Review: Into the Woods, Théâtre de Châtelet

“Once upon a time…”

Yup, the addiction’s real. Whether collecting Nectar points obsessively to get enough for free Eurostar trips or looking at theatre programmes in Paris, Amsterdam and beyond, the limits I had imposed on myself have been well and truly shattered and amongst other traditions, I now appear to making an annual pilgrimage to Théâtre de Châtelet’s Sondheim production – 2014 seeing Into the Woods making its bow in front of a Parisian crowd after the joys of Sunday last year.

Lee Blakeley’s production is sumptuously done – a 30 piece orchestra brings Sondheim’s score vibrantly to life under David Charles Abell’s baton, and selecting a cast that is as much as operatic as it is musical theatre lends a certain sense of class, of intelligent musicality that is highly enjoyable. It may miss the playfulness that the Open Air Theatre’s recent production had in spades but the quality here feels on a different level, not in securing Fanny Ardant’s voice for the giant.  Continue reading “Review: Into the Woods, Théâtre de Châtelet”

TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1

“Whitechapel calls you back”

Victorian crime procedural Ripper Street burst onto our screens at the beginning of this year with a blood-spattered élan and a perhaps more violent streak than many were expecting, but it grew to be a most successful series with audiences (and me) and has since been renewed for a second series. Set in Whitechapel, the first episode had a Jack the Ripper focus, which with the title of the show, proved a bit of misdirection in terms of the series as a whole as the crimes that H Division ended up investigating were of a hugely wide-ranging nature and not just focused on the notorious serial killer (although the Ripper’s exploits did form a backdrop to part of the series-long arc).

It’s a period of history, and particularly social history, that I have long found interesting (I studied it as part of my degree) as notions of crime and punishment were rapidly changing and the nature of policing was also changing with the introduction of a more scientific approach to solving crimes. So Matthew Macfadyen’s DI Reid and Jerome Flynn’s DS Flynn are joined by US army surgeon Captain Jackson, played by Adam Rothenburg, as they work their way through the serious crimes, civil unrest, and personal vendettas that crop up on a weekly basis. Continue reading “TV Review: Ripper Street Series 1”

Review: Sunday in the Park with George, Théâtre du Châtelet

“Well there are worse things…on a Sunday”

As a rule, I have generally resisted the urge to go to the theatre whilst on holiday, preferring to actually take a proper break from it all, but with free Eurostar tickets to take care of and the promise of a cast that included Julian Ovenden, Beverley Klein and Sophie-Louise Dann, I could not resist the lure of making a trip to Paris to see the Théâtre du Châtelet’s production of Sunday in the Park with George. It is a Sondheim that I hadn’t seen before and the Châtelet’s reputation for producing his work with Lee Blakeley at the helm (previous years have seen them put on A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd and next year is Into the Woods) meant that building a weekend away around it was an irresistible choice.

The show uses Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte as a starting point explore the relationship between artists and the art they create, and also the impact that pursuing the creative impulse has on those close to them. Ovenden fits the role of Georges perfectly, the grandeur of his virile voice a good match both for the compulsive obsession of the artist and the demands of leading such a show as this – if he wanted to (and I’m not so sure that he does), he really could become one of the premier leading men de nos jours. As his long-suffering mistress Dot, Dann is highly appealing and sounds wonderful and there’s lovely work from supporting players like Francesca Jackson and Rebecca Bottone as a pair of flirty shopgirls and Klein’s Yvonne, negotiating the bumps of her own marriage to an artist. Continue reading “Review: Sunday in the Park with George, Théâtre du Châtelet”

Review: Cornelius, Finborough Theatre

“So all the time, while you were pretending to work, you’ve been having the most astonishing adventures in that corner?”

Continuing their well-trodden path of delving into the dusty shelves of neglected British plays, the Finborough have come up trumps yet again with this neatly amusing and unpredictable little curiosity Cornelius. Written in 1935 by J.B. Priestley, especially for his friend Ralph Richardson, it was something of a flop and consequently remains little produced – this will be the first time in over 70 years that the play has been seen in London – but Sam Yates’ production flows with an undeniably persuasive energy to make this a revival worth paying attention to.

Set in the Holborn office of an aluminium import firm that is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, junior partner Jim Cornelius sets about trying to keep the creditors sweet and the office spirits from flagging, in the hope that salvation will come at the last minute from the firm’s senior partner. He suspects it is a vain hope though and as he swings from poignant reflections on lives that have been lived and exuberant positivity in the potential that still remains out there, a delicately touching portrayal of office life emerges which is hard to resist. Continue reading “Review: Cornelius, Finborough Theatre”

fosterIAN awards 2011

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayEve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)Ruth Wilson, Anna ChristieRosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
Best Actor in a PlayBenedict Cumberbatch, FrankensteinAndrew Scott, Emperor and GalileanTrevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAlexandra Gilbreath, OthelloSheridan Smith, Flare PathSinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRyan Sampson, The Kitchen SinkHarry Hadden-Paton, Flare PathRobert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Sweeney ToddAdrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, MatildaLaura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
Best Actor in a MusicalBertie Carvel, MatildaMichael Ball, Sweeney ToddDaniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, CompanyKate Fleetwood, London RoadJosefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDaniel Crossley, Singin’ in the RainNigel Harman, Shrek the MusicalConnor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road

