Review: Cornelius, Finborough Theatre

“So all the time, while you were pretending to work, you’ve been having the most astonishing adventures in that corner?”

Continuing their well-trodden path of delving into the dusty shelves of neglected British plays, the Finborough have come up trumps yet again with this neatly amusing and unpredictable little curiosity Cornelius. Written in 1935 by J.B. Priestley, especially for his friend Ralph Richardson, it was something of a flop and consequently remains little produced – this will be the first time in over 70 years that the play has been seen in London – but Sam Yates’ production flows with an undeniably persuasive energy to make this a revival worth paying attention to.

Set in the Holborn office of an aluminium import firm that is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, junior partner Jim Cornelius sets about trying to keep the creditors sweet and the office spirits from flagging, in the hope that salvation will come at the last minute from the firm’s senior partner. He suspects it is a vain hope though and as he swings from poignant reflections on lives that have been lived and exuberant positivity in the potential that still remains out there, a delicately touching portrayal of office life emerges which is hard to resist. Continue reading “Review: Cornelius, Finborough Theatre”

Review: End of the Rainbow, Trafalgar Studios

“But how much should we believe Judy?
‘All of it…otherwise what’s the point.’”

Following a run in Northampton earlier this year, Peter Quilter’s Judy Garland biographical musical drama End of the Rainbow is taking up residence at the Trafalgar Studios theatre, featuring a stellar performance from Tracie Bennett in the lead role. The play centres around the five-week period in 1968 when she undertook a cabaret season at the Talk of the Town in London in order to try and pay off the mountain of debt accumulated during a life of numerous marriages and divorces, repeated comebacks, drug dependency, ill health, suicide attempts and a whole lotta other drama too.

This isn’t so much an impersonation of Judy Garland as an embodiment of her by Tracie Bennett, in what is a truly awe-inspiring performance. And it is testament to the depth of her skill that one isn’t longing for the next song to kick in as the acting scenes are just as strong and engaging as she battles with her constant need for reassurance, her fears of not being loved and ending up alone and the struggle to keep off the pills. This is clearly no hagiography as even though we get to see much of her waspish humour with some cracking one-liners, Garland is also shown at the depth of her desperation, begging to be given some of her ‘grown-up candy’, stumbling and cracking onstage during performances. Continue reading “Review: End of the Rainbow, Trafalgar Studios”