Review: The Color Purple – at home, Curve Leicester

Curve Leicester’s The Color Purple – at home sounds like a dream with an excellent cast but I’m not sure it truly benefits from being filmed

“She got them heebies and jeebies”

It is a bit of a shame that The Color Purple – at home, has to follow Curve Leicester’s exceptionally good production of Sunset Boulevard as they reimagine their planned autumn/winter season in concert form. For where the already cinematic Sunset blossomed in the marriage of theatre and film, The Color Purple doesn’t reap anywhere near the same level of benefit from this treatment. 

Part of the problem lies in the essential nature of the shows. Sunset is full of distance and estrangement which is perfect with there’s a 2m social distancing rules in place but The Color Purple is about intimacy and connection at its heart, and that is sadly – but necessarily – missing here. Continue reading “Review: The Color Purple – at home, Curve Leicester”

News: Curve to stream The Color Purple at Home

Following the success of its recent five-star production of Sunset Boulevard – at HomeCurve has announced plans to also stream The Color Purple online between Tue 16 Feb and Sun 7 Mar, in association with Birmingham Hippodrome.

Whilst the planned run of live performances is now sadly cancelled due to the uncertainty around national restrictions, Curve will safely bring together the 2019 award-winning company to stream the production for audiences to watch online. The Color Purple – at Home will be a fully reimagined concert version of the 2019 production, co-produced by Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome. Continue reading “News: Curve to stream The Color Purple at Home”

Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home

As a piece of digital theatre, Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard in Concert plays excitingly with the possibilities of this developing form 

“There’s nothing else – just us and these cameras”

Damned if do, damned if you don’t. Curve Leicester boldly took steps in the autumn to reimagine their auditorium in order to be able to mount a post-Lockdown #1 season of socially-distanced concert performances of previous hits. The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic and the dance of the tiers put paid to those plans, even as technical rehearsals had already started but in a move that would please Norma Desmond herself, Sunset Boulevard in Concert has still found its way to the spotlight.

Nikolai Foster’s reconception of his initial adaptation of his original production sees him lean heavily into Sunset Boulevard’s cinematic origins, taking full advantage of the lack of audience to ditch the traditional notions of semi-staged concerts and create an inventive fusion of theatre and film. And with those restraints fully loosed, this production unfurls across every inch of the auditorium – Norma first appears from the back of the circle, Joe’s rooms are tucked into the fly tower, the ensemble watch impassively from the empty seats in an almost Brechtian manner of observation. Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home”

UK theatre casting news – November update

Theatre Royal Bath will reopen on 3 December with a revised performance schedule for Oleanna and Copenhagen, the final two plays in the theatre’s Welcome Back Season.

David Mamet’s provocative  drama Oleanna, directed by Lucy Bailey will star Rosie Sheehy  and Jonathan Slinger, who replaces John Heffernan in the role of John. The play will now run in Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio from 3 December to 22 December and again from 4 January to 16 January 2021. Reduced capacity at the Ustinov Studio will allow for an audience of 60 persons per performance.

The November run of Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning  Copenhagen has been postponed until the new year when it will play Theatre Royal Bath’s Main House from 20 January to 6 February 2021.  Directed by Polly Findlay it will star Haydn Gwynne, Philip Arditti, and in a change to original billing of Michael Gould, Malcolm Sinclair. Continue reading “UK theatre casting news – November update”

News: live theatre returns to Leicester

Curve has today announced plans to reopen to the public. The theatre, which was forced suddenly to close its doors to the public on 16 March, will open again this autumn for spectacularly re-imagined, socially distanced concert performances of acclaimed Made at Curve productions, using the building’s unique theatre design.

The Color Purple in Concert 23rd November – 5th December, with T’Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya, who won The Stage Debut Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as ‘Nettie’.
Sunset Boulevard in Concert – 14th December – 3rd January,
Ria Jones and Danny Mac will return to star.
Memoirs Of An Asian Football Casual 25th January – 6th February.

By raising the walls between its theatre spaces, Curve will reopen as a 533-seat socially-distanced auditorium, with audiences enjoying live performances from all four sides of the stage, fully realising the ambition of architect Rafael Viñoly’s original design. A triple-revolve, donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, will help to transform the space to create an epic experience for audience members. Continue reading “News: live theatre returns to Leicester”

Lockdown Theatre Review: Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, Curve Leicester

Hareet Deol and Jay Varsani excel in a highly physical adaptation of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, streamed online from Curve Leicester

“Break the cycle. Find what unites us. It ain’t rocket science.”

Just a quickie for this, a show from Curve Leicester which is being streamed for the next week. Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual is an interpretation of Riaz Khan’s book about his experience as a football hooligan in the 1980s which adaptor Dougal Irvine and director Nikolai Foster have reworked into a two-hander which bursts off the stage with enough energy to reach your screen.

Hareet Deol and Jay Varsani play brothers Riaz and Suf who, in their search for a sense of belonging, wind up in the tight-knit community of Leicester City’s Baby Squad, a multicultural gang who more than squared up to the threat of far-right racism. And as they also take on the tens of other roles in the story with lightning quick precision, there’s a powerful tale of a particular shade of British masculinity that has shaped so much of the attitudes that still prevail in dark corners today. It’s well worth the watch over the coming weeks.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Photo: Ellie Kurttz
Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual is available to watch until Friday 24th April

If you’ve watched Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual, please consider making a donation to Curve by clicking here.

My 10 favourite shows of 2019

I barely saw 250 shows this year, quiet by my standards! And as is the way of these things, here’s a rundown of some of the productions that moved me most…

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Southwark Playhouse
I haven’t lost it in a theatre as much as this in a good long while. I cry at all sorts but this superlative musical had me trying, and failing, to choke back huge, hacking sobs. And I can still sing some of the songs – it has to come back, surely. “It’s all just a matter of time…”

2. Call Me Fury, Hope Theatre
“This is the history we should be teaching, these are the stories we should be sharing”, this striking and soulful piece gave voice to so many whom history have ignored, and was bloody entertaining with it. 

3. West Side Story, Curve Leicester
A musical I love, in a production that I simply adored. Getting to see two WSSs in one year was a privilege and for me, it was the emotional heart of Nikolai Foster’s production that won out.

4. As You Like It, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch
The second year of the Public Acts programme comes up trumps once again with this gorgeous musical version of the Shakespeare classic, community theatre at its finest.

5. Islander, Southwark Playhouse
The magic of musical theatre distilled into two voices and a loop pedal – a marvellously inventive and endlessly moving. 

6. Amélie the Musical, Watermill Theatre/UK Tour/The Other Palace
As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, something truly gorgeous emerges from this film adaptation that simply demands you come up with better words than quirky to describe it.

7. & Juliet, Shaftesbury Theatre
Tell me why… About as much fun as you can have in the West End right now, this is a particularly fine example of the jukebox model and I want it that way.

8. Sexy Lamp, VAULT
A standout piece in a standout festival, Katie Arnstein’s brutally honest monologue about navigating the patriarchy may be lightened with songs and sweets but is no less effective for it.

9. Karaoke Play, Bunker Theatre
Deeply confessional and subtly magical, Annie Jenkins’ inter-connected monologues combined to become so much more than the sum of their parts.

10. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, National Theatre
A magical family tale, perfect for kids of all ages. Not even reading the exit poll as I left could ruin the feeling! 

Shows 11-25 under the cut

Continue reading “My 10 favourite shows of 2019”

2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations

The nominations for the 20th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards have been announced and I have a thought or two #justiceforAnneHathaway

As a publicly nominated affair, the What’s On Stage Awards always throw up an interesting set of nominations, as fanbases engage alongside theatregoers to produce an idiosyncratic reflection on the year. This year though, the nominees for the nine creative categories (Choreography, Costume Design, Direction, Graphic Design, Lighting Design, Musical Direction, Set Design, Sound Design and Video Design) have been decided by an independent panel of industry experts appointed, which has resulted in some pleasing inclusions for the likes of Equus and Small Island

Acting-wise, the focus does land a little heavily on the more famous names (plus ça change) and that Supporting Actress in a Musical category is super-crowded (the Dear Evan Hansen mothers would have been a shoo-in for me there). My only real point of issue comes with the categorisation for the & Juliet players – are you really going to nominate Oliver Tompsett as a lead and then put Cassidy Janson in the supporting category? Did you not see the show, or get any of its message at all?!

Voting for the winners is open now and closes on 27th January 2020, with the winners being revealed at a ceremony on 1st March 2020.

Best Actor in a Play, sponsored by Edwardian Hotels

Tom Hiddleston – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Andrew Scott – Present Laughter – The Old Vic
Matt Smith – Lungs – The Old Vic
Wendell Pierce – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Laurie Kynaston – The Son – Kiln Theatre / Duke of York’s Theatre

Best Actress in a Play, sponsored by Tonic Theatre

Claire Foy – Lungs – The Old Vic
Zawe Ashton – Betrayal – Harold Pinter Theatre
Hayley Atwell – Rosmersholm – Duke of York’s Theatre
Sharon D Clarke – Death of a Salesman – Young Vic / Piccadilly Theatre
Juliet Stevenson – The Doctor – Almeida Theatre Continue reading “2020 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: West Side Story, Curve

No doubt about it, Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Curve Leicester is damn close to musical theatre perfection

“Could it be, yes it could
something’s comin’, something good”

The Royal Exchange may have gotten there first this year but Nikolai Foster’s production of West Side Story for Leicester’s Curve proves an absolute triumph. Going down a similar route of featuring brand-new choreography, here by Ellen Kane, the familiar becomes something refreshing and new and hugely emotionally satisfying. From its opening moments which set the anti-immigrant tone like never before, through Musical Supervisor Sarah Travis’ incredible treatment of this iconic Bernstein score, to Kane’s sensational set-pieces which fill every inch of the Curve’s stage, this is damn close to musical theatre perfection.

It works so well because for all of the epic sweep of its Romeo and Juliet-inspired story, this is a very intimate reading of it. Jamie Muscato and Adriana Ivelisse really are exceptional as the ill-fated lovers Tony and Maria, delivering an unforced chemistry that is sweetness personified. Theirs is a heady, instant passion that feels so natural as to be entirely captivating. Their flirting is delicately but determinedly done – there’s no mistaking what ‘Tonight’ holds here – and something ignites in them when together. And as understated as their acting is, magic happens when they start to sing. Muscato’s ‘Maria’ is as good as I’ve ever heard in my life, as natural as breathing and then taken up to the heavens with a touch of wonder with his deeply expressive tenor. And Ivelisse’s thrilling soprano imbues ‘I Feel Pretty’ with just the right amount of character to refresh its familiar rhymes. Continue reading “Review: West Side Story, Curve”

Winners for The Stage Debut Awards 2019

Best Actress in a Play – sponsored by Audible

  • Liv Hill for Top Girls at the National Theatre, London
  • Urielle Klein-Mekongo for Yvette at the Bush Theatre, London
  • WINNER Lauren O’Leary for The Awkward Years at The Other Room, Cardiff
  • Bea Webster for Mother Courage at the Albion Electric Warehouse, Leeds

Best Actor in a Play – sponsored by Audible

  • WINNER Jamal Ajala for ear for eye at the Royal Court, London
  • Stuart Campbell for The Hunt at the Almeida Theatre, London
  • Patrick Gibson for Sweat at the Donmar Warehouse and the Gielgud Theatre, London
  • Ivan Oyik for Blue/Orange at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham

Continue reading “Winners for The Stage Debut Awards 2019”