Andrew Scott's Hamlet is in the press but not in the way Cumberham was during previews

Hamlet_1470x690_version_3This article by the Telegraph about Andrew Scott's Hamlet at the Almeida is interesting for two reasons. Firstly because it picks up on some of the issues of long running times and secondly because it both quotes and links to reviews by bloggers who've seen previews.

My regular readers will know that long running times are a personal bug bear - this production of Hamlet rocks in at 4 hours, or it did the night I saw it. It is not very practical for those who don't live locally and have regular jobs to get up for. I luckily don't have too far to get home but it was still 11.45pm before I walked through the door and my usual alarm is 6.30am. Go at the weekend? It's not always possible, beside when you book way in advance as I do there is no way of knowing just how long the running time is.

I remember going to see Michael Sheen's Hamlet at the Young Vic with a friend who lived in Shoreham and he had to leave at the interval because he was worried about missing the last train home. It doesn't make for a relaxing evening if you are constantly worried about when its going to finish.

Now while I think Robert Icke's production and Andrew Scott's performance are both excellent (full thoughts coming soon) I'm sure there is stuff that could be trimmed, indeed the expectation is it will lose around 15 minutes before press night.  And as the run is pretty much sold out the running time doesn't seem to be putting off sufficient numbers to worry box office revenue but it will be publicity I'm sure the Almeida would rather not have.

Continue reading "Andrew Scott's Hamlet is in the press but not in the way Cumberham was during previews" »


COMING SOON London fringe theatre picks

HOME TRUTHS  RUNS AT THE BUNKER THEATRE 17 APRIL TO  13 MAY (2).POLITICAL THRILLER Ready or Not is a pacy political thriller which sets out its claustrophobic stall in a small suburban house peopled by a handful of characters whose lives are inexorably tied together and whose hasty decisions leave them teetering on the edge of disaster.  Arcola Theatre, Dalston April 11-29th 8pm start, 2hrs.

LOVE AND LOSS It's been 5 years. Vic’s moved on. Charlie’s a medical mystery. And nothing's making sense. Held together by their past, torn apart by their present and unsure if there even is a future. Their explosive encounter makes them question everything they know and ask why they can’t break free of the threads that bind them together. Threads runs at the Hope Theatre from 11-29 April, 7.45pm 80 mins.

HOUSING CRISIS The Bunker Theatre will host Cardboard Citizens Home Truths, a series of nine plays written in response to the housing crisis. Performed in cycles of three, the series includes new work by EV Crowe and Andus Lustgarten.  The Bunker, Borough April 17 to May 13.

GAY SUB CULTURE A man meets a mysterious stranger on a night out in Vauxhall; a sexy poster-boy gets taken to a chill-out by a porn star; a fag-hag named Cath is pushed to her limits at the party of the century; a sexual health worker struggles with the burden of community outreach. The Chemsex Monologues are the untold stories of the men and women adrift in London’s chill-out, offering a frank, funny and touching insight into one of the twenty-first centuries most controversial gay subcultures. King's Head Theatre Islington 21 March - 9 April, 7pm

ABSURDIST COMEDY Written in his trademark absurdist style Peter Hamilton's, Poetry of Exile is about an extended family on a journey - for some of them transcendental. A moving blend of male infertility in Romford, Gender Fluidity, 8th Century Chinese poetry and vintage clarets. White Bear Theatre, Kennington in March 28 - April 22, 7.30pm

Continue reading "COMING SOON London fringe theatre picks" »


A Midsummer Night's Dream stuck in the mud at the Young Vic

AMNDREVIEW It's about 20 minutes into Joe Hill-Gibbin's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Young Vic and I'm starting to wonder if the set designer and wardrobe department have fallen out. The entire stage is a thick mud pit and a lot of the cast is wearing white or pale colours.

At first I thought the theme was going to be 'damp summer music festival' as there were wellies and summer skirts and the odd rucksack but no, it wasn't that. Some of the cast certainly weren't dressed for a festival, more for an evening in the city and most quickly dispensed with wellies and shoes anyway.

There wasn't any reference to the mud, not even comic, it was just there and you couldn't ignore it because the actors couldn't walk (or run) in it normally. It was tiring watching them. OK so they could face plant without injury; which was funny the first time. A little bit the second time but after that...

Then about half way through the two hour running time I started to worry that this was just a convoluted way of having some mud wrestling. There was a lot of rolling around in the dirt and the fights between the four lovers got more physical but fortunately it didn't properly go there. It makes you think 'yuk', or 'that must cold and horrible' or 'a bugger to wash out'. It doesn't make you think about the play.

