Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards

No real big surprises here though it was a shame that Hamilton’s success (7 awards in total) crowded out Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from nabbing anything. Particularly pleased to see Terera and Atim’s efforts recognised, it’s almost like I saw it coming…

Best New Play 
The Ferryman: Gielgud Theatre and Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre – WINNER
Ink: Almeida (& Duke of York’s) Theatre
Network: National Theatre – Lyttelton
Oslo: Harold Pinter Theatre

Best New Musical
An American In Paris – Dominion Theatre
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Girl From The North Country – The Old Vic
Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre – WINNER
Young Frankenstein – Garrick Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards”

2018 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

An interesting set of nominations have been announced for the 2018 Laurence Olivier Awards. Perhaps predictably, the headline grabbers are Hamilton with their record 13 nominations, and The Ferryman which received 8. I’m pleased to see Follies and Angels in America represent a strong showing for the National with 10 and 6 respectively, and also lovely to see Everybody’s Talking About Jamie close behind with 5. Beyond delighted for The Revlon Girl too, my play of the year.

Naturally, not everything can get nominated and for me, it was most disappointing to see Barber Shop Chronicles miss out on any recognition. And with Hamilton crowding out the musicals categories, there was sadly no room for The Grinning Man, Romantics Anonymous and The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (although I’m unsure of the Menier’s eligibility with regards to SOLT). And I think Victoria Hamilton (Albion). Philip Quast (Follies) and Louis Maskell and Julian Bleach (The Grinning Man)  are entitled to be a bit miffed.

How do you feel about these nominations? And what do you think should have been nominated instead?

Continue reading “2018 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Round-up of the 2017 fosterIANs

2017 Theatre

Best Actress in a Play
Hattie Morahan/Kate O’Flynn/Adelle Leonce, Anatomy of a Suicide

Best Actress in a Musical
Janie Dee, Follies AND Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music AND Josie Walker, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Best Actor in a Play
Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon

Best Actor in a Musical
Giles Terera, Hamilton

Best Supporting Actress in a Play 
Bríd Brennan, The Ferryman

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Tracie Bennett, Follies

Best Supporting Actor in a Play 
Fisayo Akinade, Barber Shop Chronicles

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Jason Pennycooke, Hamilton

And my top 10 plays of the year:
1. The Revlon Girl, Park
2. A Little Night Music, Watermill
3. Barber Shop Chronicles, National
4. Hamilton, Victoria Palace
5. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Crucible/Apollo
6. An Octoroon, Orange Tree
7. Follies, National Theatre
8. Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
9. Hamlet, Almeida
10. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾, Menier Chocolate Factory
.

2017 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play


Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon
It is great news indeed that this Orange Tree production will be gaining further life in 2018 with a transfer to the National Theatre in the summer. I really hope that as much of the original cast comes with it, especially Nwosu who anchored the complex ideas of the show with confidence and clear-sighted integrity. 

Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Hamlet

In the parlance de nos jours, Scott managed that most difficult of things to really make this most-well-known of roles his own, his collaboration with Rob Icke breathing a conversationally, contemporary life into the part that was utterly mesmerising.

Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Gary Lilburn, Trestle
Ian McKellen, King Lear
Cyril Nri, Barber Shop Chronicles

Sam Troughton, Beginning

8-10
Bryan Cranston, Network; Conleth Hill, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf; James McArdle, Angels in America

Best Actor in a Musical


Giles Terera, Hamilton
In the midst of all the hype and expectation that was the first preview, and in a production that had no right to be that polished and on-point, there was no doubt in my mind about who the star of the evening was. Terera’s Burr feels very much his own creation and delivers a well-deserved push into the limelight for this most charismatic of performers – I suspect this won’t be his first award.

Honourable mention: Scott Hunter/Andy Coxon, Yank! A WWII Love Story
Hitting the right time and place, I first saw Yank! in the afternoon of London Pride and a happier, gayer Clowns I could not have been. And at its heart is the epic, tragic romance of Stu and Mitch, brought to beautiful life by Scott Hunter and Andy Coxon respectively.

