Review: Anything Goes, Barbican

Sutton Foster soars in this superlative revival of Anything Goes which almost justifies the ticket prices at the Barbican

If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose”

There are several things that can take your breath away in this simply fantastic production of Anything Goes, whether the jaw-dropping rendition of the title track that closes the first act or ticket prices that top out at £175 (the Barbican’s seats may be comfortable but that is pushing it…). Fortunately, the rest of the house isn’t quite as eye-wincingly steep (though full disclosure, I was treated by the kindest aunt 😉) and the joyous swells of Kathleen Marshall’s production mean you’ll find it hard to feel short-changed.

Like many a show of its time, the plot is an entire trifle – Timothy Crouse & John Weidman fashioning a new book from PG Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse’s original – suffice to say it covers any manner of madcap antics on an ocean liner. Those antics are mainly there as a framework on which to hang some of the best songs ever written as we delve deep into the Cole Porter songbook for some musical heaven. Throw in a Broadway production that has already won multiple Tonys and also snag its leading lady who won of those, and job’s a good’un. Continue reading “Review: Anything Goes, Barbican”

TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1

Series 1 of The Windsors proves that Hugh Skinner can do no wrong, nor Haydn Gwynne for that matter 

“We’ve outgrown our usefulness like nipples on men”

Despite starring several of my theatrical faves, I’d never quite got around to watching The Windsors. But given that I’m off to see the stage show The Windsors: Endgame tomorrow, I thought I’d give Series 1 a whirl since it is on Netflix. And I have to say I absolutely frigging loved it. 

George Jeffrie and Bert Tyler-Moore’s parody of the House of Windsor takes the form of a fast-moving soap opera, which means that the joke rate is phenomenal and as in the fashion of many a comedy show, if you’re not enjoying a particular turn, you don’t have to wait more than a few minutes before the next one appears. Continue reading “TV Review: The Windsors, Series 1”

Radio Review: Time and the Conways / Jailbird Lover / The Benefit of Time

“You don’t know what day it is today”

It’s been a while since I’ve listened to any radio drama but the prospect of an all star cast doing JB Priestley’s Time and the Conways was something I couldn’t resist and under David Hunter’s direction, it was a truly beautiful piece of work. The aching lyricism of the play and its innovative (extremely so for the time) non-linear structure have long been a favourite and so to see them get the luxury treatment here, headed up by Harriet Walter as Mrs Conway, is just fantastic.

The play looks at the fortunes of the Conway family as they celebrate the 21st birthday of one of the daughters Kay in 1919 and then flicks forward 19 years where we see straightaway what has become of them. And as their lot mirrors that of the class system in Britain, it isn’t a happy one. Walter’s brittle blitheness as she tries to ignore the financial situation is blissful, Anna Madeley and Rupert Evans are just gorgeous as Alan and Kay – the two decent ones out of the whole bunch – and Colin Guthrie’s piano adds an elegiac beauty. Sublime. Continue reading “Radio Review: Time and the Conways / Jailbird Lover / The Benefit of Time”

Radio review: Missing in Action, Radio 4

Clare Lizzimore and Sam Troughton clearly have an affinity for working with each, having recently collaborated on Mike Bartlett’s Bull (which she directed) and the Royal Court’s Mint (which she wrote). So it seems only natural that the pair should reunite for her debut radio play Missing In Action. A busy work week means this is going up too late for you to still hear it (radio programmes remain on the iPlayer for a week) so I’ll keep it brief but sweet enough that they’ll hopefully replay it soon.

Perhaps bravely – with the war commemorations this year – but certainly wisely, Missing In Action focuses on the dark aftermath of conflict, the yawning abyss that soldiers can feel on their return from war to a world that has continued without them and to which they feel singularly ill-equipped. The play starts off with Natalie scarcely believing her eyes that the husband who had been declared missing in action in Helmand Province is shopping in a local supermarket. He doesn’t know who she is, says that he is someone else, but something is triggered and a painful process is initiated which sweeps up all around him. Continue reading “Radio review: Missing in Action, Radio 4”

Radio Review: The Boy At The Back / Chiwawa / Silk: The Clerks’ Room, Jake

“Literature doesn’t teach us anything”

Juan Mayorga’s The Boy At The Back turned out to be one of my favourite radio dramas that I’ve listened to this year so far. A canny choice for producer/director Nicolas Jackson as Mayorga is one of Spain’s most highly renowned contemporary writers (which makes me a little sad that this is the first I’ve heard of him) and this play proved to be a most effective psychological drama as a precocious pupil and deluded teacher play out a dangerously voyeuristic pas-de-deux that threatens many people around them.

