Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud

Just a couple of weeks left to catch The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre, and it remains entirely worth it

“That is what it takes. Thatis the cost of freedom. The price is unimaginable. And here is a man who knows that. And is willing to pay it.”

Time is so, so relative in theatres isn’t it – the mere thought of a running time that exceeds three hours can send chills running down the spine. But sometimes it is a 70 minute show that can feel like a cruel eternity and in the arms of a brilliant play, you barely even notice the hours passing by, even with Edwardian-levels of leg-room available to you. 

With just a couple of weeks left to catch The Ferryman in the West End and the chance to see Rosalie Craig in a non-musical role for once, the offer to return to the Gielgud was one I couldn’t refuse. And though it is the third time I’ve seen the show, it remains a phenomenal piece of theatre in which Jez Butterworth manages that not-inconsiderable feat of making time fly. Continue reading “Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

So much news, about so many exciting women, that I had to put together a second bulletin for this week…
Chief among them is the confirmation of Marianne Elliott’s reworking of Company, featuring the return of the glorious Patti LuPone to the London stage, playing Joanne to Rosalie Craig’s gender-swapped Bobbi. Initial reports suggest less of an interesting queering of the material and more of a straight gender-flip but it still seems set to be a highlight of next autumn.
(c) Dan Kennedy

Not content with taking the theatre world by storm (I can’t wait to see her in Mack and Mabel this weekend), Natasha J Barnes is now setting her sights on the music biz with the release of her debut single ‘Supermodel‘, ahead of an album Real, due early next year, and a cracker of a song it is too. I love that she’s exploring original music with this project too.

Also looking to break the charts are the Leading Ladies, a musicals supergroup made up of Beverley Knight, Cassidy Janson and Amber Riley, who have put together an album of musical theatre standards just in time for Christmas! Here’s an interview with them:

And to balance all that feminine energy, here’s some shameless publicity pics for the tour of Sunset Boulevard that has just started in Leicester.
(c) Manuel Harlan

Other people wearing clothes also appear in the show.

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

In Bechdel Testing LifeBechdel Theatre presents four short plays by Isley Lynn, Rabiah Hussain, Guleraana Mir, and Lizzie Milton. Each play is inspired by a real-life conversation between women.

The Experiment:
Inspired by the famous Bechdel Test, which asks: “Are there two female characters? Do they talk to each other? About something other than a man?”, women were asked to record their own conversations with each other – to pass the Bechdel Test in real life.

Their recordings were then given to a team of fantastic female playwrights.

The Result:
Four new plays exploring the relationships that make up our daily lives but are less often represented in fiction.

Bechdel Testing Life is a celebration of the complex, intimate, hilarious, and genius conversations that take place when women get together. It plays at the Bunker Theatre on 22nd and 23rd July.

(c) Hugo Glendinning
The National Theatre has today announced that Lizzy Watts will take the title role of Hedda Gabler which, following a sold-out run at the National Theatre earlier this year, begins a UK tour on 2 October. Beginning at Theatre Royal Plymouth, the tour will journey across the UK to Edinburgh, Leicester, Salford, Norwich, Hull, Aberdeen, Northampton, Glasgow, Wolverhampton, Woking, Nottingham, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York and Milton Keynes.

Just married. Bored already. Hedda longs to be free…

Lizzy Watts’ theatre credits include Strife at Chichester Festival Theatre, The Angry Brigade and Artefacts at The Bush, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Globe, Blink for Nabokov and Wasted for Paines Plough. TV includes The Durrells and Midsomer Murders and plays Ivy Layton in BBC Radio 4’s Home Front.

(c) Helen Maybanks
The Donmar Warehouse has announced Becoming: Part One, a series of workshop performances written and performed by Rosalie Craig and Michelle Terry. This unique project represents the first time a public performance has taken place in the Donmar’s rehearsal space on Dryden Street from Tuesday 27 June to Saturday 1 July. 

We were all born.
‘And immediately like, immediately that was the time I thought “And I’m a Mum.”’
Writers and performers Rosalie Craig and Michelle Terry share their very personal experiences of giving birth six months ago, remembering now because they are already starting to forget.