John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Philip Quast, Follies
Michael Rouse, Superhero

Jamael Westman, Hamilton
8-10
Alastair Brookshaw, A Little Night Music; Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris; Dominic Marsh, Romantics Anonymous

11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017

As ever, the wait for the end-of-year lists of favourite plays and performances has to continue until I’ve actually stopped seeing theatre in 2017. But in the meantime, here’s a list of 11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2017, the things that first pop into my mind when someone says ‘what did you enjoy this year’. For reference, here’s my 2016 list, 2015 list and 2014 list.

Roman Tragedies again, and again

Self-imposed rules being what they are, Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s Roman Tragedies isn’t eligible for the official year-end list as it is a production I’ve seen before, 8 years ago as it turned out, when it ranked as the best thing I saw in my full first year of blogging. In the intervening period, much has happened – not least Ivo van Hove’s rise to the director that everyone best loves to love/hate – and so this epic show had gained something of a mythic status for those without the foresight to see it in 2009 😉 Fortunately, it has lost none of its power and with the added encouragement of using social media throughout, it pushes the bar even further. I loved it so much that I used the onstage wifi to book for a return visit before the first show had even finished.

Getting the Natasha Barnes thing

It’s the understudy’s dream, getting the call to step up to the plate and nailing it so well that you become a star. But such it was for Natasha Barnes when she filled in for the indisposed Sheridan Smith in Funny Girl, so much so that they co-headlined the UK tour of the show. Obviously I missed out on all of this so it wasn’t until this year’s concert of Mack and Mabel, presented by the London Musical Theatre Orchestra, that I got to witness her absolute star quality at first hand. Her rendition of ‘Time Heals Everything’ pretty much stopped the world and brought the house down in its astonishing power – Barnes is fast becoming one to make sure you don’t miss in future,
(c) Alex Fine

In Other Words, such light and sound

The play that probably affected me the most in 2017, as in had me properly sobbing for most of my journey home, was Matthew Seager’s elegiac study of dementia In Other Words. And in a perfectly pitched production, it was the uncompromisingly intense lighting from Will Alder and sound from Iida Aino that, almost unbearably, periodically pitched its audience into disorientating disquiet and thus refusing to shy away from the cruel despair that this condition can wreak. 

The great work began

One of the most anticipated theatre events of the year was the return of Angels in America and if the production ended up being something I like a lot rather than truly loving, it was still an immense privilege to be a tiny part of the thundering epic that was the two-show day.

Nowt so queer as theatre folk

And keeping things gay at the National, I really appreciated their Queer Theatre season, a set of readings of seminal LGBT works, reflecting the community’s experience in being represented by theatre over the last few decades. An intelligent and thought-provoking set of work accompanied by Q&As which were unafraid to tackle some of the more difficult questions about representing the full spectrum, about intersectionality and how much further we all still have to go.

Top of the Twelfth Nights

And speaking of, it was interesting to see some high profile productions of Twelfth Night pushing the boundaries as we got a lesbian Malvolia in the Olivier courtesy of Tamsin Greig and Simon Godwin whilst at the Royal Exchange, director Jo Davies cast transgender performer, writer and activist Kate O’Donnell as Feste to breathtakingly beautiful effect. In a play that has always been about gender fluidity and the questioning of one’s identity, this was a production that took audiences by the hand and said look, this is the modern world, full of people who are happy like you, who are sad like you. Infinitely more powerful than all troll-baiting comment you might find on Twitter…

Building a tight connection to my heart

Not being the biggest Bob Dylan in the world, I had my doubts about Girl from the North Country but within one song I knew I’d like it and within three, I knew that it was going to be one of my shows of the year. The key moment was Sheila Atim’s delivery of ‘Tight Connection To My Heart (Has Anyone Seen My Love)’ that completely won me over, a complete reinvention of the song into something full of aching longing and gorgeous restraint. Utterly revelatory and the heartbeat of the show encapsulated in one glorious moment. 

