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”

News: two new theatrically inclined podcasts announced

Whilst we edge ever closer to curtains maybe rising once again, a new pair of podcasts should see us through

Hear Me Out is a brand-new podcast from actor and producer Lucy Eaton, most recently seen on TV screens starring alongside David Tennant, Michael Sheen, and her brother Simon Evans in BBC1’s Staged.  The first four episodes are now available to listen to with guests Mark Bonnar, Denise Gough, Adrian Lester, and Claire Skinner. A new episode will then be released each Tuesday from 30 March onwards with future guests including Brendan Coyle, Freddie Fox, Patricia Hodge, Maddy Hill, and Giles Terera.  Hear Me Out is available to listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor.com, and all major streaming platforms.  Filmed clips from the episodes can also be found on YouTube @PodHearMeOut.

Hear Me Out puts the audience back in the stalls or, closer still, the rehearsal room. Creeping further into 2021, many have endured twelve months without a curtain going up. This new podcast invites theatre-loving audiences to re-connect with theatre-makers in a unique celebration of language and performance. Continue reading “News: two new theatrically inclined podcasts announced”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Five The Classics of Broadway

The Theatre Channel returns with Episode Five, full of The Classics of Broadway sung by the likes of Bonnie Langford, Gary Wilmot and Marisha Wallace

“Tell me, why should it be true,
That I get a kick out of you”

Over four instalments last year, Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café’s The Theatre Channel managed the not-inconsiderable feat of finding its niche within the crowded marketplace of streamed theatrical content and also elevating its quality. Such is its quality with its consistently high production values, you really do get the feeling of seeing bona fide musical theatre rather than just another concert.

It doesn’t come easily though and the filming of Episode Five – The Classics of Broadway was hit particularly hard with the double whammy of the third lockdown and director and choreographer Bill Deamer having to shield. But we all know the show must go on and with Thom Southerland being brought in as co-director, this musical journey down the Great White Way arrives in fine form, maintaining that impressive standard. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Five The Classics of Broadway”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 4

Whereas I was sad that the cast of The Crown had to regenerate at the end of Series 2, I’m kinda glad that Series 4 is the last we’ll see of this second generation  

“Let’s just say, I can’t see it ending well for you”

I sampled the first few episodes of Series 4 of The Crown on release and whilst still appreciating much of the quality of this prestige drama, I couldn’t help but feel that it just isn’t quite up to par. An element of that is certainly personal, I just have zero desire to see depictions of Margaret Thatcher in anything. But there’s also something more nigglingly fundamental awry here, as we move to closer to the current day and increasingly feature people who are still alive. 

Whether royalist or republican (do republicans watch The Crown…?), there’s something fascinating about the way in which Peter Morgan’s writing has challenged conventional notions of myth-building around the British Royal Family. What might previously have been called decorum has been jettisoned with little seeming sacrosanct now, particularly as we delve into the marriage of Charles and Diana and his enduring relationship with Camilla, plus going deeper into Thatcher’s psyche than one could ever care to. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 4”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special

Nipping in just before Santa arrives, The Theatre Channel’s fourth episode delivers festive treats aplenty in The Holiday Special

“If you’re burdened down with trouble
If your nerves are wearing thin…”

With all the uncertainty that has haunted the world of theatre since the pandemic began, there’s something unalterably pleasing about seeing a theatrical enterprise grow from strength to strength at this time. Born out of the explosion in streaming content that emerged in the first lockdown, The Theatre Channel has taken that concept and elevated it to something rather special, so mince pies and buckets of mulled wine all round for everyone at Adam Blanshay Productions and The Theatre Café.

In its half-hourly episodes, it has found focus in its themes (Hallowe’en, rock musicals) and shown generosity in its casting. Starrier names may be the headliners but the decision to introduce the Café Four (comprised of Alyn Hawke, Emily Langham, Sadie-Jean Shirley and Alex Woodward) as a regular ensemble has proven a masterstroke. providing continuity across a diverse range of performances and from episode to episode, but also showcasing their own talents alongside a raft of Olivier winners and nominees. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Four The Holiday Special”

TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3

I ration myself to Episodes 1-3 of Series 4 of The Crown in the first instance but find it is losing its lustre a little

“I’m struggling to find any redeeming features in these people at all”

Kicking off in 1977, Series 4 of The Crown swiftly moves into my lifetime with its second scene taking place in 1979, although not quite into events that I remember, at least in these first three episodes. And with the arrival of both Diana Spencer and Margaret Thatcher on the scene, there’s quite the decade to explore.

But something has gone a little awry for me and The Crown. The sheer scope of Peter Morgan’s writing means that there’s a mahoosive ensemble at work here but the nature of his construction of episodes that drill down to intimate focus means that there’s huge gaps and terrible wastage, particularly of Helena Bonham Carter’s delicious Princess Margaret. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 4 Episodes 1-3”

Review: My White Best Friend, Bunker Theatre

My White Best Friend (and even more letters left unsaid) sees the Bunker Theatre start the process of going out in a blaze of glory

“It’s all we can do to listen”

There’s a couple of months before the Bunker Theatre closes its doors but it does seem a rather wonderful f*** you to bring back their inordinately successful mini-festival and sell out every night before the run even started. Developers may gain from taking over this space but as evidenced here in this kind of forward-thinking, thought-provoking production, London’s theatre ecology stands to lose a lot.  

Co-curated by Rachel De-Lahay and Milli Bhatia (who also directs), My White Best Friend (and even more letters left unsaid) is a raucous piece of gig theatre, centred on a provocation to a range of cracking writers to write letters “that say the unsaid to the people that matter most”. Those letters are then read to a standing audience, sight unseen by different actors every night. And there’s a DJ-led afterparty too, even on a Monday night! Continue reading “Review: My White Best Friend, Bunker Theatre”

Review: Edmond De Bergerac, Richmond Theatre

Don’t you love farce? Well turns out I rather did like Alexis Michalik’s Edmond De Bergerac at the Richmond Theatre

“But will the audience come?”

I do love a comedy that unexpectedly makes me laugh a lot. It is a genre, particularly when it leans towards farce, that can be a tricky one to get right and there’s nothing worse than being the only one stony-faced in a theatre full of people roaring their heads off (qv me at One Man Two Guvnors, or most Feydeau plays). But sometimes it works, sometimes there’s a Noises Off in there, and treading a similar-ish path is Alexis Michalik’s Edmond De Bergerac as it tracks the on- and off-stage shenanigans of a theatre company whilst playwright Edmond Rostand struggles to write Cyrano de Bergerac for them.

And I have to say that I chortled merrily through Roxana Silbert’s production, which has popped around the country after a run at Birmingham Rep. It is thoroughly silly, doesn’t take itself seriously for a single moment, and is consequently most enjoyable if just a touch overlong. Freddie Fox’s Rostand is a struggling writer whose last show was a flop and with the bills mounting, is blocked. His artistic juices are only stimulated when his pal Léo commissions him to write a suite of love letters to seduce a new would-be paramour on his behalf and the spark of a new play ignites as life imitates art imitates life and opening night fast approaches. Continue reading “Review: Edmond De Bergerac, Richmond Theatre”

Not-a-review: Travesties, Apollo

“It may be nonsense but at least it’s not clever nonsense”

The problem with being addicted to theatre is that it can be hard to turn down things, even against your better instincts. I knew I didn’t really want to see Travesties so I didn’t go to the Menier but sure enough, it transferred into the West End to test my resistance further and I crumbled.

I should not have done.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 29th April