An assortment of October theatre news

Full casting has been announced for Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch’s upcoming production of Misfits, an innovative new hybrid of live theatre and digital content, playing 12-22 November 2020. Bookers will purchase a ticket which will allow them the choice of watching the show be performed live onstage in front of a socially
distanced audience or streamed to their homes, right up until the day of the show.

Misfits intertwines four inspirational tales of Essex resilience to make an unmissable world premiere by four of the region’s most exciting playwrights: Anne Odeke, Guleraana Mir, Kenny Emson and Sadie Hasler and will be co-directed by QTH Artistic Director Douglas Rintoul and Emma Baggott. The cast is Anne Odeke, who is also writing part of the piece, Gemma Salter, Mona Goodwin and Thomas Coombes. Continue reading “An assortment of October theatre news”

More gay news: casting for Queers

Following yesterday’s Pride-fest, The Old Vic today announced casting for Queers, a series of eight monologues curated by Mark Gatiss. Staged on 28 and 31 July at The Old Vic, they mark 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 began the decriminalisation process for homosexuality between men. Queers celebrates some of the most poignant, funny, tragic and riotous moments of British gay male history over the last century. Continue reading “More gay news: casting for Queers”

Review: Crush the Musical, Richmond Theatre

“Just crack on and I’m sure you’ll come up with a corker!”

Superficially, Crush the Musical might seem just a little bit batshit crazy, from the pen of the creator of Bad Girls (and Bad Girls the Musical) how could it be otherwise. But as Maureen Chadwick and composer Kath Gotts’ girls’ school romp unwinds its merry way across the stage, its subversive leanings come to the fore as it emerges as a rare example of straight-up and sweetly played lesbian camp, wrapped up in the trappings of an old-fashioned musical comedy.

Set in the early 60s in the liberal surroundings of Dame Dorothea Dosserdale School for Girls where free spirits are celebrated and fostered, the sixth-formers are hugely excited for life beyond their forthcoming exams. But the arrival of a strict new headmistress, the formidable Miss Bleacher, introduces an air of tyranny, determined to root out the unnatural practices that have been going on in the Art Room, and the changing rooms as a budding schoolgirl romance has taken hold. Continue reading “Review: Crush the Musical, Richmond Theatre”

Review: On Approval, Jermyn Street

“Where do you bank?” – 
‘Anywhere; I simply don’t care’”

On Approval was written in 1926 by Frederick Lonsdale as a comedy of manners capturing the shifting dynamics in gender roles in a world where suffragists and the Great War had ushered in the potential for great change. Against this backdrop, Lonsdale posits a scenario with two wealthy woman – one a young pickle heiress, the other an older spoilt widow – seeking to test drive potential future spouses by taking them up to a Scottish country estate ‘on approval’ and spending a few weeks together to test their compatibility. But though the promise of a witty evening is often raised, its light-hearted nature too often feels insubstantial.

Anthony Biggs’ production polishes the play hard but never really comes up with the cut-glass sharpness needed to elevate the performances above the comic shortcomings of the writing nor the crispness of pacing that would create an irresistible forward momentum. The intimacy of the Jermyn Street Theatre doesn’t always help, leaving the quartet of actors frequently exposed at the lack of solid dramatic foundation and missing the gumption necessary to paper over the cracks.  Continue reading “Review: On Approval, Jermyn Street”

Review: St John’s Night, Jermyn Street

“Don’t forget about the goblin in the attic”

Written early in his career in 1852, Ibsen’s play St John’s Eve (or St John’s Night as it has been retitled here in this translation by James McFarlane) was so poorly received that it was brushed under the carpet somewhat and not even included in his collected works. Following on from last year’s successful version of another neglected Ibsen piece Little Eyolf, director Anthony Biggs returns to the Jermyn Street Theatre to see if lightning can strike twice by giving St John’s Night its UK premiere. This may have been a preview but for me, I’m not so sure that it did succeed, instead reminding us why some plays are left to collect dust.

This is very much an example of the playwright-in-progress , being unlike any other Ibsen play that I know, as it is a fairy-tale comedy, taking influence from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream but putting a decidedly Nordic spin on it. The play is set on a Norwegian farm whose ownership is unclear after the death of Mr Berg. Berg’s second wife lives in one house and is trying to secure the inheritance for her daughter by finding a good marriage and she invites her chosen victim Birk, with two of his friends, to join in their midsummer revels. Berg’s ageing father and naïve daughter live in another, older house on the estate which happens to have a resident goblin upstairs and when the young people decide to take their party up to a mystical hill, the goblin – a Puck-like figure – spikes their drink with a potion that unlocks all sorts of hidden memories. Continue reading “Review: St John’s Night, Jermyn Street”

Review: Less Than Kind, Jermyn Street

“There’s not a single situation that can’t be resolved with small talk”

Getting in with the celebration of the centenary of Terence Rattigan’s birth (as they did with Sondheim last year), the Jermyn Street Theatre have managed the impressive feat of unearthing a hitherto unperformed play, Less Than Kind, which is therefore receiving its world premiere here. Written in 1944, it suffered the rather ignomious fate of being rewritten and reshaped into a fundamentally different play to please the all-powerful producer/actors who were financing the show. It changed so much as to be given a different name, Love In Idleness, but it seriously damaged Rattigan’s reputation as it revealed the extent to which he kowtowed to the commercial interests of the day at the severe expense of his original artistic vision. But fortunately a copy of the original play survived and that it what is being mounted here, directed by Adrian Brown.

The play is set in London in 1944 and centres around the return of Michael Brown, an idealistic teenager who was evacuated to Canada and is shocked to find on his return, that his mother is now living a life of luxury since she is the mistress of a wealthy businessman who has been co-opted into the War Cabinet to assist with the manufacture of tanks. Whilst abroad, Michael discovered socialism so his mother’s perceived betrayal is both a personal and political insult to him and so he sets about forcing his mother to choose between her son and her lover. Rattigan has stuffed the show with heaps of articulate, witty dialogue and it is a genuine hoot at times, I’m not too sure that the Hamlet references were hugely successfully integrated but the play stands up as a fairly strong piece of comic drama. Continue reading “Review: Less Than Kind, Jermyn Street”

Review: Bedroom Farce, Duke of York’s

“My mother used to say, Delia, if ever S-E-X rears its ugly head, close your eyes before you see the rest of it.”

Alan Ayckbourn’s play Bedroom Farce follows three married couples in their bedrooms over a long, long night as a troubled fourth couple, Trevor and Susannah spill forth with their problems and visit each couple sometimes together, sometimes apart, but always causing havoc and making everyone question their own marital stability. It arrives at the Duke of York’s from a run last year at the Rose in Kingston with 5 of the 8 original cast members for a 14 week run.

I realise it has the word ‘farce’ in the title, but is the sight of a man in a coat several sizes too big, or a poorly constructed desk falling apart really so hilarious? The theatre was full of people laughing loudly from the word go at everything put in front of them, but I was not one of them. This play was at its best when the physical comedy stopped and the wit in the writing was allowed to shine through, but these moments were too few and far between for me and even then it was often just too mannered and inoffensive. Continue reading “Review: Bedroom Farce, Duke of York’s”

Review: Acorn Antiques The Musical, The Lowry

Having seen and loved Acorn Antiques The Musical when it played in London, despite a few misgivings about the first half, I was keen to ensure that we saw the touring version when it was announced and it fit in well with my Christmas plans to go and see it at the Lowry in Salford. Victoria Wood had obviously taken the (somewhat harsh) reviews to heart though as she has performed some major surgery on the show and the whole conceit of the first half has been removed: we open straight into Manchesterford and the goings-on at the antique shop.
Some of the songs from that original first half have been shoehorned into the story, the tap number is great fun though a bit of a stretch having the am-dram society rehearsing in the shop and other ones shifted around a bit. It still made me laugh, but I must admit to not finding it quite as funny as I did the first time round. And I suppose this is largely to do with the fact that this is a new cast that has been put together for this tour, which features none of the main principles.

And I know it shouldn’t matter, the strength of the show should mean that any good actors can take us through it, but so much of the pleasure of the original was seeing the famous, familiar faces from the TV show reprising their roles, in particular Celia Imrie and Julie Walters, the latter’s Mrs O being so intertwined with herself that I found it impossible to imagine anyone else ever being able to perform the role. And I think that is what the producers also thought as Ria Jones who takes on the role here plays it as close to Walters as possible, which is probably for the best as she can really pull it off. I was less convinced by Sara Crowe’s Miss Babs and Teddy Kempner’s Clifford, but Lisa Peace’s Miss Berta and Beverly Rudd’s Mimi were good fun.

Expectations are often a killer and I think I let them get the better of me here, working myself into a state of excitement that was always unlikely to be matched. Though as the dvd of the original cast is now available, I might add that to my Christmas present list and see if it really was as good as I remembered first time round.