Since they becoming mothers at the end of 2016, Michelle and Rosalie have been working with the Donmar to explore how the theatre might work in new and different ways to allow them to be both artists and new mothers. The pair wanted to reflect on this turbulent time of change, so the Donmar co-commissioned them to research and write about this first ‘golden year’ – a phrase used in child development studies to refer to the first twelve months of a child’s life.

Join them for a limited run of very relaxed, workshop performances at the Donmar’s rehearsal space on Dryden Street. While the show is aimed at adults, babes in arms are also welcome. You are invited to stay on after the performance to continue the conversation.

The Donmar has been a consortium member of Parents in the Performing Arts (PIPA) since 2016. As a partner of PIPA’s Best Practice Research project, we are trialling news ways of working to inform industry practice on working with parents and children. We will share the learning from the process of creating Becoming: Part One with PIPA.

A podcast of Becoming: Part One will be released later this year.  

And the Bush Theatre has announced that this summer it will be hosting a run of The B*easts, written and performed by the pride of Middlesbrough herself Monica Dolan (W1A, Appropriate Adult, The Witness For The Prosecution). Three previews of the production will take place in Theatre’s recently refurbished Attic on 26 – 28 July, before opening at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Tickets for the Bush Theatre run are now on sale. 

Referencing the modern obsession with putting your own child first against our responsibility as a society towards our children as a whole, this dark tale – written by and starring BAFTA award-winning actress Monica Dolan – explores how far one mum will go to put what her child wants first. 

Dolan’s first solo play, a searing ‘What If?’ story, explores the pornification of our culture and the sexualisation of our children. In a society where sexuality and gender are such a huge part of who we are, how we identify, and how we are defined, 

The B*easts looks at how soon is too soon to strive for perceived sexual ideals. Can the journey to reach that supposed perfection start before we are even consciously aware of the journey we have begun? The B*easts follows the repercussions of an event which could plausibly present itself and unfold within today’s culture. It invites us to examine our culture from an extreme perspective, taking a circumstance that we see as abhorrent and abnormal and showing how it can germinate in what we have come to regard as normality. As Tessa, the central character says, ‘you only have the choices you can see’. So when, and how, do you start noticing that your moral compass may be being directed by popular culture?

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.
The Up Next Gala was held to raise vital funds for the NT’s Learning Department, ensuring that young people from across the country have the chance to access the arts, develop new skills and experience live theatre performances. NT Learning works with schools, young people, families, community groups and adult learners from all corners of the UK and in 2015-16 engaged with more than 181,000 participants. The nationwide youth theatre festival Connections has helped to launch the careers of many of the UK’s brightest and best actors, from Andrew Garfield to John Boyega.
Rufus Norris, Director of the National Theatre, who hosted the gala evening said:

‘Every child has the right to a creative education and the opportunity to fully participate in the arts. Theatre gives us the chance to stand in other people’s shoes, to tell compelling stories and to be able to see the world from different perspectives.
It’s our responsibility as one of the leading arts institutions to help fertilise the creativity of this country, giving more children the chance to experience and take part in theatre, and to enable them to fulfil their potential as human beings and as members of society. We thank everyone who helped raise vital funds at the 2017 Up Next Gala and look forward to working with children and young people from across the country, thanks to the overwhelming support we received this evening.’

The event was generously support of the Pigott family and the Wall Street Journal, and in-kind support from Berry Bros. & Rudd, Floris Van Den Hoed, Nyetimber, Umbrella World and Voss Water.
Now let’s have a look how some of our top actors scrub up in their finest on the red carpet… (all photos courtesy of Cameron Slater)

Oliver Chris and Lois Chimimba

Oliver Chris and Lois Chimimba
Adrian Lester
Jonathan Bailey
Billie Piper
Elliot Cowan

Denise Gough

Hal Fowler and Kim Wilde. KIM WILDE!

Hattie Morahan and Blake Ritson
John Heffernan

James Graham

Jessica Raine
Indhu Rubasingham and Dominic Cooke

Jim Carter

Kate Fleetwood

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

Lenny Henry

Lily James

Lucian Msamati

Miles Jupp

Monica Dolan

Nathan Lane

Olivia Colman

Pandora Colin and Rory Kinnear

Penelope Wilton

Rosalie Craig

Rufus Norris

Simon Callow

Tamsin Greig

Tim McMullan

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Marianne Elliott wasted no time in making headlines twice over last week – after the announcenement of her departure from the National Theatre, it was officially been announced that she has teamed up with theatre producer Chris Harper to set up Elliott Harper Productions which will produce new work throughout 2017. The first play in the season will be Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg which will be directed by Elliott and run at a yet-to-be confirmed venue in Autumn 2017. This will be followed by Oedipus to Antigone in a new adaptation by Yael Farber who will also direct. 

But the highlight of the season looks set to be a modern revival of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical Company which will see the glorious Rosalie Craig take on the role of Bobbie, in a gender-reversed version of the musical about a confirmed bachelor that has been specially approved by Sondheim, once again directed by Elliott.
Not much else is known about the production or even the season, but watch this space!

Though it may feel that the world needs another production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream like it needs a Trump presidency, Joe Hill-Gibbins is sure to make it one to remember at the Young Vic. And predictably, he’s got a great looking cast to help him. Announced so far are:
Michael Gould as Oberon,
Anastasia Hille as Titania
Leo Bill as Bottom.
John Dagleish as Lysander and
Jemima Rooper as Hermia
Oliver Alvin-Wilson as Demetrius
Anna Madeley as Helena
and Matthew Steer as Peter Quince.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream starts on 16th February 2017.

Casting news coming thick and fast – the London Musical Theatre Orchestra’s production of Christmas Carol – The Musical has also revealed its cast. Tackling the Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’ hit Broadway show will be:

Robert Lindsay as Scrooge
John Addison as Fred Anderson
Madalena Alberto as the Ghost of Christmas Past
Carrie Hope Fletcher as Emily
Giovanna Fletcher as Mrs Cratchit
Hugh Maynard as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Peter Polycarpou as Mr Fezziwig
and Norman Bowman as Jacob Marley.

The concert will take place on 19th December at the Lyceum Theatre.

Whoopi Goldberg is to perform her stand up show Whoopi Goldberg – Stand Up Live! for the first time in the UK. The Sister Act actress will appear on stage at the London Palladium for one night on 11 February 2017. I got to see her in the musical version of Sister Act in her brief run at the same venue but her stand-up promises to be something else entirely.

The musical version of Fantastic Mr Fox is about to open at Southampton’s Nuffield, ahead of a London run at the Lyric Hammersmith from late January, and there’s a first look at some of the songs in with this interview with composer Arthur Darvill.

CD Review: Lord of the Rings (2008 Original London Production)

“Eä, Arda, Ainulindalë.

Aratar, Maiar, Rána, Nénar”

Believe it or not, there was a time when I lived in London and I only saw a handful of shows a month, actually making considered decisions about what I wanted to see. And I have to say the musical of Lord of the Rings did not make the cut (obvs I wasn’t aware of who Rosalie Craig was at that point, or else I would have gone!). The show lasted just over a year at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and probably lost a shit-ton of money (it allegedly cost £12 million to make) but we do have a cast recording to remember it by.
And what a rather odd-sounding show it is, little surprise really when you consider that producer Kevin Wallace brought on three different composers to complement the book and lyrics by Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna. So Bollywood supremo A. R. Rahman, Finnish folk group Värttinä and Lloyd Webber-wannabe Christopher Nightingale all contributed to an altogether epic score, but one which sprawls in an unwieldly manner as these three strands struggle to cohere into an effective whole.

Each one actually sounds half-decent. Rahman’s offerings tend towards the orchestrally filmic, enhanced with haunting vocals as in ‘The Siege of the City of Kings’ and ‘The Final Battle’, splendid in their near-cinematic vision. Värttinä are called upon to conjure the strange folksiness of Middle Earth from the chorale of ‘Saruman’ to the chirpier ‘The Road Goes On’ and ‘Now and For Always’. And Nightingale fires out power ballads aplenty, mainly for Galadriel in the likes of ‘Lothlórien’ and ‘Wonder’.
But even listening to these edited highlights of the show becomes a bit of a slog as the score is too concerned with being atmospheric than actually advancing the plot or deepening character. The reliance on wordless or Elvish singing demonstrates this perfectly, it sounds like a dream but ends up meaning nothing in the grand scheme of things. The quality of the cast provides some bright spots – Laura Michelle Kelly’s Galadriel sounds suitably ethereal, Rosalie Craig’s Arwen is even better (The Star of Earendil is probably my favourite track) and Michael Therriault’s Gollum offers a rare moment of real interest in the internal duet ‘Gollum/Sméagol’ but by and large, it is less ‘my precious’ than ‘my god, really?!’.

Review: The Threepenny Opera, National

“There will be no moralising tonight”
Whatever you think a national theatre should be for, I bloody love that Rufus Norris seems to determined to keep diversity near the top of the billing. Whilst it is curious that he’s only committed to ensuring gender equality in terms of the directors and living writers the National Theatre uses by 2021 (I’m sure there’s a reason it takes 5 years), there’s also change happening now in this new production of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera.
The first actors we see and hear are George Ikediashi and Jamie Beddard. So what you might say? But they are respectively a cabaret artist better known as Le Gateau Chocolat and a wheelchair-using director, writer, actor, consultant, trainer and workshop leader who has worked across the arts, educational and social sectors (his website). And you begin to see one of the ways how Norris is opening up this venue in an important and hopefully lasting manner.
Simon Stephens’ brash new version of the tale of Macheath (he of ‘Mack the Knife’, which comes from this show), remains a fierce indictment of capitalism, only more profane in this idiosyncratic East London that could even be contemporary, given the fluidity of Vicki Mortimer’s design. It is a rough and ready staging, as befits the source, captions and labels given a comic edge, the walls of what set there is made of paper through which any and everyone can burst.
And what a company of players for this play with songs. Rory Kinnear unveils a hitherto rarely heard singing voice as the cockily charismatic Macheath (as discussed with a couple of people though, is he handsome enough? Particularly when there’s the dreamy Dominic Tighe up there as well?) and perfectly suited to the task in hand it is. Of the women through whom he cuts a swathe, his wife Polly, the ever-light Rosalie Craig, and fling Lucy, a cracking Debbie Kurup stand out.
It’s interesting to see Norris employ actors who can sing as well as bona fide MT stars- Sharon Small may not be the most polished singer but she brings real grit to Jenny Diver and caught somewhere in the middle of being both excellent singers and strong actors, Nick Holder and Haydn Gwynne both shine with devilish glee as the despicable, avaricious Peachums, the exploitative embodiment of so much of what is wrong in society whether it’s Gay’s original 1720s, Brecht and Weill’s 1920s or just today. 

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 1st October

2016 What’s On Stage Award nominations

Best Actor In A Play Sponsored By Radisson Blu Edwardian:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Hamlet
James McAvoy, The Ruling Class
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King
Alex Hassell, Henry V

Best Actress In A Play Sponsored By The Umbrella Rooms:
Nicole Kidman, Photograph 51 
Denise Gough, People, Places and Things
Lia Williams, Oresteia
Rosalie Craig, As You Like It
Harriet Walter, Death of a Salesman Continue reading “2016 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

The 2015 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best Actor

WINNER James McAvoy, The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios
Simon Russell Beale
, Temple, Donmar Warehouse
Kenneth Cranham, The Father, Ustinov Bath, Tricycle Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
Ralph Fiennes, Man And Superman, National Theatre’s Lyttelton

Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress

WINNER Nicole Kidman, Photograph 51 , Noël Coward Theatre
Denise Gough
, People, Places and Things, National Theatre’s Dorfman
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe
Lia Williams, Oresteia, Almeida Theatre & Trafalgar Studios

Best Play

WINNER The Motherfucker With The Hat (Stephen Adly Guirgis), National Theatre’s Lyttelton
(Martin McDonagh), Royal Court Theatre
The Father (Florian Zeller, translated by Christopher Hampton), Ustinov Bath, Tricycle Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre

Milton Shulman Award for Best Director

WINNER Robert Icke, Oresteia, Almeida Theatre & Trafalgar Studios
Jamie Lloyd
, Assassins, Menier Chocolate Factory
Indhu Rubasingham, The Motherfucker With The Hat, National Theatre’s Lyttelton

Best Design

WINNER Anna Fleischle, Hangmen, Royal Court Theatre
Tim Hatley
, Temple, Donmar Warehouse
Robert Jones, City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse

Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright

WINNER Molly Davies, God Bless The Child, Royal Court Upstairs
Alistair McDowall
, Pomona, Orange Tree Theatre & National Theatre’s Temporary Space
Diana Nneka Atuona, Liberian Girl, Royal Court Upstairs (Peckham & Tottenham pop-up venues)

Emerging Talent Award in Partnership with Burberry

WINNER David Moorst, Violence And Son, Royal Court Upstairs
Calvin Demba
, The Red Lion, National Theatre’s Dorfman
Patsy Ferran, Treasure Island, National Theatre’s Olivier

Best Musical Performance

WINNER Imelda Staunton, Gypsy, Savoy Theatre
Katie Brayben, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Aldwych Theatre
Rosalie Craig, City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre

Newcomer in a Musical

WINNER Gemma Arterton, Made in Dagenham, Adelphi Theatre
Ellie Bamber
, High Society, Old Vic
Natalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham the Musical, Phoenix Theatre

Evening Standard Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical (voted for by the public)

WINNER Kinky Boots, Adelphi Theatre
, Menier Chocolate Factory
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Aldwych Theatre
Bend It Like Beckham the Musical, Phoenix Theatre
Gypsy, Savoy Theatre

Beyond Theatre Award

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Exhibition

Editor’s Award in partnership with The Ivy

Vanessa Redgrave

Lebedev Award

Stephen Sondheim

Review: As You Like It, National Theatre

“I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad”

For regular theatregoers, it can sometimes feel a bit hard to get excited about the umpteenth production of a play, so much so that I almost didn’t see the winning combination of the much-loved Blanche McIntyre and Michelle Terry until the very end of their run at the Globe this summer. So the news that Polly Findlay was also tackling As You Like It for the National was tempered a little (though it is the first time in 30 years it has played there) but as Rosalind was announced (Rosalie Craig poached from the cast of to replace an indisposed Andrea Riseborough), the excitement began to build and the inevitable ticket was purchased and boy am I glad that I did. 
For the transformation of the set into the Forest of Arden is a moment of genuinely breath-taking theatre, Lizzie Clachan pulling the rug from under us and her design to create a most singular vision. And it is one in which enchantment slowly grows with sylvan sound effects created by company members onstage and a choir singing Orlando Gough’s contemporary and complex score (akin if alike to the one he composed for Bakkhai). There’s a lovely conceit in which Alan Williams’ Corins, nominally a shepherd but here more like a forest deity, summons the music every time love is needed to cast its spell, enhancing the magical feel.
Which is all the more impressive given where we start. Duke Frederick’s court is transposed to a corporate bullpen full of trader types, his duchy a bustling business empire (with wrestling amusingly posed as a 5pm distraction) from whence Rosalind and Patsy Ferran’s Celia are duly banished, but not before the former has tumbled head over heels for the equally tongue-tied Orlando, a marvellously puppyish Joe Bannister. And once all are in the forest, the transformative power of love takes hold as Rosalind disguises herself as Ganymede in order to test Orlando’s mettle and Craig and Bannister’s excellent chemistry takes flight. 
Findlay also keeps a keen sense of comedy percolating through the show through novel innovations – headbutts, personal rainclouds, those sheep! even if Mark Benton doesn’t quite do enough with Touchstone to actually make him funny. Paul Chahidi’s Jacques has his melancholy well strummed by Fra Fee’s sonorous Amiens and Ferran is good as Celia, if a little too reliant on comedy faces. And if the special effect that accompanies the beginning of the epilogue owes a heavy debt to Derek Bond’s 2014 production for Southwark Playhouse, its exquisite timing more than compensates, a final flourish of magic to accompany a gorgeous production suffused with music, love and warmth. 
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 5th March