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”

My 10 favourite shows of 2021

Just a little bit late… Here’s 10 of my favourite shows, both online and onstage but fully acknowledging that I saw a lot less than usual, I might actually have broken the back of this theatre obsession – it just took a global pandemic to do it…!

1. Anything Goes, Barbican
A joyous shot in the arm that felt like the perfect welcome back into the theatre this summer. Naturally, it is coming back next year to the Barbican and a UK tour but will it be led by the irrepressible Sutton Foster? You have to hope so as she was the epitome of Broadway class.

2. The Normal Heart, National Theatre
Almost unbearably moving, Larry Kramer’s 1985 loosely autobiographical play got a masterful revival from Dominic Cooke, making the most of the Olivier being in the round and blessed with a cast full of commitment and compassion.

3. Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre
Perhaps predictable for those that know me, but the four-way revival featuring Omari Douglas & Russell Tovey and Anna Maxwell Martin & Chris O’Dowd and Sheila Atim & Ivanno Jeremiah and Peter Capaldi & Zoë Wanamaker turned out to be a great way to revisit this play.

4. Cabaret, The Kit Kat Club at the Playhouse Theatre
At least there’s a sense that they’re earning a bit of their hugely inflated ticket prices, as Rebecca Frecknall and Tom Scutt’s reinvention of the theatre is matched with a fearless reinterpretation of the classic musical which proves hauntingly effective.

5. What They Forgot To Tell Us (and other stories), BOLD Elephant
One of the more unexpected theatrical experiences of the year. I had no idea of what to expect and no real idea of why it moved me quite as much as it did. 

6. DJ Bazzer’s Year 6 Disco, Golden Goose Theatre
Gently immersive and quietly heartbreaking, this playful and powerful monologue really took me by surprise, totally captivating as Jack Sunderland’s emotionally broken Baz tries to chase the demons of both the past and present.

7. Still Life: Untold Stories of Nottingham Now
5 short stories of lockdown life in Nottingham turned out to be hugely affecting, featuring a wide range of the intimately human stories that make up a global pandemic and star performances from the likes of Frances De La Tour and Julie Hesmondhalgh.

8. Mum, Soho Theatre
Led by a scorching performance from Sophie Melville, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play took a sledgehammer to Insta-perfect narratives of new motherhood to offer up something of a nightmare of early parenthood. Absolutely exhilarating.

9. Gay Generations, White Bear Theatre
With a loose focus on older LGBT+ narratives, this double bill of new gay plays was quietly impressive and in the case of Michael McManus’ A Certain Term made me sob like a baby

10. Romeo and Juliet
The National led from the front in lockdown, able to parlay its resources into transforming its intended stage production of this teen tragedy into a deluxe filmed version with a delicious cast led by Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor.

Review: Terrifying Women, Golden Goose Theatre

A set of six spooky short plays make Terrifying Women the perfect Halloween (trick or) treat at the Golden Goose Theatre

“I learned at an early age the power of a scary story”

Yes, I know. Having declared last week that horror doesn’t work particularly well for me onstage, I spent part of my Halloween weekend watching more horror onstage. And this time, I had my spine well and truly chilled by the terrifying women of Terrifying Women at the Golden Goose Theatre (also now streaming), all much more acutely aware of how to instil a growing sense of real dread and make you jump the f*ck out of your seat.

They – Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Sampira and Abi Zakarian – are aided in no small part by the form of the evening they have put together. A series of short plays, all monologues, slices out the need for atmosphere-draining scene changes, and taut running times means that the writers are necessarily highly efficient in getting the job done, whether indicting governmental complacency, invoking Armenian genocide or investigating childhood fears. Continue reading “Review: Terrifying Women, Golden Goose Theatre”

Review: Mum, Soho Theatre

Following on from the brilliant Emilia, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play Mum is a powerfully bracing experience at the Soho Theatre

“Motherhood’s not for everyone”

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Mum gives us a portrait of a side of motherhood that is often alluded to but rarely fully acknowledged, those early days, weeks, months when the realities of parenthood hit like a sledgehammer and the fear of being overwhelmed is punishingly real. Nina is one such mother, preparing for her first night away from baby Ben after a difficult birth three months ago but as she gets him ready for a trip to Grandma’s, those fears only grow. Abigail Graham’s production opens at the Soho Theatre after playing the Theatre Royal Plymouth earlier this month.

An outsize mobile dominates the gloomy space of Sarah Beaton’s set design and as it turns, Sally Ferguson’s carefully poised lighting casts shadows on the wall that become increasingly hallucinatory. For as Nina cracks open a bottle of white wine with best pal Jackie, determined to have a night ‘off’, the guilt weighs ever heavier as she unburdens herself by saying the quiet parts out loud, talking frankly about how just how fricking difficult it is operate on such tiredness, such helplessness, such conflicting emotions as provoked by something society has dictated you will love wholeheartedly from the off. Continue reading “Review: Mum, Soho Theatre”

August casting update

 

Linda Bassett and John Heffernan have been cast in Caryl Churchill’s new play What If If Only, which will be directed by James Macdonald. With set design by Miriam Buether, lighting design by Prema Mehta, sound design by Christopher Shutt and assistant direction from Grace Duggan.

