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: 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”

News: Internationaal Theater Amsterdam join in the streaming game with ITALive

With ITALive, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam get in on the livestreaming game with their productions of Medea, Wie heeft mijn vader vermoord (Who killed my father) and De stille kracht (The hidden force)

In the grand scheme of things, missing out on my regular trips to Amsterdam this year isn’t that big of a deal though it still makes me sad to think of the friends I haven’t seen, the theatre I’ve missed, all the bitterballen I’ve not eaten…

But Internationaal Theater Amsterdam are going some way to rectify that by launching ITALive (and for the long term too, not just for the pandemic) as a way of extending the reach of their work. Selected shows from their repertoire are being livestreamed from the magnificent Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam starting with Simon Stone’s exquisitely heart-wrenching take on Medea starring the incomparable Marieke Heebink. Continue reading “News: Internationaal Theater Amsterdam join in the streaming game with ITALive”

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”

10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2019

Flashes of excellence can be found in the midst of any production so this list celebrates some of those breath-taking and/or memorable moments that really made theatregoing enjoyably fun this year

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

Crying with laughter at the VAULT

I don’t think I have laughed so much and so helplessly for a long time as I did with improv group Sorry.

Jessica Hung Han Yun’s extraordinary lighting in Equus

Ned Bennett’s production of Equus had so much to commend but it was Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting work that really stood out for me Continue reading “10 of my top moments in a theatre in 2019”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.


4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”