Previous month:
May 2012
Next month:
July 2012

June 2012

Yes, Prime Minister? More like no thank you, Prime Minister

In the programme it is referred to as the 'New Yes, Prime Minister' and you can see where writers Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn tried to update this new stage play from the original 80s TV series. Eurozone crisis, global warming and a coalition Government all feature but it still feels far from new.

Firstly if you are going to write a parody or satire of current politics then you need to have a younger generation of politicians. Old farts sitting around in a wood-panelled office, drinking scotch just smacks of, well, old farts sitting around in a wood-panelled office, drinking scotch.

And there are far meatier topics and scenarios around which the central characters could become entangled rather than a potential sex scandal and blackmail. The Leveson Inquiry has been going for nearly a year, for example.

It felt like political comedy light with a bit of a musty odour. Certainly not enough teeth or cleverness for my liking. The older members of the audience seemed to be enjoying it - apart from the elderly American gent who was loudly disgruntled that he'd paid £46 for a ticket which didn't include a programme (he should go to the theatre in New York more often before he starts moaning about the price of theatre tickets in London).

Yes, Prime Minister runs at the Trafalgar Studios 1 runs forever according to the official website (I gave up checking dates when the calendar got to January 2013, not sure if that is a mistake or not) and I'm going to give it two and a half stars.


The well imagined Birthday @royalcourt

141169_2_previewBirthday is a short play (90 minutes straight through) about a long, slow labour. It's almost ironic.

The result is a play that is anything but slow and laboured as writer Joe Penhall has not only kept it short but has turned the tables and made this about a male pregnancy and labour.  Ed (Stephen Mangan) has chosen to have a child after giving birth to their first child left his wife Lisa (Lisa Dillon) physically and psychologically damaged. 

Penhall's play is both nicely observed and nicely imagined. 

Yes Ed, inevitably, is given to 'suffering worse' pain because he is a man but in reversing the roles the tone and subtext of the conversation subtly shifts and as a result perceptions and prejudices are challenged. Well mine were. 

When Ed is rolling around the bed moaning in the agony of labour I couldn't help thinking he was making a big fuss. If it had been an Edwina on the bed I'm sure I would have felt far more sympathetic. 

And it goes deeper than mere labour pains but also challenges sex role stereotypes, stereotypes I was sure I had avoided being conditioned into.

But this is all subtext to what is a witty and funny play as the pain riddled, poked and prodded father to be clashes with hard-pressed, no-nonsense medical staff and his wife who's 'been through it all before'. 

Continue reading "The well imagined Birthday @royalcourt" »

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio June 26 - Jul 1

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Tuesday June 26

9pm on BBC4: Ethan Hawke on Macbeth, it does what it says on the tin, Ethan Hawke talks to historians and artists (including Antony Sher and Greg Doran) about Macbeth. Part of the Shakespeare Uncovered season.

10:35pm on BBC1: Imagine: Theatre of War, from rehearsal room to performance, Imagine follows the theatrical production of The Two Worlds of Charlie F. Professional front line soldiers, all of whom have sustained injury ranging from amputation to post traumatic stress, join forces with a professional theatre company to help write, rehearse and perform a play based on their experiences of war.

11pm on BBC4: Macbeth, directed by  Rupert Goold, starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood.

Wednesday June 27

12:45pm on BBC Radio 4: programme dedicated to Harold Pinter as part of The New Elizabethans season.

Friday June 29

9pm on BBC2: episode two of the Simon Schama's Shakespeare with the participation of Judi Dench, Simon Russell Beale, Tobias Menzies, Roger Allam, Harriet Walter.

11pm on BBC2: The Review show features The Hollow Crown, the BBC's new season of Shakespeare adaptations.

Saturday June 30

10am on BBC Radio 2: Ben Whishaw is the guest on the Graham Norton Radio Show

9pm on BBC2: Richard II with Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Patrick Stewart directed by Rupert Goold.

11:20pm on BBC4: Derek Jacobi on Richard II, part of the Shakespeare Uncovered season.

Sunday July 1

2:45pm on BBC Radio 4 Extra: Front Row interviews Sir Tom Stoppard. Repeat.

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: episode of The Write Stuff about Terrence Rattigan

Catch up on iPlayer

Mark Rylance on Nemone, BBC 6 Music

BBC Radio 2 Arts show interviews Nigel Harman and Maggie Steed about 'School For Scandal' at the Theatre Royal Bath.


What The Butler Saw, wasn't quite what I saw

14The problem I have with What The Butler Saw - well there is more than one - but the main problem is that its black humour sits awkwardly with the farce.

I'm not saying the two are incompatible but here cross dressing as a form of disguise and the subsequent 'hilarious' consequences jar with the darker humour around mental illness and psychiatry.

The first half which sets the scene is a little light on laughs, either that or the audience took a while to warm up.

In it we see lascivious shrink Dr Prentice (Tim McInnerny) dupe wannabe secretary Geraldine Prentice (Georgia Moffett) into thinking she has to have a physical examination as part of her interview. But, just as it is about to get hands on, Prentice's wife (Samantha Bond) turns up having had her dress stolen while enjoying a bunk up in the linen cupboard with Nicholas (Nick Hendrix) the bell boy at a local hotel.

To conceal his indiscretion Prentice gives his wife Geraldine's dress to wear while  the unfortunate secretary is concealed behind a curtain on the examination couch. Then, when a government inspector Dr Rance (Omid Djalili) turns up, Prentice pretends Geraldine is a patient and the ensuing conversation results in her being sectioned.

Bell boy Nicholas then puts in an appearance hoping to blackmail Mrs Prentice about their rendezvous but hot on his tail is  Sergeant Match (Jason Thorpe) who wants him for questioning about an incident involving school girls staying at the hotel.

It spirals out of control from there as clothing swaps and cross dressing become the key method of concealment and Dr Prentice fights to keep his indiscretion secret from his wife and Dr Rance who, in turn, are beginning to think his erratic behaviour is a sign of madness.

Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood or maybe the play is feeling its age but I found the way the women were being treated and talked about mildly offensive and it overpowered much of the humour. I'm quite picky about farce at the best of times which didn't help. 

The second half improves as the lengthy set up begins to unravel to the climax. There was some restoration of equality with two of the male characters ending up running around in their underwear, so it gets points for that.

It is well acted and very well done - I'm sure this form of comedy must be difficult to make look so slick - but there are better comedies to see in the West End at the moment and so I am going to give it 3 stars. What The Butler Saw runs at the Vaudeville until Aug 25


Nice little first degree connection, Jason Thorpe was in the original cast of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre, as was Mr W.

The Last of the Haussmans - move over Bartlett, Beresford has arrived

I9KAI2iiWAGUStephen Beresford's debut play The Last Of The Haussmans reminded me a little of Mike Bartlett's Love Love Love* which I saw last month, except it was better. Now I gave Love, Love, Love five stars but having seen Haussmans on Wednesday I might have to (controversially) retrospectively knock a star off. Haussmans just shines that bit brighter. 

Beresford certainly has an ear for witty dialogue, like Bartlett, and is also a keen observer of domestic human behaviour but his just felt like a more rounded, and therefore satisfying, play with engaging dialogue and never a dull moment.

Both are long plays but Love, Love, Love felt it but then the former did have two intervals which always feels a little indulgent. 

Haussman's is set in the crumbling, art deco, Devon home of hippy, free-spirited, fun-loving grandmother Judy Haussman (Julie Walters) who is recovering from an operation to remove a cancerous tumour.

Her exacerbated, bossy and slightly bitter daughter Libby (Helen McCrory) has come to look after her and sort out the house which she sees as her rightful inheritance. Libby is the victim of what I call absent sibling syndrome; she's the reliable and subsequently put upon child that is always on hand and often overlooked when affection is being handed out. She has in tow her surly outspoken teenage daughter Summer (Isabella Laughland).

The absent sibling comes in the form Nicky (Rory Kinnear) her drop out, ex-addict, gay brother with a penchant for eyeliner**, nail varnish and vanishing at the first sign of any trouble. 

Drawn to the ebullient Judy is local doctor Peter (Matthew Marsh), with whom she flirts, but Peter has eyes for Libby. Peter has introduced local lad Daniel (Taron Egerton making his professional stage debut) to the family and he now uses the Haussman's pool as respite from caring for his obese mother but is also developing affections for one of the Haussmans.

The Last Of The Haussmans is warm and funny but underneath there are a series of very human if complex family relationships being played out and tested. Like Love, Love, Love Beresford's play reflects on how upbringing and the cultural influences of the hippy, free love era has played its part in shaping the subsequent generations and whether it has been wholly for the good. 

Overall Haussmans is thoroughly entertaining and poignant made so, not only because of the script, but the fantastic cast. I'm giving it five stars. Watch out Bartlett.

* In subsequent conversations some have drawn parallels with The Cherry Orchard and I can see that, although it didn't occur to me at the time, probably because I've always found Ranevskaya an irritating character and Judy Haussman was just lovable.

** Slightly disturbed by how fetching I found Rory Kinnear in eyeliner. Starting to see him in whole new light.


Well Rory is the the obvious one having played Laertes to Mr W's Hamlet and Bolingbroke to his Richard II in the soon to be broadcast (June 30) BBC adaptation.

But not one to leave it to just the obvious connection I've unearthed a couple more. The first is also Richard II as Isabella Laughland is in that too and Helen McCrory is in the new Bond film Skyfall in which Mr W is playing Q.

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio June 18 - 24

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Tuesday June 19

9pm on BBC4: In Shakespeare's Women, part of the Shakespeare Uncovered documentaries, Joely Richardson investigates the legacy of Twelfth Night and As You Like It and the great comic heroines created by Shakespeare in these plays. Contributions by Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Germaine Greer, Jonathan Bate. 

Wednesday June 20

7:15pm, BBC Radio 4: Front Row reviews The Last of the Haussmans at the National Theatre, starring Julie Walters and Rory Kinnear.

Friday June 22

12:45pm on BBC Radio 4: BBC Radio 4 series celebrating The New Elizabethans, this episode is dedicated to Laurence Olivier. 

11pm on BBC2: The Review Show discusses Julie Walters' return to the National Theatre in The Last of the Haussmans.

Saturday June 23

9pm on BBC4: Simon Schama's Shakespeare, in two episodes Simon Schama explores Shakespeare's history plays and his vision of England.

Sunday June 24

8pm on BBC4: Julius Caesar, film version of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2012 production of Shakespeare's play, directed by Greg Doran.


Updated: Stan's handy guide to what's actually on at London theatres during the Olympics

There has been lots written about the hit London theatres are going to take during the Olympics and whether some will just close their doors for the duration. So sparked by a rather bare looking diary for August I decided to test the waters and see which theatres are actually producing new (or any) work during the Olympics.

There are an alarming number which don't have anything listed post the end of July, their programmes picking up again at the end of August, but some do.

This is going to be a changing/growing list as stuff is (hopefully) announced and as I gradually work my way through researching more of London's vast array of theatres starting initially with smaller and non-West End theatres*. If you discover something I've missed, I'd love to add it to the list, just email me production name, theatre, dates and web link to production page and I'll post it with a credit.

So if you'd rather watch actors than runners or swimmers in Jul/August** here's what is on offer so far:

Finborough Theatre 

Fear of Breathing - July 17 to Aug 11

Incident at the Border - Sun, Mons & Tues in late July and beginning of Aug, check website for dates

Old Red Lion Theatre

Henry V and Revenger's Tragedy in rep - July 24 - Sept 29

Southwark Playhouse (It's technically after the Olympics but still August)

Much Ado About Nothing - Aug 15 to Aug 18

The Illusion - Aug 22 to Sept 8

Mack and Mabel - Jul 5 to Aug 25 in The Vault

Soho Theatre

John Peel's Shed - Jul 25 to Aug 4

Soho Cinders - Aug 2 to Aug 9

National Theatre 

Is keeping calm and carrying on with its normal array of offerings in rep plus War Horse at the New London Theatre and One Man Two Guv'nors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Landor Theatre

Curtains (musical) Jul 25 to Sep 1


Philadelphia, Here I Come Jul 26 - Sep 22

Royal Court

Birthday Jun 22 - Aug 4

Ten Billion Jul 31 - Aug 11

Of the transfers Posh runs at the Duke of York's until Aug 4 and Jumpy starts on the Aug 16

