Review: Hoard – Rediscovered

Theatrical archaeology meets real archaeology in Hoard – Rediscovered as the New Vic Theatre revisit their Staffordshire Hoard Festival for the streaming age 

“The archaeologists have of course found no evidence of dragons”

After a weekend immersed in the plummy accents of The Crown, it was wonderfully refreshing to counter-balance that with the everyday cadences of blessedly much more regular folk in Hoard – Rediscovered. Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre has a rich tradition of verbatim work and with this characterful addition to theatre’s necessary shift to the streaming world, there’s quite the digital treasure trove in store. 

Hoard – Rediscovered sees the New Vic revisit their 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival, a celebration of new writing focused on the remarkable discovery of a mighty hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in a field in 2009. Written and directed by New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins, Unearthed is a verbatim docu-drama that shifts the attention away from the thousands of pieces of treasure to focus on the stories of the real people whose lives it impacted. Continue reading “Review: Hoard – Rediscovered”

Album Review: The A-Z of Mrs P – Original London Cast Recording

“Could you ever be happy mama?”

In a musical theatre landscape that often seems risk-averse when it comes to new writing, even in the face of the recent efforts of old hands Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice both closing early, it is always pleasing to hear new voices being championed. And that is exactly what producer Neil Marcus did in securing idiosyncratic British singer-songwriter Gwyneth Herbert to write the music and lyrics for The A-Z of Mrs P, along with Diane Samuels for the book. The show recently premiered at the Southwark Playhouse in a production directed by Sam Buntrock, and the soundtrack has now been released by SimG Productions.

Herbert had never seen a musical before starting to write this show five years ago and there’s a definite freshness to the way she has approached the material. The show was inspired by the autobiographies of Phyllis Pearsall, a woman who led a complex personal life but is best known for mapping and creating the famous A-Z streetmap of London that so many still use today. Her relationship with her map publisher father was a troubled beast though and so the canvas of the story widens out beyond the streets of London, to delve into the family history of Mrs P and how it proved a driving force for her whole life. Continue reading “Album Review: The A-Z of Mrs P – Original London Cast Recording”

Review: The A-Z of Mrs P, Southwark Playhouse

“Go on, do it…”

There’s a sense of budding potential in new musical The A-Z of Mrs P that doesn’t quite come to full fruition in this production at the Southwark Playhouse, but suggests that some assiduous rethinking and re-shaping could well see any future life be more bountiful. Diane Samuels’ book and Gwyneth Herbert’s music and lyrics tell a self-described “musical fable” inspired by the autobiographies of Phyllis Pearsall, the woman who mapped out and created the A-Z Atlas to London.

But though this may be her main claim to fame, the rest of her life was full of additional drama too. A Hungarian map-drawing father and an Irish mother who ultimately died in an asylum, her parents had a troubled marriage which impacted hugely on her and her brother’s childhood and beyond, and her lovelife was marked by failures and an abortive marriage. All of this and more is packed into the show which strains under the pressure of delivering any of its narrative streams effectively. Continue reading “Review: The A-Z of Mrs P, Southwark Playhouse”