Critics’ Circle Awards 2017: the winners in full

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer (a tie)
Sheila Atim for Girl from the North Country, Old Vic and Noël Coward Theatre
John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Crucible and Apollo Theatre

The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Andrew Scott in Hamlet, Almeida and Harold Pinter Theatre

Most Promising Playwright
Brandon Jacob-Jenkins for An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre and Gloria, Hampstead Theatre

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre

Best Designer
Vicki Mortimer for Follies, National Theatre

Best Director
Dominic Cooke for Follies, National Theatre

Best Actress
Victoria Hamilton for Albion, Almeida Theatre

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston for Network, National Theatre

Best New Play
The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth, Royal Court and Gielgud Theatre

Special Award
David Lan for services to theatre

2017 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play


Hattie Morahan/Kate O’Flynn/Adelle Leonce, Anatomy of a Suicide
How to split these three? Why would you even want to. Their effortless grace, their ferociously detailed complexity, their heart-breaking connectivity, all three will live long in my mind.

Honourable mention: Victoria Hamilton, Albion
Not far behind in the fierceness stakes was this epic role of near-Chekhovian proportions, tailored by Mike Bartlett for one of his frequent collaborators. Quite why this hasn’t followed Ink into the West End I’m not sure.

Shirley Henderson, Girl From the North Country
Cherry Jones, The Glass Menagerie
Justine Mitchell, Beginning
Mimi Ndiweni, The Convert
Connie Walker, Trestle

8-10
Laura Donnelly, The Ferryman; Imelda Staunton, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf; Rosie Wyatt, In Event of Moone Disaster

Best Actress in a Musical

Janie Dee, Follies AND Josefina Gabrielle, A Little Night Music AND Josie Walker, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
A second three-way tie? Hey, it’s my blog and my rules! From Dee thoroughly owning the Olivier through song and dance, to Gabrielle making me feel like I was hearing ‘Send in the Clowns’ for the first time, to the sheer beauty of Walker’s uncompromising love for her son, this was only way I could reward a banner year for leading female musical performances.

Honourable mention: Amie Giselle-Ward, Little Women
Sadly ineligible to win since her name doesn’t begin with J…, Giselle-Ward nevertheless blew me away at the heart of this gorgeous musical which, if there’s any justice, should continue the Hope Mill’s admirable record of London transfers.

Sharon D Clarke, Caroline or Change
Kelly Price, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾
T’Shan Williams, The Life


8-10

Carly Bawden, Romantics Anonymous; Sandra Marvin, Committee; Marisha Wallace, Dreamgirls;

The 2017 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

The nominations for the 2017 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards have been released and naturally I have thoughts. Initially, they are:

BEST ACTOR IN PARTNERSHIP WITH AMBASSADOR THEATRE GROUP

Bertie Carvel Ink (Almeida & Duke of York’s)
Andrew Garfield Angels in America (National Theatre)
Andrew Scott Hamlet (Almeida & Harold Pinter Theatre)

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN

Laura Donnelly The Ferryman (Royal Court & Gielgud)
Victoria Hamilton Albion (Almeida)
Glenda Jackson King Lear (Old Vic)

BEST MUSICAL PERFORMANCE

Janie Dee Follies (National Theatre)
Robert Fairchild An American in Paris (Dominion)
Amber Riley Dreamgirls (Savoy)

BEST PLAY IN PARTNERSHIP WITH HISCOX, OFFICIAL ARTS PARTNER OF THE EVENING STANDARD

The Children Lucy Kirkwood (Royal Court)
The Ferryman Jez Butterworth (Royal Court & Gielgud)
Ink James Graham (Almeida & Duke of York’s)
Oslo JT Rogers (National Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre)

MILTON SHULMAN AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Dominic Cooke Follies (National Theatre)
Robert Icke Hamlet (Almeida & Harold Pinter)
Sam Mendes The Ferryman (Royal Court & Gielgud)

BEST DESIGN

Jon Bausor Bat Out of Hell – The Musical (Coliseum)
Bunny Christie Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle (Wyndham’s)/The Red Barn (National Theatre)/Ink (Almeida &Duke of York’s)
Soutra Gilmour Twelfth Night (National Theatre)

CHARLES WINTOUR AWARD FOR MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT

Branden Jacobs-Jenkin An Octoroon (Orange Tree)
Al Smith Harrogate (High Tide Festival & Royal Court)
Katherine Soper Wish List (Royal Exchange Manchester & Royal Court)


