The latest in a long line of jukebox musicals to be impeccably performed but dead behind the eyes – Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations opens at the Prince Edward Theatre
The playwright Lynn Nottage – double Pulitzer winner – has plunged here into a full musical version of Sue Monk Kidd’s rather odd novel The Secret Life of Bees at the Almeida Theatre. The lyrics (excellent ones) are by Susan Birkenhead and the music by Duncan Sheik. It’s bluesy, a bit gospelly, sometimes rock, all wonderfully sung. As the characters develop the songs offer every nuance from romantic gentleness to the immense defiant ‘Hold this House Together!’ anthem near the end.
Animal arrives in London riding high on rave reviews – believe the hype! John Bradfield’s unflinching but hilarious play is a queer, inclusive joy. Filthy and funny, it’s unmissable entertainment.
The Dry House at London’s Marylebone Theatre an excellent piece of drama that attempts to tackle some of the more pervasive issues of the day – in a theatrical, but sobering, way.
Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is a memory play told from the perspective of Michael (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), nephew to five sisters living in a cottage near the fictional town of Ballybeg. It is slow to get going, but it gets under your skin, and you don’t realise it until long afterwards. It’s a play that is joyful and sad, charming and moving.
Ramps on the Moon’s Village Idiot at Theatre Royal Stratford East is entertaining in many ways but it does need to tone down the crudeness a tad to make more of an emotional impact – despite the wonderful way in which the characters have been written and the way in which the story has been framed.
Ain’t Too Proud is a wonderful addition to the West End that features dazzling production value, and timeless music. A celebration of The Temptations and their impact on Motown, it will leave you humming their hits long after the curtain falls.
Written and performed by Collette Cooper, Tomorrow May Be My Last is an unabashed love letter to Joplin, and her legacy as a performer and human being. Anyone who knows anything about Joplin’s life knows that there is a lot to unpack and near impossible to convey succinctly or in-depth.
The Makings of a Murderer at the Adelphi Theatre is certainly worth catching if it comes near you on tour, though a strong stomach and nerves of steel certainly are highly recommended.
For Chronic Insanity’s latest piece entitled Snowflakes the company has partnered up with Dissident Theatre in a production at London’s Park Theatre. It’s a dystopian alternative reality comedy drama – more the latter than the former – which doesn’t exactly break new ground content wise for the group or more generally.
The source material for The Secret Life of Bees may have a perhaps overly simplistic plot and limited character development but Lynn Nottage, Duncan Sheikh and Susan Birkenhead have done much to bring this story to life through the much more grounded civil rights frame and ongoing challenges faced by working communities, while the music brings a real soulful and impassioned perspective that builds audience engagement.
Sadness and failure have their own grandeur, like the bleak back-hills projected behind Robert Jones’ sweeping vista of a set. In Josie Rourke’s deeply atmospheric production of Dancing At Lughnasa at the National Theatre, rural Donegal desolation looms behind small domesticity, just as the pagan wildness of human nature threatens the threadbare sedateness of Catholicism.
Get your leg warmers out and prepare for blast off, Ben Adams and Chris Wilkins’ adorable pop musical Eugenius! is back. This ridiculous, feel good sweetheart of a show marries together comic strip capers, sci-fi, 1980s nostalgia, earworm songs, obvious but irresistible comedy, and high camp in a caffeinated confection that is about as subtle as being beaten about the head with a rolled up copy of Smash Hits, but a lot more fun. Even when presented in a less-than-ideal space.
Quality Street, written by J M Barrie (Peter Pan), tells the story of Phoebe Throssel (Paula Lane) and her sister Susan Throssel (Louisa-May Parker) as young women, Phoebe being the chirpy, happy and excitable one, along with her many curls, giving her the name Miss Phoebe of the ringlets.
The first thing I said to my friend during the interval of Private Lives at the Donmar Warehouse was, ‘I don’t remember this being a play about domestic violence’. We’d just witnessed Elyot (Stephen Mangan) and Amanda (Rachael Stirling) having a physical fight which included Elyot grabbing Amanda by the throat and throwing her onto a sofa.
little scratch (deliberately styled in lower case) is adapted by Miriam Battye from Rebecca Watson’s 2020 debut novel, and was first staged at the Hampstead Theatre in 2021. It now transfers, with a slight cast change, to the New Diorama.
Directed by Lisa Millar and choreographed by Christopher Tendai, Wonderland in Alice is an original adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s tale that explores its themes and tropes through contemporary dance and music, trippy visuals and dynamic stage design.
After One Who Wants to Cross at the Finborough in February, I’m thrilled to chair the post-show talk for another new play care of Clarisse Makundul Productions, Makundul’s own Under the Kundè Tree at Southwark Playhouse Borough.
A good double bill of one act plays can be a bit of a rarity. It might consist of pieces with radically different themes by diverse writers who adopt varying tones forming an unsatisfactory pairing. Or it might just gel as a cohesive evening where each element benefits from the presence of the other and enhances the overall experience. Fortunately Generation Games, currently playing at the White Bear Theatre, falls into the latter category with both plays examining intergenerational gay relationships.
The sun is setting on Michael Longhurst’s time at the Donmar Warehouse and his penultimate production is a timeless classic, Noel Coward’s sparky and charismatic relationship comedy about middle aged love, Private Lives, a fairly safe bet which this century alone has resulted in some great comic pairings from Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan to Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor. But Coward’s work is tricky to get right and it always looks far easier than it really is.