Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory

Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus gets a belated revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Stuck in the past, should it have been left in the past too?

“He whose lust lasts, lasts longest”

The Menier Chocolate Factory know exactly what they’re doing when they lead with the tagline ‘a filthy farce from a less enlightened age’. If that type of comedy is your thing, then come darken our doors and escape the woke crowd… Alan Bennett’s Habeus Corpus dates from 1973 and nothing about Patrick Marber’s admittedly stylish production here can hide that fact. 

Despite the quality of Bennett’s writing being fitfully evident with some really witty stuff, the major issue with the play lies in its uncertainty of form. It pushes towards farce but without any of that genre’s intricate cleverness and so can’t help but resemble a middling 1970s sitcom, with a base level of humour that even the most end-of-the-pier comic might have decided to leave in the dressing room. Continue reading “Review: Habeus Corpus, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Some theatre news from the last week

New interview series from the NT, Julius Caesar and Sunset Boulevard reappearing digitally and Hushabye Mountain coming to the Hope Mill

© Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The National Theatre announced a new interview series Life in Stages, profiling some of the biggest names in British theatre. The series, which will be free to watch, will launch on the National Theatre’s YouTube channel on Thursday 22 April at 7pm BST with each new episode added at the same time every Thursday.  

The first episode boasts Olivia Colman and Director and Joint Chief Executive of the National Theatre Rufus Norris. The second episode on Thursday 29 April will feature Romeo & Juliet co-stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley. On Thursday 6 May the third episode puts Adrian Lester and Meera Syal together. Details of further episodes from this series will be announced later this month.  Continue reading “Some theatre news from the last week”

News: Crazy Coqs announces May reopening and new program

Crazy Coqs, Soho’s unique live entertainment venue within the Brasserie Zédel complex, announces the re-opening of the venue on 17 May 2021 – pending further government announcements – with a full programme from 17 May – 30 June 2021, offering both live shows and simultaneous live streams for audiences who cannot make it to the venue in-person. Live-streamed shows will be confirmed in April.

The annual Joe Stilgoe + Friends (including Hadley Fraser, The Puppini Sisters, Le Gateau Chocolat), Clare Teal & Jason Robello, Paul Potts, Marisha Wallace, Ria Jones, Grace Dent, Dillie Keane, Ian Shaw and Jay Rayner all feature in this new season. Continue reading “News: Crazy Coqs announces May reopening and new program”

10 top theatrical moments of 2020

In lieu of trying to make sense of this shitshow of a year through the normal year-end lists, I thought I’d just stick with an unranked list of 10 of my top theatrically based productions of the year

For reference, here’s my 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

A rather exhilaratingly good take on the familiar Chekhov classic, a worthy presence in the West End.

The Wicker Husband, Watermill Theatre

One of the last things I saw before lockdown and what a gorgeous lingering memory to have, I pray that this is not the last we hear of this beautiful new musical. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2020”

Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home

As a piece of digital theatre, Curve Leicester’s Sunset Boulevard in Concert plays excitingly with the possibilities of this developing form 

“There’s nothing else – just us and these cameras”

Damned if do, damned if you don’t. Curve Leicester boldly took steps in the autumn to reimagine their auditorium in order to be able to mount a post-Lockdown #1 season of socially-distanced concert performances of previous hits. The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic and the dance of the tiers put paid to those plans, even as technical rehearsals had already started but in a move that would please Norma Desmond herself, Sunset Boulevard in Concert has still found its way to the spotlight.

Nikolai Foster’s reconception of his initial adaptation of his original production sees him lean heavily into Sunset Boulevard’s cinematic origins, taking full advantage of the lack of audience to ditch the traditional notions of semi-staged concerts and create an inventive fusion of theatre and film. And with those restraints fully loosed, this production unfurls across every inch of the auditorium – Norma first appears from the back of the circle, Joe’s rooms are tucked into the fly tower, the ensemble watch impassively from the empty seats in an almost Brechtian manner of observation. Continue reading “Review: Sunset Boulevard in Concert, Curve Leicester at home”

UK theatre casting news – November update

Theatre Royal Bath will reopen on 3 December with a revised performance schedule for Oleanna and Copenhagen, the final two plays in the theatre’s Welcome Back Season.

