Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2018

The Joe Allen Best West End Debut
Mohammad Amiri for The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre
Ashley Banjo for Dick Whittington at the London Palladium
Bryan Cranston for Network at the National Theatre
Michelle Greenidge for Nine Night at the National Theatre
John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre
Kelli O’Hara for The King and I at the London Palladium
Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy for The Jungle at the Playhouse Theatre
Lucie Shorthouse for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre
Aidan Turner for The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre
Adrienne Warren for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre Continue reading “Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2018”

Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre

“I’m too old to lie to myself”

Louis Armstrong used to sing ‘it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing’ and unfortunately, Ruby in the Dust’s Gatsby hits the floor rather flat-flooted and singularly lacking in any discernible rhythm. The Roaring Twenties that characterise F Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel The Great Gatsby were all about the freedom of jazz, the liberating release of the Charleston, the fizziness of gin rickeys but so little of that spirit is in evidence here, in a production intended to mark 10 years since this company opened their first show here at the Union. 

Bookwriter Linnie Reedman and composer and lyricist Joe Evans first adapted Gatsby a few years back and have retooled the show for this new venue but this new version struggles on a number of counts. The decision to make Jay Gatsby’s compadre Wolfshiem the focal narrating figure as opposed to the novel’s Nick Carraway could have worked if implemented more thoroughly but where as the latter is present at many of the key moments (and thus able to tell us about them), the former isn’t and so neither actor is able to make their character find a satisfactory role in the unfolding of this version of the tale. Continue reading “Review: Gatsby, Union Theatre”

Review: The Busy Body, Southwark Playhouse

“I’m not showing you my monkey” 

Miranda loves Sir George Airey but wants to make him work for her hand whilst fending off her lecherous guardian Sir Francis Gripe, whose son Charles is in love with Isabinda whose marvellously named mother Lady Jealous Traffic is determined to marry her off to a Spanish merchant. There’s also a monkey, or is there? Such is the set-up for The Busy Body, a 1709 period comedy by Susanna Centlivre which was one of the most popular plays of its day but has remained unproduced for over 100 years. Continuing their close relationship with the Southwark Playhouse, Red Handed Theatre have alternated emotionally devastating dramas (Palace of the End, Someone To Watch Over Me) with sparklingly refreshed Restoration comedies (The Rivals, The Belle’s Stratagem) to great effect and director Jessica Swale’s adroit adaptation looks set to continue that exceptionally strong run.

What really makes it work though is the immense attention to detail. It is a comedy for sure, but one which is played true and so delivery remains deadpan throughout, no matter how random the plot turns – Michael Lindall’s Spanish dress and raised eyebrow as the disguised Charles the best example here, though Alexandra Guelff’s (Miranda) determined protection of her monkey comes a close second. And comic flourishes abound at every turn – Ella Smith’s Isabinda in particular is fearsomely, inventively funny in every single scene she is in and Henry Shields doubles to brilliant effect as Charles’ man Whisper and Lady Jealous’ butler – and the fourth wall is well and truly smashed (shy wallflower types might want to avoid the front row!) Directly addressing the audience is nothing new but the conviction and skill with which it is essayed here, both when being played for laughs and cleverly also in the more tenderly emotional moments, means that every beat seeks to involve and include us all. Continue reading “Review: The Busy Body, Southwark Playhouse”