Simon Higlett taking Chichester into the round

The upswell in event theatre shows little sign of abating and at its best, inspires all involved to really up their game. And with Blanche McIntyre’s revival of The Norman Conquests at the Chichester Festival Theatre, it was Simon Higlett’s design – reconceiving the auditorium into the round – that really elevated the production as it allowed the lucky few who got onstage seating to experience the trilogy as if in the intimacy of the tiniest studio.

Deafinitely making up for lost time 

It has taken me an appallingly long time to get around to seeing some of Deafinitely Theatre’s work but it did mean that my introduction to them was via the blistering social commentary of Mike Bartlett’s expert two-hander Contractions, which had the added bonus of being put on in the magnificently bizarre surroundings of the New Diorama’s ND2 space. I shall look forward to revisiting both as soon as I can. 

Sparking up for Audra

Smoking may be a dirty habit but when none other than Audra McDonald asks you to light her cigarette (as part of the glorious Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at the Wyndham’s) I ain’t gonna say no. The transformation of this West End house into a cabaret joint worked perfectly and being that close to perfection was just stunning.

Solidarity with Songs and Solidarity

And a final mention for the herculean efforts of Giles Terera and Danielle Tarento in pulling together the Songs and Solidarity benefit gig at such short notice. A concert in aid of those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire, it made us laugh, it made us cry, it made our hearts sing with joy, it made us dig as deep as we could into our pockets. A powerful reminder of the good in the world even at the darkest of times.

Not-a-re-review: Hamilton, Victoria Palace

“The plan is to fan this spark into a flame”

It’s not been a hot minute since I last saw Hamilton so just take a look at my original review for the deets.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking note – keep your eyes open for returns, of which there have been quite a few.  And check your browsers, the Ticketmaster site is most temperamental with the likes of Opera, Firefox and Chrome in my experience, Microsoft’s Edge has been most reliable for me

 

Review: Hamilton, Victoria Palace

“A bunch of revolutionary manumission abolitionists, 

Give me a position, show me where the ammunition is”

Change doesn’t just happen, it has to be ushered in by visionaries determined to shake up the status quo to allow the rest of us to shuffle in in their wake. This is true of many things but particularly when it comes to diversity in our theatres, which makes it pleasing that this first production of Hamilton outside of the US has maintained its commitment to multiracial casting in its depiction of the travails of ill-fated Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

Sure, shows such as Motown the Musical and Dreamgirls offer much-welcomed opportunities for performers of colour. But its the vision of the likes of Michael Buffong and Talawa casting an all-black Guys and Dolls and Hamilton writer Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Thomas Kail making this decision that allows those performers to get the kind of credits on their CV that would otherwise never be gained.

Just look at the bio for someone as exceptionally talented as Giles Terera – by rights he should have been offered Valjean or Javert by now, the Phantom or Miss Trunchbull, the kind of roles that leading men deserve (and maybe has, maybe he turned them down). But looking across the bios for the rest of the cast, it is evident that there’s too little effort being made to recognise talent and support it into roles that it wouldn’t necessarily be considered for, so that we can move away from considering it unconventional casting.

Which is a long-winded and awkwardly argued way of saying ‘hell yes, this is an extraordinary cast getting the chance to shine in extraordinary ways’. Recent graduate Jamael Westman bursts onto the scene and into our hearts as a hugely charismatic Hamilton and Terera graduates to that (co-)leading man status with a supremely confident grace as a too-easily-emotionally-bruised Aaron Burr, Hamilton’s rival. Their sparring is perfectly encapsulated in their age difference and the contrasting but complementary energies that they exude.

Obioma Ugoala’s George Washington is another deeply impressive performance and there’s huge amounts to enjoy in the cracking chemistry between Jason Pennycooke (Lafayette and Jefferson), Tarinn Callender (Mulligan and Madison) and Cleve September (Laurens and Hamilton Jnr). And representing for the women, Rachel John is superlative as Angelica Schuyler, nailing the greatest moment in modern musical theatre (‘Satisfied’, in case you were wondering), and Christine Allado does well as both Peggy and Maria.

You can read my review from Broadway for a description of the show itself, I was more interested in celebrating the work of this cast at this moment in time. I’ve seen the show twice now (first preview and last night) and the ensemble work was just outstanding at both, delivering Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography to perfection, capturing the all the musical shifts of Miranda’s score as if they’ve been rapping musical theatre all their lives. It’s worth the hype yo.

Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Matthew Murphy
Booking until forever, probably!

 

 

Review: Queer Theatre – Bent, National

 

#4 in the National Theatre’s Queer Theatre season of rehearsed readings
 
“I love you… What’s wrong with that?”
 
Perhaps one of the better known of these plays but still a new one to me, I really wasn’t prepared for the emotional trauma of Martin Sherman’s Bent whether I was hungover to fuck or not. Harrowing is barely the word to describe this dramatisation of the way in which the Nazis persecuted gay men in Germany before and during World War II and with this reading, directed by Stephen Daldry, taking place on Pride weekend, its impact was all the more emotional. 
 
Russell Tovey (continuing his graduation into a properly fine actor) and George Mackay took on the lovers Max and Rudy, their coming together in the hedonism of Weimar Berlin shattered by the dawning of the Night of the Long Knives, the realisation of just how insidious the Third Reich is, and the astonishing lengths that people will go to in order to protect themselves at the expense of all they hold dear.

Continue reading “Review: Queer Theatre – Bent, National”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things – Pride special!

2017 marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. The Sexual Offences Act of 1967 was an Act of Parliament that decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men.

50 years later the lives of queer people are perceived to be very different – equal age of consent, equality law and equal marriage are all heralded as progressive markers in LGBTQIA* equality but has the UK become a queer friendly nation or are homophobic prejudices just as prevalent?

Belonging is a public debate with poncy performance chaired by Scottee. Together with a committee of prominent queers he will explore where queer people sit in our society. A boozy, loose-tongued version of Question Time with less middle aged, middle class white men. Come and mouth off on the eve of London Pride.


CONTRIBUTORS
Phyll Opoku-Gyimah
Lady Phyll is the co-founder and director of UK Black Pride, head of political campaigns and equality at PCS Union and a QTIPOC Activist. http://ukblackpride.org.uk/

Shon Faye

Shon Faye is a sexual and theological schemer, according to one biography. She is a journalist, writer, artist and comedienne based in Bristol. She is a contributor to Dazed and Novara Media on LGBT issues and trans feminism, has written for the Guardian, the Independent and VICE and appeared on BBC Newsnight and BBC Three. She currently has a film on exhibition at the Queer British Art exhibition at the Tate.

Chardine Taylor Stone

Chardine is an award winning cultural producer, feminist, writer & activist, as well as the founder of Black Girls Picnic, a trans-inclusive, global movement in collective self care to celebrate all the beauty that is Black Womanhood. https://chardinetaylorstone.com/

Travis Alabanza

Travis Alabanza is a performance artist, theatre maker, poet and writer that works and survives in London. Their multidisciplinary practice uses a combination of poetry, theatre, sounscapes, projection and bodyfocussed performance art to scream about their survival as a Black, trans, gender-non-conforming person in the UK. http://travisalabanza.co.uk/ 
Plus other guests TBC


Zeal is the first ever improv festival to officially run as part of Pride In London! Zeal: The Pride Improv Festival is a week-long event taking part in venues across the city from 1-7 July offering a diverse mix of improvised entertainment to celebrate the LGBTQIA community.

Featuring improvised games, comedy, theatre, musicals, drag acts, stand-up and cabaret from both queer improvisers and those who support the community, the festival showcases a mix of established acts, fresh young talent and brand new teams, formed especially for this year’s event! There will also be opportunities for the audience to get up on stage and give it a go in friendly and supportive jam sessions, as well as chances to learn the basics of improv and improve existing skills through the Zeal workshops.

Taking place in collaboration with seven improv schools across London, the festival is an opportunity to see bold, exciting and unique shows that will never be seen again! These acts are made up on the spot and every show and every night will be completely different!

