10 top theatrical moments of 2021

As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.

For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list2016 list2015 list and 2014 list.

Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.

Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”

Review: Amélie the Musical, Criterion Theatre

Amélie the Musical slots into the West End just perfectly at the Criterion Theatre

“A treasure waiting to be found”

Just a quickie for this as I’ve seen Amélie the Musical a good few times now, loving it whether at the Watermill Theatre, its UK tour or The Other Palace. It now makes a West End transfer, slotting into the bijou surroundings of the Criterion Theatre just perfectly.  

The hugely talented actor-musician cast remain pretty much intact, Caolan McCarthy and Kate Robson-Stuart particular stand-outs, and Olivier-nominee Audrey Brisson leads the company with aplomb with this tale of an introvert, maybe, possibly learning to break out of her shell.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Pamela Raith Photography
Amélie the Musical is booking at the Criterion Theatre until 25th September

Review: Talking Gods, Arrows & Traps online

Talking Gods sees Arrows & Traps move online with a creative hybrid of theatre and film hoiking Ancient Greek mythology into the modern age

“Do you know what comes up first when you type Zeus into Google?”

The world of Greek mythology has long proved fruitful fodder for playwrights and it is to here that Ross McGregor has turned for his season of modern Greek myths – Talking Gods. And whilst the titles of these five digital plays might resonate – Persephone, Orpheus, PygmalionAphrodite and Icarus – the approach that McGregor’s writing takes means that these characters are refracted in sometimes significantly different ways. It’s a wise move, which proves something of a commentary on the act of myth-making as well, an acknowledgement that to remain relevant one needs must adapt whether celestial or commonplace.

So the art that bewitches Pygmalion so becomes an online avatar in the video game he is creating (a superb performance from Edward Spence), Ares may be the god of war but not even he can outrun PTSD here (edgy brilliance from Buck Braithwaite), Icarus is worried less about wings than the family secrets that are pouring out following the death of his father. Recasting the stories this way also allows a more direct way for the plays to speak to contemporary issues – family atomisation, climate change, identity struggles and isolation in so many different forms. Continue reading “Review: Talking Gods, Arrows & Traps online”

Album Reviews: Amélie The Musical / Cases / After You

A trio of cast recording reviews covers musicals Amélie The Musical, Cases and After You – each one a winner in its own way

“I have always thought I’d see the world”

© Pamela Raith Photography

True story, listening to the cast recording of Amélie The Musical for the first time last summer caused the biggest eruption of tears I’d had all pandemic long. It’s a show I’ve loved from the Watermill Theatre, to its UK tour and thence to The Other Palace, and none of its charm has been lost onto its move onto record here (it has been released on CD as of 1st April). Daniel Messé’s score and his lyrics with Nathan Tysen are charmant in the extreme, embracing the quirkiness of the central character but rooting her in a deep emotional truth of social awkwardness. Audrey Brisson was deservedly nominated for an Olivier and leads the ensemble beautifully, Chris Jared and Caolan McCarthy taking moments to shine too. And I swaer, if there’s another 79 seconds that is as achingly gorgeous as ‘How To Tell Time’, I will manger mon béret. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Amélie The Musical / Cases / After You”

Musical news aplenty

Following its opening at the Watermill Theatre, a critically acclaimed sell-out tour in 2019, a highly successful Christmas season at The Other Palace in 2019, a Grammy nomination and 3 Olivier Award nominations, Amélie The Musical arrives in the heart of the West End this summer. Following the government roadmap announcement, tickets are on sale now for a socially distanced audience at the Criterion Theatre from Thursday 20 May. Olivier-nominee Audrey Brisson (The Elephantom, Pinocchio and Pericles (National Theatre), The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (Kneehigh), and The Grinning Man
(Bristol Old Vic)), will return to the role of ‘Amélie’.

The five–time Oscar®-nominated film will be brought to life once again by a cast of actor-musicians and set to a critically acclaimed re-orchestrated score. With music by Hem’s Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messé and book by Craig Lucas, Amélie The Musical is directed by Michael Fentiman. The full cast includes Sioned Saunders as Gina, Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Georgette, Rachel Dawson as Amandine/Philomene, Oliver Grant as Lucien/Mysterious Man, Chris Jared as Nino Quincampoix, Caolan McCarthy as Hippolito/Elton John, Samuel Morgan-Grahame as Joseph/Fluffy, Kate Robson-Stuart as Suzanne, Jack Quarton as Blind Beggar, Jez Unwin as Raphael/Bretodeau and Johnson Willis as Collignon/Dufayel. Nuwan Hugh Perera, Miiya Alexandra, Robyn Sinclair and Matthew James Hinchliffe complete the ensemble. Continue reading “Musical news aplenty”

News: Arrows & Traps presents Talking Gods

This spring, Arrows & Traps presents Talking Gods, a digital season of five reimagined Greek myths. These moving reworkings of classic Greek tales present snapshots of the modern world filled with pathos and comedy, music and love and tragedy and loss. During the week-long digital festival, one play will premiere every night, and each play will be followed by a live Q&A on Zoom and then remain online for free.

The Greek myths have been a cornerstone of Western culture for millennia, telling stories of gods and monsters but conveying deep wisdom about the human condition. Writer Ross McGregor uses them to examine vital contemporary issues, some of which have become heightened during the pandemic, in his five new plays. Continue reading “News: Arrows & Traps presents Talking Gods”

News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the musicals edition

Since it is the season of goodwill to all men, I’m not going to belabour the point that it is a shame that ‘musicals’ have been lumped together as a category here, whereas the likes of Pinter and Kane got their own specials, whither Sondheim, Herman and Tesori. Still, it’s lovely as ever to stretch back over years of musical theatre productions to see some of Tristram Kenton’s most iconic shots for the Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/dec/02/musicals-on-stage-in-pictures-tristram-kenton

Photos: Tristram Kenton

Review: Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace

Not too much more to say about Amélie the Musical, now in London at The Other Palace, other than book now for un moment merveilleux 

“Will there be time to keep on dreaming once this dream is over?”

In what has felt like an inordinately long year, Amélie the Musical captured my heart a long time ago. It was April to be precise, when this beautiful actor-musician show debuted in the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill and then as it set off on a UK tour, I couldn’t help but go back a month later for second helpings, which I enjoyed just as much. So could I resist a third trip after a London residency was booked in at The Other Palace? What do you think…?!

First off, it feels great to finally see The Other Palace fulfilling the actual need that exists in London theatre but one which is rarely met, in providing a mid-size home for touring musicals, allowing them to establish a foothold here without the pressures of filling a West End house just yet. It helps that Michael Fentiman’s production of Amélie the Musical was originally conceived en bijou but this just feels like the right home for it, right now. Continue reading “Review: Amélie the Musical, The Other Palace”

Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, the touring version of Amélie the Musical impresses me at the New Wimbledon Theatre

“Will there troubles?
I don’t know
Will there be sweet things?
I hope so”

As sweet-sharp as a diabolo grenadine, Amélie the Musical has lost none of its inimitable charm as it gears up for a considerable UK tour. I adored it at the Watermill but the intimacy there left me wondering how the show would fare in the significantly larger houses to which it will be touring. Turns out I need not have worried.

Michael Fentiman’s production has expanded perfectly to fill the space. A few more ensemble members here, a tweak to Madeleine Girling’s canny set design there, and the show has lost nothing of itself or its kooky Parisian whirl. If anything the actor-muso ensemble’s reinterpretation of Daniel Messé’s score sounds even better than before under George Francis’ musical direction. Continue reading “Review: Amélie the Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre”