Re-review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Noël Coward Theatre

“Everyone loves a bit of filth” 

I really enjoyed Mrs Henderson Presents when I saw it last year in Bath, it came 13th out of all the shows I saw in 2015, so I was most delighted to hear that it would be transferring into the West End. It managed the journey with its main cast almost entirely intact, Tracie Bennett, Ian Bartholomew and Emma Williams all there, just Mark Hadfield dipping out to (re)join The Painkiller and replaced by Jamie Foreman, and its opening at the Noël Coward Theatre has been largely very well received. 

And second time around, it pleased me just as much as the first. Terry Johnson’s direction of this ineffably British show (as with Andy Capp, playing the spoons is up there with the Union Jack) and from my memory, I don’t think that much has significantly changed (though I’ve seen a lot in the intervening 7 months…). That means that the shonky narrator/compere role is still there, which still wears thin quickly, but it also means that its generosity of spirit and warmth of heart is very much present.  Continue reading “Re-review: Mrs Henderson Presents, Noël Coward Theatre”

20 shows to look forward to in 2016

2016 is nearly upon and for once, I’ve hardly anything booked for the coming year and what I do have tickets for, I’m hardly that inspired by (the Garrick season has been ruined by the awfulness of the rear stalls seats, and I only got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets due to FOMO). Not for the first time, I’m intending to see less theatre next year but I do have my eyes on a good few productions in the West End, fringe and beyond. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2016”

Review: Sunspots, Hampstead Downstairs

“Am I supposed to take abuse from people who don’t know how to fasten a herring?”

I hadn’t clocked I’d seen one of David Lewis’ plays before – Seven Year Twitch at the Orange Tree back in 2013 – and to be honest, if I had, I might not have gone to see his latest one. His writing is very much in the style of television sitcoms that I don’t watch and so whilst they have a definite appeal for some, his plays don’t instinctively rock my world. And so it was with this trip to the Hampstead’s downstairs theatre to see Sunspots.

Described as an offbeat romantic comedy (with the emphasis on ‘off’), there’s actually as much of a family drama here too as adult siblings are reunited in the family home after their father’s death. Recently out Joe has come back from California, Clare only ever moved a short distance away whilst the youngest, Tom, had already moved back due to crises of employment and passing the time watching attractive neighbour Lola through his dad’s telescope. Continue reading “Review: Sunspots, Hampstead Downstairs”

Not-a-review: Scenes from an Execution, National Theatre

“Art is opinion, and opinion is the source of all authority”

Not too much to say about Scenes from an Execution as we left at the interval and so any opinion has to take that into account, along with the fact this was actually the first full preview (the previous night’s performance being re-cast as a full dress). Howard Barker’s play, originally written for radio, is centred on Galactia, a sixteenth century Venetian artist who is commissioned to create a giant celebration of the triumphant Battle of Lepanto, but whose strong will and artistic impulses set her firmly at odds with the authorities.

Fiona Shaw returns to the National Theatre to take on this part, directed by Tom Cairns, so it is fair to say that expectations were a little high, but I just wasn’t prepared for the utter lack of engagement that came from the first half. It opens entertainingly enough: a naked man spread-eagled on a rock, an artist sketching him with a smock barely covering her up, a narrator figure flying around (literally) in a big white box (kudos to Hildegard Bechtler’s design). But after the initial set-up, I found little of interest in the portrayal of this fictional painter’s trials and tribulations. Continue reading “Not-a-review: Scenes from an Execution, National Theatre”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Propeller at the Crucible

“Many a man there is”

The second part of Propeller’s current double bill is The Winter’s Tale and much as we did last year for The Comedy of Errors, Boycotting Trends and I (with bonus @3rdspearcarrier) trekked up to Sheffield to catch it early in the substantial tour that follows. It was a little sad but true that Henry V failed to live up to my (sky-high) expectations so I’d aimed for a better job of managing them this time round for this ‘problem play’.

Sicilia is all moon-lit stark, metallic edges, the dark candle-lit atmosphere matching the troubled mind of Leontes, whose tortured jealousy sends him into a frenzy that challenges a lifelong friendship, the will of the gods and the lives of his children and his dear wife Hermione. Robert Hands give his Leontes an anger that subtly builds rather than one that defines his character and thus we feel for him even in his most fevered moments and always see the husband and father that is being lost in the red mist of jealousy – this in turn makes it (slightly) more believable that Hermione might forgive him. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Propeller at the Crucible”

DVD Review: Charlotte Gray

Part of Helen McCrory weekend

“Is it possible for a person to commit a crime without knowing it”

My abiding memory of seeing Charlotte Gray at the cinema was the much, much belated realisation that I had indeed previously read the book by Sebastian Faulks, it finally clicking about 10 minutes from the end as I realised I knew who she was going to see at the top of the stairs! I did enjoy the film though, even if it didn’t go down particularly well with the rest of the world, for it hits many of my buttons – I love Cate Blanchett, I love wartime stories that focus on women and I love France.