David Mamet’s provocative  drama Oleanna, directed by Lucy Bailey will star Rosie Sheehy  and Jonathan Slinger, who replaces John Heffernan in the role of John. The play will now run in Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio from 3 December to 22 December and again from 4 January to 16 January 2021. Reduced capacity at the Ustinov Studio will allow for an audience of 60 persons per performance.

The November run of Michael Frayn’s multi award-winning  Copenhagen has been postponed until the new year when it will play Theatre Royal Bath’s Main House from 20 January to 6 February 2021.  Directed by Polly Findlay it will star Haydn Gwynne, Philip Arditti, and in a change to original billing of Michael Gould, Malcolm Sinclair. Continue reading “UK theatre casting news – November update”

Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two

Episode Two of The Theatre Channel takes its Halloween theme and has a ball with it, with brilliant performances from the likes of Linzi Hateley, Jordan Shaw, Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs

“It’s a matter of time before London belongs to us”

After a highly successful debut, Episode 2 of The Theatre Channel arrives and things have gone a bit Strictly with a theme week. Natch it is Hallowe’en that acts as a linking thread between the performances here but unlike Strictly, it is pleasingly effective as the production design (by Gregor Donnelly) gets to play with a more cohesive visual language across the show (credit too to director Bill Deamer and DP Ben Hewis), and the song selection gets to go a bit dark and dramatic.

That’s not to say that there’s not a variety of tone here. As befits this holiday, there’s a healthy dose of camp as a CGI-enhanced Ria Jones casts her spell over Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ and the camp drama of Frank Wildhorn’s ‘Life After Life’ from Dracula the Musical is well served by the relatively straight bat and sensational voices of Bradley Jaden and Sophie Isaacs. The same goes for Josh Piterman’s dangerously seductive take on ‘The Confrontation’ from Jekyll and Hyde. Continue reading “Review: The Theatre Channel – Episode Two”

News: live theatre returns to Leicester

Curve has today announced plans to reopen to the public. The theatre, which was forced suddenly to close its doors to the public on 16 March, will open again this autumn for spectacularly re-imagined, socially distanced concert performances of acclaimed Made at Curve productions, using the building’s unique theatre design.

The Color Purple in Concert 23rd November – 5th December, with T’Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya, who won The Stage Debut Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her role as ‘Nettie’.
Sunset Boulevard in Concert – 14th December – 3rd January,
Ria Jones and Danny Mac will return to star.
Memoirs Of An Asian Football Casual 25th January – 6th February.

By raising the walls between its theatre spaces, Curve will reopen as a 533-seat socially-distanced auditorium, with audiences enjoying live performances from all four sides of the stage, fully realising the ambition of architect Rafael Viñoly’s original design. A triple-revolve, donated by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, will help to transform the space to create an epic experience for audience members. Continue reading “News: live theatre returns to Leicester”

Review: Godspell 50th anniversary concert

Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day, Sam Tutty and more star in an online 50th Anniversary concert of Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell 

“Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please”

We’ve all had to adjust our plans one way or another but not even a global pandemic is going to get in the way of Godspell celebrating its 50th anniversary with this online tribute concert. Conceived and directed by Michael Strassen, it reunites stars like Ruthie Henshall, Darren Day and John Barr with a show for which they made a studio cast recording in 1993, and also features a host of additional musical theatre talents.

The musical, score by Stephen Schwartz and book by John-Michael Tebelak, draws on the Gospel of Matthew as it moves towards the Passion of the Christ. But this adaptation points a little more towards inspirational optimism than outright spirituality, whilst introducing a creatively interesting way of presenting the songs which sets it apart from many of the other online offerings of the last few months.  Continue reading “Review: Godspell 50th anniversary concert”