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: ‘Night, Mother, Hampstead Theatre

A delve back into the Hampstead Theatre archives offers up a production that should probably have stayed back there in ‘Night, Mother 

“This is how I say no”

Time and time again, I allow my love for actresses to override my better sense of whether I should be booking in for plays. Cush Jumbo in Hamlet, Saoirse Ronan in Macbeth, and now Stockard Channing in ‘Night, Mother, I knew I didn’t want to see these productions and yet off I trotted because I wanted to see them onstage again (I don’t even have the excuse that I haven’t seen any of them before!).

Hampstead Theatre’s 70th anniversary season has seen them revisiting plays from their past – Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play premiered in the UK here back in 1985 – and whilst you can see that it might have had some impact then, it absolutely lacks any of that now. Roxana Silbert’s pared-back production is impressively frippery-free, just until you realise that nothing of import has put in its place. Continue reading “Review: ‘Night, Mother, Hampstead Theatre”

Round-up of August theatre news

Hampstead Theatre has announced its remaining Main Stage productions for 2021. Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night will perform in the Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘night, Mother by Marsha Norman.This astonishing play, which had its UK premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 1985, will be directed by the theatre’s Artistic Director, Roxana Silbert.  ‘night, Mother will run from 22 October until 4 December 2021.

Tamsin Greig will perform in Alan Plater’s raucously funny Peggy For You.  Richard Wilson will direct this Olivier-nominated play, which had its world premiere at Hampstead Theatre in 1999.  Peggy For You will run from 10 December until 29 January 2022. Continue reading “Round-up of August theatre news”

Review: Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

“We have just elected our first African-American President
‘Let’s see what happens in the long run…'”

It is tempting to think that this revival of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2009 play Apologia was mooted simply so that the above line could get the laughs it richly deserves for its prescience. As it is, Jamie Lloyd has fashioned it into the vehicle that has tempted Stockard Channing back into the West End for the first time in 25 years or so (although she did make it to the Almeida in for Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing). 

Perhaps the word should be refashioned, as the play has been subtly adapted to make its central character an American (I find myself entirely intrigued about the process of this happening – rewrites over accents) but what a character she is. Kristin Miller is celebrating both the publication of a memoir about her career as an eminent art historian and her birthday but gathering folk around the dinner table proves far from a game of happy families. Continue reading “Review: Apologia, Trafalgar Studios”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade. Channing’s hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance -NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it. Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons – Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer – harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

DVD Review: Le Divorce (2003)

“You can always go home on le Métro”

A Merchant Ivory comedy of manners set in Paris? What could possibly go wrong… Le Divorce is what. A painfully tasteful affair set in contemporary France but resembling nothing so much as a glossy magazine spread, there’s nothing authentic about the city represented here. Nor, which proves to be a bigger point, about the people in the film, a vacuous set of characters purportedly showing us the difference between the US (won’t talk about sex) and the French (won’t talk about money) but mainly demonstrating that everyone is awful.

Based on a novel of the same name by Diane Johnson, one is left wondering why she hates her females so much. Isabel has gone to Paris to visit her émigré sister Roxeanne, whose husband Charles-Henri has left her for a married Russian lady despite being pregnant with their second child. Whilst there, Isabel then engages in concurrent affairs with two Frenchmen, despite seeing first-hand the impact of infidelity on her distraught sister, this kind of reactionary tosh populating the entire film with its inordinately large ensemble cast. Continue reading “DVD Review: Le Divorce (2003)”

Review: It’s Only A Play, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

“My first night in New York and I’m high-fiving Denzel Washington”

Of everything that I saw or considered seeing in New York, It’s Only A Play possibly best exemplifies the dilemma I faced. Being such an actor junkie, the prospect of Stockard Channing and Nathan Lane and Megan Mullally (the latter two for the first time) was hugely tempting but I could scarcely ignore the fact that they were in a backstage farce. But the lure of the Lane was strong and so I booked myself in, hoping that low expectations would allow me to enjoy it.

And did I? I can’t really say, even now. I certainly laughed quite a bit, chuckling along with the theatre industry references of which there were masses and marvelling at how many modern touches Terrence McNally had managed to stuff into his updated text (James Franco’s x-rated selfies, Shia LeBeouf’s erratic behaviour and Alec Baldwin’s red-hot temper just a few that I can recall). But the whole thing does still feel curiously old-fashioned and perhaps a little self-satisfied.

Continue reading “Review: It’s Only A Play, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre”

DVD Review: Bright Young Things

“Reader, be glad that you have nothing to do with this world. Its glamour is a delusion, its speed a snare, its music a scream of fear.”

Whilst recently sitting through the 1930s-set play I Am A Camera at the Southwark Playhouse, I had that frustrating sensation of being reminded of a film that I couldn’t quite recall, mainly in the carefree attitudes of its lead characters. A post-show drink or three finally got me there, the film was Bright Young Things and so I popped it onto my Lovefilm list as it had been quite a while since I last saw it and I was keen for a rewatch.

Based on Evelyn Waugh’s novel Vile Bodies which written in 1930, the film marked the screenwriting and directorial debut of a certain Stephen Fry. Positioned as a satire on this section of society, the plot circles around a fast-living decadent set of aristocrats and bohemians living the high life of cocaine and champagne-fuelled parties completely divorced from the realities and responsibilities of the real world around them. Would-be novelist Adam Fenwick-Symes and party girl fiancée Nina Blount are the central couple whose wedding is forever being put off as he keeps losing the money for it, but the Jack and Karen in their lives – the Hon Agatha Runcible and the fey Miles – are much more fun. Continue reading “DVD Review: Bright Young Things”