Review: The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor, Old Red Lion

“I don’t ‘do’, I exist”

Catching up on openings I missed whilst away, The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor had the type of title I couldn’t ignore so I booked myself in at the Old Red Lion. Sadly though, Simon Blow’s new play failed to lived up to the promise of its moniker. Its based on Blow’s relationship with his great uncle Stephen Tennant – one of the Bright Young People – and other aspects of his own life, but rarely elevates those experiences into engaging, dramatic theatre – there’s the distinct sense that a more seasoned writer might have been able to deliver on the potential here.

For there is potential. The delving into the eccentric end of the world of the English upper classes is intriguingly set up as the young, pretty and poor Joshua decides to visit his great uncle Napier to secure his position in his will. He takes with him his labourer boyfriend Damien, immediately endearing him to the older gent who also was a fan of a bit of rough, and in the dusty realms of this country house, ghosts of the past come to life to (presumably) illuminate the truth of the future. Continue reading “Review: The Past Is A Tattooed Sailor, Old Red Lion”

Review: The Ghost Hunter, Old Red Lion

“Do you know what they are, ghost stories? They’re a place to put things you’re too scared to look at any more”

Theatre of the Damned’s self-avowed undertaking is to explore horror and suspense on stage, a challenging mission as demonstrated by last year’s The Horror! The Horror! which only fitfully worked for me but one worth pursuing as this expanded version of The Ghost Hunter, written by Stewart Pringle, proves to be a highly proficient foray into the realm of suspense. And taking over the Old Red Lion theatre pub in Angel, it transforms the space most effectively. 

Alice Saville’s design is simplicity itself, but it shouldn’t be under-estimated how effective stripping the walls of the intimate theatre right back to black, with just a strip of frayed pub carpet up centre on which a table and chair sit, pint of Abbot Ale pride of place. And from these well-worn surroundings, Tom Richards’ Victorian-garbed raconteur Richard Barraclough quickly pulls us into the world of York’s twisting narrow streets like the Shambles and regales us with tales of pale abandoned orphans and other spooky goings-on. Continue reading “Review: The Ghost Hunter, Old Red Lion”

Review: The Horror! The Horror!, Wilton’s Music Hall

“I know what you’re thinking, you’ve seen it all before…”

Much like we all carry our own sense of humour with us, we all too have our own individual fears and dreads. Which means we don’t all find the same things funny (I barely laughed in One Man, Two Guvnors for example) and, as Hallowe’en fast approaches, it makes it difficult to guarantee that something is scary for everyone. A proliferation of shows across London are all determined to send shivers down our spine, but none can have been so initially successful as Theatre of the Damned’s The Horror! The Horror! which sold out its run at Wilton’s Music Hall before it had even started.

As the main hall is being renovated, this Victorian-era promenade show takes place in the shadowy spaces and ramshackle rooms upstairs at Wilton’s and takes the form of a sneak preview of the new season of work from A.S. Brownlow & Company, a group of performers whose acts have all taken something of a gruesome turn. From saucy singers provoking mysterious men to vengeful magicians bitterly resisting the arrival of the future, a cabaret of the grisly and ghastly emerges from the ghosts of the past. And there are puppies. Oh, the puppies. Continue reading “Review: The Horror! The Horror!, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Review: The Great Gatsby, Wilton’s Music Hall

“’Whenever you feel like criticising anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’.”

Fans of The Great Gatsby are being spoilt for choice this year as the passing of the rights of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel into the public domain has led to a number of adaptations hitting the London stage. First up is an immersive adaptation at Wilton’s Music Hall (the 8 hour extravaganza Gatz arrives in June and a musical version plays at the King’s Head in August) and it’s proved to be a canny move as the entire run has sold out before it even opened, apparent testimony to the popularity of the book but I hope there is a swell of affection for Wilton’s at play too as they continue to raise funds for their vitally important reconstruction works.

The palpably atmospheric history of the building lends itself to theatrical exploitation and Peter Joucla’s production makes the most of this from the off. Characters mill about the bar and foyer area and play out little scenes which locate us firmly in prohibition-era New York and escort us into the main theatre which has been bedecked simply but effectively in a sweeping, vaguely Art-Deco inspired design by Lucy Wilkinson. A barbershop chorus starts singing jazz tunes of the era and we’re off in this tale of the enigmatic Gatsby, whose hard-worn pursuit of the woman he loves is slowly poisoned by the decadence of the society around them both. NB This was the final preview performance. Oh, and I haven’t read the book. Yet. Continue reading “Review: The Great Gatsby, Wilton’s Music Hall”