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”

Review: Dangling, Southwark Playhouse

“If I knew…
If I knew that…
It’d be ok.”

Telling the contrasting but complementary stories of two young women who have gone missing – one from t’north, one from the capital – Abigail Hood’s Dangling is a brutal, at times harrowing play to watch. The London-based strand is the stronger. Not-quite-16-year-old Carly’s disappearance has left a huge hole in her parents’ lives and Hood explores the myriad ways this impacts on them with a real questioning intelligence. In a devastating scene, Tracey Wilkinson’s Jane finds herself driven to entertain thoughts of the worst kind about her husband and the fact is that Jasper Jacob’s Greg does have touches of a moral queasiness about him. 

He’s paying young women to dress up as his daughter and roleplay conversations with him, and he’s under investigation at the school where he teaches for potentially inappropriate conduct with female pupils. He’s also distraught about his inability to look after his child, haunted by dreams of her in some painfully authentic writing. Wilkinson and Jacob are superb together and those notes of ambiguity from the latter are beautifully effective, especially in his scenes with Hood’s Charlotte – the lookalike – who has her own emotional issues with which to deal. Continue reading “Review: Dangling, Southwark Playhouse”

Re-review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Bush

“Do you know why I’m doing this?
‘Cos the lesbians said you were bossy’”

In a close-run thing, Tom Wells’ Jumpers for Goalposts ended up in second place on my list of favourite shows of 2013, its undeniable warmth and unfettered romance proving a hugely winning combination and one which I’d already been to see three times – twice earlier in 2013 at Watford and once as it started its run at the Bush, the final stop on its tour. The joy it brought me even on that third trip meant that when a potential trip to the final show of the run of this Paines Plough, Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre production was mooted, I could not resist.

And once again, the show filled my heart to bursting with its utter loveliness, making me laugh, cry, shiver and sigh all over again. Review #1 can be read here, re-reviews #2 and #3 here, and that’s about it really. I’m so glad I went to see it one more time, I’m gutted that I can’t see it again and I look forward to the first revival wherever it may take place, I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be making a trip to see it. Thank you to all involved in making such a wonderful piece of theatre that will stay with me forever. 

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 4th January

fosterIAN awards 2013

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayMarianne Jean-Baptiste, The Amen CornerMichelle Terry, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Globe)Lucy Ellinson, Grounded
Stella Gonet/Fenella Woolgar, Handbagged
Lesley Manville, Ghosts (Almeida)
Shuna Snow, Iron
Best Actor in a PlayPhilip Duguid-McQuillan & Jamie Samuel, Jumpers for GoalpostsAl Weaver, The PrideBrian Cox, The Weir
Hugo Koolschijn, Scenes from a Marriage (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
Benedict Wong, Chimerica
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayLinda Bassett, RootsDeborah Findlay, CoriolanusAnna Calder-Marshall, The Herd
Isabella Laughland, The Same Deep Water As Me
Hadewych Minis, Scenes from a Marriage (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
Cecilia Noble, The Amen Corner
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayPearce Quigley, A Midsummer Night's Dream (Globe)Roeland Fernhout, Scenes from a Marriage (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)Richard McCabe, The Audience
Jeff Rawle, Handbagged
Andy Rush, Jumpers for Goalposts
Alexander Vlahos, Macbeth (MIF)
Best Actress in a MusicalRosalie Craig, The Light PrincessCynthia Erivo, The Color PurpleZrinka Cvitešić, Once the musical
Anita Dobson, Carnival of the Animals
Scarlett Strallen, A Chorus Line
Charlotte Wakefield, The Sound of Music
Best Actor in a MusicalKyle Scatliff, Scottsboro Boys Declan Bennett, Once the musicalDavid Birrell, Sweeney Todd
Nick Hendrix, The Light Princess
Matt Smith, American Psycho
Michael Xavier, The Sound of Music
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalLeigh Zimmerman, A Chorus LineNicola Hughes, The Color PurpleAmy Booth-Steel, The Light Princess
Katie Brayben, American Psycho
Cassidy Janson, Candide
Sophia Nomvete, The Color Purple
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalKit Orton, The Hired ManMichael Matus, The Sound of MusicBen Aldridge, American Psycho
Christian Dante White, Scottsboro Boys
Kane Oliver Parry, The Light Princess
Gary Wood, A Chorus Line

2013 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Philip Duguid-McQuillan & Jamie Samuel, Jumpers for Goalposts
Maybe a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t pick between the two stars of one of the best new plays of recent years and the most genuinely lovely depiction of teenage romance you could ever hope to see. I’ve seen them three times and have a sneaky trip booked to the last performance at the Bush too.

Honourable mention: Al Weaver, The Pride
Beautifully affecting, Weaver has been an actor I’ve had my eye on for a time and so it was pleasing to see him deliver the goods in a major production, opposite Harry Hadden-Paton in Jamie Lloyd’s The Pride.

