10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Eight Stephen Schwartz

The Theatre Channel returns with Episode Eight, a special devoted to Stephen Schwartz featuring Alice Fearn, Louise Dearman, Melanie La Barrie and more

“Just when i thought my heart was finally numb”

With impeccable timing, The Theatre Channel has produced a new episode, its eighth in total, which this time focuses on the work of Stephen Schwartz. The show continues to spread its wings geographically, this time heavily featuring the Park Theatre who are co-producers on this episode, but in a number from Working – Alice Fearn’s ‘It’s An Art’ – the cafe is front and centre which feels like a neat nod to its origins at The Theatre Cafe.

Schwartz himself features throughout, able to provide fascinating snippets of info about the material, both old and new. Having recently played the Charing Cross Theatre over the summer, the cast of 1972’s Pippin sing ‘Magic to Do’, but we also get to hear a vibrant duet from 2016’s Magic Flute-inspired Schikaneder, ‘Dream Big’ sung gloriously by Stewart Clarke and Christine Allado. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Eight Stephen Schwartz”

Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre

Heartbreaking but fiercely essential work. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart receives a masterful revival courtesy of Dominic Cooke at the National Theatre

“The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual”

A flame lit in respectful silence, shirts whipped off to the pulsing synthline of ‘I Feel Love’, the opening moments of Dominic Cooke’s revival of Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart are full of Pride and perfectly encapsulate one of the key dilemmas haunting its characters. It is New York City in the early 1980s and writer and activist Ned Weeks is struggling to make the wider world understand what to him seems obvious, an unidentified disease is scything through the gay community in alarming numbers.

Plays about AIDS have tended to the operatic in scale – Angels in America and The Inheritance both sprawling over two lengthy parts. So by comparison, The Normal Heart is over in a flicker, coming in well under three hours. And my lord is that a good thing, as the second half in particular is punishingly, essentially, brutal. Prior to the interval, there’s a beautiful sense of world-building – Weeks and his pals bonding over their shared need to do something, battling over the best way to do it. And Weeks also falls in love for the first time, a scene of combative flirting is as entertaining as it is erotic.

Continue reading “Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre”

News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8

Adam Blanshay Productions’ acclaimed web series The Theatre Channel returns with a show stopping musical spectacular to honour the legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz (Wicked; Pippin; Godspell). Under the new direction of Olivier Award nominated choreographer Fabian Aloise (Evita, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; Wicked, Germany) Schwartz’s modern masterpieces will come alive led by a sensational cast, including leading West End women Alice Fearn (Wicked; Come From Away), Louise Dearman (the only woman to play both Elphaba and Glinda – Wicked; Evita), and Christine Allado (The Prince of Egypt; Hamilton).

Further casting includes the incredible Stewart Clarke (Be More Chill; Fiddler on the Roof), Melanie La Barrie (Wicked; & Juliet), Cedric Neal (Back to the Future; Motown: The Musical) and the cast of the critically acclaimed revival of Pippin at the Charing Cross Theatre, with their fantastic rendition of ‘Magic To Do’. This marks the first time The Theatre Channel is doing a music video in collaboration with a production currently running in the West End, as they continue to evolve their concept. Continue reading “News: The Theatre Channel announce a Stephen Schwartz spectacular for Episode 8”

Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released

The National Theatre has released rehearsal images by Helen Maybanks for Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart a co-production with Fictionhouse, being performed in the Olivier Theatre in September 2021. Directed by Dominic Cooke, Kramer’s largely autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis in 1980 New York has not been performed professionally in London since its European premiere in 1986.

Ben Daniels will perform the role of Ned Weeks, the co-founder of an AIDS advocacy group fighting to change the world around him, with Robert Bowman, Richard Cant, Liz Carr, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Dino Fetscher, Daniel Krikler, Daniel Monks, Elander Moore, Luke Norris, Henry Nott, Lucas Rush, Freddie Stabb, Samuel Thomas and Danny Lee Wynter completing the company.

Set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Lisa Duncan, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Carolyn Downing and fight direction by Bret Yount. The Normal Heart will be in the Olivier theatre from 23rd September until 6th November 2021. Continue reading “Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released”

News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022

The National Theatre will return to performances with full capacity audiences from later this month. Additional seating will now be available for performances of After Life from 27 July alongside the previously-announced productions Rockets and Blue Lights in the Dorfman theatre and Paradise in the Olivier theatre, with extra tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 19 July.  

Tickets for The Normal Heart, East is East, Manor and Hex on sale to the public from Friday 30 July. Continue reading “News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022”

Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre

Steven Dexter’s production of Pippin transfers to the Charing Cross Theatre with some nifty choreography

“I don’t know anything about ducks”

I was low-key obsessed with Godspell as a kid, a production at the school where one or other of my parents worked winning me over to its charms early on. But Pippin, also written by Stephen Schwartz one year on in 1972, entirely passed me by and even as a grown-up kid, it isn’t a show that has ever won me over either time I’ve seen it.

Hence I gave Steven Dexter’s boutique production a miss when it opened in chilly English summer evenings at the Garden Theatre last year but now that it has resurfaced indoors at the Charing Cross Theatre, I gave it a go. Here, a strong cast give it their all with some nifty choreography but my heart remains untouched. Continue reading “Review: Pippin, Charing Cross Theatre”

News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together

The National Theatre announces new programming and launches a major new campaign for its future, National Theatre Together

The National Theatre has announced its programming until the start of next year with productions on all three South Bank stages as well as three major UK tours, two productions on Broadway, a return to cinemas, and a new feature film to be broadcast on television this autumn. In the week the theatre reopened for audiences again, six new productions were announced, and five productions halted by the pandemic were confirmed to return to the South Bank.  

It has also announced the public launch of National Theatre Together, a new campaign with people at its heart, highlighting the importance of creativity and collaboration with theatre-makers and communities, for young people and audiences. The campaign cements the NT’s commitment to the people of this country and will raise vital funds for the theatre’s ambitious recovery post-pandemic.  Continue reading “News: The National Theatre announces 2021-22 programming and launches National Theatre Together”

The finalists of The Offies 2021

The finalists for the 2021 Offies (for productions in 2020) have been announced and congratulations to the 47 finalists across 16 of the 28 Offies categories. The winners will be announced at the Offies Awards Ceremony, being held online on 21 February 2021.

The following categories are not going forward for 2021 awards as there were insufficient nominations due to theatre closures arising from Covid-19 lockdowns:

  • Design: Costume
  • Design: Video
  • Choreography
  • Company Ensemble
  • Musicals: New Musical
  • Opera
  • Panto
  • Plays: Most Promising New Playwright
  • Plays: Production
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (0-7)
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (13+)
  • Theatre for Young People: Production (8+)

Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2021”

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”