News: keep Clowns and carry on

In which I ask WWPD (what would Patti do) and decide to honour my reviewing schedule as best as I can

“A toast to that invincible bunch”

So…what’s a Clown to do in times of Coronavirus, apart from look longingly at this amazing Patti LuPone photoshoot from Town and County Magazine? It’s hard, if not impossible, to know what the right thing to do is at an unprecedented moment like this. When the creative industries that I love and cherish so dearly are under threat of being decimated, when the day job is also wracked by uncertainty, when the act of trying to manage my own anxiety feels hard enough on its own. Heck, even the idea of staying in of an evening feels strange after a decade of intensive theatregoing.

My answer, for now, is to keep busy and to that end, I am going to be honouring my reviewing schedule as it looked for the forthcoming month. Obviously I can’t reviews shows that haven’t happened but I’m going to try to pull together mini-feature pieces for them, to collate any previews and interviews they may have done, to give you the means of staying in touch with the companies and theatres and most significantly, the ways in which any support that you can offer can be given. Obviously, the precariousness of the situation affects so many of us but any assistance that can be offered, in any shape, will surely help in the process of getting through to the other side. Do as Patti says – “everybody rise”.

 

Photos: Douglas Friedman, styled by Ryan Young

Film Review: Belfast (2021)

Kenneth Branagh’s memoir-of-sorts Belfast ends up an insufferably twee film despite the talent involved

“They just kick with the left foot”

There’s a line in the cracking TV show Community that often comes to mind, “just because something is in black and white doesn’t mean it’s good”. There’s no doubting that Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast, based in part at least on his own childhood, is entirely heartfelt but the filming style feels entirely like an affectation, bringing nothing to the storytelling itself.

This air of nostalgic indulgence is something that characterises the film as a whole. As it uses a child’s perspective to depict a slice of wholesome working-class family life, the backdrop to which just happens to be the start of the Troubles, there’s a weird sense of aimlessness here, a refusal to be drawn into any kind of meaningful comment on a conflict that must have loomed so large . Continue reading “Film Review: Belfast (2021)”

Review: Holst – The Music In The Spheres, Jack Studio Theatre

Arrows & Traps return to live performance in customary ambitious style with Holst – The Music In The Spheres at the Brockley Jack

“Noise is all relative”

It should come as little surprise that Arrows & Traps Theatre’s return to live performance takes the form of an ambitious and inventive repertory season. Written and directed by Ross McGregor, The Dyer’s Hand presents two interlinking plays aiming to once again do what the company does so well, in excavating fascinating stories from the unsung corners of our history books.

First up is Holst – The Music In The Spheres which looks at the life of Gustav (von) Holst, the English composer best known for the orchestral suite The Planets and one of the most timeless, if repurposed, melodies in Jupiter. From a strict Victorian childhood blighted by illness through his travails as a jobbing musician and teacher, McGregor illuminates Holst’s struggle to pursue his almighty artistic vision. Continue reading “Review: Holst – The Music In The Spheres, Jack Studio Theatre”

News: Ivo van Hove’s Age of Rage to play the Barbican in May

Internationaal Theater Amsterdam will return to the Barbican as an early birthday present for me, as they bring their newest epic production Age of Rage to London. Promising spectacular set design by Jan Versweyveld, choreography from Wim Vandekeybus and music from the contemporary music collective BL!NDMAN [drums], it is just the 3 hours and 45 minutes as opposed to the 6 hours of Roman tragedies so this’ll be a comparative breeze in the park. 

In Age of Rage, Ivo van Hove tells a primordial story of how revenge haunts and wrecks successive generations. This performance is in line with earlier large-scale social productions such as Roman tragedies and Kings of war. This time the history of the Trojan War and the royal Atrid family is the starting point. Ifigeneia in AulisTrojan Women, Hekabe, Agamemnon, Elektra  and Orestes are edited into one story. Age of Rage shows the mechanisms, inevitability and hopelessness of a circle of violence in Dutch with English surtitles.

News: Keala Settle to make West End debut in & Juliet

Keala Settle – internationally renowned for her starring role in the global smash hit movie The Greatest Showman – is to make her West End debut in the award-winning & Juliet.

Keala – who shot to worldwide fame performing the iconic song “This Is Me” in the movie alongside Hugh Jackman, and is a Tony Award nominated star on Broadway – will play the role of Nurse in the joyous musical which won 3 Olivier Awards and 6 Whatsonstage Awards. Continue reading “News: Keala Settle to make West End debut in & Juliet”

Film Review: The Invisible Woman (2013)

The Invisible Woman, in which Charles Dickens is a dick, Joanna Scanlan is magnificent and Ralph Fiennes is really rather good as both director and star

“He is a good man…trying to be a good man”

A film I’ve had on my ‘must get round to watching’ list for a wee while now, The Invisible Woman turns out to be an embrassment of riches for pretty much everyone involved. Written by Abi Morgan and adapted from Claire Tomalin’s novel of the same name, its focus is the years-long love affair between Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan which had been subject to a superinjunction of its time and thus largely secret.

And directed by Ralph Fiennes who also stars as Dickens, it is a rather fine film indeed, eloquently restrained in its depiction of the emotional impact of him being, well, a cad. We open with Felicity Jones’ Nelly married to someone else at some point in the future but soon flash back to her late teenage years when trying to make it as an actress, her path fatefully crosses with the illustrious writer and his inflated ego. Continue reading “Film Review: The Invisible Woman (2013)”

The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2022

The OnComm is the new award for online shows from across the UK (and beyond) and was introduced in
May 2020. 

LIVE STREAM
GAYATRI The Royal Queen Consort of the Majapahit Kingdom /  7evenotes Production / Alexander Triyono & mhyajo / Available via https://res.cthearts.com/event/34:3465/34:59436/
The Black CatThreedumb Theatre / The Space / Unfortunately this show is no longer available.
TrestleOVO Productions / Maltings Theatre / View until 10 April at https://maltingstheatre.co.uk/whats-on/trestle

RECORDED (DIRECT)
A Brief List of Everyone Who Died / Patch of Blue / Finborough / View at https://www.youtube.com/user/finboroughtheatre
Talking Gods (series of 5 plays) / Arrows & Traps / View at https://www.arrowsandtraps.com/talkinggods
Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life / Keith Alessi / View at https://online.thespaceuk.com/show/tomatoes-tried-to-kill-me-but-banjos-saved-my-life
Touchy / 20 Stories High / View via https://www.20storieshigh.org.uk/show/touchy/ Continue reading “The finalists of The ONCOMMs 2022”

The finalists of The Offies 2022

The Offies recognise and celebrate the excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent, fringe and alternative theatres across London, helping to raise their profiles and rewarding the new talent that they nurture, which is essential for the future of the theatre industry.  

Though theatre has been slowly recovering from the Covid pandemic in 2021, there have been enough high-quality Offies nominations post lockdown, to enable the judging panel to select 86 finalists across nearly 30 Offies categories.  The winners will be announced at the Offies awards ceremony, to be held online this year on 20 February 2022. Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2022”

News: Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] 2 guest performers revealed

Park Theatre has announced the full line up of almost 40 celebrities who will take to the Park200 stage this February and March – completely unrehearsed – to play the Inspector in a farcical whodunnit. Each night will see a different actor, presenter, musician or comedian having their lines fed to them via earpiece as they attempt to crack the case of a stolen diamond. First announced in November, the initial line up has been expanded to include Simon Callow, Ian McKellen, Mark Gatiss and Emma Thompson amongst others. Who will perform in Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] 2 on any given night is a closely guarded secret and will only be revealed when the curtain goes up. Continue reading “News: Whodunnit [Unrehearsed] 2 guest performers revealed”

10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”