Full cast announced for the West End transfer of Mary Stuart.

The full cast has been announced for the West End transfer of Robert Icke’s new adaptation of Mary Stuart. Following a critically acclaimed, sold out season at the Almeida Theatre in 2016-17, the production will open at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 15 January for a limited run before visiting
Theatre Royal Bath, Salford Lowry and Cambridge Arts Theatre.

As previously announced, Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams reprise the play’s central roles. Also reprising their roles are Rudi Dharmalingam (Mortimer), David Jonsson (Davison), John Light (Leicester), Carmen Munroe (Kennedy), Eileen Nicholas (Melville) and Daniel Rabin (Kent).

Joining the cast are Michael Byrne (Talbot), Christopher Colquhoun (Paulet), Calum Finlay (Aubespine) and Elliot Levey (Burleigh).

Two queens. One in power. One in prison. It’s all in the execution.

Schiller’s political tragedy takes us behind the scenes of some of British history’s most crucial days. Playing both Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart, Juliet Stevenson (Hamlet) and Lia Williams (Oresteia) trade the play’s central roles, decided at each performance by the toss of a coin.

Get your tickets here and have a read of my review from the Almeida here.

2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations

 

It’s that time of year again and getting in early with the announcement of their nominees is What’s on Stage. Voted for by the public, they’re often skewed a little towards the bigger ‘names’ but this year’s set of nominations are relatively controversy-free. There’s something a little odd about the way that regional theatre has its own separate category but its actors appear in the main ones – I feel like regional theatre productions should either be considered entirely in or out, rather than this halfway house.

Naturally, big shows rule the roost – 42nd Street and Bat out of Hell lead the lists with 8 nominations apiece – and they’ve even found a way to shoehorn in Hamilton by nominating it for the two new categories of Best Cast Recording (which somehow includes Les Mis??) and Best Show Poster, thus being able to get round it not actually being open yet and grabbing the requisite headlines once it does, inevitably, win.

 
 
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY SPONSORED BY RADISSON BLU EDWARDIAN
Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Andrew Scott, Hamlet
Bryan Cranston, Network
David Tennant, Don Juan in Soho
Martin Freeman, Labour of Love

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Eve Best, Love in Idleness
Imelda Staunton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Olivia Colman, Mosquitoes
Natalie Dormer, Venus in Fur
Tamsin Greig, Labour of Love Continue reading “2018 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Too-hot-to-re-review: Hamlet, Harold Pinter

“I shall not look upon his like again”

My lack of willpower when it comes to theatre is infamous, even more so on the rare occasions when I get invited to be someone’s plus one, with the responsibility of filing my own review lifted from the shoulders for once. Thus I found myself at the Harold Pinter for the transfer of the Almeida’s Hamlet, a production I enjoyed immensely on the two occasions I saw it in North London and whose charms I wasn’t entirely sure would translate to the larger theatre here. 
Those fears were largely unfounded – the scale of the intimate family drama that Robert Icke has fashioned from Shakespeare’s ever-present tragedy amplifies effectively, and Andrew Scott’s deeply conversational style still resonates strongly (in the stalls at least) through the familiar verse, finding new readings and meanings. If I’m brutally honest, I don’t think I gained too much from this repeat viewing but that’s just my rarified position – it is still a thrilling piece of theatre and it’s a thrill to see it in the West End.
Running time: 3 hours 35 minutes (with 2 intervals)
Booking until 2nd September, Juliet Stevenson leaves the company on 1st July when she is replaced by Derbhle Crotty

The Almeida’s Hamlet transfers to the Harold Pinter

“Most fair return of greetings and desires”


As follows many a sold out run with a high-profile cast, Almeida Associate Director Robert Icke’s new production of Hamlet transfers to the West End for a strictly limited season this summer (read my review here) from 9th June to 2nd September.


Starring BAFTA and Olivier Award winner Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Birdland, Cock, Pride) as the Danish Prince, Hamlet is brought to the stage by the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning creative team behind 1984 and Oresteia. And in further excellent news, the entire cast is making the trip to the West End (although Juliet Stevenson only until 1st July, no news yet on who might step into Gertrude’s shoes).


