Review: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage, Bridge Theatre

Nicholas Hytner returns to the world of Philip Pullman with an impressively atmospheric take on The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage at the Bridge Theatre

“I need to know why the baby is so important”

Nicholas Hytner’s stunning reworking of the world of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for the National Theatre remains one of my all-time top theatrical experiences, so the news that he would be returning to that universe filled me with excitement and trepidation in equal measure. Fortunately, The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage finds its own kind of festive magic to weave over audiences this Christmas.

The Bridge Theatre may not be blessed with the revelatory wonder of the Olivier’s drum revolve but with co-directors Emily Burns and James Cousins, Hytner has conjured something special with Barnaby Dixon’s austerely beautiful puppety, Luke Hall’s highly effective video work and designer Bob Crowley. From genial pubs to haunting convent halls (those illuminated habits!) to raging floodwaters, we’re joyously submerged in the thrills and terrors of this parallel universe once again. Continue reading “Review: The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage, Bridge Theatre”

News: National Theatre Live relaunches with new programme of four productions in cinemas worldwide

The National Theatre today announces the return of National Theatre Live with a new programme of four productions to be broadcast to audiences worldwide in cinemas, starting in the UK and Ireland in January, and with tickets now on sale.

The productions are Tom Stoppard’s Olivier-Award winning play Leopoldstadt from Sonia Friedman Productions in the West End which will be broadcast to cinemas from January; Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust – La Belle Sauvage from the Bridge Theatre in February; Tanya Ronder, Jim Fortune and Rufus Norris’ new musical Hex from the NT will be broadcast in March and the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Henry V starring Kit Harington will be in cinemas from April.

Since March 2020, National Theatre Live has broadcast in cinemas with special encore screenings of Follies from 2 September 2021 and the NT’s feature film Romeo & Juliet was also broadcast to cinemas from 28 September 2021.

The NT’s next feature film Death of England: Face to Face will be in Curzon cinemas on Tuesday 2 November. The film will then be broadcast, for free, on Sky Arts at 9pm on Thursday 25 November (Freeview channel 11).

Sky Arts is the Headline Partner of National Theatre Live in the UK. Continue reading “News: National Theatre Live relaunches with new programme of four productions in cinemas worldwide”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things


Ahoy sailors, if what you thought the world of musical theatre was missing was the opportunity to be trapped on a boat for four days with a load of wealthy musical theatre fans, then worry no more. Stages – the Musical Theatre Festival at Sea has now been announced, a four night cruise from Southampton to Amsterdam and back, with entertainment from the likes of Michael Ball, Beverley Knight, Lee Mead, Christina Bianco, Sophie Evans, John Owen-Jones and the Showstopper guys.

It looks like it could be hilariously good fun – red carpet arrival onto the ship, masquerade balls and workshops and Q&As with the performers. But it sure ain’t cheap, prices starting at £609 with the taxes added on, though as it doesn’t set sail until 15th October 2018, there’s time to start saving those pennies. For me though, you can consider this my not-so-subtle hint to Floating Festivals that they obviously need a blog review of their cruise and that I am the one for the job.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: Othello, Lyric Hammersmith

“What, man! ’tis a night of revels”

At the hint of something daring and innovative in a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, it is all too easy to fall back on the truism that it probably isn’t for purists – heaven knows I was guilty of it just last week. But whereas not all adaptations necessarily work that well, Frantic Assembly’s brutal and breathless reimagining of Othello – arriving at the Lyric Hammersmith after a UK tour – is exactly the type of thing that purists should be made to see as a thrilling example of how powerful and effective an interpretation can be.

And that is what this Othello is in the end. To start counting the characters who’ve been excised, noting which speeches are spoken by someone else or which plot details have been omitted is to utterly miss the point. Adaptors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have brilliantly managed to take the play apart, capture its essence but then reconstruct it into something familiar but new. Full-length traditional productions (of variable quality) are two-a-penny but oh so rarely is Shakespeare this pulsating and compelling and visceral and modern. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Emil and the Detectives, National Theatre

“No-one has time for other people’s troubles in a city”

It’s a rare occasion that I get to go to the theatre not knowing anything about a show in advance and so when the opportunity comes, it makes for a nice change. And in this case a huge surprise as Emil and the Detectives turned out to be a show with a cast full of kids! I now know that Erich Kästner’s 1929 novel is a much beloved children’s classic, though it never found a home on my bookshelf, and adapted here by Carl Miller, the tale of smalltown boy Emil going on a life-changing journey through the scary metropolis of Berlin and finding an unexpected solidarity with an army of street kids – the Detectives – is a solid entry in the National’s roster of family shows.

On the face of it, Bijan Sheibani seems an odd choice of director, an undoubtedly patchy track record leaving huge question marks but the National’s faith has been largely repaid here with a mercifully flaming skeleton-free production. Bunny Christie’s set design is a glorious masterpiece, using Constructivist angles and a stark spareness to allow for a range of different atmospheres and locations to be evoked, and the collaboration with Sheibani really pays off in key moments when the simplest solution is often used to great effect. Lucy Carter’s precise lighting comes into play in ingenious chase scenes with Ian Dickinson’s sound adding suitably creepy notes. Continue reading “Review: Emil and the Detectives, National Theatre”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Broadway Studios

 “A merrier hour was never wasted there”

Tucked away down the narrowest of alleyways on Tooting High Street is one of the most boisterous Shakespearean adaptations you could hope for, full of your mom jokes, nipple tweaks, disco dancing, handcuffs and Googlemaps. Tooting Arts Club’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed here by a most hard-working ensemble of 8, is also full of great humour and accessible warmth, director Bill Buckhurst modernising and revitalising this lightest of comedies into something quirkily adorable.

Buckhurst has made some great choices. Having the quartet of lovers as teenage schoolkids makes good sense of their headlong rush into the forest and the fierce intensity of their burning loins, and making the fairies a bunch of slightly past-it club kids having a bad comedown and merely toying with the intruders into their domain is inspired. Titania’s blissed-out idolatry of Bottom suddenly becomes recognisable as any bad choice one might have made on the dancefloor; Puck’s hyperactive 1000 watt personality just like ‘that guy’ you meet and find impossible to shake off. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Broadway Studios”