Greenwich Theatre, London****Written by William ShakespeareDirected by Yaz Al-ShaaterSmooth Faced Gentlemen’s all female Titus Andronicus is a deftly trimmed take on Shakespeare’s most bloody tragedy. Amidst some cracking performances, a company of 8 c…
THIS VERY NIGHT SHALL THY SOUL BE REQUIRED OF THEE… God is sweeping the big blank stage. We won’t know for a minute or two that Kate Duchene IS God, given she’s a weary grey-haired cleaner in a tabard. But … Continue reading →
Susan Hill’s thriller novel The Woman in Black, adapted for the stage by Stephen Mallatratt, relies heavily on the audiences imagination to create the eerie tension and spine-tingling fear that it is renowned for. Set in the 1950s, the story unfolds in an empty Victorian theatre, where Arthur Kipps, now an old man, has hired a young actor to help to re-enact a manuscript that he has written about a ghostly, supernatural experience he endured as a young solicitor.
As Rolls Royce productions go, they don’t get much better than this. Homegrown screen and stage star Damian Lewis returning the stage after a six-year absence, and for the first time since Homeland made him a mega mega international star (after seeing him in this and Band of Brothers, my nephews in Chicago simply refuse […]
MEN UP A DEAD END… The marvellous junk-shop set by Paul Wills comes into its own most gratifyingly when Damian Lewis finally loses control and trashes it. For most of the play it simply evokes the rubbishy oppression of heavyset, … Continue reading →
In Bomber’s Moon James Bolam plays the kind of sharp-tongued and witheringly sardonic octogenarian most of us can only dream of becoming: and the first half of William Ivory’s play is peppered with funny and vulgar rapid-fire banter between Bolam’s chair-bound Jimmy and doing-it-by-the-book care worker David from his first day in the job. Since Ivory is also […]
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The full list of winners are announced today in the inaugural Also Recognised Awards, the new audience-voted, industry accolade set up by us My Theatre Mates co-founders Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock to celebrate lesser-known but equally worthy talent in fields overlooked by other awards bodies. Over a month’s voting, more than 15,000 people took part. How cool is that?! One of …
FROM BOMBER CREW TO ZIMMER DAYS: A TRIBUTE FAIRLY PAID As the aged heroes of World War II slip gradually away, the urge to bear witness feels ever stronger. In Rattigan’s recently revived FLARE PATH (another production touring this autumn … Continue reading →
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The London Festival of Cabaret opens this week and runs for a fortnight across the city. Featuring a line-up from both sides of the Atlantic you can expect legendary names getting up close to a microphone, singing songs that they love (and may also have composed) and reaching out beyond the spotlight to share stories with an audience.
Unlike a staged musical the atmosphere couldn’t be more relaxed – and over a cocktail or glass of wine, maybe with a bite to eat too, listening to an inspirational performer either singing beautifully or sharing a sparkling anecdote makes for a charming evening.
As the final preparations were being drawn up for Tuesday’s opening night, I caught up with Festival Patron and Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black to talk about his love for the art-form.
JB: Don, what drew you to supporting the Festival?
DB: I’ve always, for as long as I can remember, loved cabaret. When I was managing Matt Monroe, all those years ago, I used to go to those northern clubs and cabaret clubs which were rife in the ’60’s. Places like Talk of the Town, I used to love the atmosphere.
When I started going to America a lot, I used go to all the cabaret places in New York. Lots of things drew me to these places.
You would get singers there who sang the different songs, special material, witty songs. Songs you hear very often. No one in cabaret sings My Way or those out and out popular songs. You get some very, very interesting and intriguing artists.
In New York I used to go and see a guy named Oscar Brown Jr., wherever he appeared. In fact I was discussing him only the other day with Van Morrison, who is a huge fan of his, so is Paul Jones, and many people.
I used to go and see Matt Dennis who wrote great songs like Angel Eyes and Let’s Get Away From It All.
I just like that closeness, the intimacy of the cabaret room. I’m delighted that so much is going on in London, in cabaret. I go to the Crazy Coqs quite often along with the St. James and I go to The Pheasantry too. The other night at The Pheasantry I saw Charles Strouse, the man who wrote Annie and Bye Bye Birdie. Now, you tell me where you can go see a guy, nearly 87 years old, talking for 2 hours and sharing anecdotes about Jule Styne and Hal Prince singing his songs?
Also, I really like the idea of them not being great singers! I like watching the song writers, like Strouse, who’s not a great piano player, not a great singer. You get so much heart and so much emotion in those couple of hours. It’s a different kind of evening. Cabaret really is a great love of mine.
I recently saw Anne Reid at the Crazy Coqs. Now Anne is a great example of someone and she won’t mind me saying this, who really is not a great singer. But she’s a great actress, and therefore a great story-teller.
JB: What are your thoughts on the younger cabaret artistes, as compared to those who do cabaret on the back of longer established careers?
DB: What you get from young artists, that you may not get from the older people, is new material. You do get the younger people, they’ll find a song from a failed musical. You think, “Oh isn’t that beautiful.” They can be full of surprises.
But of course the more seasoned a performer is, the more they’ve got more to draw on and of course you can feel for them too. You are close up. So when you see a person in their 60’s and 70’s singing a song about years gone by or missed opportunities, you cannot help but be moved. It is very touching when you see Anne Reid, who’s I don’t know nearly 80 now, singing a Barbara Cook song. You get the goosebumps. And as I said about Charles Strouse, when he went into The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow, I mean, god almighty it was phenomenal!
I saw Mitch Winehouse at the Hippodrome a few weeks ago, Amy’s dad. He really put through with about a 12 piece orchestra, and he was terrific. So interesting and of course lots of anecdotes about Amy. It was very personal and also very touching.
JB: So – is it about the songs or the story-telling?
DB: Being a lyric writer I’ve always gone for the story teller. It’s interesting because Tony Bennett’s favourite singer and he’s often said this and it says a lot, is Louis Armstrong. Sinatra’s favourite singer was Fred Astaire. These people aren’t known for singing but they are known for storytelling. You hang on every word when these people sing. That’s what I like about cabaret, you don’t have to be the greatest singer, but you just have to get your story across. That’s why with people like Lorna Luft, you hang on every comma.
JB: Don, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and enjoy the Festival!
Aside from cabaret, Don also spoke at length about his song-writing career and part 2 of this fascinating conversation will be published shortly.
The London Festival Of Cabaret – Celebrating Song opens on 28th April and continues at venues across the capital until 11th May. Confirmed artists appearing include Kerry Ellis, Barb Jungr, Janie Dee and Scott Alan (amongst many others) and you can also watch some of today’s younger stars such as Jamie Parker and Caroline Sheen branching out onto the capital’s cabaret circuit.
Dead Royal intertwines the stories of Wallis Simpson and Diana Spencer, one man plays two women who never quite made it to the throne despite behaving like a petulant old queen and an empty-headed young one. We sent our oldest and youngest, er, Royal Correspondents to see it. JF: I suppose this sent you scurrying to […]
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Landor Theatre, London
Written and directed by Claudio Macor
Judith Paris and Susannah Allman
In The Dead Of Night sets out an ambitious premise. Very much a nod to the film noir of the 1940s, Claudio Macor’s play draws upon the classic romantic motifs with a tale set in the fictional South American town of La Roca. Amidst an intrigue of whores, drug cartels, sleazy dockside rendezvous and ultimately murder, passions run high and hearts are broken.
But back in the day Hollywood was enslaved to the Hays Code – a puritanical ethic that governed all aspects of intimacy and sexuality in the movie industry. Macor has already explored this era with The Tailor Made Man. In The Dead Of Night takes artistic licence one step further, by pitching the plot as though the Hays Code did not exist. Gay love is celebrated rather than hidden, whilst the straight sex simmers too. The noir genre cruelly demands respect and scripting the period can prove to be a notorious challenge if melodrama is to be avoided. Whilst Macor’s research into the cocaine-fuelled period is learned and sincere, he overdoses on cliché.
Acclaimed actor Judith Paris leads the company as La Roca’s ageing madam, Elvira. Paris is a delight, making a larger than life character accessible, whilst at the same time casting a GILF-like spell over most of the men in town. Shamelessly exploitative, Macor has chosen his performers with an eye for beauty as much as for talent. Countless ripped young men strut about in vests and butt-slung braces, who if they are not lusting after Elvira, are falling at the feet of Susannah Allman’s Rita, or in the story’s strongest love theme, each other. Defying the conventions of the time, the story leads on the doomed love between Leandro and Massimo, respectively Matt Mella and Jordan Alexander, in a courtship that includes some fabulously choreographed man to man tango.
And it’s Anthony Whiteman’s choreography that marks this show out. Delivering quite possibly the best off-West End dance work in London today, his sublime tangos and salsas are breath-taking for what they accomplish, especially given the Landor’s modest space. Immaculately drilled, his company oozes passion whilst the perfectly sculpted and scantily clad Allman, gives a performance that is not only a smouldering tribute to Rita Hayworth and Lana Turner, but also a sensational dance accomplishment as she moves around her would be suitors.
Notable too on the night are Ned Wolfgang Kelly’s devious Falchi, whilst Ross Harper Millar’s Martinez is memorably classy as a drink and drugs addled Latin bum.
Overblown hokum for sure, but with Paul Boyd (he of Molly Wobbly fame) having laid down a keyboard driven backing score that adds to both time and genre and all supporting a deliciously talented troupe, In The Dead Of Night makes for an entertaining night out. Worth catching!
Runs to 16th May 2015
Readers of Daily Mail columnist Baz Bamigboye may have spotted that the Mates gave the brilliant Baz a sneak peek at one of our winners in our inaugural Also Recognised Awards. We’re so proud of introducing the UK’s first-ever Award for Best Musical Direction – along with our partners and passionate campaigners, musical director Mike Dixon and Andrew Keates – that we couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. So, without further …
THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION AND ITS END What do you do after a revolution? Tyrant toppled, lives sacrificed, people feeling entitled to reward, reformers aflame with rapidly diversifying ideas. Meanwhile things have to be organized, the starving fed, heroes re-examined, laws … Continue reading →
‘Write what you know’ has never been more apt. When a former Daily Express entertainment editor writes a play in which the showbiz section of his lightly fictionalized newsroom is called “Cunts’ Corner” you know you’re in for a fun and filthy ride. Ruder about interfering proprietors than Drop the Dead Donkey, more racist and […]
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HOLD THE FRONT PAGE. WITH TONGS. The Clarion is a newspaper which hates immigrants. And liberals, especially those on the hated rival Sentinel, a barely-disguised Guardian. Britain, it says, is going to the dogs: betraying Nelson and Churchill and Mary … Continue reading →
THE SANDS OF TIME YIELD UP THEIR DREAMS This is Eugene O’Neill’s only comedy: the moment when from his vortex of family addiction, illness, loneliness, romantic seaward longings and deep human empathy came a spurt of hope. It is set … Continue reading →
Less than two days after the star-studded gala to bid farewell to Kevin Spacey at the Old Vic, his successor Matthew Warchus is making headlines with an inaugural year-long season and commanding statement of intent. It’s undoubtedly a whole new era down Waterloo way – the award-laden Young Vic down the road, be warned. Warchus […]
One of the most awkward moments at the Olivier Awards last week came during Kevin Spacey‘s acceptance of his Special Award – when he forgot the name of his successor. “As nice as this is,” said Spacey, Olivier in hand, “I don’t want to necessarily spend a lot of time looking back at the past […]
This morning, producers confirmed that – on the back of a shedload of new five-star reviews from last week’s West End opening – Jonathan Kent‘s Chichester Festival production of Gypsy, “starring Imelda Staunton as the indomitable Rose”, has extended its booking until 28 November 2015 at the Savoy Theatre.