2017 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Female 
Louise Jameson in The Diva Drag at The Hope 
Lydia Larson in Skin A Cat at The Bunker
Sarah Ridgeway in Fury at Soho Theatre 
Jenna Russell in Grey Gardens at Southwark Playhouse

Best Supporting Female 
Lynette Clarke in Karagula at The Styx
Joanna Hickman in Ragtime at Charing Cross Theatre
Sasha Waddell in After October at The Finborough

Best Male 
Fiston Barek in The Rolling Stone at The Orange Tree 
Phil Dunster in Pink Mist at The Bush 
Paul Keating in Kenny Morgan at The Arcola
John Ramm in Sheppey at The Orange Tree Continue reading “2017 Offie Award Finalists”

Review: After October, Finborough Theatre

“Listen: things will be different after the play comes on – completely different… Only a few more weeks, Francie, and you’ll see. Your whole life will change. I promise you it will”

Managed to sneak into After October at the Finborough  in its final week due to several people raving about it and glad I did, for it was a Christmas cracker. Rodney Ackland’s Before The Party was an under-rated triumph at the Almeida a few years ago so I don’t know why I didn’t book in for this earlier on. But pleasing to see it has had such a successful run, a well-deserved airing for an under-served writer and a continuation of the Finborough’s extraordinarily reliable track record of unearthing real gems from neglect (this is the first London revival of the play since its debut in 1936).

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 22nd December

Review: Nell Gwynn, Apollo Theatre

“The girl in this tale isn’t quite half as predictable”

Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn took the Globe by storm last autumn so it was delightful news to hear that it would transfer into the West End. Sadly, it wasn’t able to hold onto Gugu Mbatha-Raw as its leading lady (nor the riotously scene-stealing Amanda Lawrence as her lady) but in finding Gemma Arterton to take over the role, Christopher Luscombe has ensured that the production makes the journey seamlessly as she is simply stunning in the role. 

My 5 star review for Official Theatre can be read here.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Booking until 30th April


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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: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe

“What must the king do now”

A late trip to the Globe to catch Richard II (for which I had a ticket months ago but was waylaid by an exciting game of tennis) at its final Friday matinee. It’s a little funny how this theatre programmes its runs well into Autumn, especially with the vicariousness of British weather, as there was a decided chill in the air even in the afternoon so heaven knows how it feels in the evening. It might be fine for a rip-roaring delight like Nell Gwynn but for the more measured qualities of Richard II, it’s a bit more of a challenge.

Simon Godwin’s production has had quite strong notices and is blessed with the fine Charles Edwards in the title role, but something about it never quite gripped me and so I was a tad more ambivalent than amazed. It’s a singular interpretation of the role, flippant and fabulous to the gold-plated extreme but Edwards’ performance style is so far removed from the rest of the company that it almost feels as if it belongs in another play, the emotional complexity (from everyone really) that marks this venue’s best productions doesn’t quite feel present.  Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The lady’s a wit”

As a director, Jessica Swale has proved herself one of the finest at reinvigorating Restoration comedies and as a writer, has demonstrated a clear interest in illuminating tales of historical women so it is only right that her latest play for the Globe combines these two worlds in a heady rush of delightfully comic theatre. Directed by Christopher Luscombe, Nell Gwynn brings to life an ultimate rags-to-riches tale of an East End orange-seller who became a long-time mistress to King Charles II, also finding the time to become the most famous actress of the era along the way, a vital and vibrant part of theatre history. 

The Globe proves itself to be an ideal venue for a show about the theatre and from the moment Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s wonderfully self-possessed Gwynn first calls out from the audience in amongst the groundlings, we’re just as smitten with her as Jay Taylor’s Charles Hart, the leading man du jour who sweeps her under his wing from where she blossoms into the leading performer of their company, ruffling a fair few feathers along the way, especially once she attracts royal attention and discovers matters of heart are also now matters of geopolitics in one of the play’s most striking and amusing scenes.  Continue reading “Review: Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: The Seagull, Southwark Playhouse

“I always wanted to be a writer”

With an iPod blaring out tunes from the likes of Cat Power and Animal Collective, characters wearing battered Converse and slim-fit trousers and a wannabe writer bashing away at a laptop, it is clear that Anya Reiss’ adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull is aiming to demonstrate the timelessness of the Russian playwright. But this reinterpretation, directed by Russell Bolam, strips away too much without establishing a strong enough sense of its own identity.

Elements of the play sparkle under Reiss’ touch, in unexpected places. Emily Dobbs’ vivid Masha is a cracking portrayal of the disillusioned young adulthood that is the by-product of rural isolation, as she longs for the moody passion of Joseph Drake’s immature would-be playwright Konstantin yet finds herself resigned to the duller safety net of Ben Moor’s well-observed schoolteacher Medvedenko. And there’s a neat touch too in the Act 2 opening sequence that speaks so much about how deeply she can feel. Continue reading “Review: The Seagull, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Village Bike, Royal Court

“You think I’m this respectable married teacher person”

Penelope Skinner makes her Royal Court debut upstairs with The Village Bike, having previously been a member of their Young Writers Programme and being the recipient of the 2011 George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright (assumedly given before she co-authored Greenland…). It’s an unsettling portrait of a just-pregnant woman, Becky, recently moved to the country and struggling to come to terms with her new life and the restrictions placed on her both by her condition and her do-gooder husband who has taken to the role of father-to-be with great gusto but rather neglecting the role of husband, leading Becky to deal with her frustrations in ever-reckless ways.

It is a very frank play, dealing with female sexuality in a way which is rarely seen (at least by me) onstage as Becky turns first to her husband’s furtive stash of p*rn films and then to a heady set of illicit liaisons with local bad boy Oliver Hardcastle, from whom she keeps her pregnancy secret, as she lives out her (and his) wildest sexual fantasies in the oppressive atmosphere of the heatwave that affecting just about everyone in the village. For no-one is particularly happy, especially the married people: fertility issues, dealing with continued absences due to work travel, difficulties of parenthood, sexual frustration, all these issues reverberate around the populace of the village, all underscored by the overbearing fear of loneliness that Skinner argues characterises rural living here. Continue reading “Review: The Village Bike, Royal Court”

Review: 8 Women, Southwark Playhouse

“Mummy, people tend not to commit suicide by sticking a knife in their back”

8 Women might perhaps be better known in this country for its François Ozon film musical incarnation featuring a frankly incredible cast of French film actresses, but it started life as a comedy murder-mystery play by Robert Thomas written in 1958 and reworked in 1961. Donald Sturrock’s translation here at the Southwark Playhouse is largely faithful to the original text although Anglicising some of the more Gallic references, but moves the location to somewhere in the Home Counties and the time to 1980 from 1960. Oh, and unlike the other Catherine Deneuve musical film adaptation currently playing in town, there’s no songs!

A businessman has been found murdered in his country house bed at Christmas-time and as there’s a major snowstorm outside leaving them housebound, the suspects are the 8 women in the household: his wife, 2 daughters, sister-in-law, mother-in-law, cook, chambermaid and his own sister. But someone is cutting the phone lines, puncturing the tyres of the car and generally sabotaging any efforts to get away so the women have to try to work out which one of them did it whilst each holding onto their own dark secrets and none of them are being totally honest. Continue reading “Review: 8 Women, Southwark Playhouse”