176 posts categorized "West End" Feed

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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Review: Did the star-studded cast shine in mid-life crisis comedy drama The Starry Messenger, Wyndham's Theatre?

His voice has that soporific tone and pace that bring back shuddering memories of classrooms where time stands still except that writer Kenneth Lonergan has gifted Mark with a dry humour delivered by Broderick in such a deliciously understated way you can't but admire his comic timing.

Matthew Broderick (Mark) Starry Messenger by Marc Brenner
Matthew Broderick (Mark) The Starry Messenger by Marc Brenner

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, life moves pretty fast and if you don't stop and look around once in while you could miss it." So said Matthew Broderick's Ferris Bueller in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

If only his character Mark in The Starry Messenger had heeded Ferris' warning.

Mark finds himself middle-aged and teaching astronomy classes at a planetarium which is hardly the space-related career he imagined when a young man.

Instead, he is a tweed jacket and waistcoat-wearing tutor and any laughter and jollity during his lessons are what drift through the walls from the neighbouring classroom.

Dry humour

His voice has that soporific tone and pace that bring back shuddering memories of classrooms where time stands still except that writer Kenneth Lonergan has gifted Mark with a dry humour delivered by Broderick in such a deliciously understated way you can't but admire his comic timing.

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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

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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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