News: Chichester Festival Theatre announce Winter 2021/22 season

A feast of visiting drama, dance, comedy, family shows and music for all tastes and ages is heading to Chichester Festival Theatre for the Winter 2021/22 season.

We’re particularly proud to offer a new home-grown production: the revival of one of the best plays of modern times, John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Award-winning Doubt: A Parable, directed by Lia Williams and starring Monica Dolan and Sam Spruell in their Chichester debuts. Continue reading “News: Chichester Festival Theatre announce Winter 2021/22 season”

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”

Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)

Despite a talented cast including Judi Dench and Dan Stevens, this cinematic version of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit is a big miss

“I’ll have a grilled grapefruit and a strong coffee please”

On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward’s enduring play offering increasingly diminishing returns every time it reappears. On the other, I don’t think anyone would have predicted how misjudged this film version would be, directed by Ed Hall and adapted for the screen by Piers Ashworth, Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft.

Coward’s plays do what they do, offering safe options for audiences (and theatre programmers) and usually attracting top actors (Jennifer Saunders and Angela Lansbury are the last two to have starred in the West End in this play). And on the face of it, the same ought to be true of a filmed version, here with Dame Judi Dench stepping into the feathered caftan of Madame Arcati. Continue reading “Film Review: Blithe Spirit (2020)”

2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

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”

June theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.

Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
J’Ouvert, Theatre503
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”

Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket

Perfect for the ‘incurably romantic’, Emma Rice’s Brief Encounter is a glorious piece of theatre at the Empire Cinema Haymarket

This is my whole world and it’s enough, or rather it was until a few weeks ago”

How we change over a decade. When Kneehigh’s Brief Encounter was first announced to take over the cinema on Haymarket, I went to maybe one play a month and was the proud owner of a Cineworld card, so was disgruntled that my West End film options were being curtailed. I did not see the show.

Fast forward 10 years, I can’t remember the last film I saw in a picturehouse, the cinema has been taken over by Empire, and director/adaptor Emma Rice has had quite the ride herself over the last few years. So who can blame her for returning to happier times, happier memories, in reviving this much-loved production. Continue reading “Review: Brief Encounter, Empire Cinema Haymarket”

Review: Home Chat, Finborough Theatre

“I’ve got to convince you of my complete innocence and I don’t know how”

It’s a mystery really, how a playwright as renowned as Noël Coward can have a play that few have heard of and even fewer have actually seen. But it’s a genuine marvel that that play turns out to be a sparkling diamond, the Finborough once again coming up with the goods in exploring deep into the dustier realm of the literary canon. Home Chat has not been seen in the UK for nearly 90 years but on the evidence of Martin Parr’s revelatory production here, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it take it place alongside the more familiar of Coward’s works that frequently pepper the repertoire.

Not least because it contains a corker of a female lead in the figure of Janet Ebony, a garrulous gutsy character who tosses contemporary notions of morality under the microscope and finds British society to be severely lacking. Home Chat begins with a train crash, wittily mounted here in miniature, but it’s not the disaster that is the focus, rather the scandalous implications for its survivors. For it is revealed that Janet and her best friend Peter Chelsworth, who both escaped unscathed, were sharing a sleeping car and their family and friends back in Chelsea are simply outraged. Continue reading “Review: Home Chat, Finborough Theatre”

Review: Private Lives, Churchill Bromley

“Don’t quibble, Sibyl”

Given that this touring production of Private Lives is going on for a couple of months and stretching from Glasgow to Torquay, it seems odd that they’ve decided to hold its press night so early, when the show is in distinct need of bedding in. As Elyot and Amanda, the warring ex-couple who end up in adjacent hotel rooms celebrating honeymoons with their new partners, Tom Chambers and Laura Rogers just haven’t got there yet.

In the singing, the dancing, the bantering, the fighting, they’re decent but not much more, fatally mismatched as Chambers’ easy geniality has none of the requisite bite to be the equal sparring partner that Laura Rogers’ expressively daring Amanda needs, and deserves. He makes little attempt to stamp character onto the lines, to make them funny for him, instead relying too much on the fact that they’re just funny on the page. Continue reading “Review: Private Lives, Churchill Bromley”

Review: Laughing Matters with Celia Imrie, St James Studio

“They’re out of sorts in Sunderland
And terribly cross in Kent”

There’s something a little curious about Celia Imrie’s Laughing Matters, a cabaret show in all but nature, which means it never quite satisfies in the way one yearns for it to do so. In the intimate surroundings of the Crazy Coqs, she rattles through a selection of comic songs and extracts from her 2011 autobiography The Happy Hoofer but with so little audience interaction until the very end, this revue feels a little sterile rather than offering the personal insight that more seasoned cabaret performers bring to the table.

That’s not to say it wasn’t an enjoyable experience, I really rather liked it, but rather it needs to be taken more as a kind of vanity project and Lord knows, she has paid her dues. Her personal anecdotes are chucklesome if not particularly revelatory and her choice of songs wisely errs on the patter side of things – she’d be the first to say she’s hardly the strongest singer although she did win an Olivier for Best Supporting Role in A Musical for Acorn Antiques, which simply demonstrates her considerable comic capabilities. Continue reading “Review: Laughing Matters with Celia Imrie, St James Studio”