70 posts categorized "Off West End" 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.

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Review: The superb Seagull, Lyric Hammersmith

Full-Casting-for-The-Seagull-Lyric-HammersmithThe Seagull is one of the only Chekhov plays I really like but I never thought I'd like it quite as much as I did watching this version by Simon Stephens. His words teamed with Sean Holmes direction, leap off the page and the production breaths new life into the story teasing out the humour and in turn elevating the tragedy.

For a start this feel more like an ensemble piece rather than a story about Irina (Lesley Sharp) and Konstantin (Brian Vernel) - a former star actress clinging on to fame and her son seeking a career of his own. All the characters are fully formed and the result is a collective of human mistakes, heartbreak and foibles - and that is its power.

They are riddled with emotional injury, delusion, faults and  seem hell bent on making or repeating mistakes; from Pauline's (Michele Austin) unrequited love for the doctor and Marcia's (Cherelle Skeete) for Konstantin to the way Irina can't help hurting her son. Even the doctor (Paul Higgins), with his sanguine remarks about having lived a full life, has a shadow of regret; there is something fatherly in the way he behaves with Konstantin that perhaps hints at a secret. 

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That was May in London theatre-land - casting, transfers, an anniversary and another bumper crop of thesp spots

600Gloria_FINAL_landscapeSmall* Stan fav Colin Morgan has been cast with Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick in Gloria at Hampstead Theatre which just happens to be my newest favourite playwright. So lots of excitement for that. Gloria will also be a 10 year theatre anniversary for me and Colin. I first saw him (and mentally tipped him as one to watch) when he played the lead in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic in 2007.

* Keeping up the Game of Thrones thesp count in London’s theatre land is Natalie Dormer who’s been cast with David Oakes in Venus in Furs at Theatre Royal Haymarket from October.

* Colm Meaney joins Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre which opens in July.

* Arthur Darvill of Broadchurch fame has been cast in Hir at Bush Theatre which opens on June 15.

* James Graham (This House) has a new political comedy, Labour of Love, coming to the Noel Coward Theatre in September starring Martin Freeman and Sarah Lancashire.

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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.

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Tom Stoppard's Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory - great acting, not sure about the play

TravestiesREVIEW Tom Hollander's Henry Carr has just shuffled onto the stage. 'Oh it's him!' says the old lady sat behind me loudly, so loudly he could probably hear her from the other side of the stage. I stifle a laugh.

This is a play of Henry Carr's reminiscences from his stint at the British consular in Zurich during the first world war. Zurich has become a magnet for artists and political exiles and his acquaintances include James Joyce (Peter McDonald), Tristan Tzara (Freddie Fox) - one of the founders of Dadaism - and Lenin (Forbes Mason) but, as his forgetfulness suggests, his recollections may not be accurate. While Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia explores maths and science, here he explores art, war and revolution.

There is a farcical love story of sorts. Tzara fancies Henry's sister Gwendolene (Amy Morgan) but she doesn't like his radical, anarchic art movement so he's pretending to be Jack, a less radical fictional brother of Tzara's. Meanwhile, Henry fancies Cecily (Clare Foster) a librarian who is helping Lenin with research for a book. All the while James Joyce admires Lenin from afar and is trying to manage a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in which Henry will take a leading role.

Travesties is performed with such energy and verve, the delivery gunfire quick and clipped it is a skill in its own right. The performances I enjoyed very much, particularly Freddie Fox who was on fine form but I have a problem with the play. It's not the first time I've had this problem with a Tom Stoppard play in fact I'm starting to think Stoppard and me just don't get on.

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Review: The hilarious and hot Naked Magicians, Trafalgar Studios

Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler
Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler

The blow up doll on the stage is a clue. If you don't get that, there is a warning before The Naked Magicians show starts that if you are easily offended then you should 'probably f*ck off now'. And that is the tone of the show: it is rude, irreverent, a little more than suggestive and brilliant fun.

Lets be honest, the suggestion of nudity is probably what makes most people buy the ticket and that doesn't come until the end but it doesn't matter, the show is so good you forget that's what is promised.

It is part comedy part magic, full of laughs (my face was aching by the end) and while the magic tricks aren't the most sophisticated they are nonetheless impressive.

Stand up Maureen Younger gets the audience warmed up ready for the Naked Magicians - Australians Mike Tyler and Christopher Wayne. There is plenty of audience participation. If getting dragged up on stage to 'help' with some magic is your idea of a nightmare then make sure you choose seats towards the middle of the row and at least few rows back from the front.

There was one woman 'volunteer' who brilliantly flawed the magicians with a comment - she saw where they were going and got there first. They took it brilliantly and it added to the fun.

A couple of the tricks the whole audience can get involved with - one of which is particularly impressive but I won't say any more because it will spoil it if you go.

They are only around until the end of this week so if you fancy something silly, funny and with adult themes then hurry along to the Trafalgar Studios.

The show is roughly two hours long including an interval and I'm giving it 5 stars. If you hadn't worked it out already it has an 18+ age restriction.

 


Review: The gently moving Pianist of Willesden Lane, St James Theatre

17197494-mmmainMona Golabek's mother Lisa was born in Vienna and dreamed of being a concert pianist but as the clouds of the second world war loomed she was ripped from the family and city she knew and the piano lessons she loved.

Herself a pianist, Mona tells her mother's story* of a lucky escape from Vienna on the Kindertransport to life in the blitz in London with other refugees. The narrative is beautifully interwoven with piano pieces performed by Mona that are either pertinent to the story or beautifully capture the moment.

As war stories go this is gently told; there are horrors but you feel that somehow you are protected from most of it. Instead the heart of the story is Lisa's love of playing and her determination not to let her mother down and carry on learning. The power of music to uplift is the plays soul.

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That was August in London Theatre-land (with a late addition)

9383745446_a248156e8f_zAugust always used to be a quiet month for theatre; it was as if everyone decamped to Edinburgh for the fringe. But even though the Royal Court still shuts up shop, elsewhere it just seems to get busier and busier. There is more fringe - and not just pre-Edinburgh shows - and more productions opening at the bigger theatres. As a result I ended up seeing 12 plays and yes I know there are people that see more than that each month but it's above my average.

* The 'hold the front page' story for the month (and possibly the year) was the announcement of funds to be made available to theatres to improve the ladies toilets. There is general under provision in the older theatres which means long queues and they are often so cramped and badly designed you have to be child-sized to get in and out the cubicles.

* The month was also notable for having only one steamy theatre watching experience and by that I mean the 'joy' of sitting in a non-air conditioned theatre on a hot summer evening with sweat trickling down your back while feeling sorry for the actors because at least you can wear shorts and T-Shirt. Yep thanks to Found III for that one.

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Review: In the mood for The Maids, Trafalgar Studios?

ImageI think I have to confess straight away that I don't think I was quite in the right frame of mind for The Maids. It had been a really hectic, demanding day at work - it's been a hectic and demanding few weeks in fact. I felt frazzled as I sat down in my on stage seat.

Described on the Jamie Lloyd Production company website as a 'full-throttle production' it is performed with a heightened tension and energy throughout, there is no first, second or even third gear.

The Maids is a translation by Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton of Jean Genet's 70-year-old play which was based on real events in 1930's Paris when a maid killed her employer. In this version the action is transferred to America and in casting Zawe Ashton (Claire) and Uzo Aduba (Solange) as the sisters who work as maids it becomes a play not just about class prejudice but also racism.

In the opening scene, Claire is wearing a blond wig and a slip, stomping around the stage like a queen bitch, ordering Solange about who simpers, flatters and pampers.  It becomes quickly obvious that this is a game they play, a role-play that gets repeated but which always ends up with brutal revenge being enacted.

The role-play is slowly revealing and about the only thing that is slow. How much of what is revealed by the maids is real and how much is fantasy is unclear until you realise that their game is actually a rehearsal. If only their mistress (a fantastically un Lady Edith-like Laura Carmichael in knicker-skimming short skirt, shoulder pads and fur gilet) would return.

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