EMERGING TALENT AWARD

Sheila Atim Girl from the North Country (Old Vic)
Tom Glynn-Carney The Ferryman (Royal Court & Gielgud)
Luke Thallon Albion (Almeida)


EVENING STANDARD RADIO 2 AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST MUSICAL

An American in Paris Dominion
Bat out of Hell – The Musical Coliseum
Dreamgirls Savoy
Follies National Theatre
School of Rock New London Theatre
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical Menier Chocolate Factory
She Loves Me Menier Chocolate Factory

Review: Albion, Almeida

“The fantasy that brings the reality into being”

As Mike Bartlett’s profile grows and grows, one can’t help but fear that his TV successes will lead to movie commissions but for the moment, he’s not forgotten where he started and with Albion, there’s a ferocious reminder of how theatrically skilled he is. Additionally, there’s one of the performances of the year from Victoria Hamilton so I’d hotfoot it to the Almeida now, there’s no guarantee this one will transfer.
Successful businesswoman Audrey has her world rocked when her son is killed on duty in the Middle East and so she decides to retreat to the countryside, rural Oxfordshire to be precise, where she buys the neglected home of her uncle, along with its once-impressive garden. But what first seems like a fun restoration project snowballs into chaos as her increasingly ambitious plans threaten to push everyone close to her away.
Self-obsessed and domineering, Audrey is a terrible person but Bartlett and Hamilton ground her in the bewildering fug of extreme grief so even in her worst moments, you never lose sight of the person was/is/still could be. And she’s surrounded by a crack ensemble from her writer daughter (Charlotte Hope) to her best friend (Helen Schlesinger), her son’s grieving ex (Vinette Robinson) to the retainers who have long served the property (Margot Leicester and Christopher Fairbank), all of whom she alienates one way or another.
In the rich depth of Bartlett’s writing, the Chekhovian allusions are stronger than the Brexit parallels, the turbulent complexities of family life more fruitful ground than the analysis of recent English history. But it is also unexpectedly spikily funny and Rupert Goold’s production further elevates this probing play with a stunning (re)design by Miriam Buether, full of shrubbery and surprises. 
Running time: 3 hours (with interval)
Booking until 24th November

TV Review: Doctor Foster Series 2

“How does this end Simon?”

In some ways, you can’t blame ’em for trying to replicate the extraordinary success of the first series of Doctor Foster, quality drama that fast became a rare appointment-to-view fixture  with a rare return to weekly instalments.  And given that writer Mike Bartlett is known for his prolific nature, that a second series quickly came into the offing was no great surprise.

But it can be hard to recapture the magic and though all of the key players have returned – most notably warring ex-couple Suranne Jones’ Gemma and Bertie Carvel’s Simon – this set of five episodes has really suffered from a lack of raison d’être. Waves of vicious revenge percolate throughout but with no discernible driving narrative beyond that, it proved far less engaging.

Not even the presence of a veritable treasure trove of theatrical luminaries – Victoria Hamilton, Adam James, Thusitha Jayasundera, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Siân Brooke to name but a few – could rescue the show from the dullness of retreading old ground and a wearying sense of not giving a shit about anyone here, particularly in the interminable longueurs of the final episode.

 

TV Review: The Crown, Series 1

“To do nothing is the hardest job of all” 

It’s taken a little time to getting round to watching all of The Crown because, in a first for me, I found it impossible to binge-watch the show. Even with Netflix kindly providing offline downloads just at the point where I had a lot of travelling to do, Peter Morgan’s drama was lots of fun to watch but rarely captured the buzzy energy that has accompanied much online programming. Because it many ways it isn’t like much of Netflix’s previous output, it really is an encroachment into BBC Sunday night and as such, I felt it worked best spread out in almost weekly installments.

That’s partly down to the nature of the subject material, we’re not likely to get many surprises in a detailed retelling of the history of the House of Windsor. But it is also due to Morgan’s writing which tends a little to the formulaic, especially in the middle part of the series, which is when my interest was most in danger of waning. The opening two episodes started brightly but once the shock of becoming monarch was over, the rhythm became very much one of someone close to the queen has an issue and she has to weigh personal desires against public duty, the latter always winning out. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 1”

TV Review: The Crown Episodes 1 + 2

“The country needs to be led by someone strong”

You’d be hard-pressed not to know that Netflix have a new series called The Crown as a substantial portion of the £100 million plus budget has clearly been spent on blanket marketing coverage. And like a good punter brainwashed by adverts, I’ve watched the first two episodes to get a sense of what it is like.

