Review: Sugar Coat, VAULT Festival

Sugar Coat is an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig at the VAULT Festival

Whether by an accident of fate or intentional programming, the Forge has been something of a revelation for me at the VAULT Festival, housing some of the more weird and wonderful shows I’ve seen there this year. Sugar Coat maintains that trend with an uncomproming but thrilling mix of theatre and gig.

Written by Joel Samuels (A Wake in Progress, which DESTROYED me last year) and Lilly Pollard, the show spares no prisoners in a forthright depiction of eight formative years of a young woman’s life as she experiences much – too much – of what life has to offer as sexual thrills sit next to shattering trauma. Continue reading “Review: Sugar Coat, VAULT Festival”

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

Review: Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre

Out of the Forest Theatre’s Call Me Fury comes highly recommended from me at the Hope Theatre

“It begins with a girl…”

In the space of just three shows, Out of the Forest Theatre have indisputably become a no-questions-asked do-what-you-can must-see company for me and so by extension, for you too. Bury The Hatchet (2018’s 7th best show as I’m sure you’ll recall) and On Your Head Be It whetted the appetite last year and now it is the turn of Call Me Fury to weave its theatrical magic at the Hope Theatre.

Using the Salem Witch Trials as a jumping-off point, writer Sasha Wilson and director and collaborator Hannah Hauer-King attempt no less than a complete recasting of the history we think we know and the societal behaviours to which we’ve unflinchingly clung. The result is a bracing history lesson cum TED talk cum musical odyssey that gives an insistent voice to those whom historians have chosen not to record. Continue reading “Review: Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre”

Review: Footloose, Peacock

“Been working so hard

I’m punching my card
Two hours for what?”
Jeez Louise, it gives me no pleasure to report this production of Footloose is among the worst things I’ve seen this year. Jukebox musicals are fine in their place, movie adaptations likewise are ever increasingly the norm but they need love and inspiration to elevate them, rather than the workaday effort and dead-eyed calculation they get here.
Perhaps its the result of coming at the tail end of over a year’s touring, perhaps it was a crowd not quite as enthused as the audience of a feel-good show need to be to give it that lift, perhaps it’s just not very good. There’s a real sense of mechanical action about the production, everything moves in the correct way but there’s zero spontaneity here, little sense of the precious ‘liveness’ of great theatre.
If you can’t get a Strallen, then book a Nolan – Maureen is the show’s strongest asset as the only cast member to really try and bring any heart to her performance. The rest just make you wish that the ban on dancing was more strictly enforced, as well as mugging as if this was a panto. By the time Gareth Gates is wheeled out to strip down to hotpants, you’ll long be wishing that you could cut loose.
Running time: never has 2 hours 30 minutes felt so much like a lifetime
Booking until 30th September, then playing Royal Court, Liverpool 30 October-3 November