Review: All Quiet on the Western Front, VAULT Festival

Incognito Theatre Company present a powerful and physical take on All Quiet on the Western Front at the VAULT Festival

“We were eighteen years old, and just learning to love the world and being in it, and then we had to shoot it to bits.”

A sensitive and intelligent choice underpins this deeply moving adaptation of Erich Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front by Incognito Theatre Company. Though the narrative follows the experience of German trench warfare, the company speak in English accents and so you can’t help but feel for all of the many millions who were killed, regardless of their nationality.

The five classmates who are recruited from their schoolroom and shipped off to the frontline with just the scarcest bit of shoddy training could be from anywhere – patriotic feeling knows no borders – and the empty promises they receive sound the same in any language. Nobody was home for Christmas. What sustained them, as much as it could, was the camaraderie of their fellow soldiers. Continue reading “Review: All Quiet on the Western Front, VAULT Festival”

2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

Insofar as it is humanly possible for any one person to know everything that is happening at the VAULT Festival this year, I present a handful of my recommendations for 2020.

In all honesty though, I think the best thing to do is just pick a night, go down there and see what tickles your fancy – the level of quality here really is something to admire and means it’ll be very hard to end up disappointed. Take a look at their website here.

LGBT+ stories

Body Talk – 29 Jan — 02 Feb
Full Disclosure Theatre take on male body image from the gay perspective, looking at the damage that can be imposed by obsessing over it.

how we love 18 — 23 Feb
Regi and Babs are getting married. She’s a lesbian and he’s gay but they need the cover to deal with the dangers posed by the prevailing attitudes towards homosexuality in Nigeria.

Notch 19 — 23 Feb
After the devilish fun of Ladykiller, the Thelmas return with this dark meditation on migration, homelessness and obsession from Danaja Wass.

V&V 03 — 08 Mar
Exploring communication then and now, V&V contrasts love stories past and present from Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West’s love letters, to Mia and Lottie’s online missives.

Too Pretty To Punch 03 — 08 Mar
A comedy spoken word show from Edalia Day about gender and featuring original songs and video work about trans life in 21st century Britain. Continue reading “2020 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Union Theatre

Some cracking choreography and two barnstorming lead performances make Gentlemen Prefer Blondes a musical treat at the Union Theatre

“Do they discuss romance
Or is the subject high finance?”

A kiss on the hand may indeed be quite continental (see, Brexit really does get everywhere…!) but a classic musical that is just straight-up uncomplicated good fun is everyone’s best friend. Sasha Regan’s revival of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes fully embraces all its candyfloss campness but anchors it with the crucial decisions to forefront the easy musicality of Jule Styne’s fantastic score (ably assisted by MD Henry Brennan) and in casting its two female leads just right, to remind us that it isn’t actually as throwaway as all that in the end.

True, the book, by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields from her original novel, is mainly frothy fun as it follows Arkansas showgirl Lorelei Lee to Paris and back with any number of wealthy suitors in her wake. But by keeping her friend and ‘chaperone’ Dorothy high in the mix, a certain brand of female solidarity shines through. And with Abigayle Honeywill and Eleanor Lakin, the show proves riotous good fun. Tackling the role made famous on film by a certain Ms Monroe, Honeywill nails the offbeat humour and charming warmth of a budding superstar. And Lakin offers up some stunningly confident vocals as her charismatic confidante – one to watch out for, mark my words. Continue reading “Review: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Union Theatre”

Review: Tobacco Road, VAULT Festival

Playing like an unofficial adaptation of Peaky Blinders, Incognito Theatre’s Tobacco Road is a mixed bag at the VAULT Festival

“We should tell them how we got here
We’ll have to start all the way at the beginning”

While we wait for the inevitable offical theatrical adaptation of Peaky Blinders, an unofficial one emerges in the form of Tobacco Road. Incognito Theatre’s play, directed by Roberta Zuric, has an impressive visual flair to it (choreography by Zak Nemorin) and is undoubtedly inventively staged, it just lacks originality.

Delving into life as a gangster in the immediate aftermath of the Great War, the play pulls out theme after theme in an attempt to give voice to the kind of stories that don’t get enough airtime. But as another and then another is pulled out of the hat – it’s hard to be a woman, it’s hard to be a gay, it’s hard to be a drug addict – too little get the attention they deserve. Continue reading “Review: Tobacco Road, VAULT Festival”

2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see

With less than a week to go before the 2019 VAULT Festival opens, I wade my way through the catalogue and come up with 20 shows I think you should catch – in their own words

Now in its seventh year, VAULT Festival returns this year from 23rd January to 17th March with a broad and diverse programme of more than 400 shows in a range of atmospheric venues throughout Waterloo. And as ever, the remit is to be as big and bold as impossible, with the festival featuring theatre, comedy, cabaret, immersive experiences, late night parties, and much more besides.

It can be a little overwhelming to figure out what you want to see, the majority of shows run for a week (Wednesday to Sunday) so you’ll need to move pretty sharpish once you’ve decided – there’s the VAULT Combo deal which saves you money booking more than one show, and some 241 deals available through the Stagedoor app. And to help you, I’ve identified 20 shows (and it could have been so many more!) that appealed to me and asked them to sell themselves in 10 words or less in order to grab your attention.  Continue reading “2019 VAULT Festival – 20 shows to see”

Review: Strictly Ballroom, West Yorkshire Playhouse

“I don’t know if you are illusion”

Hoping for a ten from Len and to avoid the dreaded dis-sah-ter from Craig, Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom arrives for its UK premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Best known in its 1992 film version, it actually began life as a play in the mid-1980s when it became big in Czechoslovakia as well as Luhrmann’s native Australia and perhaps appropriately, it is now Drew McOnie who takes the directorial chair, the choreographer-director’s rising star an ideal fit for a musical all about dance.

And what dance it is. We’re in the world of competitive ballroom dancing and we’re treated to a wide range of routines from rehearsals to all-out performances and much inventive work in-between, especially where mirrors are involved. And in all this freedom of expression, there’s a crystal-clear distillation of the story’s message in the sheer joy of dancing for fun and the power of following an individual path. But the show isn’t just dance, it’s words and music as well and there, it is less sure-footed.

Continue reading “Review: Strictly Ballroom, West Yorkshire Playhouse”

Review: High Society, Old Vic

“Not bad for a 35 year old”

Kevin Spacey’s swansong as artistic director at the Old Vic doesn’t open officially until next week but I only have a handful of days left for the above quote to remain pertinent to myself so I’m writing up High Society now – the usual disclaimers about previews apply. Maria Friedman’s directorial debut was the highly critically acclaimed Merrily We Roll Along so it makes sense for her to return to the world of musical theatre with this Cole Porter classic, given added spin here as the venue remains in the round.

It’s a funny old piece though, Arthur Kopit’s book is based on Philip Barry’s 1939 play The Philadelphia Story and follows the trials of Tracy Lord (I didn’t know they had Tracys in the 1930s), a rich socialite about to get married who suddenly finds herself with three suitors – her dull fiancé, a charismatic tabloid journalist and her dashing ex-husband. As the pre-wedding parties start and the champagne flows liberally, there’s decisions to be made and some of Porter’s finest songs to be sung but little real fizz, to start with at least. Continue reading “Review: High Society, Old Vic”

Re-reviews: Di and Viv and Rose / Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

 

“It was a ball, it was a blast
It was a shame it couldn’t last”

A half-term jaunt down to London for Aunty Jean saw us take in a couple of shows I was happy to revisit. I remain as affectionately inclined towards Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as I ever have done, its traditional bonhomie remains as watchable as ever and there’s just something comfortable about the whole affair which remains hard to resist. Even whilst not being Robert Lindsay’s biggest fan (seriously, is he being paid by the pelvic thrust?!) the shimmering star quality of Kat Kingsley and the affable appeal of Alex Gaumond more than compensate. And the bumbling charms of Ben Fox, the third Chief of Police since the show started – job security in Beaumont-Sur-Mer is clearly not strong 😉 – prove the ideal foil for Bonnie Langford’s knowingly charismatic Muriel.

And we also made a more-timely-than-we-realised trip to Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose which posted closing notices pretty much as we left the matinée. It feels a real shame as it is such a sprightly production of a sparkling play which certainly deserved better audiences but for whatever reason, it just didn’t connect. I’ve written more about the show on my three previous visits (link here) but I’d definitely recommend trying to catch it before it closes, not least for some of the most joyous dancing onstage (which forms the perfect counterbalance to My Night With Reg) and Jenna Russell’s glorious performance as the hugely-generous-of-spirit Rose. 

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th March

Di and Viv and Rose
Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th March

Re-review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy

“It’s important to be artful”

Celebrating recent cast changes, both intentional (Bonnie Langford and Gary Wilmot in for Samantha Bond and John Marquez) and unexpected (Alex Gaumond hastily replacing Rufus Hound), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is approaching its one year anniversary in the West End with a renewed energy. And with the changing strengths of its leading players, it also feels like quite a different show, one which is well worth (re)visiting.
 
My original review can be read here and much of it still holds true. This isn’t the show to reinvent the musical form but nor is it trying to, rather it is a treat of the old-school variety as David Yazbek’s bouncy music and lyrics carries along Jeffrey Lane’s conman-based book on a ray of retro Riviera-infused sunshine. A wink to the audience here, meta-theatrical jokes there, a whole deal of hamminess from Robert Lindsay everywhere, this is a show that knows exactly what it is and revels in it. Continue reading “Re-review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy”