Jodie Comer’s extraordinary West End stage debut in Suzie Miller’s play Prima Facie at the Harold Pinter Theatre reveals not only strong vocal skill but an absolutely dazzling physical expressiveness and high-voltage emotional power.
Mike Bartlett has made a bit of an art out of notions of the counter-factual future. In The 47th, he grounds his flights of fancy in the knowledge of institutions, people and political tides.
WHAT IF IF ONLY – how many times must that have been said of a best beloved who has died. If only I had, what if this or that hadn’t happened?
If anything, the resonances in Mike Bartlett’s Albion have grown and strengthened as countrywide divisions have hardened.
Caryl Churchill’s Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. at the Royal Court is wonderfully bright and incisively perceptive.
Intriguing Cold War thriller Anna is thoroughly immersive, but lacks a convincing sense of historical reality.
The winners of the 64th Evening Standard Theatre Awards have been announced, with double wins for the National Theatre’s Antony & Cleopatra and the West End productions of Company and Hamilton.
Machinal is the type of production that only the Almeida seems able to produce, with an inventive vision that simultaneously draws you into the story while still keeping you at arm’s length.
The National Theatre and Young Vic co-production with Good Chance Theatre of Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson’s The Jungle will receive a West End transfer.
This new play about refugee-camp life in Calais is a gruelling docu-drama, powerful but oh so middle class!
Rupert Goold’s previous, James Graham’s Ink, went on to enjoy its present run in the West End. For sheer entertainment value, I’ll be amazed if Mike Bartlett’s stirring eulogy for a disappearing but not completely gone England and Englishness doesn’t go the same way.
Albion begins with Audrey, played with indefatigable energy by Victoria Hamilton, in the garden of her deceased uncle’s family home, deep in the English countryside. She has bought the property, which boasts a historic 1920s garden, now much overgrown, which a First World War veteran once formed into a pastoral paradise fit for heroes.
The end-of-year lists of favourite plays and performances should be on their way soon, once the food coma has abated, but to tide you over, here’s my list of 9 of my top moments in a theatre over 2016, the things that first come to mind when someone says ‘what did you enjoy this year’. For reference, here’s my 2015 list and 2014 list.
The ‘arrival’ of the Hope TheatreI’ve been gazumped by The Stage in recognising this Islington fringe theatre for a stellar year but it is no more than Matthew Parker and his team there deserve. Over the course of 2016, intelligent and exciting programming has made the Hope into a must-see venue for me, no mean feat in a market already full of fringe venues and new ones opening every time you look up. From promoting new writing to astutely chosen revivals, scorchingly personal writing to themed seasons culminating in delightfully campy lesbian musicals, this theatre has been on fire all year long and has made me excited to see every single thing they put – and there’s precious few places, large or small, that can say that.
Wizards and magic and owls, oh myI’d have to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again before deciding officially whether it is a great piece of drama or not, but there’s no doubting that it is a stonking piece of theatre and the atmosphere at the very first shows was something quite amazing to be a part of, even from the back row of the balcony. The romantic sweep of Christine Jones’ set and Steven Hoggett’s movement, John Tiffany’s endlessly imaginative direction and of course, the masterfully jaw-dropping effects from Jamie Harrison. It felt like something I’d never seen before and in the case of Sprocket the Owl, it was something no-one else saw either!
(c) Stephen CummiskeyMiriam Buether turning the world upside downIt’s incredible that in the same month that I saw Harry Potter, a play at the Hampstead Theatre matched it for simply astounding set design. Miriam Buether’s work on Wild was jaw-droppingly good and what I was particularly proud of on a personal level, was how I managed to reference it in plain sight in the review, yet still managing to avoid spoilers.See also: opening in the same month, Bob Crowley’s design for Aladdin was impressive against such stiff competition
The Hired Man brought to orchestral lifeI knew the concert version of The Hired Man at Cadogan Hall would be good, but I wasn’t prepared for just how emotional it would be. Hearing Jenna Russell and John Owen-Jones duetting on ‘No Choir Of Angels’ took me to the edge, being joined by Matthew Seadon-Young for the soaring ‘If I Could’ pushed me right over to leave me quietly sobbing for most of the interval.See also: Glenn Close ripping through ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’
Discovering Lorraine Hansberry, for myselfBefore March this year, I’d never seen a Lorraine Hansberry play and seeing two in a month – Eclipse’s touring A Raisin in the Sun and the National Theatre’s Les Blancs – absolutely blew me away. Both will rank very highly in my end-of-year list but more than that, I enjoyed finding my own way into loving Hansberry’s work. It’s all very well being told someone is good (even when that someone is my mum, who has ranked Raisin… as one of her favourite plays for a while) but I much prefer forming these opinions for myself and now I can hand-on-heart agree that Hansberry’s was a superb talent.
