149 posts categorized "West End" Feed

Review: Blood, dead cats and very (very) dark humour. Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noel Coward

The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a deliciously dark, satirical comedy.

Cards on the table: I'm a huge Martin McDonagh fan. I like the way he makes you laugh about stuff that shouldn't be funny. 

IMG_9487He takes something gruesome, cruel or amoral and pokes fun at it by making it matter of fact, part of the domestic landscape.

And in that respect The Lieutenant of Inishmore is akin to a kitchen sink drama; the everyday life of a family living in rural Ireland but one of them, 'Mad Padraic' (Aidan Turner), just happens to be a violent terrorist, too violent for the IRA who won't let him among their ranks.

Cat murder

Think Father Ted with an unstable terrorist living in the parochial house. And the terrorist is a cat lover. And his cat gets killed.

Local teen Davey (Chris Walley) is in the frame for the killing - but more likely framed - and he, together with Padraic's father Donny (Denis Conway), hatch a plan to cover up the gruesome crime.

There plan is one that wouldn't look out of place in a Saturday night TV sit-com and it becomes a race against time to hide the evidence before torture-loving, bomb-maker Padraic returns home.

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Production photos: RSC's historical thriller Imperium officially opens next week at Gielgud Theatre

RSC's Imperium: Dictator. Photo by Ikin Yum

Following a sold-out run in Stratford Upon Avon, the RSC's historical two-part thriller Imperium has its official opening at the Gielgud next week and guess who will be there?

Adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton (Wolf Hall, Bring Up The Bodies) from Robert Harris’ internationally best-selling Cicero trilogy the story is presented at six one-act plays. 

Told through the watchful eyes of Cicero’s loyal secretary IMPERIUM I: Conspirator chronicles how the great orator’s early success unwittingly paves the way for a brutal and bloody end to the Republic. 

With Rome in chaos at the beginning of IMPERIUM II: Dictator, Cicero must use all his brilliance to restore the power of the Senate from the civic mob and their would-be Emperor: one Julius Caesar. 

RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, directs a cast led by Olivier and Tony Award-winner Richard McCabe (The Audience, BBC’s Collateral) as Cicero and Joseph Kloska (The Crown) as Tiro.

Currently open for previews, each part can be seen on its own or together as one epic story. There are over 10,000 tickets for £10 or under and you will find details on the RSC's Imperium West End website.

RSC's Imperium: Conspirator. Photo by Ikin Yum

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Review: The good and bad about Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios or questions about nudity on stage

I liked it for its challenges but it isn't without its problems.

Tracy Letts' play Killer Joe, for those unfamiliar, is gritty, to put it mildly, but having seen the film adaptation I was at least prepared for that.

Killer Joe warning sign rev stan instagramAnd while it is refreshing to see something a bit more 'grimy' at the theatre, this stage adaptation is borderline farce compared to the screen version but more of that later.

There's a debate about whether the play is misogynistic in the way it shows women being treated or whether it exposes bad male behaviour and the depths of immorality.

Trailer park setting

Set in a trailer park in Texas, Chris (Adam Gillen) persuades his father Ansel (Stefan Rhodri) to help him take out a hit on his ex-wife for her life-insurance money.

Chris, a small-time drug dealer, has got himself into debt after his mother allegedly stole his merchandise.

His child-like sister Dottie (Sophie Cookson) ends up being used as a bargaining chip when they are unable to pay the deposit to hire hit man Joe Cooper (Orlando Bloom). 

Both Dottie and later Ansel's girlfriend Sharla (Neve McIntosh) suffer moments of sexual humiliation which will make the hardiest feel a little squeamish. 

Uncomfortable viewing

It is, of course, uncomfortable viewing but does that necessarily mean it shouldn't be on stage or that it is misogynistic?

As OughtToBeClowns points out the play is written by a man, directed by a man and it's mostly female nudity rather than male.

Have we become unaccustomed to female nudity in recent years? When I first started going to the theatre again back in 2007 there were lady-bits all over the place and barely a glimpse of anything male but that trend seems to have flipped.

Here we get a glimpse of Orlando Bloom's bare buttocks but longer, lingering moments of female full frontal nudity.

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Playhouse Theatre transforming for Stephen Daldry's The Jungle + rehearsal photos

Preparations are underway for the West End transfer of the Young Vic's The Jungle directed by Stephen Daldry.

The Playhouse Theatre, where the play opens for preview on June 16, is being transformed in order to accommodate Miriam Buether's original set design from the Young Vic and the Dress Circle will be transformed in the 'Cliffs of Dover'.

Screens will also relay close up shots, live news broadcast-style, to bring a more intimate play watching experience in the larger theatre.

Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s play is set in Europe’s largest unofficial refugee camp, the Calais Jungle, which in 2015, became a temporary home for more than 10,000 people. 

The cast is in rehearsal and you can see pictures below. For more details and booking go to the official website.

The Jungle rehearsals. Photo by Marc Brenner
The Jungle rehearsal. Photo by Marc Brenner

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Review: Laura Linney in My Name is Lucy Barton, Bridge Theatre and when to applaud

Lucy's is a startling story full of humour, horror and sadness but told with subtlety where much is hinted at as well as laid bare.

my name is lucy barton poster laura linney
There was a lone attempt to applaud Laura Linney's stage entrance for her West End debut in My Name Is Lucy Barton indicating, perhaps, that there was at least one American in the audience.

Laura Linney may have an exceedingly impressive array of awards and nominations to her name but that isn't the way here in London, we want to see what an actor can do first before we show our appreciation.

She plays the Lucy of the title in a solo performance, set in hospital-room where a post-op illness is confounding doctors and prolonging her stay.

