105 posts categorized "West End" Feed

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.

 


Review: Shrieks and scares in The Woman in Black (touring cast), Fortune Theatre and then on tour

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Matthew Spencer as young Kipps in The Woman In Black, touring cast

The Woman In Black is one of the stalwarts of the West End and it's celebrating 27 years by going on a UK tour. Based on Susan Hill's ghostly novel of the same name, Stephen Mallatratt's adaptation tells the story of a lawyer who wants to unpack the terrifying events of his past by telling his story with the help of an actor.

It is a slow but occasionally amusing set up as the actor (Matthew Spencer) tries to tease some sort of performance out of Mr Kipps' (David Actor) as he recites his tale - it is the ghost story we are all interested in after all. But once we are on that path is when the long standing appeal of this play is evident.

A dark theatre, with its nooks and many entrances and exits proves to be the perfect place to watch a ghostly tale - although the auditorium could be even darker for an even more chilling effect. Kipps' story is of his visit, as a young solicitor, to the isolated and lonely Eel Marsh house. The house gets cut off from the mainland at high tide but can also get cut off by dense sea mists which appear without warning. The house belongs to the recently deceased widow Mrs Drablow and Kipps' job is to put her affairs in order.

The odd behaviour of the locals in the nearby village adds to the spooky atmosphere but it is at Mrs Drablow's funeral that we get a first glimpse of the past and what is to come as the woman in black makes her first appearance.

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Review: Jesse Eisenberg in The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios and why I was a very slightly disappointed

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Jesse Eisenberg in The Spoils, Trafalgar Studios. Photo: Oliver Rosser

Jesse Eisenberg's background is in theatre - acting and more recently writing - but I've only ever seen him on the big screen so I was naturally curious about his play The Spoils. 

It's set in the modern Manhattan apartment of Ben (Jesse Eisenberg) a drinking, weed-smoking wannabe film-maker from a privileged background. He shares the apartment with Kalyan (Kunal Nayyar) who is a Nepalese immigrant studying business on a scholarship.

At one end of the spectrum Ben is the sort of show off that casually feigns indifference at the other he is narcissistic. He won't take rent from Kalyan but it isn't an altruistic move, it is something he does to elevate his own status, something he can hold over him or throw back at him. Kalyan is someone he can parade, show off about, look down on and just occasionally confide in. Us Brits would call Ben a tosser or a C-word - if we used it - Americans would probably call him a jerk.

When Ben discovers that his school crush Sarah (Katie Brayben) is going to marry straight-laced banker Ted (Alfie Allen), he is determined to woo her away from him.

Like most characters from this mould,  Ben's behaviour is all puff, part of the wall he's built to protect himself not just from the outside world but also from himself.  He constantly seeks approval while rebutting it. He seeks connection and yet pushes it away. The more desperate he gets the more painful and cringe-worthy his behaviour becomes.

At first the script crackles with a quick-fired wit tinged with black humour but as Ben spirals downwards, so the humour gets darker until you reach a point when it difficult to laugh any more and it is at that moment you start to pity him and how messed up he really is.

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Re-review: Has Kit Harington's performance blossomed in Dr Faustus, Duke of York's Theatre?

Jenna Russell and Kit Harington in Doctor Faustus. Running at the Duke of York's Theatre London until 25 June 2016  CREDIT Marc Brenner
Jenna Russell and Kit Harington in Doctor Faustus. Photo: Marc Brenner

When I saw it during preview, I had very mixed views about director Jamie Lloyd's Dr Faustus, starring reborn Game of Thones hunk Kit Harington. It was very much in 'suck it and see' mode - I described it as "trying very, very hard" - so I was curious how it would bed in. The £15 Monday ticket sale gave me the opportunity to have a second look and re-evaluate.

The production didn't get great press reviews but I still don't think it really matters in terms of the audience pull - Kit is one of the stars of the world's most popular TV show after all and there is still a crowd at the stage door afterwards.

At the curtain call the first time, Kit looked wary and relieved and Jenna Russell was obviously watching out for him. On Monday he looked relaxed and happy and so he should, the show is better, albeit still with some flaws.

The biggest differences are the pace and performances. First time around it set off at a gallop and never slowed, losing the nuances of the story and performance amid a cacophony of mud, music, magic, blood, vomit and dance. Only the strongest performances - Jenna Russell, Forbes Mason and Colin Teevan - stood out. Kit just melted into the background, at least when he was fully clothed he did.

The production has calmed down a notch. Now rather than Faustus throwing a can of drink over himself and sticking pencils up his nose before he even speaks his first lines, the opening is more simply done moving from watching TV to delivering the soliloquy. There is more light and shade in the pace and in the performances and as a result I noticed Kit more. He felt more like the lead rather than part of the ensemble.

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