Review: The Process, Bunker Theatre

BAZ Productions’ The Process proves bold and striking in its use of BSL and spoken English, if a little flawed too, now running at the Bunker Theatre

“Would you like me to speak for myself?”

You can’t say they didn’t warn you. Captions like “no-one will understand everything” and “no two people can have the same experience” flash up on the wall before The Process starts – “that is how it is meant to be” we’re gently but insistently told.  For this is a story told in both BSL and spoken English, with overlaps and gaps deliberately built in, probing at our need to understand everything, exemplifying that for some, that is an unimaginable luxury.

Sarah Bedi’s play posits a near-dystopia (ie sometime soon after 31st January…!) where notions of personal economic cost have become a major driver in a political system where the power of the state is becoming monolithic. Jo Kay, a Deaf entrepreneur, has developed the app which is being used to measure people’s contributions and costs to society but though she is ostensibly being celebrated as part of the establishment, she soon sees her tool weaponised against her. Continue reading “Review: The Process, Bunker Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2020

I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK 

Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…

1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL! 

2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective. 

3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill
Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.

4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.

5 Romantics Anonymous, Bristol Old Vic
I don’t think I thought this delicious Koomin and Dimond musical would ever actually return, so this short run in the UK ahead of a US tour feels like a real blessing. Now where did I put my badge?
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2020”

Review: Suffragette City, London Pavilion

Do you believe in equality? Would you use violence to achieve your aims? Can you make a rosette? Suffragette City asks all these questions and more in a thought-provoking immersive experience in the heart of Piccadilly Circus.

“Life, strife, these two are one
Naught can ye win but by faith and daring”

There’s nothing quite like a moment of theatre that takes your well-meaning preconceptions and smacks you hard in the face with them but that’s exactly what Suffragette City managed to do for me. The nature of immersive theatre sadly means that no two journeys will be the same, you might well not have the same lightbulb moment of startling insight that I had. Then again, you might already be aware of how ultimately shallow considering yourself an ally to an adopted cause can be.

Commissioned by the National Trust in partnership with the National Archives, Suffragette City occupies a place between living history and immersive theatre. Tucked away behind betting shops and shopping centres in the heart of Piccadilly Circus, a little piece of 1912 London has been recreated in the form of the Women’s Social and Political Union’s headquarters, a genteel tea-room, and the dankest of police cells. And in these spaces, we’re asked to consider how just how far we’d go for equal suffrage. Continue reading “Review: Suffragette City, London Pavilion”

Album Review: USHERS: The Front Of House Musical – (2014 Original London Cast Recording)

“I’ll be an inspiration
A musical sensation”

 The cast recording for USHERS: The Front Of House Musical was released in advance of its 2014 run at the Charing Cross Theatre but ever the trail-blazer ;-), I saw the show a few months before when it played at the then newly inaugurated Hope Theatre. There, its homespun charms won me over, with its tales of drama in the theatre but not the onstage kind, rather it is the Front of House staff in the spotlight here.

Written by Yiannis Koutsakos, James Oban and James Rottger, and simply orchestrated for Lee Freeman on the piano, it is a short and sweet cast recording but one which wisely makes a virtue of it. These aren’t particularly epic songs or grand stories but intimate pieces and personal tales of love and betrayal, audience members and interval ice-creams, and so they suit the smaller focus that they’re given here. Continue reading “Album Review: USHERS: The Front Of House Musical – (2014 Original London Cast Recording)”

Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse

“That’s what you get for all your trouble”

On the face of it, you could see why reviving Promises Promises would be an appealing prospect – written by Neil Simon from a Billy Wilder film and featuring a score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. But digging even just a little deeper – a running time of nearly 3 hours and an antiquated set of gender politics made it a tough one to watch, and an even tougher one to excuse in today’s society.

If you were so inclined, you could argue that Billy Wilder and I.A.L Diamond’s original screenplay for the 1960 film The Apartment is “a triumph of 1960s sexual work-place politics” but quite what that has to say to audiences today is very unclear, (apart from gentlemen d’un certain âge craving the good old days natch). I have liked much of director Bronagh Lagan’s previous work but I can’t help pondering the choice here. Continue reading “Review: Promises Promises, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Something Something Lazarus, King’s Head Theatre

“I’m not unwrapping your sex chair”

It’s always interesting to get feedback on my blogging though the emotions that drive people to write tend to be quite forcible… thus the latest missive I received castigated me strongly for not supporting new musical theatre writing in giving Miss Atomic Bomb a less than favourable review. Regardless of the notion that I do usually aim to be constructive in my criticism, I’d argue that challenging the writers with external opinions is supporting them, many a musical has been rewritten and rewritten and so blind praise does little to help, especially when the material is so formally unadventurous.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I love the concept of what Broken Cabaret are doing in Something Something Lazarus even if I didn’t completely love the show itself. Described as “a new (kind of) musical”, writers John Myatt and Simon Arrowsmith are doing no less than shifting paradigms of musical theatre to create something something new. The show opens in a bit of a blur – Vee and Della, employees of the Midnight Sun cabaret, are haphazardly rehearsing for tonight’s new show, owner Daniel is on the edge of a nervous breakdown and his lover Jay is wandering around in his pants. Events take a little while to come to a climax under Dan Phillips’ direction but boy, do they ever. Continue reading “Review: Something Something Lazarus, King’s Head Theatre”

Review: Ushers: The Front of House Musical, Hope Theatre

“No-one moves to London with the dream of becoming an usher”

A Britney Spears jukebox musical with Marti Pellow as Kevin Federline and Michael Ball as Britney’s mum? Stranger things have happened on a West End stage but this is the (as yet fictional) set-up for Ushers: The Front of House Musical which follows the hope and dreams and frustrations and failures of a front of house team on a busy night at a West End theatre. And naturally it is playing at a fringe theatre, London’s newest in the form of The Hope Theatre, perched atop The Hope and Anchor pub on Upper Street and the only such theatre to be committed exclusively to new writing.

And with Ushers, it has alighted on something of a little delight. The story may be slight but it manages to pack a lot in in covering the travails of four long-standing ushers, a newcomer into their ranks and their overwrought supervisor. The new girl and the hot guy immediately fancy each other, the cute gay couple are struggling with one of their’s decision to take an acting job in Austria, another girl can’t keep from tweeting pictures of the cast and the supervisor has gone power-mad at the prospect of schmoozing with a major new potential investor. Continue reading “Review: Ushers: The Front of House Musical, Hope Theatre”