The glorious rise of Noma DumezweniThere’s something beautiful in seeing karmic justice being served, especially to an actor who you’ve admired for a goodly while. Noma Dumezweni may not have been a household name at the beginning of the year but the trifecta of stepping into the lead role of Linda at a moment’s notice, making her directorial debut in I See You, and then nailing her inspired casting as the adult Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has seen her profile rise stratospherically. Most impressive of all the serene grace with which she has handled all manner of racist trolling on Twitter.
Finally getting ‘Satisfied’In a most rare example of restraint from myself, I had the Original Cast Recording of Hamilton for something like a year without listening to it, knowing that I would be doing my damnedest to see the show. And sure enough, with several months planning and the help of a generous birthday gift, I got to see the original cast live at the Richard Rodgers Theatre whereupon I experienced the absolute genius and glory of Renée Elise Goldsberry’s ‘Satisfied’ completely unspoiled. Without exaggeration, one of the best moments of musical theatre ever written.See also: getting to relive the sumptuous harmonies of Jessie Mueller, Kimiko Glenn and Keala Settle in ‘A Soft Place To Land’ from Waitress thanks to the wonder of Broadway cast recordings
(c) Pascal VictorIsabelle Huppert being Isabelle HuppertI’d argue that Isabelle Huppert is one of the finest actors in the world and what is particularly exciting about her is that she rarely takes easy, predictable decisions in her choice of collaborators and material. From films such as Elle to La Pianiste, she always provokes and so perhaps it was no surprise that a rare UK theatre appearance would be equally challenging. If anything got me through the nearly 4 hours of Phaedra(s), it was the undeniable electric star quality that she radiates, no matter what she’s doing.See also: getting to see Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart is always a pleasure, even if I had to suffer Pinter for the privilege
Holding the curtain in Derby A personal one here but one that still makes me chuckle. Back in March, I was invited to Derby Theatre to see the double bill of Look Back in Anger and response piece Jinny but the train I was booked on was cancelled. I got on the next one, knowing that time would be extremely tight, but I wasn’t expecting that when I got to the station, the wonderful Heidi from Derby Theatre bundled me into her car along with Mark Lawson, Michael Coveney and some other bloke, drove us to the stage door, where we were rushed into the theatre where they had held the beginning of the performance for our arrival! Not bad for a two-bit blogger 😉
A great wave has engulfed the coast with consequent damage to the nearby nuclear power plant. Within this framework, Kirkwood builds a wonderfully delicate portrait of love, marriage and tensions boiling
Drama about generational tension and nuclear disaster is rather metaphor-heavy and lacks energy.
Guitars, girls and great music make up this fascinating and beautifully told story of the rise of The Kinks. Sunny Afternoon is now touring following an extended, Olivier Award-winning West End season.
One of the seminal British bands of the Sixties gets the biographical treatment at The Playhouse this week as part of a national tour in Sunny Afternoon, a show that’s several cuts above the jukebox musical you may be expecting.
Mike Bartlett’s latest, inspired by the Edward Snowden affair, relies on a coup de theatre to get out of a stalled plot.
God bless a playwright you can’t predict. Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III was founded on a pretty simple idea, and a frankly rather jejune imagining about the Royal family; it transferred up West and to America amid huge plaudits. This one by contrast is rich in important, complex ideas and riskily surreal conversations, and is most unlikely to transfer: not least because of a certain extraordinary, unexpected technical coup de theatre in the last ten of its hundred minutes.
New play about a lost teenage youth has an impressive production, but is thin on plot and character.
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