Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Review: Venus in Fur, Theatre Royal Haymarket

"It’s a serious novel. It’s a central text of world literature.
'Basically it’s S&M porn'"

What a charged moment for Venus in Fur to open into. As the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein revelations continues to reverberate around social media and perhaps even society at large, a play about the sexual dynamic between an actress and and a director and the erotic power play that emerges out of her audition feels...challenging. Intriguingly written, thought-provokingly staged and superbly acted, it nevertheless left something niggling at me.

David Ives' play was extremely well received off- and on-Broadway at the beginning of this decade and it has a tricksy cleverness to its meta-textual construction and surfeit of theatrical in-jokes. A brash young playwright has spent a long day auditioning for his adaptation of Venus in Furs, an 1869 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who literally put the masochism in S&M. Arriving late and swearing like a trooper, Vanda pleads for the chance to be heard but as an eventual audition becomes a read-through, little is as it seems.

Thoughts on a visit to the Bridge Theatre


Good things come to those who wait! I hadn't booked for Young Marx at the brand new Bridge Theatre for a couple of reasons. I was still hoping that I might get a response to my email to the PR and despite a cast that includes the splendid Nancy Carroll and the delicious Oliver Chris alongside lead Rory Kinnear, Richard Bean just really isn't my cup of tea. 'Don't you love farce?' Not much my dear...
  
So when an email popped into my inbox offering a sneak preview of the show and an opportunity to be the first ever audience in the theatre for a pre-preview test run of the new venue and its facilities, then I knew it was meant to be. Turns out I do love a farce, at £7.50 a ticket.

Cast for the Royal Exchange's Guys and Dolls announced

The Royal Exchange in Manchester have really been upping the ante as far as their Christmas musicals are concerned. Last year's Sweet Charity was a stonker, their Into the Woods was something special, and 2014/15's Little Shop of Horrors was basically perfection. This year see them tackle Broadway classic Guys and Dolls in a co-production with Talawa Theatre Company and by the crin (as my Aunty Mary would say - a bit of Wigan dialect for you there...) just take a look at this bushel and a peck's worth of beauties! 

Cast for the Almeida's Twilight Zone announced


The Almeida have revealed the cast for their forthcoming Christmas show The Twilight Zone which promises a different take on seasonal fare! Directed by Richard Jones and adapted by Anne Washburn, responsible for the brilliant mindfuck that was Mr Burns, I reckon this will be one to look out for.

Cast includes: Oliver Alvin-Wilson, Franc Ashman, Adrianna Bertola, Lizzy Connolly, Amy Griffiths, Neil Haigh, Cosmo Jarvis, John Marquez, Matthew Needham, and Sam Swainsbury,

Monday, 16 October 2017

Album Review: Janie Dee at the BBC

"Je veux changer d'atmosphère"

30 years or so into a career that has seen her win two Olivier awards (so far - I'd watch out for her to be at least nominated for Follies, if not more), it seems remarkable that Janie Dee at the BBC is actually Dee's debut album. But though there may not be recorded evidence, she is a highly accomplished and experienced cabaret performer among her many skills, and it is from these shows that the material has been drawn for this record.

Recorded at BBC Maida Vale Studios with Auburn Jam Records, the track-listing thus embraces a broad array of songs and styles, all connected by the smooth consummate skill of one of our more under-rated Dames-in-the-making. From Kander and Ebb to Bacharach and David, Stevie Wonder to Spike Milligan, Dee takes us on a journey of hugely sophisticated charm that proves mightily hard to resist, marshalled by MD Steve Clark.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Full list of 2017 UK Theatre Awards winners

The full list of winners of this year's UK Theatre Awards have been announced and you can find them below:

Best Presentation Of Touring Theatre

Nuffield Southampton Theatres for the world premiere touring musical production of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox

Best Show for Children and Young People

The Snow Queen, New Vic Theatre

Best Director

Gemma Bodinetz, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse new repertory season

Review: The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory

"People don’t really want to be told the truth"

Just as The Father comes along with The Mother, The Truth is followed by The Lie. British theatre's amour fou for Florian Zeller continues apace with another of his comedies making it over to London but are we approaching diminishing returns as we delve deeper into his back catalogue? Director Lindsay Posner and translator Christopher Hampton clearly don't think so as they return to the Menier Chocolate with The Lie but I'm not so convinced.

