67 posts categorized "Hampstead Theatre" Feed

Review: To Have And To Hold, Hampstead Theatre - funny moments but lacks consistency

Marion Bailey and Alun Armstrong as Flo & Jack Kirk in To Have and To Hold_credit Marc Brenner
Marion Bailey and Alun Armstrong as Flo & Jack Kirk in To Have and To Hold, Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

Is Richard Bean's new comedy To Have and To Hold at the Hampstead Theatre as funny as One Man, Two Guv'nors? Comparison, when you've had such a big hit, is inevitable.

This has a very different setting; it's loosely based on his own family and centres on nonagenarians Jack (Alun Armstrong) and Flo (Marion Bailey).

They are getting to the point where living independently in their Humberside village of Wetwang is more tricky. Retired policeman Jack isn't very mobile and no longer drives, and Flo's eyesight and memory aren't great.

The couple rely on 'Rhubarb Eddie' (Adrian Hood) and Pamela (Rachel Dale) for shopping and help around the house and garden. Jack and Flo have been married for 70 years, and while parts of them might not work as well as they used to, they are still sharp enough mentally to bicker and argue constantly.

Grown-up children Rob (Christopher Fulford) and Tina (Hermione Gulliford) have taken time out from their busy lives and jobs to visit and try and sort out their situation.

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Review: Octopolis, Hampstead Theatre - Academics, an octopus and David Bowie

Jemma Redgrave and Ewan Miller in Octopolis_3_credit The Other Richard
Jemma Redgrave and Ewan Miller in Octopolis, Hampstead Theatre 2023. Photo: The Other Richard

Princess Diana's famous line: 'there were three people in my marriage' is given an eccentric twist in a line from Marek Horn's Octopolis: There were three people in my marriage... and 12 legs.

The legs refer to Frances, an octopus living in a tank in the home of Professor George Grey (Jemma Redgrave). She and her recently deceased husband have been studying Frances.

Anthropologist Dr Henry Giscard (Ewan Miller) is sent to stay at George's University-owned home and immediately clashes with the prickly, grieving Professor.

George continues to write papers on Frances, and Henry has his research to gather information for, but they find begrudging respect for each other in their mutual love of David Bowie - and debates about Frances.

Henry believes he can prove that Frances believes in a God, but George thinks that is nonsense and has her own ideas with which to dismiss his theory.

Their heated discussions about animals, humans, feelings and souls are peppered with asides, little observations of each other often delivered with deadpan wit.

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Review: Song From Far Away, Hampstead Theatre starring Will Young

Will Young in Song From Far Away at Hampstead Theatre. Photo Mark Senior-6
Will Young in Song From Far Away at Hampstead Theatre 2023. Photo: Mark Senior

Yes, I voted for Will Young on Pop Idol, but I've never seen him on stage as he's mainly done musicals, so I was excited to see him in Song From Far Away.

The fact that I loved the play the first time I saw it at the Young Vic back in 2015 added to the excitement.

It’s told in the form of letters Willem (Will Young) has written to his dead brother Pauli, recalling the trip home to Amsterdam for his funeral after 12 years away living in New York.

Willem is a sharp observer of the people he encounters and his family. His comments are arch. And yet he retreats from any meaningful connection, avoiding family engagements.

Rather he opts for casual sex in the hotel he is staying at and yearns for a relationship he had when he was younger that he ran away from.

His emotions, in part, reflect the stages of grief; he is in denial, he gets angry, he bargains, and he is depressed, but it is also driven by introspection sparked by the loss.

The sudden absence of his brother and the return home forces him to reflect on his life and his actions.

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Review: Re-Member Me, Hampstead Theatre - the funny and not so funny

Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me - photo credit Sarah Lewis
Dickie Beau in Re-Member Me. Photo: Sarah Lewis

You know when you are about 10 minutes into watching a play and think: 'I'm really enjoying this; it's going to be great'? That's how I felt watching Dickie Beau's Re-Member Me at Hampstead Theatre.

It starts with Beau lip-synching over interviews with actors who've played Hamlet in the past. The body language and facial expressions are exceptionally skilful and precise; it is like the voice has a body or the body a voice. 

The dialogue reveals more than insight into what it is like playing the much-coveted role of the 'The Dane'; it illuminates a vanity and pretension. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places.

Re-Member Me then focuses on Richard Eyre's production of Hamlet at the National Theatre in 1989, which initially starred Daniel Day-Lewis. Clips of interviews with those involved or who saw it get a similar lip-sync treatment, and again, it's a fascinating and often amusing behind-the-scenes look at a production of Hamlet.

The focus then stays on Ian Charleson, who ultimately took over the role of Hamlet after Day-Lewis pulled out. Interviews with Eyre, friends and actors who knew Charleson are lip-synched over video footage of four Dickie Beau 'talking heads' projected above the stage.

Joking and digs are put to one side as Charleson was very ill with AIDS when he took on the role. But the extended use of the video talking head's device means it starts to lose its power.

I found myself watching Beau moving the many shop mannequins around the stage and folding up the costumes that had been scattered around. Charleson's story is tinged with tragedy, a talent and career cut short, but I hankered after the fun, frivolity and insight of the earlier parts of the play.

Once the interviews are finished, there is a very long montage of scenes from Chariots of Fire of Charleson running; it felt like a laboured way to emphasise the vitality he once had.

Re-Member Me starts as an interesting yet light-hearted play about actors playing Hamlet and morphs into a sort of homage to Ian Charleson.

As a result, the opening section was tonally very different to what the play ultimately becomes, and while interesting and technically brilliant, I left with mixed feelings.

I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️.

Re-Member Me, Hampstead Theatre

Written and performed by Dickie Beau

Directed by Jan Willem Van Den Bosch

Running time: 75 minutes without an interval

Booking until 17 June; for more information and to buy tickets, visit the Hampstead Theatre

Recently reviewed:

The Motive and the Cue, National Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 16 July

A Little Life, Harold Pinter Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ booking until 16 June, it then transfers to the Savoy Theatre for 5 weeks.


Review: Sea Creatures, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs - a strange and unsatisfactory mix

Grace Saif with Tom Mothersdale in Sea Creatures_credit Marc Brenner
Grace Saif with Tom Mothersdale in Sea Creatures, Hampstead Theatre, April 2023, Photo: Marc Brenner

Cordelia Lynn's play is set in an old fisherman's cottage, which has been extended over the years and now includes a glass-fronted kitchen area from where you can take in the view of the sea.

The cottage and its contemporary extension are a bit like its inhabitants: A modern family with a love of old stories and myths full of sea creatures like mermaids and selkies.

It's a holiday retreat owned by Shirley (Geraldine Alexander), a professor who doesn't like anyone in her office unless invited.

Her partner Sarah (Thusitha Jayasundera), is an artist who paints urban landscapes when she is in the country and the country when she's in the city. Toni (Grace Saif) is Shirley's youngest daughter and 'consciously naive' (she behaves like someone much younger), and her sister George (Pearl Chanda) is unhappily pregnant.

Then there is the third sibling Robin, whose whereabouts is unknown. Her boyfriend, Mark (Tom Mothersdale), is staying in her room in the hope that she turns up.

And that's kind of the play, the wait and the whereabouts of Robin.

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Review: Linck & Mulhahn, Hampstead Theatre - witty, effervescent and heartbreaking

Helena Wilson and Maggie Bain in Linck & Mülhahn_ Credit Helen Murray_53
Helena Wilson and Maggie Bain in Linck & Mülhahn, Hampstead Theatre, Feb 2023. Photo: Helen Murray

Writer Ruby Thomas was in the British Library when she came across a reference Linck and Mulhahn, a same-sex couple in 18th Century Prussia who'd been living as husband and wife.

Using what information she could find as starting point and imagining the rest, Thomas has written a witty, effervescent and heartbreaking play about their relationship, secret life and the subsequent outing.

It starts with Linck (Maggie Bain) living as a man - Anastasius - so they can be a soldier and Catharina Mulhahn (Helena Wilson) fighting her mother's attempts to match her with a suitable husband.

Anastasius is a skilled soldier and well-respected. Catharina is rebellious, constantly pushing against the boundaries society places on her sex. A chance encounter at a dressmakers shop sees the two verbally sparring; they fizzle and spark in each other's company.

There is an honesty in their biting, yet playful, exchanges that ignites something. When Catharina, with typical forwardness, proposes marriage Anastasius has to reveal that they aren't all they seem.

But Catharina is undeterred, and the two marry and set up a home together. Anastasius, who has now left the army, works as a dressmaker's apprentice and encourages Catharina to write.

It is a blissful existence built on a foundation of love and equality until Catharina's bored mother starts to dig into her 'son'-in-law's past.

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Review: The Art of Illusion, Hampstead Theatre (Downstairs) - the magic doesn't always translate

The Art of Illusion won several awards when it opened in Paris in 2014. Now it gets its London premiere at the Hampstead Theatre but will this play about magic and illusion conjure up some English awards?

Martin Hyder  Kwaku Mills  Norah Lopez-Holden & Rina Fatania in The Art of Illusion_credit Robert Day smll
Martin Hyder, Kwaku Mills, Norah Lopez-Holden & Rina Fatania in The Art of Illusion, Hampstead Theatre Jan 2023. Photo: Robert Day

It is a play with two timelines. In 1984 a man named December (Brian Martin) meets a woman named April (Bettrys Jones) in a cafe to return her bag, which he 'found'.

He tells her how he was obsessed with magic as a child and the famous 19th Century illusionist Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. They set out to find what would have been Houdin's basement theatre.

Then in the second timeline, we follow the story of Houdin's life, career and what followed at his theatre. 

We switch between the stories at an increasingly rapid pace all the time with unsubtle reminders about illusion and reality. But there are also questions about chance and fate. The coincidence of December and April meeting and both being named after months is just the tip of a very big iceberg.

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Theatre best of: Stan's top 10 plays 0f 2022

Best of theatre 2022
This feels like a moment; I haven't been able to do a best-of theatre list since 2019 because of 'you know what'. It's been huge fun revisiting the plays I've seen - nearly 50. And while that total is down on pre-pandemic levels, it was still tricky to narrow down my choices, but here goes.

1. The Collaboration, Young Vic

Synopsis in a sentence: Andy Warhol's star is waning, and young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's star is rising; they have nothing in common but are persuaded to collaborate.

From my review: "I was gripped in the presence of two great artists and gripped by their stories. I laughed, I gasped, I cried, and if I felt compelled to tap my toes at the start, by the end, I was on my feet, and that's something I rarely do."

The play is now on Broadway, and look out for a film version (an actual film, not a filmed stage version).

2. Henry V, Donmar Warehouse

Synopsis in a sentence: The wayward Prince becomes King and has to prove himself to his country and foreign powers.

Not going to lie, Kit Harington surprised me with his performance in this.

From my review: "This is a powerful production of Henry V. Harington's nuanced, often quiet and considered Henry V perfectly highlights the complexity and often contradictory nature of the character and the role of leadership.

3. The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A woman has a final phone call with her lover, who is getting married the next day.

From my review: "It hasn't gone down well with all the critics, but I thought it was mesmerising and gripping. Hats off to Ruth Wilson."

4. Ministry of Lesbian Affairs, Soho Theatre

Synopsis in a sentence: A lesbian choir get a coveted spot on the main stage at Pride, mainly because they are the only lesbian choir to apply.

From my review: "It is a funny, interesting and occasionally challenging play that had me walking out of the theatre with a big grin on my face. And that is a big win."

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Review: Mary, Hampstead Theatre - politics and patriarchy in this tight historical thriller

There's a line towards the end of Rona Munro's play, Mary, that changes your perspective of the central character, Lord Melville, played by Douglas Henshall.

Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre_credit Manuel Harlan
Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Set during the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scotts, Melville is her most loyal advisor. But, with a string of scandals and seemingly bad choices threatening her position, Melville is under increasing pressure to turn his back on the Queen. 

The play is a series of increasingly tense conversations between Melville, Thompson (Brian Vernel), who has risen rapidly up the ranks at court and Agnes (Rona Morison), a maid and vocal Protestant.

Thomspon and Agnes have little sympathy for the Queen and believe Scotland would be best served if she abdicated.

Can Melville win them around to his way of thinking and onto the side of the Queen, or will they convince him that putting the infant prince James on the thrown with a regent is the better path?

Queen Mary (Meg Watson) makes only two brief appearances and says very little, but her presence is a constant throughout as every decision, every look and smile is analysed and interpreted.

Simply staged with a wood-panelled backdrop, two chairs and later a desk, the focus is firmly on a debate about the Queen's suitability to rule.

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Review: The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre - missing in detail and nuance

Roy Williams' play The Fellowship centres on a small family unit, but there are a lot of big things going on.

The Fellowship Production Image 1 L-R CHERRELLE SKEETE  SUZETTE LLEWELLYN © Robert Day
The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre, June 2022 L-R Cherrelle Skeete and Suzette Llewellyn © Robert Day

Dawn (Cherrelle Skeet) is grieving the loss of a child while caring for her terminally ill mother with little help from her high-flying lawyer sister Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn). She can tell her teenage son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) is lying to her, and if it's about what she suspects, she will be fuming.

Marcia, meanwhile, has got herself into a relationship with a married politician, which could potentially end her career, and Jermaine has rekindled ties with someone at the heart of a past tragedy.

Dawn and Marcia's mother was tough with her love, and the sisters were once close, fighting on the front line for justice but lead very different lives now. Jermaine has taken the path of least resistance and is drifting away. Tony (Trevor Laird), Dawn's husband and a touring musician, drifts in and out offering little support for any of it, just getting angry. 

The result is a lot of tension and drama, which highlights a whole raft of interesting themes. However, the result is a play that is over-stuffed and missing in detail and nuance.

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