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April 2015

Udderbelly review: Spectular strength and agility in A Simple Space

30_a_simple_spaceTo call A Simple Space an acrobatics show doesn't really do it justice: For sixty minutes I was smiling and agog.

This Australian troop of five men and two women perform a series of spectacular feats some of which you have to see to believe.

Most of it is done without props, using each other for strength, guidance and balance. They fling each other about, are human climbing frames and a shoulder, head, face, foot or hand can all be a useful platform on which to balance. They even jump on each other, sometimes playing a sophisticated and graceful game of moving around without touching the floor.

It is done with a certain amount of humour and playful competitiveness. In between the more physical feats they have little competitions. There's one to see who can hold their breath the longest while one of them stays in a handstand and another which is a bit like strip poker only they compete at skipping rather than cards.

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Five plays I'm really looking forward to (and no the one with Nicole Kidman isn't one of them)

Ben Whishaw, Bakkhai promo. Photo by David Stewart

The announcement last week that Nicole Kidman is taking to the London stage 17 years (or something) after her last outing has given rise to lists of must see theatre. Inevitably these lists include equally starry names - Bradley Cooper, Damian Lewis and of course Benedict Cumberbatch.

But, other than BC's Hamlet, none of the plays listed or the celebs attached got me particularly excited (well not excited enough to spend £60 on a ticket anyway) so I decided to draw up my own list. It's been a struggle to narrow it down as I look forward to everything I've booked (what's the point otherwise) but here goes:

1. Hamlet, Barbican

Let's get this one out of the way first. I am excited. I love Hamlet and I've been a fan of BC's since before Sherlock. The supporting cast has only added to the anticipation - Anastasia Hille as Gertrude, Ciaran Hinds as Claudius, Leo Bill as Horatio...

2. The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre

It's going to be silly and flamboyant and it has Geoffrey Streatfeild, Sam Barnett and Pippa Bennett Warner in it. Cannot wait.


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Review: Chiwetel Ejiofor in Everyman, National Theatre


We can sigh with relief having seen Everyman at the National Theatre. It is the second play in Rufus Norris's inaugural season as artistic director (and the first he directs) and it is very much the 'Norris' I was hoping for when it was announced he was taking over from Nicholas Hytner. The first play of the season - Light Shining in Buckinghamshire which I saw two nights earlier - failed to make its mark, in fact I abandoned it at the interval* but more of that later.

Everyman is a completely different beast. The 15th century morality play has been given a modern setting and a new contemporary script by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. It is a linear and simple plot structure: Everyman (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is successful, popular, works hard and plays hard but God is unhappy with how mankind is behaving and chooses Everyman to teach a lesson.

Death visits Everyman to tell him his number is up and that he's been called to a reckoning with God setting him on a journey to find some way of justifying himself and his lifestyle.

Being based on a morality play you can see how this will pan out but it is a hell of a journey on the way, in one sense for Everyman and in the other for the audience.

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All you need to know about the Old Vic Theatre PwC £10 preview tickets

Excited by the prospect of being able to see stuff at the Old Vic for a tenner? I know I am. Here's how it's going to work:

For the first five previews* half of the seats will be £10 and they will be scattered throughout the auditorium.

Seats will be released on a first come, first served basis at 12pm on the Monday five weeks prior to the first preview. Four tickets per person. Dates will be announced to the PwC Previews mailing list and you can sign up for that list at

* excludes Jekyll and Hyde, Rise and The Old Vic Variety Nights

Review: Who'd have thought Eugene O'Neill could be charming and funny - Ah, Wilderness! Young Vic

Ah_Wilderness_326x326The last time I saw Dominic Rowan stumbling on sand was in the Donmar's production of Berenice. This time in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic his character Sid not only has a sandy stage to contend with but also a bit of a drink problem which makes him unsteady on his feet.

Sid drinks to hide the hurt of rejection from Lily (Susannah Wise); Lily turns down his marriage proposals because he drinks and gambles. It's a vicious circle. But Sid and Lily's is a secondary love story to that of Richard's (George MacKay).

Eugene O'Neill's play is set in the early 1900's Richard is Lily's 16-year-old nephew and Ah, Wilderness! is his coming of age story. He's intelligent and alarms his mother (Janie Dee) by reading Oscar Wilde, Ibsen and Strindberg which she deems unsuitable and inappropriate. He rebels in a bookish way quoting lines of poetry and literature but most importantly he is in the throws of his first love with a girl called Muriel.

