News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the musicals edition

Since it is the season of goodwill to all men, I’m not going to belabour the point that it is a shame that ‘musicals’ have been lumped together as a category here, whereas the likes of Pinter and Kane got their own specials, whither Sondheim, Herman and Tesori. Still, it’s lovely as ever to stretch back over years of musical theatre productions to see some of Tristram Kenton’s most iconic shots for the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/dec/02/musicals-on-stage-in-pictures-tristram-kenton

Photos: Tristram Kenton

News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced

All the Web’s a Stageis a streaming initiative consisting of 12 marvellous jam-packed hours of all your favourite performers from the West End and theatre to comedy, drag and magic!

It’s fitting that the free livestream will be held on Thursday 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday and the date that theatres began their process of restoration after strict censorship in 1661, the last time British theatres were ordered to close for a prolonged period. 

The livestream is raising money for our artistic comrades who have been severely impacted by Covid-19. Whilst we appreciate the government’s initiatives, and the support made available for many self-employed workers, there are still many freelance artists who fall through the cracks of these new government programs. As a result, thousands of artists who are now unable to earn an income are facing the coronavirus crisis with no available financial support.

You can watch the livestream on the Theatre Together website or on the Theatre Together Facebook page this Thursday from midday. Continue reading “News: #AllTheWebsAStage details announced”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace

So much fun to be had with the hilarious guys of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at The Other Palace

“It’s time you felt my gay-rage”

I’ve been watching the Showstopper crew for as long as I’ve been blogging (the King’s Head was a great venue for them), so it’s a real treat to see them constantly move onwards and upwards, stepping up from their monthly West End residencies (which they’re still continuing) to a fully fledged 7 week run at The Other Palace, during which they’ll celebrate their 1,000th show.

For the uninitiated, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is a show that is made up on the spot by a group of disgustingly talented comedians, taken from ideas given by the audience in terms of musical influences, plot twists and titles. It’s as simple as that and it is ingeniously done, night after night, to produce a brand new musical each time, which has never failed to leave me helpless with laughter. Continue reading “Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, The Other Palace”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Ahoy sailors, if what you thought the world of musical theatre was missing was the opportunity to be trapped on a boat for four days with a load of wealthy musical theatre fans, then worry no more. Stages – the Musical Theatre Festival at Sea has now been announced, a four night cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam and back, with entertainment from the likes of Michael Ball, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, Christina Bianco, Sophie Evans, John Owen-Jones and the Showstopper guys.

It looks like it could be hilariously good fun – red carpet arrival onto the ship, masquerade balls and workshops and Q&As with the performers. But it sure ain’t cheap, prices starting at £609 with the taxes added on, though as it doesn’t set sail until 15th October 2018, there’s time to start saving those pennies. For me though, you can consider this my not-so-subtle hint to Floating Festivals that they obviously need a blog review of their cruise and that I am the one for the job.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: Showstopper, Lyric

“You can’t let the pipes play you, you play the pipes”

After their residency at the Apollo, the Showstopper team have skipped along to the Lyric where they have been performing their brand of improvised musical on a random selection of Mondays, roughly every three weeks. If you’re new to their work, Showstopper is created anew on the night, suggestions garnered from the audience for the title and the various styles of musical theatre in which the songs will be improvised. And it is always extremely good fun and frequently hilarious, hence my multiple visits over the years.

This evening we saw Greece!, a tale of aspiring thespians, goats, mischievous demi-gods, mysterious rambling women and some impressive pipes, set at the base of Mount Olympus and other assorted ancient Greek venues. And musically we went from Gilbert and Sullivan to West Side Story to Andrew Lloyd Webber, though the highlights were the Hamilton-style love duet (big up to Andrew Pugsley and Pippa Evans) and a truly lovely Waitress-inspired number which although ostensibly a comic number about Dionysus, possessed a strikingly powerful musicality (led by the divine Ruth Bratt). The perfect way to liven up a Monday evening.

