Review: 2:22 A Ghost Story, Criterion Theatre

Against all expectations, a return visit to 2:22 A Ghost Story, now at the Criterion Theatre, is hugely effective, and not just because Sam Swainsbury is in the cast

“Are you going to piss on my chips, mate?”

Sometimes, there’s real value in going back to something. I wasn’t much of a fan of 2:22 A Ghost Story the first time I saw it. But an invitation to see its new cast (including the marvellous Sam Swainsbury) at the Criterion Theatre – the show’s third West End iteration – offered an intriguing to chance to look at the show anew, fore-armed with the knowledge of what was going to happen.

And second time proved the charm, as it becomes a different kind of viewing experience, one which I found to be much more satisfying. I’m generally not a fan of horror in theatre and I think I allowed that to colour my mind too much in advance of seeing the show first time around. But mentally reconceiving it as a mystery puzzle, it holds up extremely well on repeat viewing. Continue reading “Review: 2:22 A Ghost Story, Criterion Theatre”

Review: Princess Essex / HEADCASE, Bush Theatre

Princess Essex and HEADCASE prove two contrasting and enjoyable entries of the Essex on Stage festival at the Bush Theatre

“I’m much more likely to engage in a fantasy than reality”

Originally planned for the VAULT Festival, Essex on Stage – platforming Essex and Outer East London writers – has found a new home at the Bush Theatre’s studio. First up in a double bill for me was Anne Odeke’s Princess Essex, fresh from its own tour of Essex community venues. It’s an adventurous one-woman show that riffs on the story of the first black woman to enter a beauty pageant in the UK and tries to fit a whole lot more besides.  

The tale of Senegalese Princess Dinubolu, especially as rewritten here as an alias for enterprising Southend woman Joanna, is engaging and highly entertaining in Odeke’s hands. And you almost wish she’d focused on that alone, as the framing device of a contemporary schoolgirl giving a presentation on the princess weighs the show down a little with its mechanism of fact delivery. That said, there’s some truly arresting information in here – you just want it to be integrated in a different way to allow more focus on Joanna. Continue reading “Review: Princess Essex / HEADCASE, Bush Theatre”

Round-up of March theatre news

© Muse

Everyone loves a ghost story and audiences have really loved 2:22 – A Ghost Story as it returns to the West End once again for a third season. And it continues to attact strong casts as Tom Felton (Sam), Mandip Gill (Jenny), Beatriz Romilly (Lauren) and Sam Swainsbury (Ben) will take on the challenge of trying to scare the crap out of people. The show opens at the Criterion Theatre from 7th May. Continue reading “Round-up of March theatre news”

Film Review: The Duke (2020)

Roger Michell’s hugely enjoyable and wonderfully warm-hearted film The Duke stars Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren

“Be sure to use the coasters. You’re not in Leeds now”

Few of us get to choose the way we’re remembered but you have to think Roger Michell wouldn’t mind the sentimental warmth of The Duke being his last feature film to grace our screens. Michell sadly died last year, the pandemic having intervened to delay the release of this film which played festivals in 2020 and in some ways, it is a shame distributors didn’t go for a on-demand or hybrid release as its warmth makes you feel it would have been a lockdown hit.

Written by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, the film follows the remarkably true story of the theft from the National Gallery of the Goya painting Portrait of the Duke of Wellington by Newcastle OAP Kempton Bunton. Bunton was a restless soul aka a crotchety old man, unable to hold a job for any length of time. But he was a dreamer too, a terminally unpublished writer and social revolutionary, briefly imprisoned for not paying his TV license and campaigning for free ones for all UK OAPs. Continue reading “Film Review: The Duke (2020)”

News: Princess Essex to tour Essex community venues

Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch is excited to announce that Princess Essex will be going on tour to Essex community venues and audiences can see it for FREE

Based on the little-known, true story of Princess Dinubolu, Princess Essex is the funny and dynamic tale of the first black woman to ever enter a beauty pageant in the UK.

Building on the success of last year’s community tour of Tales From The Thames, Princess Essex will now also tour to venues in Grays, Aveley, Basildon, Pitsea and West Tilbury. The production is part of Creative Estuary Co-commissions – the initiative which SEACA LOGO 2020 aims to showcase 60 miles of the North Kent and
South Essex region as one of the UK’s most dynamic and creative areas in the whole of the UK – working on this occasion with Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch (QTH). Continue reading “News: Princess Essex to tour Essex community venues”

TV Review: Mum Series 3

Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum goes out on an absolute high with a glorious third and final series with Lesley Manville and Dorothy Atkinson never better

“I think this will be an interesting week”

Any TV series starring both Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury has clearly been specifically designed for me and me alone, and so I choose to take Stefan Golaszewski’s decision to end Mum after this third series extremely personally. Problem is, the guy knows exactly what he is doing, as this glorious series really did go out on a high.

It’s taken me a little while to get around to watching it. I adored the first series, and the second, and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye. But given her return to the stage at the National, it felt like as good a time as any to indulge in a Manville marathon. And you can watch this entire series in less than the running time of The Visit, without even having to get dressed, so everyone’s a winner. Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 3”

10 of my top moments of the decade

Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)

© James Bellorini

Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre

The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions.  A truly joyous and momentous occasion. 

Honourable mention: this year’s musical take on As You Like It proved just as heart-swellingly beautiful over at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Continue reading “10 of my top moments of the decade”

July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

Film Review: Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

Based on a true story, the heart-rending Fisherman’s Friends is entirely sweet-natured good fun

“I’m Bonio.
‘It’s Bono, you pillock’.”

Despite being a fan of a Brit-flick, I don’t know if I’d’ve ventured to Fisherman’s Friends if it weren’t for the presence of a certain Mr Swainsbury in the cast. But I’m glad I did, as it proves a rather sweetly good-natured film that passes the time most amiably.

Based on the true story of The Fisherman’s Friends, a Cornish all-male a capella vocal group whose renditions of sea shanties scored them a record deal and a top 10 hit album, the film recounts how such a thing might have come about, as music executive Danny winds up in Port Isaac for a stag do and finds himself bewitched by the group, and the place, and a girl, natch. Continue reading “Film Review: Fisherman’s Friends (2019)”

TV Review: Mum Series 2

A hugely successful return for Stefan Golaszewski’s BBC sitcom Mum, with world-beater Lesley Manville in brilliant form once again

“Three types of potato – are you out of your fucking mind?”

I’m not sure what we’ve done to deserve Stefan Golaszewski’s Mum but I’m sure as hell glad that we have it. The second series of this BBC sitcom has now drawn to a close and it is hard not to think that it isn’t one of the most magnificently perfect bits of television out there, surpassing even the heights of the superlative first season

Starring Lesley Manville and Sam Swainsbury as it does, it could well have been machine-tooled to appeal to my Venn diagram of all Venn diagrams. But Mum is so much more than my varying crushes, it is a supremely well-calibrated piece of heart-breaking and heart-warming writing that finds its humour in that most British of ways, through adversity. Cathy’s husband and Michael’s best friend may have died a year ago but their attempts to move on, to maybe explore their mutual, unspoken attraction are constantly frustrated by the clod-hopping presence of her extended family at every beat.   Continue reading “TV Review: Mum Series 2”