10 questions for 10 years – Henry Hitchings

The outgoing Evening Standard theatre reviewer Henry Hitchings takes a little time to reflect with 10 easygoing questions

We actually did this Q&A before the Evening Standard made their shocking decision to axe one of the country’s best theatre critics due to cost-cutting measures. So there’s a little poignancy to some of the answers here, as well as a potential business plan for the future… In all seriousness though, Henry was and is a real  inspiration as a writer and a huge support in making me – and others – feel part of a critical community that too often felt (feels?) resistant to newcomers. I look forward to his next steps and to continuing to read his words. 

  • Where were you 10 years ago?

    Sitting on a park bench waiting for someone enchanting to walk by. One thing theatre taught me long ago is that if you want to have a magical encounter you need to spend as much time as possible sitting on park benches. This was before Tinder, obviously! Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Henry Hitchings”

Not-a-review: The Libertine, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“You will not like me”

There’s probably a German word for a play that opens with a self-fulfilling prophecy such as the one above, but even I wasn’t expecting how true it would be for The Libertine. Moving into the Theatre Royal Haymarket after a run in Bath, I haven’t been this bored by a play in quite some time. From Stephen Jeffrey’s writing to Terry Johnson’s direction to Dominic Cooper’s lead performance, I found it all all just fearfully dull.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 2nd December

Review: Backbeat, Duke of York’s

“Do you want to be part of the group, or do you want to be an individual?”

Telling the ‘origin story’ of the Beatles, how they paid their dues as a rock’n’roll covers band in Hamburg with their original line-up of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliffe, Backbeat is actually less Beatles-centric than one might expect. The focus of the show, written by Iain Softley and Stephen Jeffreys from Softley’s 1994 film of the same name, is actually the relationship between original bassist and visual artist Stuart Sutcliffe and the two main figures in his life: best friend Lennon who teaches him guitar so that he can join the band on their trip and abandon art school, and Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer who falls passionately for him and recognises his true artistic potential.

It is this conflict that forms the backbone of the show – Sutcliffe struggling to balance his best friend and his lover, the band and his art – all underpinned by the knowledge that his cruel early death from a brain haemorrhage came just as the Beatles were about to hit the big time. And it is clear that these are the only really fully-fleshed characters in the show: Nick Blood’s achingly cool and handsome Sutcliffe strikes a magnetically seductive pose, connecting beautifully with Ruta Gedmintas’ coolly composed Astrid and sparking well with Andrew Knott’s bolshy, hero-worshipping Lennon. They make an intriguing threesome and in some ways it is a shame that the show doesn’t get to delve more deeply into these relationships, particularly between Sutcliffe and Lennon. Continue reading “Review: Backbeat, Duke of York’s”