215 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises

If you'd told me at the start of the year that there would be a rom-com, a Chekhov and a Christmas play on my best of list, I'd have laughed in your face. Just goes to show you should always expect the unexpected...here are my favourite plays of 2017, in no particular order and links are to my reviews.

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard
An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Let's face it most rom-coms are a bit rubbish - they generally aren't that funny - but this tale of modern romance had me guffawing with laughter and I wasn't on my own.

An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre

This is a play that reminded me why I love going to the theatre and I could write pages on it. Thought-provoking, sometime uncomfortable to watch and yet it was still entertaining. It's transferring to the National Theatre in June and I'll definitely be getting a ticket.

Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

In my review I said: "Apologia is a play of sharp humour and depth that slowly breaks down the defences to reveal something raw and emotional. You will laugh and you will have a lump in your throat." It was also a great play for female characters.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios 2

This odd-ball, misfit comedy was a breath of fresh air and it got a much deserved transfer so I got to enjoy it a second time.

Hamlet, Almeida

Up there as one of the best Hamlet productions I've seen, it made me see the play anew.

BU21, Trafalgar Studios 2

Writer Stuart Slade took real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world and used them to create a story around a fictional attack in London. The result was an honest, awkward and funny piece that was also really clever.

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10 plays I'm really looking forward to seeing in London 2018

Julius Caesar, Bridge TheatrePrompted by the Daily Telegraph's rather uninspiring and quite frankly lazy list of upcoming theatre treats - three plays which have already opened? Oh come on - here's my list of what I'm already really excited about seeing in the first half of 2018*.

1. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Theatre - Patsy Ferran, I love Patsy Ferran and this is the first of two plays she's doing in 2018 and it's a solo piece *insert big smile here*

2. Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre - Ben Whishaw playing Brutus alongside David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley and the chance to mingle with the Roman mob? Already booked to see it twice.

3. The Brothers Size, Young Vic - Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney who also penned Oscar best picture winner Moonlight (which I loved) and starring Sope Dirisu who was brilliant in One Night In Miami at the Donmar and the RSC's Coriolanus.

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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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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.


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.

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Review: Life, the universe and family drama in Mosquitoes, National Theatre

Mosquitoes-v2-1280x720There are five ways the world will end, we are told by a scientist (Paul Hilton), but Luke's (Joseph Quinn) world is ending, not because of particles and black holes but because of that incident, in the bedroom of the only girl that talks to him.

Luke is clever and bright, he comes from an intelligent family. His mum Alice (Olivia Williams) is a brilliant scientist working on the Hadron Collider, his grandmother Karen (Amanda Boxer) was also a scientist and his grandfather won a Nobel prize. His aunt Jenny (Olivia Colman), on the other hand, prefers reading horoscopes and Googling answers to questions. Luke thinks she is stupid and so secretly does Alice and, not so secretly, so does, Karen.

As the Hadron Collider is about to be switched on tragedy throws the family together and it will be more than particles colliding in Geneva.

Mosquitoes mixes art and science examining intellect versus emotion and the extraneous variables that human nature brings to life. It puts family and parenting under the spotlight; Luke and Alice may be clever with computers and physics but they stumble when it comes to relationships. Jenny is led by emotion, making decisions that her family would say lack intellectual rigour, with painful 'told you so' consequences but she shouldn't necessarily be written off, there are stronger bonds and human needs that science can't help with or explain.

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Review: Friendship, politics and power in the RSC's Queen Anne, Theatre Royal Haymarket #RSCQueenAnne

Queen Anne marketing image_ Theatre Royal Haymarket 2017_2017_211146The RSC's production of new play Queen Anne opens with a satirical song about the monarch's many pregnancies, the joke being that her latest was just trapped wind. It is a humorous song with barbs, Anne is portrayed by a man with fake fat belly and voluminous breasts - her reign was said to have seen the birth of political satire, if not an heir to the throne. 