Running time: 90 minutes (with interval)
Future performances: Monday 15 May 7.30pm; Monday 5 June 7.30pm

Review: 2017 London Jam – Austentatious, Wilton’s Music Hall

“We’re going to have to tell the vicar”

The 2017 London Jam is a festival of improvisation presented by The Showstoppers, in association with Extempore Theatre & Something for the Weekend, featuring a wide range of improv stars from across both the UK and the world – the improvised Ibsen troupe from Norway being the unlikeliest inclusion there. Naturally, we went along to see our beloved Austentatious and as ever, they did not disappoint.

Regaling us with the tale of Fear and Fascination, full of illicit hat-wearing, malevolent vicars with a predilection for flashbacks, and sheep-loving surprises, this was the team at their best, taking their time with a slow start to to tease out some utterly surreal story strands. The bit of audience participation was unexpected good fun, but it was the surprise murder and the group’s stunned reaction and subsequent glee that made it one of the best unknown Jane Austen novels I’ve yet seen.

Review: The Glenda J Collective, Soho

“Who needs men?”

In advance of the return of the real Glenda J (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty…) in Deborah Warner’s King Lear for the Old Vic, The Glenda J Collective proved to be most entertaining. There’s no real connection (indeed I’m not entirely sure where the name comes from) but more importantly, The Glenda J Collective can call itself an improv supergroup and not be anywhere near overstating its case, featuring as it does the luminary talents of Josie Lawrence, Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt and Cariad Lloyd.

And as with any improv show, it takes a far better writer than I to capture the ephemeral nature of the quickfire comedy which comes in the form of non-stop sketches and songs (the group is accompanied on keys by the fabulous Duncan Walsh-Atkins) that flow uninterrupted for a good hour. Suffice to say that it was consistently funny, frequently hilarious and often sidesplittingly genius. From a talking CD player (hello Toshiba…) to the 2 Wisconsin radio DJs coming up with songs for the other 2 performers to make up on the spot, Lawrence’s tie to Cariad Lloyd’s pregnancy bump, it was a cracking hour and one I hope to revisit as soon as new dates are announced. 

Running time: 60 minutes (without interval)
Further dates hopefully to be announced…soon?

Re-review: Showstopper, Apollo

“What’s it gonna be Paul, what’s it gonna be?”

The beauty of improvised musical show The Showstoppers is that you can go as many times as you want as they make it up fresh for every performance. So even though I saw two performances on their press day last week, I was more than happy to go again this Sunday evening, this time to experience the delights of Jim’s Soggy Bottom

A tale of love and Russian politics in the Bake-Off tent with numbers in the style of The Boy From Oz, Sweeney Todd, Urinetown and Jesus Christ Superstar among others, it was highly entertaining as always. Ruth Bratt continues to be a hoot but Pippa Evans has been in a real rich vein of form recently to nab MVP for me. Worth a trip if you’ve not been yet and worth a revisit if you have!

Review: Showstopper, Apollo

“We even got the dinosaurs in there”

It’s perhaps a sign of the times that an element of variety has crept into theatreland. Where the West End is usually dominated by plays and musicals, we’ve seen the likes of Vegas-style revues like Sinatra and magic shows like Impossible extend its entertainment remit and now we can add improv shows to the list and not only that, improvised musicals. Created by Adam Meggido and Dylan Emery, The Showstoppers have been making up musicals on the spot for eight years now, regulars in Edinburgh and smaller venues like the King’s Head and the Charing Cross Theatre but they’ve now made the significant leap to the Apollo on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Their routine is a simple one – a brand new show at every performance (we were invited to the matinee and the evening show to prove just that) inspired by suggestions from the audience and embroidered into life by 6 performers (from a company of 12) who literally make it up there and then. The first of the day’s shows was Puck Off, a tale of love and wings in an Irish fairy grotto with a jive-talking Puck; the second was The Lyin’ King, set in the jungle that is the Daily Mail’s offices. But in some ways, the details don’t really matter as the show is remade every night from the variety of responses from the stalls and the unexpected swerves that come in their telling. Continue reading “Review: Showstopper, Apollo”