Review: A Number, Old Vic

Paapa Essiedu and Lennie James deliver stunning performances in a cracking production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Old Vic

“I think it’s funny, I think it’s delightful
‘delightful?'”

After Timothy and Sam West, and John and Lex Shrapnel, Lyndsey Turner’s production of A Number for the Old Vic is actually the first one I’ve seen that didn’t involve a real father and son combo (I wasn’t too fussed about Roger Allam and Colin Morgan at the Bridge a couple of years ago tbh). And possibly with that slight remove of biology, something electric happens to make this the best one I’ve seen yet.

Caryl Churchill’s 2002 play about a father who clones his son has turned out to be one of her most popular (see above) and also one of her most evergreen. Ideas about actual cloning were perhaps more prevalent then, Dolly the Sheep having dominated the discourse but 20 years later, the play has only gained in depth and gravitas, its commentary on parental sin and construction of identity roaring ferociously as ever. Continue reading “Review: A Number, Old Vic”

#AdventwithClowns Day 11 – Uncle Vanya (BBC iPlayer)

Just a few days left to capture this recent West End production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya with Toby Jones and Richard Armitage

“You have some kind of sauce all over your trousers”

When its West End run was curtailed by th’pandemic, wheels were put in motion to get a filmed version of this Uncle Vanya produced. Sadly, Ciarán Hinds was unable to reprise his role but Roger Allam is a fine substitute and the rest of this cracking cast were able to return for Ross MacGibbon’s filmic direction of Ian Rickson’s stage work in the emptied surroundings of the Harold Pinter Theatre.

There’s not too much more to say about Conor McPherson’s vibrantly colloquial adaptation that I didn’t already cover in my stage review but as ever, the benefits of the close-up camera work adds a stunning intimacy to an already stellar performance level. Indeed, being swept up even further into the despair of Aimee Lou Wood’s Sonya is almost too much to bear but well worth the exquisite agony.

News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added

Ahead of National Theatre at Home’s one year anniversary on 1 December, the National Theatre has today announced the next filmed productions to be added to the streaming service, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining the platform today is Simon Godwin’s critically acclaimed 2018 production of Antony & Cleopatra in the Olivier theatre, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo playing Shakespeare’s famous fated couple. Then the iconic and multi-award-winning production of War Horsebased on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, will be available from 1 December until 31 January 2022 on demand internationally for the first time since its premiere 14 years ago. It will be available with British Sign Language, audio description and captions. Continue reading “News: One year of National Theatre at Home – New titles added”

News: Digital Theatre+ partners with Sonia Friedman Productions to Provide Education Platform for Uncle Vanya

From Thursday 25th November, Schools, universities, and educational institutions all over the world will be able to see Conor McPherson’s stunning adaptation of Chekov’s masterpiece Uncle Vanya thanks to a partnership with producers Sonia Friedman Productions and Digital Theatre+, Digital Theatre’s education platform. 

The original run of Sonia Friedman Production’s sold-out stage production of Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the midst of the first lockdown Sonia Friedman Productions and Angelica Films, in association with BBC Arts, commissioned a film of the stage production, which received critical acclaim and went onto win the Theatre Award at the South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2021. Continue reading “News: Digital Theatre+ partners with Sonia Friedman Productions to Provide Education Platform for Uncle Vanya”

News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season

Royal & Derngate has announced four further productions to complete its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season. A new production of Joe Penhall’s biting contemporary satire Blue/Orange is brought to the stage this autumn by the producing team behind Ralph Fiennes’ hugely successful Four Quartets which is soon to transfer to the West End. Giles Terera and Michael Balogun will collaborate with Artistic Director James Dacre with original music by Valgeir Sigurðsson of Bedroom Community. The venue then premieres The Wellspring, an autobiographic work from playwright Barney Norris and his father David Owen Norris, directed by Jude Christian. The venue’s previously announced production of An Improbable Musical will then premiere with a cast including Niall AshdownRuth BrattAdam CourtingJosie Lawrence and Janet Etuk.

This autumn also sees Royal & Derngate’s artist development programme Generate host a festival of new work and present 60 Miles by Road or Rail chronicling the recent history of Northampton Town. Meanwhile, the venue’s charity compilation album Incidental: Music for the Stage, will be released on 24 September on CD and all major streaming platforms. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate announces further productions for its 2021/22 Made in Northampton season”

News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage

Royal & Derngate Theatres and Atlantic Screen Music have announced the release of a contemporary classical and electronic music album INCIDENTAL: Music For The Stage featuring original compositions for theatre inspired by some of the most famous plays and novels in the English Language. The charity compilation album will contain original music from stage productions by composers such as White Lies, Anne Dudley, These New Puritans, Rachel Portman, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Isobel Waller-Bridge, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Renell Shaw alongside spoken performances from actors including Judi Dench, Amanda Seyfried, David Harewood, Felicity Jones, Giles Terera, Patricia Routledge, James Norton, Sharon D Clarke, Iain Glen, Lesley Sharp, Stephen Fry, Indira Varma, Maxine Peake, Roger Allam, Anton Lesser and Simon Russell Beale.


Together they will raise vital funds to support Northampton Royal & Derngate Theatres’ reopening, helping the venue to recover from the devastating impact of the pandemic and to continue to produce their award winning Made in Northampton productions. The album is available to pre-order at incidentalmusicforthestage.com or pre-save on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunes, Deezer and Tidal here. To launch the project today, two singles from the album are being released: Rachel Portman’s prologue to A Tale of Two Cities featuring Judi Dench and White Lies’ prologue to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof featuring Amanda Seyfried, both of which are available to listen to here and to download here. Continue reading “News: Royal & Derngate and Atlantic Screen Music announce new album Incidental: Music For The Stage”

News: Folio 400 website goes live

The First Folio is one of the great wonders of the literary world. Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, it was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays.  Without this achievement, we would have lost half of his dramatic work. So a new website has been dedicated in gratitude to the 400th birthday of this foundational book on the 8th November 2023, complete with essays, articles and a set of speeches from the plays read by an illustrious cast. Follow the jump to find out who. Continue reading “News: Folio 400 website goes live”

Film Review: The Hippopotamus (2017)

I find The Hippopotamus unbearable, despite Roger Allam doing his utmost with Stephen Fry’s words

“I’m sorry to piss on your chips but I’m not happy”

Directed by John Jencks and adapted by Tom Hodgson and Blanche McIntyre from Stephen Fry’s novel, The Hippopotamus is an undoubtedly quirky comedy but one which I found insufferable and near impossible to finish, despite a strong cast which includes Roger Allam as Fry-a-like Ted Wallace.

Wallace is a poet with writer’s block, who has resorted to reviewing theatre (though how he can’t care for a homoerotic Titus Andronicus at the Young Vic is beyond me). Fired after drunkenly disrupting that show, he takes on a random assignment from his leukaemia-suffering god-daughter. Continue reading “Film Review: The Hippopotamus (2017)”

News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release

Sonia Friedman Productions has announced that Ian Rickson’s highly acclaimed production of Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya has been filmed on stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre in partnership with Angelica Films. The new film version of the production will be shown in cinemas ahead of broadcast on the BBC (date tbc) with further distribution details to be announced soon. This makes it the first UK stage production closed by the Coronavirus pandemic to have been filmed and produced for the screen.

Directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon, the film reunites nearly all of the original cast of the production that was in its final weeks (read my review here) when the country went into lockdown in March and theatres were forced to close. Only Ciarán Hinds was unavailable and his role has now been taken by Roger Allam. Continue reading “News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release”