New additions:

New Diorama Theatre

The Rover Aug 7 - 25

Young Vic

A Doll's House - Run has been extended to Aug 4

Theatre 503

A couple of one off Edinburgh fringe previews towards the end of July

Charing Cross Theatre

Mountview postgraduate shows run in two chunks from Jul 23 - 28 then Aug 6-11

The Globe

Like the National Theatre, it is keeping calm and carrying on with is usual selection of Shakespeare's in rep

Arcola Theatre Tent (theatre is being renovated over the summer)

More graduate shows this time from the Giles Foreman Centre for Acting which is performing Oedipus Rex and One Minute as a double bill from July 31 - Aug 4

Grimeborn - series of operas Aug 21 - Sep 8

Bush Theatre

Bush Bazaar - interactive theatre from Jul 31 - Aug 18

Camden Fringe

14 venues hosting variety of theatre, comedy, puppet shows etc from Jul 30 - 26 Aug

* for the time being - I'm planning to do posts nearer the time on special offers at the big theatres if they materialise

** The London Olympics run from Friday Jul 27 until Aug 12 and Paralympics 29 Aug until 9 Sept

Minsk, 2011: much to be admired if not wholly understood.

ImageI'm not going to pretend that I understood everything that was going on at the Young Vic's Maria Studio on Thursday night but whatever it was, it was affecting.

Performing in Russian the Belarus Free Theatre Company present a series of events in Minsk through movement and dialogue (with subtitles) from the clapping demonstrations to the underground bomb and more subtle depictions of the authorities attitude towards homosexuality and prostitution.

It leaves you in no uncertain terms that Belarus is a hard place to live, an oppressive place and I was beginning to wonder where the connection, the loyalty and love sprung from between the performers and the place that has persecuted and in some cases banished them.

But it was there, subtly at first and then more firmly as each of the actors spoke in turn about what Minsk meant to them at the end.

Minsk, 2011 is a curious and at times odd piece that isn't helped by the the subtitles. They are projected quite high at the back of the stage so you often have to choose to read the dialogue or watch what is going on. With the former, when there is a conversation it sometimes got confusing as to who was saying what and with the latter you'd lose the complete sense of the action by missing the words.

There is one particular scene where one of the actresses strips off naked and is painted black with decorating rollers by the rest of the cast. Then she is wrapped from head to toe in white paper. All the time this was going on she is speaking and from trying to follow the dialogue and what was going on below - it certainly had visual impact - the whole sequence was, well, lost in translation. I have no idea of the point it was making. 

Despite this, I couldn't help feeling a lot of good will and admiration for the performers. What they do, in a socio-political context, is very brave something that is cemented when at the curtain call the artistic director requested donations so the company can go back to Belarus and perform underground.

I'm going to give Minsk, 2011 four stars. It is a difficult watch and not only for content but you can't ignore its heart. It runs at the Maria Studio at the Young Vic until June 23.


Ben Whishaw West End return confirmed

Peter-and-aliceI love @polyg. While I was busy getting my beauty sleep Michael Grandage was announcing (and confirming what was rumoured earlier this year) that Mr Whishaw is going to be back on stage at last, and she was busily buying up tickets.

It is the new John Logan play Peter and Alice which also stars Dame Judi Dench (lovely pic of them together comes from the plays official page). The play is about the real life meeting of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan or at least children that inspired the characters when they are grown up. Guess who is playing Peter? 

It runs from the 9 March until June 1 at the Noel Coward Theatre (if you are going on either of those dates let me know as that's when we have tickets).

But it isn't the only exciting announcement by the newly formed Michael Grandage Company. He has also lured Daniel Radcliffe back to the stage in his home town. My London theatre obsession started with seeing Mr Radcliffe in Equus and I've wanted to see him do something else on stage ever since. 

He will star in Michael McDonagh's The Cripple of Innishmaan which runs from June 8 - 31 August. And yes @polyg bought tickets for that too.

I can barely even bring myself to mention that Grandage has also got Sheridan Smith and David Walliams in a Midsummers Night's Dream and Simon Russell Beale in Privates on Parade. Too much excitement for this time of the morning and now I need to go and get ready for work.