108 posts categorized "West End" Feed

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.

 


 


That was March in London theatre land - and a bumper crop of thesp spots

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Keith Stevenson in Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre (c) Erika Boxler

* The Almeida's excellent production of Hamlet starring Andrew Scott is transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End in June.

* And...not to take away from Hamlet's success but putting the tickets on sale at midnight, on a Saturday for Almeida members was an odd decision not least because, if Twitter is anything to go by, there were glitches with the ATG Tickets website and apparently no customer services/tech support available to sort it at that time of night.

* One of my favourite plays of 2016 - Rotterdam - is transferring to Broadway. OK, so not technically London theatre but it was such a great play and production I’m really pleased to see it doing well.

* Back in London and fringe plays doing well, the excellent Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, which I saw at the White Bear back in January is transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 in May. Yep, I will be seeing it again because I liked it that much.

* Stan-Fav Simon Stephens is adapting The Seagull (one of the only Chekhov plays I actually like) for a production at the Lyric Hammersmith starring Lesley Sharp in the Autumn.

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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.

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REVIEW: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (and Imelda Staunton)?, Harold Pinter Theatre

9-Imelda-Staunton-as-Martha-in-Edward-Albees-Whos-Afraid-of-Virginia-Woolf-in-the-West-End.jpgWhatever I've seen Imelda Staunton in, she's been brilliant; even if the play hasn't been up to much she manages to shine, so expectations were high for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

I've not seen Edward Albee's play before so can't compare it with other productions. I've heard some say they thought Kathleen Turner's Martha would take the award if pitted directly against Imelda but, for me, she was everything I expected; she is as scary, damaged and sharp as the promotional picture implies. And, Conleth Hill - who plays one of my favourite characters in Game of Thrones - is the perfect foil, as the listlessly sour George.

Set in their home, Martha and George return late from a party at the University faculty where George teaches. Martha has invited over a young couple  - Nick (Luke Treadaway) and Honey (Imogen Poots) - from the party for drinks. George is in the history department, Martha's father is president of the University and Nick has just started teaching biology.

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REHEARSAL PHOTOS: Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic

Here they are, Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) rehearsing ahead of the opening of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (the only Tom Stoppard play to date that I really like, but that might just be me). It's the Hamlet story told from the perspective the two minor characters and its very clever and funny.

It opens for previews at the Old Vic on 25 February and then runs until April 29.

 

 


REVIEW The Glass Menagerie, Duke of York's Theatre or enjoyment spoiled bad production design

Screen-Shot-2016-10-21-at-00.13.18-1I'm a firm believer in 'you get what you pay for' except when it comes to theatre because the rule book seems to get thrown out of the window. The last production of The Glass Menagerie I saw was at the Young Vic in 2011 where I probably paid £20 or less and got a perfect view. I was chuffed to bits when I managed to nab a pair of the special offer £20 tickets in the stalls for The Glass Menagerie at the Duke of York's, particularly as it was chance to see Broadway star Cherry Jones and Stan fav Kate O'Flynn.

The seats were on the end of row H, seats that if you were to book them now you would pay nearly £60. Good seats, or so I thought. The problem is that the production design is such that whenever the actors are stage left on a balcony or something, I couldn't see them. Then in the crucial final act when Laura and the gentleman caller are sat on the stage talking, I had the head of the person in front obscuring my view because the rake is too shallow. It meant I couldn't see both characters at the same time and had to make a frustrating choice as to which to watch and therefore felt like I was only getting half of the conversation - do you watch the person talking or the person reacting?

I mention this as a warning: if you are booking avoid the edge of the rows (higher seat numbers). And also to illustrate why the West End is far from the best place to see good theatre in London. I also want to set my review in context because not be able to see properly did spoil my enjoyment - this is a play of nuances.

So what of it? Well Cherry Jones didn't disappoint as the overbearing mother trapped in her own romantic notions and desires for her children. She was beautifully stuck in past as the Southern Belle swishing around in her lacy frock, talking of gentlemen callers and her youth with rose-tinted glasses. All the while her children Tom (Michael Esper) and Laura (Kate O'Flynn) fight to appease her and fight their own wishes and desires.

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Review: The Dresser, Duke of York's and why it feels past its best

The-DresserLove Ken Stott and it was that and a very good ticket offer on Today Tix that got me to a matinee to see The Dresser. And here is where I pause because despite Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith acting their socks off the play just felt lacklustre and a bit past it.

Ronald Harwood's play was first staged in 1980 is set during the Second World War in a theatre where actor/manager 'Sir' (Stott) is having trouble keeping himself together and his long-suffering dresser Norman (Shearsmith) is trying to get him ready to go on stage for an evening performance of King Lear.

I had several problems with the play. Sir is either having some sort of nervous breakdown or has the early signs of dementia and that isn't actually that funny - maybe Ken Stott's weepy, dazed acting is too good. He appears extremely fragile at times and attempts to get him ready for the performance feel almost cruel.

However, in his more lucid moments he is self-centred, self-obsessed and generally not very nice which makes him difficult to empathise with. You can understand why not everyone flatters and fawns over him. There is also one scene when he gropes (sexually assaults) a young actress and that might have been funny to an audience in 1980 but it certainly isn't funny now.

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Rehearsal photos: Katherine Parkinson, Ralph Little, Steve Pemberton and cast in Dead Funny (Vaudeville Theatre)

Eleanor wants a child. Richard would oblige if he could, but he's too busy running the Dead Funny Society. When British comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill turn up their toes in the same week the Society gather for a celebration of hilarity and laughter. But Eleanor’s grin masks a grimace. When your marriage is deader than either Morecambe or Wise it's hard to see the funny side of things.

Terry Johnson's comedy Dead Funny opens at the Vaudeville Theatre on Oct 27 and runs to Feb 4 but in the meantime here are some rehearsal pics: 

 

 


Production photos: The Libertine with Dominic Cooper (and a monkey puppet)

It's currently enjoying a stint at the Theatre Royal Bath before transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket later this month but how excited are we about seeing Dominic Cooper in The Libertine? (I still remember him in his vest in Phedre.) And, of course it also stars Stan-fav Jasper Britton which is adding to the excitement. While we are patiently waiting, here are some production shots* - love the monkey puppet:

 

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Quick review: The Truth, Wyndhams Theatre

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The really quick review of The Truth is: It's great, go and see it and hurry because it finishes next weekend. I made a spur of the moment decision to see it this week and now I feel like I'm late to the Florian Zeller party as I didn't see The Father or The Mother. 

Christopher Hampton has translated the contemporary French playwright's story and it is difficult choosing what to say about the plot because of spoilers. I think it is play best seen knowing as little as possible so I'll just say there are two couples, they are friends, there is deceit and there is the truth.

It is brilliantly written and the cast don't waste a word. It is a witty, sometimes sharp comedy of marriage and friendship that manages to be both familiar and surprising.  And it is very funny, the laughs building as the plot unfolds. I'll say no more, just go and see it if you can.

The Truth is on at the Wyndhams Theatre until September 3 it is 90 minutes long without an interval and I'm giving it five stars.