The action is set over the course of a sunny Independence weekend by the sea where the family is gathered for celebrations. Richard's mother (Janie Dee) is trying to organise the July 4th dinner, encourage her husband Nat (Martin Marquez) and Sid not to get too drunk and her youngest son is running around setting off fire crackers. And then there is Muriel's father who is on the war path having found Richard's love letters to his daughter.

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Are we excited about Matthew Warchus's first season at the Old Vic?

A few things caught my eye when the press release announcing Matthew Warchus's first season as artistic director of the Old Vic landed in my in box this morning.

* Timothy Spall on stage -  have longed to see him tread the boards and he's such a brilliant actor and to double the excitement he's in Pinter's The Caretaker - a play I've always wanted to see on stage.

* Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape - saw a great production at the Southwark Playhouse a few years ago and as we've had a run of Miller plays feels time to move onto another classic American playwright.

* A new commission from Richard Bean of One Man Two Guvnors and Great Britain fame, always something to be looked forward to.

But there was one thing that shone a completely new light on the new season - £10 previews. But not only that £10 previews without age restrictions. They've got a new corporate partner in the shape of PwC and half the seats in the house for the first five previews will be £10. Previously I've been extremely selective about what I see at the Old Vic because of the prices but it's become more affordable for the first time.

So thank you Matthew Warchus, I already think you are doing better than Kevin Spacey (sorry Kev). If you could just sort out the ladies loos then you'll hold the crown.


Since writing this I've got a few more details from the Old Vic about the £10 tickets and how it will work.


Review: Cheek By Jowl's Russian invasion at the Barbican with Measure for Measure

Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina. Photographer - Johan Persson
Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina in Measure for Measure. Photographer - Johan Persson

Cheek By Jowl have done it again. This time they've brought a Russian flavour to Shakespeare's Measure For Measure. It's a Russian cast, performed in Russian* and it's rather taken me prisoner.

The run time is trimmed down to around two hours 10 straight through -  longer than one hour 45 minutes it says on the website - and opens with the Duke (Alexander Arsentyev) leaving Angelo (Andrei Kuzichev) in charge.

All the cast are on stage and move as one like a swarm of insects with the Duke gradually becoming separated. No words are spoken but this feels like part rejection, part ejection and part choice.

And so the scene is set for his disguised return and his journey back to the path of leadership. It is a journey of revelations and lessons through the injustice, immorality and corruption that he witnesses.

Angelo in deciding to follow the law to the letter has had Claudio (Peter Rykov) imprisoned and sentenced to death for getting a woman pregnant outside marriage.

Claudio's sister Isabella (Anna Khalilulina), who is about to take Holy Orders, is persuaded to try and intervene and get the sentence overturned. It pits compassion, leniency and purity against lust and corruption. Angelo holds the power of justice but uses it to try and satisfy his own desire.

I've not seen Measure For Measure before but director Declan Donellan has created a world that is dark, grubby and dictatorial but all the more dangerous for being conducted under the banner of justice.

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Review: The Glass Protege, Park Theatre studio

Alexander Hulme as Jackson and David Butler as Patrick
Alexander Hulme and David R Butler in The Glass Protege

This is the second play I've seen this year about being gay in 1940/50s Hollywood. And like Gods and Monster's at Southwark Playhouse, The Glass Protege explores the difficulties faced by gay men working in the film industry, an industry that turned a blind eye but only when it suited.

Patrick (David R Butler) has arrived from working in rep in Oxford to play second fiddle in a Hollywood film with hearthrob du jour Jackson (Alexander Hulme). There are all sorts of rumours floating around about Jackson's sexuality and a rather nasty gossip journalist (Mary Stewart) just waiting for the right evidence.

Our young British actor is fairly inexperienced in the ways of the world but when several of the characters tell him he'll soon lose his innocence under the corrupting influence of Hollywood's film industry his fate is sealed.

The central thread follows the story of Patrick and Jackson together with sassy actress Candice (Emily Loomes) who is playing the dumb beauty in the film. However, by way of a narrative device writer Dylan Costello has created a second plotline set in the 1980s when Patrick is a grumpy old man living with his son George (Stephen Connery-Brown). George's mail order bride Ava (Sheena May) has just arrived but he wants to hide the truth about her from his father and so has her play along as his new assistant.

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