Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studios

“It’s what is called a dilemma boy, you are on the horns of it”

After a discussion over the weekend about people who have not yet been made Dames and damn well ought to be, Imelda Staunton’s name came up amongst others (Fiona Shaw and Juliet Stevenson being my other choices), but when I had a check on this blog for the delightful Ms Staunton, I saw no mention of her despite being sure I had seen her earlier this year. Eventually I remembered it was Entertaining Mr Sloane at the Trafalgar Studios, way back in February, but somehow I’d neglected to write up the review. As I want this blog to be a full record of my theatregoing, I’m just going to make a few comments about what I remember of it with the help of some notes I made back then.

The play, written by Joe Orton in 1964, is one of the darkest comedies I think I have ever seen. In brief, a landlady and her brother are both overwhelmed with sexual desire when a charismatic young lodger moves into her house. Caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as his psychopathic tendencies come to the fore, as the balance of power continually shifts around them in this battle for power and possession. Continue reading “Review: Entertaining Mr Sloane, Trafalgar Studios”

2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Rachel Weisz – A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse 
Alison Steadman – Enjoy at the Gielgud 
Fiona Shaw – Mother Courage & Her Children at the NT Olivier
Helen Mirren – Phedre at the NT Lyttelton 
Juliet Stevenson – Duet for One at the Almeida & Vaudeville
Lesley Sharp – The Rise & Fall of Little Voice at the Vaudeville 

THE CAPITAL BREAKS BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Jude Law – Hamlet, Donmar West End at Wyndham’s 
David Harewood – The Mountaintop at Theatre 503 & Trafalgar Studios 1 
Dominic West – Life Is a Dream at the Donmar Warehouse 
Ken Stott – A View from the Bridge at the Duke of York’s 
Mark Rylance – Jerusalem at the Royal Court Downstairs
Samuel West – Enron at the Royal Court Downstairs  Continue reading “2010 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Mrs Klein, Almeida Theatre

“If you want to be an analyst of any worth, you have to trust your patients with the truth, however harsh. They’re strong, they’ll take it.”

After the highly successful Duet for One which toured and then transferred into the West End, we return once again to the theme of psychoanalysis with this revival of Mrs Klein at the Almeida theatre in Islington.

Struggling to come to terms with the death of her son Hans in a climbing accident, noted controversial psychoanalyst Melanie Klein asks a colleague to cover for her while she goes to the funeral. Paula, recently escaped from the rising anti-Semitic persecution in Germany, is finding it hard to make a living in London and agrees to this, but is interrupted by the arrival of Klein’s daughter Melitta also a psychoanalyst, resentful of her presence and angry with her mother’s domineering behaviour. After Mrs Klein herself returns unexpectedly, Paula gets caught up in the longstanding conflict between mother and daughter which comes to crisis point in the wake of revelations about Hans’s death. Continue reading “Review: Mrs Klein, Almeida Theatre”

Review: The Priory, Royal Court

“No-one wants to be associated with failure…”

Following on from the mammoth successes of the over-rated Jerusalem and the equally highly praised Enron, The Priory has a lot to live up to in maintaining the Royal Court’s current run. A new play by Matthew Wynne, it follows a group of 30-something old friends as they convene on a country house to celebrate New Year’s Eve away from the rat race. Brought together by their mutual friend Kate for reasons of her own, secrets are uncovered and tempers flare as the frustrations of modern living are brought into sharp relief and the question of ‘what is success’ is repeatedly challenged.

Jessica Hynes’s Kate is the emotional centre of this work. Sifting through the emotional detritus of a highly traumatic year, her search for some kind of meaning is what drives the play. Whether its seeking refuge in the company of old friends, the solace of an old love or the temptation of a new faith, Kate’s attempts to deal with her angst seem doomed to failure, and her loneliness, even when surrounded by others is heartbreaking to watch: I found Hynes to be utterly convincing in this part. Continue reading “Review: The Priory, Royal Court”

Review: Handel’s Messiah, Coliseum

“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed”

Is opera still opera when it is being sung by people in jeans? Having just seen ENO’s dramatic production of Messiah, I’m not sure. The full oratorio, not just the first section as is often the case for Christmas renditions, been staged here by Deborah Warner, with the ENO Chorus and Orchestra and also a complement of supernumaries from the population of Westminster. The libretto, from the King James Bible, follows the life and death of Jesus but Warner has superimposed a visual narrative following a modern-day community, challenging our well-established familiarity with Handel’s score.

