News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

TV Review: His Dark Materials Series 1

Or to give it its true title, Ruth Wilson in His Dark Materials, the BBC scores big with Jack Thorne’s crafty and considered adaptation

“They speak of a child who is destined to bring the end of destiny”

There was never really any chance that I wouldn’t like His Dark Materials but as Series 1 draws to a close, I’m still amazed by how much I loved it. Given the complexity of Philip Pullman’s world-building as written, Jack Thorne’s adaptation of the first novel Northern Lights cleverly opted to tread its own path, moving revels and plot points here and there, plus weaving in elements of The Subtle Knife (the second) to wrongfoot and thrill anyone who thought they knew what they were expecting. With some stonking production design and top-notch VFX bringing the daemons (and more) to life, it has been simply fantastic (read my thoughts on episode 1 here).

Dafne Keen has been a revelation as Lyra Belacqua, the girl on whom so much rests in a world not so different from our own. So adult in so many ways as she battles everything to save her friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd – heartbreakingkly good), she’s also touchingly young in others (especially where Pan – voiced so well by Kit Connor- is concerned), as her understanding of the world can’t help but be coloured by her comparative inexperience, buffeted by devastating waves of parental ineptitude and cruelty. Revelations about those parents, about the mysterious substance Dust too, underline the sophistication of the writing here,never once looking down at its audience,no matter their age. Continue reading “TV Review: His Dark Materials Series 1”

Review: King Lear, Old Vic

“’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind”

Though no spring chicken myself, I’m not quite the right age to be truly excited about Oscar winning actress-turned politician-turned actress again Glenda Jackson’s return to the stage. I was more intrigued than truly excited when she was announced in the title role of Deborah Warner’s King Lear for the Old Vic for though I’m well aware of who she is, her film and TV credits never broke through into what I was watching either back then or since. (Feel free to recommend her must-see performances – I’ll add them to the list of things I’ll get round to watching one day.)

But I’m always here for casting decisions that shake the established order somewhat and with Celia Imrie, Jane Horrocks and Rhys Ifans in the cast too, there was no chance I wouldn’t go see this. Full disclosure though, I went to the final £10 preview so treat this review how you will. For it is simultaneously an effortful and frustratingly vague production that never truly convinces of the attempted scope of its artistic vision. Fortunately, this often-times ephemeral and occasionally perplexing Lear is anchored by a striking performance from Jackson. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Old Vic”

Review: Hand To God, Vaudeville

“You’re so far back in the closet, you’re in Narnia”

For someone who really isn’t a fan of puppets, I do see an awful lot of shows with them in. But I should clarify that I’m OK with more muppety types (hence loving Avenue Q and more recently The Lorax) and so I reckoned I’d be safe with the latest Broadway import to hit the West End – Hand To God. But whether its Avenue Q meets The Book of Mormon or Sesame Street meets The Exorcist, depending on which poster you read, its firmly adult nature is in no doubt.

Harry Melling’s Jason is a young man grieving his father. His religious mother, Janie Dee’s Margery, has pressganged him into joining a church group but when he helps out with their puppet show, the consequences for all concerned are most extreme. As the sock puppet companion he creates, Tyrone, quickly becomes a conduit for all of Jason’s repressed teenage emotions, whether lust for Jemima Rooper’s downbeat Jessica or retaliation towards Kevin Mains’ bullying Timothy, the puppet takes on a manic life of its own. Continue reading “Review: Hand To God, Vaudeville”

Introducing Tyrone – the truth-telling sock puppet –

Hand To God opens at the Vaudeville Theatre next month, hot from a Tony Award-nominated run on Broadway and there’s a little hint of a teaser for you in this video, introducing Tyrone who is, as the title says, a truth-telling sock puppet.

Previews start on 5th February and booking runs until 11th June, Wednesday matinées are priced at a bargainous £25, and the cast includes the excellent Janie Dee, Jemima Rooper and Harry Melling. Also, how could you not want to see a show directed by someone as stupendously named as Moritz von Stuelpnagel?! 

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2015”

fosterIAN awards 2014

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayGillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire Chris Nietvelt & Halina Reijn, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Linda Bassett, Visitors
Susannah Fielding, The Merchant of Venice (Almeida)
Denise Gough, Adler and Gibb
Imelda Staunton, Good People
Best Actor in a PlayCary Crankson, The Saints Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun Jonathan Broadbent, My Night With Reg
Chris Connel, Wet House
Harry Melling, peddling
Mark Strong, A View From The Bridge
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayVanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Fox & Nicola Walker, A View From The Bridge Blythe Duff, The James Plays
Liz White, Electra
Lydia Wilson, King Charles III
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJoe Caffrey, Wet House Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Patrick Godfrey, Donkey Heart
Julian Ovenden, My Night With Reg
Hugh Skinner, Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)
Geoffrey Streatfeild, My Night With Reg
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Gypsy Gemma Arterton, Made in Dagenham Charlotte Baptie, Free As Air
Natalie Mendoza, Here Lies Love
Christina Modestou, In The Heights
Sophie Thompson, Guys and Dolls
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Mackay, In The Heights Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion Adrian der Gregorian, Made In Dagenham
Killian Donnelly, Memphis
Jon Robyns, The Last Five Years
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJenna Russell, Urinetown Lara Pulver, Gypsy Samantha Bond, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, In The Heights
Kiara Jay, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Zoe Rainey, The Return of the Soldier
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJason Pennycooke, Memphis Aaron Tveit, Assassins Damian Buhagiar, In The Heights
Tyrone Huntley, Memphis
Nadim Naaman, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Jonathan Slinger, Urinetown

2014 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Cary Crankson, The Saints
An open air theatre in Southampton might seem an unlikely place to find one of the performances of the year, or perhaps not as it turned out. Crankson’s Southampton FC supporter made for a hugely appealing leading man, in a hugely appealing play from Luke Barnes that really deserves future life, and his ineffable likeability was a considerable achievement that fully deserves its mention here.

Honourable mention: Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun
In a year full of tributes to the outbreak of the First World War, this and The Silver Tassie stand out most for me. And of these, this monologue is the one forever etched on my memory – knowing nothing about it beforehand served me well as it meant I felt every single one of Holden’s hammer-blows of punishing emotion and pragmatism in the face of tragedy. Amazing stuff.

Jonathan Broadbent, My Night With Reg
Chris Connel, Wet House
Harry Melling, peddling
Mark Strong, A View From The Bridge

7-10
James Bolam, Bomber’s Moon; Ben Foster, A Streetcar Named Desire; Jamie Sives, The James Plays; Robin Soans, Visitors


Best Actor in a Musical

Sam Mackay, In The Heights
Spearheading this genuinely exciting piece of modern musical theatre is a genuinely exciting modern musical theatre performer. Londoner Mackay delivers Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latin-inflected hip hop score as if he were a bona fide Washington Heights resident and if the rumours about a return for the show come true, then I really hope he returns with it.

Honourable mention: Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion
One of those performances, and shows, that is truly difficult to do justice to in simple words. Life-affirming, heartfelt, blisteringly honest and poignantly powerful – a one-man-show to convince anyone who say they don’t like one-men-shows.

Adrian der Gregorian, Made In Dagenham
Killian Donnelly, Memphis
Jon Robyns, The Last Five Years
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

7-10
Mark Bautista, Here Lies Love; Alastair Brookshaw, De Profundis; Ben Lewis/Greg Barnett, Thérèse Raquin (Finborough/Park); Jamie Parker, Guys and Dolls

Review: The Angry Brigade, Watford Palace

“We are slowly destroying the long tentacles of the state machine…”

You gotta love a playtext that starts with a communiqué from the author and that’s just what James Graham does with The Angry Brigade. Split into two parts, The Branch, which sees a Special Branch team trying to catch a Baader-Meinhof type group of British terrorists, and The Brigade which sees them their attempts to avoid capture, Graham offers up a world of interpretation in how they might be played, ending with the slyly anarchic note “perhaps just do what you like”.

James Grieve’s production for Paines Plough plays The Branch first – following the police investigation into bombs that have been left in strategic locations like the Royal Albert Hall and the home of a government minister. A special unit is set up to try and get into the minds of what turns out to be a group of homegrown anarchists by following (some of) their example. It’s really rather funny and Harry Melling’s biscuit dunking is something I will cherish for life! Continue reading “Review: The Angry Brigade, Watford Palace”

Review: peddling, HighTide

“If you don’t earn hard 
the wheels on the bus might not go – 
round and round…
round and round…”

From watching the young cast of the Harry Potter films, one would be forgiven for not thinking it would be Dudley Dursley who would emerge with the greatest theatrical kudos but it is indeed Harry Melling who made the most interesting choices, been part of some fascinating productions, and now sees his debut as a playwright with peddling. He is of course a member of the Troughton acting dynasty so his success is perhaps not entirely unsurprising but with this one man show, in which he also stars, he ensures that any reputation is most definitely merited.

The world he has created is London at its seediest. Melling’s nameless 19 year-old ‘Boy’ may wear a London 2012 rucksack but it is dirtied and torn, a reflection of his position in life as a part of a gang of pedlar boys, owned and pimped out by the unscrupulous Bossman to sell any old tat door to door in the city. We meet him as he wakes up to the aftermath of a heavy night, trying to reconstruct what has happened and finding that the only way to do that is to delve as deep as he can into his memory, unearthing harsh realities and difficult truths. Continue reading “Review: peddling, HighTide”