Joe Di Pietro’s critically acclaimed Fucking Men returns from 19 March – 6 June following its recent sold-out extended run. The comedy about sexual manners is directed by Phil Wilmott and features a cast including Morgan James, Nicholas Keith, James Kristian, Timothy Lone, Chris Polick, Patrick Poletti and Adam Unze.
Warehouse Theatre Croydon
Unexpected Opera presents its premiere production, The Barber of Savile Row (1 – 15 April). Adapted by Tim Riley and John Lovat from Rossini’s classic opera, the play jumps from the 17th century to 1950s London and includes a bit of Elvis. Director Lynn Binstock and Unexpected Opera aim to make the show accessible to everyone, not just those already familiar with opera.
The Maria Studio will feature Matthew Dunster’s You Can See the Hills (23 April – 9 May) in its Spring 2009 Season. This one-man show features a performance by Doctor Who’s William Ash as protagonist Adam. Following a sell-out run in the Clare last autumn, Dunster’s play returns to the stage shedding light on the life of a young man as he comes of age in the ‘80s.
Michael Craig stars in Trying (17 March – 11 April), a play written by Joanna McClelland Glass about Judge Francis Biddle, the US Attorney General under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chief American Judge at the Nuremberg Trials. Based on Glass’s own experience as personal secretary to Judge Biddle, Trying follows protagonist Sarah as she attempts to reorder her new boss’s hectic life while simultaneously dealing with her own personal woes.
The Lilian Baylis Theatre presents two productions written by Jimmy Durante as part of Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals performances. Both shows have not been onstage since their Broadway runs in 1930. The first, The New Yorkers (Sundays 29 March and 5, 12, 19 April), follows the romance between an heiress and a gangster in 1920s New York. Following The New Yorkers is the satire Johnny Johnson (Sundays 14, 21, 28 June and 5, 12 July), which is an anti-war comedy bringing together cowboy ballads, French music-hall and American vaudeville.
The Troy Bar
The Hoxton Street venue, the Troy Bar, will host the four-month mini festival, Missfit Mondays (Mondays 16 February – 25 May). Arranged as a festival fundraiser for DYS(THE)LEXI 2009, which features works by dyslexic writers, Missfit Mondays combines innovative theatre with inventive new writing to produce their unique blend of “innoventive” shows. Co-produced by missfit productions and Touchwaves, the festival will show works by Nicholas McInerny, Gerard Logan and Rachel Rose Reid.
The travelling Welsh circus troupe, NoFit State, will grace the London stage with their production of Tabu (28 March – 19 April), following a sell-out European tour. Directed by Firenza Giudi, Tabu incorporates a mixture of live music and video to accompany the 12-person ensemble during the performance.
Director Matthew Lenton joins forces with Scotland touring company, Vanishing Point, to bring their newest production, Interiors (21 April – 9 May), to London. Adapted from Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1891 play Interior , this brand new show focuses on the idea of isolation by contrasting the inside and outside worlds. Interiors commences as a stranger peers through a window upon a group of friends as they talk around the dinner table.
Mike Batistick’s play BOdEGA lung fat (11 – 28 March) is currently receiving its world premiere. Starring Mitzi Thaddeus, George Georgiou, Pierre Mascolo, Daniel Frost and Stephen Hoo, the show focuses on a diverse group of Brooklyn-ites as they discuss everything from drugs to racism to poverty. BOdEGA lung fat is directed by Sam Neophytou and presented by Inner City Productions.
The Vagina Monologues (2 – 4 April) will make a return to the Empire starring Sharon D. Clarke, Jessie Wallace and Jocelyn Jee. The show has drawn audiences from London to L.A., and everywhere in between, and included performances by Kate Winslet, Whoopi Goldberg, Sophie Dahl and Jerry Hall.
Meanwhile, the Studio will host the world premiere of Alex Martinez’s Private Thoughts (6 – 25 April). Directed by Kevin Hely, the play features performances by Kevin McGowan and Clara Onyemere as Eric and Dr. Chase, respectively. Worried by an increasing fear that he may be a potential child abuser, Private Thoughts follows Eric into his therapy sessions as he discusses these concerns with his therapist.
Soho Theatre & Southbank Centre
The world premiere of Forced Entertainment’s Void Story (21- 25 April) will take place next month as part of SPILL Festival at the Soho Theatre. The play is set in an urban wasteland and follows a couple as they are undergo a mugging, insect bites, haunted hotels and more.
