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NEWS: National 2017 season highlights: Bryan Cranston in Network, Rory Kinnear’s Macbeth, Pinocchio, new plays

In London theatre, Musicals, Native, News, Plays, Press Releases, Sticky by Press ReleasesLeave a Comment

The National Theatre held its annual press conference today, announcing myriad new productions, casting and other initiatives. Here’s the official press release. World premieres, new writers and ground-breaking adaptations announced for 2017 at the National Theatre Ivo van Hove follows his acclaimed Hedda Gabler with the world premiere of Network, with Bryan Cranston making his UK stage debut Anne-Marie Duff …

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Year in Review: Ian Foster’s Best Actor in a Play & in a Musical

In Awards, Features, Inspiring people, London theatre, Musicals, Native, Opinion, Plays, Regional theatre by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

In addition to lists of top productions, Mates contributor Ian Foster reviews his reviews from the past year to award his personal prizes for the best performances for Best Actor and Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in both plays and musicals…

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AMADEUS – National Theatre

In London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Ian FosterLeave a Comment

“It would make angels mourn”
Perhaps fittingly, on an evening when beautiful tribute was paid to the late Howard Davies, whose invaluable contribution to the National Theatre (36 productions over 28 years) will sorely be missed, there’s a sense of the passing of the guard with director Michael Longhurst making his main stage debut in the South Bank venue. Longhurst has been establishing himself quite the reputation (Constellations and Linda at the Royal Court, Carmen Disruption at the Almeida, A Number at the Nuffield, an extraordinary Winter’s Tale earlier this year, and the brilliant The Blackest Black at the Hampstead, to name just a few) and his graduation here feels entirely earned.
He makes his bow with Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, a play that premiered at this very theatre in 1979 (another sad loss, as Shaffer passed away this summer) and with the enviable resources to hand here, mounts an excellent production. The play depicts a largely fictionalised version of the intertwined lives of composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri and their rival careers, and the Southbank Sinfonia are on hand to provide live orchestral accompaniment. So that when The Marriage of Figaro is premiered, we get an excerpt; when people read the sheet music, we don’t have to imagine the notes of the page, we hear them out loud.
And though the play takes place in the late eighteenth century Viennese court, the Sinfonia remain in modern dress, a constant reminder of the timelessness of Mozart’s music, how it has endured, thrived even. This is best displayed in a breathtaking sequence that closes the first half, Longhurst at his bravura best. Using the full space of the Olivier, designer Chloe Lamford sweeps a platform forwards, backlit with increasingly powerful floodlights from Jon Clark, on which period-dressed singers contrast with contemporary musicians as they give a soaring rendition of part of the Requiem. Then the lights drop, the musical ecstacy pauses and Lucian Msamati’s Salieri gives an excoriating speech as he’s utterly consumed by jealousy – it’s an extraordinary theatrical moment.
Msamati (following on from Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in what must be close to a career-best year for him) is simply superb as the Machiavellian manipulator who can’t believe God has forsaken him for another, his silky asides to the audience rich with biting comedy, his outrage never less than bitterly heartfelt. Adam Gillen is a brattish vision in baby pink Doc Martens along with his finery, a magnificently awesome display of genius-wrapped arrogance that clearly irritates the court as much as his music inspires, and there’s crucial work too from Karla Crome as Mozart’s lover, then wife Constanze, a smaller but no less significant role of real heart. 
The biological inaccuracies, such as they are, may still frustrate some but as a psychological study of jealousy, and how we – both as society and individuals – treat those considered to possess genius, Amadeus is a powerful play indeed and this is undoubtedly a stunning production thereof. We’re also amusingly often reminded of the dangers of making judgments – the court often scoffs at Mozart’s work, some people may have previously been unimpressed by this play – but I’m throwing my hat in with this, a resounding success for a cast and creative team at the top of their game, and the perfect tribute to Shaffer.  
Running time: 3 hours (with interval)Photos: Marc BrennerBooking until 2nd February, more performances to be announced soon and £20 Friday Rush and £15 Day Tickets available, even for sold out performances.

2016 marks the fourteenth Travelex Tickets season at the National Theatre.
On 2nd February 2017, Amadeus will be broadcast live to over 680 screens around the UK – more info at

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TICKETS: Mark’s Top Ten recommendations + this week’s openings (15 Feb)

In Features, London theatre, Musicals, Native, News, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Mark ShentonLeave a Comment

A Broadway comedy and two British created musicals arrive in the West End this week – one from last summer’s season at Bath’s Theatre Royal, the other after a long stage life of touring regionally and internationally for the last eight years. Will any of them make it to next week’s Top 10 list? This week’s main openings In London: …

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Weekly Theatre Podcast: Escaped Alone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Red Velvet

In Audio, London theatre, Native, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by As Yet Unnamed London Theatre PodcastLeave a Comment

This week the London theatre bloggers discuss Caryl Churchill’s latest play Escaped Alone at the Royal Court, the National Theatre revival of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Red Velvet, starring Adrian Lester as part of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company season in the West End.

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Weekly Theatre Podcast: The Winter’s Tale, The Hairy Ape, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes

In Audio, Features, London theatre, Native, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by As Yet Unnamed London Theatre PodcastLeave a Comment

This week the London theatre bloggers discuss The Winter’s Tale, starring Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench and opening the year-long Branagh Theatre West End season, The Hairy Ape starring Bertie Carvel at the Old Vic, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes at the Tricycle and, now finished at Soho Theatre, Joanne.

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In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Aleks SierzLeave a Comment

It’s a question of faithfulness. Should an adaptation be faithful to its original source, or can it just take off and roam around like a free spirit? I must say that new versions of classics that stick closely to the original bore me rigid. I mean, if you’re not going to make big changes, why bother? I much prefer adaptations which are imaginative offshoots rather than those which remain slavish growths.


In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

Admit it, ladies. Within the most modestly-clothed and lipstickless of us pale white matrons, there lurks a sneaky wish to be – just for an hour or two – poured into a tight snakeskin dress, rechristened “Peaches”, and able to snarl “When God made me She broke the mould – put an earthquake in the sway of my hips, a hurricane in the curve of my stride and a tornado in the whip of my hair…Even when I’m a disaster, I’m a natural disaster,! This body is a gift and I will unwrap it as much as I see fit. I am a prize! Uh-huh!”. So thank you, Adjoa Andoh, for the brief fantasy. You did it for all of us.