Review: Walden, Harold Pinter Theatre

Gemma Arterton and Lydia Wilson both do well but Walden isn’t the strongest new play to hit the West End

“We have to act happy”

First things first – Sonia Friedman’s RE:EMERGE season, re-opening the Harold Pinter Theatre with a programme of three new plays is a brilliant one. Its a visionary take on theatre ownership and one can only hope that it inspires similar boldness elsewhere as the tendency towards the safely tried and tested will surely abound as theatreland looks to find its post-pandemic footing. 

And following on from that, there’s also a strange pleasure in seeing a play that I wasn’t particularly keen on and saying so, a sense of returning to normalcy (as opposed to the contortions pulled when everyone had to pretend Sleepless in Seattle the musical was the brave new hope last summer…). So for me, despite a dreamy cast including Gemma Arterton and Lydia Wilson, Amy Berryman’s Walden wasn’t the one. Continue reading “Review: Walden, Harold Pinter Theatre”

News: Folio 400 website goes live

The First Folio is one of the great wonders of the literary world. Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, it was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays.  Without this achievement, we would have lost half of his dramatic work. So a new website has been dedicated in gratitude to the 400th birthday of this foundational book on the 8th November 2023, complete with essays, articles and a set of speeches from the plays read by an illustrious cast. Follow the jump to find out who. Continue reading “News: Folio 400 website goes live”

Rehearsal pics of Walden

New West End play Walden is set on 22nd May 2021 at the Harold Pinter Theatre as the first instalment in Sonia Friedman Productions’ new season RE:EMERGE by . The debut play from Amy Berryman, starring Gemma Arterton, Fehinti Balogun and Lydia Wilson, will be directed by Ian Rickson. 

Photos: Johan Persson

News: RE:EMERGE season announced for the Harold Pinter Theatre

Following a year of extraordinary challenges, and as British theatre begins to find ways to re-emerge from the devastating impact of the enforced shutdown, SFP today announces a season of new plays for a new world. The RE:EMERGE season will create a space for vital, new voices and fresh talent in the West End and beyond, working alongside some of the industry’s greatest theatremakers and artists. The extraordinary collection of plays curated by SFP alongside Ian Rickson – who becomes Artistic Director for the season – tackles urgent issues integral to rebuilding our society, including structural inequality, climate change and the economics of truth in an internet age. Supported by Arts Council England, RE:EMERGE will support the theatre-makers of the future, provide vital work for the freelance community and celebrate the live experience as we begin to build back to the full reopening of British Theatre.

The RE:EMERGE season intends to open to socially-distanced audiences from May to help re-open and re-energise our theatres, and will be staged in a Covid safe environment following government advice and adhering to social distancing guidelines; and in line with Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre’s See It Safely campaign. Alongside the season, SFP also intends for the comedy The Comeback to return to the West End following its enforced shutdown in December. Continue reading “News: RE:EMERGE season announced for the Harold Pinter Theatre”

TV Review: Black Narcissus

A quality cast including Gemma Arterton and Dame Diana Rigg can’t save Black Narcissus for me

“Better honey than vinegar”

A funny one this, particularly for the captive audience of the inbuilt lethargy of the Twixmas period. In the absence of Sarah Phelps’ brilliant reinventions of Agatha Christie, Black Narcissus was the BBC’s big drama punt on the festive schedule but I’m not entirely sure if it was the right choice.

Based on the Rumer Godden novel and famously filmed in 1947 by Powell and Pressburger with Deborah Kerr, the story follows a band of Anglican nuns as they try to establish a new mission in the Himalayan mountains. Their chosen base is a former palace with erotic paintings on the bricks, a troubled history seeping from the mortar and a swarthily handsome agent who keeps popping by – Sister Act this ain’t. Continue reading “TV Review: Black Narcissus”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

Continue reading “Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand”

TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 2

The use of real-life couples makes Episode 2 of Unprecedented a very strong entry – superb work from Gemma Arterton, Arthur Darvill and Cecilia Noble among others

“I can be there for you, even from here”

Episode 2 of Unprecedented, Headlong and Century Film’s creative rapid-response to coronavirus definitely managed to take advantage of acting households, as husbands and wives abounded (Arthur Darvill and Inès De Clercq, Gemma Arterton and Rory Keenan, Olivia Williams and Rhashan Stone), offering up a different texture than just the single person shots that dominated the first episode. 

Tim Price’s Romantic Distancing, directed by Jeremy Herrin, was really rather swooningly lovely. Darvill and De Clercq playing a couple who’ve only been together for a couple of months and trying to work out if staying together, whilst isolating apart, is worth it. The switch into Once-style balladry worked beautifully for me and it’s kinda hard not to root for this pair. Continue reading “TV Review: Unprecedented, Episode 2”

News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation

Headlong and Century Films have today announced a cast of over 50 UK actors taking part in Unprecedented: Theatre from the State of Isolation. A series of new digital plays written in response to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, Unprecedented will be broadcast across the nation during lockdown as part of BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative.

Written by celebrated playwrights and curated by Headlong, Century Films and BBC Arts, Unprecedented explores our rapidly evolving world, responding to how our understanding and experiences of community, education, work, relationships, family, culture, climate and capitalism are evolving on an unprecedented scale. The series will ask how we got here and what the enduring legacy of this historic episode might be. Continue reading “News: cast announced for Unprecedented: Theatre from a State of Isolation”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

Film Review: Vita and Virginia (2018)

Written by Eileen Atkins, Vita and Virginia doesn’t quite capture the intensity of this iconic love affair

“When was the moment of your greatest disillusionment?
‘The first time I saw a penis'”

I didn’t know that Eileen Atkins had written a play about Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf but given that it dates back to 1992 and hasn’t been much – if at all – revived, I could perhaps be forgiven. It is that play Vita and Virginia that she has adapted for the screen with Chanya Button, who also directs, and something of its theatrical nature remains.

Based on their copious letters to each others, Vita and Virginia is perhaps inevitably wordy and this isn’t always a great thing in a film. Set as it is in 1920s bohemian London, you might expect the vibe of a decadent whirl and for a while at least, thanks in large part to Isobel Waller-Bridge’s effectively anachronistic score, this is a most seductive party. Continue reading “Film Review: Vita and Virginia (2018)”