News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September

West End stars and theatre’s technical entertainment companies come together to support industry family with West End Unplugged

Each Wednesday from 9th to 30th September, a dazzling line-up of the West End’s most well-loved singers will perform alongside some of theatre’s top musicians in West End Unplugged (live from L-Acoustics Creations), a series of four, 45-minute charity concerts. 

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to the theatre community across the U.K., with shows closed across the West End and around the country since March, and for the foreseeable future leaving all those involved with little or no income. This series of shows been produced to help raise funds for three charities that help the most in need across the entertainment industry.  Continue reading “News: West End Unplugged announces four free concerts in September”

Film Review: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life (2019)

With Katie Brayben in the lead cast and a cameo from Sinéad Matthews, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life has many a visceral treat

“Next stop, inner serenity”

Released digitally earlier this year, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life is the kind of spunky indie Brit-flick you’d be more than happy to watch of an evening, without necessarily having deliberately searched it out. The debut long-form feature from writer/director Staten Cousins Roe, it’s the kind of short but sharp black comedy that could well find it building cult status.

Stuck in a dead-end life and living with her over-bearing mother, Lou seeks refuge in listening to various self-help gurus but it isn’t until she attends a seminar and meets the alluring life coach Val IRL that things start to change for her. This journey of self-discovery is not your usual fare though, as Val encourages Lou to take no shit as they scythe their way though the wellness industry that has popped up in the Sussex countryside. Continue reading “Film Review: A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life (2019)”

Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre

Let me wet your whistle, should it be needed, for Jeremy O Harris’ Daddy, which is promises to return to the Almeida Theatre when possible

“Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in’s own house.”

Like all right-minded people, I was particularly gutted to be missing Daddy at the Almeida Theatre due to the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Jeremy O Harris’ play made waves in New York last year and was a hotly anticipated arrival. If you so desire, you can read any number of reviews from the USA but I am reliably informed that it’s best to go in as blind as possible which is what I still intend to do. But to wet your whistle in an approrpriate way, keep on reading. 

Continue reading “Not-a-review: Daddy, Almeida Theatre”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10

Episodes, in order of preference
World Enough and Time
Extremis
The Doctor Falls
Thin Ice
Knock Knock
Oxygen
The Eaters of Light
Smile
The Pilot
Empress of Mars
The Pyramid at the End of the World
The Lie of the Land

Top 5 guest spots
1 David Suchet’s Landlord was as perfectly written a character as befits one of our more superior actors
2 Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Kieran Bew and his astronaut in Oxygen was no exception
3 Nicholas Burns‘ malevolent Sutcliffe was a delightfully Dickensian villain 
4 Another theatrical delight of mine is Anthony Calf, impressive as the pseudo-Victorian Godsacre
5 Rebecca Benson’s young Pict impressively led The Eaters of Light from the front, a perfect vessel for Rona Munro’s vision

Saddest death
Michelle Gomez’s Missy has been a brilliant breath of fresh air and whilst her decision to follow Moffat and Capaldi out the door is understandable, it isn’t any less disappointing. And perhaps the timey-wimeyness of the circumstances around her passing mean that maybe this isn’t the last we see of her…

Most wasted guest actor
I don’t what I expected from the reliably excellent Samantha Spiro in Doctor Who but I didn’t get it from her part in The Doctor Falls.

Gay agenda rating
With Bill onboard, A+!

TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2

“I ask no less than power to achieve my will in fair exchange for total service to the state”

Uneasy lies the head that waits for the crown. Mike Barlett’s King Charles III was a deserved award-winning success when it took the Almeida by storm in 2014, transferring into the West End and then Broadway, later touring the UK and Australia too. Its success lay in the conception of a Shakespearean future history play, written in verse but set in a world recognisably our own, where Prince George is nonchalantly eating croissants, Queen Elizabeth II has just passed and before he has even been crowned, Charles finds himself in a constitutional crisis of his own making. A bold but welcome move from the BBC to commission a version then.

Directed as it was onstage by Rupert Goold and adapted by Bartlett (the narrative has been telescoped down by over an hour), it re-emerges as a powerful, pacy drama, a fascinating look into how the relationship between monarchy and government could so easily shift at a time of transition, anchored by an achingly nuanced performance from Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role. The ache is of course deepened by the actor’s death last month but that sadness shouldn’t overshadow the quality of his work here, masterful in his command of the verse, mesmerising as a man trapped by history. Continue reading “TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 1 – The Pilot

“Do you know any sci-fi?”

