Amidst editor Lisa Martland’s seven Top Picks from the last week of theatre are Libby Purves’ description of her blissful time at Nicholas Hytner’s immersive production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Bridge Theatre and Aleks Sierz’s thoughts on the Kiln Theatre’s new opening, Samuel Adamson’s take on A Doll’s House in Wife.
Ultimately, all eyes are on Rachael Stirling in Plenty and she stylishly carries this story of disillusionment to its inevitable, if uncertain, conclusion.
We’re told Plenty is viewed as a modern classic. For the life of me I have no idea why and the sterling work of this excellent cast can do nothing to dissuade me.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s Olivier Award-nominated production of Singin’ in the Rain will play a strictly limited five-week season at London’s Sadler’s Wells in the summer of 2020, running from 24 July to 30 August 2020 with a press night on 30 July 2020.
I’ve always known that theatres are nice places and that most theatre people are wonderful but I’m currently seeing that confirmed in a completely new way.
Tim Firth’s charming and warm-hearted musical This Is My Family has opened Festival 2019 at Chichester Festival Theatre and it’s impossible not to leave the show with a cheesy grin on your face.
As part of a new series, our editor Lisa Martland picks out seven of her Top Picks from the last week of theatre (29 April-6 May 2019), ranging from Johnny Fox’s nostalgic return to see All My Sons and Maryam Philpott’s thoughts on the much-anticipated Rosmersholm starring Tom Burke and Hayley Atwell.
Frankly, I had qualms about Hugh Bonneville in the role of CS Lewis in Shadowlands: too handsome, too familiar in his evocations of dullish decent steadiness, but before many minutes in the chaffing Common Room scenes which open the play, I could see the point.
Shadowlands isn’t an all-out weepie but there are a few who will find it hard to control their emotions. A well made and moving revival.
Shadowlands, the William Nicholson play that charts the story of C.S. Lewis’ correspondence-turned-relationship with the American poet Joy Gresham, is such a perfect fit for the Chichester audience it’s almost a surprise it isn’t a regular feature here.
This Is My Family is a little gem from Calendar Girls/Neville’s Island writer Tim Firth which blindsided me with its warmth and sense of fun, even when dealing with painful situations.
This is gorgeous. Funny, truthful, wise, and bravely original in form. Anyone with a a family – past, present, remembered, or merely observed in cautious auntly incredulity – should see Tim Firth’s musical This Is My Family.
Chichester Festival Theatre’s Festival 2019 has been announced by artistic director Daniel Evans. It includes John Simm & Dervla Kirwan in Macbeth, Hugh Bonneville in Shadowlands & Tim Firth’s first solo musical starring James Nesbitt.
Caroline or Change has a lot going for it and three potentially interesting plot lines that should fully engage, yet it never quite unites as tidily and explosively as it promises to do, the wackier aspects serving to alienate rather than enhance the rest of the story.
I think variety is the best thing about my life and work. In the last two weeks, I’ve seen a children’s show at Chichester, amateur takes on Our Country’s Good and Follies, three youth theatre shows (one of them in Cambridge and two by National Youth Theatre’s 2018 Rep Company), one straight play, one for under-5s and a musical at London’s Jermyn Street.
David Walliams has an incredible talent of telling stories of normal, everyday children who achieve remarkable things in the face of adversity, with a fair amount of gross humour and giggles thrown in – The Midnight Gang is no exception.
Cock is by no means classic Mike Bartlett but it is still great fun and, for connoisseurs of supreme social awkwardness in particular, a decently entertaining hour and a half.
Some of the beauty of Flowers for Mrs Harris gets lost at Chichester Festival Theatre but it remains a striking new musical
“It’s a work of art… something not real, made to make you feel”
I had much love for Flowers for Mrs Harris when it premiered in Sheffield a couple of years ago, and so I was delighted to see Daniel Evans deciding to revive it at his new abode over in Chichester. My only cavil came with the placing of this most heartfelt musical in the vast space of the Festival Theatre rather than the intimacy of the Minerva where it might perhaps have been better served.
So much of the beauty of the show (book by Rachel Wagstaff from Paul Gallico’s novel, music & lyrics by Richard Taylor) comes from the fact that it isn’t a bells and whistles epic. It is something far more subtle that truly celebrates the ordinary in extraordinary, as Clare Burt’s charlady Ada Harris dares to dream of owning a Christian Dior dress and in working to achieve that dream, illuminates the lives of those around her.
Largely sung-through, the cumulative effect of Flowers for Mrs Harris is like a ripple billowing through a length of silk fabric, flipping it over – beguiling and beautiful, gentle but ultimately transformative. As Ada’s hard work takes her from Battersea to Paris, some nifty doubling in the cast sees her meeting contrasting figures to those for whom she toils. So Louis Maskell switches from accountant to dreamy photographer, Laura Pitt-Pulford from struggling actress to top model, Joanna Riding aristocracy to couturier, and all impress with their clear delineation.
And Burt is just magnificent the unassuming Ada, slowly coming to realise her place in the world, her worth and her right to a greater happiness than she ever dared dream of in the drudgery of post-war Britain. Lez Brotherston’s design looks superb under Mark Henderson’s well-observed lighting choices, and the conclusion is a thing of real, gentle wonder. Don’t just talk about wanting to see new exciting British musical theatre, go and see it now!
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Flowers for Mrs Harris is booking at Chichester Festival Theatre until 29th September
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Flowers For Mrs Harris, a 2016 Sheffield hit for director Daniel Evans when he was there, is the big musical flourish for Chichester Festival Theatre, where Evans is now completing his second year as artistic director.
Flowers for Mrs Harris is one of the most heartwarming shows I have ever seen and a return to the great British musical. The audible gasps, from the audience, at certain parts a testament to both the writing and performances.