Written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Daldry, its credentials are impeccable and there is a slight sense of stepping on the BBC’s toes here, something alluded to in pre-show publicity that informed us the Beeb were less than willing to share archive footage from Buckingham Palace. But with as considerable and lavishly-spent a budget as this, the comparison isn’t quite fair as the ambitions here are most grand. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown Episodes 1 + 2”

TV Review: Doctor Foster, BBC1

“It’s just once you have the thought…”

I was late to my appointment with Doctor Foster, only getting round to watching episode 1 on Monday but I loved it so much (how could I not when the opening subtitle is “belt buckle being undone” and Bertie Carvel soon strips to his boxers) that I mainlined the next three so that I could watch the finale with the rest of the world. Written by noted playwright Mike Bartlett (King Charles III, Cock, Love Love Love amongst many others), it’s a fierce revenge drama anchored by a cracking performance from Suranne Jones as the titular medic with the errant husband.

From the moment she discovers a long blonde hair on her husband’s scarf, the scene is set for an almighty showdown but Bartlett’s skill is in stretching that moment tantalisingly over the entire series. Secret after secret tumbles out of the closet as she pulls at the thread but almost as destructive as his conduct (and Carvel is brilliantly craven as the slippery Simon) is the behaviour it unleashes in Gemma, her forthright determination cutting swathes through her employment prospects, her friends and neighbours and even her relationship with their 11-year-old son Tom. Continue reading “TV Review: Doctor Foster, BBC1”

DVD Review: Mansfield Park (1999)

“Life seems nothing more than a quick succession of busy nothings”

Eek. So having sampled the more recent ITV version of Mansfield Park. I next turned to Patricia Rozema’s 1999 film adaptation and adaptation is surely the right word for it felt like an entirely different story and not in a good way. Again, there’s a distinct modernisation of the heroine into something which was assumedly palatable for test audiences and/or studio bosses but consequently way misses the mark for anything truly Austenesque, Frances O’Connor isn’t exactly bad as Fanny but it never feels like a good fit.

Elsewhere, there’s a scything of some of the key characters, script changes altering others completely. And strangely, given how much of Austen’s novel has to be concertinaed into feature film length, Rozema opts to add in new material – an overworked strand about slavery is heavy-handed in the extreme, the hints of lesbianism (Embeth Davidtz’s Mary Crawford) a desperate ploy for scandal, opium addiction for Lady Bertram scandalously wasting the presence of Lindsay Duncan. 

The only saving graces come with good performances from Harold Pinter as paterfamilias Sir Thomas Bertram, Victoria Hamilton as a moving Maria and particularly Jonny Lee Miller as the charismatic Edmund, destined for good things from the off. Justine Waddell and Sophia Myles also do in smaller roles but once again, Mansfield Park proves a tricky beast to film. Best avoided.

DVD Review: Persuasion (1995)

“No-one wants to be in calm waters all their life”

Anyone who has read this blog for a wee while will know I’m a sucker for a thesp-heavy cast but not even could have come up with the manifold delights of the ensemble for this 1995 version of Persuasion. Directed by Roger Michell and adapted by Nick Dear, it features Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds as Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, a once-engaged couple who were pulled apart by societal pressure as he was but a penniless seaman. Eight years later, Anne’s family is struggling to maintain their aristrocratic lifestyle due to overspending but Wentworth is now a captain and highly sought after – might their love be reunited after all? Watch this space…

Root and Hinds are both excellent with hugely subtle performances suggesting the depth of emotion each holds, unable to express how they truly feel and buffeted around a range of alternative marriage proposals as everyone tries to secure the best possible situation for themselves. But real pleasure comes too in the supporting performances, seeing such fantastic actors earlier in their career and tracing something of a journey in their acting careers.

Fiona Shaw brings enormous empathy to navy wife Mrs Croft, her tales of married life on the sea are a spell-binding moment; a youthful Simon Russell Beale pops up as Anne’s errant brother and Sophie Thompson is deliciously comic as the highly hypochondriac Mary; Phoebe Nicholls is brittle brilliance as an increasingly embittered Elizabeth; and Sam West glowers handsomely as a cousin on the make, Richard McCabe’s poetic soul is touchingly done and Helen Schlesinger is also moving as Anne’s old friend Mrs Smith.
I could go on but I’ll leave it there. Michell’s production is beautifully constructed, natural light and handheld(?) work give it a unique feel that remains incredibly intimate and instant even now. And the screenplay sacrifices little of the bona fide Austen spirit, the whole thing really does hit the nail on the head.