The six-member theatre company, who this year celebrate their 25th anniversary, will also showcase a second play for SPILL Festival. Branching away from the rest of Forced Entertainment’s creative team, artistic director Tim Etchells presents his solo project That Night Follows Day (7 – 8 April) for a two-day run at London’s Southbank Centre. The production features a cast of 17 children between the ages of 8 and 14 in a play “with children, but for adults.”
New End Theatre
Anita Harris stars in Anton Burge’s musical comedy G&I: Going Into Battle with Gertrude Lawrence (8 April – 3 May). Based on the life of actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence, the production is set in spring of 1944 and focuses on her experience as she gears up for a performance for British and American troops during World War II. G&I is directed by Ninon Jerome and co-stars Brenda Longman and Ben Stock.
Orlando Wells’s new dark comedy The Tin Horizon (15 April – 9 May) sheds light on protagonist Vladimir as his personal problems become overwhelming—he is plagued by uncooperative servants, a visit from his ex, unwanted Police attention on his taxidermy shop and a potential visit from the Messiah during breakfast. The Tin Horizon is directed by Phoebe Barran and presented by Theatre503 and Bird & Be Productions.
- by Katie Blemler]]>
A plague of flies has been inflicted on the inhabitants of Argos by the Gods to torment them and constantly remind them of the heinous crime of Regicide committed in their city. Queen Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus have murdered her husband Agamemnon and usurped the throne. The populous now live under an oppressive regime from which there seems no escape. However the citizens seem extraordinarily complacent and fatalistic, indeed they appear to be willing collaborators with this enforced occupation… Does this story start to ring any contemporary bells?
It certainly did for the French living under the heel of the Nazis and the Vichy government during the Second World War. Author Jean Paul Sartre cleverly disguised his call to arms as an ancient Greek tragedy and extraordinarily his exhortation to the populous to overcome their complacency and passive collaboration and to overthrow their oppressors was not spotted by the Nazis who sat amongst the French audiences every night.
Sadly very little of this is made clear in this production of The Flies directed by David Furlong and Kevin Rowntree.
We are confronted by what seems to be a recording studio, a rock band tuning up in the corner and broken televisions and wiring are scattered around the space. What follows is a confusing condensation of Sartre’s play underscored by the uber-cool rock band that is rather aptly called A Riot in Heaven. For me they are the highlight of the evening and at first the idea of using a rock band and creating a mini rock opera seems an exciting one, the high drama of Greek Tragedy naturally lends itself to an operatic style, but disappointingly it never comes to fruition.
The story is lost in an unfocused production with actors wandering aimlessly, waving their arms meaninglessly and by declamatory and unsympathetic acting across the board. The video screens that occasionally flicker into life are badly positioned and the images designed by Jason Greenberg do nothing to illuminate the themes of the play and the lighting design by William Gallegos does nothing to evoke mood or setting apart from some perfunctory red light when someone is stabbed. The stage fighting (which boys do love!) is competent but does not remotely attain the brutal drama of the film Fight Club as the director claims in the programme notes.
In fact it becomes clear that the actors don’t even understand the text at times when what should be touching and real moments between characters are thrown away in the shout-fest that ensues. This lack of clarity is not helped by the strong and varied accents that all but one of the company have. Having said all that I think there may be some very competent actors in the company and there are some flashes of dramatic excitement from Shani Perez as Electra and Pierre Becker as the murderous Aegisthus, but these are sadly short lived as they rapidly resort back to hollow declamation. Director and leading actor David Furlong too has moments of truth as the avenging Orestes, but ultimately this production presents a strong case for not directing and starring; it cried out for an oracular eye and God-like hand to guide these poor mortal actors out of their labyrinth of confusion.
- Keith Myers]]>
The Emma of the title is not the Jane Austen one, but Madame Bovary as invented by Gustave Flaubert – which Faye Weldon has fashioned into a domestic confrontation between Emma and her husband. Charles is a poor unsuccessful doctor who had been completely under the domination of his mother until he married a convent educated, beautiful butterfly of a wife. Weldon starts the play near the end of the book with an imaginary breakfast on the day of Emma’s death. The setting by James Perkins is realistic – a country kitchen complete with Welsh dresser and pine table and chairs.
The enormous asset of this play is the humour in which it’s written and the sympathy the author affords the poor clodhopping husband whose wife’s infamy is revealed to him little by little as she seeks redemption for her sins before she is sent inevitably to hell. As she makes her confession, the story is illustrated by acted out versions of the past with lovers and other characters emerging from secret places, through cupboard and dresser doors – even from the fireplace and ladders let down from the attic.
Fliss Walton is perfect as the pretty, capricious and romantic Emma and James Burton the stolid, dull and insensitive Charles, uttering lines that bring bursts of laughter from the audience: “How can you discontented Emma – you have every thing you want – you have me.“ He is truly gross, discussing puss and gangrene during breakfast and tossing her dearly beloved dancing slippers into the fire. He’s convinced that Emma is a domestic goddess despite evidence to the contrary.
There are many amusing set pieces including the outing to the opera when Charles sits oblivious between Emma and her lover as they act out the passions they see on stage.
The performance runs smoothly due to the great rapport between the two principal characters and the others in the five strong company who play multiple roles. This is a well acted and directed adaptation of a favourite story which could be much improved by a little judicious cutting.
- Aline Waites]]>
Whiter Than Snow is the story of the Frantz family travelling players, all persons of restricted growth, or as Frieda, the daughter of the piece points out, ‘short’. Accompanied by Vera, the family Sign Language Interpreter and Sam, their loyal stage manager, they move from place to place with their show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Except that in their version it is Snow White and the four dwarfs, because “the other three got a better offer”.
As well as performing the Snow White play-within-a-play, they tell the story of what happens when they meet Regina, a scientist obsessed with eugenics, and her clone ‘daughter’ Eirwin. This setup is confusing at first and may require whispered explanations by the parents of younger children, but clever staging and an engaging story soon clear up any misunderstandings.
For the benefit of blind or deaf audience members, the action is described as it takes place and Vera signs along with everyone’s lines. Rather than this distracting from the storytelling, as one might fear, it is integral to the play and handled with great humour. Jude Mahon’s Vera is gleefully naughty and hugely likeable.
The story is all important in this production, making Whiter Than Snow an enjoyable piece of theatre at the very simplest level. But Graeae go beyond mere storytelling and drop ideas into the action that will make children and adults alike reconsider their attitudes to a broad range of topics, including ‘normality’, eugenics, and home. They succeed in stimulating debate without ever becoming didactic. The honesty and humour with which the company address their differences is refreshing to watch.
There are a couple of moments when triteness filters through, the ‘family song’ being a case in point. There is no need for it and lyrics such as “We’ll never be all the same” undermine the wit and subtlety of the rest of the script. It would be better to lose it altogether and allow the excellent storytelling to speak for itself.
Not everyone in the cast shines, but Tom Thomasson, who doubles as Sam and Regina, is highly skilled and totally believeable in both roles. Kiruna Stamell leads the company as Frieda and gives a performance that is at once sensitive and very funny.
Graeae’s aim is to showcase the excellence of disabled artists and this show does exactly that. More importantly however it tells a wonderful story that will captivate audiences of all ages. Roll up, roll up, to the “Biggest Littlest Show in the World”.
- Jo Caird]]>
Enda Walsh has been in the news lately for his screenplay (co-written with Steve McQueen) for Hunger, the highly acclaimed film about the Maze prison hunger strikes of 1981. But The New Electric Ballroom, seen at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, finds him back in his more theatrical helter-skelter groove; this is a powerful, poetic play for three sisters in a remote Irish fishing village who are unlikely to get as far as Cork City, let alone Dublin or Moscow.
The script is a dazzling corkscrew of memory and sadness. Two older sisters, Breda and Rose, played with sumptuous misery and resignation by Rosaleen Linehan and Ruth McCabe, are supervised, almost manipulated, by the much younger sister Ada (Catherine Walsh) – whom you might mistake as a daughter, or even a medical attendant – playing back an old tape, or possibly making a new recording.
We could be in a living room, or a bleak cannery where Ada cycles to work, or an institution. Breda delivers the opening speech into the wall, back to the audience. There’s a pink-iced cake in the room, but no cause for celebration. Life has stood still since one particular night in the ballroom, when dreams evaporated during a crooner’s act.
The episode is recreated with stunning theatricality in Walsh’s own production for the Druid in Galway, where the play was premiered in July last year before going to Edinburgh. The fish delivery boy Patsy (Mikel Murfi) turns up with a crate of silver fish, and is pressed into the tin bath, stripped and given an electric blue suit to do the honours.
The women take turns to wear the rara skirts and pink blouses from the clothes rail, and the idea of repetitive ritual in a hopeless situation is the same as in The Walworth Farce, Walsh’s other play for Druid. It’s clearly a structural device owing much to Beckett, just as the torrent of words and specific local detail of events and characters are irresistibly reminiscent of James Joyce and Dylan Thomas.
But Walsh is his own man and you hang on for dear life, and eighty minutes, to the rollercoaster language and the heart-breaking humanity of his characters and their dismal circumstances. The actors are four of Ireland’s finest, and it’s a treat to see them in London.
– Michael Coveney]]>
Austen purists should probably avoid – if they haven’t left by the interval, then Elizabeth Bennet’s climactic, New York-based tap-off with her Pirate Queen sister Lydia, will surely send them running back to their texts to double-check the footnotes.
For those prepared to throw out any preconceived ideas about period pieces and Regency reserve, you’re in for a wonderfully whimsical night of clog dancing, mechanical bears and oh-so-amateur dramatics.
Austentatious features that old favourite, the play within a play. Pride and Prejudice, as put on by the Camberford Regional Arts Panel (do your own acronyms), turns into an increasingly troubled and bizarre production, with director Dominic (Ilan Goodman) and high-kicking choreographer/writer Emily (Fem Belling) jostling for control.
The faultless seven-strong cast convince with their hilarious portrayals, delivering a pacey performance, finely balanced between songs and scenes.
Bearing more than a fleeting resemblance to Colin Firth, Richard Meek manages to be both damply hunky when playing wet-shirted Darcy, and shyly sweet as nice-guy David. Couple this with a convincing rapport with stage manager Sam (a beautifully voiced Cassidy Janson), and you’ve got a romantic pairing to rival any previous interpretation.
Musical comedies are often lucky to provoke the odd giggle, but this production had the audience in hysterics, with comedy values to surpass many a sitcom; some fine individual comic flair from Simon Lipkin, as stoner Blake, who entertains with his Connery-esque “Mish Bennett” and his cigarette lighter-waving Statue of Liberty.
Gone are Austen’s subtle witticisms, but director Dominic’s mixed metaphors, such as “Let’s burn that bridge when we cross it,” would surely meet with author approval.
The sharply-written script is complemented by some catchy tunes, full of Sondheim-style, staccato wit and barbed asides.
At times there’s too much going on, the one act per second technical rehearsal being a case in point; be sure not to blink and miss Jenna Boyd’s delightful, momentary mime of how Jane Bennet gets ill on the way to Netherfield.
The pub theatre environment and ropey backdrops add to the experience, with the production set in the world of £5/head regional theatre.
Austentatious certainly succeeds in sending up the increasingly outrageous ideas writers and choreographers come up with to stamp their mark on a classic. As one lyric tells, “Somehow the Austen got lost in translation,” well I, for one, loved being bemused and amused by their novel interpretation.
- Eileen Strong]]>
Waking up with Obama on your mind? Me neither actually. Since the almighty election fuss and the much hyped inauguration, the superhero of American politics has disappeared rapidly from the British tabloids. But never fear, Teddy Hayes is here, with his comedy musical homage to the people behind the scenes: the weird and wonderful characters on the Obama campaign trail. Having been workshoped at the Baron’s Court Theatre Obama on My Mind now arrives in North London for its world premiere where it goes clunkety, clunkety, clunk with some poor directorial decisions and a worrying lack of storyline.
Uplifting and well choreographed as many of the songs are, there is a lack of direction that runs throughout the musical, with characters drifting about aimlessly like canapés at London Fashion Week, picking up threads of storylines here and there amid the poppy solo songs and comedy one liners.
The twelve strong cast are of varying levels of ability, with some fine musical and acting talent (particularly strong in Nicholas Drake and Ellen Verenieks) being let down by some severe over acting from Jackie Skarvellis as the fanatical campaign connoisseur and a lack of vocal power from Simone McIntyre in the title song. What the cast as a whole do bring to the stage is a great sense of energy which does its part to rescue the scattered script and leaves the audience with a spring in its step, all be it a rather unsatisfied one given that no one is quite sure just what they are springing from exactly.
Perhaps it is the workshop heritage of the piece, or perhaps it is its ambitious reach, with every character getting a chance to spill their heart over their election traumas, but in this case the promise and sparkle of the musical overwhelm what is essentially an office based comedy with a lot of loose ends.
It’s a brave choice to stage Oliver Twist when you have the highly publicised Cameron Mackintosh production playing just down the road. And if high kicks and good ol’ cockney spirit is what you’re after then you’d best stick with the Drury Lane production as you won’t find much of that down at Riverside Studios.
Love & Madness’ production is far more true to Dickens’ original, though that’s not to say that it’s without laughs, and Abigail Anderson’s pacey and energetic direction is perfect for a production which is ideally suited to a younger audience.
The cast of five are suitably OTT in their presentation of Dickens’ larger than life characters, yet their performances remain truthful and do not patronise. A grotesque Mr Bumble (Simon Yadoo), a troubled Nancy (Lucia McAnespie) with a heart of gold and a Dodger (Cary Crankson) who sounds like he hangs out with the kids of today remind us why this story remains enduringly popular. Although be warned – the brutal murder of Nancy is not for the faint-hearted.
The problem lies in the fact that this production is essentially geared towards children and yet is playing to an adult audience (in an evening slot and in rep with La Ronde). Whilst an older audience will still gain enjoyment the production lacks a requisite level of sophistication.
Children and teenagers will delight in the re-telling of this classic and it could be especially popular with those studying the text at school. However if Riverside Studios want its audience asking for “more” they’ll need to reconsider their scheduling of such a production as most adult audiences will need something a little more filling.
- Rachel Sheridan]]>
From the opening notes played on the violin we are hooked by Paolo Levi’s story of how he borrowed the violin that his mother had shown him, had it repaired, and, with the aid of a street performer, whose playing had captivated him, learns about his parents’ secret past and why he must never play Mozart in his father’s presence whilst he is still alive.
This one man show, captivatingly and brilliantly performed by Andrew Bridgmont is a testament to the power of intimate story telling. On a minimal set with a table, two chairs, a violin stand and a window frame set within blacks we are transported in time and space from the eve of Paolo’s 50th birthday, with both parents now dead, to his childhood in Venice: we learn of his helping out in his father’s barber’s shop, his pestering of his mother to know more about his father as a musician, his being shown the instrument in secret, and his awakening of an inborn love and passion that leads the street performer to give him lessons.
What he and we learn is that this man and his parents know each other, that he was in fact their teacher when they were young and that music was their lifeline and their guilty secret – for they were part of the group of musicians whose lives were spared at Auschwitz for agreeing to play concerts for the Nazis and later at the arrival of the trains. Mozart’s music was what they were made to play during the “separation”, when families were divided and those destined for the gas chambers were led past them.
It is this guilty secret that is finally spoken when Paolo brings his teacher back to the house in order to confess that he has been learning to play the ‘borrowed’ violin. Instead of a scolding it is like a release valve that allows the three adults to talk about their past; as Paolo says “time to tell the truth because secrets are lies”.
This secret world is skilfully scripted by Simon Reade in his adaptation of the original story and Julia McShane allows Andrew Bridgmont the time and space to engage and captivate the audience completely. My only criticism being that the lighting effects in the first half hour are a little overdone and unnecessary, distracting rather than directing attention.
Co-directors Ben Horslen and John Risebero—who also co-founded Antic Disposition in 2005—bring to life a new staging of the classic CS Lewis tale. The play stars Alice Fernbank, Jayne Dickinson, and James Pellow as the White Witch, Lucy, and Professor Kirk/Father Christmas, respectively.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe follows four young children as they seek safety from the London Blitz. Upon reaching their country house, the children travel through a mysterious wardrobe which leads them to the winter wonderland of Narnia. Here they help Aslan the lion as he tries to break the evil White Witch’s spell, restoring Narnia from its one hundred year winter.
The theatre space has been designed by Risebero to match the frosty surroundings of Narnia, transporting viewers to the fantasy world of the play.
Celebrity patron Helena Bonham Carter calls attention to the staging of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by stating, “I’m delighted that St. Stephens is finally being brought back to life – it will make a unique and brilliantly atmospheric venue for live performances.”