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December 2017

November 2017

Review: Albion, Almeida Theatre

XALBION.jpg.pagespeed.icSat down to watch Albion with a mixture of expectations. A theatre loving friend said they'd left at the interval but Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were both shortlisted for Evening Standard Theatre awards. Now, I don't believe there is too much inference to be drawn from award nominations but I was, nonetheless, encouraged.

And the verdict? Well I definitely didn't want to leave at the interval and Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were very good.

Victoria Hamilton plays Audrey who has just moved from London to a big house in the country. The gardens were once something and she wants to restore them to their former glory. She is obsessed with restoring them to their former glory but that isn't really what the play is about, its about a woman who is adrift, grieving the death of her soldier son James and trying to find an anchor.

She has her patient and self deprecating second husband Paul in tow (a completely lovable Nicholas Rowe) and her university student daughter Zara (Charlotte Hope) who is not happy to be displaced into the country. Also tagging along is Anna (Vinette Robinson) who is James' grief-stricken girlfriend and Audrey's famous writer friend Katherine (Helen Schlesinger).

The house comes with furniture, Matthew (Christopher Fairbank) the gardener and his wife Cheryl (Margo Leicester) who is the cleaner and a neighbour's son, Gabriel (Luke Thallon), who cleans the windows and quickly develops an awkward crush on Zara.

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Review: Desire and identity in The Butch Monologues #SohoTheatre

The Butch Monologues (c) Christa Holka (2)
The Butch Monologues (c) Christa Holka

The Butch Monologues is many voices in many stories, more than 50 personal experiences in fact, told in just 60 minutes and that is part of its power. Some of the stories are just a few sentences, some last a minute or so but all have been collected by writer Laura Bridgeman from interviews with butches, masculine women and transmen across the world. 

Each is read out by one of five performers - some are professional actors, some not - and explore desire, sexuality and identity. The sheer variety of voices demonstrates the complexity of the subject, the scope of human feeling and experience. There are some horror stories - the operations required after using horse bandages to bind breasts and less than supportive bosses - but there is also a great deal of humour and warmth.

The tales cover everything from childhood discoveries and parental reactions to first time experiences and bedroom preferences. There is friendship, rejection, bonding, bondage and suit buying in such a colourful array of narratives that challenge stereotypes and champion humanity.

There is much to take away from The Butch Monologues but for me what resonated most was the road to self knowledge and understanding. Despite some difficult journeys in many of the stories there was a self confidence, a power from feeling comfortable in your skin and that you aren't alone and that was liberating and enlightening. I'm giving it five stars and you can catch it at the Soho Theatre Upstairs until November 25.

Quick review: RSC's muscular and angry Coriolanus, Barbican Theatre

Coriolanus production photos_ 2017_2017_Photo by Helen Maybanks _c_ RSC_231764
RSC's Coriolanus 2017. Photo by Helen Maybanks (c) RSC

Two military leaders clash on stage. There is nothing delicate or seemingly choreographed, rather sparks fly from the machete-style swords as they make contact with flinch-inducing force. It is powerful, ferocious fight with a genuine sense of danger - certainly from the front row anyway.

This is Coriolanus (Sope Dirisu) and Aufidius (James Corrigan) in pivotal battle that will shape much of what follows. It isn’t a battle merely of physical might and swordsmanship, it's a fight for respect and honour.

Sope Dirisu's, Coriolanus is a formidable presence - you certainly don’t doubt his exploits and achievements in battle even without appearing smeared in the blood of those he’s reportedly slain. There is also no doubting his stubborn pride which leads to his downfall - that and his equally formidable mother Volumnia's (Haydn Gwynne) ambitions for him. So stubborn is he that it is only when you see him struggle with his emotions when his family visit him to plea for Rome that you know he has a chink in his armour, that it is an armour moulded over many years.

When his death comes, the method of his demise is ignoble for the warrior that he is but in that there is an element of tragedy.

This is a muscular, angry production and I'm not going to lie and say I got all the nuances of the plot but it certainly held my attention. I'm giving it four stars. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the RSC's Rome season over the next couple of months



Quick review: The brilliant Beginning, National Theatre

Beginning-2160x2160-sfw-50Still catching up post hols, hence the quick review but I loved this play. It's set at the end of Laura's (Justine Mitchell) flat-warming party when all the guests have left apart from one: Danny (Sam Troughton). She's confidence, sassy; he uses slightly laddish humour to try and mask his nerves. For an hour and forty minutes the two talk, drink and make fish finger sandwiches.

Do they have more in common than initial appearances would suggest, is this the start of something and what is that 'something'?

It's a play that slowly unwraps the layers of two characters through their interactions and exchanges like a pass the parcel present and it is done in a way that is smart, wry, funny and moving. David Eldridge's play avoids cliches and stereotypes giving us two very human and identifiable characters whose life experiences and dilemmas are fresh and contemporary.

Performed with seemingly effortless skill I was gripped, I laughed out loud a lot and I may have had a tear in my eye. And if that isn't enough the soundtrack is great and there is a superb dance scene. I'm so glad this has got a transfer into the West End: From January 15 it is at the Ambassadors Theatre in Covent Garden.


Review: The Lady From The Sea, Donmar Warehouse or what I remember

ImageSaw this back in October and normally I write up my thoughts within a few days, while everything is still fresh but work, then a holiday got in the way.  However, it is actually proving an interesting exercise, reflecting after nearly a month, on what has stayed with me - and some stuff has, which is a good sign at least, we've all seen those easily forgettable plays.

Ibsen's Norway mountains setting has been swapped for the Caribbean which works well in the main - references to the end of the summer and coming of colder weather did jar a little. Ellida (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is the new wife of widower Dr Wangel (Finbar Linch) who has two teenage daughters Hilde (Ellie Bamber) and Bolette (Helena Wilson) from his first marriage.

She grew up by the sea and swims everyday with a dedication and a fervour that hints of emotional disquiet. Two things haunt her: A former romance with a sailor and a recent tragedy. Worried, Wangel invites his Bolette's former tutor Arnholm (Tom McKay) to visit in the hope it will distract her but her sailor also makes an appearance.

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That was October in London theatre-land

Mischief Movie Night
Mischief Theatre

A little later than usual as I've been on holiday...

* Quite a few nuggets of excitement in the National Theatre’s 2018 season announcement. Sam Mendes will direct The Lehmans Trilogy and Ralph Fiennes will appear alongside Sophie Okonedo in Antony and Cleopatra. Stan-fav Colin Morgan will star in Brian Friel’s Translations, Vanessa Kirby will star in Polly Stenham’s new version of Miss Julie (the Miss has been dropped) and one of my favourite plays of this year (so far), An Octoroon, is transferring to the National next summer.

* Sheila Hancock will star in the stage adaptation of 1971 comedy Harold and Maude at the Charing Cross Theatre from February.

* Mischief Theatre - those clever peeps behind The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong (etc) - are returning to the West End with their improvised Mischief Movie Night at the Arts Theatre from December 13.

* The next season at the Park Theatre will include a new play written by and starring David Haig called Pressure which is about meteorologists trying to predict the perfect weather for the D-Day landings.

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