I also love Helen McCrory and she makes a brief, but enormously impactful cameo in this film which was a joy to return to and appreciate, me not being aware of who she was first time round, along with its other various treats. Charlotte Gray is set mainly in Vichy France during World War II where our eponymous heroine, a shy Scottish woman has joined the French Resistance as a covert operative. Her motivations are mixed though as she is determined to find the man for whom she has fallen hard, an RAF pilot, but as the war continues and Charlotte becomes accustomed to life undercover, her priorities begin to change as she learns much more about herself than she ever anticipated, thanks to the attentions of her handsome contact Julien, Billy Crudup, and his father, Michael Gambon in excellent form as Levade and the two Jewish orphans that they are harbouring and to whom she becomes housekeeper. Continue reading “DVD Review: Charlotte Gray”

fosterIAN awards 2011

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayEve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)Ruth Wilson, Anna ChristieRosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
Best Actor in a PlayBenedict Cumberbatch, FrankensteinAndrew Scott, Emperor and GalileanTrevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAlexandra Gilbreath, OthelloSheridan Smith, Flare PathSinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRyan Sampson, The Kitchen SinkHarry Hadden-Paton, Flare PathRobert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Sweeney ToddAdrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, MatildaLaura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
Best Actor in a MusicalBertie Carvel, MatildaMichael Ball, Sweeney ToddDaniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, CompanyKate Fleetwood, London RoadJosefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDaniel Crossley, Singin’ in the RainNigel Harman, Shrek the MusicalConnor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road

2011 Best Supporting Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actor in a Play

Ryan Sampson, The Kitchen Sink
An absolute gem of a performance from Sampson here, coming late in the year but leaving no doubt as to how good he was – though not “too good to be gay” as a notorious critic put it most distastefully. Tom Wells excels at his non-metropolitan gay characters and there is so much refreshing, recognisable normality here, that transcends sexuality too – God knows everyone has felt awkward at one point or another – that made Sampson’s portrayal irresistible. Throw in some wicked jokes, perfectly delivered, a love for Dolly Parton and facial expressions that speak absolute volumes, Sampson is a worthy winner.

Honourable mention: Harry Hadden-Paton, Flare Path
As part of the central love triangle at the heart of Flare Path, Hadden-Paton displayed the kind of acting performance that should ensure he remains one to watch for many years to come, whether onstage or on film. The personal side paled though in comparison with the battle he faced to conquer his private desolation at the prospect of war in order to appear as the fearless leader of men his soldiers needed him to be: wonderfully appealing.

Robert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)

7-10
Sam Swainsbury, When Did You Last See My Mother; Dominic Tighe, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller) ; Philip Cumbus, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe); James Norton, Journey’s End

 

Best Supporting Actor in a Musical

Daniel Crossley, Singin’ in the Rain
I am a little bit in love with Daniel Crossley, and yes I know he’s taken, darn you Evans. But a man who can sing well, dance like an absolute dream and play the wise-cracking sidekick role of Cosmo without seeming like a constant third wheel has to be worth it. On top of an excellent turn in Me and My Girl at the beginning of the year, 2011 was a great year for Crossley and whilst I’m sad I won’t get to see him in a new role for the foreseeable future, I am delighted that the West End will get to see him in all his puddle-splashing glory when Singin’ in the Rain transfers.

Honourable mention: Nigel Harman, Shrek the musical
If you haven’t seen Shrek the musical yet, then I am about to spoil something for you here but I can’t explain the genius of Nigel Harman’s performance as the diminutive Lord Farquaad without saying something about how he does it. Spending the whole show on his knees, he is show-stealingly hilarious and provides a much welcomed injection of pure comedy into the musical.

Connor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy for You
Nick Holder, London Road

7-10
Paul Kaye, Matilda; Terry Doe, Parade; Michael Matus, Lend Me A Tenor; Will Hawksworth, Betwixt!

Review: Henry V, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud

“May I with right and conscience make this claim”

After the phenomenal success of their pairing of Richard III and The Comedy of Errors which toured considerably this year, all-male Shakespeare company Propeller are riding on something of a high. The company has evolved once again with some departures, some new faces and several stalwarts remaining in situ to take on Henry V (which will be accompanied by The Winter’s Tale from next year) which will tour the UK and the world once again, even heading over to Australia and New Zealand in March.

A history play that has war at the very heart of it, Henry V perhaps lends itself more easily than most to updating, the enduring nature of conflict meaning that resonance is sadly never too far away. Propeller, with Michael Pavelka’s design, have adopted a modern feel – costumes point towards early-twentieth century – but one that generally feels more timeless rather than particularly anchored to any specific period with scaffolding units and crates forming a flexible set. The company bring their customary level of reinvigoration to the play, breathing a new physical life into the work and letting their imagination take it to new places. Continue reading “Review: Henry V, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud”

Re-review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre

“Alas, poor women! Make us but believe…”

Revisiting The Comedy of Errors, one of the Propeller shows currently residing at the Hampstead Theatre proved to be even more fun than seeing Richard III again as I found myself enjoying it more on second viewing. I actually trekked up to Sheffield to see this at the beginning of their tour and my review of the show from then still stands as there really is little more to add and i’m running out of superlatives with which to describe the guys: “anarchic panache” and “reverentially irreverent” are my personal favourites.

I can’t help but feel, that more so with this than RIII, that this is about as definitive an interpretation of the play as I will ever see. RIII has its absolutely delicious moments to be sure but I have seen and can still see other ways of doing the play that would work (if not quite as well) but in terms of getting the laughs out of a Shakespearean comedy, this is in my experience unequalled. Hardly a joke misfires or an eyebrow raises as it is all so finely tuned and carefully interpreted to extract the maximum enjoyment that I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t love this. Continue reading “Re-review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre”