News: some good-looking non-London shows to consider

‘My hands are shaking you know. I haven’t been so keyed up about anything since I was the Virgin Mary.’

Sheffield Theatres announces their new production of Talent, written by Victoria Wood, at the Crucible Theatre from Wednesday 30 June to Saturday 24 July 2021. Cast in the play are: Richard Cant (The Country Wife), Daniel Crossley (Me and My Girl), Jamie-Rose Monk (Dick Whittington), Jonathon Ojinnaka, (Coronation Street)James Quinn (Democracy) and  Lucie Shorthouse  (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie).

Directing Talent is Paul Foster (Kiss Me, Kate). Originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, Talent tells the story of a young woman with dreams of showbiz glory. Continue reading “News: some good-looking non-London shows to consider”

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”

More September theatre news

SIX reunite, The Theatre Channel switches on, The Shows Go On return and casting is revealed in Bath

© Danny Kaan

The Reunion is the first stage+streaming concert performance by seven powerhouse vocalists who rose to fame as the original West End queens of the musical SIX: Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Grace Mouat, Jarneia Richard-Noel, Maiya Quansah-Breed, Millie O’Connell, and Natalie Paris. The show will be livestreamed by theatre platform Thespie but a lucky few will also be able to get tickets to see the concerts live on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th October.

Performances will be held in Oval Space, a spacious and well-ventilated East London venue that has been entirely reimagined for safe, seated music and theatre performances. The seating plan is entirely flexible which allows seating to be customised to the audience that books. Audiences book for themselves and their household or support bubble only (to a maximum of six), and Thespie’s technology determines a seat plan that ensures safe spacing between households and optimises use of the space. Continue reading “More September theatre news”

Review: Noises Off, Garrick Theatre

The Lyric Hammersmith’s production of Noises Off transfer in fine style to the Garrick Theatre

“Let there be doors that open when they open and close when they close”

I’ve long had my issues with farce but Noises Off managed to break through my preconceptions to genuinely make me laugh when the Old Vic revived it and then took it into the West End back in 2012. Even so, I have to say I wasn’t much enamoured by the thought of going back to it, hence me not going to the Lyric Hammersmith to catch Jeremy Herrin’s production there and only just now making it to this West End transfer at the Garrick Theatre.

And after the first act, I began to wonder if I hadn’t had the right impulse initially. I’d argue it’s good but not great, leaning into conventional farce as a touring theatre company take their own farce Nothing On across the country while dealing with the repercussions of their tangled inter-relationships. It is after the interval that the play soars though, the second act takes us behind the scenes into a sensationally choreographed piece of riotous fun of the highest order. Continue reading “Review: Noises Off, Garrick Theatre”

Review: National Theatre – Fifty Years on Stage

“We’ve got two hours to show the vast range of work the National has done over the last 50 years by staging scenes from some of the most memorable shows – there are more than 800 to choose from”

Celebrating a notable half-century of the South Bank institution, National Theatre – Fifty Years on Stage proved a remarkable evening of theatre, gratefully captured on film so that its reach could indeed be closer to national than the capacity of the Oliver would allow. And Nicholas Hytner did a fine job of representing the illustrious past, showcasing 30 or so productions, mainly through live performance but also with some choice trips to the video archive.

The snippets of archive footage were delightful – from Robert Stephens, Maggie Smith and Olivier carousing in The Recruiting Officer and Smith with Anthony Nicholls in Hay Fever to Fiona Shaw’s incredible Richard II and Ian McKellen’s exceptional Richard III. And always alive to the connections to the past, we opened with the first scene of Hamlet featuring Sir Derek Jacobi as the ghost, revisiting the play in which he played Laertes in the very first production on this stage, And we end in a similarly ghostly manner, as the voices of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear giving us Othello give way to a recording of Laurence Olivier and Frank Finlay from 1965

Of the live performances, I loved Joan Plowright returning to Joan of Arc to spinetingling effect, the same with Judi Dench’s Cleopatra. Dench has a superb night in all, reprising her highly affecting rendition of A Little Night Music’s ‘Send in the Clowns’ too. And also doing it for the dames, Helen Mirren scorches in Mourning Becomes Electra, opposite Tim Pigott-Smith. And the tidbits of ‘productions we’ll never see’ were a constant delight. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Benedict Cumberbatch enlivening Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead no end, Ralph Fiennes and Charles Edwards teasing what they could do with Pravda, Andrew Scott and Dominic Cooper promising the world with a near-perfect slice of Angels in America. I also really enjoyed the dream cast of Arcadia, Anna Maxwell Martin and Jonathan Bailey making Stoppardian magic with Rory Kinnear and Olivia Vinall, you just wish that we could somehow get longer with all of them.

Perhaps inevitably, there’s a slight whiff of the largely male, pale and stale to proceedings. Tripping from Coward to Pinter to Ayckbourn is a natural reflection of the way things were but there’s a slight danger in perpetuating that state of affairs. There’s of course a thrill in seeing Jacobi and Michael Gambon’s excerpt of No Man’s Land but you have to hope that the future (100 Years on Stage?) is able to showcase a wider range of dramatic talent to reflect a truly national theatre.

Radio Review: Skios/Copenhagen/Headlong

“Foxoliver?”

Michael Frayn’s 80th birthday is being celebrated by BBC radio with a mini-season of his work, featuring a new version of his play Copenhagen and adaptation of his novels Skios and Headlong. First up was Skios, a farcical tale somewhat in the vein of Noises Off and something really quite funny indeed. The tale itself, of mistaken identities, fake professors and frustrated lovers, is mostly entertaining if not quite as masterfully complex as his other work, but what really lifts this dramatisation by Archie Scottney is the kind of dream comic casting one would pay through the nose to see in a theatre.

Tom Hollander plays Oliver Fox, who is going on an ill-advised romantic break to Greece with a woman he has just met. When he is taken for someone else at arrivals, he soon finds himself installed in the warm embrace of the Toppler Foundation who believe that he is Dr Norman Wilfred, the keynote speaker at their conference on Scientometrics and has his every need attended to by super-efficient PA Nikki Hook, Lisa Dillon in sparklingly funny form, who finds herself rather taken by him. Meanwhile, the real Dr Wilfred, a bumbling High Bonneville, also finds himself the victim of misidentification as he ends up in the remote Greek villa where Oliver was meant to be going and where his would-be girlfriend is still headed, the glorious Janie Dee starring as the unawares Georgie. Continue reading “Radio Review: Skios/Copenhagen/Headlong”

Review: Democracy, Old Vic

“That’s why I love mushrooms – you pick them, pickle them and eat them”

There’s apparently no predicting the way in which theatrical transfers work (apart from if we’re talking about Chichester musicals…). I can’t imagine the logistics involved in securing the necessary financial support, keeping the cast onboard and finding the ideal venue but perhaps more significantly, I’ve no concept of how the conversations begin. In some cases it seems a no-brainer, as in the aforementioned big-hitting Chichester musicals and indeed plays; in others, it seems easily misjudged, cf Written on the Heart;  and then there’s the others, in which a perfect confluence of factors enable a well-received production to make the relocation.

It is probably the latter of these options in the case of Democracy, one of the three Michael Frayn plays that made up Sheffield Theatre’s celebration of his work earlier this year (Copenhagen and Benefactors were the others), which has now transferred to the Old Vic. On the face of it, it may not be the most appealing of prospects, a play based on real-life events in West German politics in the 1970s but what emerges is a sweeping spy thriller full of political intrigue and historical significance, which is all the more compelling for being true.   Continue reading “Review: Democracy, Old Vic”

Review: Here, Rose Theatre Kingston

“How does it seem? Fine? Right, let’s get the sandwiches out.”

Michael Frayn’s star is shining very brightly at the moment in the theatre. The Old Vic’s production of Noises Off has transferred into the West End and the Sheffield Theatres held a three-show retrospective of his work, of which one, Democracy, will be transferring to the Old Vic in the summer. And now the Rose Theatre Kingston has gotten in on the game with a new production of one of his lesser known works Here. Originally written in 1993, it underwhelmed the critics at the Donmar Warehouse, but a reworked version gained popularity on the continent and ever the industrialist, Frayn has tinkered with it again and it is this rewrite that is being premiered here in Kingston-upon-Thames.

Young couple Phil and Cath move into a studio flat but the start of their new shared life together is marked by chronic uncertainty as they tie themselves in knots over every single little decision like where to put the bed, where to put the pot-plant, what to do with the manky old chair gifted to them by the landlady. They pore over the significance of each thing, each question asked of the other, and then challenge the answers in circular discussions full of double-speak and debate. It becomes clear that Frayn is interested in how we construct lives and relationships together, the terms on which we negotiate and the compromises we settle on. Continue reading “Review: Here, Rose Theatre Kingston”

Review: Uncle Vanya, Minerva

“I could have been a Dostoevsky”

Opening the season for Chichester’s 2012 Festival, celebrating its fiftieth anniversary no less, is Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Roger Allam stars in Jeremy Herrin’s production in the Minerva studio, which utilises a translation by Michael Frayn but given that it is barely a week since I saw and adored The Print Room’s production of the same play, the bar was raised really quite high for this one. But setting productions up against each other achieves little and though my preferences ended up in West London rather than West Sussex, one can appreciate that perhaps they are attuned to different audiences.

Chekhov’s tale of a man who has spent most of his working life as the steward of his late sister’s Russian country estate but is thrown into inconsolable desolation at the realisation that he may well have wasted his life in servitude. The gloomy atmosphere pervades to encompass all the residents of the house and matters are exacerbated with the arrival of ex-brother-in-law Serebryakov, with his glamorous, much younger wife Yelena. His plans and her presence rouses the beginnings of some response but lifetimes of inaction and repression prove hard to shake off for all concerned. Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, Minerva”

Re-review: Noises Off, Novello Theatre

“Once it gets in your nostrils, the smell of it never leaves”

One of the most unexpected things that happened to me in a theatre last year was me tumbling utterly for the charms of Noises Off. As detailed in my review from then, I’m really not a fan of farce but Michael Frayn’s play is so much more than what I’ve come to associate with the genre. Intelligently written in its deconstruction of it but still imbued with an affectionate warmth that shines through as this touring theatre company of misfits struggle across the country with a stuttering show which increasingly disintegrates as their shenanigans threaten to derail the whole shebang.

The show has transferred from its sell-out run at the Old Vic to the Novello Theatre where it will play til the end of June, and rather impressively it has managed to hang on to a large proportion of its cast. So one can still experience the glorious turns from Celia Imrie, Janie Dee, Karl Johnson et al and if anything, their performances have become richer in their perfectly timed interactions and comic desperation. The two new arrivals – Alice Bailey Johnson and Lucy Briggs-Owen – have slotted in extremely well. Bailey Johnson’s wailing ASM is good in a rather limited role but Brigg-Owen is excellent as the blank-eyed Brooke whose limitations are exposed as often as her contact lenses fall out. Continue reading “Re-review: Noises Off, Novello Theatre”