Review: The Windsors – Endgame, Prince of Wales Theatre

Sadly a case of theatricus horribilis, The Windsors: Endgame proves a disappointing TV adaptation at the Prince of Wales Theatre

“I send you my very best wishes”

It almost feels to obvious to say it but given how often it seems to happen, it’s gotta be done – adapting a half-hour TV show to a 2 hours plus stage show (or film, for that matter) is difficult, you gotta have a real sense of purpose about why you’re doing it. Too often, there’s the feeling that it can be treated as an extended TV episode or even accorded less respect than that, meaning success is often hard to come by.

Which is all a longwinded way of saying I really didn’t enjoy The Windsors: Endgame, currently occupying the Prince of Wales Theatre while the Book of Mormon guys make their way back from Uganda. Though it is written by the same guys George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore (Jeffries having sadly passed away last year), it loses so much of the magic of the TV show, not least in recasting more than three quarters of the main roles. Continue reading “Review: The Windsors – Endgame, Prince of Wales Theatre”

London theatre update for June

The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company has announced that tickets are on sale for a brand new production of Terence Rattigan’s much loved play The Browning Version. The production will play for 3 weeks at Riverside Studios from 5 – 29 August with Branagh directing. Tickets are available now from branagh-theatre.com.

The cast is made up of all RADA graduates with Branagh playing Andrew Crocker-Harris. He will be joined by Kemi Awoderu (Taplow), Joseph Kloska (Frank Hunter), Lolita Chakrabarti (Millie Crocker-Harris), Wendy Kweh (Dr Frobisher), Victor Alli (Peter Gilbert) and Sarah Eve (Mrs Gilbert).

The production will be designed by Frankie Bradshaw, Lighting Design will be by Paul Pyant and Sound Design by Emma Laxton. Continue reading “London theatre update for June”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

Lockdown film review: Red Joan (2018)

My lockdown watching doesn’t get much better with the horribly dreary Red Joan which sorely misuses the treasure that is Dame Judi Dench

“You did this, didn’t you”

Hurrah, you might think, a film with Dame Judi Dench in the lead part. But hold on a mo, Red Joan is also a Trevor Nunn film – take that as you will – and should it ever have reached award conversations, Dench would surely have had to be in the supporting actress category, such is her role in the way the story is lugubriously doled out like a barely dripping tap.

She plays Joan Stanley, a character loosely based on Soviet spy Melita Norwood who passed on details of the British nuclear programme to Moscow, who finds Special Branch knocking on her door and muttering treason. But the majority of the film is told in flashback, as Sophie Cookson plays the younger Joan who back in the 1940s, had her head turned at Cambridge University by the flirty Leo (Tom Hughes with an unconscionable accent) and her politics turned by the horrors of war. Continue reading “Lockdown film review: Red Joan (2018)”

Review: Tumulus, VAULT Festival

“I’ve never had a lover die on me before”

Chemsex is one of those subjects that always seems to pop up at festivals and sure enough, in week 1 of the VAULT we find a new play on the very subject by Christopher Adams. But with a sparkingly fresh and darkly witty take and some intelligent and imaginative direction from Matt Steinberg, Tumulus emerges as a cracking piece of theatre, a “chilling queer noir” that entertains as much as it elucidates.

Anthony is well and truly addicted to the chemsex scene in London. He’s holding down his job as an assistant curator at the British Museum just about fine, though that promotion always seems to elude him, as his evenings and weekends are taken up with chasing the next amazing high, the next unmissable party, the next insatiable guy. This high-functioning addict has his certainties shaken though when his one of his latest hook-ups turns up dead on Hampstead Heath. Continue reading “Review: Tumulus, VAULT Festival”

2018 Vault Festival – what to see

On the one hand, that the Vault Festival has expanded to over 300 shows running over 8 weeks is fantastic news for the emerging theatremakers that it supports. On the other, it means making the choice about what to see, even tackling the catalogue alone can feel somewhat daunting. It has taken me a wee while to get round to delving into it myself, but as the festival is set to open this week, here’s some of my top tips for each week. Continue reading “2018 Vault Festival – what to see”

Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival

“We need stability, not creative parenting”

If there’s one thing theatre loves, it is plays about theatre itself. You can find the likes of Red Velvet and Nell Gwynn in the West End right now but in the more vibrant land of the VAULT Festival, Freddie Machin is presenting his own contemporary take on the issue in Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead. Feisty and fresh, it feels like ideal festival fare, bulging at the seams with exuberant imagination.

