bristle at others’ ambitions, discover the power of their own vagina in one case, and with a raucous, drag cabaret inspired vibe, is punchily energetic.  
Continue reading “Review: Collective Rage – A Play in Five Betties, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Six, Arts Theatre

Promotional image for Six at the Arts Theatre

What hurts more than a broken heart?
A severed head‘”

Lots of fun to be had with Sixan anarchic look at the roll-call of women who hitched their wagon to Henry VIII’s marital train. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ fiercely modern style owes as much to the feminist punch of Lizzie as it does to the ground-breaking approach to history of Hamilton ,  and proved a highly entertaining hour of late-night theatre to brighten up a Monday night.

Quite why it has been shunted away to a handful of performances in a weekly slot at the Arts Theatre I’m not sure, though it has had the effect of ensuring a ‘sell-out season’ and amplified the love it has been receiving on social media and IRL too. Which is no bad thing I guess and hopefully will lead to some further life for Six, hopefully holding onto this cast, particularly the excellent Genesis Lynea.

 

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

 

 

The race to declare the most exciting show for 2018 has well and truly been declared by Complicite with Grief is the Thing with Feathers, a new production based on the award-winning novel by Max Porter. Directed by Enda Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy, it is a moving story of a widower and his young sons which becomes a profound meditation on love, loss and living.
 
And if only dates for Galway and Dublin have been announced thus far , a glance at the co-producers – the Barbican, Cork Opera House, Edinburgh International Festival, Oxford Playhouse, St Ann’s Warehouse and Warwick Arts Centre – gives a little hope that we might not have to travel the Irish Sea if we don’t want to (although don’t quote me on that!)

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: The Wild Party, The Other Palace

“Blame it on the gin”

There’s no doubting the visual flair that choreographer Drew McOnie is able to conjure in his work – In The Heights and Jesus Christ Superstar being just two recent examples – and so it is no coincidence that his move into directing has begun with dance-heavy pieces. Strictly Ballroom lit up the stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse before Christmas and now The Wild Party opens up the programming at The Other Palace, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rebranded St James Theatre.

Michael John LaChiusa’s musical version is not the first adaptation of Joseph Moncure March’s epic poem to hit London this year – that title goes to the Hope Theatre’s two hander from last month. But it does have its own tunes presented as a vaudeville, a real mish-mash of every 1920s style you can think of and more, which makes for a bold and brash evening – especially as performed by this lavishly assembled ensemble – but ultimately, one of little staying power.  Continue reading “Review: The Wild Party, The Other Palace”

Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre

“Could you ask as much from any other man?”

Andrew Lloyd Webber sure doesn’t make it easy – for his support of new musical theatre in taking over the St James Theatre to making a transatlantic dash to the House of Lords to vote in support of tax credit cuts for the working poor, it’s hard to know where to stand. His status in the British theatrical establishment remains largely unchallenged though and it is to the 46-year-old Jesus Christ Superstar that the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park have turned for their big summer musical, directed this year by Timothy Sheader. 

And how do you play a 70s rock opera for today? You bring onboard shit-hot creatives like Tom Scutt and Drew McOnie to reinvent it for 2016. Scutt’s design choices make a virtue of the timeless iron structure that edges the stage. The company arrive in luxury sportswear, its loose silhouettes and muted earth tones akin to a Kanye West fashion show with which McOnie’s contemporary choreography meshes perfectly. Later scenes feature the glitter-covered muscularity of something like a late night Brighton Pride, a smattering of Xerxes from the film 300 and all out Sink the Pink excess during the whipping sequence. Continue reading “Review: Jesus Christ Superstar, Open Air Theatre”

Review: Legally Blonde, Curve

“I may be in love but im not stupid”


To the tune of ‘Legally Blonde’

Legally Blonde as a musical 

Has worked before on and off-West-End 
Now it’s gone to the East Midlands 
To Leicester’s Curve, and just go. 

Nikolai Foster’s directing it, 
He’s changed some things that you may approve 
Others are not so successful 
But what do I know? 

Lucie Jones good, Lucie Jones strong 
Lucie Jones following on 
Icons like this, Sheridan Smith, Reese Witherspooooon

Her Elle Woods is a fun surprise 
You can see it in her eyes 
That’s fine with me, 
should make you see Legally Blonde 

Jon Robyns is a gorgeous Emmett 
Danny Mac makes Warner seem ok 
They make their characters so charming 
You’ll fall for them, no problem / Well what’s the issue? 

Its meant to be kinda feminist / It is in its way 
Doesn’t show through though they try their best / More of a fairytale 
And attitudes t’wards sexuality 
Are not ok 

What about fun? 
Is it ok if its fun? 
It means well, this I know 
But perhaps, if you don’t take it to heart 
You’ll find its humour pretty smart 
You may find it is so 
Cause you know that its frothy and fuuuun

Yes its bright pink, sometimes bizarre 
Tupele Dorgu’s a star 
Nick Winston’s cho-, reography 
Fills the stage well 
‘What You Want’s’ rap, now Bollywood, 
doesn’t quite work all the same 

That said I feel, this musical, is charming regardless of all 

It’s not up to me 
If you go and see 
Legally Blonde.

European or gay. 

But I think maybe 
You should go and see 
Legally Blonde.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th May
NB: I’ve touched on it just lightly here but I do have to say that it was the first time in seeing the show umpteen times, that I felt queasy about its LGBT issues. Quite why that is I couldn’t really say but I’m just being honest 

Album Review: Bend it like Beckham (Original London Cast Album)

“It’s a little bit Punjab
And a little bit UK”

It’s been just about a month since Bend it like Beckham heard the final whistle at the Savoy so I thought I’d cast a reviewer’s eye over the Original London Cast Album which was released last year. I’ve long been a fan of Howard Goodall’s work and this score was no exception, hooking me from the first time I saw to the show to the second and the third with its fusion of his own inimitable British style and the Bhangra influences drawn from Gurinder Chadha’s book, aided in authenticity by co-orchestrator Kuljit Bhamra. 

Recorded live in the theatre (although there’s minimal sound from the audience until the very end), it sounds a real treat and it really does give the best of both the worlds it represents. Whether individually as in Sophie-Louise Dann’s ‘There She Goes’ or Rekha Sawhney leading the bridal party in the gorgeous Punjab lament ‘Heer’, or multiculturally as the majority of the music, it is always highly tuneful and musically interesting, highlighting styles of music that are too rarely seen in the West End. Continue reading “Album Review: Bend it like Beckham (Original London Cast Album)”