Review: Mack and Mabel, Hackney Empire

“I’ll pull the greatest stunt this business has seen”

I can’t be doing with supermarkets who are already starting to stock mince pies but it was hard not to feel that Christmas had come early, such were the heady delights of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s latest venture Mack and Mabel, directed by Shaun Kerrison. Ostensibly, these are concert presentations of musicals but the joy in what you actually get, the bonuses that get incorporated into the creation of genuine one-off experiences makes LMTO one of the more valuable recent additions to the London theatre ecology.

So you’ve got your cast of West End names (David Bedella, Natasha J Barnes, Tiffany Graves headlining), you’ve got your orchestra of 32 (conducted by Freddie Tapner, led by Debs White), you’ve got a chorus of 16 too. And of course you’ve got the marvellous musical, written by Michael Stewart and composed by Jerry Herman, in the atmospheric surroundings of the Hackney Empire. But not content with such riches, we also get cream pies, chorus lines, and two properly gobsmacking coups de théâtre that brought the audience to their feet. Continue reading “Review: Mack and Mabel, Hackney Empire”

Review: The Grand Duke, Finborough

“I’m a light-hearted girl, but I don’t chaff bogies”

Though Gilbert and Sullivan’s works enjoy enduring popularity across the country, the arbiters of taste seem to have dictated that there is little place for them in London’s theatres. So what we do get are fringe works – often highly inventive as in Sasha Regan’s all-male productions for the Union Theatre – and curiosities, as the Finborough unearths a rarely performed work from the pair, The Grand Duke, as part of their Celebrating British Music Theatre series.

Their final collaborative work, The Grand Duke or The Statutory Duel has languished on the shelves as its comparatively poor reception doomed it to an early closure and a lifetime of obscurity beckoned as the popular perception is that this show is proof positive of their degenerating creative partnership. In some ways, the argument can be made as the dialogue is creaky, the score is oft-times derivative and the hugely convoluted plot is sprawlingly bonkers. But then this is G+S that we’re talking about and to pull at the thread of either the lack of musical variety or straightforwardness of the plot is to call into question their whole oeuvre. Continue reading “Review: The Grand Duke, Finborough”

Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Patience, Union

“There is more innocent fun within me than the casual spectator might allow”

The all-male Gilbert and Sullivan adaptations at the Union Theatre have become something of an annual institution now and though we’ve been kept waiting a few more months than usual, the next instalment has arrived with Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride. Last year’s Iolanthe was exceptionally good and I rather enjoyed The Pirates of Penzance the year before so it was safe to say that expectations were rather high for this, but this was a show I knew nothing of beforehand – my love for G+S being mainly limited to the film of Pirates… which I watched over and over again as a child.

Patience is a satirical look at the aesthetic movement (yeah, me neither) which was a fashionable movement of the 1880s that preached devotion to the arts and lofty ideals of love as a duty rather than a pleasure. We follow Reginald and Archibald as they both pursue a milkmaid named Patience, whilst a group of ladies swoon over the aesthetically minded pair of gents and ignore the returning bumptious soldiers to whom they were engaged the previous year. Gentle fun is poked at everyone as attentions shift from man to man and the hapless soldiers are left trying to become aesthetes themselves in order to win back their feckless ladies. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Patience, Union”

Shows I am looking forward to in 2012

Though the temptation is strong, and the actuality may well prove so, I don’t think I will be catching quite so much theatre in 2012 as I did last year. I could do with a slightly better balance in my life and also, I want to focus a little more on the things I know I have a stronger chance of enjoying.

So, I haven’t booked a huge amount thus far, especially outside of London where I think I will rely more on recommendations, but here’s what I’m currently looking forward to the most: Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2012”

Re-review: Iolanthe, Wilton’s Music Hall

“I am not insensible to manly beauty”

Sasha Regan’s Iolanthe, as it has been billed, is the latest of the now regular all-male Gilbert & Sullivan productions that the Union Theatre has put on and following the cat-like-tread of Pirates of Penzance last year, this also makes the transfer to the glorious Wilton’s Music Hall, tucked away in East London. It ranked as my 20th best show last year, the 9th best musical and one of its performers, Matthew James Willis made it to second place in the Best Supporting Actor in a Musical category of the fosterIANs so it was no surprise that a return engagement would be made to the show.

My review of the original production can be read here and I won’t recap it as much of what I said then remains as applicable now in how wonderful this show is in capturing a gorgeously innocent feel, free of sneering or post-modern archness which is no mean feat given the number of men dressed up as fairies singing falsetto. There’s a deep sincerity to these interpretations that is maintained here so that whilst there may be other productions that are better sung technically, I doubt there are any which have the same reverential irreverence, in perfectly capturing what G&S is about whilst going about it in a radically different way. This post will concentrate mainly on the differences between the two productions, a compare and contrast exercise if you will, although I won’t be focusing on how few shuttlecocks there were here by comparison. Continue reading “Re-review: Iolanthe, Wilton’s Music Hall”

fosterIAN awards 2010

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayMichelle Terry, TribesNancy Carroll, After the DanceZoë Wanamaker, All My Sons
Helen McCrory, The Late Middle Classes
Miranda Raison, Anne Boleyn
Sophie Thompson, Clybourne Park
Best Actor in a PlayJohn Heffernan, Love Love LoveBenedict Cumberbatch, After the DanceJacob Casselden, Tribes
David Suchet, All My Sons
Roger Allam, Henry IV Part I + II
Andrew Scott, Design for Living
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayRachael Stirling, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Rose, Kingston)Jemima Rooper, All My SonsJessica Raine, Earthquakes in London
Sylvestra Le Touzel, Les Parents Terribles
Clare Higgins, Hamlet (NT)
Madeleine Potter, Broken Glass
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRobin Soans, Palace of the EndNigel Lindsay, Broken GlassAdrian Scarborough, After the Dance
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Stephen Campbell Moore, All My Sons
William Gaunt, Henry IV Part I + II
Best Actress in a MusicalTracie Bennett, End of the RainbowEmma Williams, Love StoryCora Bissett, Midsummer
Sheridan Smith, Legally Blonde
Katie Moore, Salad Days
Kirsty Hoiles, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Harrison, Salad DaysJon-Paul Hevey, Once Upon a Time at the AdelphiJohn Owen-Jones, Les Misérables
Alan Richardson, Iolanthe
Matthew Pidgeon, Midsummer
Dean Charles Chapman, Billy Elliot
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalHannah Waddingham, Into the WoodsJodie Jacobs, State FairKaren Mann, Spend! Spend! Spend!
Siobhan McCarthy, The Drowsy Chaperone
Jill Halfpenny, Legally Blonde
Twinnie Lee Moore, Flashdance
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalMichael Xavier, Into the WoodsMatthew James Willis, IolantheTom Parsons, Avenue Q
Michael Howe, The Drowsy Chaperone
Liam Tamne, Departure Lounge
Earl Carpenter, Les Misérables

2010 Best Supporting Actor in a Play & in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Robin Soans, Palace of the End
One of the beauties of this year of relentless theatre-going has been the occasional absolute diamond that has emerged. And in a play that simply blew me away most unexpectedly, in this case Palace of the End at the Arcola, Robin Soans as weapons inspector David Kelly delivered one of the most searingly intense monologues I have ever witnessed. Brutal in its unflinching honesty, captivating with his unwavering gaze, this was simply breathtaking acting: at times difficult to watch but impossible to ignore. I don’t know what Soans’ plans for 2011 are, but rest assured I’ll be trying my best to see him no matter where.

Honourable Mention: Nigel Lindsay, Broken Glass
This was such a tight category for me to decide, all of these actors really did impress me but sneaking into second place (after a little time at the top) is Nigel Lindsay in Broken Glass. His turn as the extremely charming and most excellently booted GP who struggled to maintain his professional detachment from the strangely alluring Sylvia provided a magnificent contrast to Antony Sher’s tightly coiled husband and it is a crying shame that the production wasn’t able to transfer to a larger theatre to become more widely seen as it surely deserved. It was also notable as the last chance to see Lindsay flex his thespian muscles more clearly as he will be submitting to daily green makeovers as he takes on the lead role in Shrek the Musical from May.

Adrian Scarborough, After the Dance
Eddie Redmayne, Red
Stephen Campbell Moore, All My Sons
William Gaunt, Henry IV Part I + II

7-10
Leo Bill, Posh/The Glass Menagerie; Dominic Tighe, Richard III; Henry Lloyd Hughes, Rope/Posh; Angus Wright, Design for Living

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Michael Xavier, Into the Woods
Anyone who can sing ‘Hello little girl’ with charm and allure and not come across like too much of a paedophile should be commended, and in Into The Woods, Michael Xavier managed just that as the Wolf and doubling up as Cinderella’s Prince, added a restless swashbuckling charm (and a much-welcomed sexy swagger) to the chilly night at the Open Air Theatre. Xavier can currently be seen in the utterly gorgeous Love Story at the Duchess, definitely a recommended visit.

Honourable Mention: Matthew James Willis, Iolanthe
Picking out one member of the Iolanthe cast initially felt a little churlish as I really did enjoy it all across the board, but as one half of a dusty old couple of dons discovering their love for each other, Willis was a delightful discovery. His Earl Tolloller was wonderfully sung as well as well acted and I really hope that he transfers with the production when it moves to Wilton’s Music Hall for a run there in the New Year.

Tom Parsons, Avenue Q
Michael Howe, The Drowsy Chaperone
Liam Tamne, Departure Lounge
Earl Carpenter, Les Misérables

7-10
Peter Polycarpou, Love Story; Samuel J Holmes, Pirates of Penzance; Jon Robyns, Les Misérables; Spencer O’Brien, Salad Days

Review: Iolanthe, Union Theatre

“He’s a fairy down to the waist, but his legs are mortal”

Sasha Regan’s All-Male Iolanthe marks the third Gilbert and Sullivan show to receive the Union Theatre treatment in what is fast becoming an annual tradition of great quality. Last year’s Pirates of Penzance was hugely well-received transferring to both Wilton’s Music Hall and the Rose in Kingston so expectation was high for this lesser-known (by me at least!) show. What is it about? Well, the Lord Chancellor of England is in love with Phyllis, his shepherdess ward who loves Strephon, the half-fairy shepherd whose mother, Iolanthe, was condemned by the Fairy Queen to live at the bottom of a river for marrying a mortal, who is none other than the Lord Chancellor. Thus the House of Lords and the legal profession come in for a bit of a battering as the fairies wreak their mischievous havoc in order to ensure everyone gets their happy ending.

With such a convoluted plotline and a considerable number of characters in the ensemble, I can’t imagine there’s much room for manoeuvre in putting an effective, individual interpretation on the show but Sasha Regan really has done a fabulous job here in choosing a framework which neatly sidesteps a whole world of difficulties but provides its own emotional reference points, complemented beautifully by Stewart Charlesworth’s design . When the fairies first arrived, there was a collective intake of breath as we worked out whether it was OK to laugh or not but after just a couple of beats, as it suddenly becomes evident what the framing device is (look at what the costumes are made from…), everyone relaxed into the genial mood. Yes, the constant references to fairies and mentions of a midnight assignation in St James’ Park caused many a titter from the audience but the tone is always an affectionate one, it is silly but not too silly, it is camp but not too camp, above all it is rip-roaring great fun. Continue reading “Review: Iolanthe, Union Theatre”