Review: Corbyn the Musical – The Motorcycle Diaries, Waterloo East Theatre

“Do it for Islington”

You make theatre, musical or otherwise, out of political satire at your peril. Last month at the Waterloo East Theatre saw UKIP! The Musical, written last year, already feel like a period piece and at the same venue, Corbyn the Musical – The Motorcycle Diaries has now opened, written more recently but still unable to keep up with the fast-moving and quite frankly ridiculous state of modern British politics and the media coverage thereof. 

It’s not so much that Corbyn the Musical feels dated but rather that the nature of its comedy means that you want it to be as up to date as possible as the days when Corbyn’s every action was decried as a front page gaffe seem to have passed. This show is competing in a market where the likes of Merton and Hislop are able to quickly respond to, for example, Ken Livingstone being cornered in a disabled loo having to defend his views on Hitler (a subject surely ripe for a one-man musical epic) and as such, lacks the requisite contemporary bite. Continue reading “Review: Corbyn the Musical – The Motorcycle Diaries, Waterloo East Theatre”

Review: The Verb, ‘To Love’, Old Red Lion

“The things we make ourselves believe
The things we make believe we feel”

For the last two years, Aria Entertainment’s From Page 2 Stage season has been a showcase for new musical theatre writing, providing opportunities for shows like The Route To Happiness and The Return of the Soldier and also allowing writers to get feedback on their work. At the first festival in 2013, writer and composer Andy Collyer noted the positive reception one of his songs – ‘Me and my Chlorophytum’ – received and filing that information away, later returned to it to develop a full piece of musical theatre, The Verb, ‘To Love’, directed here by Jonathan O’Boyle.

Taking the form of a song cycle, almost entirely sung-through, Collyer explores the romantic affairs of a 40-something guy called Simon. Reeling from the end of a 23 year relationship, his attention soon lands on a young colleague Ben who is showing a keen interest and we follow them from the heady days of lustful flirtations through changing Facebook statuses, getting a flat and a dog and other such joys of a long-term relationship to the more challenging times of mistrust, selfishness and Facebook stalking. Continue reading “Review: The Verb, ‘To Love’, Old Red Lion”

Review: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, New Wimbledon Studio

“I deal in ideals”

Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles may not seem like the first choice for a musical adaptation as Hardy subjects his literary heroine to several worlds of wrongdoing, mainly at the hands of men, so it is hardly a barrel of laughs. But it is (hopefully) well established now that musical theatre isn’t always just about jazz hands and writing and directing brothers Alex and Chris Loveless are exponents of this, a recent production of The Remains of the Day being a case in point and if this production may overemphasise the archetypal Hardy mood of relentless gloom, it is fitfully intriguing.

The central relationships between Jessica Daley’s Tess and the men in her life, Martin Neely’s Alec D’Urberville and Nick Hayes’ Angel Clare are powerfully done and gripping as all three performers deliver the kind of tortured intensity of which Hardy would surely have approved. Daley brings a spritely spirit to Tess which acts as a useful balance to the misery around her and her emotional connection with Hayes’ romantic Angel is delightful to behold. Continue reading “Review: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, New Wimbledon Studio”

DVD Review: Shakespeare in Love

“Theatre is the handmaiden of the devil”

With a theatrical version of Shakespeare in Love about to open in the West End, I thought I’d revisit the 1998 film as I’m not entirely sure that I’ve seen it since it was first released. It is still surprising to see that it managed to win seven Academy Awards and whilst I like both Gwyneth Paltrow and Dame Judi Dench, looking at their competition it is a little galling to think that they were recognised for these roles. And in the light of the huge authorship furore that erupted around Anonymous, it is interesting to see how little comparable fuss the level of invention here caused.

To be fair, Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s film makes no pretence to be literarily or historically accurate (given the paucity of source material, it’s hardly surprising) but because the approach here is a hugely affectionate one towards the Bard, rather than challenging popular notions about him, it is clear something of a free pass has been given here. So we see Joseph Fiennes’ Shakespeare working on a comedy called Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate’s Daughter and being inspired by the everyday chatter and the tumult of his personal life to amend the play and write his famous words.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Shakespeare in Love”

CD Review: The Music Box – the music and songs of Gareth Peter Dicks

I find it hard to resist certain things, and albums showcasing new musical theatre writing with all-star ensembles singing them have been a particular weakness for me this year. The latest temptation was Gareth Peter Dick’s debut album The Music Box which I liked the look of mainly because it was nice to see a rather different line-up of singers rather than the usual suspects lining up and names like Richard Dempsey, Laura Pitt-Pulford and Katie Rowley Jones got me to part with my money quite easily.

Dick is a Nottingham-based composer who has a range of diverse projects on the go: Ancient Egypt, Jack the Ripper and wartime dramas all seem to feature in shows, though I’m not sure how widely they’ve been produced and his was a new name to me. But one I was instantly intrigued by and could well be one to look out for. His rather eclectic musical palate takes in driving power ballads, Gothic pop numbers and some atmospheric instrumental pieces and creates an album that is undeniably a tiny bit insane, but really rather entertaining with it. Continue reading “CD Review: The Music Box – the music and songs of Gareth Peter Dicks”

Review: The Hired Man, Landor

“No greater pleasure than work done well”

The Hired Man was Howard Goodall’s first musical, setting Melvyn Bragg’s story of turn-of-the-century everyday rural Cumbrian life to a score inspired by Kurt Weill but primarily influenced by English choral and folk music. Based on events that happened to Bragg’s grandfather, the plot revolves around farmhand John Tallentine, his wife Emily and their family during a period of considerable social and economic upheaval as agriculture declines, pit mining advances and the shadow of the First World War threatens everything and everyone.

Though the scope of the story is huge, taking in a significant chunk of British social history, it is actually intimately told by focusing in on this single family and how the larger events impact their daily lives. In this respect, Andrew Keates’ production at the Landor is a great match of venue and material as we are taken right into the heart of this story and the struggles of its tightly-knit society to find just a little daily happiness as they work the land whether through a pie and a pint in the local or breaking marriage vows. Continue reading “Review: The Hired Man, Landor”