Reunion and recollection

Lucy's estranged mother appears at her bedside and the story flits between their conversation and recollections from her past.

She is a writer on the verge of success, living in New York with her husband and two children but was brought up by her impoverished parents in an isolated farming community in Illinois.

It was a tough childhood, a combination of living hand to mouth and her mother's necessity-driven, no-crying style of parenting.

Startling story

There is a loneliness to Lucy, a yearning, and she is aware of it. Her mother is proud and gossipy and Linney slips easily between the two in her portrayal.

Lucy's is a startling story full of humour, horror and sadness but told with subtlety where much is hinted at as well as laid bare.

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Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

James Graham is proving to be one of the best contemporary writers of plays based on modern political history - Angry Brigade, Ink and This House to name just three.

QUIZ-447X792Part of that is his exceptional talent for turning potentially dry topics into gripping and entertaining theatre.

In Quiz he focuses on the ‘coughing Major’ scandal that enfolded the popular TV quiz Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in 2001 and the subsequent trial in 2003.


The Major - Charles Ingram -  walked away with the £1m prize on the night but was later accused of cheating and taken to court together with his alleged accomplices.

Performed on a set styled to look like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire studio, complete with onstage seating to mimic the studio audience, the play is structured like a court case.

The first half plays out what happened from the viewpoint of the prosecution and the second half is the turn of the defence.

Audience vote

With electronic devices, the audience can vote on whether Ingram (played by Gavin Stokes), his wife Diana (Stephanie Street) and the other 'conspirators' are guilty or not guilty.

Votes take place at the end of the first half and again at the end of the play after which the results from the previous 10 plays are displayed for comparison.

The style and structure is a reference to the subtler themes and subtext of the play, something that becomes more evident when audience opinion is canvassed.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Why we need more plays like Nine Night and less like Absolute Hell

It was a delight to be part of such an engaged audience and one which is more reflective of London's diversity. And it doesn't happen anywhere near as much as it should do.

I saw Absolute Hell and Nine Night on consecutive nights and seeing the latter served to highlight all that I felt was wrong with the former.

Nine-night-mobileherospot-2160x2160pxAn unfair comparison you might say but there are parallels between the two plays and they also represent where theatreland is at the moment and where it should be moving.

First, a bit about Nine Night, although if you want to read a full review I suggest starting with Ought To Be Clowns which is spot on.

Family tension

It is a new play by Natasha Gordon set in the London house of a Jamaican family where they are observing the traditional nine nights of mourning after mother, grandmother and great-grandmother Gloria dies.

This traditional way of mourning involves inviting friends and family over for food, drink (lots of drink) and dancing.

Grief coupled with having extended family in such close proximity for an extended period inevitably means tension. Secrets are unearthed, prejudices and hurts are revealed.

Rich and vibrant characters

Rodney Ackland's Absolute Hell (see my review here) is similarly set in one location and both plays have rich and vibrant characters but from here the two diverge.

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Review: Absolute Hell (or absolute heaven?), National Theatre

The play itself feels peripheral in plot and depth of characters; there's a lot of it and a lot of them and as a result it lacks substance and tension.

Absolute Hell is a big play. It has a cast that when stood in a single line barely fits across the vast Lyttelton stage and in early previews its running time was 3 hours and 40 minutes including two 15 minute intervals.
The running time has been substantially cut to 3 hours partly helped by replacing the second 15-minute interval with a 5-minute pause.

Absolute-hell-whatson-1280x720And you know what I'm going to say: It could still be shorter.

That isn't a reflection of the cast, who are superb but the play itself which feels peripheral in plot and depth of characters; there's a lot of it and a lot of them but it lacks substance and tension.

It is set in a seedy private members club in Soho immediately after the second world war where regulars spend night after night drinking, flirting and bickering themselves into some sort of numbness. 

They are certainly a colourful bunch of characters - writers, servicemen, artists, journalists, filmmakers, heiresses - and headed by the glamorous, needy, alcoholic owner of the club Christine (Kate Fleetwood).

The war is over, a change of Government is on the horizon but their partying is more about escape and routine than anything joyful.

Little meaningful interaction

And this is the problem. You spend 3 hours with a bunch of people drinking, bitching and lying and occasionally making merry but there is little by way of meaningful interaction between them.

If the lack of meaningful interaction is the point, then it is a point firmly made.

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Review: The arresting, immersive #NationalTrust Suffragette City Experience

If you want to learn a little of what it was like being a suffragette in a more experiential way then this is fun and informative hour

I'm walking down Jermyn Street trying to look casual while being vigilant. I've got a package to post in my bag and if found with it I could get arrested - I'm a suffragette and this is about 'deeds not words'.

Suffragette City experience national TrustKeeping to the opposite pavement before double backing towards the post box, all seems clear so I deposit the parcel and head back to HQ via a different route, checking to see if I'm followed.

HQ is the WSPU (Women's Social and Political Union) beneath a café just off Piccadilly Circus and this is an immersive theatre/exhibition experience, produced by the National Trust and National Archive, in which you get a taste of what it was like to walk in the shoes of a suffragette.

It's hands on, no sitting and watching, you might find yourself making rosettes, painting banners or learning new protest songs.

You might also find yourself on a protest march or taking part in other forms of direct action but there are fellow suffragettes on hand to brief you on what to do, particularly if you do get 'arrested'.

There is something exhilarating about marching down a street in central London with a banner, singing - our small but vocal group got a few rounds of applause as well as stares.

While only a small flavour of the suffragette experience, it does give you a sense of what they were up against and how far they were prepared to go to get equality.

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