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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.

Continue reading "That was October in London theatre-land" »


That was September in London theatre land with added mobile phone disturbances and actor drop outs

 

Ben-Whishaw-as-Luke-in-Against_credit-Johan-Persson-14328
Ben Whishaw in Against. Picture Johan Persson.

* Suranne Jones, Nina Sosanya and Jason Watkins have been cast in Frozen (the Bryony Lavery play not the Disney thing) which opens at Theatre Royal Haymarket in February.

*Punchdrunk announced its latest London production which is a six hour, two at a time walk. And no I'm not the least bit bothered about seeing it, I'm still scarred by The Drowned Man.

* The Almeida announced casting for Mike Bartlett's new play Albion which includes Victoria Hamilton, Margot Leicester, Vinette Robinson, Christopher Fairbank and Nicholas Rowe. Previews from Oct 10.

* Up in Stratford, Christopher Eccleston is to play Macbeth with Niamh Cusack as Lady M. (How many Dr Who's is that who've trod the boards in Stratford?) It opens for previews on March 13. I'm hoping for a London transfer.

* Kwame Kwei-Amah was announced as the new artistic director of the Young Vic and takes over the role next year. Love the Young Vic and I think he's a great choice.

* The Donmar announced its new season. Michael Longhurst is to direct James Norton and Imogen Poots in Amy Herzog's Belleville from December. Then there is Peter Gill play The York Realist from Feb and I must admit I'm not a huge fan of his work but it's got Katie West in it so... The season finishes with The Way of the World which I've only seen once before, at the Sheffield Crucible, and I loved it. Linda Bassett stars and it's directed by James Macdonald. Full season details on the Donmar website.

Continue reading "That was September in London theatre land with added mobile phone disturbances and actor drop outs" »


That was August in London (and Stratford) theatre-land with a bit of a Hamlet theme

Hamlet
Tom Hiddleston as Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

* The lucky charms came out in August as it was announced that Tom Hiddleston would play Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh, for a limited run at RADA as a fund raiser for the drama school. The lucky charms were for the ticket ballot, the only way to see the production. My stars were aligned or at least @PolyG’s were. Can’t wait. (Production photos here on What's On Stage.)

* And while we are on the topic of Hamlet, Andrew Scott/Robert Icke's amazing production is due to be broadcast by BBC 2 next year. It opened at the Almeida earlier this year before transferring to the West End's Harold Pinter Theatre and has set the bar high for Hamlets, so no pressure Tom/Ken.

* Another Hamlet related bit of news (kinda), Jonathan Slinger - a former RSC Hamlet  -  has been cast in Trouble in Mind at the Print Rooms at the Coronet.

* Stan-fav and RSC regular, Jasper Britton, is starring in a new Howard Brenton play, The Blinding Light, at the Jermyn Street Theatre from September 6.

* And still with the RSC, if you fancy a unique souvenir of a favourite production get down to Stratford on Sep 23 for the company's costume sale.

* Elsewhere, Samantha Bond and Richard Dreyfus have been cast in the Florian Zeller's play The Lie at Menier Chocolate Factory from September 14.

* Michelle Dockery has been widely reported as joining Brian Cranston in the Ivo Van Hove directed Network although there is nothing on the National Theatre website, as yet, to reflect this.

* The amazing Rachael Stirling has been cast in Labour of Love - and so has Tamsin Greig who is replacing Sarah Lancashire who has pulled out of the production. It opens for previews at the Noel Coward Theatre at the end of September.

* And this is particularly lovely casting news, Oliver Chris and Nancy Carroll will join Rory Kinnear in Young Marx, the inaugural production at the new Bridge Theatre which opens on October 18.

Continue reading "That was August in London (and Stratford) theatre-land with a bit of a Hamlet theme" »


Why I will review Tom Hiddleston's Hamlet

RADA-KBTC-HAMLET-CAST-Nicholas-Farrell-Ansu-Kabia-Lolita-Chakrabarti-Kathryn-Wilder-Tom-Hiddleston-Ayesha-Antoine-Sean-Foley-Caroline-Martin-Irfan-Shamji-and-Eleanor-de-RohanMatt Trueman wrote a piece for The Stage this week - 'What's the point of reviewing Hiddleston's Hamlet?' based on the fact that the Kenneth Branagh directed production is essentially an exclusive gig and a fundraiser.

I'll gloss over him referring to Tom Hiddleston as 'Hollywood's very own' - my view on this is reflected by some of the comments on his piece - and move on to why I will be reviewing HiddleHam. (Yes, I am extremely lucky to have a ticket, thanks to @polyg getting picked in the second round of the ballot).

I enjoy writing about theatre, it's nice to revisit the experience of seeing a particular play. It gives me time to properly cogitate on what I've seen and I sometimes discover something new I hadn't considered while watching. It's also nice to have a record of the experience and I do go back and re-read some reviews - Hamlets are always fun to revisit and compare.

Then there are the conversations I strike up with people who comment on what I've written, discussions I wouldn't otherwise have if I hadn't written a review.

And in the case of HiddleHam, it is an exclusive event, I know I've been lucky and there are at least two people out there who will appreciate reading what I have to say about it, as I would appreciate reading about it had I not got a ticket.

Is it the difference between being a paid critic and someone who is first and foremost an avid theatre fan?


That was July in London Theatre land with a bumper crop of announcements and thesp spots

Loot_460x375After a quiet June, July was a bumper month for announcements and thesp spots...

* The cast for The Divide, the new Alan Ayckbourn play, was announced. Clare Burt will be joined by Sophie Melville, Sian Thomas and Finty Williams. It opens at the Edinburgh Fringe this week (8 Aug) and then at the Old Vic from Jan 30.

