163 posts categorized "West End" Feed

Review: Maggie Smith recalls A German Life, Bridge Theatre

A German Life subtly asks important questions about culpability and responsibility.

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When Maggie Smith heads to the stage it is undoubtedly a big draw but I think the play, A German Life, is equally worthy of the attention.

I've long been fascinated with stories from the Second World War told from non-traditional perspectives.

A German Life is based on the life of Brunhilde Pomsel who was one of Goebbels secretaries. 

Smith's Hilde sits at a kitchen table, glasses in her hand and tells us about her life and how she came to be working at the Reich's propaganda ministry at the end of the war - something for which she spent five years in prison.

Telling forgotten details?

She tells us up front that she doesn't remember much - is it telling where she can recall details and where she cannot?

It is an exceptional story of someone extraordinary in their ordinariness.

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Review: Why Admissions at Trafalgar Studios made me angry

Is it part of the irony within Joshua Harmon's Admissions that a play about white privilege and the hypocrisy of white liberals has only white characters?

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Set in New England, the play centres on a middle-class family. Mother Sherri (Alex Kingston) is head of admissions at a posh private school and doggedly determined to increase diversity among staff and pupils while her husband Bill (Andrew Woodall) is the equally liberal head of the school.

Their son Charlie (Ben Edelman) and his best friend Perry, whose mother (Sarah Hadland) is white and father mixed race, have both applied to Yale but when Charlie doesn't get accepted, the family's liberal halo dramatically slips.

Charlie believes his friend's admission to Yale is down to diversity targets rather than merit.

He expresses his opinion at length in a nasty and hysterical rant, levelling similar criticism at equality targets just for good measure. His parents listen passively, passing comment only when he has finally run out of steam.

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Review: Emilia, Vaudeville Theatre - humour, fun and feminism

Music and a final dance metaphorically lifts Emilia and her message onto shoulders and had the audience leaping up for a standing ovation.

Clare Perkins (Emilia 3)  Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit Helen Murray.
Clare Perkins (Emilia 3) Saffron Coomber (Emilia 1) and Adelle Leonce (3) in Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre. Photo credit: Helen Murray.

I've read reviews of Morgan Lloyd Malcolm's play Emilia that describe its feminist message as 'unsubtle' and the titular character's suffering as overblown.

It's comments like that, which reinforce the need for plays like this and why, perhaps, the time for subtlety is over.

An all-female cast tells the story of Emilia Lanier née Bassano regarded as the first professional female poet, one of the first feminist writers in England and possibly the inspiration behind Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'.

Three actresses - Saffron Coomber, Adelle Leonce and Clare Perkins - play Emilia at three stages of her life.

Perkins' Emilia opens and closes the play with rousing speeches about the inequality and prejudice served upon herself and women generally.

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Review: Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Cox and Zawe Ashton in Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre - precise, layered, gripping

You need the laughs because it reminds you to breathe.

Tom hiddleston charlie cox zawe ashton betrayal poster

Tom Hiddleston is sitting at the back of the stage, leaning against the wall one leg straight, the other bent with an arm resting on the knee.

It's casual in that model photo way. There is nothing in his posture that gives away any emotion but his eyes, which gaze off to the middle distance, betray him. It's subtle but he looks on the verge of tears.

This is the powerful essence of director Jamie Lloyd's production of Harold Pinter's play Betrayal. With a sparse script, there is a rich subtext played out in little looks, half smiles... and a glistening eye.

Physical presence of betrayal

All three of the play's main characters - Robert (Hiddleston), Emma his wife  (Zawe Ashton) and Jerry (Charlie Cox) his best friend - remain on stage throughout.

Lloyd uses the peripheral presence of a single character to powerful effect.

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Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre - likes and dislikes

Anderson just oozes sexiness, carrying a confidence and slight aloofness that both draws people to her and pushes them away

All about eve poster

Ivo van Hove's production and stage adaptation of the film All About Eve is trademark van Hove and that is a good and bad thing. 

The play tells the story of stage star Margo Channing (Gillian Anderson) who is at the height of fame, has parts written for her, a loving, director boyfriend (Julian Ovenden) and loyal friends. 

But when a young fan, Eve (Lily James), turns up at the stage door and inveigles her way into Margo's life and inner circle, it doesn't bring out the best for either.

Filming on stage

Van Hove utilises live film with both fixed cameras  - in a dressing table mirror - and handheld to follow the action hidden from audience view, the footage projected on screens above the stage. 

The dressing table is a permanent feature of the set regardless of where the action moves, a symbol of the power and importance placed on women's looks and youthfulness in showbusiness.

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Review: The American Clock, Old Vic - not the sum of all its parts

 

Arthur Miller's Depression-era drama The American Clock isn't revived very often - is it unfairly overlooked?

There is a sort of central narrative following the once wealthy Baum family, who lose everything in the Great Depression and are forced to give up their Manhatten apartment and move in with relatives in Brooklyn.

This is peppered with vignettes showing events elsewhere in the city and elsewhere in America - farmers fixing foreclosure auctions to keep their farms, for example.

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All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre - rehearsal photos and day seat info

Gillian-Anderson-Julian-Ovenden.-Photography-by-Jan-Versweyveld
Gillian Anderson and Julian Ovenden in rehearsal for All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre. Photography by Jan Versweyveld

Rehearsal photos and day seat information have been released for Ivo Van Hove's All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Opening for preview on Feb 2 and starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James, there are two options for getting cheaper tickets on the day of the performance.

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Pinter and misogyny post #metoo - was Pinter ahead of the curve or playing for laughs?

Last year saw the #metoo movement explode and finally expose the appalling behaviour women can experience, was Pinter ahead of the curve?

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Pinter Six of the Pinter at the Pinter season is the first that I can say I quite enjoyed but it didn't stop a nagging question I've had for a while: Was Pinter a misogynist?

I'm not alone as it was the first question in the post-show Q&A with director Jamie Lloyd and cast members Celia Imrie, Ron Cook and Abraham Popoola.

Pinter Six is made up of two plays: Party Time and Celebration both exploring similar themes (link to a review below).

They centre on two different groups of nouveau riche who are shallow in their obsessions for fine things and for all the bonhomie are isolated, disconnected and lonely.

Treatment of women

Both plays are funny and exposing. But they also have something else in common: The women are often not treated very well by the men.

They are derided, ridiculed or presented as ridiculous, nagging or stupid. If they have any purchase in their relationships it feels like it is being presented under judgement.

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Happy New Theatre Year: 9 plays I'm particularly looking forward to seeing in 2019

Starting off 2019 with plenty of theatre in the diary, these are the nine plays I'm particularly looking forward to seeing (in date order):

RG-3X9vs_400x400Kompromat, Vault Festival (23-27 Jan)

What the website says: Inspired by the still-unsolved 2010 murder of GCHQ agent Gareth Williams, Kompromat is a tense drama of double agents and our capacity for self-deception played out against a high-stakes game of love.

Why I'm excited: Having read an early draft a couple of years ago and then attended a rehearsed reading at the Arcola I've got a good feel for what this might be like.

Tartuffe, National Theatre (9 Feb-30 Apr)

What the website says: A scalpel-sharp comedy looking at the lengths we go to find meaning – and what happens when we find chaos instead.

Why I'm excited: Tartuffe is one of the classics I've long wanted to see, John Donnelly has done the adaptation and Olivia Williams is in it. I love Olivia Williams.

Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train, Young Vic (14 Feb-30 Mar)

What the website says: From Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker with the Hat), comes this critically-acclaimed dark comedy about the American justice system and the contradictory nature of faith. 

Why I'm excited: I loved The Motherfucker With the Hat when I saw it in 2015 at the National and I've been waiting for another Stephen Adly Guirgis play to hit London ever since.

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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.

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