Theater

Martin McDonagh is a very confident and clever writer whose most recent success was the film Three billboards outside Ebbing Missouri but he must also have felt incredibly brave when he wrote The Lieutenant of Inishmore in 1994 (although it was not staged until 2001) as it is a very dark satire about the IRA and their splinter group the INLA. He spares no punches in portraying them as fecking idiots whose answer to everything is torture and murder. The plot is simple Mad Padraic, a terrorist so dangerous that he is thrown out of the IRA, is disturbed to hear that his beloved cat Wee Thomas is ill that he interrupts his torturing of a local drug dealer to rush to his home on the island of Inishmore to be with him. It sets up an elongated black comedy sketch worthy of Monty Python or Spike Milligan.The setting designed by Christopher Oram, as always with Michael Grandage's artful productions is impressive and detailed . The main scenes take place in his father's cottage on the island , which apart from the plain blue cyc outside the front door and windows, looks incredibly solid and shows Padraic's humble rural background. The rest of the scenes are played in front of a splendid 3D map of the island of Inishmore which is also used to cover scene changes in the cottage.The two central characters who open the play are the terrorist's father Donny, a delightful comic performance by Denis Conway who has been charged with looking after the cat and the young Davey, an impressive West End debut by Chris Walley who has discovered the body of the cat on the road and boosts a "girl's mane of hair". They decide to let Padraic down the gently with the news, just like the very old joke about the person told to let people down gently by saying the cat is on the roof when it has died and later explains to his relative that the mother in law is on the roof. This is the level of the farcical comedy throughout even in the dark bloody scenes of torture and murder which comes to a climatic conclusion in a bloodbath at the end of the play.Aiden Turner plays Padraic, dressed in a white vest and a two revolver holster and is required to look mean and broody throughout even when he encounters a love interest with another would be terrorist Mairead played with cool authority by Charlie Murphy. Even in his most desperate difficulties with three guns at his head and hands tied he still believes "something will turn up". His fan base from his role on TV Poldark will easily put aside his unpleasant character and enjoy his performance. They are well supported by other members of the INLA who are seeking to keepcontrol of the group and are involved in the desperate shootout which leads one character to muse, "it is incidents like this put tourists off the Ireland" and another to reflect that "I don't suppose it is the travel that attracts fellas to the INLA". Michael Grandage's company consistently deliver very high quality productions, well cast, beautifully staged and directed with a strong clear hand and never let the audience down. I just hope that next time he tackles something more substantial with the same quality and eye for detail.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★★★★Seat: stalls N | Price of Ticket: £89
July 05, 2018
Flesh & Bone. The basic composites of every living human being on this planet. If you rip the skin and personality away to reveal the raw foundations, we are all the same. So why do we judge? Why as humans do we have this innate desire to push people into boxes or into societal ranks? Why do we deem certain people above or beneath us... better or worse? ‘Flesh & Bone’ at the SOHO Theatre is here in unapologetic ferocity to unearth the brutal truth of working class existence.Terrence lives on a council estate with his brother Reiss, their Grandfather and Terry’s girlfriend Kelly; whilst below them lives Jamal, the local drug dealer. The hair raising 80minute play rushes through their lives, the societal stereotypes they are inherently forced to maintain and their deep desire for something greater. The writing is unbridled, visceral and evocative. Elliot Warren dances between brash colloquial vocabulary and poetic Shakespearean beauty. What hits the most is that his writing is honest and real. You sit there and feel sick knowing at some point or another you’ve had these feelings about this “class” of people you’ve assumed you’re better than, but why? Because you were more fortunate to be given more opportunities? He highlights the damaging concept of privilege without having to hammer it home, it naturally falls over you, and you sit there and relate to it guilt ridden. He brings the humour and heartache with wonderful nuance, pace changes and articulation are wonderfully crafted by the company of five. This is kept in check by Warren and Brady having directed it themselves. It is fluid, explosive and still: not an easy combination to master, but master it they do especially Warren who manages to nail acting, writing and directing the entire piece.The play is reliant on the chemistry of the cast, which work a wonder here. Elliot Warren as Terrence is a firecracker, a perfect microcosm of the council estate, a lad, the braun, crass, unforgiving and formidable. He’s the type of guy you wouldn’t cross down an alley, he owns that, but when he realises this also extends to his brother, he feels a loss that Warren so wonderfully portrays, and questions whether if his own brother fears him, is this the reason he will never achieve anything more? Nick T Frost playing the Grandad provides a lot of the comedic moments, he sits comfortably here, really knowing how to hone a joke and land the sentiment as well. Alessandro Babalola plays Jamal with excellent balance, an imposing drug dealer who struggles to find himself who intimidates you completely, but also shreds your heart when toxic masculinity forces him to hide his sensitivity. Olivia Brady weaves the pattern of Kelly beautifully, her gear changes are brilliantly executed, her sense of comedic timing is on point and as the only female has this inexplicable authority that grounds the testosterone. The real diamond in the rough in this show however, is Michael Jinks’ Reiss. Jinks naturally bounces between the likeable and ferocious, he’s able to evoke humour whilst also narrate faultlessly. His presence on stage is captivating and he manages to embody the text wonderfully. He really ignites the more internal moments and his battle with owning his sexuality and still being part of this gritty world, this desperate need to conform, really resonates and forces you to understand that the differences between you and them are minimal if none at all.Poetry, is the most important part of this show. The writing. The rhyming. Itdemands you to understand that we’re all on the same level, that we all have the ability to intellectually articulate ourselves if given encouragement and direction and opportunity. I was in all the top sets at schools, I had people in my class who would achieve A after A, they were from council estates and less fortunate upbringings but societal attitudes forced them to remain there, and in a privileged opinion, not better themselves because they never believed they could. In the flesh and the bone of that black box studio tonight, as they shouted at the council in despair at the prospect of being forced from their homes, we were all forced to realise that the sad truth for most of them is they’ll never escape, and well... we haven’t exactly helped them to. Review by Ben Kipkiss Rasting: ★★★★★Price of Ticket: £14
July 05, 2018
If you're like me or the majority of people on my timeline, you'll have watched the entire series of Friends on Netflix a number of times. I think I may be on my 6th rerun of it?! But it got me thinking, If there was a musical who could be in it? So I took to the internet and made my dream cast list. Tweet us and let us know who you would like to see in the musical version of Friends!Rachel Green | Emily Tierney Ross Geller | Gerard McCarthy Monica Geller | Lauren Samuels Chandler Bing | Hadley Fraser Phoebe Buffay | Asmeret Ghebremichael Joey Tribbiani | Sam Mackay Janice Litman Goralnik | Jodie Jacobs Mike Hannigan | Oliver Tompsett Estelle Leonard | Mazz Murray Richard Burke | Alex Bourne Emily Waltham | Gina Beck Gunther | Stuart Matthew Price Carole Willick | Rachel TuckerSusan Bunch | Marisha WallaceFrank Buffay | Tyronne Huntley Mona | Lucie Jones David | Kieran Brown Sandra Green | Elaine Paige
July 04, 2018
Opening in 2015, this revival of the Rogers and Hammerstein's 1951 musical was a hit on Broadway. It won four Tony Awards; including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actress, Best Featured Actress and Best Costume Design. This production comes over to London where is plays at the historic London Palladium. Personally I am not a huge fan of Rogers and Hammerstein's work, I find a lot of their work to be dated and not relevant. But this show proved me wrong, it was as relevant as ever with the references to building walls around the country and trying to westernise the culture. It actually was quite shocking to see how our modern political struggles are represented through this period piece written over 60 years ago. Through Bartlett Sher and Christopher Gattelli’s visions, this production of The King and I is a true thing of beauty. Its tight and fresh but still has that classical feel to it that we a crave when seeing a Rogers and Hammerstein piece. The sets by Michael Yeargan are actually quite simple, of course there is a lavishness to them but in the bases of the design its simplistic and not busy which is just perfect for this piece and it is framed wonderfully by Catherine Zuber’s stunning costume design.My only critique for the creative side of things would be to get the volume button up! In such a big house it was so quiet, I wanted to hear the stunning Orchestra beam through the gorgeous theatre, but instead it just played softly. Anna Leonowens is being played by Broadway legend, Kelli O’Hara. I am not one to be wrapped into any kind of hype, so I expected nothing from her in this show and I was immensely surprised and amazed. It’s almost as if this role was written for her, she performs this role with a subtlety that was enchanting to watch but filled the huge house of the London Palladium. From the moment she walked on stage she commanded the audience’s attention and we were with her the whole way through. A star performance that is definitely one of the theatrical highlights of the year. Ken Watanabe plays the King of Siam, he took a long time to warm into the role it seemed. He didn’t get into his stride until the second act which was a slight disappointment. I struggled to actually understand what he was saying and during his first number I didn’t catch anything he was said. That being said, his chemistry with Kelli O’Hara was electric. Na-Young Jeon as Tuptim was a triumph, she was almost like a modern Disney Princess with her beauty and voice, but the journey was heart breaking and capturing, all down to her performance of the role. Dean John Wilson gave a damp performance as Lun Tha, not offensive to the eye but easily forgotten. The same can be said for Jon Chew as Prince Chulalongkorn, not terribly strong in the show and actually felt slightly artificial.At this press performance, the role of Lady Thiang was played by Naoko Mori who played it with grace but an intense inner struggle that was beautiful and tragic to watch. She held her ground and strength the whole way through, but we could see her breaking inside, finally crumpling at the end. It was a stunning journey to watch. The ensemble in this show are just fantastic, in the play in act 2 I was left stunned at the beauty of the dance piece they performed on stage. This is such a good example of an ensemble who are together and perform as one. A true credit to the show. This is a beautiful production and has already gone down in history, but it will be a long time before anyone forgets this gorgeous production. Although there are some flaws in casting, it still remains to be a classic and one to set the mould of musical theatre. A piece that is worth the ticket price. Review by Mark Swale Rating: ★★★★Seat: Stalls, L 36 | Price of Ticket: £95
July 04, 2018
Every man was a boy once. Whether he is following protocol, correcting his posture or relying on his uniform, that boy never leaves.“For King and Country” is a court room drama that takes place in 1918 on the Western Front. Private Hamp is facing a trial following his desertion. Only we learn that he has little active memory of that desertion, that it wasn’t a brave act but a symptom of his need to just leave, as he just couldn’t take it anymore. After seeing his friend blown to pieces and ending up drowned in mud following an explosion, he was shell shocked, and just “couldn’t take it no more”. This show directed by Paul Thomlinson and playing at Southwark Playhouse until 21 July, is an intensely sad two hours fuelled by moments of surprise, desperation and hope. During the Great War, acts of desertion and cowardice were punishable by death. I recently read a book called “Dead Man Walking” about the death penalty in the US. It asks about the point of killing a soul when that death will not rectify what he did. Here, Hamp cannot even articulate why he left or whether he would ever have come back to the front if he had had the chance, and you notice how fragile life can be, even in war where there are hundreds of casualties every day. The play involves the themes of mental health, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, we are lucky to be faced with theatre that accepts that mental health is just as important as any other physical illness. For a play that is over 50 years old, it is incredible that they were already addressing it! In the play, the President of the Court (played by Peter Ellis) asks Hamp’s lawyer, who mentions his mental health, “do you mean he is a lunatic?”. I feel lucky to be alive in a time when PTSD can be truthfully discussed. What I enjoyed about the ensemble cast is that it was made of a diverse group.While they all wear pretty much the same uniform and colours, the personalities come out through voice and speech pattern. They all form a brotherhood, despite their harsh arguments. The lead Adam Lawrence as Hamp presents a highly emotional and troubling performance of a 24-year-old married man and father of a boy from Northern England whose uncertain speech pattern seems to have the ability to save him and kill him at the same time. One can imagine that back home, his slow and hesitant speech will make people ignore him, lose patience. I admire that his defendant, Lieutenant Hargreaves (played charismatically and sensitively Lloyd Everitt) finds that patience for him. He waits humbly, respectfully, for but a word or two that will help his defence. While he tries not to get too emotional about Hamp, the brotherhood takes over and he can’t accept that this very brotherhood would kill him. Andrew Cullum as the medical officer O’Sullivan is excellent as his mind will not accept that he could have helped Hamp more when he came to him because of his nerves and moves us when losing his calm. We can’t even imagine what he sees every day. I would say that more than anything, what the soldiers all have in common is keeping it together and being patient. This may be the reason Hemp makes some of them so angry: they may be thinking “why did he just walk off when I am on the verge of doing it every day but stop myself?” I must mention the loyalty between the soldiers. During the trial, while Hargreaves defends Hamp against Lieutenant Midgley (Fergal Coghlan), and that the latter passionately attacks Hamp’s desertion, they are still brothers and comfort each other at the end of the day. With scenes interrupted by trench fighting, the weight of what these men are going through is palpable. We can sense the heat, smell and comfort of liquor thanks to Jacqueline Gunn’s dark and wooden design and the men’s tight costumes by Deborah Wilkins and Paulina Domaszewska. As we approach the end of the centenary, this play honours the individual souls’ irrational hope and desperation that led them through the War. It is an at times uncomfortable reminder of the individual within the large statistics.Review by Sophie TergeistRating: ★★★★Seat: B29 | Price of Ticket: £20
July 03, 2018
This week The Bishopgate Institute, in partnership with Musical Theatre International presents Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s classic West Side Story. This is The Bishopgate’s in house production and is set in The Grand Hall in traverse. Written sixty years ago this show, like the original star crossed lovers tale is a classic. This is Bishopsgate’s first solo venture in to the Non-professional Theatre scene after working with Centre Stage London in 2016 when the co-produced Ragtime in Concert. I use the term ‘Non-professional’ as AmDram always makes me think of village halls and Tinkly out of tunes pianos: this is far from it. First off it’s such a treat to sit in Bishopsgate’s Great Hall listening to a full orchestra playing Bernstein’s masterpiece. It’s no wonder West Side Story is so timeless. Conducted by Ben Ferguson, the orchestra bring every moment and nuance to life. It’s resplendent to say in the least. Director Toby Hine’s set is minimal leaving the full stage for the actors and the music to shine and shine they did. Unfortunately these were the only things that did shine brightly. I believe that musical theatre progresses and evolves by new musicals being created and grown, not by taking works of art that have been around for several decades and giving it your own spin: especially when it’s West Side Story. The reason it’s so timeless is because it’s perfect. Hine’s artistic liberties drastically changes things. I really do have to speak about one vital change - Tony kills Bernardo by snapping his neck. By accident. Since watching the show I have looked in to how easy it would be to snap someone’s neck and the answer is ‘not easy at all’, it is a deliberate killing. In the situation of the rumble, where everyone is on guard, it’s highly unlikely this would have happened - this is a case of stick to the source material. Guy Salim, Lemington Ridley and Chris Whittaker’s choreography wasn’t as structured as expected with West Side; the music is the air for the lungs of the choreography and at times it seemed a bit chocked; Perhaps a case of too many cooks. However the cast delivered it sensationally and America, as always was the moment the roof was raised! Bravo Sharkettes! The cast were brilliant and it was hard to remember that all of them are workingin a non-professional show. As the star crossed lovers we have James Gower-Smith and