By comparison, Melissa Murray’s Chiwawa might have felt a little bit tame, but its tale of a self-important author trolling around on the internet, leaving anonymous reviews slagging off his rival’s work and bigging up his own, has a deliciously biting contemporary feel. Michael Bertenshaw’s writer is lots of pompous fun but the real joy comes from Fenella Woolgar as his manipulative wife and current RSC darling Pippa Nixon as the PA she forces to shoulder the blame for the mishaps, with unpredictable consequences. Continue reading “Radio Review: The Boy At The Back / Chiwawa / Silk: The Clerks’ Room, Jake”

Revew: Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios

“Do we have to deal with this tonight?”

When it was first announced that Yes Prime Minister would be returning to the London stage, the question ‘who hasn’t seen it yet?!’ was not unreasonably raised. (The answer, of course, was me, presumably amongst others.) Since opening in Chichester in 2010, it has played the West End twice and toured the UK twice but in shaky economic times, exacerbated by the unknown quantity of how the Olympics will actually affect audiences, the Trafalgar Studios have plumped for a return for this safe banker, which is currently booking til the 12th January 2013.

And safe it is. An update of the classic TV programme by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, the pair crafted a contemporaneous version of their story which captures the main themes of ministerial ineptitude and the enduring survival and influence of the Civil Service. PM Jim Hacker is sequestered at Chequers in the midst of a conference and surrounded by gloomy news. When a chink of light appears in the form of a lucrative oil deal, hopes are raised but the offer comes with an enormous string attached and Hacker and his team are forced to balance ethics and morals with the potential deal of a lifetime. Continue reading “Revew: Yes Prime Minister, Trafalgar Studios”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Digital Theatre

“Can the world buy such a jewel?”

Well you can now buy a copy of Josie Rourke’s Much Ado About Nothing which parlayed the star quality of its leads David Tennant and Catherine Tate into massive box office success but watching it again, I’m not so convinced of its jewel-like propensities. Revisiting this particular show did it no real favours in my mind, exposing its limitations and the lack of subtlety that characterises so much of the production.

Relocated to a Gibraltar naval base in the 1980s, the brashness of that decade was clearly taken onboard as a key note for the whole thing. But whereas from the back row of the Wyndhams, it seemed to work in filling the theatre, in the up close and personal of the camera lens, the broadness doesn’t work quite as well. Tennant comes off slightly better with a more natural reading of the lines as a cocky Benedick but Tate never really gets under the skin of Beatrice, the emphasis too much on artifically contrived comedy which never allows her to just be. She is always made to work harder by Rourke who perhaps should have trusted her actor a bit more as she really comes into her own from ‘kill Claudio…’ where she demonstrates her dramatic gift and indicates what might have been of lines like “there was a star danced…” had she been mugging less right before delivering it. Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Digital Theatre”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Wyndham’s Theatre

“Man is a giddy thing and that is my conclusion”

Marking Josie Rourke’s first major piece of work since the announcement of her appointment as the next Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, this production of Much Ado About Nothing is perhaps more notable, for those less interested in theatrical musical chairs, for reuniting David Tennant and Catherine Tate, one of my all-time favourite pairings from Doctor Who. It is actually the first time I’ve seen the play, though I adored the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson film when I was younger, and fans of this play are being spoiled as the Globe are also mounting a production which opens in the coming weeks.

The play has been moved to the heady days of the early 1980s and apparently is set in Gibraltar. I say apparently because the first I heard of it was reading the programme on the way home in which there’s an essay about life there which I assume means it serves as the location. I didn’t see any monkeys or a big rock, but I suppose it allows for the military base to be used as a reason for putting all of Don Pedro’s men in spiffing white naval uniforms 😉 (At least I think they’re naval, military of some description anyway.) Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Review: Earthquakes in London, National Theatre

“This room is significantly different because you’re in it”

And boy is it different! The first thing that strikes you as you enter the Cottesloe for Earthquakes in London is not the light jazz elevator music, but the complete reconfiguration of the auditorium inside. An inverted S-shaped catwalk-stage dominates, with bar stools either side for the audience, two raised letterbox stages at either end and a DJ in the corner.

A new play from the pen of Mike Bartlett (he of Cock and also Bull) and a co-production with Rupert Goold’s Headlong company. With a timeline switching around from 1968 to 2525 (though predominantly in the present day), it deals with the threat of climate change and impending planetary collapse by looking at the impact on a family of three sisters each with their own issues and the same estranged father. Continue reading “Review: Earthquakes in London, National Theatre”