“It was a ball, it was a blast
It was a shame it couldn’t last”
A half-term jaunt down to London for Aunty Jean saw us take in a couple of shows I was happy to revisit. I remain as affectionately inclined towards Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as I ever have done, its traditional bonhomie remains as watchable as ever and there’s just something comfortable about the whole affair which remains hard to resist. Even whilst not being Robert Lindsay’s biggest fan (seriously, is he being paid by the pelvic thrust?!) the shimmering star quality of Kat Kingsley and the affable appeal of Alex Gaumond more than compensate. And the bumbling charms of Ben Fox, the third Chief of Police since the show started – job security in Beaumont-Sur-Mer is clearly not strong 😉 – prove the ideal foil for Bonnie Langford’s knowingly charismatic Muriel.
And we also made a more-timely-than-we-realised trip to Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose which posted closing notices pretty much as we left the matinée. It feels a real shame as it is such a sprightly production of a sparkling play which certainly deserved better audiences but for whatever reason, it just didn’t connect. I’ve written more about the show on my three previous visits (link here) but I’d definitely recommend trying to catch it before it closes, not least for some of the most joyous dancing onstage (which forms the perfect counterbalance to My Night With Reg) and Jenna Russell’s glorious performance as the hugely-generous-of-spirit Rose.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th March
Di and Viv and Rose
Running time: 2 hours 35 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 14th March
“If it hadn’t been me, it would have been someone else”
In one of those curious co-incidences, Mark Shenton’s blog for The Stage today was about the pleasure of re-viewing shows already seen. For me, it was a two show day and in both cases, it was the third time I had seen them, albeit in different productions. Part of being a theatre addict is the delicious thrill of being able to revisit plays and get something new from them, as well as being reminded of why I enjoyed it so much, and so it proved with Mike Bartlett’s Bull and Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose.
I first saw Bull in a rehearsed reading at the Finborough back in 2010, when I was still in the process of falling hard for Bartlett’s writing, and was then so enthused by the prospect of seeing a full production that we made a trip to Sheffield to see it be wonderfully staged by Clare Lizzimore in the Studio at the Crucible in 2013. (Travelling from London to Sheffield for a show that isn’t even an hour long is proof positive, as if it were ever needed, of the strength of my addiction!) And it is that same production that has belatedly arrived at the Young Vic this year.
Continue reading “Re-viewing Bull, and Di and Viv and Rose”
“We weren’t sure how well a pair of lesbians pretending to breast feed a bag of flour would go down in B&Q”
Heading up the One Stage season of work led by emerging producers – in this case Vicky Graham – Ben Ockrent’s Breeders sees a sadly rare thing, a play that just casually has more women than men in its cast. When you hear that it is a comedy about lesbians who want to become parents then that becomes a little less surprising but from the anecdotal evidence I’ve been collecting this year, our stages remain disproportionately weighted with testosterone.
Anyhoo, back to the lesbians. Andrea and Caroline have just moved into a swanky new house and want to fill it with a family and specifically, with a family that is as biologically connected to them as possible. So they ask Andrea’s brother Jimmy to be the sperm donor, something that takes him and his girlfriend Sharon by surprise, and as they agree to create their own version of a modern family, it appears that they’re breeding as much trouble as they are children. Continue reading “Review: Breeders, St James Theatre”
“He’s such an insensitive git. Loves having a go at you lefties.”
What price a laugh? How far should the boundaries of taste be pushed to achieve comic objectives? And how complicit are we in wanting to find things funny? Simon Paisley Day’s play Raving sets out its unreconstructed stall early on from its first dubious gay jokes to the co-opting of the phrase ‘batty boy’ which garnered a disturbing number of titters from the Hampstead Theatre audience. But putting the tastes of the audience to one side, this actor-turned-playwright hits on the nose across the spectrum – post-natal depression and something perilously close to sexual abuse are used as joke-filled hooks on which to hang his farcical machinations and for a play with pretensions of being a contemporary comedy, it just doesn’t fly.
Paisley Day’s premise is the stuff of a many a sitcom. Three middle class London couples rock up at a cottage for a weekend away in deepest Wales but instead of leaving their troubles behind, chaos erupts on a near-hourly basis. Briony and Keith are having their first break away from son Finn, their first three years of parenthood not having proved easy; über-perfect Ross and Rosy live what appears to be a charmed life, only a constant stream of au pairs causing a minor wrinkle; and last minute additions Charles and Serena are the embodiment of blithe hooray-Henryness, in possession of an anarchically raucous teenage niece who further stirs the pot once a drug and alcohol-fuelled rave is discovered in a neighbouring field. Continue reading “Review: Raving, Hampstead Theatre”
“If you’re lucky enough to have a friend you grew up with in this way, you believe the arrangement is for life”
The Hampstead Theatre has managed to give further life to a couple of their Downstairs productions to other theatres, but Di and Viv and Rose marks the first time that one has been promoted to a full run in their main house. Happy news for me as I loved the play when I saw it back in 2011, though I was a little saddened to see that it wasn’t the original cast being brought back with this three-hander. Tamzin Outhwaite has returned but Claudie Blakley and Nicola Walker have been replaced by Anna Maxwell Martin and Gina McKee respectively, in Amelia Bullmore’s wonderfully frank and funny take on friendships.
My review of the original production can be read here, and my review of this new version for The Public Reviews from a more objective perspective is here, so I’ll just limit myself to a bit of a compare and contrast exercise here. By and large, I loved the play just as much second time around and it probably had a greater emotional impact due to the knowledge of what was to come in terms of the more dramatic moments. Bullmore has tweaked the play a little, adding a scene to the beginning of the second act but it has been seamlessly done and if I hadn’t have read the programme note about it, I doubt I would have noticed. Continue reading “Re-review: Di and Viv and Rose, Hampstead Theatre”
“We could really live together, what do you think?”
