News: the Almeida introduce the podcast in lockdown

Join the likes of Matt Smith, Noma Dumezweni, Indira Varma, and Tobias Menzies on the Almeida Theatre’s new podcast

There’s all sorts of virtual theatre-related content rocking around while the physical doors of theatres remain locked and one of the more fascinating ones, for me at least, is the Almeida’s podcast. Led by Artistic Director Rupert Goold, the theatre’s illustrious alumni means that it can call on the likes of Matt Smith, Noma Dumezweni, Indira Varma, and Tobias Menzies about their careers, the impact of the coronavirus lockdown and what they miss most about theatre.

The series has already begun with two interesting instalments. The first with BAFTA and Emmy Award-nominated actor Matt Smith who discusses his fear in doing his first ever musical, American Psycho, at the Almeida and his work on screen in The Crown and Doctor Who. Continue reading “News: the Almeida introduce the podcast in lockdown”

Film Review: Official Secrets (2019)

Keira Knightley is excellent in the all-too-relevant Official Secrets, a film full of theatrical talent 

“Just because you’re the Prime Minister doesn’t mean you can make up your own facts”

I’m not quite sure how I managed to let Official Secrets pass me by late last year, given how thesp-heavy its cast is. Practically every scene is filled with familiar faces of much-loved actors, so getting to catch up with it now was a real pleasure. Based on the book The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War by Marcia & Thomas Mitchell, Gavin Hood’s docudrama is eminently watchable  and a salutary reminder of how far governments are willing to (over)reach in the face of uncomfortable truths.

It is based on the true story of Katharine Gun, a low-level GCHQ employee who leaked a secret memo that exposed the lengths that the US and UK were willing to go to in order to secure backing for their invasion of Iraq in 2003, in the face of the lack of any tangible WMDs. She copies the memo for a media friend, a front-page scoop follows and thus the consequences of breaching the Official Secret Act are brought to bear. Continue reading “Film Review: Official Secrets (2019)”

TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12

Series 12 of Doctor Who goes hard on what we think we know about the Time Lord and finishes in a blaze of glory

“You can be a pacifist tomorrow. Today you just need to survive”

I don’t think I have ever minded anything that happened in Doctor Who so much that I have declared it cancelled, even at the point where all the magnificent character development by Catherine Tate’s Donna was undone in a plot point of real cruelty. So it is hard to take so-called fans of the show seriously when torrents of complaints are unleashed about the sanctity of a world of science fiction that has long enjoyed challenging and expanding what we know about characters we love. (See my Episode 1 review here.)

So it should come as little surprise that I really rather enjoyed series 12 of Doctor Who. Across the season as a whole, I felt that Jodie Whittaker has settled more into the role, especially as the writers feel more confident in finding her voice. And the balancing act of having three companions in the TARDIS has been more assured now that the business of introducing them is over, allowing the group to splinter off for large chunks of episodes has allowed much more of their characters to shine through, particularly for Mandip Gill’s Yaz (who I am mightily glad survived that final episode – I thought she was doomed after her chat with Graham). Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Who Series 12”

fosterIAN awards 2019

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlaySarah Niles/Natalie Simpson/Racheal Ofori,
Three Sisters
Marieke Heebink,
Medea
Adjoa Andoh,
Richard II

Sharon D Clarke,
Death of a Salesman

Claire Foy,
Lungs

Leah Harvey,
Small Island

Chris Nietvelt,
De Kersentuin
Best Actor in a Play
Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boysCary Crankson,
Country Music
Tobias Menzies,
The Hunt

Daniel Monks,
Teenage Dick

Wendell Pierce,
Death of a Salesman

Matt Smith,
Lungs

Zubin Varla,
Equus
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayMonica Dolan,
All About Eve
Jackie Pulford,
Karaoke Play
Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo,
Three Sisters

Janni Goslinga,
De Kersentuin

Pippa Nixon,
The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Cecilia Noble,
Faith Hope and Charity

Gemma Whelan,
Pinter Seven
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayNick Holder,
Faith Hope and Charity
Hugo Koolschijn,
De Kersentuin
Rupert Graves,
Pinter Five

John Heffernan,
Pinter Seven

Martins Imhangbe/Natey Jones,
Death of a Salesman

Arinzé Kene/Sope Dirisu,
Death of a Salesman

Ken Nwosu,
Three Sisters
Best Actress in a MusicalAudrey Brisson,
Amélie the Musical
Kirsty Findlay/Bethany Tennick,
Islander
Lucie Jones/Katherine McPhee,
Waitress

Miriam-Teak Lee,
& Juliet

Samantha Pauly,
Evita

Joanna Riding,
Follies

Zizi Strallen,
Mary Poppins
Best Actor in a MusicalJamie Muscato,
West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
Keith Ramsay,
Preludes
Andy Coxon,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)

Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen,
[title of show]

David Hunter,
Waitress
,
Charlie Stemp,
Mary Poppins

Oliver Tompsett,
& Juliet
,
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Cassidy Janson/Melanie La Barrie,
& Juliet 
Jocasta Almgill/Emily Langham,
West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Laura Baldwin/Marisha Wallace,
Waitress

Tiffany Graves/Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson,
The Boy Friend

Claire Machin/Claire Moore,
Mary Poppins

Rebecca McKinnis/Lauren Ward,
Dear Evan Hansen

Carly Mercedes Dyer/Victoria Hamilton-Barritt,
The View UpStairs
,
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDavid Bedella,
& Juliet
Jack Butterworth,
The Boy Friend
Ricardo Afonso,
Jesus Christ Superstar

Rob Houchen,
The Light in the Piazza

Samuel Holmes,
Curtains

Cedric Neal,
The View UpStairs

Jez Unwin,
Amélie the Musical

2019 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Lucian Msamati, ‘Master Harold’…and the boys
Something about the National Theatre seems to bring out the best in the already prodigiously talented Msamati, here he captures the heart of anyone who has ever disappointed a parent as his Sam suffers such cruel indignities with an unimaginable grace,

Honourable mention: Cary Crankson, Country Music
If there’s any justice in the world, Crankson will be an actor we will be talking about for years to come. Don’t miss any chance to see him, especially when it is as intense and intimate as this was.

Tobias Menzies, The Hunt
Daniel Monks, Teenage Dick
Wendell Pierce, Death of a Salesman
Matt Smith, Lungs
Zubin Varla, Equus

8-10
Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Small Island; Ethan Kai, Equus; Gijs Scholten van Aschat, De Kersentuin

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Jamie Muscato, West Side Story (Curve Leicester)
In the battle of the Tonys, Muscato won me over with the effortless ease in which he utilises his magnificent voice. Looking as casual as you like as this would-be lover, his rendition of ‘Maria’ left about 95% of the Curve’s audience wondering how to get their name changed so that it’s about them. OK, me, it was me thinking that!

Honourable mention: Keith Ramsay, Preludes
A show that deserved more attention than it got, Ramsay’s extraordinary performance in an extraordinary production was a showstopper in Southwark.

Andy Coxon, West Side Story (Royal Exchange)
Jordan Fox/Michael Vinsen, [title of show];
David Hunter, Waitress
Charlie Stemp, Mary Poppins
Oliver Tompsett, & Juliet

8-10
Andy Mientus, The View UpStairs; Trent Saunders, Evita; Sam Tutty, Dear Evan Hansen

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway

As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island

Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!

Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Lungs, Old Vic Theatre

Claire Foy and Matt Smith excel in a welcome revival of Duncan Macmillan’s climate change/relationship drama Lungs at the Old Vic Theatre

“Let’s get home and drink some gin and pretend I never said anything'”

Well, who’d’ve thought it? A chance to see the second best play of 2012 once again with some real luxury casting this time around. Duncan Macmillan’s Lungs toured the UK as part of one of Paines Plough’s Roundabout seasons (and marked the moment Kate O’Flynn properly burst into my consciousness) and now it has resurfaced at the Old Vic, starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith, who are obviously at a loose end now that The Crown has forced them to regenerate into Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies. Have a read of my 5 star review for Offical Theatre here.

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Helen Maybanks
Lungs is booking at the Old Vic Theatre until 9th November

TV Review: The Crown, Series 2

A quick whip through Series 2 of The Crown

“History is not made by those who did nothing”

Do I still love The Crown? Yes. Do I still find it a little hard to muster enthusiasm about it until I’m watching it. Absolutely. It remains lavish prestige drama that carries little excitement about it and that’s perhaps inevitable as it trundles through the decades of the second half of the twentieth century, little dramatic surprise can really be sprung.

Instead, the thrills come from the script of Peter Morgan’s fantasia into the emotional life of our monarch, and a production that looks like the multi-millions of dollars that have been spent on it. Oh, and the cream of British acting talent popping in for a scene or two at an astonishingly high rate. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 2”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8

“You are the chief executive officer of the human race”

It was quite interesting to rewatch Series 8 of Doctor Who, one which I hadn’t revisited at all since it originally aired, as my memories thereof were not at all positive. And whilst disappointments remained – Robin Hood, 2D cartoons, the treeees! – there was also much to enjoy that I’d forgotten about. The smash-and-grab of Time Heist, the simplicity of ghost story Listen, and the ominous darkness of the finale.

I’m still in two minds about Peter Capaldi’s Twelve though, I want to like him so much more than I do, and I think you do get the sense of him feeling his way into his irascible take on the role. Jenna Coleman’s Clara benefits from being released from the yoke of impossibility to move to the forefront of several episodes and if she’s still a little hard to warm to, that finale really is superbly done. And then there’s Michelle Gomez, stealing the whole damn thing magnificently! Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 8”