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December 2012

Probably the most important theatre awards of 2012: The StOliviers

It's that time again, or rather I have time on hands, so here we go, here are my awards for this year's good and bad behaviour and some of things that stood out (and no that isn't a euphemism for Tom Colley, or maybe it is ;0):

The bite the hand that feeds you award:

Royal Court. Jez Butterworth's new play. No advance tickets for paying members. (Royal Court's collection of StOlivier's for pissing off those that fork out for membership is growing)

Highly commended: Donmar's £10 front row seats not on sale to members in advance.

The 'Oh hello' moment of the year award:

No contest on this one, the aforementioned Tom Colley wandering around the stage naked with the body of a Greek god in Judas Kiss. Rupert Everett you lucky, lucky man having to stare at that every night. Lucky man. *Sighs*.

Health and safety nightmare award:

It is challenging enough appearing on stage, there are the lines to remember, the performance, the marks to hit, the props etc without set designers giving you trip hazards all over the place.

Runner up for this goes to designer Dale Ferguson for putting crumpled velvet all over the Hampstead Theatre stage in Judas Kiss. Cue: actors obviously stepping very carefully so as not to stumble or trip (and they did on occasion).

But the winner is Lucy Osborn who put sand on the stage for Berenice at the Donmar. Walking on sand in sandals with purpose and dignity? Even in bare feet Ann Marie Duff stumbled. And then there was the scene in which Stephen Campbell Moore had to deliver an impassioned speech, kneeling before Duff while all the time one knee was slowly sliding down a hollow in the sand.  Thank goodness he finished the speech before he did himself a groin injury.

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My 2013 theatre wish list

Already have a quite choice collection of treats lined up for next year's theatre trips: Ben Whishaw on stage with Judi Dench in a John Logan play, James McAvoy doing Macbeth, Rowan Atkinson in Quartermaine's Terms and Mark Rylance in 12th Night in a proper theatre (yes I'm being provocative and no I haven't seen it yet).

But London is an indulgent parent to this theatre addict and as such I'm a spoilt child who always wants something more, so if London's theatre land really loved me it would offer up the following:

Alan Rickman - At the beginning of the year there were rumours of Alan Rickman's Broadway play transferring to the West End. Yes, please. Or another play, I'm not fussy, just want to hear his lovely gravely voice again.

A young(er) Hamlet - The RSC has disappointed a little by going very traditional with its choice of Jonathan Slinger to play the Dane next year. There are so many great younger actors out there whom I'd love to see give it a go, in no particular order: Andrew Scott, Colin Morgan, Eddie Redmayne, Harry Melling, Luke Treadaway, Jack Gordon... go on remind me of the many I've missed. What I want is a youthful, contemporary production, it makes so much more sense when Hamlet is proper student age.

All female productions - The all woman Julius Caesar at the Donmar got me thinking about which other productions I'd like to see with a totally female cast and the different ways of approaching it. At the Donmar they used a play within a play concept to explain why there were no men but I'd be curious to see other interpretations. I'd love to see a woman play Hamlet for example or a lesbian Othello...

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New Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke's end of first year report

A new year, a new artist director at one of my favourite theatre's but how has Josie Rourke done in her first 12 months?

Michael Grandage was a safe pair of hands, he had a certain style, a safe style, you pretty much knew what you were getting. With Rourke came the promise of something new, fresh and, perhaps, less safe.

Well she started by stamping her mark all over the auditorium. The wall behind the stalls was removed immediately giving a sense of space to the Donmar's auditorium and making the audience feel even more part of the action.

And there was a distinct feminine touch for the first production - The Recruiting Officer. Seats were covered in floral prints as was the circle balcony and the back of the stage was lit with dozens of candles. Extending the set or at least the theme of the play into the auditorium as been a common device most recently replacing the banquette seating with plastic, institution-style chairs for the prison-set Julius Caesar.

There has been a interesting choice of plays too although nothing you wouldn't expect to see at the Donmar. The afforementioned Recruiting Officer and Julius Caesar have been the bookend to Rourke's first year with Making Noise Quietly, The Physicists, Philadelphia, Here I Come and Berenice in between.