The production got off to a rocky start when James Dreyfus had to withdraw due to illness, though choosing Alexander Hanson as his replacement provides a little extratextual spice as he stars opposite his wife Samantha Bond as married couple Paul and Alice. As we meet them, they're havering over a dinner party they're hosting that is meant to start imminently - Alice wants to cancel it as she just saw Michel kissing a woman who wasn't his wife Laurence but their early arrival takes the decision out of their hands.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Gif Reviews: B + Victory Condition, Royal Court

The Royal Court continues to shake things up under Vicky Featherstone's reign, offering two shorter plays (though not for the price of one) which are running in rep. Guillermo Calderón's B and Chris Thorpe's Victory Condition are both interesting in their own ways but whether it was me being grumpy, a slightly flat atmosphere or something more, neither drama really did it for me. So we're keeping it brief!

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

How to respond to a week such as that? Defer to those more fearlessly eloquent, and listen.





Emma Rice's tenure at Shakespeare's Globe is winding to its close - the outdoor season is done but there's still a winter's worth of programming in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse to get through. Musical Romantics Anonymous will be one to watch out for and now that casting has been released for Anders Lustgarten's The Secret Theatre, directed by Matthew Dunster, looks to be another fascinating entry.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review: Beginning, National Theatre


"I feel like my life's turning on the toss of a coin"

There's something about the sweet spot as the embers of a house party start to die out - people lingering behind usually there for a reason (as in the prettiest boy I ever did kiss), conversations that delve right into the deep stuff. And so it is for Laura and Danny in David Eldridge's new play Beginning - it's 2.40am and he's the last one left at the housewarming do at her new pad in Crouch End.

But it's not quite as simple as that (it never is - that boy moved to LA). Both firmly middle-aged, the weight of Laura and Danny's potential encounter is revealed to be ever more significant as they edge towards a truth that there might be more than just a quickie on the cards, that the spark of a connection they both might be feeling could be the beginning of something more and not just a reaction to the intense loneliness they're both feeling in this modern world. They've just got to get to that point.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review: Young Frankenstein, Garrick

"Though your genitalia
Has been known to fail ya
You can bet your ass on the brain"

It's alive...barely. Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein staggers into the West End after some more time on the operating table since its 2007 Broadway opening (2 new songs are among the changes made) and a short run in Newcastle to tighten the bolts. But for a piece of new musical theatre, it is so desperately old-fashioned that you half expect Russ Abbot and Bella Emberg to pop up and do a turn.

Given that Brooks is now over 90 and that the film on which it is based dates from 1974, it is perhaps little surprise that it feels dated. But also given director/choreographer Susan Stroman's close collaborative relationship with him, the opportunity to be necessarily brutal about what works and what doesn't feels to have been lost, lightning really hasn't struck twice for the creators of The Producers. 

Album Review: Jason Manford - A Different Stage

"I'll gather up my past, and make some sense at last"

Unless you've caught him in tours of The Producers or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or in occasional TV performances, you might not know that comedian Jason Manford can sing. He's even tackled Sondheim, stepping into the role of Pirelli in the Staunton/Ball Sweeney Todd for a while back in 2011, and so it is little surprise that his debut album A Different Stage should turn out be one of showtunes and standards.

Manford's voice emerges as a solid and mannered instrument and clear as a bell, his singing veers towards the precise. This is most effective on the likes of Chitty's 'Hushabye Mountain', sung sweetly with former co-star Rosanna Bates and And much of the material tends towards the booming inspirational anthems beloved of his friend Alfie Boe - 'This Is My Life', 'This Is The Moment', 'The Impossible Dream', all effective if a little similar.