200 posts categorized "West End" Feed

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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Sunday theatre question: Which is your favourite play based on real events?

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction and that's how I preambled my review of The Great Wave at the National Theatre back in 2018.

Sunday theatre question based on real events

It was based on real events in the 1970s and 1980s when North Korean agents abducted ordinary people from Japanese beaches in order to steal their identities or learn the Japanese language and culture.

The play follows two sisters one who has been abducted and the other left behind living with her sister's sudden disappearance.  It's a nail-biting, emotional roller coaster of a play that brought to life events I had no knowledge of.

Which is your favourite play based on real events?

The Great Wave is one of several plays based on real events I've really enjoyed over the years, here are some other notable mentions:

Enron, Noel Coward Theatre - Took a very dry subject and made it interesting and entertaining - bonus points for velociraptors and light sabres.

This House, National Theatre - a dusty 1970s political crisis given a high-energy makeover by writer James Graham and director Jeremy Herrin.

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Sunday theatre question: Favourite play or production with an all-female cast

This week's Sunday Theatre question is about girl-power on stage - what is your favourite play or production with an all-female cast?  Theatre's gender balance still has a way to go, but it feels like it has improved in recent years. Do you think?

Sunday theatre question all female cast

My choice for this makes a thing of having an all-female cast. Emilia, which I saw at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2019 (review here) is the story of Emilia Lanier, the first feminist poet and a possible inspiration for Shakespeare.

And while it is a story with feminism at its heart, having an all-female cast allowed plenty of humourous digs at the fact that women weren't allowed to perform on the stage in Shakespeare's time.

It was brilliantly done and was such a joyous production; I loved it. So what is your choice and why?

Looking for inspiration? Here are some other all-female cast productions that spring to mind:

Queens of Sheba, Battersea Art Centre - Saw this at the Edinburgh Fringe then again when it transferred the Battersea Arts Centre. It's one of those plays that doesn't shy away from looking at the difficult subjects - sexism and racism - but also feels like a celebration and a rally - a call to arms. I loved it very much.

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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?

BenAshenden_AlexOwen_CreditMarcBrenner(10)
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'