2011 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Eve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

Before this year, Eve Best was one of those names I’d heard a lot, seen a lot whilst peeing at the Almeida but never really engaged with as I’d never seen on her onstage before. How that has changed with the kind of performance as Beatrice that had the entire Globe eating out of her hand. Warm, funny, spiky, romantic, independent and so incredibly open, I can’t imagine there was a person who didn’t fall in love with her as a result.

Honourable mention: Ruth Wilson, Anna Christie

It takes something to wrest my attention away from as fine a specimen as the beefed-up Jude Law was in Anna Christie, but Ruth Wilson’s titular Anna did just that with a perfectly realised portrayal of a woman caught between the feisty independence she’s needed to survive thus far in a harsh world and the change that comes about as a result of close human contact that opens her up to new possibilities. If not already there, she really is close to being one of the most exceptional actors we have.

Rosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull

7-10

Cush Jumbo, As You Like It (Royal Exchange); Anna Chancellor, The Last of the Duchess; Amanda Root, The Deep Blue Sea; Claire Price, The Pride

Best Actress in a Musical

Imelda Staunton, Sweeney Todd

I am generally of the opinion that Imelda Staunton can do no wrong, but this was no walk-in victory as it was a tough category. But her Mrs Lovett, soon to make its bow in the West End, really is one of those exceptional performances that will live long in the memory. The comedy in the role suits her strengths well, ‘A Little Priest’ has never been funnier but having made us pretty fall in love with her, the shift into malevolent darkness then cuts incredibly, terrifyingly deep and is all the more powerfully compelling for it.

Honourable mention: Adrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, Matilda

Shared six ways as incredibly, there are six girls with the enormous, precocious talent to carry off the demanding lead role in Matilda and I don’t think I have heard a bad word about any of them which is some impressive feat. Josie Griffiths in Stratford and Kerry Ingram in London are the two I’ve seen (thus far) and both blew me away with their assured stage presence, their maturity of performance and the all-round talent they possess.

Laura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain

7-10

Louisa Lydell, Ragtime; Sarah Lancashire, Betty Blue Eyes; Jenna Russell, The Day We Sang; Clare Foster, Crazy for You

Review: Bernarda Alba, Union Theatre

“Where will you turn when the house of Bernarda falls”

After establishing quite the name for itself with its all-male interpretations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s work, the Union Theatre are now letting the women have their turn with Triptic’s production of Michael John LaChiusa’s chamber musical Bernarda Alba. Based on García Lorca‘s The House of Bernarda Alba set in 1930s Spain, this condensed version – directed by Katherine Hare in 90 minutes without interval – captures the claustrophobia and the knife’s-edge balance of this group of women with a score replete with Iberian influences and near-operatic intensity.

Following the death of her husband, Bernarda Alba rises to the position of head of her household of five daughters and team of female servants but her strict matriarchal rule is challenged by the arrival of a man – unseen – into their lives. In Hilary Statt’s wonderfully austere, white-washed design, we explore the repressed desires of each of these women, all bristling in their different ways under the harshness of their mother’s rule as old resentments simmer, sexuality promises to burst loose and mental fragility seriously threatened in this tale of “a happy, happy family”. Continue reading “Review: Bernarda Alba, Union Theatre”

Review: The Kissing-Dance, Jermyn Street Theatre

“I concluded from your airs and manners that you were bred in Tufnell Park”

The Kissing-Dance is a Howard Goodall musical with lyrics and book by Charles Hart which is based on the 18th Century Oliver Goldsmith classic comedy She Stoops To Conquer. Set over one long night in Nonesuch, somewhere in the English countryside on All Fools’ Eve, it’s a story of comic misunderstandings as a London suitor is fooled into believing his prospective father-in-law’s house is an inn by the cheeky Tony Lumpkin, causing his intended to test his honour with her own scheme to foil her mother’s plans for her, whilst other secret affairs are revealed, missing family jewels cause consternation and general mayhem ensues until the sun finally rises again.

Following on from the well-received but prematurely-closed Love Story, The Kissing-Dance reveals a slightly more playful side to Goodall’s composing, embracing an English pastoral influence which allied to the wit of much of Hart’s lyrics, makes this really quite a sprightly affair. There are moments that feel almost like Gilbert & Sullivan, especially in the multi-layered finale to Act 1 with its many counterpointed melodies creating a harmonious delight. It wasn’t always so successful though, the title song feeling a little out of place with the rest of the show and not helped by being sung by the servants oddly, a small thing but still a bump in an otherwise smooth ride. Continue reading “Review: The Kissing-Dance, Jermyn Street Theatre”