Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic

Gorgeous chocolate-based musical Romantics Anonymous works another coup de foudre as it briefly returns to the Bristol Old Vic before a US tour

“What if we try and take a chance?
Whit if we simply shift our stance?
I’ll admit that just the thought of change terrifies me too.
But what if we try something new?”

In this remounting, Romantics Anonymous proves that rare thing – a show that can survive losing Joanna Riding from its cast. It’s a good couple of years since this musical adaptation of the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes took the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by storm and in the meantime, it has reached an almost mythic status among its devotees calling for a revival. This might not be what they had in mind but it’ll certainly do for now.

Wise Children and Plush Theatricals are taking the show on the road in the US, so this short opening stop at the Bristol Old Vic feels like a bit of a treat. For its new outing, Romantics Anonymous has been spruced up a bit – composer Michael Kooman and lyricist Christopher Dimond have added a couple of new songs and director and book writer Emma Rice has rejigged here and there too, whilst necessarily recasting some of her ensemble. Continue reading “Review: Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre

Cry Havoc proves a rather slight look at contemporary international gay relationships at the Park Theatre

“I threw up in the back of a taxi once in Chipping Sodbury”

I wanted to love Cry Havoc but it didn’t quite do it for me. Set in present-day Cairo, Egyptian Mohammed is being comforted by his lover Nicholas, a British academic after being imprisoned and tortured by the authorities for his sexuality. Their relationship is of course a secret but as Mohammed’s family and community turn against him, Nick is determined to ‘save’ him.

But it isn’t just as simple as upping sticks to the UK and playwright Tom Coash attempts to portray the worlds of difference between gay life in these two spheres. Nick is the embodiment of Western liberalism and Mohammed is the firebrand revolutionary who wants to provoke change from within. With such a cultural divide between them, does love stand a chance? Continue reading “Review: Cry Havoc, Park Theatre”

2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Clive Carter for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre
Richard Fleeshman for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Robert Hands for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre
Ruthie Ann Miles for The King And I at The London Palladium
“The Queens” – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel – for Six at Arts Theatre
Rachel Tucker for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre Continue reading “2019 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Alex Wadham, The Full Monty: The Musical, Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham
Giles Terera, Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre
Jamal Kane Crawford, Fame, UK Tour
Jamie Muscato, Heathers The Musical, The Other Palace/Theatre Royal Haymarket
Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man, Trafalgar Studios
Marc Antolin, Little Shop of Horrors, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Best Actor in a New Production of a Play
Aidan Turner, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noël Coward Theatre
Ben Batt, The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse/Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Ian McKellen, King Lear, Chichester Festival Theatre
Matthew Tennyson, A Monster Calls, Old Vic
Reed Birney, The Humans, Hampstead Theatre
Tyrone Huntley, Homos, Or Everyone in America, Finborough Theatre Continue reading “2018 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist”

Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Open Air Theatre

Audrey II as a drag queen? Maria Aberg’s take on Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre gives me life

“Oh, don’t you see?
Finally I’ll be
Somewhere that’s green”

It’s something of a relief when you’ve seen a version of a much-loved show that is nigh-on perfect, it really does take the pressure off those that follow. So I was able to visit a verdant Open Air Theatre to see Little Shop of Horrors – one of my all-time favourites, if not the actual one – excited by the prospect of what Maria Aberg had done, and secure in the knowledge that Derek Bond absolutely nailed it for the Royal Exchange a couple of years ago. 

Chief among her innovations is giving Audrey II much more life than they’ve ever had before, by casting drag queen Vicky Vox in the role. So from twitching, voracious puppet plant (designed by Max Humphries with Tom Scutt) emerges a strutting shrub of sinful sass and it is an inspired choice. Making her a Mephistophelean figure who can prowl around the amphitheatre flips Audrey II into something as thrilling as threatening, Vox revelling in the lasciviousness of “feed me” and the most scathing raised eyebrow you ever did see. Continue reading “Review: Little Shop of Horrors, Open Air Theatre”

Re-review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker

“Je suis émotif

I’m a big fan of chocolate and an even bigger fan of Romantics Anonymous so naturally I had to head back to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse for second helpings (and with somewhat less calories than your usual festive chocolate offerings!). Not too much more to add to my original review and I’d recommend booking in before it closes next week but there’s not a ticket to be had! Returns queue…?

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 6th January

Review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“Prenez vos chocolats…et mangez-les”

Like the squares of chocolates handed out for us to magically access automatic translation, there’s a bittersweet note to much of Romantics Anonymous. And it is perhaps predictably that Emma Rice scores one of her biggest hits on Bankside with a musical that couldn’t be more Emma Rice if it tried. As it is, it fits perfectly into the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, shaking up the established order once again as she brings amplification and neon lights along with the huge generosity of spirit of this show, uncompromising to the end in her relationship with the Globe.

Romantics Anonymous was adapted by Rice from the French-Belgian film Les Émotifs Anonymes, and takes a wonderfully Gallic spin on your typical romantic comedy. Jean-René has inherited a chocolate factory, Angélique is a chocolatier par excellence in need of a job, they seem perfectly suited for each other but both are chronically, painfully shy. She faints if she has to speak to people, he has precisely zero confidence and even in the act of finally striking up a relationship together, both working and personal, their awkwardness is a constant threat to their happiness.

Continue reading “Review: Romantics Anonymous, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse”

Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe

“I would you were as I would have you be”

Emma Rice’s Summer of Love got off to a slightly sticky start at the Globe with a mystifying take on Romeo and Juliet from Daniel Kramer and as we move onto Twelfth Night, which she is directing herself, there’s a similarly uncompromising attitude in place. For the production reminded me nothing so much as a camp episode of Monarch of the Glen (sadly not Monarch of the Glum) and whilst it is often fun to watch, it’s not always the most effective treatment.

Rice’s iconoclastic approach is there from the get-go – a prologue set onboard the SS Unity before its shipwreck sees the company dancing merrily to Sister Sledge. And once in this decidedly Celtic Illyria, Orsino has a Lionel Richie mullet, Andrew Aguecheek is a would-be b-boy, serenades are played on cassette decks…why we’re in 1979, as good a time as any to explore cross-dressing hijinks of gender exploration.  Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s Globe”