Review: Angela, Sound Stage

Launching new audio drama platform Sound Stage, Mark Ravenhill’s Angela is a profoundly moving account of his mother’s experience of dementia

“I don’t like it when they change the story, I wish they would stick to the story”

I don’t know why I put myself through dementia dramas. They tap into one of my deepest fears and more often than not leave me terribly distressed but who says art should ever be easy? Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical Angela launches the Sound Stage platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre, adding in virtual theatregoing elements to the audio drama experience and predictably, is gut-wrenchingly yet beautifully felt.

Drawing directly on his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s and how that impacted the whole family, Ravenhill places her experiences at the heart of his play, a boldly disconcerting move which feels entirely right. As we slip from present to past, as an encounter here triggers a memory there, a portrait is built of the richness of a life lived, even as recollections of it are slipping away from her grasp. Continue reading “Review: Angela, Sound Stage”

News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela

The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, in association with  Naked Productions and BBC Radio 3  are delighted to announce the cast for Sound Stage’s first production; Angela, a brand-new autobiographical play by Mark Ravenhill airing 26 – 28 March.

Angela centres on the playwright’s mother, at the age of 84 and suffering with dementia, as she looks back across her life. Intercutting between Angela in her old age, her memories and mind failing her, and in her youth; growing up, moving away from her roots as the world of drama welcomed her. The Play depicts her struggle with depression and the challenges of her own aspirations, and becoming a mother, poignantly set against Mark’s experience of beginning to learn ballet, his lifelong passion, in his fifties. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela”

News: new audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE launches

New audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE to premiere new plays from Mark Ravenhill, Roy Williams, Timberlake Wertenbaker and John Byrne

Pitlochry Festival Theatre, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in collaboration with Naked Productions are thrilled to announce Sound Stage – a new immersive audio digital theatre which from late March will premiere 8 new plays written by amongst others Mark RavenhillRoy Williams, Timberlake Wertenbaker, and John Byrne.

 Sound Stage is an exciting new audio-digital venture, designed by theatre makers and leading technologists, giving audiences a unique and engrossing online theatre experience of new plays from the best in British theatre which in the future Pitlochry Festival Theatre and the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh hope to produce on stage.

Sound Stage will operate an online booking system for all productions. Just like booking a ticket for the theatre, audiences will be able to book ahead for a performance and time of their choice. Continue reading “News: new audio-digital theatre platform SOUND STAGE launches”

Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Sneaking in in the nick of time, I catch the delights of the second edition of the Royal Court’s Living Newspaper

“A slither of hope…hmmm”

I do love what the Royal Court are doing with their Living Newspaper series, rapid-response pieces being created with a limited shelf-life creating a sense of urgency that isn’t always present with digital content, but spreading the week of availability over Christmas does feel a little tricky even if festive plans for so many of our plans were forced astray.

Nevertheless, I was able to get stuck into the second edition before the digital shredder cut in and I’m glad I did as it continues to be an entirely fascinating and engaging disruption of theatrical form. Adopting the various elements of a newspaper (horoscopes, dating columns, cartoons as well as news and opinion pieces) and delivering them from various nooks and crannies around the Royal Court building (the originally planned in-person experience would have been conducted in promenade), the result is fierce and fresh. Continue reading “Review: Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2

Moronkẹ Akinola, Hammed Animashaun, Ayesha Antoine, Alex Austin, Lisa Hammond, Mariam Haque, Zachary Hing, Siu-see Hung, Wendy Kweh, Tasha Lim, Ntonga Mwanza, Rochelle Rose and Liza Sadovy have been cast in Edition 2 of the Royal Court Theatre’s Living Newspaper: A Counter Narrative.

Living Newspaper is a weekly live newspaper running over six weeks. It is urgent, responsive and fast – with writers filing their pieces by Tuesday and actors performing from Thursday, script-in-hand, hot off the press. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for Royal Court’s Living Newspaper #2”

Review: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Some seriously big names – David Walliams and Robbie Williams – can’t save the RSC’s new musical The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“Don’t eat my cheese”

There’s no lacking for big names behind the RSC’s big new musical The Boy in the Dress. Based on the novel by David Walliams and adapted by Mark Ravenhill, and with a score by Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers and Chris Heath, the pedigree is certainly there in this story about Dennis, a young football-crazy boy who decides, one day, that he’d quite like to go to school wearing a dress. But Gregory Doran’s production ends up hitting the crossbar – literally so… – and it is a little difficult to work out exactly why.

Is it in Walliams’ book, where absent mothers get entirely short shrift (as do most women, the character of Darvesh’s mum, who even gets a song, is called…Darvesh’s mum) and notions about celebrating difference only go so far – it’s OK for boys to wear dresses and win football matches, but if you buy a copy of Vogue, then you’re the target for homophobic jokes in the script. Or is it in the score which is full of strangely low-impact numbers, until an Indian man appears – cue the Bollywood song! Or someone puts on a dress – cue the disco number! It can feel that there’s not much sophistication at work here. Continue reading “Review: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Review: The Cane, Royal Court

Powerfully acted by Nicola Walker, Alun Armstrong anf Maggie Steed, Mark Ravenhill’s cleverly written The Cane is bracing stuff at the Royal Court

“These children now can hunt out anybody’s grievance and claim it as their own…they want to be offended”

Inspired by Mark Ravenhill’s realisation that some teachers retiring now would have been active when corporal punishment was outlawed in 1986, The Cane is his first new play for a goodly while. And directed by Vicky Featherstone, it is a strikingly intriguing piece of drama which has as much to say about contemporary outrage culture as it does the abuses of the past.

Edward is marking 45 years as a teacher and preparations for his retirement do are in full swing. A mob has trapped him and his wife Maureen in their own home though, inflamed by his past use of the cane, and the arrival of their daughter Anna is little comfort as she is long-estranged. And as it turns out she has both a personal and professional interest here, the atmosphere within proves no less febrile than without. Continue reading “Review: The Cane, Royal Court”

Friday feeling – news aplenty

All hail the return of Nicola Walker to the stage! Get your tickets for Camelot! Discover the Heart of Darkness! Get your exam in musical theatre singing with ABRSM!


London Musical Theatre Orchestra has announced casting for Saturday’s concert version of Camelot at the London Palladium and there’s still a few tickets going. Packed with some of musical theatre’s best songs, LMTO’s concert version with full orchestra will celebrate the centenary of Alan Jay Lerner’s birth.

The role of Arthur will be played by Olivier Award-winner David Thaxton (Passion / Les Misérables / Jesus Christ Superstar), Guenevere will be played by Savannah Stevenson (Wicked / Aspects of Love / Follies), and Lancelot will be played by internationally renowned opera star Charles Rice (Mozart’s Requiem The Barber of Seville / Candide). Continue reading “Friday feeling – news aplenty”

Review: Shopping and Fucking, Lyric Hammersmith

“The getting is cruel, is hard, but the having is civilisation” 

Shopping and Fucking. Shopping and fucking. Fucking fucking fucking. Even the venue staff at the Lyric Hammersmith have to buy into the censorship that sees Mark Ravenhill’s 1996 play coyly renamed Shopping and F***ing, referring to it as Shopping and Effing. Which makes it all the more ironic that Sean Holmes’ production places the emphasis firmly on the former part of that title.

From the minute you take your seat in the radically reconfigured auditorium (design by Jon Bausor and Tal Rosner), the cast are hawking merchandise and seat upgrades – they even need a coin for the slot machine to get the play ‘started’. It’s a whole lot of extraneous business, which continues into the production itself, which with the frantic use of green screen and multiple cameras proves most distracting. Continue reading “Review: Shopping and Fucking, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Product, Arcola Theatre

“In one day Europe will be destroyed: the Hague, the Reichstag, Tate Modern”

It’s always good to see an actor having a ‘moment’ and after blazing through the twisted sexual discoveries of How I Learned To Drive earlier this year, Olivia Poulet adds another solid gold success to her theatrical CV with Mark Ravenhill’s Product. An intense monologue originally performed by the playwright, a fierce indictment of a Hollywood culture that could have been ripped from the leaked Sony emails of last year, had it not been written 10 years ago. Plus ça change…

Poulet takes on the role of Leah, a film producer on the hunt for her next lucrative project and thinks she might have found it in Mohammed and Me, a jihadi chick-flick which she is pitching to an unseen film star. It’s intentionally atrocious, a woman who falls in love with a handsome stranger who happens to be pals with Osama Bin Laden – who makes a cameo himself – yet Ravenhill, and Poulet, ground this sharp-edged satire in a thoroughly believable version of movieland. Continue reading “Review: Product, Arcola Theatre”