The silver lining of the production were the mechanicals and Puck. Leo Bill's shirt-less, pot-bellied Bottom in skinny jeans with tights on his head was a beacon of sunny mirth as were the rest of the troupe. Aaron Heffernan's Thisbe was a masterclass in acting bad acting and Lloyd Hutchinson's Puck had an amusing disdain for proceedings throughout.

Continue reading "A Midsummer Night's Dream stuck in the mud at the Young Vic " »


REHEARSAL PHOTOS: Limehouse, Donmar Warehouse

Saw Steve Waters' Temple a couple of years ago which, while well done, I didn't feel was particularly memorable or incisive.  His new drama takes us behind closed doors to imagine the personal conflicts behind the making of political history. The play imagines what happened when the ‘Gang of Four’ met in 1981 to break away from the Labour party and form the SDP and  with that synopsis I'm getting hints of James Graham and This House which is a good thing.

It's also got a great cast: Roger Allam as Roy Jenkins, Tom Goodman-Hill as David Owen, Paul Chahidi as Bill Rogers and Debra Gillett as Shirley Williams. Nathalie Armin will play Debbie Owen, wife of David Owen.

Donmar Warehouse March 2 - 15 April

 


COMING SOON my fringe picks - circus, comedy & songs and 10 minute plays

Wail - Little Bulb Theatre
Wail - Little Bulb Theatre

MAIDS UPDATED Swifties is a new adaptation of Jean Genet's play The Maids, exploring the alienating and destructive effect that poverty, celebrity fetishism and social media can have on the lives of normal people. Swifties is written by Tom Stenton and directed by Luke Davies (The Chemsex Monologues, The HIV Monologues). Feb 28- Mar 11, Theatre N16, Balham.

10 MINUTE PLAYS The Pensive Federation present the 6th Significant Other Festival, this year at the Vaults under Waterloo Station, giving them their biggest stage ever. For the sixth time, they will present 10 new 10 minute plays, including a new musical, created in just 10 days. Catch it at The Vaults 14-18 March.

SONGS & COMEDY Not normally my cup of tea but I love Little Bulb Theatre having seen Orpheus at BAC a few years ago. In Wail they return to their lo-fi roots for a haphazard two-hander. Part gig, part lecture, part your lips and WAIL! Jacksons Lane in Highgate Mar 2-4.

CIRCUS ACROBATS French acrobatic troop Companie XY come to London with their new show. Featuring over 20 awe-inspiring acrobats, It’s Not Yet Midnight…  is a show about togetherness; a timely reminder that if we come together, accept and look out for one another, we can achieve more (watch the trailer here). Roundhouse London 10-23 April.

MODERN LIFE Privacy. Pornography. Flat-pack furniture. Written by Nina Segal and starring Debra Baker (Radiant Vermin) and Jessye Romeo (Martyr, Unicorn Theatre) Big Guns is an unsettling show that holds a mirror up to our relationship with contemporary violence. The Yard Theatre, Hackney 21-31 March.

FRANKENSTEIN A transfer from the award winning, internationally renowned Watermill Theatre where it enjoyed a successful short run in 2016, George Fletcher and Rowena Lennon perform this take on a powerful and dark masterpiece that explores the timeless relationship between parent and child, isolation, prejudice and revenge and speaks to our modern society. Wilton's Music Hall, E1, 7-18 March.


REVIEW: The wheel of fortune favours certain actors in La Ronde, The Bunker

La Ronde, Alex Vlahos, Amanda Wilkin, Lauren Samuels and Leemore Marrett Jr (courtesy Ray Burmiston) 11
La Ronde, Alex Vlahos, Amanda Wilkin, Lauren Samuels and Leemore Marrett Jr Photo: Ray Burmiston

At the back of the stage at The Bunker is a 'wheel of fortune' with the four cast members photos (Leemore Marrett Jr, Lauren Samuels, Alex Vlahos and Amanda Wilkin). The wheel is spun to determine which two play the first scene in Max Gill's adaptation of Arthur Schnitler's 19th century play about sex and morals.

For each subsequent scene one actor remains while their acting partner is determined by the spin of the wheel with just two photos to choose from so you don't get the same pairing twice.There are apparently more than three thousand combinations and the actors are prepared for them all.

I wonder if they ever imagined that one actor wouldn't get to stand on the stage - or certainly not by the spin of the wheel? It became a thing with the audience willing the wheel to stop on Leemore Marrett Jr's picture so he would have a turn but in the end - whether planned or by contrivance he stepped on only for the two final short scenes.

It also became a thing because you can't help but wonder how rehearsals worked and what scenes would be like with different actors for example 'would all the actors have done that accent for that character?' or 'how would that have played out if it had been a gay couple?' Having Leemore sat on the sidelines did frustratingly limit the combinations.

Continue reading "REVIEW: The wheel of fortune favours certain actors in La Ronde, The Bunker " »


REVIEW Theo James, Emilia Fox and love and talent in the internet age - Sex With Strangers, Hampstead Theatre

Sex-With-Strangers-Hampstead-364
Emilia Fox and Theo James, Sex With Strangers, Hampstead Theatre. Photo Tristram Kenton

You meet a man. First impressions aren't great but then you get to know him a bit better and there are areas of shared interest. One thing leads to another and that first impression feels like a long time ago. Then, just as things are looking good, that this might be something more substantial than merely the physical you do a bit of googling and discover his online persona. He becomes a stranger again. Do you trust what the man in front of you says?

Laura Eason's play Sex With Strangers pits Olivia (Emilia Fox) a talented writer who is starting to think her career will never take off against a successful young blogger Ethan (Theo James) who seems to have the world at his feet. Olivia craves some of the success Ethan has while Ethan admires her talent.

There are two tensions at play. The nature of Ethan's blog presents a very different person to the one Olivia has got to know and Ethan insists that isn't him, its a persona, a part he plays. Then there is the success and recognition. Olivia finds the internet and social media to be overly exposing but Ethan knows its power. However, while the internet has ultimately brought him success and exposure he wants to be known for a different type of work, work with a little more integrity and depth. Could he be using Olivia?

Some critics have found the dramatic tension in the play under powered and I'd agree to a point except that in the final scene you could almost hear the audience silently debating which way things would go. In fact the ending was the prime topic of overhead conversations as I was leaving, so the play and production obviously does something right.

Continue reading "REVIEW Theo James, Emilia Fox and love and talent in the internet age - Sex With Strangers, Hampstead Theatre" »


Review: This Must Be The Place, The Vaults #VaultFestival

 

This isn't a London story, we are told at the start of Brad Birch and Kenneth Emson's play This Must Be The Place, but London features in the two interweaving storylines. For Adam (James Cooney) it is a place to get on a (stolen) bike and get away from. For Tate and Matty (Feliks Mathur and Hamish Rush) it is a place to run to with the promise of a job and a new start. But while London connects the two stories the play feels likely it is loosely about surviving modern life.

Molly Roberts completes the cast as Lily, Adam's girlfriend and apart from the opening and closing segment the two pairs perform independently switching swiftly between the two tales. They hold mics which give the play a stand up/pub performance feel - I'm not sure if that was the point.

Adam is troubled for reasons that don't immediately become clear. He throws away his phone so that he is no longer a slave to calls, texts and social media. Disconnects from modern life, misses his phone when he can't get Deliveroo. Lily panics when he hasn't posted anything for a few hours and he doesn't return her calls. She wants to talk to him about the future.

Continue reading "Review: This Must Be The Place, The Vaults #VaultFestival" »


COMING SOON My London fringe theatre picks

Haven't seen any of these but they do sound good...

Image002
Pop Up Opera's I Capuleti e I Montecchi

DOUBLE BILL As part of its Cash, Capitalism and Corporations season, Battersea Arts Centre has two plays which can be seen individually or as a double bill. DenMarked by Conrad Murray (22 Feb – 11 Mar) is an autobiographical hip hop theatre show featuring live mixed segments of beatbox, guitar and Shakespeare-infused storytelling.  And Fire in the Machine by Sounds Like Chaos (22 Feb – 4 Mar) is a show by young people from in and around Deptford that tackles outdated values of the education system, set within a warped 1980s karaoke party.

OPERA First opera I saw was Pop Up Opera's Cosi Fan Tutte performed in a room over a pub in Mayfair and I really enjoyed it. They are bringing their version of I Capuleti e I Montecchi (sung in Italian with English captions) to The Vaults where it conjures an atmospheric and intimate environment that places spectators at the heart of Bellini's moving love story. If you've not seen an opera before this is a inexpensive way of trying it out. Mar 20-23, The Vaults.

FEMALE TAMBURLAINE Christopher Marlowe was only 23 when he wrote, Tamburlaine, an electrifying theatrical study of tyranny and ambition  Some 430 years later Yellow Earth Theatre bring this rarely performed, complex drama to the Arcola Theatre with Lourdes Faberes taking the lead. 15 Mar - 8 Apr, 8pm start with a run time of approximately 2 hours plus interval.

Continue reading "COMING SOON My London fringe theatre picks" »


REHEARSAL PHOTOS: Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic

Here they are, Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) rehearsing ahead of the opening of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (the only Tom Stoppard play to date that I really like, but that might just be me). It's the Hamlet story told from the perspective the two minor characters and its very clever and funny.

It opens for previews at the Old Vic on 25 February and then runs until April 29.