Robert Icke “one of the most important forces in today’s theatre” (The Observer) previously directed Mary Stuart, Uncle Vanya, Oresteia, Mr Burns and 1984 for the Almeida Theatre and this isn’t his first West End transfer (1984 and Oresteia have made the leap too) though I’m glad I got to see the show in the more intimate surroundings in N1. 

Tickets on general sale from Thurs 6 Apr, Almeida members from Sunday 2nd (at midnight!), SFP E-list members from Sunday 2nd at midday, Almeida E-list members from Monday 3rd.

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Review: Hamlet, Almeida

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”

The enduring image of Robert Icke’s Hamlet is family – the repeated motif of group of three cleaving together haunts the production as much as Hamlet’s father himself. From the instant and intense bond established between Polonius, Ophelia and Laertes, Icke makes striking emotional sense of the respective grief and ferocity of the latter two, powerfully played by Jessica Brown Findlay and Luke Thompson against Peter Wight’s twinkling charm as their father.
And Icke also gives the tragic visual of Andrew Scott’s Hamlet trying to rebuild his original family unit, joining hands with his mother and the ghost of his father in the midst of the closet scene, willing Juliet Stevenson’s Gertrude to see what he sees, to put things back the way they used to be. And in a stunning montage for the final scene, these trios reform, emphasising the innate happiness of one and the deep tragedy of the other. It is deeply, deeply felt.
So much so that you almost don’t feel the four hours of the running time. The first part is the longest, setting up this modern-day Elsinore with its CCTV (for seeing ghosts), 24 hour Danish news channels (for keeping us up to date with that pesky Fortinbras), and fencing pistes (for duels). But it is the second, a swift half-hour or so that utterly, and unexpectedly, invigorates the play into a contemporary thriller that is as surprising as anything I’ve seen so far this year.
Creatively it is on point. Hildegard Bechtler’s elegant design captures the all the froideur of palatial grandness and how easy it is to feel alone there; Tal Yarden’s video is spaaringly but wisely used, live relay giving us the reactions of the royal family to The Mousetrap, seated as they are in front row of the audience at this point; and Tom Gibbons’ rumbling soundscape delivers the requisite atmosphere of increasing menace, disquieted further by Ophelia’s song, composed here by Laura Marling. 
And as Icke’s repertory company of sorts continues to develop, the performances it conjures are superlative. Stevenson and Angus Wright’s Claudius are electric together and thoroughly believable (you’d believe they’d been having a long-running affair…), Thompson and Brown Findlay are beautifully intense, and Amaka Omafor’s Guildenstern has the interesting suggestion of a previous sexual history with Hamlet which spices up the interplay with Calum Finlay’s hilariously sweary Rosencrantz.
Then there’s Andrew Scott’s Hamlet, hypnotically mellifluous in breathing pained fragility into every line and as mad a Dane as we’ve had for a while. It’s a star performance but one which never pulls focus, thoroughly integrated as it is into the ensemble. This production will doubtless have its detractors – it’s not spoken precisely enough, it doesn’t smell of war enough, there’s too many watches – but for me, it is as exciting and engaging as Hamlet gets, the best I’ve witnessed out of the 15 I’ve watched.
Running time: 3 hours 45 minutes (with two intervals)
Photos: Manuel Harlan, main show image by Miles Aldridge
Booking until 15th April

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Hamilton-mania never dies down – as the first news about the UK cast arrives, the original Schuyler Sisters are reuniting this weekend!



The cast for a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), written and directed by debbie tucker green, has been announced as the estimable Gary Beadle, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Lashana Lynch, Shvorne Marks and Meera Syal.

It runs in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs from Tuesday 28 February 2017 to Saturday 1 April 2017 and sees tucker green return to the theatre where her play hang was such a great success in 2015.


