98 posts categorized "Comedy" Feed

The new play, new theatre experience - Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre

IMG_5152The benefits of being a brand new theatre is that you can address a lot of the niggles people have with older theatres: uncomfortable seats, lack of space for refreshments, bad sight-lines and not enough ladies loos etc. Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr's Bridge Theatre beautifully situated on the opposite bank of the Thames to the Tower of London seems to have made a pretty good job of it.

Walking in, it is light and airy without feeling stark and impersonal and I imagine the spacious cafe/bar area will double as a nice daytime hangout. The seats are comfortable (a bit like those at the Royal Court) but sight-lines will have to be an ongoing test as the configuration is going to change. For this production we sat in the middle of front row and although the stage is reasonable high, I've sat closer to higher stages, so it was perfectly fine.

And as for the ladies loos, there are lots of them and there is even an 'in' and 'out' door to the main facilities similar to The Globe which means a better flow if you'll excuse the pun. Only one minor quibble is that the coat/bag hooks on the back of cubicle doors are really high - I had to stand on tip toes to reach it. I know I'm short but even so it was the primary topic of conversation as people were washing their hands.

And what about the play? It would have been easy to open with a relatively safe classic but Hytner and Starr are setting out their stall by choosing a new play by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. Obviously they aren't strangers, Hytner having directed Bean's plays England People Very Nice, One Man, Two Guv'nors and Great Britain and this has the potential to be a crowd pleaser.

It's a bit of a romp in fact, telling the story of the time, the 30-something Karl Marx's (Rory Kinnear) lived in exile with his family in Soho. The central narrative is his journey from disillusioned genius, thinking of jacking it all in to work on the railways, back to the writer, thinker and activist he is famed for.

Continue reading "The new play, new theatre experience - Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre" »


Review: It's 'yes' or 'no' answers and The Majority rules, National Theatre

IMG_5112If you don't leave the theatre, after seeing The Majority, talking about the show and feeling challenged then you weren't really paying attention. Part stand up, part story, part morality test, comedian Rob Drummond examines democracy mixing his own story (with added dramatic licence, he admits) and a series of live votes.

As you enter the auditorium you are given a small key pad (pictured) and, during the show, are invited to press one for 'yes' and two for 'no' in relation to a series of statements. The results are displayed moments later on screens as percentages and the majority rules.

The statements on which your opinion is sought start off with basics to establish the make up of the audience and rules (should we allow latecomers, for example) moving on to re-runs of recent referendum votes and a variety of moral dilemmas. Some relate to variations of a scenario involving a deadly runaway train heading towards a group of workmen, others relate to the story Rob Drummond tells.

His story is about a random encounter he had the morning after the Scottish independence referendum and how that took him on a journey across Scotland and into the world of protests, activism, freedom of speech and the far right.

Continue reading "Review: It's 'yes' or 'no' answers and The Majority rules, National Theatre" »


My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

Continue reading "My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre" »


Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre or this is why I go to the theatre

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other RichardThe first thing I have to say is 'thanks' to @mildlybitter. I'd not heard of An Octoroon or Branden Jacob-Jenkins but she recommended his play which is having its European premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I'm so glad she did.

Jacob-Jenkins has taken Dion Boucicault's 1850s play but made it a play within a play by putting both himself, played by Ken Nwosu, and Boucicault (Kevin Trainor) into the story. But more than that. They talk directly to the audience, argue with each other and also play several of the characters in the original play. It's brilliantly Brechtian, meta and, with a Bre'r-rabbit running around, surreal but I'll come on to all that.

In Boucicault's The Octoroon George (Nwosu) returns home to Louisiana from Paris to find Terrabonne, the plantation he has inherited, is about to be repossessed. Local heiress Dora (Celeste Dodwell) fancies him and a marriage to her could secure the plantation - and the slaves it keeps. But George has fallen for Zoe (Lola Evans) the illegitimate daughter of his uncle from his relationship with a slave who has been brought up as part of the family.

The villain of the piece is wealthy Jacob M'Closky (also played by Nwosu) who wants Zoe for himself despite her having spurned his advances. M'Closky intercepts a cheque which could save Terrabonne and also discovers something about Zoe's legal status which he decides to use to his advantage.

Continue reading "Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre or this is why I go to the theatre" »


Review: Silly, fun and poignant Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Road, Trafalgar Studios 2

I finished my review of Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd when it was on in January, at the White Bear, by saying I hoped it got a transfer so more people could see it. Hey presto, here it is at Trafalgar Studios 2 for another run, so is it as good as I remember? Well the answer is a big fat yes.

It's set in a grubby motel room - "trip advisor classes it as other" - where Mountain Dew and vodka drinking JD (Keith Stevenson) lives. He does odd jobs for the lascivious, string-vest wearing, red-neck motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) and acts as consoler to fiery, crack head artist Marlene (Melanie Gray) when her wasted poet boyfriend Tommy (Alex Ferns - the only cast change) is being unfaithful. 

Into this walks Mitch (Robert Moloney) a hyperhidrosis sufferer who's lost his job in the local spork factory, been dumped by his girlfriend and had his car burned out by local reform school girls. He's answered JD's ad for a room to rent - or at least that is what he thinks is on offer.

The scene is set for a madcap 70 minutes but this is an exceptional piece not just for the very funny one liners but the clever way Stevenson surprises and wrong foots. His characters are wonderfully drawn so as to surprise, scare and amuse over the course of line of dialogue. When you've finished laughing you are left with warm fuzzy glow and a wish to spend more time with them, perhaps. 

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd manages to be silly and poignant but essentially is a hugely entertaining play about being nice to each other. At the end JD says: "There shouldn't be a name for the right way to treat people, it should be normal." And he is right. 

It's getting five stars from me, again, and you can see it at the Trafalgar Studios 2* until June 3.

* The Trafalgar Studios 2 has been rearranged so that the seating is raked so that is faces the performance space on one side, not wrapped around three sides as it normally is (the same set up as the White Bear if you saw the play there).


Review: Lenny Henry in the irresistible Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar Warehouse

Lennyhenryw500h500Before I had even taken my seat at the Donmar, I'd spoken to two actors and shaken Lenny Henry's hand. It's all part of the Donmar's transformation for the Bruce Norris adaptation of Brecht's play - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. The stalls - stage and seating - have been removed and replaced to create a space decked out as a late night jazz cafe complete with wooden tables and chairs to fit the new setting of prohibition era Chicago.

The cast mingle with the audience as they arrive in the building and then in the theatre chatting as if you are cafe customers. The reason behind some of the conversations only becomes apparent as the play properly starts - PolyG and I were asked by Lenny Henry's Arturo Ui if we'd stand up when he requested during the play, naturally we agreed. If you are sat at the front - even in the circle - you may be roped in.

In Norris' adaptation our Brechtian villain is a gangster who wants respect as well as power and will be as ruthless as he needs to be to get there. However this is a far less intimidating Arturo than I have seen in other adaptations. The fact that his protection racket targets grocers and in particular the cauliflower importers and sellers gives you a taste of the tone.

It is an Arturo Ui which is frothy and fun, with unsubtle references to Donald Trump and blatant parallels with the likes of Richard III - Norris also manages to weave in excerpts from several other Shakespeare plays including 'To be or not to be'. There are also tantalising snatches of popular songs sung live in a lounge jazz style, it becomes a game of name that tune - try and guess the song from a verse or two of familiar lyrics sung in an unfamiliar way. Nat King Cole's Nature Boy gets its second stage outing in as many years too (it was the song playing at the start of Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet).

Continue reading "Review: Lenny Henry in the irresistible Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar Warehouse" »


Review: David Tennant is the smutty Don Juan In Soho, Wyndhams Theatre

379395_770_previewI've seen David Tennant play Shakespeare's leads Hamlet, Richard II and Benedick and he's brilliant but I've had a hankering to see him in something more contemporary on stage. Step forward Patrick Marber's Don Juan In Soho, a modern tale of debauched hedonism based loosely on Moliere's Don Juan.

If it was a deliberate move of David Tennant's part to choose a stage project that contrasted with his classical roles then he has succeeded in part at least but I'll come onto that.

Don Juan isn't a play that is going to worry the grey matter, instead is an entertaining romp through 48 hours in the life of the titular character who is the estranged son of a lord. He lives for pleasure and in particular pleasure of the flesh with his trusted, if often reluctant, chauffeur/butler Stan (Adrian Scarborough) to clear up after him. There is nothing too sordid or morally reprehensible that Don Juan won't consider; he doesn't love, he lusts turning on the charm and saying whatever is necessary to get what he wants.

Stan tells us right from the start that he isn't a very nice person and Don Juan's behaviour quickly proves the point and yet when he is doing his worst deeds it doesn't feel shocking, or really that bad. And I'm not sure if this is because David Tennant has too much charm or if that is how the character is drawn. I've heard of some people not returning at the interval but I didn't find anything in the play remotely shocking and I have to confess I was very slightly disappointed by that.

Continue reading "Review: David Tennant is the smutty Don Juan In Soho, Wyndhams Theatre" »


REVIEW: The power of three high school misfits in Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2

JS121611426-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqiEYSsjLjJhKdsvXqKaSPUzbBsrg-NoS_G7ipzs1c0fE
Patsy Ferran, Douglas Booth and Tony Revolori. Photo Simon Annand

Solomon (Tony Revolori) is an aspiring journalist and wants an article published, Diwata (Patsy Ferran) is an aspiring actress and wants a part in the school play and Howie (Douglas Booth) wants to flirt on gay chat sites. All outsiders with their own agendas, they are united by a sex scandal at their school and a musical version of The Crucible, with a time-travelling Abraham Lincoln, might just be the answer to getting what they want.

Stephen Karam's play's is laced with wit and black humour with a serious sprinkling of silly fun but there is far more to it below the laughs.  It's a story about teenagers on the cusp of becoming adults struggling to realise their ambitions in a world where social media is just starting to take off. They want to talk about the stuff that matters such as freedom of expression and gay rights and have sex education classes without the genitals being referred to as the 'bathing suit area'.  They are young people on a voyage of social and sexual discovery, often learning the hard way the consequences of their actions.

Continue reading "REVIEW: The power of three high school misfits in Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2" »


REVIEW The hilarious Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport for The Other Richard
Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre - Felix Scott and Ayesha Antoine, Courtesy of Richard Davenport

Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna's comedy Dirty Great Love Story is a modern poem to romance but Romeo and Juliet this isn't. This is a love story that starts at a hen and stag party, a story of drunken sex, morning after awkwardness, shoes that hurt and rescuing escaped boobs. It's a love story where climbing a vine to a balcony takes a lot longer and a lot more effort than the movies would have you believe.

Ayesha Antoine plays Katie (and CC) who is out on a hen night with her mates. She's recently been dumped by her boyfriend (he who must not be named) and her friend CC is determined to get her a shag. Felix Scott plays Richard (Westie and Matt) and is on a stag do with his mates and his friend Westie is equally keen to pair Richard off with someone. Their eyes meet across a pulsating, sweaty, alcohol drenched dance floor but the course of true love never did run smooth.

Written in verse we are taken on a two year journey of mishaps and relationship mayhem. Those around Katie and Richard seem to be entering a new phase of their lives while our two mismatched, one-night stand, lovers seemed destined never to get it on again.

Ayesha Antoine and Felix Scott switch swiftly between characters without missing a beat of the poetry. They deliciously deliver the misinterpretations and missteps of Katie and Richard and the antics and opinions of their friends.

Continue reading "REVIEW The hilarious Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre" »


REVIEW Five star fringe - Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, White Bear Theatre #friedmeatUK

Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler
Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road (c) Erika Boxler

It's a bitterly cold, dark January night in the maelstrom of Trump's impending inauguration and May's hard Brexit speech and a piece of 'vital', 'essential' or 'urgent' theatre is not really what you want - or need. Thank heaven's then for Keith Stevenson's Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd which, in its 65 funny minutes of misfit, odd, dark, craziness has a warmth that leaves you feeling that not quite everything is wrong with the world.

Set in rural West Virginia, Mitch (Robert Moloney) has lost his job, been kicked out by his girlfriend and has a condition which makes him sweat profusely. JD (Keith Stevenson) lives in a motel, helps out with odd jobs and advertises for a room mate. JD and the room aren't quite what Mitch expects when he turns up to have a look but then neither is the slightly scary un-PC motel owner Flip (Michael Wade) or the warring couple next door - the philandering Tommy (Dan Hildebrand) and crystal meth addict Marlene (Melanie Gray).

But these are all characters that defy initial impressions. On the one hand JD has never heard of the state of Maine or that lobsters come from the sea but on the other he knows Latin. They are the sort of people whom you'd expect to see on the Jeremy Kyle show and yet they occasionally use language you'd hear on Radio 4. Just as Marlene's 'most beautiful' painting is a woman with a snake head the juxtaposition isn't quite right, it is surreal, slightly odd, perhaps a little sinister.

Continue reading "REVIEW Five star fringe - Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, White Bear Theatre #friedmeatUK" »