206 posts categorized "West End" Feed

Review: Silence, Donmar Warehouse - filling the silence, a play that left me wanting more

Silence is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Kavita Puri who interviewed people who lived through the partition of India in 1947 and subsequently settled in the UK.

Silence Donmar Warehouse
Silence, Donmar Warehouse Sep 2022

The play is co-authored by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood and is structured as a series of individual stories joined loosely by the thread of a journalist trying to coax her elderly father into talking about his own experiences.

Partition is not an event in history I know much about, which is what immediately drew me to the play, and for that, it is a good introduction. These are real experiences of trauma from a country suddenly divided on religious grounds. Friends turned enemies overnight because of a line drawn on a map and the atrocities and violence that result when people are othered.

The staging is simple, with large panels of cloth hanging towards the back of the stage, onto which there are projections. These can be turned at different angles.

Simple but devastating divide

A piece of string is used to denote how the country was carved up with religious groups designated to certain areas. And chalk lines depict train tracks now dissected by the 'border'.

However, the staging is such that it pushes the actors towards the front of the stage, and the production doesn't make the most of the Donmar's thrust with much of the performance played forwards, neglecting those sitting to the sides.

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Review: Cruise, Apollo Theatre - an explosive, energetic delight

There are two types of standing ovation: The ones where there is a slow trickle of people getting to their feet and the rarer ones where the entire audience leaps up en masse. Jack Holden's Cruise at the Apollo Theatre was in the latter category.

033_Cruise 2022_Pamela Raith Photography
Jack Holden and John Patrick Elliott in Cruise, Apollo Theatre 2022. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Written and performed by Holden, this hour and 40-minute explosive, energetic delight of a play is primarily set among the gay community in 1980s Soho. It's about having one last night when you think you won't be around for tomorrow. But to set up that night, the play looks back at the four preceding years.

Aided by musician and DJ John Patrick Elliott, Holden takes the audience on a journey evoking the sounds, atmosphere and characters of this colourful but less than salubrious part of central London.

And what characters, some only in the story for a few lines, others who weave in and out throughout, but each is richly painted. Holden doesn't put on costumes or use props; rather, he brings each vividly to life in the way he describes them and with subtle and not-so-subtle mannerisms. 

He switches effortlessly but with almost dizzying speed between each, and as a result, the play feels like it has a huge cast. The tonal shifts are also effortless. Wit, humour, fun and uplifting moments mix with the grimier, grimmer and heartbreaking, all of which are set against a backdrop of music that matches and enhances each moment.

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Review: The Seagull, Harold Pinter theatre - understated performances amplify the tragedy

Jamie Lloyd is a genius. There I've said it. How else would you describe a director who has his cast seated for most of the play while giving understated performances that somehow manage to amp up the emotion to 11 on the dial?

The Seagull  Harold Pinter Theatre July 2022
The Seagull, Harold Pinter Theatre July 2022

In fact, the performances are so understated it makes previous productions of The Seagull I've seen seem brash and showy. There is no hand-wringing and sweeping gestures, swooping onto the stage or storming off. It's the opposite: contained, subtle and still, and that supercharges the feelings and subtext.

You can almost hear the inner monologue of the characters.

It's a blank plywood stage with green plastic chairs of the type you get in community centres and church halls. Conversations are mostly pitched at 'private' and 'casual' making it an almost voyeuristic watching experience.

Hanging on every word

You don't need huffs and sighs and characters flopping around to indicate lethargy and boredom it is in their stillness and subtle movement. And that stillness sharpens the focus on what is being said. You hang on every word.

Occasionally there are bursts of energy but it somehow magnifies the subtle emotions of the quiet conversations.

Anya Reiss' modern adaptation makes the play feel completely at home in the 21st century: Carriages have become Land Rovers and Jeeps and Trigorin tells Nina to call his agent.

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Review: Amy Adams in The Glass Menagerie, Duke of Yorks Theatre - bright sparks but too many questions

Director Jeremy Herrin has chosen to have two actors playing Tom Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie so that when he is acting as narrator, it is an older, maturer Tom.  

The Glass Menagerie Duke of York's Theatre poster

This older Tom, played by Paul Hilton, sets a reflective, melancholy, almost listless tone to the play, but while he hovers around the edges of the stage during certain scenes, where he is absent, it serves to emphasise that this story is his interpretation of events and sometimes conjecture. Tom Glynn-Carney plays the younger Tom.

Amy Adams' Amanda is the antithesis, a matriarch full of bustle and bristle and constantly needling her children.

She is an irritating spark to her despondent and bored son and pushes her shy, nervous daughter Laura (Lizzie Annis) further into her own world. And, she is such a spark that you feel Amanda's absence when she is on stage.

As the play progresses and the prospect of a 'gentleman caller' gets closer, a youthful coquettishness comes out. Adams' Amanda is less a mother concerned about her daughter's future and more someone living out a fantasy rooted in much happier times.

Problem scene

For me, the problem scene was when Laura was alone with her gentlemen caller Jim (Victor Alli). It feels, tonally, as if it's from a different play. Is that the intention? Not having been there, this scene is very much from the imagination of Tom or what the quiet and mentally fragile Laura chooses to relay.

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Review: The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre - Ruth Wilson is transfixing

You know those times you are watching a play utterly transfixed by what is happening on stage? Yep, well, that's how I felt watching  Ruth Wilson in The Human Voice.

The Human Voice Harold Pinter Theatre poster
The Human Voice, Harold Pinter Theatre Mar 2022

The signs were good. She's a fabulous actress, and she's partnered with director Ivo Van Hove before - in Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre, which earned five stars from me.

An adaptation by Van Hove of Jean Cocteau's challenging play, The Human Voice is not just a monologue; it's one side of a telephone conversation. In the wrong hands, it could be awful. 

The conversation is between a woman (Wilson) and, as we learn, her lover. They have been together for five years, but he is leaving her and marrying another woman the following day, so this will be their last conversation.

There is nothing obvious or affected in Ruth Wilson's performance. We watch her through a large window as if observing her apartment from a neighbouring building. She occasionally walks out of view while talking, and there is something voyeuristic about the whole thing, a feeling which heightened by how oblivious she is to being viewed - or overheard. 

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Review: The Mousetrap, St Martin's Theatre - frothy, fun entertainment

Are you allowed to call yourself a theatre fan if you haven't seen The Mousetrap, the West End's longest-running play? Possibly. But I've ticked that box now.

The Mousetrap sign
Photo by Rev Stan

So what was it like? Well, it's a fun, frothy West End play that is in part carried by its status of being long-running and a West End institution.

It's an Agatha Christie, which means everyone acts in a way that puts them under suspicion.

And I don't know if you are like me, but thoughts about characters always cross my mind early on, which I then put to one side but inevitable prove true.

Of course, I never verbalise my suspicions in the interval, so can't prove that I was kinda on the right track. But I was, so there. Not that I guessed everything because I didn't.

There are some nice little twists, as you'd expect from Christie.

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Review: Wonderville Magic & Illusion, Palace Theatre - fun and entertainment (for all the family)

Wonderville Magic & Illusion is, as its title suggests, an evening of (family-friendly) magic and illusion but with the occasional bit of variety thrown in - think roller-skating hula hooping. 

Wonderville 1 Multi-award-winning mind reader and TV star Chris Cox Photo by Pamela Raith
Wonderville: Multi-award-winning mind reader and TV star Chris Cox. Photo by Pamela Raith

And while much of it is a variation of stuff you'll have seen before, you can't help but be awed by a lot of what you are apparently witnessing.

Mindreader Chris Cox both performs and comperes, marshalling the mixture of acts who take it in turns to do short stints.

While some acts lend themselves to quick switches, the different pace of some performances makes the transitions a little clunky at times. But it does mean that you never linger on any one act for too long. 

Edward Hilsum does traditional sleight of hand tricks. Occasionally you can see how he does it, but then he'll immediately wow you with the seemingly impossible. There is a particularly cute moment with a young volunteer from the audience.

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Review: Anna X, Harold Pinter Theatre - Emma Corrin plays the mysterious and magnetic Anna

Anna X by Joseph Charlton is a fresh, contemporary play set in New York that explores identity and acceptance in the modern age.

Anna X Harold Pinter Theatre poster

Anna, played by Emma Corrin, arrives in the city to start an internship at an ultra-trendy fashion and art magazine. She has ambitions to open her own art gallery.

Other than that, she is a blank canvas, the people she meets to fill in the gaps with their own assumptions. And she lets them.

Ariel, played by Nabhaan Rizwan, is also new in town. He left a mediocre - in tech terms - career in San Francisco to launch an exclusive dating app that has caught the eye of investors and catapulted him into the high life.

He's trying to fit into the affluent, high-flyer lifestyle.

Anna meets Ariel at a nightclub where they have one of those shouty conversations over the loud music which is transcribed - including mishearings - on a screen behind them (more of that later).

A mysterious character

He is fascinated by Anna. She is both mysterious and familiar. Independent, forthright, playful and spontaneous. And beautiful. She's out of his world, and he's out of his.

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Review: J'Ouvert, Harold Pinter Theatre - the theatre I've been waiting to get back to

There has been controversy in the US about a brand of rum called 'J'Ouvert'. It is a term that is both celebratory and has links with the slave trade (read more about that here), and Yasmin Jay's play beautifully captures the contradictions it represents.

J'ouvert poster

Set at the Notting Hill carnival Nadine (Gabrielle Brooks), Jade (Sapphire Joy), Nisha, and Annice Boparai want to enjoy the day, but they also have an agenda.

Nadine has been rehearsing her dance moves and wants to shake off her church upbringing and be the face of the carnival. She is driven by the spirit of Claudia Jones, who founded the carnival and serves as a reminder of the event's origins.

Jade is there to support (and protect) Nadine. She is also being drawn into the world of activism and has a speech to make.

Nisha is a middle-class activist who sees carnival as an opportunity to rally more of the community to her anti-gentrification cause.

Party atmosphere

Before the play starts, the theatre has a party atmosphere, with music playing so that when the curtain rises on carnival day, complete with a DJ at the back of the stage, the scene is set.

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Sunday theatre question: What play do you want to see revived post-lockdown?

If there was one play/production you could revive to watch when theatres reopen (hopefully) in May, what would you choose?

Sunday theatre post lockdown play

Would you go for something tragic or uplifting? Maybe a comedy because a laugh would be good?

This week my inbox has been busy with announcements about the first swathe of productions opening, and it got me thinking about what I want that first post lockdown theatre experience to be.

And given how tough it's been, combined with what will undoubtedly feel like quite joyful new freedom, I don't want to see something too depressing or tragic. 

Not off the bat anyway.

I'd like to revisit something that had me walking out of the theatre with a spring in my step.

Something like Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd, which I saw at the White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios on its transfer.

Or The Dirty Great Love Story from the Arts Theatre, which was a guffaw-inducing modern love story.

Alternatively, I'd like to watch something that is just downright silly, like Bears in Space which was at the Soho Theatre and starred none other than King Joffrey actor Jack Gleeson.

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