Review: The Tempest, St Paul’s Church

Iris Theatre’s production of The Tempest at St Paul’s Church doesn’t quite conjure enough of a spell over its audience in Covent Garden

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises”

I’ve dipped in and out of Iris Theatre’s open air Shakespeares since starting this whole blogging lark. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden, St Paul’s Church and its gardens are an unexpected spot of contemplative beauty. And at their best, the productions here utilise the idiosyncracies of this space perfectly – their 2010 Romeo and Juliet remains one of the best I’ve ever seen.

But operating in one of the busiest spots of one of the busiest world capitals also has its drawbacks. And competing against the noise of the flow of Covent Garden street theatre can make the theatre here a challenge. Throw in the practicalities of ushering a large crowd around a limited space, for the shows here are always promenade, and it is far too easy to lose the spell under which audiences need to remain.   Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, St Paul’s Church”

Review: H.R.Haitch, Union

New musical H.R.Haitch at the Union Theatre has a feel of knockabout fun which begs not to be taken too seriously

“We are hoping for a happy outcome”

As Kensington Palace gears up for one royal wedding, Iris Theatre are jumping down the aisle first with their musical take on stately nuptuals H.R.Haitch, now playing at the Union Theatre. And though it features a mixed-race woman (like Meghan) marrying a prince, such is the development time for musicals that is actually the fact that she is a ‘commoner’ (like Kate, apparently) that proves the inspiration here.

For aspiring canapé-chef Chelsea is Barking born and bred, and a strident anti-monarchist to boot. And she’s pretty excited about her suspicions that her nice-but-dim boyf Bertie is going to propose! Thing is, Bertie is actually Prince Albert – heir to the British throne and (for reasons I’m not sure we ever really understood) living incognito among the people. Will Queen Mary accept her? Can the older Princess Victoria thwart the line of succession? And what is it with politicians and pigs…? Continue reading “Review: H.R.Haitch, Union”

Review: Richard III, Blue Elephant

“Now is the winter of our discontent”

Lazarus Theatre’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III starts off in striking style in the Blue Elephant’s black box auditorium – a genteel drinks reception quickly turns into an all-out rave complete with glowsticks, from the midst of which Prince Plockey’s usurping monarch emerges to deliver “now is the winter of our discontent”. What follows doesn’t quite match up to this vibrant invention but Gavin Harrington-Odedra’s production does contain some lovely moments.

Harrington-Odedra has trimmed down the text to a mighty lean 100 minutes straight through which presents as many obstacles as it does opportunities. Richard’s rise to the throne is meteoric which robs us of much of his scheming character, and some of the remaining scene choices don’t always fly, Lady Anne’s seduction for one feeling a little too static. But the strong use of visuals works extremely well in this fast-paced world. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Blue Elephant”