Review: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Some seriously big names – David Walliams and Robbie Williams – can’t save the RSC’s new musical The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“Don’t eat my cheese”

There’s no lacking for big names behind the RSC’s big new musical The Boy in the Dress. Based on the novel by David Walliams and adapted by Mark Ravenhill, and with a score by Robbie Williams, Guy Chambers and Chris Heath, the pedigree is certainly there in this story about Dennis, a young football-crazy boy who decides, one day, that he’d quite like to go to school wearing a dress. But Gregory Doran’s production ends up hitting the crossbar – literally so… – and it is a little difficult to work out exactly why.

Is it in Walliams’ book, where absent mothers get entirely short shrift (as do most women, the character of Darvesh’s mum, who even gets a song, is called…Darvesh’s mum) and notions about celebrating difference only go so far – it’s OK for boys to wear dresses and win football matches, but if you buy a copy of Vogue, then you’re the target for homophobic jokes in the script. Or is it in the score which is full of strangely low-impact numbers, until an Indian man appears – cue the Bollywood song! Or someone puts on a dress – cue the disco number! It can feel that there’s not much sophistication at work here. Continue reading “Review: The Boy in the Dress, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6

“Demons run when a good man goes to war”

And here it is, the point at which I stopped loving new Doctor Who, even in a series that has two of the best episodes it has done, and the first series that I haven’t ever rewatched in its entirety. I do enjoy Matt Smith’s Eleven immensely but the writing across this season – which was split into two for transmission – was just fatally erratic for me. Alongside the innovative work from Neil Gaiman in The Doctor’s Wife and Steve Thompson in The Girl Who Waited, two contrasting but superlative pieces of writing, stories such as The Curse of the Black Spot and Night Terrors took the show to a less sophisticated place – (or do I really mean that I started to feel that this version of Doctor Who wasn’t necessarily aimed at me…?)

Even the big finales (for there were two, one for each half) fell a little flat. The premonition that the Doctor would “fall so much further” than ever before in A Good Man Goes to War raised expectations only to be dashed by an overloaded episode with little emotional heft aside from the River Song reveal, and The Wedding of River Song suffered from the general over-use of the characters dying-but-not-really-dying trope (poor Arthur Darvill…). That said, the high points of the series are so very good – the striking US-set opening double-bill, the Doctor finally meeting the TARDIS, and brain-scratching sci-fi with real heart. Frustratingly inconsistent. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6”

Winners of the 2014 What’s on Stage Awards

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren – The Audience at the Gielgud (49.5%)
Anne-Marie Duff – Strange Interlude at the NT Lyttelton (16.8%)
Hayley Atwell – The Pride at Trafalgar Studios (12.4%)
Suranne Jones – Beautiful Thing at the Arts (15.0%)
Tanya Moodie – Fences at the Duchess (6.3%)

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Daniel Radcliffe – The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noël Coward (37.4%)
Ben Whishaw – Peter and Alice at the Noël Coward and Mojo at the Harold Pinter (19.9%)
James McAvoy – Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios (22.1%)
Lenny Henry – Fences at the Duchess (6.3%)
Rory Kinnear – Othello at the NT Olivier (14.2%) Continue reading “Winners of the 2014 What’s on Stage Awards”

2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Helen Mirren – The Audience at the Gielgud 
Anne-Marie Duff – Strange Interlude at the NT Lyttelton 
Hayley Atwell – The Pride at Trafalgar Studios
Suranne Jones – Beautiful Thing at the Arts 
Tanya Moodie – Fences at the Duchess 

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
Daniel Radcliffe – The Cripple of Inishmaan at the Noël Coward 
Ben Whishaw – Peter and Alice at the Noël Coward and Mojo at the Harold Pinter 
James McAvoy – Macbeth at Trafalgar Studios 
Lenny Henry – Fences at the Duchess 
Rory Kinnear – Othello at the NT Olivier  Continue reading “2014 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Winners of the 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR
Chiwetel Ejiofor, A Season in the Congo (Young Vic)
WINNER Rory Kinnear, Othello, National (Olivier)
WINNER Adrian Lester, Othello, National (Olivier)

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Linda Bassett, Roots (Donmar Warehouse)
Lesley Manville, Ghosts (Almeida)
WINNER Helen Mirren, The Audience (Gielgud)
Billie Piper, The Effect, National (Cottesloe)
Kristin Scott Thomas, Old Times (Harold Pinter) Continue reading “Winners of the 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

The 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

BEST ACTOR
Chiwetel EjioforA Season in the Congo (Young Vic)
Rory Kinnear, Othello, National (Olivier)
Adrian Lester, 
Othello, National (Olivier)

NATASHA RICHARDSON AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS
Linda BassettRoots (Donmar Warehouse)
Lesley ManvilleGhosts (Almeida)
Helen Mirren, The Audience (Gielgud)
Billie Piper
The Effect, National (Cottesloe)
Kristin Scott ThomasOld Times (Harold Pinter) Continue reading “The 2013 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Noël Coward Theatre

It seems to be that yet we sleep, we dream”

The Michael Grandage Company move onto their fourth show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the first of two Shakespeares that will finish the season. And given the emphasis of the star wattage that formed the backbone of its publicity, it’s an interesting choice of play due to its ensemble nature and lack of any real star parts. So we get Sheridan Smith in the dual role of Hippolyta and Titania and David Walliams as Nick Bottom the weaver, alongside a company of others many of whom have appeared in previous MGC shows.

Grandage’s main conceit is to locate the play in 1960s England, making the magical forest into a festival-like world of hippies and free love, allowing an unambiguous focus on sex as the driving force of the play. It’s more like an Athena model version of sex than the untrammeled passion of the real thing though – the four lovers parade about the forest in various states of underwear-clad undress, Titania’s seductive ways lure Bottom into an off-stage bower, the hints of amour between the Rude Mechanicals left tantalisingly unexplored. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Noël Coward Theatre”

Short Film Review #18

Originally included as an extra on the DVD of the first series of The IT Crowd, Graham Linehan’s Hello Friend plays amusingly on the difficulties that can ensue when venturing into the unknown with new internet software for computers. Martin Savage’s John Ward buys “Praemus”, which claims to be a better way to use the internet but soon gets caught up in a horrendous world of huge bills, faceless bureaucracy and email-only customer service which takes over his life completely. It is perhaps a little bit too long, given it is one extended skit but it is nevertheless good fun, not least for the brief cameo from Richard Ayoade’s Moss. Continue reading “Short Film Review #18”

DVD Review: Capturing Mary

“Is that the back of Evelyn Waugh’s head?”

Whether you care for his work or no, the body of work that Stephen Poliakoff has accumulated is most impressive as he consistently gathers top-calibre casts to deliver his often obtuse musings on human nature. And in what for me is a dreamily fantastic bit of casting, in Capturing Mary he has Maggie Smith and Ruth Wilson playing the older and younger versions of the same woman. That woman is Mary, who in the present day visits a hugely significant house and when the caretaker there takes pity on her, she regales him of tales of just why it was so important.

It turns out that she was a journalist and something of a socialite in the 1950s and so attended many a high society soirée in this venue and at one of those parties, she met Greville White, the man who would irrevocably change her life and not for the better. With his purpose unclear, he revealed a wealth of dark and dirty secrets about the rich and famous and important and influential people in the same house as them, secrets which involve some most distasteful revelations indeed. Greville saw this as an opportunity for Mary to join him in cahoots on the fringes of this powerful upper class world but she decided to demur.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Capturing Mary”