Casting announced for All The President’s Men?

Photo: Gage Skidmore

All The President’s Men? is a singular theatrical experience for the politically engaged on 24 April, 7.30pm at the Vaudeville Theatre. 

A staged reading edited and directed by Nicolas Kent and presented by the National Theatre, London and The Public Theater, New York, it features scenes from the U.S. Senate’s Confirmation Hearings

In January, one week before the president’s inauguration a fierce fight erupted in the Senate between Republicans and Democrats over the confirmation of the key figures for President Trump’s cabinet. These four powerful men lead the Trump administration’s policy on Russia, the Middle East, Iran and North Korea, on human rights worldwide, on the Paris Climate control agreement, as well as on the civil rights and the health of millions of Americans. Continue reading “Casting announced for All The President’s Men?”

The 2016 fosterIAN nominations

The end of year round-up continues with the acting performances that stood out for me, the ones that made me sit up, and sometimes stand up. As ever, I have used the label ‘best’, the categories should really be considered ‘favourite’ as that is what the fosterIANs (fos-tîr’ē-ən) are – my favourites. So please find below the 2016 fosterIAN award nominations, categories expanded to 7 nominees (and sometimes more!) because I am that indecisive, winners to be announced in the coming days. 

Best Actress in a Play
Uzo Aduba/Zawe Ashton, The Maids

Gemma Arterton, Nell Gwynn
Linda Bassett, Escaped Alone
Helen McCrory, The Deep Blue Sea
Maxine Peake, A Streetcar Named Desire
Juliet Stevenson/Lia Williams, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, The Tempest

Best Actor in a Play
Phil Dunster, Pink Mist
Paapa Essiedu, Hamlet
O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Rhys Isaac-Jones, Jess and Joe Forever
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus
Lucian Msamati, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Danny Sapani, Les Blancs


Best Supporting Actress in a Play
Jade Anouka, The Tempest
Lizzy Connolly/Amanda Lawrence, Once in a Lifetime
Nadine Marshall, Father Comes Home From The War (Parts 1, 2, and 3)
Tanya Moodie, Hamlet
Sian Phillips, Les Blancs
Rachael Stirling, The Winter’s Tale
Susan Wokoma, A Raisin In The Sun

Best Supporting Actor in a Play
Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Rudi Dharmalingham, Mary Stuart

Nick Fletcher, The Deep Blue Sea
Jonjo O’Neill, Unreachable
Peter Polycarpou, Scenes from 68* Years
Alan Williams, Mary Stuart

Best Actress in a Musical
Samantha Barks, The Last 5 Years
Clare Burt, Flowers for Mrs Harris
Glenn Close, Sunset Boulevard
Kaisa Hammarlund, Sweet Charity
Cassidy Janson, Beautiful
Landi Oshinowo, I’m Getting My Act Together…

Jenna Russell, Grey Gardens

Best Actor in a Musical
Declan Bennett, Jesus Christ Superstar
Dex Lee, Grease

Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man
Hugh Maynard, Sweeney Todd
Ako Mitchell, Ragtime
Charlie Stemp, Half A Sixpence
Mark Umbers, She Loves Me

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical
Josie Benson, Sweet Charity
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Murder Ballad
Sheila Hancock, Grey Gardens
Rachel John, The Bodyguard
Katherine Kingsley, She Loves Me
Gloria Onitiri, The Grinning Man

Jennifer Saayeng, Ragtime

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Adam J Bernard, Dreamgirls
Julian Bleach, The Grinning Man
Daniel Crossley, Sweet Charity
Tyrone Huntley, Jesus Christ Superstar
Stuart Neal, The Grinning Man

Dominic Tighe, She Loves Me
Gary Tushaw, Ragtime

Review: Les Blancs, National

“Do you think the rape of a continent dissolves in cigarette smoke?”

To think that just a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t ever seen a play by Lorraine Hansberry and now I’ve seen two – the extraordinary A Raisin in the Sun which has now completed its UK tour and this new production of Les Blancs at the National. The sad reality is that there isn’t much more to see now, pancreatic cancer taking her life at just 34, but what a startling legacy this writer left of theatre that delves uncompromisingly into issues of race and identity, that remains as pertinent today as it did the mid-twentieth century when she was writing.

Hansberry didn’t get to complete Les Blancs before her death and so this final text was adapted by her sometime husband and collaborator Robert Nemiroff and it is directed here by Yaël Farber, making her National Theatre debut after her highly acclaimed 2014 The Crucible for the Old Vic. And people who saw that production will instantly recognise Farber’s modus operandi as this show opens in a highly atmospheric manner – a group of matriarchs, led by musical director Joyce Moholoagae, chanting and singing in Xhosa to leave us in no doubt what continent we’re on. Continue reading “Review: Les Blancs, National”

Album Review: Pal Joey (Highlights from Original 1980 London Cast)

“I’ll plant you now, dig you later”

Rodgers and Hart musical Pal Joey hasn’t had a major London production since this 1980 revival at the Albery (now the Noël Coward) and on the evidence of this selection of highlights from that production, it’s not terribly difficult to see why it might not seem the most likely target for revitalisation. It has a very old-fashioned heart, not a problem in and of itself especially when that includes songs like ‘Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered’ but the bigger problem is the style of orchestration which has a somewhat tinny sound, possibly just a legacy of its early 80s genesis.

It’s hard to truly warm to Denis Lawson’s performance as the title character though, a very expansive and swaggering vocal that feels rather forced – the accent doesn’t work for me – and thus a crucial part in the success of the show falling flat from the off. Siân Phillips is much more effective as Vera, her gravelly voice always touching to listen to as she puts infuses acres of heart into her character but I do wonder how much not knowing the show affects my judgement in both these cases (Joey seems an unlikeable sort, and I’ve long loved Phillips anyway).

Still, it was worth the 50p from the charity shop that it cost me!

Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter Theatre

“It wouldn’t be like this at the National”

Does the West End really need another straight production of Oscar Wilde’s old war horse The Importance of Being Earnest? Apparently not, as the new productions lined up each have their own spin – 2015 will see David Suchet take on the role of the redoubtable Lady Bracknell for Adrian Noble and 2014 sees Lucy Bailey impose her own conceit onto the show which allows her to gather an ensemble of more seasoned professionals than might normally be expected to take on this play.

That she does with the help of extra material written by Simon Brett which sees this starry cast take on the mantle of am-dram society The Bunbury Company of Players who in turn, are putting on their take on Wilde’s play as part of their summer season. So before Algernon and Jack have even taken to the stage, we’ve been inducted into the mini-dramas of the company themselves – Nigel Havers’ lothario now having an affair with a third woman in the group, Siân Phillips and Patrick Godfrey’s long-married couple fussing and bickering, Cherie Lunghi’s would-be diva complaining about her costume not fitting… The scene thus seems set for a melding of onstage and offstage drama which would bring something new to this old classic.  Continue reading “Review: The Importance of Being Earnest, Harold Pinter Theatre”

CD Review: A Little Night Music (NT vs Broadway Revival Cast recordings)

“Isn’t it bliss? Don’t you approve?”

I always assume that people know where the name of this blog came from but for those that don’t, it is a lyrical reference from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Which gives a seamless segue into this post about two cast recordings of the show – the first from the 1995 National Theatre production and the second from the 2010 Broadway revival. The first is most notable for capturing one of the greatest moments in musical theatre, possibly even theatre full stop.

Judi Dench’s extraordinary rendition of ‘Send in the Clowns’ may be close to becoming a party trick (if there’s a gala, she’ll be there) but it truly is a remarkable thing. The cracks in her voice are a perfect match for the ageing star that is Desirée and the speak-singing style allows her to act the hell out of the song – the way in which she sighs ‘weeeellllll’ near the end is just spine-tingling. 4 minutes 23 of pure perfection.   Continue reading “CD Review: A Little Night Music (NT vs Broadway Revival Cast recordings)”

The 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

Best Actor
David Birrell, Sweeney Todd, Royal Exchange
Kenneth Branagh, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church
Nigel Cooke, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange
Paul Webster, Sugar Daddies, Oldham Coliseum
Jack Wilkinson, David Copperfield, Oldham Coliseum

Best Actress
Marianne Benedict, Chicago, Oldham Coliseum
Cush Jumbo, A Doll’s House, Royal Exchange
Gillian Kearney, Educating Rita, Library at The Lowry
Alex Kingston, Macbeth, Manchester International Festival, St Peter’s Church
Maxine Peake, Masque Of Anarchy, Manchester International Festival, Albert Hall
Shannon Tarbet, To Kill A Mockingbird, Royal Exchange Continue reading “The 2013 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Constellations by Nick Payne – Duke of York’s Theatre
The Audience by Peter Morgan – Gielgud
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, adapted by Mark Haddon – National Theatre Cottesloe / Apollo
This House by James Graham – National Theatre Cottesloe / Olivier

Best New Musical
Loserville – Garrick
Soul Sister – Savoy
The Bodyguard – Adelphi
Top Hat – Aldwych

Best Revival 
Long Day’s Journey into Night – Apollo
Macbeth – Trafalgar Studios
Old Times – Harold Pinter
Twelfth Night – Globe / Apollo Continue reading “2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

The 2012 Manchester Theatre Awards winners in full

Best Production:
Wonderful Town, directed by Braham Murray for the Royal Exchange at The Lowry

Best Studio Production:
Black Roses, Royal Exchange Studio

Best New Play:
Snookered by Ishy Din, Oldham Coliseum

Best Visiting Production:
Julius Caesar, Royal Shakespeare Company at The Lowry

Best Fringe:
All The Bens by Ian Townsend, 24:7 Theatre Festival

Best Special Entertainment:
Star Cross’d
, Oldham Coliseum

Best Design:
Wonderful Town for the Royal Exchange at The Lowry

Best Opera:
Don Giovanni, Opera North, The Lowry

Best Actress in a Visiting Production:
Siân Phillips, Cabaret, The Lowry

Best Actor in a Visiting Production:
Ray Fearon, Julius Caesar, Royal Shakespeare Company at The Lowry

Best Actor:
Christopher Ravenscroft, The Winslow Boy, Bolton Octagon

Best Actress:
Maxine Peake, Miss Julie, Royal Exchange

Best Performance in a Studio Production:
Julie Hesmondhalgh, Black Roses, Royal Exchange Studio

Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher Villiers, The Winslow Boy, Bolton Octagon

Best Supporting Actress:
Natalie Grady, The Daughter-in-Law, the Library Theatre

Best Newcomer:
Tamla Kari, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Royal Exchange

Best Ensemble:
Arabian Nights
, the Library Theatre

Best Musical:
The Lion King, Palace Theatre

Best Dance:
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, The Lowry

Special Award:
Porl Cooper