Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre

“Dancing, oh so beautifully
Dancing, dancing together
Dancing, oh as if in a dream”

It’s not often I leave a play with penis envy – giant golden cock hat envy to be precise – but that’s how I felt leaving the newly-opened Dorfman Theatre (the National’s Cottesloe getting a much needed facelift) after the blisteringly good fun of Here Lies Love. (I also felt sad that I didn’t get a glowstick, it was only later I realised they weren’t being handed out to all and sundry.) But by and large, the abiding feeling was one of huge exhilaration, akin to the endorphin rush of a good night’s clubbing, for if you’ve booked correctly, that’s what you get here.

You can sit down to see the show, the tiered seating of the theatre remains intact, but the real route into Alex Timber’s ingeniously immersive production is by getting a dancefloor ticket, whereby one is thrust right into the midst of this utterly idiosyncratic musical which tells of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines entirely through the medium of dance music from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. It is so thoroughly audacious a concept that it is hard to fathom how it even came into being, never mind emerge as the huge success it is here. Continue reading “Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre”

Review: The Mistress Cycle, Landor

“This is how it starts”

I haven’t been able to make any of From Page to Stage this year, the Landor’s new musical theatre writing season full of short runs and showcases, so I was pleased to be able to get into the very last show. The Mistress Cycle is an 80 minute song cycle written by Beth Blatt with music by Jenny Giering, which takes a look at mistresses past and present as a modern-day New Yorker wrestles with the morality of falling for a married man.

So we hear about Lulu White, a brothel madam from turn of the century New Orleans, Diane du Poitiers who was the lover of 16th century French King Henri III, the teenage concubine of a 12th century Chinese master and contemporary erotic writer Anaïs Nin. Blatt presents the variety of reasons that have led these women to take control of their sexuality and deploy it as they see fit, yet leaves their stories ambiguous enough for us to make our own judgements. Continue reading “Review: The Mistress Cycle, Landor”

Review: South Pacific, Barbican

“You can’t light a fire when the wood is all wet”

It will be interesting to see how many, if any, of the print critics make reference to one of the most significant aspects of the Barbican’s import of the Lincoln Center production of South Pacific: the ticket prices. The majority of the stalls is priced at £85, making the slightly restricted view seats a whopping £65 and you have to go up to the upper circle before prices start to drop. Not willing to spend so much, we went for the second-cheapest option, up in the balcony / gallery – £20 seats which were reduced to £16 with my membership – rather disgracefully the membership discount only being applicable to the first four performances, thus this is a preview being reviewed here. But credit where it’s due, the seats were just like the normal ones, comfortable with lots of leg room and you really are not that far away from the stage at all: it is so nice to find a venue with cheap seats that don’t take the p*ss out of the audience member and their comfort.

But to the show. This was an extremely well-received production in New York, winning a handful of Tonys and running for 2 years, and so Bartlett Sher has sought to recreate its success for this engagement at the Barbican ahead of a UK tour, even bringing over three members of the original cast. There’s apparently 40 people in the cast (though I counted a few less) and an orchestra of 25 so words like lavish and breathtaking are being thrown around, presumably to mitigate for the pricing, though it is not evident that much investment has gone into the set design… It is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most well known musicals, last seen in London ten years ago at the National Theatre but that was before my time here. Continue reading “Review: South Pacific, Barbican”

Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse

“Can I get a definition please?”

A musical comedy at the Donmar? From the moment you enter the auditorium and see how Christopher Oram’s design has been translated down to the tiniest of details to create a school gymnasium, it is clear we’re in for something different and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a self-confessed scratching of an itch to do something fun for director Jamie Lloyd, is just that. Based around the tradition of spelling competitions at US high schools, it follows a group of six kids aiming to win this contest and qualify for the place at the national final. It also takes the step of inviting audience participation, four people were selected to take part and so the first third of the show is taken up with the early rounds of the competition and the increasingly amusing ways in which they made sure that timely exits were secured from the newcomers.

Originally conceived by Rachel Feldman and with music and lyrics from William Finn (I’ve never seen any of his shows, but a song from Falsettoland, What More Can I Say, is fast becoming a cabaret staple – Simon Burke, Reed Sinclair and London Gay Men’s Chorus just last year – and is utterly gorgeous) and book by Rachel Sheinkin, the show takes the form of a spelling competition but as each child takes their turn to spell, a flashback gives us the opportunity to learn more about these characters, their youthful angsts and ambitions as they struggle to decide who they really are in a world that doesn’t consider them normal. This was a preview performance from Tuesday 15th February, watched in the midst of a large group, not all of whom I sadly got the chance to talk to. Continue reading “Review: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Donmar Warehouse”

Shows I am looking forward to in 2011

My intention is, honestly, to see less theatre this year and try and regain some semblance of a normal life again on the odd evening. But the curse of advance booking and grabbing cheap(er) tickets whilst you can has meant that there’s already an awful lot of theatre booked for 2011. Some have been booked without a huge deal of enthusiasm, but others have a dangerous amount of anticipation attached to them…and so I present to you, the shows I am most excited about seeing this year (so far).

 
Antonioni Project – Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Barbican

The Roman Tragedies was hands down one of the most exhilarating and refreshing theatrical experiences of 2009 and possibly my life, I’m even headed to Amsterdam in May to see a surtitled production of their Angels in America. So when I heard that the same Dutch theatre company were returning to the Barbican in February, tickets were booked instantly and I am feverishly over-excited for this now! Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2011”