28 posts categorized "Pub theatre" Feed

10 plays from the past 10 years that stand out - for a variety of reasons (not necessarily overly worthy ones)

Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years. I say 'favourite', I've tried not to overthink it, these are simply the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.

Theatre tickets
Stan's growing pile of theatre tickets

The list is not about plays that broke new ground or changed the theatre landscape - there are plenty of those lists around already - rather these plays just had something in them that I remember fondly.

To say that it has been tough narrowing it down to 10 is an understatement but I get another go next year because my blog is 10 in April. (There, I spoilt the surprise.)

In no particular order (the links are through to my reviews):

1. After the Dance, National Theatre

This is a play that gets talked about in 'theatre circles' a lot. It had a uniformly standout cast and I can still remember Nancy Carroll's snot crying.

But it has a particularly special place in my memory for being the play which turned Benedict Cumberbatch into 'one to watch' for me.

I'd seen him plenty on TV but this catapulted him from jobbing actor to leading man potential in my eyes.

This was before Sherlock hit the screens and as a result, means I can smugly say 'well I've been a fan since before he played Holmes'.

2. Hamlet, Stratford and Hackney Empire

I've seen a lot of Hamlets, more than one a year, and while technically I did see Ben Whishaw's Hamlet for the first time in 2010, it was a recording rather than the live performance so it doesn't count.

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet for the RSC was the first, since Whishaw's, where I really felt he was a student and acting his age, he was also the most likeable which made the play all the more tragic.

Setting the play in an African country and having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as 2 of only 3 white characters was also genius because it put them out of their depth in so many more interesting ways.

When I saw it for the second time, in Hackney, a group of teenagers were so swept up in it they leapt up to dance at the end. I don't think there is higher praise than that really.

3. The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

It's the play in which director Jamie Lloyd had James McAvoy unicycling around the stage wearing just his pants. Have no idea why that sticks out in my mind. Ahem.

The play was brilliantly bonkers too. Wish I could see it again.

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Interview: Wearing two hats with her new play - acting is the dream but writing keeps Felicity Huxley-Miners sane

Felicity Huxley-Miners talks about writing and acting in her new play In The Shadow of The Mountain, juggling the two roles and what her dream theatre production would be like (hint: it would have a big cast).

Felicity Huxley-Miners
Actor/Writer Felicity Huxley-Miners

The new play (more details at the bottom) is a love story about two people with Borderline Personality Disorder inspired by her meeting a woman with BPD and the production is supported by MIND.

You’ve written the play and you are also performing in it alongside David Shears, did you always have yourself in mind when you were writing?

Yes, I knew I wanted to play Ellie when I was writing but I really had to shut off that part of my brain when I was creating the play as you can start to censor and shape it around yourself instead of being true to a character and their story.

Thinking ‘I don’t want to say that’ or worrying about your character being likeable can be quite limiting so I really had to shut off that side of my brain.

I’ve found being an actor does help me write, as both are all about getting into different people’s heads and working out what makes them tick.

Which do you prefer - writing or acting - and which do you find the most challenging?

Acting has always been the dream and what I’ve funnelled most of my energy into over the years.

I’ve only started writing in the last few years and have been lucky enough to be a part of the Soho Theatre’s Writers Lab this year. I’ve found writing incredibly cathartic.

Acting can be a very perilous career and a lot of time the control is taken out of the actor’s hands.

Being proactive and creating my own work has really kept me sane in the leaner times and means that I always have a creative outlet even if it's just me sitting in a café having vivid hallucinations about my own fantasy world.

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My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises

If you'd told me at the start of the year that there would be a rom-com, a Chekhov and a Christmas play on my best of list, I'd have laughed in your face. Just goes to show you should always expect the unexpected...here are my favourite plays of 2017, in no particular order and links are to my reviews.

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard
An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Let's face it most rom-coms are a bit rubbish - they generally aren't that funny - but this tale of modern romance had me guffawing with laughter and I wasn't on my own.

An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre

This is a play that reminded me why I love going to the theatre and I could write pages on it. Thought-provoking, sometime uncomfortable to watch and yet it was still entertaining. It's transferring to the National Theatre in June and I'll definitely be getting a ticket.

Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

In my review I said: "Apologia is a play of sharp humour and depth that slowly breaks down the defences to reveal something raw and emotional. You will laugh and you will have a lump in your throat." It was also a great play for female characters.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios 2

This odd-ball, misfit comedy was a breath of fresh air and it got a much deserved transfer so I got to enjoy it a second time.

Hamlet, Almeida

Up there as one of the best Hamlet productions I've seen, it made me see the play anew.

BU21, Trafalgar Studios 2

Writer Stuart Slade took real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world and used them to create a story around a fictional attack in London. The result was an honest, awkward and funny piece that was also really clever.

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My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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Review: The funny, sharp and powerful Odd Shaped Balls, Old Red Lion Theatre

Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls (c) Luke W. Robson (8)
Matthew Mars in Odd Shaped Balls. Photo (c) Luke W. Robson

The Old Red Lion's tiny stage has been transformed into part bar/part rugby pitch for this coming out story. James 'Jimmy' Hall's rugby career is taking off as his team have been promoted but he has a secret he is desperate to keep.

He has a girlfriend but he also has a boyfriend and in the testosterone-fuelled world of rugby that is something he wants to keep quiet. But with the big league comes big press interest and secrets don't stay secret for very long.

The starting point for Richard D Sheridan's one-man play is when Jimmy accidentally swears during a TV interview after his team wins promotion. The clip goes down a storm on social media but in hindsight it will be the least of Jimmy's worries and is perhaps a hidden warning of what is to come. Matthew Mars plays all the characters in Jimmy's story taking us through his celebrations with his team, meetings with the boss, his relationship with his girlfriend, visits to his parents and his boyfriend.

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Review: The mind of a murderer in The State vs John Hayes at the King's Head Theatre

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes (c) Jemma Gross (7)
Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Photo: Jemma Gross

Lucy Roslyn is Elyese Dukie. She is also John Hayes, her alter-ego. Elyese was abandoned by her mother and had a father who gets her to look down the barrel of his antique gun and asks if he should pull the trigger. But she's not looking for sympathy.

John Hayes is a wife and also the lover of Lorraine, and has landed her in jail and on death row.

Roslyn, who also wrote the piece, says she is going to tell us something that will make us laugh. And she does. But she also does something else.

Elyese/John's tale isn't a sob story of unfortunate circumstance and regret, at least she doesn't see it that way. It is a tale of someone who is confident, driven; someone for whom love is fierce and remorse an alien emotion. It makes her fun, likeable, unstable and dangerous.

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Review: Universally Speaking, Bread and Roses Theatre, SW4

The sub-head for this quartet of monologues under the banner Universally Speaking is 'How Well is the 21st Century Doing?' and it is the final piece that really probes this question.

Called The 7-11 Butterfly Effect writer Don Grimme explores America, the Middle East and Europe post 9/11. With clever and amusingly contrived character names - Talia Ban is nicknamed after a vomiting incident in a convenience store - we are taught the history of the world by a teacher (Pallas McCallum Newark) who uses flash cards to illustrate certain points.

It is a satirical piece in which the absurdity of Grimme's story exposes a truth about the West's reaction and how it has shaped society.

Robert Holtom's piece, Fat, is brilliantly performed by Samantha Shaw who manages to make food and over eating sexy and seductive. But, at the same time, it questions the fat-shaming and fat-blaming culture we live in.

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Review: Swearing, shooting up and shitty sheets, it's Trainspotting at the King's Head

Gavin Ross in Trainspotting. Photo: Christopher Tribble

It is dark as you enter the King's Head theatre with your hand stamped and a glow stick. Nineties club music pounds out and laser lights show up a group of bodies pulsating in time to the music. If you couldn't just about make out the people sat on chairs and steps or standing wherever they can find space you'd think you'd stumbled into the wrong place.  Someone tries to usher to you towards a seat you can't make out; we are a long way from the blue-rinse brigade of the Hampstead Theatre now.

If you haven't seen the iconic film (or read the novel) about a group of heroin addicts living in recession hit Edinburgh this may all come as a bit of a shock and be a little bit confusing. If you are familiar with the story this explosive and immersive play will probably still come as a bit of a shock. Certainly it isn't for those who like to sit back and quietly enjoy a night at the theatre.

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Review: Neil LaBute's Autobahn at the King's Head Theatre

Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett in Autobahn, King's Head Theatre 4 - (c) Scott Rylander
Sharon Maughan and Henry Everett

Neil LaBute has knack for highlighting the more dislikeable and sometimes downright sinister side of human nature and in Autobahn - making its London premiere - we are treated to seven short plays to make the point.

Each 'playlet' is set in a car, sometimes parked, sometimes on a journey which as a device serves to heighten the tensions in the conversations that are played out. The stories alternate between a one-sided conversation, a monologue in essence and then something more conversational. A cast of four - Zoe Swenson-Graham, Sharon Maughan, Tom Slatter and Henry Everett - take on the twelve parts.

LaBute doesn't like to give the audience anything up front, the effect is a narrative strip tease leaving you with two characters that don't quite look how you first imagined.  And it is in doing this that the grubbier side of humanity is revealed, from the husband who calls his wife a 'c*nt' in public, the girl who sent dead animals to an ex-boyfriend and the friend who puts his own needs ahead of those of his recently jilted mate.

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Review: Cat, Etcetera Theatre

1384094430Dave the Cat was born different. He heard music and rhythm in the unlikeliest places; he was born to be on the stage. And so begins the tale of a man dressed with a tail - talented or delusional, the truth slowly unfolds through a brief stint as Jesus's ass in Jesus Christ Superstar and Dave the Cat in Cats.

Performed and co-written by Richard Hardwick this is a darkly comic story that nicely parodies musical theatre and it's obsessive fans.

Not being a musical fan I'm sure I missed quite a few of the references particularly in the three (short) songs but anyone who is West End regular will recognise the stage door Johnnies or female equivalent.

At 55 minutes it packs an amusing if slightly disturbing punch and is definitely worth a look with a pint or glass of something from the pub downstairs if you can catch it. If not I am sure it will pop up again somewhere.

Cat is on at the Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms in Camden on the 26 and 27 March.


Wasn't expecting to find a connection but Peter Wight was in the audience and he was in In Basildon with Ruth Sheen who was in Leaves of Glass with Mr W.