News: star-studded Agatha Christie readings to support the Theatre Support Fund and Acting for Others

A pair of star-studded staged readings of Agatha Christie thrillers will support the Theatre Support Fund+ and Acting for Others.

Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web – 9th December, 7.30pm

Clarissa, wife of a diplomat, is adept at spinning tales of adventure but when a murder takes place in her own drawing room she finds live drama much harder to cope with. 

Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband arrives with an important politician, she enlists the help of her guests. Hilarity ensues when they are interrupted by the arrival of wry detective, Inspector Lord. 

Starring: Nari Blair-Mangat | Nick Blakeley | Brian BovellRichard Clifford | Adam Gillen | Jessica Hynes | Sir Derek Jacobi | Matthew Kelley | Gerard McCarthy | Helen Monks | Gloria Onitiri | Stephanie Siadatan


Agatha Christie’s The Hollow – 10th December, 7.30pm

An unhappy game of romantic follow-the-leader explodes into murder one weekend at The Hollow, home of Sir Henry and Lucy Angkatell. Dr. Cristow, the Harley Street lothario, is at the centre of the trouble when, assembled in one place, we find his dull but devoted wife Gerda, his mistress and prominent sculptor Henrietta, and his former lover and Hollywood film star Veronica. As the list of romantic associations grows so does the list of potential suspects when someone is shot dead. 

Nearly everyone has a motive but only one of them did the deed. 

Starring: Samantha Bond | Simon Callow | James Dreyfus | Kathryn Drysdale | Richard Fleeshman | Beth Granville | Angela Griffin | Laura Haddock | Tom Hughes | Adam James | Valentine Olukoga | Nina Sosanya | Nia Towle 

Winners of the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards

BEST DIRECTOR AWARD FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Clint Dyer, Death of England, National Theatre
Nadia Latif, Fairview, Young Vic Theatre – WINNER
Ola Ince, Appropriate, Donmar Warehouse
Roy Alexander Weise, Master Harold &… and the boys, National Theatre

BEST PRODUCER AWARD
Adrian Grant, Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre – WINNER
Nicole Raquel Dennis and Ryan Carter, Turn Up, Cadogan Hall
Tobi Kyeremateng, My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid), Royal Court
Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards”

Nominations for the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards

BEST DIRECTOR AWARD FOR A PLAY OR MUSICAL
Clint Dyer, Death of England, National Theatre
Nadia Latif, Fairview, Young Vic Theatre
Ola Ince, Appropriate, Donmar Warehouse
Roy Alexander Weise, Master Harold &… and the boys, National Theatre

BEST PRODUCER AWARD
Adrian Grant, Thriller Live, Lyric Theatre
Nicole Raquel Dennis and Ryan Carter, Turn Up, Cadogan Hall
Tobi Kyeremateng, My White Best Friend (and Other Letters Left Unsaid), Royal Court
Theatre Continue reading “Nominations for the 2020 Black British Theatre Awards”

Review: Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre

Jamie Lloyd and Martin Crimp’s iconoclastic take on Cyrano de Bergerac is a bracing breath of fresh air at the Playhouse Theatre

“Decided to come out, watch a play?”

Not having any real kind of relationship with Edmond Rostand’s original play, aside from a dimly-remembered all-female version back in 2016, I approached Cyrano de Bergerac at the Playhouse Theatre with something of a blank slate, my intrigue at Jamie Lloyd’s directorial vision tempered by my fear of most anything Martin Crimp has written.

It is certainly a challenging watch and predictably, Crimp and Lloyd make us work. The free adaptation switches rhyming verse for slam poetry, Soutra Gilmour’s design gives us a starkly contemporary milieu and the fourth wall might as well not exist as lines are often spoken out to the audience. The utilitarian modern aesthetic also extends to costumes, meaning there’s no nose… Continue reading “Review: Cyrano de Bergerac, Playhouse Theatre”

Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)

“I know your moustache…”

What to do when you want your new film to be a new version of one of Agatha Christie’s most famous whodunnits? Well if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you call in some of your mates to play the main characters, friends like Dame Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, and Willem Dafoe. Plus you can also get some real talent to fill the minor roles – blink and you might miss the likes of Paapa Essiedu, Miranda Raison, Hadley Fraser, Adam Garcia, even Sergei Polunin.