If pressed to pick a favourite it would have to be The Physicists just by a whisker over Julius Caesar and Philadelphia. Recruiting Officer had it's problems, Berenice had its moments but Making Noise Quietly was definitely a low point, just dull, dull, dull. It reminded me of Moonlight which was staged under Grandage's tenure last year and appeared in my least favourite plays of 2011 list.

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In which Stan goes to a pantomime: Get Aladdin @landortheatre (oh no she doesn't)


If you like your pantomimes camp, smutty and full of gay innuendo then hurry along to the Landor Theatre in Clapham for the strictly adults only Get Aladdin.

Grab a drink in the pub downstairs to wet your 'boo' and 'hiss', pick up your glow stick and bubble blowing kit and settle down for a good old giggle and guffaw.

It's loosely based on traditional Aladdin story - you have all the familiar characters but reborn in a modern setting but, lets face it, you aren't really there for the story. 

With a witty and crackling script and some great ad libbing (don't sit on the front row if you are the shy retiring type) this is great, silly fun and the antidote to anything you'll find in London with a c-list celeb in it.

Get Aladdin runs at the Landor until January 13.



A year in London theatreland: arrivals, departures and angering members

7671532902_4ddcb26e44It's certainly been an Olympic year in London theatreland, 2012 has seen a slew of hellos and goodbyes, theatres riling those paying for membership schemes and, despite the recession, new theatres.

Departures include the announcement that Michael Boyd will step down as artistic director at the RSC with Greg Doran taking over next year. With the new theatres open and established in Stratford Upon Avon, perhaps Doran will be able to devote some attention to a permanent London home for the company. 

Dominic Cooke also announced he was leaving the Royal Court with National Theatre of Scotland's Vicky Featherstone taking the helm in April next year.

Meanwhile it was hello to Josie Rourke who began her tenure as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse (more on her first year in a future post) while Mandani Younis stepped into her vacated shoes at the Bush Theatre.

And a sort of hello as Michael Grandage launched his first season of plays in the West End following his departure from the Donmar Warehouse. He attracted some impressive acting names to the Donmar and his new West End season isn't any different but more on what I'm looking forward to in another post (yes I have time on my hands) and no prizes for guessing which production is top of my 'can't wait for' list.

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It was marmite to theatre bloggers but were critics similarly divided by In the republic of happiness?

It's not unusual for plays to divide but the extent of contrasting opinions about the Royal Court's In The Republic of Happiness has been stark - from the blogging community at least. For my part I hated it and tried to fall asleep, I've seen another blogger begin their reviews saying: "Don't go and see this play" and the reader rating on the Evening Standard website is two stars.

The flip side is having it described as "epic" afterwards. It was press night on Weds and the reviews have trickled in so has it been as divisive among the critics?


Paul Taylor in The Independent describes it as "a razor-sharp production of a work that could be described as the ultimate antidote to mindless festive cheer."

Libby Purves in The Times (£): "It’s a bracingly sour seasonal treat: Crimpmas, if you like."

Fence sitter

Michael Billington in The Guardian: "I admire Crimp's ambition, but his play left me puzzled."

David Benedict, Variety: Although Crimp's typical fascination with breaking down traditional form is admirable, his experimentation sails close to the level of arrogance given its lack of interest in the limits of the audience's attention span.

Henry Hitchins, Evening Standard: "Although it ends weakly and brims with phrases that many theatergoers will find offensive or baffling, this is a spiky provocation that is also deviously poetic."


Charles Spencer, The Telegraph said: "The Royal Court’s decision to offer Crimp for Christmas is clearly a sly little joke on the part of its outgoing artistic director Dominic Cooke, though one that’s about as funny as presenting your alcoholic uncle with a festively wrapped bottle of malt whisky when he has been precariously on the wagon for six months."

V&A theatre archive goes onto iPad app

Definitely one for theatre curious. The V&A has created a nifty app for the iPad charting 60 years of British theatre in 100 plays using its archive material.

The app contains over 600 photos, original cast lists, interviews, essays, videos and opening night reviews so you can track Michael Billington's thoughts on theatre from when he was just a cub critic.

I'd be rushing over to the apple store to buy it (£7.99) but I don't have an iPad. Perhaps they'll do an iPhone version soon.

Review: In the Republic of Happiness or the play I wanted to sleep through

In_the_republic_of_happiness_jpg_510x340_crop_upscale_q85I passed two women on my way to the loo after watching Martin Crimp's In The Republic of Happiness yesterday evening and overheard one saying to the other: "You were lucky, you fell asleep".

And for the first time in my theatre-going life, I have to say that I felt her jealousy.

I'd tried to fall asleep myself, yes I actually tried to fall asleep.

Stuck in the middle of the row it was my only means of escape from what was unfolding on stage.

The Royal Court's play for the festive period starts promisingly at a Christmas lunch where family members bicker and bitch.

Things then start going downhill with the sudden arrival of Uncle Bob (Paul Ready) who is bent on delivering a speech of vitriol and bile towards his extended family on behalf of his wife Madeleine (Michelle Terry) who has chosen to stay in the car.

It is nastiness that extends beyond anything realistic but can't even be framed in some sort of context.

On the back of the play text, it asks a series of questions one of which is "What is the meaning of his long and outrageous speech?"

You'd think there would be a hint of an answer but no. By the end, we have learnt nothing of Uncle Bob, Madeleine or hatred in the speech.

There are two good bits in the play: the two scene changes.

It all happens in full view, sets rise into the fly, other bits glide forward, decoration is removed by stage-hands, quite mesmerising.

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Review: Bathtime @sohotheatre for Jack Thorne's Mydidae

3Keir Charles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Mydidae, Soho Theatre, 5 December 2012 (courtesy of Simon Annand) 5

Mydidae, as I discovered when I googled it, isn't some obscure Greek tragedy but actually a type of fly and, unsurprisingly, an appropriate title for Jack Thorne's new play at the Soho Theatre's tiny studio space.

Its bathroom setting - the most intimate and private room - makes it feel almost like a fly on the wall documentary. The littlest room is where flesh is bared, ablutions and basic bodily function performed, it is a private space and one where cohabitation suggests a level of comfort and ease.

And, it is a fully plumbed in bathroom. The toilet is used by both characters, married couple Marian (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) and David (Keir Charles), as is the bath.

It also seemed appropriate that a play with a title that made me mistakenly think 'Greek tragedy' should have a whiff of the tragic running through the story.

What we get with Mydidae is a combination of the mundane ordinariness of a relationship, those little in jokes, behaviours and routine that couples fall into behind closed doors and a sense that despite all the affable banter and gestures of affection, there is something not quite right. This is a couple that has issues.

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James McAvoy takes on Macbeth - who would be on my dream supporting cast list?

Much excitement this morning when @polyg alerted me to the fact that the lovely James McAvoy was to be treading the boards next year, taking on the lead in Shakespeare's Scottish play at the Trafalgar Studios. Only six weeks ago I was saying how much I wanted to hear more of McAvoy's natural Scottish accent having seen him in a one off rehearsed reading but I wasn't expecting to get my wish quite so soon.

Director Jamie Lloyd has expressed a wish to have an entirely Scottish cast which got me thinking about who'd I'd like to see in the the key roles. Naturally I'd love, love, love to see Anne-Marie Duff star opposite her hubby as Lady M but she's not Scottish although I'm sure she'd be fab at the accent.

If Lloyd does go for all Scottish what would be the dream combo of the key characters from the wealth of talent on offer?  Here's my quick and by no means extensively researched list:

Lady Macbeth

As Mr McAvoy is a spritely 33, his good lady wife needs to be of a comparable age and if we can't have Anne-Marie then I'd like it to be someone quite young, strong, ambitious and a little self important but still delicate enough to go a bit mad and distressed, someone beautiful that turned Macbeth's head. Perhaps someone like Rose Leslie.

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