What If If Only will run in the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from Wednesday 29 September 2021 – Saturday 23 October 2021. Performances run Monday – Saturday at 6pm, plus Friday 8, 15 & 22 October 2021 at 10pm. The running time is a lush 14 minutes. Continue reading “August casting update”

News: Casting for MUM, The Mirror and the Light and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

© Jeremy Freedman

Francesca Moody Productions, Soho Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Popcorn Group have announced that Sophie Melville, Denise Black and Cat Simmons will appear in the world premiere of MUM.  This provocative and unflinching portrayal of early motherhood and mental health, written by Olivier award-winning playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia, The Globe/ West End) and directed by Abigail Graham (soon to also direct Aladdin at Lyric Hammersmith) will run at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 30 September – 16 October before transferring to Soho Theatre from 20 October – 20 November.

Motherhood. No one can prepare you for it. No matter how much you tell yourself you can do it – can you?  Where’s the rush of love? When will you sleep again?  What if the thing you fear most is also the thing you crave?  All you wanted was one night of unbroken sleep, what have you done? 

Nina is a new mum and tonight is her first night off. Tonight is about pizza and wine and letting go. But Nina didn’t feel prepared for motherhood and isn’t sure she fits the job description. Nina feels like she’s losing her grip.

This thought-provoking, funny and honest new play shines a light on early motherhood, anxiety and mental health. MUM examines the pressures and complex emotions many women experience when they have a baby. At a time when mothers have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, never has it been more pertinent to explore these issues. Continue reading “News: Casting for MUM, The Mirror and the Light and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice”

Review: The Motherhood Project

The likes of Hannah Khalil, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Sarah Niles and Juno Dawson deliver some excellent work in The Motherhood Project

“There’s so much talk of being perfect mums”

Ripping off the rose-tinted glasses and gagging any hint of yummy mummies with a used nappy, The Motherhood Project takes an uncompromising look at motherhood, shining a light on the things that the books don’t, or won’t, tell you. Suhayla El Bushra talks about the way it affects friendship, Jodi Gray and Katherine Kotz herself investigate the maternal instinct or lack thereof, Kalhan Barath speaks of her choice not to have children… Kotz, who is also the curator of the project, has gathered a mixture of monologues and musings, 15 short films in all, all seeking to redefine the modern myths around motherhood.  

There’s eight new monologues here, plus one repurposed one, making this a significant piece of new theatre writing. Jenni Maitland details the traumatising physical effects of childbirth in Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Inside Me, how it can fundamentally alters women’s relationship with their bodies, an issue already skewed by societal pressures of the feminine ‘ideal’. Hannah Khalil also delves deep into the hidden truths of becoming a parent through the medium of the (useless) advice she was given, the lyrical bent of Suited perfectly matched by Caroline Byrne’s expressionist direction and a quietly blistering performance from Emmanuella Cole Continue reading “Review: The Motherhood Project”

Cast and creatives announced for MTFestUK 2021

Paul Taylor-Mills has confirmed the line-up of award-winning and international performers and creatives assembled for next month’s MTFestUK 2021.

Due to open at the Turbine Theatre in London from 17-29 May 2021 before embarking on a digital tour from 31 May until 4 July, the third edition of the annual celebration of new musical theatre will showcase eight new musicals. Continue reading “Cast and creatives announced for MTFestUK 2021”

News: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens, Anya Reiss, Juno Dawson and Lemn Sissay among the line-up for The Motherhood Project

Leading UK artists including Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens and Anya Reiss will join Juno Dawson, Lemn Sissay and Naomi Sheldon among others for The Motherhood Project. Fifteen short films will explore the guilt, joy, absurdity and taboo surrounding motherhood in this online festival of dramatic monologues and personal reflections. The films will be available on the Battersea Arts Centre website from Monday 19th April; all ticket sales will include a 50% donation to Refuge.

Curator Katherine Kotz invited writers, artists and technicians to join forces and donate their time to create exciting new pieces to support vulnerable adults and children affected by the pandemic. Interrogating the relationship between parent and child, autonomy and responsibility, dramatic pieces were contributed by Irenosen Okojie, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Hannah Khalil, Anya Reiss, Suhayla El Bushra in addition to Naomi Sheldon, E.V Crowe, Jodi Gray, and Katherine Kotz. Continue reading “News: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Athena Stevens, Anya Reiss, Juno Dawson and Lemn Sissay among the line-up for The Motherhood Project”

Winners of the 2020 Olivier Awards

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical                                          
David Bedella for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre – WINNER
Stewart Clarke for Fiddler On The Roof at Playhouse Theatre
Jack Loxton for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre
Rupert Young for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre                          

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical
Lucy Anderson for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre
Petula Clark for Mary Poppins at Prince Edward Theatre
Cassidy Janson for & Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre – WINNER
Lauren Ward for Dear Evan Hansen at Noël Coward Theatre                

Continue reading “Winners of the 2020 Olivier Awards”