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.
Series 5 of Peaky Blinders plots a particularly dark path for Tommy Shelby but leaves a little too much up in the air – spoilers abound
“It was a consequence of good intentions”
Getting Elliot Cowan into the new series of Peaky Blindersmade my heart sing, getting him to play a closeted gay journalist was just gilding the lily, so naturally he didn’t make it past the end of the first episodes. Such are the ways that this show breaks your heart.
As the race through the years carries on apace, we’re now in the time of the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the rise of fascism with the arrival of Oswald Mosley, and these two points are the main drivers of this fifth series. The recalibration of the family business to cover their losses, and Tommy’s burgeoning political career serving his increasingly varied ambition. Continue reading “TV Review: Peaky Blinders Series 5”
A trio of album reviews cover the (relatively) recently released cast recordings of Company, Follies and Mythic
“One more souvenir of bliss”
I adored Marianne Elliott’s reinterpretation of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Companyon my many visits and so the news of a cast recording was of course ecstatically received. And perhaps inevitably it doesn’t quite live up to the thrill of seeing it live but maybe that’s because the production is still so fresh in my mind. I mean we’re only talking a 4 instead of a 4.5…
I swear Patti LuPone’s ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ was different every time I saw it but this version here is as good as any, with the glorious fullness of her voice pointedly sharpening its wit. Her contributions to ‘The Little Things We Do Together’ are inspired, Jonny Bailey’s ‘Not Getting Married’ is breathlessly affecting and the warmth of Rosalie Craig’s character and voice infuse the whole experience with real quality. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Company / Follies / Mythic”
Not too much more to say about Folliesthat I didn’t cover last time, suffice to say it’s just such a luxuriously fantastic show and I think I could watch it over and over! The head-dresses! Everything Janie Dee does! The orchestra! How no-one seems to be falling down that staircase! The staging! The shade of mint green in Loveland! The Staunton’s icy bitterness in ‘Losing My Mind’! The amount that Josephine Barstow has now made me cry, twice! The Quast! Just get booking now, while you still can.
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (without interval) Booking until 3rd January, best availability from 6th November
Follies will be broadcast by NT Live to cinemas in the UK and internationally on Thursday 16 November.
An utterly majestic production of Sondheim’s Follies is a masterpiece for the National Theatre
“All things beautiful must die”
Well this is what we have a National Theatre for. For Vicki Mortimer’s set design that both stretches towards the heights of the Olivier and lingers some 30 years back in the past; for the extraordinary detail and feathered delights of the costumes; for the lush sound of an orchestra of 21 under Nigel Lilley’s musical direction; for a production that revels in the exuberance and experience of its cast of 37. And all for what? For a musical that, despite its iconic status in the theatre bubble, is more than likely to raise a ‘huh?’ from the general public (at least from the sampling in my office!).
Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and James Goldman’s (book) Folliesis a show that has a long history of being tinkered with and more often than not, is as likely to be found in a concert presentation (as in its last London appearance at the Royal Albert Hall) as it is fully staged. Which only makes Dominic Cooke’s production here all the more attractive, not just for aficionados but for the casual theatregoer too. Using the original book with just a smattering of small changes, this is musical theatre close to its most luxurious, and a bittersweetly life-affirming thrill to watch. Continue reading “Review: Follies, National Theatre”
“Oh yes it’s not that I want to stay. It’s just that I don’t want to go”
My heart jumped for joy when the Union Theatre announced their revival of Salad Days as the Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds classic is probably one of my favourite musicals (and following on from their production of The Hired Man too, another of my absolute faves). I loved being being able to revisit the evergreen perkiness of the show onstage and it also reminded me that I hadn’t gotten round to listening to this cast recording in a while.
“Let the moment go, don’t forget it for a moment though”
As with Shakespeare, plenty of people have strong ideas about how Sondheim ‘should’ be done, so I’m always interested to see a director striking out a little to establish their own vision. Inspiration often comes from the local surroundings – memorably so with Into the Woods at the Open Air Theatre a few years back and intriguingly so with Matthew Xia’s production of the same show for the Royal Exchange in Manchester. Taking Sondheim and James Lapine’s conflation of well-known fairytales and their unseen epilogues and relocating it to a contemporary here and now, this enchanted forest may have lost a little of the overtly magical but gains plenty in an evocation of Mancunian community spirit.
It may not have been the most precisely sung version of the show I’ve ever seen but the depth of performance here with all its colour and heart more than made up for it, rooting these characters perfectly in Xia’s landscape. ‘Agony’ has indeed been camper but Marc Elliott and Michael Peavoy’s modern-day Princes make you listen to the intricacy of the lyrical references like never before, Gillian Bevan’s Witch – a woman truly released from her curse – grows in impressive vocal stature throughout the show, and Natasha Cottriall (who in the interests of full disclosure, is my mother’s cousin’s wife’s sister’s daughter) brings real pathos as well as petulance to her Little Red Riding-hood. Continue reading “Review: Into The Woods, Royal Exchange”
They say write about what you know but when your childhood memories of 1950s Derby recall nothing so much as 1970s sitcom humour, I’m not sure that Michael Kirk’s Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched isn’t the exception to the rule. Co-written with Gemma Page and directed by Kirk himself, the show is a self-described “mucky romp through the morals, memories and music of the 1950s” but whilst it has an undeniable comic edge that fitfully breaks through to genuine humour, too often it is laboured and criminally inconsistent.
Bouncing from sex farce to serious drama, domestic violence rubbing shoulders with domestic comedy, the play never settles into a groove and crucially, it lacks credibility once matters start to darken and we’re meant to take things more earnestly. Which kind of flies in the face of much of the acting – Wendi Peters is delightfully battle-axed as matriarch Dorothy-Mavis, who won’t let anything her feckless family does get in the way of her social climbing but there’s little sense of depth to the character, an emotional underpinning that would justify this later shift. Continue reading “Review: Hatched ‘n’ Dispatched, Park Theatre”
“But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past there must have been a moment of truth”
Despite never having seen it on the stage before, I hadn’t originally intended to go and see the Open Air Theatre’s production ofThe Sound of Music. But whilst on holiday, we watched the film on TV en famille whereupon I was reminded of its charms and hearing the good reviews of this production, duly set about booking tickets for an evening when I hoped the sun would shine. And I clearly had some good theatrical karma as a glorious summer’s evening set up what a simply delightful evening of old school musical entertainment.
It may not be the most adventurous of programming choices and Rachel Kavanaugh’s production plays a very straight bat but in many ways, this is why it is so successful. Its straightforward simplicity allows for a direct emotional hit, one which plays off the indubitable familiarity of so much of the material but also the opportunities offered by this open air venue and the freshness of a supremely talented cast. Charlotte Wakefield’s Maria and Michael Xavier’s Captain may initially seem more youthful than one might expect but together they work like a dream, combining with the whole company to create the kind of warmth that would brighten even the soggiest of September evenings (the run has extended by a week due to its success). Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Music, Open Air Theatre”