* It was a month of former Globe artistic director announcements starting with Dominic Dromgoole who has announced an Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre including Lady Windermere’s Fan directed by Kathy Burke and A Woman of No Importance starring Eve Best.

* Then the Old Vic announced that Emma Rice’s production company, Wise Children, would have a residency at the Old Vic. The first production next year will be an adaptation of an Angela Carter novel. Goodie.

* Stan-fav Sinead Matthews has been cast in Loot at Park Theatre (picture) which also exciting because it’s been many years since I last saw a production of Loot.

* Much lauded on Broadway, the UK production of Oslo (National Theatre and West End) has found its leads: Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard.

* This Christmas will see the battle of the stage Scrooges. Rhys Ifans is playing Scrooge in an Old Vic production of A Christmas Carol while Phil Davis is playing same character in the RSC’s version in Stratford. Already looking forward to compare and contrasts.

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Up close and personal: Tales from sitting on the front row at the theatre

The front row is generally my favourite place to sit at the theatre for several reasons. I'm short so it's often the only place that guarantees an uninterrupted view and I don't like having heads bobbing into my eye line.  Being close also means I can see the whites of the actors' eyes, the sweat on their brow, the nervous tremble of their hands but most importantly their facial expressions - if you are sat further back you miss stuff.

And then there are the unexpected incidents that happen when you are sat so close. Stuff like a prop hitting you, landing in your lap or dropping onto the floor by your feet, or the splatter of blood, the flying sand and sugar glass. Then there is the eye contact you make with an actor, an actor squeezing by you to get onto the stage, shaking your hand or saying hello or speaking lines directly to you and an actor falling into your lap when they misjudge the edge of the stage (yep that has happened to me). I've also been blamed by a character when they farted and dragged up on stage to take part.

I watched enviously from row C when Caesar was strangled in an empty seat in the middle of the front row during the Donmar's Julius Caesar. 

While most performances go by without anything like this happening, there is always the chance that it might and it becomes a story to add to the story, an experience to add to the experience. I included some recent 'acquisitions' from my front row seats in my new blog banner, it's nice to give them an airing. (Click on the image for a bigger version.)

Banner explanation


That was June in London Theatre land...

92000-11June felt like a quieter month for announcements - or did I miss a load of stuff, please let me know if I did…

* The Donmar announced its next two plays with Christian Cooke in David Harrower’s Knives in Hens directed by Yael Farber and then Nikki Amuka-Bird is taking the lead in Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah.

* The Almeida’s fabulous Mary Stuart is transferring to the Duke of York's next year and then goes on tour.

* Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael has been cast alongside Stockard Channing in Alexi Kaye Campbell's Apologia at the Trafalgar Studios. Jamie Lloyd is directing.

* Young One (I’m showing my age, I know) Adrian Edmondson has been cast as Malvolio in the RSC’s Twelfth Night. OK it's on in Stratford rather than London but there will be a live broadcast on February 14.

* Anne Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham (pictured) will star in the UK premiere of Simon Stephen’s play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle at the Wyndhams which is being directed by Marianne Elliott under the umbrella of her new, post-National Theatre, production company. There's a nice little intro video to the production on the website but don't scoff too loud when the Wyndhams is described as an 'intimate house', I do wonder what planet theatre people are born on sometimes.

Thesp spots

It was a shy month for thesps with only two spots: Simon Stephens and Dorothea Myer-Bennett were both at the Kiss Me press night.


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.

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


That was April in London theatre-land - cast announcements, transfers and thesp spots

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Jam, Finborough Theatre

* Incoming from Broadway is new play Oslo about the Oslo Peace accords which will have a short run at the National Theatre in September before transferring into the West End

* Bertie Carvel is back at the Almeida, this time he's been cast with Richard Coyle in the new James Graham play Ink which is set on Fleet Street in the 1960s. Bertie is playing Rupert Murdoch and Richard is playing Larry Lamb.

* Stan fave Forbes Masson (loved him as the devil in Dr Faustus) will appear in Terror, Lyric Hammersmith which opens in June. The play is set around a court case and the audience gets to decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

* The new Bridge Theatre's first season was announced which naturally generated a lot of excitement because Ben Whishaw is playing Brutus in a promenade performance of Julius Caesar, alongside David Morrissey as Mark Anthony and Michelle Fairley as Cassius. There were other gems in the season announcement too, Rory Kinnear is taking the lead in a new Richard Bean play Young Marx alongside Oliver Chris. (I wrote a piece on the new season and ticketing.)

Continue reading "That was April in London theatre-land - cast announcements, transfers and thesp spots" »


Bridge Theatre's first season - and what we know about London's newest venue

Are we excited about the new Bridge Theatre's first season which was announced today? Ben Whishaw, David Morrissey, Michelle Fairley, Rory Kinnear (in bouffant wig), Richard Bean and Barney Norris? I would say that is quite exciting.  

But I must admit that my excitement was tempered until I found out what sort of prices and seating the new 900-seat flexible performance space theatre would have. There was nothing on the website and initially I balked at paying £50 for membership, knowing so little - if decent seats were the usual West End prices then trips would be infrequent.

However, an offer came through for half price membership so it felt less of a gamble and actually it paid off because although ticket prices go up to £75 it's been possible to get reasonably positioned seats in the stalls for £25. For Julius Caesar you can go in the pit (presumably it's standing but you get real close to the action) for £25. For The Young Marx, which is the first play when the theatre opens in October, I got front row stalls for £25 and for Nightfall that price bought seats on the third/back row at the side of the thrust. Obviously the proof will be in sight lines when watching but as it's a new theatre, I'm hopeful.

If the first season is a taste of the type of work and talent involved and it remains possible to get decent seats for £25/30 then the Bridge Theatre might just become a regular haunt.