Some alternatives for festive shows in London, if panto ain’t your thing

Not up for seeing panto but still fancy getting out of the house before Omicron burns it all down? Here’s some alternatives to pantomimes over the coming month, plus a mention for some seriously good deals on West End shows over at Seatplan


Les Misérables and The Phantom Of The Opera star John Owen-Jones will be joining fellow Welsh West End singing sensation Lucie Jones to celebrate the festive season in style at her exclusive December concerts. John – who has starred to great acclaim as both Jean Valjean and The Phantom – will appear at the Lucie Jones at Christmas concerts at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, and at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.

The intimate and exclusive shows will feature Lucie, who has just finished playing Jenna Hunterson on the UK tour of Waitress and will soon take on the iconic role of Elphaba, and John performing all their favourite Christmas songs and showtunes, accompanied by Lucie’s live band. The dates are Monday December 13 at St David’s Hall, Cardiff and Tuesday, December 14 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London.

Tickets are on sale now from www.cuffeandtaylor.com Continue reading “Some alternatives for festive shows in London, if panto ain’t your thing”

Review: Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre

If it isn’t necessarily the best play around, Life of Pi at the Wyndham’s Theatre can seriously lay claim to being one of the finest productions open right now 

“I’ve had a terrible trip”

West End theatres may not seem like the most flexible of spaces but there’s clearly an appetite for reconfiguring them at the moment. The Playhouse Theatre has properly transformed into the Kit Kat Club for Cabaret and over at the Wyndham’s Theatre, something really quite special has been done for Life of Pi. It is so cleverly done and the transformation allows Tim Hatley’s set design to recapture much of what made the show work in its highly successful run in Sheffield back in 2019.

I must confess to not having read Yann Martel’s original book nor seen Ang Lee’s film adaptation. And a show that features puppetry so heavily would hardly seem like a natural fit for someone as easily freaked out by would-be naturalistic puppets as I. But the word of mouth was so strong and I do like to try and challenge my preconceptions occasionally (if only to prove I’m right ;-)). And I’m kinda glad I did, as the show really is a visual treat like no other, to borrow from another soon-to-open-in-the-West-End show, truly spectacular spectacular. Continue reading “Review: Life of Pi, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Review: Assisted, Golden Goose Theatre

Alexa who? Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted takes an amusing and assured look at the growing role AI takes in our lives, playing at the Golden Goose Theatre now

“Don’t shout at her, she’s not a person”

Hey Siri, can you write this theatre review for me? No? At the moment, voice assistants have their limitations but in a time of extraordinary technological progression and a wide-ranging societal embrace thereof, Greg Wilkinson’s new play Assisted, presented as part of the Golden Goose’s EMERGE2021 festival of new theatre, poses the question about how far they could, or should, go.

Jordan has got himself a next-gen AI – Alivia – and integrated her – and it’s always a ‘her’, studies have shown so 😉 – seamlessly into pretty much every aspect of his life. But as his IRL relationship with Connie grows and she moves in, a real tension begins to develop with their contrasting attitudes towards Alivia and the way in which she intersects, interacts and even interferes with their lives. Continue reading “Review: Assisted, Golden Goose Theatre”

#AdventwithClowns Day 2 – Joe Penhall’s Birthday

Today’s Advent treat is this TV version of Joe Penhall’s Birthday, making it a belated Roger Michell tribute first seen at the Royal Court

“Men can take the pain”

Joe Penhall’s Birthday was first seen onstage at the Royal Court back in 2012 and, in the strange way of these things, was chosen for televisual adaptation as part of Sky Art’s Playhouse Presents… programme in 2015. Roger Michell returned to direct with three-quarters of the original cast, only replacing Lisa Dillon with Anna Maxwell Martin (a mildly interesting decision given that’s his wife…!). 

Birthday follows a couple in the final stages of pregnancy. The only thing is it is Ed who is nine months pregnant and Lisa who is pacing the hospital corridors and forgetting to pack the raspberry leaf tea. This is a world where men can have artificial wombs implanted but despite those advances, the often patronising manner that so many pregnant people experience remains very much intact. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 2 – Joe Penhall’s Birthday”

News: Ruth Wilson and Ivo van Hove reunite for The Human Voice

After the pandemic robbed us of the chance to see 24 hours of Ruth Wilson, the celebrated (not least by me) actress has revealed her plans to return to the London stage. She’s set to star in The Human Voice, an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s monologue by Ivo van Hove and designed by Jan Versweyveld, at the Harold Pinter Theatre for three short weeks from 17th March until 9th April.

The production brings back together Wilson and van Hove after their vibrant take on Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre back in 2016. And it is a show has been in Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s (or Toneelgroep Amsterdam as was) repertoire for a good few years now, with the marvellous actress Halina Reijn having performed it one way or another every year from 2008 to 2019! Continue reading “News: Ruth Wilson and Ivo van Hove reunite for The Human Voice”

#AdventwithClowns Day 1: In the Heights (2021)

This Advent I am going to try to showcase some of the online theatre content that’s still available, particularly now as Omicron approaches, starting with the film version of In the Heights

“That’s señorita to you”

Whilst fully appreciating the concerns raised at the lack of Black Latinx representation in a film set in a New York neighbourhood where they make up a substantial proportion of the population, it does feel a bit of a shame that so much of the discourse around In the Heights focused on it, possibly to the detriment of its box office. When there’s so little representation available from Hollywood studios, you want something like this to succeed regardless but with that representation at a premium, it’s no wonder that those who are still left out want to make their voices heard.

These problems around colorism aside, Jon M Chu’s film of Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2005 musical remains a fairly curious choice for adaptation. The story isn’t one of the conventional narrative arc, it really is more of a feeling, a mood, a slice of life from the predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. We follow a whole range of characters as they follow their dreams, no matter how big or small, from life-changing decisions to getting an ice-cold drink to ease a heatwave but the focus is on the micro-, offering a warm personal hug. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 1: In the Heights (2021)”

Review: Love Story 10th Anniversary Concert, Cadogan Hall

The 10th Anniversary Concert of Howard Goodall’s gorgeous musical Love Story sees a beautiful reunion for its stars Michael D Xavier and Emma Williams at Cadogan Hall

“They will dance in the puddles
And teach them these tunes”

Delayed from last year by, what else, the pandemic, this 10th Anniversary Concert of Love Story was such a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday evening. I loved Howard Goodall’s musical from the first time I heard it in the West End (and the second) and have followed it ever since, from fringe revivals in London and even to Bolton.

Director Kirk Jameson’s production elevated the show from its billed “concert” staging to something much more involved, if not necessarily the full monty. And with all the emotion and commitment shown by the musical’s original star pairing – Emma Williams and Michael D Xavier – so much of that initial magic was recaptured. Continue reading “Review: Love Story 10th Anniversary Concert, Cadogan Hall”

TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4

Series 4 of Silent Witness sees Sam finally leave Cambridge for London and start to lean into her savant side…

“I’m not in the police, I’m independent. That’s what makes my opinion worth having”

Perhaps cognisant of just how much a pathologist can be needed to do in Cambridge, Series 4 of Silent Witness transplants Sam Ryan to London, ostensibly as a professor at Imperial University but in reality, becoming the pathologist-on-call for any and everyone who wants her services in this shortened series of 3 stories.

So she heads up to Lincolnshire to deal with a North Sea helicopter crash and even returns to Cambridge (already so soon) to reunite fractiously with now-DCI Connors for some furious hate-flirting over the bodies of 12 burnt-alive cinemagoers. The opening out of the scope of location is a definite plus for the series, allowing for a believable variety. Continue reading “TV Review: Silent Witness Series 4”