The staging just did not work for me: the action has been located in modern-day London with a backdrop of city life racing by and as we begin, we see a community going about its daily activities. Quite what this has to do the birth of Jesus was not immediately clear, and did not become any clearer as we progressed through the first movement, especially whilst there was a woman who I assumed to be Mary giving birth here, but also an older boy who I thought was Jesus running around making everyone smile at the same time. Additionally, the use of everyday modern dress gave the strong impression of the rehearsal room rather than a show. And finally, if we were to believe that this was a modern-day community onstage, I have no earthly idea where the random modern dance sequences then fitted in, they were just a distraction too far. Continue reading “Review: Handel’s Messiah, Coliseum”

Review: Sweet Charity, Menier Chocolate Factory

“You know, for a broad, you’re real classy”

Continuing their run of reviving classic musicals for Christmas, the Menier Chocolate Factory have turned their attentions to Sweet Charity this year. Stuffed full of instantly recognisable songs like ‘Big Spender’ and ‘Rhythm of Life’ by Cy Coleman and Bob Fosse’s inimitable choreography, the story of Charity, a girl trying to escape her life as a dancehall hostess and find a decent man is one of the classic movie musicals and so my expectations were high. And I am pleased to say they were largely met.

Tamzin Outhwaite is a revelation here, (to me at least) never having watched anything with her acting I’d had my doubts, but she really is very good here. A brilliant comedic actress, her scenes trapped in the closet and at the diner were laugh-out-loud funny, but she was also effective at conveying the joie de vivre that gets Charity through the trials of life without being at all cheesy. Her singing was consistently good plus she has some great dancing skills.

Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: La Clique at the Roundhouse

If Avenue Q is best described as an 18 certificate version of Sesame Street, then La Clique is just like the circus, albeit reconceived for an adult audience. After a highly successful 9 month run at the Hippodrome near Leicester Square, including winning the Best Entertainment Olivier Award, and then a world tour, La Clique has returned to London for an 8 week season at the Roundhouse in Camden: not bad for a show which has its beginnings at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Described as a “heady cocktail of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary variety”, what makes La Clique unique is that no two shows are the same. They have a rotating roster of entertainers and performers with a variety of tricks and stunts which ensures each evening has its own special spin. It is set up like a circus in the round, with various options for seating in different rings: chairs at ringside, cabaret tables with waitress service, standing, and of course, regular seats, which means you can pick what kind of evening you would like to have, a nice touch. Continue reading “Review: La Clique at the Roundhouse”

Winners of the 2009 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best Actor
Simon Russell Beale, The Winter’s Tale
WINNER Mark Rylance, Jerusalem
Ken Stott, A View From the Bridge
Samuel West, Enron

The Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress
Deanna Dunagan, August: Osage County
Penny Downie, Helen
Juliet Stevenson, Duet for One
WINNER Rachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named Desire Continue reading “Winners of the 2009 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

“Judas…Traitor…Het-er-o-sexual!”

When it was first announced that John Barrowman would be taking one of the lead roles in La Cage au Folles, many, including myself, instantly called this a crazy decision. Having seen this show twice already with different casts, and it remaining one of my favourite things I have seen on the stage this year, I had my doubts about this particular casting decision but when a family delegation (including 3 major Barrowman fangirls) expressed their interest in coming down to see the show, tickets were booked.

The obvious criticism is that John Barrowman is too young and good-looking to play Albin, especially given the actors who have played the role here previously, but by casting an equally younger-looking and handsome Simon Burke as his lover, this production has been cleverly reconceived. Instead of being a meditation on a drag queen at the end of his career, the focus here is more on Albin’s insecurities about his relationship with Georges, the comment about not being able to play Salome any longer becomes more of a bitchy aside than a sad statement of truth. There has been a considerable injection of raunchiness into this production, with some very suggestive croissant eating that was dangerously close to the bone (fnarr fnarr) for a family show. However this more overt sexuality played very convincingly with the younger coupling and led to some hilarious scenes. Continue reading “Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse”