July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

fosterIAN awards 2018

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLeah Harvey, Clare Perkins & Vinette Robinson, EmiliaSarah Gordy, JellyfishPatsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke
Marieke Heebink, Oedipus
Elinor Lawless, To Have To Shoot Irishmen
Carey Mulligan, Girls and Boys
Sarah Niles, Leave Taking
Best Actor in a Play
Kyle Soller, The InheritanceHans Kesting, OedipusPaapa Essiedu, The Convert
Ben Batt, The York Realist
Ian Bonar, Jellyfish
Richard Harrington, Home I'm Darling
Shubnam Saraf, An Adventure
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayCecilia Noble, Nine NightMartha Plimpton, SweatAdjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPaul Hilton, The InheritanceForbes Masson, Summer and SmokeLouis Bernard, Much Ado About Nothing (Antic Disposition)
Demetri Goritsas, ear for eye
Wil Johnson, Leave Taking
Nicky Priest, Jellyfish
Sam Troughton, Stories
Best Actress in a MusicalRosalie Craig, CompanyKaisa Hammarlund, Fun HomeBonnie Langford, 42nd Street
Eva Noblezada, Hadestown
Caroline O'Connor, The Rink
Gemma Sutton, The Rink
Adrienne Warren, Tina the Musical
Best Actor in a MusicalSteven Miller, Sunshine on LeithAndrew Finnigan, DripPaul-James Corrigan, Sunshine on Leith
Arinzé Kene, Misty
Michael Mather, Mythic
Leon Scott, Midnight
Zubin Varla, Fun Home
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Patti LuPone, CompanyAmber Gray, HadestownNaana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary McLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJonathan Bailey, CompanyPatrick Page & André de Shields, HadestownAlex Cardall, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Alex James Ellison, The Secret Garden Albion
Richard Fleeshman, Company
Matt Willis, Little Shop of Horrors

2018 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Cecilia Noble, Nine Night
A peach of a role for this most characterful of performers, Noble fits Aunt Maggie so well the part could have been written for her. And as with Nine Night at large, the beauty is in the simultaneous specificity and universality of the character. Though rooted entirely in Jamaican traditions, she’s also the archetype of the opinionated elderly relative that is recognisable no matter where you come from and Noble imbues her with just enough heart to go along with the hilarity. 

Honourable mention: Martha Plimpton, Sweat
A late but indisputable arrival, the ferocity with which Plimpton permeates her performance makes an already excellent production into something unmissable. Obviously it helps that she’s an iconic figure from my childhood movie days but seriously, do what you can to see her at the Donmar.

Adjoa Andoh, Leave Taking
Eva Feiler, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Watermill)
Penny Layden, Jellyfish
Lashana Lynch, ear for eye
Charity Wakefield, Emilia

8-10
Lucy Cohu, The Height of the Storm; Sylvestra Le Touzel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie; Kayla Meikle, Dance Nation

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Patti LuPone, Company
A triumphant return to the West End stage for this most iconic of performers whose every mmm-hmm turns another theatregoer into a homosexual. Every time I’ve seen the show, her interpretation of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ has brought different colours and textures – and check the moment when her eyes pin down Bobbie with “the girls who just watch”. Plus she does furniture-shuffling choreography like a real trouper – a privilege to watch (and watch again).

Honourable mention: Amber Gray, Hadestown
I’d thought LuPone would walk this category but the elemental force with which Gray blew onto the Olivier stage had me in raptures as her every move and utterance had me absolutely gripped. Is there any way we can keep her in the UK or entice her back as soon as possible please.

Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Caroline or Change
Vivien Carter, Sweet Charity (Watermill)
Genevieve McCarthy, Mythic
Hilary MacLean, Sunshine on Leith
Seyi Omooba, Christina Modestou & Renée Lamb, Little Shop of Horrors

8-10
Cherelle Skeete, Fun Home; Susannah van den Berg, Once; Vicky Vox, Little Shop of Horrors

Review: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse

The ferocious Sweat may not feel festive at the Donmar Warehouse but its message is ultimately one perfect for the season

“You could wake up tomorrow and all your jobs are in Mexico”

Lynn Nottage’s Sweat won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and on the evidence of Lynette Linton’s production for the Donmar Warehouse, deservedly so. Based on interviews with the residents of Reading, Pennsylvania – one of the poorest towns of its size in the USA – it proves an utterly compelling examination of the all-too-personal impact of deindustrialisation. 