Acts include Music Box, who perform an entire improvised musical based on words from the audience, regular Proud Cabaret host Luke Meredith, and improv duo Breaking & Entering, as well as brand new drag king act The Bareback Kings, improvised songs and conversation from Phil Lunn Is… A Cabaret Singer, and The Lemonade Brigade, an all-gay improv team assembled especially for the festival!

 

 

And casting is now complete for the National’s #QueerTheatre season.

Bent by Martin Sherman, directed by Stephen Daldry, Sunday 9 July, 2.30pm

  • George Mackay, 
  • Simon Russell Beale, 
  • Giles Terera, 
  • Pip Torrens, 
  • Paapa Essiedu, 
  • John Pfumojena
  • Adrian Grove. 

(More to be announced soon)




Certain Young Men written and directed by Peter Gill, Sat 8 July, 7.30pm

  • Jonathan Bailey (Andrew), 
  • Ben Batt (Tony), 
  • Oliver Chris (David), 
  • Billy Howle (Michael),
  • Lorne MacFadyen (Stewart), 
  • Stephen Rashbrook (stage direction), 
  • Brian Vernel (Terry) 
  • Toby Wharton (Christopher).
 

Neaptide by Sarah Daniels, directed by Sarah Frankcom, Thursday 6 July, 7.30pm

  • Ronke Adekoluejo (Val)
  • Adjoa Andoh (Beatrice)
  • Simon Armstrong (Sid & Cyril)
  • Thomas Arnold (Colin & Roger)
  • Maureen Beattie (Joyce)
  • Morfydd Clark (Poppy & Terri)
  • Karla Crome (Diane)
  • Helena Lymbery (Anette & Marion)
  • Sarah Niles (Linda) 
  • Jessica Raine (Claire).
 

Wig Out! written and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney, Friday 7 July, 7.30pm

  • Tarell Alvin-McCraney (Rey Rey)
  • Arun Blair-Mangat (directions)
  • Tunji Kasim (Eric)
  • Alexia Khadime (Fate)
  • Kadiff Kirwan (Ms Nina)
  • Abiona Omonua (Faith)
  • Jonjo O’Neill(Serena)
  • Tom Rhys-Harries (Loki)
  • Ukweli Roach (Lucian) 
  • Cat Simmons (Fay) 
  • Craig Stein (Venus).
 

The Drag by Mae West, directed by Polly Stenham, Monday 10 July, 7.30pm

  • Fisayo Akinade
  • Arun Blair-Mangat
  • Niamh Cusack
  • Richard Dempsey
  • Sacha Dhawan
  • Tom Edden
  • Adetomiwa Edun
  • Jodie McNee
  • Cyril Nri
  • Sule Rimi 
  • Adrian Scarborough. 
(More to be announced soon)

Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios

“We could see this was a bad one immediately. The sky was glowing.”
 
Touted as an evening of song, dance and poetry, Songs and Solidarity was a remarkable event indeed. A fundraising gala evening pulled together in the space of a week by the superhuman efforts of actor Giles Terera and producer Danielle Tarento, it was a concert for the hundreds of families made homeless and the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire. Hosted by Claire Sweeney, musically directed by the enormously talented Tim Sutton, 
 
The balance of the programme was just right too. From pure musical loveliness like the gentle harmonies of Tyrone Huntley and Jon Robyns on Cyndi Lauper’s ‘True Colors’ and the simplicity of Rachel Tucker’s acapella take on ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, to the more intense emotion of Terera’s own ‘Ol’ Man River’ and a visibly moved Clare Foster’s ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ (a song with which I wasn’t familiar but rather destroyed me). From the much-needed comic relief of Stiles & Drewe skipping through ‘A Little Bit of Nothing On A Big White Plate’ to the soul-warming ‘Indiscriminate Acts Of Kindness’ performed by the ever excellent Julie Atherton.

Continue reading “Review: Songs and Solidarity, Trafalgar Studios”