Continuing their practice of showcasing new writing in the Michael Frayn space downstairs now with a generous donation from the Peter Wolff Trust, the Hampstead Theatre’s newest play is Amelia Bullmore’s Di and Viv and Rose. And though these shows are flying under the radar a little with no official press coverage, there has been no stinting on top quality cast and creatives to deliver an absolutely brilliant evening of effervescent fun, sparky comedy and heart-rending emotion.
Anna Mackmin, she of the delightful Me and My Girl in Sheffield, directs here a trio of top actresses: Nicola Walker (who I once accidentally terrorised in a dry cleaners on the Holloway Road – mistaken identity, breadmakers, it’s a long story…sorry Nicola), Tamzin Outhwaite (who gets huge love for brilliantly telling a grumpy audience member where to go at Matilda) and Claudie Blakley (about whom I have no stories but I still love her anyway). Di and Viv and Rose follows three young women as they arrive at university in 1983 and soon end up sharing a house in which deep friendships are formed over the next three years as they go through the ups and downs of student living. We then revisit the friends 15 years later and again another 12 to see how their lives have turned out and how the friendship has changed over time.
Continue reading “Review: Di and Viv and Rose, Hampstead Downstairs”
THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Zoe Wanamaker – All My Sons at the Apollo
Helen McCrory – The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Warehouse
Jenny Jules – Ruined at the Almeida
Kim Cattrall – Private Lives at the Vaudeville
Nancy Carroll – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios
THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
David Suchet – All My Sons at the Apollo
Benedict Cumberbatch – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton
Matthew Macfadyen – Private Lives at the Vaudeville
Rory Kinnear – Hamlet at the National, Olivier & Measure for Measure at the Almeida
Simon Russell Beale – Deathtrap at the Noel Coward & London Assurance at the National, Olivier
Toby Stephens – The Real Thing at the Old Vic Continue reading “2011 What’s On Stage Award nominations”
“We don’t dance. We defend ourselves to music”
Last night’s trip to Sweet Charity at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (with Aunty Jean, for my birthday treat!) actually marks the first time that I have seen a show that has transferred from a small venue into the West End in both of its incarnations. My original review can be read here about Charity Hope Valentine’s romantic misadventures and her continued search for her dream man in the face of constant setbacks and dastardly lotharios, and much of what I loved about it then holds true now as it is still as excellent a show.
Little has actually been changed about the production, everything is just a bit bigger really and the transitions a lot smoother, the only real difference was the fairground scene with Charity and Oscar and her vertigo where they make use of the more advanced facilities to sit on a suspended seat. Where the production does benefit from the transfer though is in the extra room for the choreography, Rich Man’s Frug and I’m A Brass Band in particular both luxuriate in the additional space offered by the Theatre Royal and Stephen Mears’ superb choreography has unfurled beautifully, maintaining the huge level of energy and vitality it pushes into the show. This is probably best exemplified in Hey, Big Spender, such a different number to the familiar Shirley Bassey version, the girls at the club sprawl over high stools, selling their wares half-heartedly with deliciously bored expressions, it is abundantly clear that this is no glamorous life and one can immediately see why Charity is so keen to escape. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Charity, Theatre Royal Haymarket”
Best Actress in a Play
Rachel Weisz, A Streetcar Named Desire
In a year full of strong female performances, not least just at the Donmar Warehouse, Rachel Weisz’s Blanche Dubois took this well-established character and gave it a whole new spin, but one which worked perfectly. Using Weisz’s (allegedly fading) looks to the full, this was a Blanche whose lonely desperation was heartbreaking to watch, yet to the end full of a grace that couldn’t be dimmed.
Honourable mentions: Phoebe Nicholls/Lisa Dillon, When The Rain Stops Falling and Chris Nietvelt, The Roman Tragedies
I’m cheating here as I found this my hardest category to decide. Nicholls and Dillon were superb playing older/younger versions of the same character, with beautifully nuanced performances which reflected each other subtly and were incredibly moving.
And I had to include Chris Nietvelt as her Cleopatra (and indeed her hysterical cameo as the newsreader in Coriolanus) was a tour de force in intense acting, transcending linguistic barriers and revealing the beating heart of the Egyptian queen.
Imelda Staunton, Entertaining Mr Sloane
Juliet Stevenson, Duet For One
Anna Chancellor, The Observer
Best Actress in a Musical
Samantha Spiro, Hello, Dolly!
Bursting with an infectious vitality and as cheery a disposition you’ll find this side of the rainbow, Samantha Spiro’s titular Dolly shone with such brilliance that I didn’t mind the cold and wet at the Open Air Theatre and would happily have sat through it all again no matter how unseasonably chilly it was.
Honourable mention: Julie Atherton, The Last Five Years
Echoing the Ginger Rogers quote about how she did everything Fred did but backwards and in heels, Julie Atherton had the harder job in two-hander The Last Five Years, having to tell the story of the troubled relationship in reverse, but she is such a skilled performer she had the audience in tears and caring deeply for her pain within 5 minutes. I look forward to the day when she gets the huge recognition she deserves, she really is one of the most accomplished actresses in Britain at the moment.
Melanie Chisholm, Blood Brothers
Donna King, Frank’s Closet
Patina Miller, Sister Act
Tamzin Outhwaite, Sweet Charity