When I was at primary school, we did a thing in needlepoint where we sewed seemingly random shapes in a line and only when we’d finished and Mrs Holcroft (I think it was) told us to look at the spaces inbetween, did we see that we’d made a handicraft tribute to Jesus.
Mates blogger: Ian Foster
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Yesterday (14 November 2016) saw the launch of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival at Hampstead Theatre and The Actors Centre. Produced by Sphinx Theatre Company and Joanna Hedges, Women Centre Stage exists to promote, advocate for and inspire women in the arts and has developed and commissioned a wide range of new work which uniquely brings together a diverse array of women characters far from the margins into centre stage.
The Hope Theatre’s Gothic Season continues with The Worst Was This – a steampunkish take on Elizabethan London where the troubled relationship between two guys named Will and Chris plays out in a local hostelry, The Wayward Sisters’ Bar and Grill.
Playing in rep with Twelfth Night at Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre, Arrows and Traps’ Othello sees them take a slightly different approach to the tragedy, one which is closer to the way in which they reimagined Macbeth earlier this year.
School of Rock is a cheerily appealing slice of musical theatre. And with a seemingly endless roll call of talented youngsters who, as we’re reminded at the beginning and the end of the show, play all their own instruments live, shows off a wealth of emerging British musical theatre talent.
Sean Micheal Verey’s performance is outstanding, especially as he rattles through multiple characters in the blink of an eye. Recommended.
Hasn’t everyone seen this play by now? Since opening at the National in 1992, it has had three West End runs and six major national tours, not to mention a Tony-winning trip to Broadway too. So yes, they probably have. But JB Priestley’s play remains a stalwart on English GCSE syllabus and so there’s always fresh eyes coming anew to the drama.
Turns out what I should have been on the lookout for was an Alan Ayckbourn play in sheep’s clothing. And if that’s the way your preferences go, as it seems with the majority of the print critics, then this is the play for you.
Franz Xaver Kroetz has the distinction of being the most often produced contemporary playwright in his native Germany but perhaps unsurprisingly given latent Brexit feelings, he’s little performed in the UK.
“’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind”… Though no spring chicken myself, I’m not quite the right age to be truly excited about Oscar winning actress-turned politician-turned actress again Glenda Jackson’s return to the stage.
It’s no secret that I’m a big Ivo van Hove fan, I’ve been to New York and Amsterdam several times to see his work as regular readers will know, so booking for his latest show to hit London – Lazarus – was a no-brainer.
Next week sees the 9th Gay Art Festival GFEST start, an eclectic showcase of art, films, and performance work by LGBTQI artists from London, UK and beyond. There’s all sorts to choose from – full details here – with this year’s theme being OUT [in the Margins] and some of the things piquing my interest are European films Jonathan and Brothers of the Night, at Rich Mix and Arthouse Crouch End respectively, and trans documentary The Pearl on at Rich Mix on 15th November. You might be interested in their performance night at the RADA Studio on the 19th November too, a 2 hour double bill of LGBTQI music and dance narratives. Visit their website at www.gaywisefestival.org.uk.
One of the more exciting pieces of casting news was the announcement that the original cast of Caryl Churchill’s Escaped Alone – the glorious Deborah Findlay, Linda Bassett, Kika Markham, and June Watson, will be reuniting for the show’s revival early next year. Escaped Alone (my review here) will play a short run in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs 25 January – 11 February 2017, skip over the Atlantic for a wee run at BAM Harvey Theater, New York starting on 15 February and then returns to the UK to go on a national tour 7 March – 26 March to The Lowry, Salford Quays; Cambridge Arts Theatre and Bristol Old Vic.
I suppose a few people might be interested in the return of David Tennant to the stage in Don Juan in Soho… 😉
I’m not 100% in love with the venue, more for the journey through the casino to get to the room, but Leicester Square’s Hippodrome Casino has announced a star-laden set of concerts to follow up on recent successes including Jeremy Jordan, Titus Burgess and Michael Ball. You’ll be able to see Murder Ballad’s Kerry Ellis on 20th December, Memphis’ Matt Cardle on 17th February, Sharon D Clarke – so good in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – on 10th March, and the luscious Oliver Tompsett, recently in Guys and Dolls, on 24th March. More info here.
Congratulations to Andrew Thompson, whose play In Event of Moone Disaster was announced as the winner of the biennial Theatre503 Playwriting Award. Chosen from a shortlist of five and from a longlist that stretched over 52 different countries, Thompson won a nifty £6,000 and will see his play produced as part of his prize.
Hang out the bunting too for the New Diorama Theatre, who won this year’s Empty Space Peter Brook award.
And an interesting snippet from across the pond about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Broadway version of the show, starring Christian Borle as Charlie and scheduled to open Spring 2017, will cleave closer to the Gene Wilder-starring film with Willy Wonka appearing “much earlier in the production, starting the show by welcoming children and guests to his sweetie empire” and “more classic songs from the film that were left out of the London production, as well as new songs by Shaiman and Wittman. Audiences can expect yodeling from Augustus Gloop as he enjoys a mid-breakfast snack of 50 chocolate bars, plus a number called ‘Strike That, Reverse It’ highlighting Wonka’s constant mental frenzy”.
It may be music that feeds love according to Shakespeare but it is lust that drives Arrow and Traps’ interesting production of Twelfth Night, playing in rep with Othello at the Upstairs at the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate.
I think I have to rank Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years as one of my favourite new musicals (it was first performed in 2001) as any show with such a sequence of extraordinary songs as ‘A Part Of That’, ‘The Schmuel Song’ and ‘A Summer In Ohio’ at its heart surely deserves.
Arthur Miller’s titanic All My Sons has been well served in recent years – the late Howard Davies reviving his National Theatre production to stunning effect in 2010 and Michael Buffong illuminating it anew for Talawa Theatre in 2013 – so any new production has big boots to fill.
Simon Evans’ production makes the most of the physicality of their interactions, whether slamming bodies into bedframes or doors into the shaky walls of the motel, their torment inescapable.
With book and lyrics written by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger, Side Show has managed two abortive runs on Broadway since premiering in 1997, so it makes sense for Southwark Playhouse to take it on with their sterling record for reinvigorating musical theatre of varying reputations.
For much as I’d love us to be in a place where it doesn’t matter, it still feels important to note that Hugh Maynard is the first black man to play the role of Sweeney Todd professionally in the UK. And from his very first utterance, you’re left in no doubt whatsoever that he’s more than up to the task.
Richard Twyman’s production of Harrogate proves to be rather unsettlingly brilliant, anchored by two expertly slippery performance from Sarah Ridgeway and Nigel Lindsay.
“Who needs men?”… In advance of the return of the real Glenda J (Miss Jackson if you’re nasty…) in Deborah Warner’s King Lear for the Old Vic, The Glenda J Collective proved to be most entertaining.
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