114 posts categorized "Comedy" Feed

Review: The Actor's Nightmare, Park Theatre - a few giggles but it needs more bite

The Actor's Nightmare is six short plays, linked by themes of acting, theatre and performance and brought together for the first time at the Park Theatre.

The Cast of The Actor's Nightmare. Photo credit - Ali Wright
The Cast of The Actor's Nightmare. Photo: Ali Wright

It kicks off with a monologue, Mrs Sorken, which is in part a lecture about the etymology of words such as 'theatre' and part reflection from a theatre-goer.

While observations about the ancient origins of the language around theatre and performance elevate the importance of the medium, the theatre-goer brings things down to earth with a bump, talking about the practicalities of outside theatre and wanting to be home by 10.30.

The irony of the arts perceived lofty importance pitched against mundane reality is refreshing and I'd have liked to have seen more of the audience perspective explored.

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Review: Who won the battle of comedies - Present Laughter (Old Vic) or Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith)?

London's theatreland is ripe for a good hearty laugh. I mean look at the state of the world, who wouldn't want to bury their head in giggles for a couple of hours?

Present Laughter Old Vic poster

And so we are spoiled by not one but two classic comedies both with stellar casts: Present Laughter starring Andrew Scott and Indira Varma at the Old Vic and Noises Off starring Meera Syal and Daniel Rigby at the Lyric Hammersmith.

But which one is best?

The two plays haven't just got comedy in common, both involve actors playing actors.

Andrew Scott plays Garry Essendine a stage star with his coterie of friends and staff trying to stop him making bad decisions - or are they riding on the coattails of his fame as he believes.

Drama off stage

In Noises Off Meera Syal is one of a troupe of actors touring the regions where the drama offstage threatens to overshadow that on stage.

What the play is most famous for is showing the same scene not only as it appears on stage but also from backstage. You get to see it three times in fact.

Both plays rely on running jokes and a lot of comings and goings, lots of doors, people missing each other and being kept apart.

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Review: Dark Sublime, Trafalgar Studios - laughs and hammy 80s sci-fi but could be slicker

While the play gets off to a punchy start with plenty of laughs it doesn't feel like the focus on relationships, loneliness and the nature of friendship get sufficient purchase. 

Dark Sublime  Trafalgar Studios (credit Scott Rylander) (3) Marina Sirtis and Kwaku Mills
Dark Sublime Trafalgar Studios: Marina Sirtis and Kwaku Mills. Photo: Scott Rylander

There are two actors playing actors on stage in London at the moment and both characters present as needy and vain.

Andrew Scott's Garry in Present Laughter (Old Vic) is at the extreme end of the spectrum but there are elements too in Marina Sirtis' Marianne.

She's an actress whose star has long been in the descendent having reached the heady heights of a 1980s sci-fi series called Dark Sublime and some episodes in a soap.

Now she gets by on the odd bit of radio work and corporate training gigs and spends her evenings drinking and grumbling with old friend Kate (Jacqueline King) when she isn't seeing her new, young girlfriend Suzanne (Sophie Ward).

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Review: Little Bulb Theatre's The Future, Battersea Arts Centre - science and rock songs (guess which I liked more?)

The eccentric inventiveness of what Little Bulb has done is thoroughly entertaining.

Little Bulb  The Future at Battersea Arts Centre 2019  PHOTOCREDIT Adam Trigg - www-naturaltheatre-photos Future-006
Little Bulb Theatre: The Future, Battersea Arts Centre 2019. Photo: Adam Trigg

I loved Little Bulb Theatre's last production Orpheus so much I saw it twice, so I was really excited to see their new work The Future.

It projects us into the world of three scientists who, with the help of a compere/conductor/presenter (Clare Beresford), explore super intelligence - AI - and the impact it will have on humanity. 

This being Little Bulb their take is executed with quirkiness, music and song.

The scientists wear tinfoil on their heads and have an idiosyncratic way of talking that manages to be nerdy, dry and humorous all at the same time. Shamira Turner is particularly brilliant in her style of delivery.

Living with super intelligence

AI is represented by a box on a stand - the genie contained - and the play (and it's rock-inflected songs) explore the good and bad of living with super intelligence.

Scenarios and presentations are played out by the scientists in their own quirky style of fun and you find yourself laughing at them just as much as with.

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Review: Education, Education, Education, Trafalgar Studios - riotous, funny, occasionally chaotic but not just nostalgia

Riotous in tone, occasionally chaotic but with an inventive playfulness Education, Education, Education successfully captures the optimism of the time but it isn't just nostalgia.

The-Wardrobe-Ensembles-Education-Education-Education-at-Trafalgar-Studios-c-James-Bullimore-3
The Wardrobe Ensemble's Education, Education, Education, Trafalgar Studios. Photo: James Bullimore

It's 1997 the day after the General Election. Tony Blair has just swept Labour to victory, the UK won the Eurovision (remember that) and Britpop is riding high.

There is a feeling of optimism and pride in the country. I remember it well.

At Wordsworth Comprehensive, where the textbooks are 15 years old, the teachers feel it too, election promises of extra funding  - Blair's mantra of Education, Education, Education - has got some of them in a bit of a giddy mood. 

End of term atmosphere

Year 11 are feeling giddy too. It is the last day before they start revision leave but with exams feeling a long way off the atmosphere is more end of term.

Staff room politics over teaching styles and levels of discipline are set to clash with teenage exuberance just as parents are due to arrive for the leavers' assembly.

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Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre - humour, fun and feminism

Music and a final dance metaphorically lifts Emilia and her message onto shoulders and had the audience leaping up for a standing ovation.

Clare Perkins (Emilia 3)  Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Clare Perkins (Emilia 3) Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray.

I've read reviews of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's play Emilia that describe its feminist message as 'unsubtle' and the titular character's suffering as overblown.

It's comments like that, which reinforce the need for plays like this and why, perhaps, the time for subtlety is over.

An all-female cast tells the story of Emilia Lanier née Bassano regarded as the first professional female poet, one of the first feminist writers in England and possibly the inspiration behind Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

Three actresses - Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins - play Emilia at three stages of her life.

Perkins' Emilia opens and closes the play with rousing speeches about the inequality and prejudice served upon herself and women generally.

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Review: RSC's Don Quixote, Garrick Theatre - fun and poignancy but differing opinions on the 'musical' elements

Their adventures are vividly and cleverly brought to life utilising a variety of media including puppetry, acrobatics and wire work but it is the small, often background detail which richly elevates this production.

Rufus-Hound-and-David-Threlfall-in-the-Royal-Shakespeare-Companys-Don-Quixote.-London-2018.-Photography-by-Manuel-Harlan
Rufus Hound and David Threlfall in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Don Quixote London 2018. Photography by Manuel Harlan.

It's taken two years for the RSC's hit Don Quixote to make it to the West End with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound reprising their roles as the hapless knight errant and his squire.

Adapted by James Fenton it not only notches up the famous scenes from Miguel de Cervantes novel but the production design and direction find new niches of humour and fun.

It tells the story of Don Quixote (Threlfall) who, having read too many romantic novels, decides he is a knight errant and sets upon a mission to restore chivalry.

He takes with him illiterate farmer Sancho (Hound) to act as his squire and in the first half, we see them embroiled in a series of absurd scrapes brought about by Don Quixote's delusions and fantastical notions.

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Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Review: Josh Glanc, Underbelly - good character comedy fun

Good fun with enough laughs to carry it through.

2018JOSHGLA_BLNAt the beginning of Australian comedian Josh Glanc's show Karma Karma Karma Karma Karma Chamedian I was reminded a little bit of a Green Day gig I went to at the Brixton Academy when the band invited members of the audience up on stage to play.

Here it's only miming to a backing track and the audience members are plucked with that embarrassed awkwardness from the front row but they did throw themselves into it much to everyone's delight, giving Glanc the TV game show host style entrance he was presumably aiming for. 

The audience plays quite a big part throughout the 60 minutes which is a series of sketches rather than stand up.

It is a lively show with music and Glanc plays different characters from different countries - an American football player, René from Europop band Aqua, an Australian cyclist and a Marcel Marceau-style mime artist.

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Edinburgh Fringe interview: Director Madelaine Moore on bloody unlikeable female characters in play Ladykiller

Director Madelaine Moore talks about Ladykiller, its charmingly murderous female lead, preparing for the Fringe and what she's looking forward to seeing. And writer Madeline Gould pops in to talk about creating murderous characters.

Madelaine MooreWhy is Ladykiller a must see at this year's Edinburgh Fringe?

Ladykiller really is unlike any character you have seen on stage before. She is unlikeable. She says and does all the things you might fantasise about doing when someone wrongs you, but wouldn't dare... mainly because they would mostly be illegal.

She's a character who toes the line between victim and perpetrator with such saucy alacrity.

She manages to charm the pants off you while covered in blood up to her elbows, and with a dead body at her feet.

At previews as well as loud guffaws we've had a woman mime a tiny fist pump while quietly hissing "YESSSS!" and another who would not (could not) look at Hannah (McClean who plays 'Her') throughout the show.

My favourite audience quote so far has been, "so dark it was like a beautiful black hole."

With that darkness, we wanted to push the boundaries, because for us it was really about answering the question, how much is too much? It's going to be very interesting to see how audiences answer that! 

Writer Madeline Gould is described as having a knowledge of serial killers, women in crime and all things generally gruesome which is 'second to none’ - dare we ask how come?

So Maddie, and me to a certain extent, both have a fascination with people who kill; serial killers in particular.

I used to have a collection of books about serial killers that lived next to my bed until I realised it might look a bit weird to anyone who made it in that far, so I got rid of them. But Maddie is a voracious reader, podcast fan and researcher so she's really gone in. 

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Review: End of the Pier, Park Theatre - not the sum of all its parts

Danny Robins new play End of the Pier is at times very funny, it touches on some important issues but I'm not sure it fully does them justice and here's why.

Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand 0216
Les Dennis & Blake Harrison (l-r) in End of the Pier at Park Theatre. Photo by Simon Annand

First a bit about the play. It's set in Blackpool where former 80s comic and household name Bobby (Les Dennis) gets by on pantomimes and summer seasons having fallen spectacularly from grace.

His son Mike (Blake Harrison) is a successful comedian and about to record a second TV series. His fiancé Jenna (Tala Gouveia) is high up in the BBC and expecting their first child.

Mike turns up on father's doorstep looking for help after an incident at his stag do threatens his career.

The play explores changing attitudes to comedy, what is cruel and discriminatory and what is a joke.

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