Written in 2015, hindsight encourages us to find remarkable prescience in Nottage exploring the kind of economic dissatisfaction that propelled Trump to power but the truth is more layered than that. Set in 2000, with brief forays into 2008, the desperation that poverty inculcates in people is stripped of partisanship as we’re just left to bear witness to those who just believe they have no other choice. Continue reading “Review: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre

“There is a balance to be maintained”
 
One of the main reasons for finally booking a trip to Broadway was the chance to see Glenn Close make a rare foray back onto the stage in a revival of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance. I saw the play at the Almeida back in 2011 with an exceptional cast and didn’t imagine it could be bettered but something about it clearly attracts the crème de la crème as the ensemble around her in Pam McKinnon’s production is just as thrill-makingly irresistible.

Brits Clare Higgins and Lindsay Duncan join John Lithgow, Bob Balaban, and the delectable Martha Plimpton to form the kind of company to dream of, and deliver this modern classic exquisitely if agonisingly as its WASP certainties are thoroughly dismantled. Albee’s prose has an unwieldy verbosity on the page but in the hands of such consummate professionals, it flows beautifully off the tongue as even the most convoluted of clauses gain conversational clarity. Continue reading “Review: A Delicate Balance, John Golden Theatre”

Blogged: Stars in my eyes

I’m going to New York and this time, nobody’s gonna stop me… At the third time of trying (after traumatic passport lost and a wedding cancellation (someone else’s I should add), I will finally be making my way over to the Great White Way over New Year and though it will be my first trip there, I’m thinking I’m pretty much going to spend most of it in the theatre (where else!). I can do the touristy stuff next time because at the moment I’m just dazzled by the opportunities to see some proper famous people on the stage, shallow fame whore that I have turned out to be.

But even then, the people who I’m most excited about aren’t necessarily the ones you might expect – Bradley Cooper is headlining The Elephant Man but it’s Patricia Clarkson who’s most exciting me in that cast, Ewan McGregor may be the biggest name in Stoppard’s The Real Thingbut it’s the opportunity to see Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon that is getting me there and if Hugh Jackman is the main draw in The River, it’s the unexpected appearance of our very own Cush Jumbo that is most intriguing. That said, there’s no point in me pretending that I’m more excited about Ruth Wilson than Jake Gyllenhaal in Nick Payne’s extraordinary Constellations – we’ll call it the most high-scoring draw ever.

Continue reading “Blogged: Stars in my eyes”

Review: Other Desert Cities, Old Vic

“Families get terrorised by their weakest members” 

In a rare sighting of new writing at the corner of The Cut, Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities was a considerable success on Broadway after it premiered in 2011 and it now makes its way over the ocean to the Old Vic. Lindsay Posner’s production also sees the theatre transformed back into the round (it last reconfigured for The Norman Conquests which I missed and Dancing at Lughnasa which I did not) for a full season of plays of which this is the first – Clarence Darrow, The Crucible and Electra are to follow. 

First up though is this warped family reunion, five members of a wealthy family gather on Christmas Eve in the soulless Palm Springs showhome inhabited by Polly and Lyman Wyeth. Republicans both, they reside in relative exile, hiding from family secrets that have been swept under an expensive rug. But the arrival of their daughter Brooke, dealing with serious depression, triggers a reawakening as she’s written a memoir about the very thing they want to forget. Continue reading “Review: Other Desert Cities, Old Vic”

Short Film Review #34

Korriró

The Icelandic Vesturport company are well known here for their theatre work – I’ve seen their collaborations on Faust and The Heart of Robin Hood – but they are also film producers, both long and short. The first of their shorts that I caught was Björn Hlynur Haraldsson’s Korriró as it starred two actors I’ve previously seen – Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir and Gísli Örn Garðarsson. Filippusdóttir plays a homeless woman who happens on an open garage door into a luxury home which offers a brief respite from the drudgery of her life. It is beautifully shot and uncompromisingly direct – confronting us all with our attitudes towards the homeless and those from whom we avert our gaze.


The Last Temptation of William Shaw

Described as a promotional trailer for the upcoming feature ‘My Power Animal is the Pigeon” (of which I can find no trace), The Last Temptation of William Shaw has the double whammy benefit of a shirtless Daniel Ings and an animated Ings too. A mixture of live action and animation from Alois Di Leo and Mat Rawlins, it’s only brief but intriguingly effective – I wonder if there’s any future life in the Pigeon. 

Gone to the Dogs

Liz Tuccillo’s Gone to the Dogs captures perfectly the most annoying aspects of the anthropomorphisation of having a dog, which seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in our culture, whilst also managing to remind us of its sheer inconsequentiality. When a latecomer to a dinner party brings along her pooch as a plus one and brings him to the table, the scene is set for some serious debate about how far we’re willing to go for our animals and it is all engagingly good. Great stuff, and the presence of the ever-excellent Martha Plimpton makes it even better. 

Bloom

On paper, I ought to have really liked Bloom – a gentle rom-com in the making with shades of Little Shop of Horrors, but it never really quite manages to hit the mark. Amanda Root’s shy Helen is more than a little surprised when her tidy flat is taken over by marauding greenery and though she has never previously said a word to her neighbour, Richard Hope’s green-fingered Richard, it soon emerges he is her only hope. Emma Scott Robinson’s script doesn’t establish the characters well enough to make us care though and so it passes by amiably enough but never compelling. 

A Sunny Morning

Charlie Cox is one of those actors I wish I could see more of, he doesn’t work anywhere near enough for my liking (plus I haven’t gotten round to starting Boardwalk Empire yet) so I was glad to be able to spot him in a couple of shorts. Joseph Proctor’s A Sunny Morning is a simple two hander also starring Sophia Myles as a couple enter the aftermath of an argument with her having decided on something big. Clues are there – a copy of Hedda Gabler is on the nightstand next to her wedding ring – but as she and her husband chat, will her resolve falter? Cox is delightfully handsome as ever in his ruffled way but the film really belongs to Myles and her hugely expressive face, full of subtleties and emotion captured beautifully in Trevor Speed’s cinematography.

Review: Sondheim’s Company in the cinema

“When a person’s personality is personable, he should not sit like a lump”

With the amount of theatre I see, I rarely go to the cinema these days – my Cineworld card collected dust for a quite a few months before I admitted defeat and cancelled it – so when I received an invitation to a press screening of a film, I was amused and intrigued by the novelty of the idea. Of course, it wasn’t that much of a stretch in the end because the film was a recording of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Company from last year’s Lincoln Centre (Center?) production in New York featuring Neil Patrick Harris and a cast of luminaries including Patti LuPone (who inspired possibly the greatest YouTube video ever), Martha Plimpton (her from the Goonies all grown up) and Anika Noni Rose (the one from Dreamgirls who wasn’t Beyoncé or who won an Oscar).

I have to admit I was initially a little wary about going to see this: my relationship with Sondheim took a bit of a battering in the deluge of productions that celebrated his anniversary year and it was only really with the utterly fabulous Sheffield Crucible production of Company at the end of last year that the pieces all finally clicked together for me and I could hand on heart for the first time say that I absolutely loved a Sondheim show. But I have gotten much better at managing expectations for shows, especially in relation to other productions of the same, and this was an opportunity to see a whole bunch of performers, whom I like but may never get to see, live on a big screen. And you’ll get the chance when the show screens for one night only on Thursday 15th March at 7pm – the list of cinemas is available here. Continue reading “Review: Sondheim’s Company in the cinema”

63rd Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Jeff Daniels – God of Carnage as Alan
Raúl Esparza – Speed-the-Plow as Charlie Fox
James Gandolfini – God of Carnage as Michael
Geoffrey Rush – Exit the King as King Berenger
Thomas Sadoski – reasons to be pretty as Greg

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Hope Davis – God of Carnage as Annette
Jane Fonda – 33 Variations as Katherine Brandt
Marcia Gay Harden – God of Carnage as Veronica
Janet McTeer – Mary Stuart as Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter – Mary Stuart as Elizabeth I

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot the Musical as Billy Elliot
Gavin Creel – Hair as Claude
Brian d’Arcy James – Shrek the Musical as Shrek
Constantine Maroulis – Rock of Ages as Drew
J. Robert Spencer – Next to Normal as Dan Continue reading “63rd Tony Award nominations”