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February 2016

That was February in London theatre - news, views and celeb spots

John Hurt_photo credit BAFTA Ian Derry
John Hurt, photo courtesy of BAFTA Ian Derry

It's been a month of highs, lows, laughs and grumbles:

* Well the theatre news of the month had to be the announcement that Andrew Garfield is to tread the boards at the National Theatre next year in Angels in America. He's on my list of actors I'm desperate to see on stage. Already saving my pennies as one viewing is almost certainly not going to be enough.

* The Andrew Garfield casting news was part of package of exciting names attached with forthcoming productions at the National - Rory Kinnear, Ralph Fiennes, Ivo Van Hove, Robert Icke, Lucian Msamati, Anna Chancellor, Tamsin Greig plus a new play by Alexi Kaye Campbell and an adaptation of the Threepenny Opera by Simon Stephens. I had to sit in a dark room for a bit. 

* And then following that it was announced Glenda Jackson is to return to the stage after 25 years to play King Lear at the Old Vic and John Hurt is to star opposite Kenneth Branagh in The Entertainer. Can't wait to hear John Hurt's distinctive gravelly voice live.

* Was hoping that missing Ma Rainey at the National last month was going to be a one off but I ended up missing two plays this month - Uncle Vanya because its long running time would mean a very late night for a weekday (boo hiss to the Almeida's bad scheduling). And then I missed Complicite's Encounter at the Barbican because I was laid low with a cold. I've heard very good things about both, typical.

* The Almeida's bad scheduling was just one of three grumbles I had with theatre land this month. The Donmar and Young Vic are also in my bad books for bad  staging and bad communication about booking periods.

* My viewing highlights of the month include the hilarious Hand To GodA Girl Is A Half Formed Thing and Cleansed although that latter is for reasons of notoriety rather than anything else.

* Nominations are still open for theatre hottie of the month for February.

Celeb spot corner: Thanks to press night tickets for Hand To God I got to stand next to Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) albeit briefly. Missed Harry Melling's Harry Potter mummy Fiona Shaw who was also there, unfortunately. Love Fiona Shaw. Did spot Robert Lindsay (again) and Tamsin Outhwaite in a big hat. And I also keep bumping into George MacKay when I'm on my lunch time walk. He's always in the same spot, smoking a fag, presumably making the most of a break in rehearsals for The Caretaker. No sign of Daniel Mays or Timothy Spall yet.

...and three things I'm particularly looking forward to in March: Jonathan Broadbent wearing lycra in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Lyric Hammersmith, Maids at the Trafalgar Studios, which seems to be getting the Twittersphere excited and The Caretaker at the Old Vic mainly because of the fab cast.


Review: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, Young Vic (and the Cleansed comparison)

Enews569x364There are parallels between Sarah Kane's Cleansed which is currently playing at the National Theatre and Anna Ryan's adaptation of Eimer McBride's novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at the Young Vic. I didn't immediately see them but watching the latter reminded me of one of the problems with the former.

Both are very personal stories. I wrote in my review of Cleansed that I felt like a voyeur of someone else's emotional pain but ultimately felt detached from it. A Girl... is a monologue, a stream of consciousness about the life of a girl, her relationship with her family and men as she grows up. You can't be anywhere but with her through the good and the bad times - Aoife Duffin's performance is utterly compelling and holds you transfixed.

It's not a pretty story, it's a very difficult story to watch unfold at times in fact, but instead of using scenes of torture to represent the grim, darker sides of human emotion, as Cleansed does, A Girl's... simple storytelling relies just on Aoife Duffin's performance. She pulls you into the story; there is a connection, a bond, Aoife Duffin disappears and becomes the woman of the story. You witness the horrors she feels, the injustice, the fun and grief.

At times you want to hug her, comfort her, defend her, at times you want to scream at her and shake her. It is an often bleak story, explicit and unflinching but it doesn't push you away. Her struggles, reactions and emotions are not shrouded in the abstract as Cleansed is but instead a sort of poetry. There is a stark lyricism to it.

Continue reading "Review: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, Young Vic (and the Cleansed comparison)" »

Who should be my theatre hottie for February?

I wondered if this might happen at some point, I don't have an overall hottie for February. Some cuties, yes, but not a real hottie. In my defence I've had to drop some theatre-going this month due to a nasty cold and work pressures, so I haven't seen quite as much as I would normally.

So, I'm going to open it up to my fellow theatre-goers: Who saw a hottie on stage this month?  Send in your suggestions either via the comments, email or Twitter and then I'll carefully research them and pick the one I would have loved to have seen myself. You'll get neither fame or glory, just a mention on this blog and my gratitude.


Theatre-land behaving badly - three pet peeves so far this year

4628277817_d0ab67f499_zWe are only just coming up for two months into the year and as well as some strong contenders for my best of list (Hand To God and David Tennant's Richard II to name just two) theatre-land is determined to irritate and annoy me.

So far we've had:

The long, long play not starting early

Culprit: Uncle Vanya, Almeida.

What I'd like to say to theatre-land: Guess what, quite a lot of us have to get up and go to work in normal jobs that start at normal times, not theatre-land time, so not getting home until 11.45pm on a Monday isn't good.

Bad set design

Culprit: Welcome Home, Captain Fox!, Donmar Warehouse.

What I'd like to say to theatre-land: Hello! Audience here. Hi, yes it's us, you know the ones that pay to sit in those things called the seats around the stage, so we can watch the actors, watch as in see them? Kind of irritating when you have a table at the front of the stage, right in my sight line and I miss key scenes because I can't friggin' see what is going on. If I wanted to sit and watch a table for two and a half hours I'd do it in the comfort of my own home and not pay £30+ for the privilege.

Disorganised friends schemes

Culprit: Young Vic.

What I'd like to say to theatre-land: You know that money I pay you every year? Yep that, it's nice having a bit of money isn't it?  Well I give you that money so I get priority on booking because I like the best seats. So it is intensely irritating when I get home after work to discover an email in my inbox announcing the new season and that tickets went on sale six hours ago. Notice people, give a bit of notice that's all I ask, buying tickets involves a bit of organisation.

Moan over.

Angry-Ann picture by Josh Janssen on Flickr and used under a creative commons license.

So who's been cast as female Mephistopheles in Jamie Lloyd's Dr Faustus? I was almost right. Almost.

When Jamie Lloyd announced he was casting a woman as Mephistopheles opposite Kit Harington in Dr Faustus I came up with a wishlist:

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 18.15.14Well today it was announced that Jenna Russell is to take the part. So not someone on my wish list but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to see Jenna - I've only seen her in one play - Mr Burns at the Almeida - as she tends to do musicals.

But someone on my wish list has made it on the cast list and that is Jade Anouka - yay! No news on which part she'll play but I'm taking credit for putting her name in the mind of Jamie Lloyd. Of course I did.

Review: Welcome Home Captain Fox! at the Donmar Warehouse

19990_show_landscape_large_01-1During the interval of Welcome Home, Captain Fox! PolyG said to me 'I nearly didn't recognise Danny Webb' to which I replied 'Danny Webb is in this?' such is his transformation. Once you know it's him it becomes obvious but it's an interesting parallel to the plot of this updated adaptation Jean Anouilh's play La Voyageur San Bagage by Anthony Weigh.

Jean Anouilh's Le Voyageur Sans Bagage
Jean Anouilh's Le Voyageur Sans Bagage

The Captain Fox of the title refers to Rory Keenan's character Gene, a soldier who, has been languishing in an East Berlin prison for 15 years, since World War II, without any memory of who he is. Gene is the name he is given as one of his captures is a Eugene O'Neill fan.

Danny Webb's character DeWitt is a low grade businessman whose socially ambitious wife (Katherine Kingsley) discovers Gene in a military sanitarium and decides that if she can help reunite him with his long lost - and hopefully rich family - it will improve her social status. Top of the list of potential families are the wealthy Fox's who live in a large house by the sea on Long Island and that is where the couple find themselves with Gene.

Welcome Home, Captain Fox! is one of those plays that is actually a lot more interesting than the synopsis would initially suggest. It is not just a case of whether Gene is the missing, presumed dead son of the Fox's, it is also about whether they want him to be their son Jack. And, as Gene finds out more about Jack, whether he actually wants to be that person. It is a play about identity, self perception and whether you can erase the past and start over. That makes it sounds quite serious but it's actually quite funny and a production that will no doubt get funnier as the actors get slicker (I saw an early preview).

Continue reading "Review: Welcome Home Captain Fox! at the Donmar Warehouse" »

Sarah Kane + Katie Mitchell: Watching Cleansed at the National Theatre or a review of sorts

Cleansed_picture__gallery_imageSarah Kane's plays are Marmite. Katie Mitchell's directing is Marmite. The National Theatre has put the two together. I sat in my seat with trepidation. This is sort of what happened in an abridged version *spoilers*:

Lights up: Stage is a distressed, paint-peeling, abandoned-looking institution of sort. School perhaps. Michelle Terry is in a red dress. Bell rings. She watches what happens but no one seems to notice she is there.

Man begs for drugs. Is given drugs by 'Tinker' (Stan: Look at lap during graphic injection bit). Man taken away presumably dead.

Male lovers talk about their relationship one wants to hear 'I love you forever' the other can only say 'I love you now'.

'I love you forever' is brutally tortured until he admits he'd save himself, not his lover. It is recorded. (Stan: Look at lap during torture).

Bell rings.

Scary men in black suits and black masks with black umbrellas walk  v   e   r   y     s   l   o   w   l   y across the stage with a cremation urn. (Stan: Smirk thinking of the Twitter conversation about Mitchell and slo-mo had had before the play)

Michelle Terry is noticed for first time. Begs for her dead brother's clothes. Swaps clothes with Matthew Tennyson (Stan: doesn't MT look good in that red dress).

Michelle Terry's brother is alive. They dance, mirroring each other.

Bell rings (you get the idea)

Male lovers are back. Confession under torture is played back. Tested again under torture. (Stan: Examine nails closely) Victim is wheeled off stage.

Men in black suits walking  v   e   r   y     s   l   o   w   l   y again.

Michelle Terry shags brother. Wanders around naked. (Stan: Michelle Terry must be cold.)

Booth is wheeled on. Inside is a woman in stringy red bra and knickers, she dances for Tinker who masturbates. He talks to her through an intercom and says he loves her.

Continue reading "Sarah Kane + Katie Mitchell: Watching Cleansed at the National Theatre or a review of sorts" »

Review: Hand to God, Vaudeville Theatre or what would happen if satan visited Sesame Street

Harry Melling (Jason) and Tyrone
Harry Melling (Jason) and Tyrone in Hand to God, Vaudeville Theatre

There is a scene in Hand To God that had me laughing so hard it hurt. It's also one of those scenes that you just can't unsee... and it involved puppets.

Robert Askins' irreverent, irreligious play started out 'off off Broadway', its success eventually propelling it onto Broadway-proper, a parallel journey to The Play That Goes Wrong here in London. Hand To God arrives at the Vaudeville in the West End with a new, British cast and perhaps fills a gap for a much needed rib-tickler on a dark, cold, winter evening.

It makes Simon Russell Beale's humourous profanity in Mr Foote's Other Leg seem so innocent but it also a play that has a heart. Jason (Harry Melling) is a dispirited, doleful teenager helping out his mum Margery (Janie Dee) with a church puppet show. His fellow 'Christketeers' are the dowdy and meek Jessica (Jemima Rooper) and the foul-mouthed, bully Timothy (Kevin Mains) who only attends because of his lascivious feelings towards Jason's mum.

Margery is also the object of Pastor Greg's affections (Neil Pearsons) who has been supporting her after the loss of her husband and Jason's father. Margery is clinging on by her finger nails and just needs Jason to be 'her rock'. To say Jason finds comfort in his sock puppet Tyrone sounds a bit wrong but he does and in return Tyrone turns into the devil and wreaks havoc.

Continue reading "Review: Hand to God, Vaudeville Theatre or what would happen if satan visited Sesame Street" »

Five actors I'd love to see on stage - an update

7917222618_1050343ce5_zStarted watching the BBC's War and Peace this week - brilliant cast but Paul Dano particularly stands out as Pierre. I've long been a fan of his screen work; it was Little Miss Sunshine in 2006 that brought him to my attention. He's done a heap of amazing stuff since then: There Will Be Blood, 12 Year's A Slave, Love and Mercy and most recently Youth.

I would love to see him on stage which got me thinking about the lists I've done in the past so I dug them out and immediately wanted to add some names.

This was my first list in 2011 and it very much still stands although I can cross Julie Walters off now - she was a brilliant as I imagined she would be. Then @PolyG did a list in 2014 which I added to including Andrew Garfield whom I'm hoping to tick off my list next year. But here are five more names I want add, what do you think?

Paul Dano

For the reasons set out above and he's no stranger to treading the boards on Broadway so what's he waiting for? Come on Paul, it's lovely over here in London.

Alicia Vikander

She's been a regular presence on the silver screen, in fact at one point last year I think I saw her in three different films in the space of a month. She's nominated for best supporting actress for A Danish Girl - it should be best actress because it certainly wasn't a supporting role. I first spotted her in the Danish-language film A Royal Affair in 2012 and I'm intrigued to see if her screen presence translates to the stage.


Continue reading "Five actors I'd love to see on stage - an update" »

Rehearsal photos: A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Lyric Hammersmith

Jonathan Broadbent as a silver cape wearing Oberon? Yes please and if the trailer (below) and rehearsal pics are anything to go by this looks fun. I'm also hoping to make up for missing him in Stratford last year. Cast also includes Ferdy Roberts, Hammed Animashaun, John Lightbody, Victoria Mosely and Clare Dunne. It runs at the Lyric Hammersmith from February 19 to March 19 and the trailer featuring Jonathan is at the bottom of the post. Click on the thumbnails for bigger versions.


  • Jonathan Broadbent & Ferdy Roberts - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • L-R Victoria Moseley, John Lightbody, Hammed Animashaun & Clare Dunne - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • L-R Hammed Animashaun, Jonathan Broadbent & Clare Dunne - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Cat Simmons - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Jonathan Boradbent & Clare Dunne - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Hammed Animashaun - A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Ferdy Roberts - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ferdy Roberts - A Midsummer Night's Dream


Continue reading "Rehearsal photos: A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Lyric Hammersmith" »