But if you’re Kenneth Branagh, you also cast yourself as Hercule Poirot and as he’s directing himself, there’s a sense that the sharing of some much-needed constructive feedback didn’t happen. For as his ridiculously huge moustache is placed front and centre in scene after scene, this Murder On The Orient Express feels nothing so much as a vanity project. Which is all well and good if you like that sort of thing, and I quite like Branagh as it happens, but it is absolutely fatal in a story that is intrinsically about the ensemble. Continue reading “Film Review: Murder On The Orient Express (2017)”

Re-review: People, Places and Things, Wyndham’s Theatre

“I want to live vividly”

There’s something rather apposite about the rush to label Denise Gough’s performance in People, Places and Things as the greatest since Mark Rylance’s in Jerusalem, as as heretical as it may be to say it, I was no real fan of the latter. And whilst there is a huge amount to admire in Gough’s epic efforts in a behemoth of a role, my reaction to the play on seeing it a second time was magnify what I felt were its flaws, leaving me bemused at the number of 5 star notices and hyperbole-filled writing.

My original review can be found here and in its new home at the Wyndham’s, I felt much the same. Duncan Macmillan’s writing lapses towards the painfully poetic far too often when trying to engage with the realities of addiction and it still feels baggy, the group scenes linger past their welcome and the repetitiveness goes too far, a fair bit could be cut and nothing lost. But what do I do know? It fascinates me endlessly when I end up outside the zeitgeist this way and interestingly for me, no-one else’s reviews have convinced me of what I’m apparently missing. Still, I’d recommend you go along to make up your mind and to see what should be, by any rights, the ascendance of Denise Gough to a well-deserved star status. 

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 18th June

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

Review: People, Places and Things, National Theatre

“You can’t do karaoke unless you’re part of the group”

Oh expectation, you fickle thing – so easily built up and yet so easily dashed. Headlong’s last visit to the National Theatre saw Lucy Prebble’s The Effect brought to powerfully moving life and recently revived so devastatingly effectively in Sheffield, it was still fresh in my mind. So perhaps foolishly, Duncan MacMillan’s People, Places and Things had a lot to live up in my mind but sometimes that’s what happens when you’re a theatre addict – you just have admit that you’re powerless over theatre and that your life has become unmanageable.

Entering a 12-step program is all well and good but how to identify the exact nature of the wrongs, defects of character and shortcomings that help on the way to recovery? How to make amends to the people who have been harmed? Here’s where this tortured analogy will die a death as I can’t make it work, and it is turning out a little harsh against this production. That said, I really wasn’t a fan despite some sterling work from Denise Gough and spotted at least three people making a run for it before we broke for the interval.  Continue reading “Review: People, Places and Things, National Theatre”

The 2013 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Jack Lowden, for Oswald in Ghosts (Almeida Theatre)

Second prize

Jessie Buckley, for Miranda in The Tempest (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Princess Katharine in Henry V (Noël Coward Theatre)

Third prize

Graham Butler, for Henry VI in Henry VI, Parts I, II & III (Shakespeare’s Globe)

Commendations

Fisayo Akinade, for Adam, Silvius, and William in As You Like It (Transport Theatre on tour)
Elliot Barnes-Worrell, for the Groom in Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Nari Blair-Mangat, for Caithness in Macbeth (Manchester International Festival)
Gavin Fowler, for Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Noël Coward Theatre) and Florizel in The Winter’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Kim Hardy, for Konstantin in The Seagull (The White Bear)
Brian Markey, for Hugh in Mixed Marriage (Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Charlene McKenna, for Regina in Ghosts (Almeida Theatre)
Rose Reynolds, for Lavinia in Titus Andronicus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Gemma Soul, for Rose in The Recruiting Officer (Salisbury Playhouse)
Luke Thompson, for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Olivia Vinall, for Desdemona in Othello (National Theatre)

Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester

“Thou call’st thyself a hotter name than any is in hell”

One of the big ticket numbers in the Manchester International Festival this year has to be the return of Kenneth Branagh to Shakespeare, with him taking on the role of Macbeth in a production that was surrounded in secrecy and full of advisory warnings to the lucky few with tickets such as “don’t wear any dry-clean only outfits”, “you may not leave your seat once it has started” and possibly the toughest given its 2 hour interval-free running time, “no toilets in the venue”. That venue has now been revealed to be St Peter’s Church in Ancoats, a deconsecrated space used by the Hallé orchestra to rehearse in and whilst the toilets may be five minutes away at Murray’s Mill where tickets are collected from, any fears of emerging from the show drenched in mud and/or blood were left unfounded.

One can see straightaway though why the warnings have been made. The audience is placed in traverse either side of an earth-covered aisle and within moments of the start, a huge battle rages just inches from the audience with rain pouring, mud churning and sparks flying as swords clash. It’s an incredibly visceral start to a frequently breath-taking production – co-directed by Branagh and Rob Ashford – which successfully marries tradition with innovation, reinvigorating rather than reinventing Shakespeare’s timeless tale of the corrupting influence of power and ambition. Ashford’s eye for theatrical spectacle is combined with Branagh’s acute Shakespearean expertise and together, create something uniquely special. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, St Peter’s Church Manchester”