Review: The Color Purple – at home, Curve Leicester

Curve Leicester’s The Color Purple – at home sounds like a dream with an excellent cast but I’m not sure it truly benefits from being filmed

“She got them heebies and jeebies”

It is a bit of a shame that The Color Purple – at home, has to follow Curve Leicester’s exceptionally good production of Sunset Boulevard as they reimagine their planned autumn/winter season in concert form. For where the already cinematic Sunset blossomed in the marriage of theatre and film, The Color Purple doesn’t reap anywhere near the same level of benefit from this treatment. 

Part of the problem lies in the essential nature of the shows. Sunset is full of distance and estrangement which is perfect with there’s a 2m social distancing rules in place but The Color Purple is about intimacy and connection at its heart, and that is sadly – but necessarily – missing here. Continue reading “Review: The Color Purple – at home, Curve Leicester”

News: Curve to stream The Color Purple at Home

Following the success of its recent five-star production of Sunset Boulevard – at HomeCurve has announced plans to also stream The Color Purple online between Tue 16 Feb and Sun 7 Mar, in association with Birmingham Hippodrome.

Whilst the planned run of live performances is now sadly cancelled due to the uncertainty around national restrictions, Curve will safely bring together the 2019 award-winning company to stream the production for audiences to watch online. The Color Purple – at Home will be a fully reimagined concert version of the 2019 production, co-produced by Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome. Continue reading “News: Curve to stream The Color Purple at Home”

UK theatre casting news – November update

Theatre Royal Bath will reopen on 3 December with a revised performance schedule for Oleanna and Copenhagen, the final two plays in the theatre’s Welcome Back Season.

David Mamet’s provocative  drama Oleanna, directed by Lucy Bailey will star Rosie Sheehy  and Jonathan Slinger, who replaces John Heffernan in the role of John. The play will now run in Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio from 3 December to 22 December and again from 4 January to 16 January 2021. Reduced capacity at the Ustinov Studio will allow for an audience of 60 persons per performance.

The November run of Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning  Copenhagen has been postponed until the new year when it will play Theatre Royal Bath’s Main House from 20 January to 6 February 2021.  Directed by Polly Findlay it will star Haydn Gwynne, Philip Arditti, and in a change to original billing of Michael Gould, Malcolm Sinclair. Continue reading “UK theatre casting news – November update”

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”

20 shows to look forward to in 2019

So many of the recommendations for shows to see next year focus on the West End. And for sure, I’m excited to catch big ticket numbers like All About Eve, Come From Away, and Waitress but I wanted to cast my eye a little further afield, so here’s my top tips for shows on the London fringe (plus one from the Barbican) and across the UK.

1 Medea, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam at the Barbican
Simon Stone’s sleekly contemporary recasting of Euripides is straight up amazing. Anchored by a storming performance from Marieke Heebink, it is as beautiful and brutal as they come. It’s also one of the few plays that has legit made me go ‘oh no’ out loud once a particular penny dropped. My review from 2014 is here but do yourself a favour and don’t read it until you’ve seen it.

Macbeth, Watermill Theatre
2018 saw some disappointing Macbeths and I was thus ready to swear off the play for 2019. But the Watermill Ensemble’s decision to tackle the play will certainly break that resolve, Paul Hart’s innovative direction of this spectacular actor-musician team will surely break the hoodoo…

3 Noughts and Crosses, Derby Theatre, and touring
Pilot Theatre follow on from their strong Brighton Rock with this Malory Blackman adaptation by Sabrina Mahfouz, a Young Adult story but one which promises to speak to us all. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2019”

Review: Chess, London Coliseum

Nobody’s on nobody’s side – an all-star cast can’t save this game of Chess from itself, for me at least

“From square one I’ll be watching all sixty-four”

It’s taken over 30 years for Chess to return to the West End (though it was seen at the Union in 2013) and though it has a huge amount of resource thrown at it in Laurence Connor’s production for English National Opera, it doesn’t necessarily feel worth the wait. An 80’s mega-musical through and through with an intermittently cracking score from ABBA’s Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, Richard Nelson’s book hasn’t aged particularly well and bears the hallmarks of the  substantial tinkering it has had at every opportunity.

It’s not too hard to see why it has needed the tinkering. The mix of Cold War politics told through the prism of rival US and Soviet chess Grandmasters, love triangles and power ballads is a tricky one to get right and part of the problem seems to be just how seriously to take it all. On the one hand, the chess matches are backgrounded with montages of the real-life tensions of the 80s; on the other, scenes that take us through the various locations of the tournaments are a cringeworthy riot of cultural stereotyping that revel in their utter kitsch. Continue reading “Review: Chess, London Coliseum”

Review: The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Birmingham Rep

“I want those puppies”

I can be accused of a fair few things but not a lack of adventurousness. It’s no secret that I am no great fan of puppets but I do try and test my prejudices on a fairly regular basis, something made spectacularly easy at this time of year as theatreland’s interpretation of family-friendly festive fare apparently means puppets for everyone! 

The main reason though for travelling to Birmingham Rep for The Hundred and One Dalmatians was to see Gloria Onitiri’s Cruella De Vil, an actress who I’ve enjoyed following since the Avenue Q days more than a decade ago now. And she did not disappoint with this most iconic of characters, ferociously dramatic and unapologetically dark, she’s an absolute force of nature on this stage. The rest of the production around her didn’t quite land as effectively though, for me at least. Continue reading “Review: The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Birmingham Rep”

Review: The Life, Southwark Playhouse

“I’ve done everything that a body can do.
But how goddamn much can a body go through?”

There’s a moment early on in The Life where Sharon D Clarke’s been-around-the-block-and-then-some Sonja has a moment akin to Jenna Russell’s ‘The Revolutionary Costume for Today’ in Grey Gardens where she utterly and completely steals the show with an outstanding musical number, the likes of which will scarcely be bettered all year. Here it is ‘The Oldest Profession’, a world-weary but witty run through life working on the streets which is just bloody fantastic. But lest you worry that this is a musical to glamourise prostitution, all that good feeling is instantly shattered by a scene of brutal cruelty from her pimp which leaves you in no doubt as to how (melodramatically) serious The Life is.

Set on the seedier side of 42nd Street in 1980s New York, David Newman, Ira Gasman and Cy Coleman’s book remembers Times Square before it became tourist-friendly and follows a group of people just trying to get by in this callous world. Queen is turning tricks and saving money to move on out of this world but when her lover Fleetwood, a troubled Vietnam vet with a habit, blows half her stash on his stash, it’s clear that something drastic needs to happen. Angered by new arrival from the sticks Mary, aided by longtime friend and co-worker Sonja, and abetted by the malicious Memphis, Queen is spurred onto a course of ambitious but tragic action. Continue reading “Review: The Life, Southwark Playhouse”