174 posts categorized "West End" Feed

Review: The Night of The Iguana, Noel Coward Theatre, modern women and a minister on the edge

The women of Tennessee Williams' play The Night of the Iguana were in many senses ahead of their time.

Night of the iguana poster

Based on Williams' 1948 short story and set in 1940s Mexico, the play's central character Rev Lawrence Shannon (Clive Owen) is enveloped in a scandal. On an official break from his ministerial duties after preaching atheistic sermons, he's taken work as a tour guide but after sleeping with an underage girl on his tour, the group has turned against him. 

He has retreated to a hammock at the budget hotel run by his friends Maxine (Anna Gunn) and Fred although the latter has recently died. 

The hotel is perched on a cliff - a brilliantly imposing set by Rae Smith - which puts the protagonist literally and figuratively on the edge.

Finding connection

Here while facing off the ferocious and unrelenting tour leader Miss Fellowes (an unrecognisable Finty Williams) and the sexual advances of Maxine he finds a connection with the whispy spinster Hannah Jelkes (Lia Williams) who is travelling with her aged grandfather Nonno (Julian Glover).

Hannah is devoted to Nonno, has an inner strength and sensibility which both calms and inspires Shannon who is prone to nervous attacks and depression.

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James McAvoy is back on stage but it's not 100% good news

Love James McAvoy. It was only yesterday I was reminiscing about his knockout performance during a rehearsed reading.

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So any announcement that he is returning to the stage is exciting. Except that Martin Crimp, writer of two of my least favourite plays, is involved.

The silver lining is that it's an adaptation, not his own play.

I'm still reeling from having endured When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other earlier this year, not least because that will forever be the first (maybe only) play I've seen Cate Blanchett in.

Minimal harm?

The vehicle for McAvoy's next stage outing is Edmond Rostand's classic play, Cyrano de Bergerac. How much harm can Crimp do?

Jamie Lloyd is directing which is definitely a plus. He and McAvoy have worked together a number of times before. 

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Three ways to see Fleabag in the West End (and beyond) for less than £20

If you weren't lucky enough to see Phoebe Waller-Bridge's play Fleabag before it became a TV series and really famous then there is another chance.

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Fleabag: Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Photo: Jason Hetherington

Tickets for the West End run at the Wyndhams in the Autumn are going like hot cakes but there are other ways to get tickets - and at a more palatable price.

1. Online lottery - 50 seats at £15 will be available for every performance via TodayTix
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2. Standing tickets - A limited number of £10 standing tickets will be available from the Wyndham’s Theatre box office on the day of each performance

3 Live broadcast - Fleabag will be broadcast live to cinemas around the UK and internationally on 12 September with National Theatre Live.  


Fleabag is at the Wyndhams Theatre from 20 August to 14 September.

And yes, I can smuggly say, I did see Fleabag before it was famous. Not at the Edinburgh Fringe but upstairs at the Soho Theatre when it transferred and I remember it vividly and fondly.

My thoughts on it can be found here.


Review: Equus, Trafalgar Studios - A thoroughbred production?

Equus holds a special place in my theatre-going past because it was seeing the 2007 production with Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths which reignited my love of the theatre. Would this production live up to its predecessor?

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Ethan Kai as Alan Strang in Equus. Photo: The Other Richard

Peter Shaffer's 1973 play is based on a real incident in which a teenage boy blinded six horses. 

In his play, he explores possible reasons for the horrific act through 17-year-old Alan Strang's (Ethan Kai) sessions with his psychiatrist Martin Dysart (Zubin Varla).

Dysart has to build up trust with the troubled teen before, detective-like, he can unearth what motivated him to carry out such a violent and abhorrent act. 

Scenes from the past

Scenes from Alan's past are re-enacted during his conversations with the psychiatrist.

We see his early encounters with horses, his passionately religious mother and atheist, straight-laced father and his growing pathological obsession with horses. 

It is Alan's zeal and fervour which makes Dysart question his own life and the purpose of what he does - what is he saving the boy from?

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Review: The Illusionists, Shaftsbury Theatre - thrills, laughs and magic fun for grown-ups and kids

The Illusionists are back in London for the summer season with their mix of illusion, thrilling feats, humour and family fun.

The Illusionists programme

Seven illusionists with seven different styles of 'magic' from the nail-biting and seat squirming to the awe-inspiring and gasp-inducing make up an exciting and varied evening's entertainment.

And while you won't find rabbits being pulled out of a hat there is still a lot that is familiar - sleight of hand, female assistants sliced up in boxes, objects disappearing and death-defying escapes.

But The Illusionists has the slickness and gloss of 21st-century sophistication - Paul Daniel's magic show this isn't - mixed with a new style of  'magic' making the most of digital technology for something that you may not have seen before.

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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: Rosmersholm, Duke of York's Theatre - loved the first half, second not so much

Rosmersholm has a lot in it to be admired and for the most part is a powerful, gripping and exposing piece of theatre but it feels let down by the weaknesses of the second half.

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Hayley Atwell in Rosmersholm. Photo: Johan Persson.

Written in 1886 Ibsen's play Rosmersholm has themes which resonate today: how can you instigate social and political change and the corrupting power of the media.

At it's heart is Rebecca West (Hayley Atwell) who is trying to affect change and remain independent in a patriarchal society.

She is a long staying guest at the home of John Rosmer whose wife committed suicide a year earlier.

In today's society, she might be called a disruptor, in Ibsen's time, she was a radical who eschewed marriage so as to avoid being defined by her husband. In Rosmer, she sees the seeds of a fellow disruptor.

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Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bridge Theatre - bed hopping and role-swapping

It is a production that ends with an immersive dance and leaves the audience in a party mood but what I liked most was how it steered the narrative away from male dominance.

Midsummer Night's Dream Bridge Theatre poster
Don't leave it to the last minute to get into the auditorium for the Bridge Theatre immersive, promenade production of A Midsummer Night's Dream because there is stuff going on before the play officially starts.

Gwendoline Christie, a statuesque Amazon Queen, is encased in a glass box in a riff on the idea of a golden cage. She is dressed in a nun-like habit while a choir, similarly attired, sing to her.

When the opening 'marriage or death' scene plays out, it is austere with the cold and unfeeling Theseus (Oliver Chris) and Egeus (Kevin McMonagle) appearing all the more domineering towards the petite, girlish Hermia (Isis Hainsworth). 

Hippolyta places her hand on the glass in a gesture of support towards Hermia.

Hint of a twist

It hints at a twist that is to come, one that sees director Nicholas Hytner not merely gender swapping to redress the balance but swapping a whole storyline. But I'll come onto that.

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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.

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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: BalletBoyz, Them/Us (Vaudeville) or being moved to tears watching a piece of contemporary dance

It's a mercurial piece of so many breathtaking contrasts - fluid, floaty, tender, strong, angular and jovial. Their leaps, holds and shapes reflect and foster the individual while celebrating the strength, power and support of the collective.

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BalletBoyz: Them/Us (Them). Photo by George Piper

Full disclosure: I don't know anything about dance. I'm a novice who has only ever seen two ballets (one of which I reviewed).

So I'm writing this review not as someone who can critique the technique and style but as someone who sat in a theatre to watch and experience contemporary dance for the first time.

For a newbie to dance, BalletBoyz's Them/Us at the Vaudeville Theatre is a great show to start with.

A good introduction

At the start of each of the two pieces, they show video clips of interviews with the dancers and creatives talking about how the two pieces have been created together with rehearsal footage.

It not only helps to set the scene but gives you a brief introduction to and an appreciation for the art form as well as a glimpse of the BalletBoyz's sense of fun.

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