Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

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TV Review: Quiz

James Graham’s Quiz makes a marvellous leap from stage to screen

“People still want to gather as a nation, to experience something big together”

Not a huge amount to say about the TV adaptation of James Graham’s Quiz, a show I enjoyed in the West End, not least because of its interactive elements (even if we lost). It bloomed in the televisual treatment, losing a little of its structural intricacy but gaining a narrative through-line that really worked, the explosive arrival of Helen McCrory’s QC making it worth the while. And the story remains as intriguing as ever, though just as free from doubt for me.

They totally did it, right – the Ingrams may have been stitched up in court by the tinkered-with evidence (and credit to Matthew Mcfadyen and Sian Clifford for two excellent performances) – but they totally did it.  Fun to see cameos like Paul Bazeley’s Lionel from Legal and Maggie Service’s Kerry the Floor Manager, and original cast members like Sarah Woodward and Keir Charle too.

Not-a-Review: The Haystack, Hampstead Theatre

I like spy dramas, and Sarah Woodward and Sirine Saba, but The Haystack, at the Hampstead Theatre, is not the one

“Yes, we’re geeks, yes, we sit at computers all day, yes, we barely leave Cheltenham, but we are still, when it comes down to it, spies”

 

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Ellie Kurtz
The Haystack is booking at the Hampstead Theatre until 12th March

Review: One For Sorrow, Royal Court

Sadly not the Steps musical of my dreams, One For Sorrow nevertheless left me a bit disappointed at the Royal Court

You will do anything, in the end, to keep the people you love safe”

Finally, the Steps musical we’ve all been waiting for, and at no less august an institution as the Royal Court…

Sadly though, Cordelia Lynn’s One For Sorrow is a cruel attempt to lure Steps fans into theatres, leaving their hopes dashed. It’s no less than a tragedy.

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Review: Quiz, Noël Coward

Whether you get to make your West End debut or not, James Graham’s Quiz is great fun at the Noël Coward Theatre

“It’s a 50:50 – guilty or not-guilty”

It’s taken me a little while to get around to seeing James Graham’s Quiz but it proved more than worth it as this particular matinée was undoubtedly enhanced by the West End debut of…me and my Aunty Jean! Treading the boards of the Noël Coward Theatre was an unexpected bonus to a highly enjoyable afternoon, and I look forward to the next role that Mr Graham creates for me…

But back to the matter at hand. Transferring over from Chichester, Quiz takes a cock-eyed look at the world of light entertainment, and the way in which ‘constructed reality’ has bled into the larger narrative not just of our television, but of our society. Using the ‘coughing major’ scandal of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire as a jump-off point, we dive into meaty notions of truth and justice in a media-dominated age. Continue reading “Review: Quiz, Noël Coward”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

© Trevor Leighton
Given how she’s doing such amazing work in Follies at the minute, it’s kinda gobsmacking to discover that Janie Dee has not one but two cabaret shows lined up for the beginning of October. Returning to Live at Zédel, fans have the pick of Janie Dee at the BBC – album launch or Janie Dee – Off the Record… or you can do both on the same night for a couple of dates if you’re that way inclined! I’m seriously tempted!


One of the highlights of Bat out of Hell was Sharon Sexton’s pneumatic performance so I’m gutted that I can’t make Sucked, which is trailed as a sitcom-style musical comedy and features Sexton with Riona O’Connor. Move quickly though, one of their two shows has already sold out.


Theatre Royal Bath has announced full casting for Christmas Eve, which today begins rehearsals. Niamh Cusack will play philosophy professor Judith and Patrick Baladi will play police officer Thomas. The new thriller is the latest play from multi-award winning writer Daniel Kehlmann and will be directed by Laurence Boswell, in a translation by Christopher Hampton. The production will run at the Ustinov Studio from Thursday 19 October to Saturday 18 November.


On Christmas Eve 2017, a philosophy professor is on her way to celebrate Christmas when she is bundled into police headquarters and an interrogation room. Opposite her the senior officer is cynical, smart and relentless. Played out in real time, two powerful antagonists are pitted head to head against each other. Both think they are saving their country but only one of them will win…


The London Horror Festival is back for a 7th terrifying year to thrill and chill audiences for 3 jam packed weeks this Halloween season. The UK’s original and largest festival of live horror performance returns to the Old Red Lion Theatre following the great success of 2016.
With official sponsorship from Hobgoblin, ‘the unofficial beer of Halloween’, and horror artist Jessica F. Holt, this annual celebration of the horror genre is going strong and 2017 is their biggest line-up yet with an eclectic programme of 23 different shows on offer.
The London Horror Festival works to promote new and innovative work in the arts, support London fringe theatre and is dedicated to providing a platform for artists and companies working in the horror genre. This year promises a mix of theatre, puppetry, cabaret, spoken word, body horror, clowning and comedy, featuring satanic cults, mummies, zombies, ghosts, vampires and the bodies of Frankenstein!
Shows to look forward to include 5 star horror comedy Curse of the Mummy from Last Chance Saloon, fresh from their Edinburgh triumph, fellow 5 star fringe successes The Twins Macabre, The Underground Clown Club returning with the 5 star Knock Knock followed by their new show Who’s There?, and reworkings of classic tales including a comic adaptation H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth by Hidden Basement Productions and a gender-switched version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven by critically-acclaimed Evcol Entertainment.
For something different after dark, stay up late for an exclusive midnight performance of Felix Le Freak’s Shockbuster Video presented by the folks behind the wildly popular PopHorror cabaret club nights, then party the night away with their very own DJ until 3am.



Not content with taking over two-thirds of the theatres on St Martins Lane (with Ink and Labour of Love), James Graham’s reach is also stretching out to the regions. His new play Quiz, which opens at Chichester Festival Theatre in November, has now had its cast revealed.

Gavin Spokes plays Charles Ingram, the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? fraudster and Stephanie Street joins him as his wife Diana. The company is completed by Nadia Albina, Paul Bazely, Keir Charles, Greg Haiste, Mark Meadows, Henry Pettigrew, Jay Villiers, Lizzie Winkler and Sarah Woodward.

Directed by CFT’s artistic director Daniel Evans, Quiz will have designs by Robert Jones, with lighting by Tim Lutkin, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, video by Tim Reid and movement by Naomi Said. Quiz plays in the Minerva Theatre from 10 November to 9 December.

The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #6

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Dorney Court, Berkshire
I’m becoming less and less tolerant of men taking women’s roles, especially when there’s no reciprocity, and as much as I like Paul Chahidi – I don’t see why he gets to be one  of the titular merry wives here opposite Mel Giedroyc. Rebecca Gatward’s fourth-wall smashing direction is very much in keeping with the Globe’s often broad sense of comedy but for me, it lacks any subtlety at all.


CymbelineAs the world’s newest country, there’s something special about the South Sudan Theatre Company forming especially for the Globe 2 Globe Festival, so it’s a bit harsh that they were then lumbered with CymbelineSam Yates splices their show with his newly-filmed clips in a Welsh forest somewhere near Milford Haven but as talented as Hayley Atwell is and Kevin Harvey too, it’s a rather dull experience – I remain unconvinced about the play.

Henry VIII

There’s no doubting that Henry VIII is one of the less-exciting plays in the canon and though Mark Rosenblatt ventures into the beautiful gardens of Hampton Court Palace with Danny Sapani as his monarch, struggling to come to terms with his longed-for heir being a girl (Pauline McLynn delivering the news well), it’s never that compelling. Even the clips of the 2010 Globe production remind more of its inertia than anything else.

Coriolanus

There have been some pretty sweet gigs on the Complete Walk and Dromgoole’s roadtrip to Rome with Dominic West for Coriolanus has to rank up there. A stylishly shot film that comes close to a perfume ad in its luxuriousness and moody glances, it’s nonetheless most effective.

Review: Nell Gwynn, Apollo

“The girl in this tale isn’t quite half as predictable”

Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn took the Globe by storm last autumn so it was delightful news to hear that it would transfer into the West End. Sadly, it wasn’t able to hold onto Gugu Mbatha-Raw as its leading lady (nor the riotously scene-stealing Amanda Lawrence as her lady) but in finding Gemma Arterton to take over the role, Christopher Luscombe has ensured that the production makes the journey seamlessly as she is simply stunning in the role. 

My 5 star review for Official Theatre can be read here.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Booking until 30th April


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20 shows to look forward to in 2016

2016 is nearly upon and for once, I’ve hardly anything booked for the coming year and what I do have tickets for, I’m hardly that inspired by (the Garrick season has been ruined by the awfulness of the rear stalls seats, and I only got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets due to FOMO). Not for the first time, I’m intending to see less theatre next year but I do have my eyes on a good few productions in the West End, fringe and beyond. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2016”

Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe

“What must the king do now”

A late trip to the Globe to catch Richard II (for which I had a ticket months ago but was waylaid by an exciting game of tennis) at its final Friday matinee. It’s a little funny how this theatre programmes its runs well into Autumn, especially with the vicariousness of British weather, as there was a decided chill in the air even in the afternoon so heaven knows how it feels in the evening. It might be fine for a rip-roaring delight like Nell Gwynn but for the more measured qualities of Richard II, it’s a bit more of a challenge.

Simon Godwin’s production has had quite strong notices and is blessed with the fine Charles Edwards in the title role, but something about it never quite gripped me and so I was a tad more ambivalent than amazed. It’s a singular interpretation of the role, flippant and fabulous to the gold-plated extreme but Edwards’ performance style is so far removed from the rest of the company that it almost feels as if it belongs in another play, the emotional complexity (from everyone really) that marks this venue’s best productions doesn’t quite feel present.  Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe”