Review: The Armour, Langham Hotel

“The most powerful people in the world have sex in hotels. In fact, having sex in the best hotels makes you powerful. It doesn’t matter how good the sex is, only how good the hotel is.”

Last year saw Defibrillator Theatre take over three rooms in The Langham Hotel, down the posh end of Regent Street, to present the short Tennessee Williams plays that made up The Hotel Plays and given its resounding success, they’ve gone back there again this year to occupy three more spaces. With 380 rooms in this self-titled “first Grand Hotel in Europe”, it will only take another 125 years to work through all of them at this rate… This year though, Defibrillator have come armed with an original piece – The Armour – written by Ben Ellis and especially commissioned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Langham itself.

Stretching from the late nineteenth century to the present day, the three duologues each take place at a key moment in the building’s history and make for a beguiling combination. First off is a nod to the hotel’s revitalised presence as a luxury venue as Hannah Spearritt’s pop star Jade suffers a minor meltdown in the middle of a crucial comeback concert tour. Trying to calm her down in this basement suite is manager Franky, a nicely lived-in Thomas Craig, who tolerantly indulges her complaints about the trappings of fame but also can’t disguise the note of genuine fatherly concern for a young woman whose life has long not been her own to control.  Continue reading “Review: The Armour, Langham Hotel”

Album Review: Bugsy Malone (NYMT 1997)

“We could have been anything that we wanted to be”

The news that the Lyric Hammersmith will be reopening with a production of Bugsy Malone will have rightly gladdened the hearts of all right-thinking people and it also reminded me that I had the soundtrack to the show that I’d not gotten round to listening to yet. Where the film (featuring the likes of Jodie Foster and Scott Baio, as well as Mark Curry, Dexter Fletcher and Bonnie Langford) dubbed adult voices onto its child performers, the National Youth Music Theatre mounted an all-youth production that ended up in the West End and which had amongst its number, a certain Sheridan Smith.

There’s real interest in the soundtrack for musical fans as Paul Williams donated songs that were not included in the film, ‘That’s Why They Call Me Dandy’ and ‘Show Business’, the first of which is quite an adorable character number for Dandy Dan (sung here by Stuart Piper and the company) and the second of which is no great shakes (sung by Alex Lee, presumably the Lena Marelli character). And amongst the more familiar numbers are some lovely arrangements which bolster the tunes – the second half of ‘I’m Feeling Fine’ becomes a tender duet, the utterly beautiful ‘Tomorrow’ enhanced by company BVs. Continue reading “Album Review: Bugsy Malone (NYMT 1997)”

Short Film Review: #5

The Reward
THE REWARD from Sentinel Productions on Vimeo.
Written by Joel Horwood, The Reward definitely ranks as top amongst this bunch of shorts.  Gorgeously filmed by Lucy Patrick Ward, its opening shots set up its two main characters perfectly: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s numbed woman having just lost her father, and Anatol Yusef’s gym instructor working out the pain of the loss of his beloved dog on his hapless aerobics class. When fate throws the pair together, their meeting seems charged with almost unmanageable emotion, but what Horwood conjures is a moment of powerful but truthful cathartic release that is just beautiful. Waller-Bridge is fantastic (I want to see her in more modern roles on the stage soon) and Yusef also convinces in suggesting his pain lies more than just in the loss of a pet. Watch it now!

Harry, Henry and the Prostitute

Fans of Charlie Cox’s hairy chest (and there are many of you, I know what search terms lead people here!) will be particularly pleased with this film, in which two flatmates hire a prostitute for the night, but end up in a spot of bother with her pimp when it turns out they haven’t got the money to pay her. Harry Ter Haar has written a nerdish but convincing connection of banterish friendship which is played extremely well by Charlie Cox and Ben Rees-Evans which makes it a pleasure to watch even though the story itself is perhaps a little undistinguished. Theo Davies’ production has a nice sense of humour though, which not even a random appearance from Fearne Cotton can undo, 


Little Larry

A cutely observed short which is up for the Virgin Media Shorts competition at the moment. Barely two minutes long, Andrew Lee Potts’ film speaks to the child inside all of us, the part that can never quite believe we’re actually an adult, and with some sharp editing, pulls together an impressively sweeping vista which wraps up to a lovely sweet ending.

Mourning Rules

Also up for the Virgin Media Shorts, is Mourning Rules, a rather witty, dark, comedic tale of a professional mourner demonstrating the tricks of her trade to her sister. Written by Dan Castella, Olivia Poulet and Monserrat Lombard, and starring the middle name, it is dizzyingly manic and I loved the way it finished on an unapologetic loopy note.

Out There
Written by Mike Walden and directed by Edward McGown, Out There puts a dark spin on a family’s move to rural France. Graham and Caroline’s relationship is already strained and suffers even more so as his tutoring of an attractive young local girl provides an outlet for his wandering hands. She in turn looks to the friendly neighbour Jean-Luc but the rules for women are different to those for men in Graham’s mind with severe consequences. It’s not quite as compelling as it could be though McGown generates a strong sense of atmosphere and teases out strong performances from his leads – Lucy Russell’s frustrated wife who understandably jumps at Tom Mison’s bearded French-accented woodsman and Jamie Foreman, a malevolent bulldog in human form.

Domestics
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Last up is Rob Curry’s Domestics, a two-hander about a couple’s very stormy relationship which is tipped over the edge with the purchase of the wrong flavour of ice-cream. It’s not particularly unique or flashy, but there’s something quite neat about the way it shifts between perspectives, testing the viewer to challenge what we are seeing – is it memory, wish-fulfilment, the future? Maimie McCoy and John Lightbody gamely battle out the conflict as they each push each other as far as they can go, and beyond.

Review: The Belle’s Stratagem, Southwark Playhouse

“In short, ‘tis one universal masquerade but where all assume the same disguise of dress and manners”

When I first heard that director Jessica Swale was doing a new play at the Southwark Playhouse, my heart skipped a little tiny beat as her last work in London, the excoriating Palace of the End, was a truly astounding theatrical experience and one that ranked a mighty third in my list of everything I saw last year (271 shows for the record). That the play she was putting on was The Belle’s Stratagem, a Georgian comedy of manners by Hannah Cowley, gave me momentary pause but then I quickly remembered that Swale had previously mounted The Rivals, by Cowley’s contemporary Sheridan, to great effect in a raucously inventive production back in January last year at this same venue.

I was lucky enough to catch a small production of one of Cowley’s other plays, A Bold Stroke for a Husband earlier this year, and so I was a little more familiar with her history than most. A playwright who became one of the most successful of either gender in her day which is quite extraordinary given how little rights Georgian women had and just how forward-thinking her message of female empowerment was. Despite this, her plays quickly fell out of favour after her death, meaning that even The Belle’s Stratagem, her most successful work, has not been seen in London for over 200 years. Continue reading “Review: The Belle’s Stratagem, Southwark Playhouse”