194 posts categorized "West End" Feed

Sunday theatre question: Who would star in your dream play in 2021?

Hopefully this year we'll see theatres reopening and a semblance of normality returning so with that in mind the first Sunday Theatre question of 2021 is about what your dream play would be and who would star in it.

So pick a genre - or a play if you have one in mind - the actor and/or actress you'd most like to star in it and then share it in the comments.

My choice would be a black comedy starring Ben Whishaw and Monica Dolan for reasons I explain in the video.

Looking forward to reading about your choices and scroll down for my favourite black comedies...

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Review: The Comeback, Noel Coward Theatre - is this the comedy we need?

I love a serious play, something thought-provoking and challenging but right now, with everything that is going on, I just want a laugh. I want frothy fun that is diverting. Did behind-the-scenes farce The Comeback at the Noel Coward Theatre fit the bill?

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Ben Ashenden & Alex Owen in The Comeback. Photo Marc Brenner

Written by and starring Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen, The Comeback is a bit like Michael Frayn's Noises Off but instead of seeing the on and off stage shenanigans during a play, it is set on a comedy tour.

The 'stars' of the tour are an ageing comedy duo (Morecombe and Wise-esq) trying to stage a comeback. Ben and Alex are the warm-up act and hoping the tour will catapult them into the big time.

When they spot the name of a Hollywood director on the list of ticket holders the need to impress suddenly becomes even more important.

Ashenden and Owen's humour is gentle, fun and cleverly disarming. You wonder where they are going with a skit or a gag but where it lands is often a surprise - and all the funnier for it.

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Review: Uncle Vanya, directed for the screen on the Harold Pinter stage - how does it compare?

Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre, starring Toby Jones, Richard Armitage, Eleanor Eleazar and Aimee Lou Wood, was one of the last plays I saw before theatres closed and it's safe to say I adored it. Which, considering me and Chekhov have a difficult relationship, is saying something. 

Uncle Vanya for screen
Uncle Vanya (c) Photography Seamus Ryan and Artwork Muse Creative Communications

So when it was announced that the cast was reuniting under Covid-safe conditions to re-perform the play on stage but this time directed for camera, I didn't hesitate to get a ticket to see it on the big screen.

But how did it compare to the original stage directed version?

Well, the first thing to say is that the only cast change for the filmed version was Roger Allam stepping in for Ciaran Hinds to play the professor. 

Allam is slightly less intimidating than Hinds but that didn't make any material difference.

As for the filming, without the constraints of a live audience, the piece felt less stagey and more like an actual film than the NT Live productions.

In fact, you quickly forgot you were watching something performed on stage - the only reminders were the doors through which the actors exited the stage. They are part of the theatre and therefore a more contemporary style to the rest of the set.

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Uncle Vanya with Toby Jones & Richard Armitage is back...in a special filmed version

I saw Uncle Vanya starring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage at the Harold Pinter Theatre at the beginning of March and loved it so much I was going to try and get another ticket but then lockdown happened.

Uncle Vanya (c) Photography Seamus Ryan and Artwork Muse Creative Communications
Uncle Vanya (c) Photography Seamus Ryan and Artwork Muse Creative Communications

Much excitement then that the production is coming back. It's been filmed on stage with almost the entire original cast (Roger Allam is stepping in for Ciaran Hinds). 

It's not a straight-forward film version of the stage production instead it has been directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon in "a sumptuous re-interpretation of Ian Rickson’s stage production".

The filming took place under strict Covid-19 secure, independently drawn up protocols, with the cast self-isolating and undergoing regular tests and the crew in masks, PPE and socially distancing throughout the process.

It will have a cinematic release before being broadcast by the BBC.

For more details head to https://unclevanyaplay.com/.

Can't wait to see it again in this new version.

It will be interesting to see if other productions that had to close follow suit. What would you like to see back in a filmed version?

Related reading:

Review: Richard Armitage 'magnetic', Toby Jones 'endearing', Aimee Lou Wood 'adorable'

 


10th birthday list: My favourite comedy plays and a few I didn't like so much

Humour is personal, what one person finds hilarious might fall flat for someone else. And it is really difficult to get right, comic timing is a great skill.

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Now I love dark comedy, the uncomfortable laugh that makes you think but I'm also partial to the silliness of a good farce.

Here are my favourite comedies from the past 10 years of writing this blog and I would love to know what your favourites are - tell me in the comments.

Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre

A clever and funny play that twists and weaves Shakespeare's plots - often exposing their ridiculousness and prejudices - with modern references.

Teenage Dick, Donmar Theatre

Based loosely on Shakespeare's Richard III the setting is an American high school and the machiavellian protagonist is a hemiplegic student Richard who is fed up of being bullied and teased about his disability.

It was a great combination of fun and dark comedy - and had a brilliant dance sequence.

Emilia, Vaudeville

A potent mix of humour, fun and feminism. It had a powerful message delivered in a deliciously entertaining and clever way.

Present Laughter, Old Vic

Director Matthew Warchus put a fresh spin on the well-trodden Noel Coward play which, coupled with Andrew Scott's performance, made this a sublime comedy.

I reviewed it alongside Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith, in a compare and contrast of the two comedies which you can read here.

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10th Birthday list: My 10 (ok it's 11) favourite stage actresses plus who I'd really like to see on stage more

While there might not be quite as many meaty stage roles for actresses as there are actors (is that changing?) the plethora of acting talent I've seen over the past 10 years made this quite tricky to narrow down. Hence the list of 11 rather than a neat 10 (and presented in no particular order).

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Helen Murray.

I've also added a few names I've only seen once or twice but really want to see do more stage work.

Who would you add, let me know in the comments?

1. Imelda Staunton

Who can forget Margaret in Good People or Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? It's always a treat when she treads the boards.

2. Jade Anouka

She was the best Hotspur I've seen when Phyllida Law did her all-female Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. She also did a fantastic one-woman show at the fringe (Chef) and I still remember the bit of subtlety she brought to Jamie Lloyd's lively production of Dr Faustus.

3. Patsy Ferran

Patsy, Patsy, Patsy. Have seen her in fringe productions, small studio theatres, one-women shows and taking lead roles in classics which have ended up in the West End (and winning her awards). So pleased to see her career taking off and can't wait to see what she does next.

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10th Birthday list: My favourite theatre curtain call moments

I love curtain calls at the end of plays. It's a revealing time when characters are shaken off - or not - when faces perhaps show the person underneath the acting mask.

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View from the stage at the RSC Swan Theatre. Photo Rev Stan

They can also be a time of japes, fun and banter.

From time to time over the past 10 years of blogging I've mention curtain calls, they even have their own category in my end of year awards on occasions, so I decided to compile a list of  my favourites:

1. Only on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite fast enough.

2. Another last night, this time the end of the run was all a bit too much for the cast of Mojo at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Daniel Mays looked like he'd been crying backstage and Ben Whishaw and Rupert Grint were fighting tears.

3. And another last night...Mark Strong couldn't hide his emotions at the end of A View From the Bridge at the Young Vic but instead of tears, he mouthed a satisfied 'yes' while making a fist.

4. At the curtain call of cold war drama Anna, National Theatre, there was a polite request from the cast who held up a series of cards which spelt out 'No Spoilers'.

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10th Birthday list: Best play I've seen for each of the last 10 years (or the agony to choose list)

So this month Rev Stan's Theatre blog is 10 years old. My first post was 18 April 2010, it took a couple of weeks before I was to post again but the marker was in the sand.

Various theatre tickets

I had lots of ideas for fun theatre nerdery to celebrate but the lockdown has clipped my wings a little bit as many of them involved actually be at the theatre.

But not to let a decade of theatre bloggery go by without marking the occasion I've got a few other things up my sleeve for the coming few weeks/months.

And to kick things off I've compiled a list of my favourite play for each year I've been blogging (I did my 10 best plays of the decade back in December).

It has been fun revisiting my best-of lists but absolutely agony narrowing each list down to just one, as you will see.

I'm still not 100% happy but here goes:

2010

I initially chose The Pride, Lucille Lortel Theater, New York which saw Ben Whishaw make his Broadway debut alongside Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough but then I realised that technically I saw that in February 2010 before Rev Stan's Theatre blog was born. So I've reluctantly decided it doesn't count.

So my second choice is Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre. It's a play that set the benchmark for uncomfortable humour and one which I regularly reference when talking about superb dark comedies.

2011

Jeez, this was a tough one. This was the year I saw Jerusalem, Much Ado with Tennant and Tate and Collaborators, National Theatre to name just three. But with much soul-searching I'm going to choose Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket because it was so beautiful and warm and sad and I'll always remember Sheridan Smith's trembling bottom lip and a brilliant early performance by Matthew Tennyson. Saw it more than once too.

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Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre - Richard Armitage 'magnetic', Toby Jones 'endearing', Aimee Lou Wood 'adorable'

Richard Armitage's Astrov is looking at Aimee Lou Wood's Sonya, a wave agony and confusion on his face. It is approaching the culmination of what is a charged, layered and yet very funny Uncle Vanya, a production in which not a character is wasted.

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Richard Armitage and Aimee Lou Wood in Uncle Vanya. Photo: Johan Persson

Rarely has Chekhov made me laugh this much and yet equally been heartwarming and sad. 

Conor McPherson's adaptation, as directed by Ian Rickson, elevates the piece into an ensemble tragi-comedy without detracting from the protagonist Vanya played by Toby Jones.

I cared about the characters in a way that I haven't before. I confess, I generally find Chekhov's characters difficult to care about veering far towards the self-pitying for my sympathies.

But this production of Uncle Vanya balances humour and pain, despair and stoicism, laugh out loud moments with those that tug the heartstrings. The woman sat behind me was sobbing all the way through the final scene.

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Review: Ben Elton's Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre - a serious comedy that doesn't take itself too seriously

It doesn't matter if you've never seen Ben Elton's TV comedy series, Upstart Crow, (I hadn't) as the stage play is a stand-alone piece.

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David Mitchell and  Gemma Whelan in Upstart Crow the play. Photo: Johan Persson

Having some familiarity with Shakespeare's plays helps although I confess I couldn't tell you the plot of Measure for Measure or Alls Well That Ends Well.

Upstart Crow (the play) centres on Shakespeare's search for inspiration for his next hit but along the way has a rich vein of commentary on gender inequality, immigration, religion and the acting profession.

There are also a lot of cod-piece jokes and a brilliant dancing bear.

Elton cleverly weaves strands of Shakespeare's actual plays into the plot while simultaneously ridiculing them.  King Lear, Othello and Twelfth Night are mixed with nods to Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, A Comedy of Errors, The Tempest and more all of which have the more outlandish and suspect aspects of their stories exposed.

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