Review: Fanny and Alexander, Old Vic

Fancy three and a half hours of Ingmar Bergman? At least the Old Vic’s seats are comfortable for Fanny and Alexander with  a marvellous Penelope Wilton 

“I’d really like to know what anyone else thinks”

I can’t think of Fanny and Alexander without thinking of the phrase sweet Fanny Adams (which, sidebar, has quite the horrific origin). But more to the point, I have to say the idea of another adaptation of an Ingmar Bergman film didn’t quite fill me with enough joy to be rushing to the Old Vic (the extraordinary Scenes From A Marriage aside, I’ve not had the best of times with him).

So with Stephen Beresford (he of The Last of the Haussmans) adapting and Max Webster (he of The Lorax) directing, it was with a little reluctance that I devoted a swathe of my Easter Saturday to this drama. And while I’d love to say that it was totally worth it, as a way to wait for the Resurrection it left me feeling a little like Pontius Pilate must have done way back when. Continue reading “Review: Fanny and Alexander, Old Vic”

Review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar

“Any suggestion of a correlation between the leader of a certain nation and the homicidal gangsters we depict is something that the management must strictly disavow”

There’s something special in the timelessness of some pieces of theatre, their themes and arguments as relevant to audiences today as they were when they were written years, decades, even centuries ago. Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui falls into the middle category, written in 1941 as an allegorical response to his nation’s fall to Nazism, and was magisterially revived at Chichester a few years back.

For their own new production, the Donmar Warehouse has turned to Bruce Norris (Clybourne Park, The Low Road) who doesn’t quite trust the material in the same way, updating it in the most heavy-handed of manners by directly substituting Trump for Hitler. It’s an arresting move and indubitably pertinent in the way in which it expounds on the exploitation of a particularly toxic brand of populist politics. Continue reading “Review: The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ is internationally one of the most instantly recognisable songs of all time. Written by Bruce Woolley, Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, the original Buggles music video is famous for being the first ever shown on MTV when it launched in 1981. This weekend saw a new version of the song released by Bruce Woolley and The Radio Science Orchestra featuring British singer-songwriter Polly Scattergood which is already receiving rave reviews in the music press.  Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

The 2016 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Best Actor
Rob Edwards, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre, Bolton
David Neilson, Endgame, HOME, Manchester
Daniel Rigby, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange, Manchester 
Don Warrington, King Lear, Royal Exchange

Best Actress
Niamh Cusack, Ghosts, HOME
Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Wit, Royal Exchange 
Kathryn Hunter, The Emperor, HOME

Best Production
Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange 
Ghosts, HOME
The Emperor, HOME
Wit, Royal Exchange

Best Supporting Actor
Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity, Royal Exchange 
Raad Rawi, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange
Marc Small, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre
Miltos Yerolemou, King Lear, Royal Exchange

Best Supporting Actress
Natalie Dew, Breaking The Code, Royal Exchange 
Sharon Duncan-Brewster, A Streetcar Named Desire, Royal Exchange
Natalie Grady, Martha Josie and the Chinese Elvis, Octagon Theatre
Amy Nuttall, The Winter’s Tale, Octagon Theatre

Best Visiting Production
946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tipps, HOME
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, Lowry, Salford
Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House
The Encounter, HOME
The James Plays, Lowry 

Best Actor in a Visiting Production
Edward Bennett, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House
Rufus Hound, The Wind in the Willows, The Lowry 
Simon McBurney, The Encounter, HOME
Michael Pennington, King Lear, Opera House

Best Actress in a Visiting Production
Lisa Dillon, Love’s Labour’s Lost / Much Ado About Nothing, Opera House
Aoife Duffin, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing, Lowry 
Lisa Maxwell, End Of The Rainbow, Opera House
Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins, Palace

Best Newcomer
Daisy Badger, Look Back In Anger, Octagon Theatre
Ben Hunter, The Girls, Lowry
Norah Lopez Holden, Ghosts, HOME 
Kirsty Rider, Pride And Prejudice, Lowry
Holly Willock, The Wind In The Willows, Lowry
Young “Michael” cast, Billy Elliot, Palace 
Young “Scout” cast, To Kill A Mockingbird, Octagon Theatre 


Best Opera

Andrea Chénier, Opera North, Lowry 
Billy Budd, Opera North, Lowry
Don Giovanni, ETO, Buxton Opera House
Tamerlano, Buxton Festival, Buxton Opera House

Continue reading “The 2016 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Farinelli and the King by Claire van Kampen – Duke of York’s
Hangmen by Martin McDonagh – Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court / Wyndham’s
People, Places and Things by Duncan MacMillan – National Theatre Dorfman
The Father by Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton – Wyndham’s

Best New Musical
Bend It Like Beckham – Phoenix
In the Heights – King’s Cross
Kinky Boots – Adelphi
Mrs Henderson Presents – Noël Coward

Best Revival 
Hamlet – Barbican
Les liaisons dangereuses – Donmar Warehouse
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – National Theatre Lyttelton
The Winter’s Tale – Garrick Continue reading “2016 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Garrick

“I do feel it gone, But know not how it went”

Perhaps one of the biggest lures of the newly established Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company and its year-long residency at the Garrick Theatre is the return of Dame Judi Dench to the stage, playing Paulina in their opening production of The Winter’s Tale. One of the pre-eminent Shakespeareans of this or any age, the run largely sold out in advance proving the astute business sense but with Branagh and Rob Ashford co-directing this oft-described problem play, does it make artistic sense?

And I’m not 100% sure that it does, this doesn’t feel like a production that one will remember as a classic of our time. It is undoubtedly a difficult play to mount, the chilly stateliness of the first act’s Sicilia contrasting strongly with the permissive post-interval (and 16 years hence) Bohemia and with a rambling plot full of statuesque tragicomedy, it’s a hard one to love. Branagh and Ashford keep things more or less traditional, and of course excellently spoken, but rarely soul-stirringly good. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Garrick”

Review: She Stoops To Conquer, Theatre Royal Bath

“Pardon me madam. I was always willing to be amused. The folly of most people is rather an object of mirth than uneasiness.”

Restoration comedies fit the Theatre Royal Bath with the snugness of centuries-old comfort but even with Lindsay Posner updating She Stoops To Conquer to the 1920s, it’s hard not to feel that there’s something inherently dusty about this austere venue. Audiences in London have been spoiled for choice with witty reinventions of the genre – Jessica Swale’s brilliant revisionist work on shows like The Rivals and The Busy Body have enlivened the Southwark Playhouse and the National has had raucous takes on The Beaux’ Stratagem (still running) and this very Oliver Goldsmith play effervescently directed by Jamie Lloyd.

But Posner ‘s direction has a near-fatal lugubriousness in the first half which, already weighed down with a considerable amount of scene-setting and expositionary dialogue, makes for very hard going. Sad to say, things are just dull for too long and nowhere near light-heartedly entertaining enough to do justice to this cracking comedy. The tropes of mismatched love affairs, disguised paramours, mistaken identities and wonderfully ambitious women are all present and correct – London gents Marlow and Hastings mistaking the Hardcastles’ country pile for a country inn and have to go a country mile around the houses to undo the damage they inflict and ensure love wins the day. Continue reading “Review: She Stoops To Conquer, Theatre Royal Bath”

2014 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Female
Leanne Best for The Match Box at The Tricycle 
Lucy Ellinson for Grounded at The Gate
Vicki Lee Taylor for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at The Union
Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag at Soho

Best Male
Joe Armstrong for The Dumb Waiter at The Print Room
James Cooney for Bottleneck at Soho
Michael Pennington for Dances of Death at The Gate
Jamie Samuel for Jumpers for Goalposts at The Bush

Best New Play
Bottleneck by Luke Barnes at Soho
Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells at The Bush
The Match Box by Frank McGuinness at The Tricycle Continue reading “2014 Offie Award Finalists”

Review: Richard II, Barbican

“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me”

I am aware that I’m flying in the face of received wisdom here but I really wasn’t a fan of the RSC’s Richard II. The announcement of David Tennant in the leading role ensured its sell-out success (regardless of the actual strength of the production) and its transfer to the Barbican after its initial run in Stratford-upon-Avon likewise proved to be the quickest of sellers. Its critical notices have been close to superlative too, so the level of expectation was certainly high.

But for all of this, I found Gregory Doran’s production to be largely quite dull, it hardly ever provoked excitement or even piqued my interest in the slow-moving telling of its tale of regime change and the corrosive effects of absolute monarchy on the individual. The inferences of a Christ-like demeanour to this King are heavily played and Tennant laps this up, irascible and irritable throughout and increasingly given to thoughts of his own divinity. Intentional perhaps, but hard to like. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Barbican”