It is one of a handful of satirical songs that pepper the play, reflecting political opinions and gossip, and a growing tool for those trying to manipulate or discredit the monarch, her politicians and advisers. These songs are like the equivalent of an 18th century Spitting Image sketch. There is a disquieting irony to the fact that the same day I was watching the play, our 21st century Parliament was discussing abuse and intimidation in the run up to the last election.

The song feels both cruel and understandable when we meet the Queen (Emma Cunniffe) for the first time. She appears sickly, weak - physically and mentally - evasive on important issues and prone to changing her mind and yet there is something tragic, pitiable and occasionally admirable about her too.

Her personality means she is putty in the hands of her supposed friend Sarah Churchill (Romola Garai) who has wit, intelligence and confidence in abundance. Sarah and her husband John (Chu Omambala) are also skilled at negotiation and manipulation, using the Queen for their own advantage and that of their political allies.

However, Sarah doesn't so much overestimate how much power and influence she has over her friend but just how far she can be pushed. While the Queen is to a large extent a pawn among political factions, in her naivete she is perhaps wiser than the Churchill's give her credit but there is no mistaking the killer blow she ultimately delivers.

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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.

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Review: Bertie Carvel and Richard Coyle make newspaper history in Ink, Almeida Theatre

1470x690One of the early scenes of James Graham's Fleet Street-set play Ink sees Bertie Carvel's Rupert Murdoch at a meeting to officially sign the deal that will put The Sun newspaper in his ownership. It's 1969 and the men in suits shake hands and ask after each other's wives who naturally 'send their love'. Murdoch waits quietly while this goes on then asks if the foreplay is over and if they can now get on with the fucking.

It is a symbol of his forthright, no nonsense style that was to disrupt Fleet Street and change the British newspaper industry. It also sort of sums up the two halves of the play. The first half has the fun, laughs and sharp wit as it follows Murdoch's chosen editor Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) putting together the editorial team and the content for the first issue under new ownership. The second half gets more serious and looks at the consequences of the direction in which he has taken the paper.

Lamb is tasked with making The Sun 'fun' and boosting its flagging circulation, pushing it ahead of The Mirror which is outselling its rival quite considerably.

What Murdoch gives Lamb is permission to disrupt the accepted norm; just because newspapers have never done something, doesn't mean they shouldn't. Why give readers what you think they want when you can give them what they actually do want. Lamb rises to the challenge and while the strategy behind his approach seems in some ways so obvious now, it was radical at the time. However, there are also lines he is given that could apply to the media now.

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Review: Colin Morgan and Ellie Kendrick in Gloria, Hampstead Theatre (spoiler free and spoiler versions)

Colin Morgan in Gloria at Hampstead Theatre  photo by Marc Brenner (1)
Colin Morgan in Gloria at Hampstead Theatre photo by Marc Brenner

Spoiler free:

I work in an office and I work in publishing so there is definitely stuff to relate to in Branden Jacob-Jenkins play which is set at the offices of a New York magazine. Naturally there are some cultural differences, we don't tend to have cubicle work spaces here in the UK and perhaps favour a passive aggressive tone rather than direct confrontation, but the tensions, annoyances and rivalries are pretty much the same.

What we get in Gloria is portrait of human nature and relationships in a world of modern media, as told through the prism of office life, workplace tedium and ambition; and that portrait shows its true colours after a particular incident in the office.

Colin Morgan, Ellie Kendrick and Kae Alexander play editorial assistants Dean, Ani and Kendra at the magazine. They are young and ambitious, anxious to keep their careers moving. The presence of intern Miles (Bayo Gbadamosi) seems to bring out the best and worst of their ambitions, a symbol of just how far their careers have or haven't got. They measure their ambition in status: getting your own office and having an assistant and against what everyone else has or hasn't done - and how long they have or haven't done it.

The first half centre's on the morning after co-worker Gloria's (Sian Clifford) flat-warming party and the growing battle to write up the obituary profile of a pop star who has committed suicide. The second half is the fall out after the particular incident - more of which in the spoiler version below, but this is play probably best enjoyed knowing little of the actual plot.

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