79 posts categorized "Off West End" Feed

Review: Cyprus Avenue, Royal Court - David Ireland's absurdist, existential comedy packs a grim bite

It is a superb play and one that can be cogitated over and debated but which in a perverse, bloody way is also highly entertaining.

Royal court cyprus avenue

Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court has long finished its run but it's such an extraordinary play that I wanted to get some thoughts down as I didn't get a chance to review it at the time.

It's not an easy piece to describe but if I was pinned down I'd say it is an absurdist, surreal, existential drama and pitch black comedy set in Northern Ireland.

Unionist Eric (Stephen Rea) thinks his baby granddaughter looks like Gerry Adams which sparks an intense internal debate about who he is.

Therapy session and flashbacks

The story and the nature of his inner turmoil unfold during a therapy session with a black psychologist Bridget (Ronkę Adékoluęjo) with 'flashbacks' to key events.

Eric begins to unravel questioning his beliefs, his Britishness and history, his unionism and much more besides.

Continue reading "Review: Cyprus Avenue, Royal Court - David Ireland's absurdist, existential comedy packs a grim bite" »


Review: The Son, Kiln Theatre - gripping drama with a heartbreaking inevitability

The signs are glaring, a figurative and literal Chekhov's gun, it's a car crash in slow motion and you can't look away. 

The Son Kiln Theatre

There is a heartbreaking inevitability to Florian Zeller's play The Son which is currently on at the Kiln Theatre.

Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston), a once bubbly teenager has become withdrawn since his parent's divorce. He lies, skips school and his behaviour has started to frighten his mother Anne (Amanda Abbington).

Moving in with his father Pierre (John Light) and new wife Sofia (Amaka Okafor), it is hoped, will return him to his old self.

Denial or ignorance?

Anne talks about Nicolas being ill, his father believes it is 'a phase' but whether through denial, fear of stigma or ignorance neither addresses what is obviously wrong with their son.

Continue reading "Review: The Son, Kiln Theatre - gripping drama with a heartbreaking inevitability" »


Review: Cost of Living, Hampstead Theatre - refreshingly bold and honest

Cost of Living is a refreshingly bold play, it presents disability in a matter of fact way focusing on relationships while challenging inhibitions

TTOU-List-Image
Martyna Majok's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living focuses on two carers and the people they care for.

Eddie (Adrian Lester) is looking after his soon to be ex-wife Ani (Katy Sullivan) who is quadriplegic after a terrible accident and Jess (Emily Barber) has just been employed to help PhD student John (Jack Hunter) who has cerebral palsy.

While Ani and John are totally reliant on their carers for physical assistance, Eddie and Jess are equally needy in their own way. 

We are first introduced to Eddie who is in a bar, buying the barman drinks as penance when he gets gloomy about a recent bereavement.

Nuanced performance

Majok doesn't always give Eddie the words to explain his thoughts but it is all there in Lester's nuanced performance.

It is a gripping opening but the play stumbles a little as it moves into its middle section.

Continue reading "Review: Cost of Living, Hampstead Theatre - refreshingly bold and honest" »


2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)

So I've published my favourite fringe plays list and my least favourite plays list, time now for my best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I've seen - large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe:

via GIPHY

Misty, Trafalgar Studios

A play which put the pulse back into the West End and as a result was a breath of fresh air.

A Monster Calls, Old Vic

I was nervous about seeing a stage adaptation of a much-loved book but the creativity with which it was staged combined with the performances meant I was an emotional wreck by the end. So much of an emotional wreck, I had to walk around for a bit afterwards to compose myself.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

A play about the dual prejudice of sexism and racism encountered by black women that succeeded in being both angry, uplifting and empowering.

It left me feeling teary in a happy/sad/exhilarated way and ready to march if the call came.

There is another chance to see it at the New Diorama Theatre, Jan 30-Feb 3 as part of the Vault Festival.

Notes from the Field, Royal Court

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience and I gave it an unprecedented six stars. Yes, six stars.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)" »


Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

Continue reading "Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list" »


Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

Continue reading "Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots" »


Review: Grace rather than gasps in Pirates of The Carabina's: Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Roundhouse

...it is in many ways an entertaining show but it is also a show that feels more about grace than gasps and I missed those nerve-jangling, pulse-raising moments you normally get with acrobatics.

Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine - Photographs by Ollie Millington - 159
Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine. Photograph by Ollie Millington

Pirates of the Carabina are more than acrobats they are also clowns, singers and musicians.

So while one of them is hanging spectacularly by their feet from a hoop that is being spun above the stage another is singing or playing guitar in the onstage band.

As well as the band the lights sometimes fall on a group of singers up in the balcony.

The rhythm and tone of the music and singing introduce the pace and style of each sequence of acrobatics and clowning.

There are graceful pieces, that are almost balletic when combined with the music where artists are swinging in circles from ropes or bolts of fabric - or hoops - while creating amazing shapes or performing incredible holds.

More uptempo music denotes a faster pace to the acrobatics or some clowning around.

And there is some great clowning around with chase sequences on roller skates and a 'novice' attempting a wobbly walk along a tightrope - I'm sure it is more difficult to look bad when you are actually really good.

Continue reading "Review: Grace rather than gasps in Pirates of The Carabina's: Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Roundhouse " »


Review: The web of friendship in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Menier Chocolate Factory

"..slow to get going but while a friendship between the two mean seems inevitable from the outset it is the depth of that friendship and subsequent threat to it that holds the play's power."

Samuel Barnett's Molina is recalling the plot line of one of his favourite romantic thriller films, the shadows of the characters he describes appear as projections on the walls around him.

Event-list-image_15155You are held in the spell of the story until it is broken by the complaints of Valentin (Declan Bennett) who doesn't share Molina's taste in films.

It's the 1970s and the two men are locked in an Argentinian cell together.

Valentin is a tough, no-nonsense, left-wing political prisoner and Molina is camp and has been convicted of gross indecency.

And yet, despite their differences and Valentin's complaints you know that deep down he actually quite enjoys the distraction from the tedium of prison-life.

But as differences defrost and friendship warms a spider threatens the web of this new friendship.

On the one hand, this is a play about how we aren't so different after all, how we have the same desires and needs and on the other, it is a play about trust, loyalty and the price of freedom.

It is also about survival.

Kiss of The Spider Woman, here adapted from Manuel Puig's original by José Rivera and Allan Baker, is slow to get going but while a friendship between the two mean seems inevitable from the outset it is the depth of that friendship and subsequent threat to it that holds the play's power.

Continue reading "Review: The web of friendship in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Menier Chocolate Factory" »


Review: Hayley Atwell is ruthlessly good in Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre #HTDryPowder

A feisty, fast-paced play, that delivers some witty one liners and a whole lot to think about

DryPowderNewsWhen Sarah Burgess wrote her play Dry Powder about New York-based private equity company it was pre-Trump presidency and yet when I was watching the play I couldn't help thinking 'what would Donald do?'.

At the start of the play Rick's (Aidan McArdle) firm is going through a PR storm because the same day as laying off staff at a company he'd just bought, he threw a lavish engagement party.

Co-founder Seth (Tom Riley) has unearthed a bargain deal which he believes will put the company back in favour with the public eye: A troubled American suitcase manufacturer whom he believes that with the right management could get back on its feet and deliver a healthy return.

Profit or positive PR

His fellow co-founder Jenny (Hayley Atwell) has another plan, one that is less risky, will deliver better returns but won't deliver the positive PR as jobs won't be protected. Jenny doesn't care about PR, she cares about profit.

Seth has (developed?) a conscious about what he does, he wants to create more than profit, particularly given the firms damaged reputation. He's got to know Jeff (Joseph Balderrama), the CEO of the suitcase company and they are seemingly on the same page.

Continue reading "Review: Hayley Atwell is ruthlessly good in Dry Powder, Hampstead Theatre #HTDryPowder" »


The new play, new theatre experience - Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre

IMG_5152The benefits of being a brand new theatre is that you can address a lot of the niggles people have with older theatres: uncomfortable seats, lack of space for refreshments, bad sight-lines and not enough ladies loos etc. Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr's Bridge Theatre beautifully situated on the opposite bank of the Thames to the Tower of London seems to have made a pretty good job of it.

Walking in, it is light and airy without feeling stark and impersonal and I imagine the spacious cafe/bar area will double as a nice daytime hangout. The seats are comfortable (a bit like those at the Royal Court) but sight-lines will have to be an ongoing test as the configuration is going to change. For this production we sat in the middle of front row and although the stage is reasonable high, I've sat closer to higher stages, so it was perfectly fine.

And as for the ladies loos, there are lots of them and there is even an 'in' and 'out' door to the main facilities similar to The Globe which means a better flow if you'll excuse the pun. Only one minor quibble is that the coat/bag hooks on the back of cubicle doors are really high - I had to stand on tip toes to reach it. I know I'm short but even so it was the primary topic of conversation as people were washing their hands.

And what about the play? It would have been easy to open with a relatively safe classic but Hytner and Starr are setting out their stall by choosing a new play by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman. Obviously they aren't strangers, Hytner having directed Bean's plays England People Very Nice, One Man, Two Guv'nors and Great Britain and this has the potential to be a crowd pleaser.

It's a bit of a romp in fact, telling the story of the time, the 30-something Karl Marx's (Rory Kinnear) lived in exile with his family in Soho. The central narrative is his journey from disillusioned genius, thinking of jacking it all in to work on the railways, back to the writer, thinker and activist he is famed for.

Continue reading "The new play, new theatre experience - Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre" »