Brian Cox, The Weir
Hugo Koolschijn, Scenes from a Marriage (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
Benedict Wong, Chimerica

7-10
Richard Clothier, 50 Words; Harry Hadden-Paton, The Pride; Mark Quartley, Armstrong’s War; Ben Whishaw, Mojo

 

Best Actor in a Musical

Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys
As Scottsboro boy-in-chief Haywood Patterson, Scatliffe personified beautifully the horrendous struggle of the young men who found themselves at the mercy of the justice system in the Deep South. The burden was strong given the under-writing of his compatriots but he delivered intense emotion and fervent conviction that the right thing would eventually happen, in what has to be a career-defining role.

Honourable mention: Declan Bennett, Once the musical
The brooding intensity of Bennett’s Guy fitted the aching romance of Once like a glove, elevating the score from any potential moments of lachrymosity into something subtly beautiful and stirring in its simplicity. 

David Birrell, Sweeney Todd
Nick Hendrix, The Light Princess
Matt Smith, American Psycho
Michael Xavier, The Sound of Music

7-10
Gavin Creel, The Book of Mormon; Fra Fee, Candide; Douglas Hodge, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; David Hunter, The Hired Man

Review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Bush

“Remember thinking: I am quite an average man. Never thought I’d feel…”

A third visit to this play for me – Jumpers for Goalposts may have just opened at the Bush Theatre this week but this Paines Plough, Hull Truck and Watford Palace Theatre production premiered earlier this year in Watford where it utterly stole my heart and tempted me back for seconds despite the short run. Since then it has toured the UK and now ends up in the West London venue where writer Tom Wells had such success a couple of years ago with The Kitchen Sink. And in those intervening months, assisted by the intimacy of the Bush, the play has grown into something even better, even more affecting in its charming lo-fi way.

My original review says much of what I still think of the play, but I don’t think one can understate the importance of this piece of writing. The trials and tribulations of Barely Athletic, the five-a-side football team at the heart of the play are strongly, vividly portrayed, but as entirely recognisable experiences that might befall you or I. And as three of the five happen to be gay men, it holds a particular resonance for me – has a playwright ever evoked the reality of the aftermath of being gay-bashed so effectively, the mundanity of actually just having to get on with everyday life rather than focusing on the intense drama of the crime itself. Continue reading “Review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Bush”

Re-review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Watford Palace

“If you don’t have a go, you definitely won’t score”

One can re-read a book and re-watch a film on DVD at leisure, but the window for revisiting pieces of theatre, especially those on limited runs, is much narrower and it is a different kind of decision to make. It’s not every play that I want to see again – sometimes the best nights are ones that I don’t want to try and repeat for fear that they won’t live up to expectations – but on occasion, I leave the theatre just knowing that I have to make a return trip. It’s not something I always act on and that way leads regret – I really wish I’d gone back to Tom Wells’ The Kitchen Sink at the Bush Theatre so when I fell head over heels for his latest play Jumpers for Goalposts, I was determined not to make the same mistake again.

My original review can be read here and given that it was less than two weeks ago, there’s not a huge amount more to say about how much I loved it. But what made me want to come back was the detail of the writing, every scene is so rich in comic detail that it was easy to miss some absolute crackers first time round. And since James Grieve’s production is so very effective at generating the intimate banter-filled environment of this group of five people pulled together to play in the Hull Gay and Lesbian five-a-side football tournament, I found real joy in just sitting and listening these characters bounce off of each other. Continue reading “Re-review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Watford Palace”

Review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Watford Palace Theatre

“Next season, we’re aiming for third”

Some might cite Tom Wells’ new play Jumpers for Goalposts for its slightly fantastical air and lack of serious dramatic tension, but that would be to entirely miss the point of its warm-hearted yet clear-sighted pleasures. The play follows a predominantly gay five-a-side football team –Barely United – in Hull, scraped together from a selection of misfits and gradually unwinds to reveal their reasons for signing up and the impact that being part of this team has on their lives. But though it is gentle rather than grand, it is a hugely affecting and uplifting piece of theatre that feels vitally important from a writer who genuinely can find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

In previous plays such as the tender Me, As A Penguin and the glorious The Kitchen Sink, Wells has demonstrated a gift for exploring the challenges of young gay life outside of the big cities and a serious talent for understated but highly comic writing and both are brought to bear here with great effect. Beardy Geoff splits his time between seducing the opposition and coming up with a song to win a talent show; head coach Viv wants to score revenge on the Lesbian Rovers team that kicked her out but also offer some respite to her grieving brother-in-law; and Danny, struggling to get through his coaching qualification, is entirely distracted by new arrival Luke, a painfully shy librarian. Continue reading “Review: Jumpers for Goalposts, Watford Palace Theatre”