The Young Vic announced a set of new shows (plus the return of the hugely successful Yerma) for 2017, the highlights of which are:
• Joe Wright directs Brecht’s Life of Galileo with Brendan Cowell in the title role
• Billie Piper returns to her role in Simon Stone’s Yerma
• Juliet Stevenson reunites with director Natalie Abrahami in the London premiere of Arthur Kopit’s Wings
• London premiere for Ramin Gray and David Grieg’s acclaimed production The Suppliant Women featuring a chorus of Waterloo residents
• In the Maria, two poetic personal stories Taha and Nina – a story about me and Nina Simone, and Edinburgh Festival hit How To Win Against History


London Boys Ballet School (LBBS) has announced the appointment of their new school Ambassador, Wayne Sleep OBE. Since LBBS launched in 2014, the school has seen unprecedented growth to become one of the premier schools for boys’ dance training in London. 
The school, which boasts a 100% examination pass rate, offers pupils the opportunity to both perform within London theatres and to study internationally recognised examinations set by the prestigious Royal Academy of Dance. Currently looking to increase its teaching faculty and teaching locations, LBBS have also recently appointed ex-Royal Ballet dancer and Boston Ballet soloist, Andrew Ward as Artistic Advisor.

The 2016 fosterIAN awards

Pleasures were few and far between in 2016…

Round-up of the 2016 fosterIANs

Best Actress in a Play
Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart

Best Actress in a Musical
Jenna Russell, Grey Gardens

Best Actor in a Play
O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Best Actor in a Musical
Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man

Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Jade Anouka, The Tempest

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Jennifer Saayeng, Ragtime

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Peter Polycarpou, Scenes from 68* Years

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Julian Bleach, The Grinning Man

And my top 10 plays of the year:

1 Mary Stuart
2 Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
3 Minefield
4 Escaped Alone
5 A Raisin in the Sun
6 Pink Mist
7 Steel Magnolias
8 The Grinning Man
9 Jess and Joe Forever
10 BU21

2016 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart
It couldn’t really be anyone else could it. Mary Stuart was my play of the year and the stellar combination of Stevenson and Williams was a huge part in that, a pair of extraordinary performances (or should that be a quartet…) that burst with life from the circular stage of the Almeida. I’ve seen it twice and I’m definitely thinking about going again.

Honourable mention: Uzo Aduba/Zawe Ashton, The Maids
As murderous sisters Claire and Solange, I simply adored this pairing and am a little surprised they – and the production – haven’t received more love in the end-of-year lists and awards season. Fiercely uncompromising with every sweep of the broom, I couldn’t split them if I tried either.

Gemma Arterton, Nell Gwynn
Linda Bassett, Escaped Alone
Helen McCrory, The Deep Blue Sea
Maxine Peake, A Streetcar Named Desire
Harriet Walter, The Tempest

8-10
Kirsty Bushell/Ruth Wilson, Hedda Gabler/Hedda Gabler, Lesley Manville, Long Day’s Journey Into Night; Billie Piper, Yerma

Best Actress in a Musical

Jenna Russell, Grey Gardens
One of the first shows I saw in 2016 and from the moment Russell opened the second act with the hysterical ‘The Revolutionary Costume for Today’, I knew that this category was a lockdown. Her casting in as Michelle Fowler in Eastenders came as a surprise and I can’t help but be gutted that we’ve lost her to the world of television but hopefully it won’t be too long before she’s gracing our stages once more. STAUNCH!

Honourable mention: Clare Burt, Flowers for Mrs Harris
Whereas the likes of Amber Riley gets notices for belting the house down, there’s an entirely different skill-set being masterfully used by the likes of Burt that is equally emotionally devastating. A performance full of gorgeous restraint and natural charm that hopefully we’ll get to see again.

Samantha Barks, The Last 5 Years
Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard
Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity
Cassidy Janson, Beautiful
Landi Oshinowo, I’m Getting My Act Together…

8-10
Beverley Knight, The Bodyguard; Anoushka Lucas, Jesus Christ Superstar; Scarlett Strallen, She Loves Me

20 shows to look forward to in 2017

2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Bolton Octagon

After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.


Persuasion, Royal Exchange

Another literary adaptation in the North-West and another where the choice of director is instrumental in its inclusion here. Jeff James (La Musica) has worked closely with Ivo van Hove as an associate director and so the thought of what he might be cooking up for this world premiere of Jane Austen’s novel is most exciting indeed.


3 Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Crucible

Described as a coming-of-age story with a twist, Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s new musical is the last show in the final season of Daniel Evans’ artistic directorship in Sheffield and true to form, it looks to be a brave and important piece, once again giving voice to those who aren’t necessarily normally heard in this genre (cf: Flowers for Mrs Harris).


The Convert, Gate

Danai Gurira’s Eclipsed was my play of the year in 2015 and so it’s great to see her work returning to the Gate Theatre, exploring another piece of recent African history that will doubtless be once again uncompromisingly thought-provoking.


5 BU21, Trafalgar Studios,

I loved BU21 when it opened at Theatre503 last year so it is great to see Stuart Slade’s ingeniously inventive play getting a well-deserved transfer into the West End here. Set in the aftermath of a fictitious terrorist attack, it’s disturbing and absolutely essential.

Narvik, HOME Manchester and then UK tour

A new play with songs by Lizzie Nunnery, inspired by tales from naval veterans and stories of her grandfather’s time in the Navy, this show comes courtesy of Box of Tricks, a company whose utterly beautiful Plastic Figurines ranked highly in my 2015 list. I won’t be catching this until its final venue in the tour so look out for it in February and March.


He(art), Theatre N16

Andrew Maddock had a good year last year – his in/out (a feeling) and The We Plays both impressed at the Hope Theatre – and his latest looks like an interesting proposition too. It’s playing at the Theatre N16 which, of course, is in Balham (right by the station).


a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), Royal Court

The talk may be about Jez Butterworth’s latest selling out but for my money, a new debbie tucker green play is where the excitement lies in what looks to be a fascinating year ahead at the Royal Court.


good dog, Watford Palace and then UK tour

Arinzé Kene’s return to writing with this tiata fahodzi production is sure to be one not to miss as he tackles the realities of growing up in a multi-cultural society.


10 I Capture the Castle, Watford Palace and Bolton Octagon

Dodie Smith’s novel is a rather lovely thing so the idea of its eccentric Englishness being captured in a musical is one that certainly appeals. Book and lyrics are by Teresa Howard, music is by Steven Edis and Brigid Larmour directs.


11 Obsession, Barbican

I know I said I’d try to keep off the beaten track with this list but Jude Law guesting with Toneelgroep Amsterdam? Er yes please!!!


12 Hamlet, Almeida

Similarly – Andrew Scott and Robert Icke! Plus Juliet Stevenson not budging from where she is just now.


13 Holding The Man, Brockley Jack

I saw this play not knowing a thing about it back in 2010 and no word of a lie, I wept in my seat until the Trafalgar Studios had pretty much emptied. So this production doesn’t have too much to live up to, honest, aside from being one of the best gay plays I’ve ever seen.


14 We Raise Our Hands in the Sanctuary, Albany

Keeping things queer, Inky Cloak’s new show looks like another vital piece of LGBT+ theatremaking, spotlighting the crucial importance of queer spaces and highlighting why club culture matters on a political, emotional and human rights level at the very time when it appears to be most under threat in an ever-gentrifying London.


15 An Octoroon, Orange Tree

I don’t know too much about this Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play aside from some people getting very excited about it and the fact that director Ned Bennett has the kind of exciting mind to make it unforgettable one way or the other.


16 The Wild Party, The Other Palace

In his infinite wisdom, The Lloyd-Webber has decided to rename St James Theatre as The Other Palace but the more interesting thing about his takeover of the venue is its focus on musical theatre. Its opening season begins with this Michael John LaChiusa piece which has been cast amazingly to the hilt, a must-see if only for Donna McKechnie.

17 Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre,

This Fringe First Award winning production, written by Richard March and Katie Bonna, combines drama and poetry, rhythm and rhyme in a laugh-a-minute exploration of modern romance but has caught my eye due to its winning cast of Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine who ought to make a most charming couple indeed.


18 Cyrano, New Vic and then touring nationally

Another mention for Deborah McAndrew here with this new adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s romantic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, which is the first of three productions Northern Broadsides will be staging to celebrate its 25th anniversary year. Adapting the verse freely to ape the vigorous swashbuckling of the musketeers, this shows a good nose for good drama.


19 The New Nigerians, Arcola

Written by Hackney-born writer Oladipo Agboluaje and directed by Rosamunde Hutt, this world premiere of a gripping tale of conflict and compromise, setting the scene for a political revolution in 21st century Nigeria is an exciting piece of programming as part of the Arcola’s Revolution season.


20 Junkyard, Bristol Old Vic, Clwyd Theatre Cymru and Rose Kingston

A Headlong musical? Sure! Especially when it has been written by Jack Thorne.