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.
Daniel Evans’ elegant, heartfelt production of Flowers For Mrs Harris at Chichester Festival Theatre has been fine-tuned since it ravished our hearts at Sheffield.
I was as baffled as anyone to explain why I was on the edge of my seat and engrossed by the inner workings of quantum engineering, astrophysics and nuclear fission as explained in Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen at Chichester Festival Theatre.
Stand-out performances in any era are often only judged so in retrospect and modern theatre offers much that will be remembered. But once in a while, you know you’re in the presence of greatness, and Ian McKellen’s King Lear will be talked about for years to come.
A small, quiet important play for our times, Charlotte Jones’ The Meeting is led by a luminous, fiercely honest performance by Lydia Leonard as Rachel and Gerald Kyd as the puzzled ultimately broad-shouldered Adam.
This really is a delightful revival of classic show Me and My Girl – next stop the West End? I think or rather I believe it so.
Actor Ryan Pidgen will remember this night. It was the moment when he went out on stage an understudy and came back a star after single-handedly saving a show and the neck of its worried director.
The sun has got his hat on, England’s in the semi-final under a chap with a proper waistcoat, and Noel Gay’s 1937 musical is a great big, lovely, silly, dancing elephant of an all-British vintage musical.
In Sheffield Daniel Evans made a name for himself with dazzling musicals that were, for all the razzamatazz, full of heart and he’s done the same here, taking a show so familiar and finding a whole new range of nuances within it.