Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse

Nowhere near enough charm in this Sweet Charity for my liking. Josie Rourke’s farewell to the Donmar Warehouse is grey rather than silver

“I’m always looking for an emotional experience”

When the light lands just right on Robert Jones’ set for Sweet Charity at the Donmar Warehouse, it sparkles like silver; the rest of the time, it is rather grey. Sadly, that’s pretty much rather true as a whole for Josie Rourke’s production here, her farewell as Artistic Director here.

Those bright spots are dazzling. Debbie Kurup and Lizzie Connolly are superb as Charity’s pals and co-workers Helene and Nickie, dreaming their dreams with real circumspection. Martin Marquez’s velvety smoothness is charm personified as movie star Vittorio Vidal. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Sweet Charity, Nottingham Playhouse

A sparkling lead turn from Rebecca Trehearn, and brilliant choreography from Alistair David, enliven this Sweet Charity at Nottingham Playhouse

“Your game makes very good sense”

So pleased to have managed to squeak into Nottingham Playhouse’s Sweet Charity before it finished, this is what everyone uses their annual leave for, right…?! The second major production of the show in recent months following the Watermill’s strong actor-muso interpretation this summer, it is one which makes a bold move in introducing Alistair David’s choreography to give this 1966 musical a fresh lick of paint.

It’s the only real sense of updating that Bill Buckhurst’s production provides but it is an impactful one, David reimagining almost wholesale and invigorating the almost-too-familiar sounds of Cy Coleman’s classic score. In takis’ podium-based design, it looks a dream and more than justifies new AD Adam Lenson’s decision to reintroduce musicals to the programme here after an absence of more than a decade. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Nottingham Playhouse”

Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse

“That’s what you get for all your trouble”

On the face of it, you could see why reviving Promises Promises would be an appealing prospect – written by Neil Simon from a Billy Wilder film and featuring a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But digging even just a little deeper – a running time of nearly 3 hours and an antiquated set of gender politics made it a tough one to watch, and an even tougher one to excuse in today’s society.

If you were so inclined, you could argue that Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond’s original screenplay for the 1960 film The Apartment is “a triumph of 1960s sexual work-place politics” but quite what that has to say to audiences today is very unclear, (apart from gentlemen d’un certain âge craving the good old days natch). I have liked much of director Bronagh Lagan’s previous work but I can’t help pondering the choice here. Continue reading “Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Lost In Yonkers – Watford Palace

“It’s not so important that you hate me, it’s only important that you live”

Neil Simon’s play Lost in Yonkers starts in August 1942 and after their mother dies of cancer and their father has to take on a job away from home to pay off the debts for her treatment, young teenagers Jay and Arty Kurnitz find themselves deposited at the door of their grandmother’s flat on top of a sweet shop in the city of Yonkers. But there’s no warm family embrace waiting for them, Grandma Kurnitz barely spoke to her son and initially doesn’t even want to take in her grandchildren. She finally relents and so the boys stay there for a year, learning a whole new set of life lessons as she rules the roost with the harshest rod of steel and they get reacquainted with the aunts and uncles they hardly know.

Trapped with no chance of escape, the trials and tribulations of Jay and Arty are highly amusingly played by Jos Slovick and the playful Keith Ramsay, the misfortune of their situation more than tempered by their teenage concerns and constant mini-battles against the strictness of their new life regime. Some light relief comes in the form of the presence of their childlike Aunt Bella, their dodgy Uncle Louie and the later arrival of Aunt Gert complete with random speech impediment and the boys find themselves fitting into an entirely new family dynamic and one which their presence subtly changes. Continue reading “Review: Lost In Yonkers – Watford Palace”

Review: The Sunshine Boys, Savoy

“If I was there to enjoy it, I’d buy a ticket”

This new production of Neil Simon’s The Sunshine Boys might be considered one of the hottest tickets of the summer, featuring as it does the West End debut of Danny De Vito and the return to the stage of Richard Griffiths. The tale is of Willie Clarke and Al Lewis, a long-suffering former vaudeville comedy act whose relationship over the 40 years of their career deteriorated so badly that they didn’t even to speak to each other off-stage for the final year. But when a television network decides to put on a comedy retrospective more than a decade later and call on Lewis and Clarke to reprise their schtick one more time, it seems that old animosities are still fresh in the mind of some.

I saw the show in preview (and I have to say I find it a little cheeky to have a 3 week preview period for something clearly advertised as a limited 12 week run) and the best thing I could say about it was the amount of room for improvement. Thea Sharrock’s production felt extremely lethargic, especially in the interminable first half, with much more zip and zing needed by all concerned. De Vito’s bitterly retired Clark plods a little too much and needs more connection with his environment, especially with his nephew and hapless agent Ben, a hard-working Adam Levy, who is pushing for the reunion. And when Griffiths finally arrives on the scene, the cantankerousness is palpable but this just isn’t paired with any sense of the history between the characters. Continue reading “Review: The Sunshine Boys, Savoy”

Review: Barefoot in the Park, Richmond Theatre

“Take care of him, make him feel important, then you’ll have a wonderful marriage – like two out of every ten couples”

The big noise around Neil Simon in London at the moment may be around the revival of The Sunshine Boys which is about to open at the Savoy, but there’s also the chance to catch another of his plays, Barefoot in the Park, as it tours around the country starring Maureen Lipman and also featuring a rare foray into the director’s chair for her.

The 1963 play is simply but effectively conceived: a couple of young newlyweds move into their not-quite-ready Manhattan apartment after a short honeymoon, but find that the glow of the honeymoon period doesn’t always last quite so long as they face the realities of living with another person. On hand to offer advice to Corrie and Paul as they navigate their way through the shifts in their relationships over a handful of scenes are Corrie’s mother Mrs Banks and their spirited upstairs neighbour, the Hungarian Victor Velasco, who start to form their own connection as the booziest of dinners leads to unexpected events. Continue reading “Review: Barefoot in the Park, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Rumours, Hen + Chickens

“Darling, there’s been an accident…”

Neil Simon’s farcical comedy Rumours has been transplanted from New York to Oxford in this RoAm Productions/Madison Theatre Company co-production which is now playing at the Hen + Chickens theatre pub at Highbury Corner. Occasionally, I like to go into a play completely blind, knowing nothing beforehand in order to be completely surprised. It is rare that I get the chance to be unspoiled about a play but like a bag of Revels, you never know what you’re going to get. Unfortunately here, the show turned out to be a farce which is one of my least favourite genres!

The show is set in the country home of Charley and Vivian on the occasion of their tenth wedding anniversary but as the four couples invited to join them arrive, they are left to their own devices as Charley is stuck upstairs with a gunshot wound to his earlobe and Viv is nowhere to be seen. But as Charley is the Finance Minister and it turns out that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted and intended to kill, the guests gather round to cover up the political scandal that would ensue once the police get involved but soon get caught up in a tangled web of lies, alibis, stories and subterfuges in order to protect reputations all around. Continue reading “Review: Rumours, Hen + Chickens”