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February 2015
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March 2015

March's theatre hottie of the month

Now I don't want to say it's been tricky this month because obviously there are a lot of beautiful people on the stage but it did go down to the wire for getting a real 'oh hello' moment.  I thought Séan Browne came close when I saw him, playing David Beckham in Three Lions last week. No shirt off moment though which would have sealed it despite the off-putting, squeaky Beckham voice.

My actual winner is a very last minute entry, from last night's performance of Oppenheimer at the Vaudeville (review coming soon).  It was mere few moments on stage wearing army fatigues and vest that clinched it but it goes to Ben Allen and his 'guns'.

There's not a great production shot of him but here he is flexing his pecs and looking very serious in rehearsals.

Anyone got a theatre hottie of their own they want to share?

Ben Allen (dark T-shirt) in rehearsals for Oppenheimer. Photo by Keith Pattison.

Missed a hottie? Here is January's theatre hottie and here is February's theatre hottie.


Review: Robert Holman's Breakfast of Eels, Print Room at the Coronet

Matthew Tennyson and Andrew Sheridan in a Breakfast of Eels. Photo by Nobby Clark

Simon Stephen's says he is his favourite living playwright but of the two plays of Robert Holman's I've seen it is one all on the appreciation stakes.

Making Noise Quietly didn't really make much of a impression but I was totally blown away by Jonah and Otto. In fact it was the latter, together with the casting of Matthew Tennyson* that had me running to see Holman's play Breakfast of Eels at the Print Room.

The plays are similar in that they are two-handers - Andrew Sheridan joins Tennyson - and both share a beautiful, emotive subtlety.

Tennyson plays Penrose, the only son of a recently deceased judge. The family home is a crumbling mansion in Highgate, North London. His mother died some years earlier and the closest Penrose seems to have to family is Francis (Sheridan) whom you first assume is his brother as they both refer to the judge as 'daddy'. Francis is in fact his father's handyman/gardener, taken in by the family when he was a teenager and Penrose was toddler.

Penrose is a gentle and delicate soul who feels awkward in society and a disappointment to his father. Francis' background is somewhat different, his roots are in the north and he has a love of the land and nature. As they come to terms with their grief the two talk, reminisce and reveal secrets in a way that is quietly probing. Their discourse is slow and considered, the secrets puncturing a contemplative air without melodrama.

Continue reading "Review: Robert Holman's Breakfast of Eels, Print Room at the Coronet" »

Review: Silliness and satire in Three Lions at St James Theatre

The Three Lions by William Gaminara. Tom Davey (Prince William), Séan Browne (David Beckham), Dugald Brucelockart (David Cameron)  Credit Geraint Lewis (8)
Three Lions: Tom Davey, Séan Browne and Dugald Bruce-Lockhart as Prince William, David Beckham and David Cameron. Photo by Geraint Lewis

It 2012, the day before FIFA announces which cities have successfully bid to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup. David Cameron (Dugald Bruce-Lockhart), David Beckham (Séan Browne) and Prince William (Tom Davey) are gathered in a hotel room planning final tactics to win the tournament for the UK.

It is a meeting of three influential yet very different men and, with the rest of the delegation stuck on a delayed flight, they have only the assistance of Cameron's new intern Penny (Antonia Kinlay) and over enthusiastic hotel steward Ashok (Ravi Aujla).

This is part satire, part farce as playwright William Gaminara imagines the conversation between the three mixed in with a few facts about what actually happened. Things take on a farcical tinge when  Cameron's room is double booked and there is a mishap with a pair of trousers. And there are plenty of laughs and chuckles throughout.

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Review: Swearing, shooting up and shitty sheets, it's Trainspotting at the King's Head

Gavin Ross in Trainspotting. Photo: Christopher Tribble

It is dark as you enter the King's Head theatre with your hand stamped and a glow stick. Nineties club music pounds out and laser lights show up a group of bodies pulsating in time to the music. If you couldn't just about make out the people sat on chairs and steps or standing wherever they can find space you'd think you'd stumbled into the wrong place.  Someone tries to usher to you towards a seat you can't make out; we are a long way from the blue-rinse brigade of the Hampstead Theatre now.

If you haven't seen the iconic film (or read the novel) about a group of heroin addicts living in recession hit Edinburgh this may all come as a bit of a shock and be a little bit confusing. If you are familiar with the story this explosive and immersive play will probably still come as a bit of a shock. Certainly it isn't for those who like to sit back and quietly enjoy a night at the theatre.

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Review: Zoe Wanamaker is Stevie at Hampstead Theatre

Stevie_3233851bAll I know of Stevie Smith is her poem Not Waving But Drowning and I decided to keep it that way ahead of seeing Hugh Whitemore's play at Hampstead (Poly didn't even know she was a poet and I'd like to have seen the play through her eyes).

Not Waving makes an appearance, as do several of her other poems as we visit Stevie (Zoe Wanamaker) living with her 'lion aunt' (Lynda Baron) in suburban North London, working by day as a secretary in Piccadilly and writing by night.

Chris Larkin acts a sort of narrator and stands in for various boyfriends and acquaintances of Stevie's. Through the three characters we learn of Stevie's childhood, teenage years and how she thinks of the world.

It is a warm, tender and amusing portrayal from Wanamaker in what is a warm and gentle play. Stevie was an independent and extremely intelligent woman and probably viewed as an eccentric at the time. She wasn't really interested in men and was obsessed with death in that it was a subject and state that fascinated her, something that was reflected in her poems. She sought out other writers and became a bit of a celebrity, broadcasting on the BBC.

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Review: Live music and Welsh cakes in Hiraeth, Soho Theatre

Hiraeth 3, Ed Fringe 2014, courtesy Jorge Lizalde
Max Mackintosh and Buddug James Jones in Hiraeth

Hiraeth definitely has a theatre first: I was offered a Welsh cake at the end of a play*. The star and co-creator of the play Buddug James Jones has a whole tupperware of them to hand out to the audience.

It tells the story of Buddug who comes from a five generations of Welsh farmers but, inspired by the 'Welsh Bob Dylan', gets the urge to go to London and see more of the world. Her gran tells her that some people are rocks and some are rivers and Buddug is a river.

At first she struggles against her family, friends and country  (represented by a daffodil) who want her to stay but eventually she makes it to the capital where she has to resist the call of home and throw herself into an alien environment.

Max Mackintosh (co-creator with Jesse Briton) takes on all the other parts and plays guitar together with David Grubb who accompanies on violin and drum. There is the odd song and plenty of music to buoy the tale along. The audience is encouraged to sing along and occasionally participate and it is generally silly and good fun.

There are plenty of laughs although there is one scene when a boyfriend is talking about Buddug behind her back which seemed unnecessarily cruel and wasn't really my sense of humour. A few found it funny.

Hiraeth is like a little Welsh cake in London: a bite of something sweet, quirky and fun. You can catch it at the Soho Theatre until Saturday March 21 and it is and hour and five minutes long.

* has anyone been given food to eat during or after a play?

Review: Rules for Living, National Theatre


Human behaviour and our everyday little survival techniques come under scrutiny in Sam Holcroft's new play Rules for Living at the National's Dorfman theatre. 

The stage has been repositioned into the middle of the space with the audience on four sides, almost like a crowd watching a basketball game. It is appropriate for this family Christmas drama/comedy in which the characters behavioural tics are translated into rules on which they are scored via two huge score boards.

As a family Christmas drama it is fairly standard fare: Expectations are high for a 'just so' lunch. There is an overbearing and judgemental mother, a son with a marriage on the rocks and a problem teenager and a second son with a new girlfriend who doesn't quite fit in.

The pressure of the day mounts and past problems and hurts start to re-emerge until tempers become frayed and explosive.

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Review: The devilish Radiant Vermin, Soho Theatre

L-R Gemma Whelan, Amanda Daniels and Sean Michael Verey in Radiant Vermin, Soho Theatre

The sound track of pre-show songs like Opportunities by the Pet Shop Boys, Material Girl by Madonna and Money by Pink Floyd set the tone for Philip Ridley's new play at the Soho Theatre. This is toe-tapping wrapping paper disguising a gift that has darker undertones.

Young couple Jill (Gemma Whelan) and Ollie (Sean Michael Verey) live on the notorious Red Ocean Estate but one day are offered a new home by Mrs D (Amanda Daniels), they just have to renovate it. Sounds easy except that this is a programme of regeneration that has, in true Ridley-style, a macabre element.

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Review: Harry Melling channels Beckett and Ridley in peddling, Arcola

540f18876cf7e4931c0750c0-2cc4344b6113cd2646d02155d27be4e4There is a large gauzy box in the middle of the Arcola stage and as your eyes adjust to the gloom you can make out a telegraph pole in the centre. Is there anyone in there? It is difficult to tell until Harry Melling's 'Boy' bursts into life scrabbling around in the dirt and dancing, semi-naked, with desperation and rage rather than joy.

This is Melling's debut play and has shades of the existential philosophy of Beckett mixed with the dark poetry of Philip Ridley. As in much of the latter's work the words are highly visual and loaded.

Boy sleeps rough, he goes door to door in North London peddling 'life's essentials', rubber gloves, dish cloths and the like for an unsympathetic boss. He tells people, on the rare occasions that doors actually open, he is on Boris' young offenders scheme. It is a rare explicit political reference, there is also a comment about empty, foreign-owned mansions on Bishop's Avenue.

But the politics of homelessness are a back drop for a piece that feels more about how that affects sense of self. There is something painfully ironic in the relentless rejection Boy experiences while peddling life's essentials. There is also something very human in his drive, his need to be remembered, his need for identity.

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