So here we are, the moment that the epic rewatch has been building up to – the start of Doctor Who’s tenth series, notable for being the final one for both Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor and showrunner Steven Moffat. And perhaps predictably, Episode One – The Pilot is a cracking piece of TV, a real return to form that hopefully will last across the entire series (I’m not holding my breath…) or at least the majority of it (that I feel more confident about).

Key to this is the arrival of Pearl Mackie’s new companion Bill, a welcome breath of real fresh air into the standard trope but more importantly, a distinct separation from what came just before. No offence to Jenna Coleman’s Clara but the character’s knowingness made it hard to ever warm to her and though on paper, the idea of her being more of an equal to the Doctor has legs, in reality it just became rather self-satisfyingly wearying. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 10 Episode 1 – The Pilot”

The Curtain Up Show Album of the Year 2016 nominees

Best UK Cast Recording
American Psycho – Original London Cast Recording
Close To You: Bacharach Reimagined – Original London Cast Recording
Funny Girl – Original London Cast Recording
Half A Sixpence – 2016 London Cast Recording
Kinky Boots – Original West End Cast Recording
Mrs Henderson Presents – Original London Cast Recording

Best American Cast Recording
Allegiance – Original Broadway Cast Recording
The Color Purple – New Broadway Cast Recording
Fiddler On The Roof – 2016 Broadway Cast Recording
Lazarus – Original Cast Recording
On Your Feet! – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Waitress – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Best Solo Album / Non Cast Recording
Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance
Lin-Manuel Miranda – The Hamilton Mixtape
Idina Menzel – idina.
Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance
Nadim Naaman – Sides
Samantha Barks – Samantha Barks

Review: The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios

“Any movie that is commercialised is necessarily a piece of shit”

Having had my fingers burned by Zach Braff, I steered clear of Matthew Perry, but the lure of Olivier-award-winning (for Beautiful) and 3-time fosterIAN award nominee Katie Brayben suckered me in for Jesse Eisenberg (combined with not having to pay for the ticket hehe, hurrah for other people’s poor planning). The West End clearly has a tradition of proving a (too-welcoming) home for US actors with self-penned plays to put on and the latest to try their luck here is Eisenberg with The Spoils.
In some ways it’s an unfair comparison, Braff and Perry were first-time playwrights and the air of vanity project was thus hard to shake off; The Spoils is Eisenberg’s third play so he’s at least a bit more committed to the cause. That said, for me, on this evidence I’d rate him much more as a actor than as a writer. At the heart of the play is the anti-heroic Ben (played by himself, natch), a gift of a role in terms of its compelling awfulness but ultimately a frustrating character to watch as there’s little more to him than this one note.
Ben is a soi-disant filmmaker who spends most of his time in his swanky NY apartment, paid for by his father, being awful. He lives with Kalyan (a good Kunal Nayyar, star of The Big Bang Theory), a Nepalese student who he treats like shit yet still somehow inspiring puppyish loyalty, and when he bumps into a former schoolfriend Ted (Game of Thrones’ Theon Greyjoy) who is now engaged to his first crush Sarah (Brayben), he invites them over for a dinner party and treats them like shit too. So on, and so forth, and so wearing.
As charismatic an actor as Eisenberg is, and he really is – it’s a cracking performance of psychological intensity that fills the breadth of Derek McLane’s set – without the depth of character to give Ben some kind of rationale, some kind of essential humanity, it’s hard to really care that much. Annapurna Sriram’s Reshma – Kalyan’s other half – completes the company with some considered work but for a play stretching towards 3 hours, too little happens dramatically and Scott Elliott’s direction veers uncomfortably towards the horrific with some strange choices.
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th August

Review: My Mother Said I Never Should, St James

“I don’t know if you’ll ever love me as much as I love you but one day you’ll understand why I’ve done this to you”

It’s perhaps rather telling that a play that can claim the sobriquet “the most performed play by a female playwright” yet still be receiving its first London revival since its premiere here at the Royal Court in 1989. Fortunately, newly formed production company Tiny Fires are here to rectify that by mounting My Mother Said I Never Should at the St James Theatre (in its self-acknowledged first all-female production since opening three and half years ago – the clues are there…).

The fractured narrative of Charlotte Keatley’s play may not confound modern audiences more used to such theatrical playfulness but it was a novel enough concept that it was rejected several times by key theatres when first written. Which makes it all the more impressive that its structure still holds up beautifully today, complex without being confusing, as it takes its time to lay out all random pieces of a jigsaw which ultimately combine to tell the story of four generations of women from a single family from the North-West.  Continue reading “Review: My Mother Said I Never Should, St James”