Theatre director Ellen Billington has been struggling to find work and her personal life is suffering too with lovemaking with her partner strictly regimented to ovulation cycles. When a chance encounter with an old colleague and a playwriting competition results in a swift commission and temporary escape to a backwater Massachusetts town, she thinks all she needs to do is let inspiration do its work but life, and art, are rarely that simple. Continue reading “Review: Don’t Waste Your Bullets On The Dead, VAULT Festival”

Review: Orson’s Shadow, Southwark Playhouse

“When and where did you hear the rumour that I’ve been playing to empty houses?”

When a play is “based on true events”, there’s always a tricky line to tread as the very nature of theatre is to be, well, theatrical and the truth be damned. And when the subjects are such well-known luminaries as Orson Welles and Laurence Olivier with a side helping of Joan Plowright and Vivien Leigh and rounded off by Kenneth Tynan, the blurring between fact and fiction is even further tested, especially if you know anything about these figures.

Austin Pendleton’s Orson’s Shadow centres on Welles’ ill-fated decision to direct Olivier in Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, at Tynan’s instigation as the playwright would have it, all three men in their twilight of their careers or at least a crossroads on the part of Olivier. From Tynan’s machinations to make this happen to the rehearsal rooms of the Royal Court where egos clash and sparks fly – though married to Leigh, Olivier’s co-star Plowright was also his lover – it’s a titanic battle between genuine titans. Continue reading “Review: Orson’s Shadow, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: King John, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!”

One of the terms most overused by reviewers and publicity writers alike is “timely revival” and this production of King John is no different, coinciding with the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta as it has processed on a mini-candelit-tour of Temple Church and Holy Sepulchre Church Northampton ahead of this run at the Globe. But Shakespeare dropped the ball here with this play, it is no surprise in the watching that it is one of his lesser-performed works and though James Dacre’s production has its bright spots, it can’t cover all of its inherent weaknesses.

Dacre heavily plays up the religious aspects of the play and whilst you can see the logic for the sacred venues and the atmosphere that the candlelight would have created, it’s less easy to see how it works as well at a sunny matinée in the open air on Bankside. Jonathan Fensom’s design imposes a red cross of a stage into the space and fills it with monks, but religion is only part of the story of John’s travails and weighting the emphasis so heavily here doesn’t seem to make a huge deal of dramatic sense (though I freely admit to not knowing the play at all well). Continue reading “Review: King John, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Oh What A Lovely War, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“There must be no squeamishness over losses”

In the centenary year of the beginning of the First World War, many a theatre has programmed accordingly but few can lay as effective a tribute as the Theatre Royal Stratford East with their revival of Joan Littlewood’s Oh What A Lovely War which premiered here a little over 50 years ago. The play came in for some stick from that enlightened soul Michael Gove who denounced its political revisionism (and gave it a healthy dose of publicity to boot) but in the final moments of this emotionally exhausting show, only the most totally deluded of fools would have politics on their mind in the face of such unutterable loss of life, something that continues in battlefields today.

There is no denying that the show wears its politics clearly on its sleeve. Devised by Littlewood and Theatre Workshop in the 1960s, its depiction of the class lines within the armed forces speak firmly of its time, and it is interesting to see how the American efforts are viewed at a time before any “special relationships” had been forged. But truly at its heart is the experience of the ordinary soldier and Lez Brotherston’s design never lets us free of the unflinching barrage of information and imagery – projections simulate what life might have been life, a constantly scrolling panel of statistics keep the human cost at the front of our minds. Continue reading “Review: Oh What A Lovely War, Theatre Royal Stratford East”