There have been countless adaptations of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet over the years; my last experience of it was the much-hyped production at the Barbican last summer. That version, while it had much to recommend it, left me overall a bit underwhelmed – not to mention exhausted, after a first act that lasted almost two hours.
When The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in 1890 by Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, it caused a great scandal, despite already having been heavily censored by the magazine’s editor. Later, when adapting the story to be published as a book, Oscar Wilde himself removed further material, in particular some of the more homoerotic passages.
Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. Grey Gardens is a musical based on the critically acclaimed 1975 documentary about former First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale. Despite their wealthy background and connections, the two were revealed in the 1970s to be living in squalor, their house overrun by stray cats (and other wildlife) and deemed ‘unfit for human habitation’ by the Health Department.
If my Christmas spirit was a bit lacking when I arrived at Bridge House Theatre last night, it’s safe to say it’s not any more. A Christmas Carol… More or Less takes Dickens’ classic festive tale and gives it a unique, original and hilarious twist, which also highlights the continuing relevance of the story in our modern society.
As subject matter goes, you don’t get a lot darker than death row (especially when the story’s set in Texas). In Epsilon Productions’ The State vs John Hayes, a woman convicted of murdering her husband and lover sits alone in her cell, the night before the trip to court that will decide her ultimate fate. But is she really alone? Can we believe a word she says? Elyese Dukie’s story is anything but straightforward, and over the next hour she takes the opportunity to share that story with the audience, in an intimate soliloquy that’s both captivating and deeply unsettling.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous about this one. The description of fanSHEN’s Invisible Treasure reads: ‘No actors. No plot. But there’s you.’ That’s a scenario that fills a risk-averse introvert like me with a sensation verging on panic. (Of course, it didn’t help that none of my friends were available, so I had to go solo.) But hey, it’s good to try new things, right?
The evenings may be getting colder, but inside the King’s Cross Theatre there’s a heatwave going on, in more than one sense. In the Heights was a word-of-mouth hit on Broadway before arriving in London, and it’s easy to see why; the show is vivacious, colourful and full of energy, with a strong story and a memorable cast of characters. What’s not to love?
Playwright David Auburn‘s best-known work, Proof, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001, along with a multitude of other awards. It’s been produced on Broadway and in the West End, and made into a Hollywood movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins. So it’s no surprise that I had pretty high expectations going into Front Foot Theatre’s new production, directed by Sebastien Blanc. But I still wasn’t expecting to be quite so powerfully affected by this emotional rollercoaster of a play, particularly as it deals with two subjects I don’t know much about: mental illness and mathematics.
“With a strong cast and intimate staging at the King’s Head Theatre, this play is definitely worth checking out”
As someone raised on West End musicals, I’ve grown used to grand spectacles, produced on a huge scale and a big budget, with lavish sets and an army of stage crew. It never would have occurred to me that you could present a show of that kind in a fringe theatre, with a cast of twelve and a band of five. Yet Thoroughly Modern Millie, at the tiny and intimate Landor Theatre, does just that – and is easily as entertaining as any of those big productions.
‘You won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews.’ This quote from the Monty Python musical Spamalot has inspired a new show, dedicated to celebrating the contribution of Jewish people to musical theatre over the last century. From Stephen Sondheim to Irving Berlin, Jule Styne to Burt Bacharach, I certainly had no idea so many great names in the industry came from a Jewish background. (Although if I’m honest, I can’t say I’d ever actually thought about it.)