News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Gus Gowland

The Barn Theatre has announced an all-star West End line up for their sixth virtual concert, The Barn Theatre Presents: The Music of Gus Gowland, which will celebrate the work of musical theatre composer Gus Gowland (Pieces of String – one of the few shows that I actually watched online during lockdown).

The concert, which will be hosted by Barn Theatre producer Jamie Chapman Dixon, is the sixth edition of the Barn Theatre in Cirencester’s virtual concert series, The Barn Presents:, which celebrates the work of British musical theatre writers. Continue reading “News: The Barn Theatre Presents – The Music of Gus Gowland”

Review: Henry V / The Merry Wives of Windsor, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans

A return to live theatre is well marked by these vibrant open-air productions of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans

“Try and stay one box away from each other at all times”

As we try and search for a new normal in these uncertain times, it is reassuring to know that we can always rely on the unfailing unreliability of the British weather. After a scorcher of a week, the Maltings Open Air Theatre Festival finds itself opening into thunderstorms aplenty in the atmospheric surroundings of the Roman Theatre of Verulamium in St Albans. Plus ça change…

What has changed though is the basic reality of putting on a play. Social distancing rules supreme and it is fascinating to see how directors Matthew Parker and Adam Nichols are dealing with it in their respective productions of Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Continue reading “Review: Henry V / The Merry Wives of Windsor, Roman Theatre of Verulamium St Albans”

2020 Offie Award Winners

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

DESIGN

Design: Costume
WINNER – Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
WINNER – Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
WINNER – Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
WINNER – Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
WINNER – Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “2020 Offie Award Winners”

The finalists of The Offies 2020

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

The finalists for the 2020 Offies (for performances in 2019) have been announced and congratulations to all 89 mentioned below. A tip of the hat too to the 400+ nominees who you can find here.

DESIGN

Design: Costume
Adrian Gee, Amour, Charing Cross Theatre
Emily Bestow, 42nd Street, Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Hannah Wolfe , Great Expectations, National Youth
Theatre, Southwark Playhouse

Design: Set
Diego Pitarch, Night of the Living Dead – Live!,
Pleasance
Justin Williams, Whistle Down the Wind, Union
Theatre
Lee Newby, The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre
Rachael Ryan, Thrill Me, Hope Theatre

Design: Sound
Benjamin Grant, The War of the Worlds, New Diorama
Lex Kosanke, Hunger, Arcola
Matt Eaton, All’s Well That Ends Well, Guildford Bard,
Jermyn Street Theatre
Xana, Blood Knot, Orange Tree

Design: Lighting
Christopher Nairne, Preludes, Southwark Playhouse
Clancy Flynn, An Act of God, Vaults
Jessica Hung Han Yun, Equus, English Touring Theatre,
Theatre Royal Stratford East
Nic Farman, Night of the Living Dead – Live!, Pleasance

Design: Video
Andrzej Goulding, The Unreturning, Theatre Royal
Stratford East
Ben Bull, Baby Reindeer, Bush Theatre
Douglas Baker, Moby Dick, Jack Studio Theatre Continue reading “The finalists of The Offies 2020”

Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre

A twisted but thrilling true crime two-hander – Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story is a must-see at the Hope Theatre

“If this keeps going on I’ll go crazy
I’m aroused, you’re conveniently lazy”

How far to go in the name of erotic obsession? You’d hesitate to call Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story a love story, what happens here is far too dark and twisted for that, but what you do get is a horribly fascinating study of twisting power dynamics and blurred moralities. And with sex thrown into the equation, it becomes a heady combination, enough to drive you to…well, you’ll see.

Stephen Dolginoff’s one-act musical is based on the true story of Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold but rather than glorifying their crimes, including murder, it focuses on the extraordinary relationship between these two men in 1920s Chicago. Lovers, abusers, conspirators, victims, they slip and slide from pillar to post as we try to make sense of who they are and what they do to each other.
Continue reading “Review: Thrill Me – The Leopold & Loeb Story, Hope Theatre”

Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre

Brass the Musical at the Union Theatre is a powerfully moving celebration of sacrifices made, of service offered, of music itself – beautifully done

“Just until our lads come back”

There’s a neat symmetry to the life of Brass the Musical thus far. Originally commissioned by the National Youth Music Theatre to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, its professional London premiere now marks the Armistice Centenary. Benjamin Till’s musical, with additional lyrics from Nathan Taylor and Sir Arnold Wesker, thus serves as a powerful tribute to those who served, both at home and on the frontline.

What is particularly gorgeous about Brass is how it is suffused with the joy of music. Its power to bring people together (as in the characterful ‘Forming a Band’), its potential to lift spirits (the marvelous storytelling of ‘Whistle Billy’), its ability to express something deeper beyond just words (the haunting vocalese at the trenches). And as an expression of the musical theatre form, it works beautifully in deepening an already profoundly moving piece of history.  Continue reading “Review: Brass the Musical, Union Theatre”

Review: Assassins, Pleasance

As Sondheim celebrates his 70th birthday, his musical Assassins is revived at Pleasance Theatre, London

“Every now and then, the country goes a little wrong. Every now and then, a madman’s bound to come along”

It was interesting to discover in the post-show Q&A that an explicit reference to Trump has been excised from this production of Assassins – a picture of his head removed from the shooting gallery that provides the stark image, and framing device, that opens and closes the show. But given that that above quote comes in very early on, contemporary political resonance is rarely too hard to find, should you wish to look for it.

That’s all the more impressive given that Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and John Weidman (book) constructed this show back in 1990. And the allure of this slice of Americana, as much musical history as it is socio-political, has proven enduringly popular as it explores something of the people behind the nine recorded attempted assassinations of US presidents. Continue reading “Review: Assassins, Pleasance”

Album Review: Prodigy (Original Cast Recording)

“I wanna play my own kinda song
With no one to tell me its wrong”

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s musical Prodigy was commissioned and developed by the National Youth Music Theatre and received its premiere last summer, inconveniently whilst I was on holiday, and so I’m glad to say that an Original Cast Recording has now been released in cahoots with the good folk of Auburn Jam Records. It was a busy year for Brunger and Cleary as their musical of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ also opened in Leicester and even more so when you discover how Prodigy was developed.

Set behind the scenes of a barely fictional reality TV show to find Britain’s best upcoming classical musician, we delve into the lives of the five young finalists in all their teenage awkwardness, social stuntedness and parental pressure. And drawing on the talents of the NYMT available to them, the writers tailored the material to actor-musician roles, allowing the leads to play off their skills and not just them, more than half of the cast of 27 play some kind of actor-musician part, not bad for a bunch of 11-23 year olds. Continue reading “Album Review: Prodigy (Original Cast Recording)”