Emily McDouall. Gower-Smith’s Tony is a fantastic vocalist, making easy work of the score, smooth and very pleasing to listen to. As Maria McDouall’s control is superb in the upper notes demanded of the part. Together their voices blend superbly, marrying and working together to pull at the audience’s heart strings. Playing Anita is Victoria Greenway bringing a slightly older interpretation of the character. I believe the dichotomy to Maria worked well in this production as McDouall played her more naive than I have seen previously. Greenway’s vocal is strong and wonderful to listen to, demanding your attention; reminds me of Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, brilliant.Both groups of men were very good. Form the Sharks Charlie Smith as Baby John and Glen Jordan as A-Rab were brilliant, keeping the energy high which clearly filtered through to the other boys. Their dancing was strong as well as their characterisation, comedy and vocals. Bernardo (Christopher Georgiou) led a strong group of boys in the form of the sharks. This gam commanded the stage each time they walked on. Georggiou’s strong characterisation was a stark contrast to the Jets and grounded the piece. The most perturbing part of the piece was a girl holding down Anita during the scene we all feel uncomfortable watching. Unfortunately having the chorus of girls taking Anybody’s (Lauren Pears) story arc was a poor directorial choice and spoiled what was a spot on, superb performance from Pears. This cast gave stellar performances; which combined with good choreography and the grandeur of the orchestra sat perfectly in this venue. Heartfelt and moving. The cast did Bernstein and Sondheim proud: sadly some directorial decisions let the production down. Review by Samuel ClemensRating: ★★★★Seat: C11 | Price of ticket: £25
July 02, 2018
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the concept of Sh*tfaced Shakespeare, it’s really quite simple. In a company of five actors, one is chosen at random before the evening’s performance to get outrageously drunk before taking to the stage. Sh*tfaced Shakespeare declare in any given week, no performer is ever asked to drink on consecutive nights. In addition they are never required to drink more than four times in the course of one month. (They proudly acknowledge that this means they are the probably most sober cast of performers in the West End!) It’s then up to the talented cast of actors surrounding the one drunk performer to try and keep the show running as smoothly as possible. At the Press Night for Romeo and Juliet, it was Beth-Louise Priestley’s ‘Juliet’ who had taken to the gin and lager and little too hard before curtain up. Can we be at all surprised with the concept like this that the show did not run smoothly? Juliet forgot to call her beau Romeo, but instead referred to him as Richard (the actor’s name) throughout the show. She wobbled atop her balcony and leant over the edges so brashly, my heart almost stopped. She licked people’s noses. She wrestled with curtains. She spat out her drink laughing at her costars jokes. She was also flagged down by the compère for “dangerous behaviour” and had her dagger taken from her and was instead handed a large stuffed toy snake (which she proceeded to use to re-enact Britney Spears’ iconic “I’m A Slave For U” performance. As the show was beginning to come to the dramatic close, she sprung up from bed to declare “I’m not dead yet!” and skipped off the stage...! Safe to say, I’ve never seen anything quite like it!There is something very similar to Mischief Theatre Company shows that is presented by Sh*tfaced Shakespeare. The chaos of the production is wonderful and makes for real fun; the difference is that Mischief Theatre have planned their shenanigans ahead of time while Sh*tfaced Shakespeare are making things up as they go along. The corpsing and improv to be seen is very genuine and the atmosphere in the intimate Leicester Square Theatre reflected that. A very giddy audience who were willing to participate and were all up for a good laugh, many of whom were proud to have been back several times to see the show. I suppose with a drunk actor chosen at random, no two shows will ever be the same.The stage is cosy and the set is virtually nonexistent other than a few reutilised prop pieces. Costumes are not exactly high-brow but the audience is not there for production value - they’re there to have a good laugh and that’s exact what happened. This was undoubtedly the worst production of Romeo an Juliet I have ever seen.Bill the Bard would be turning in his grave if he knew what was happening to his work, but as night’s out go, this one’s a knockout. It’s a perfect date night or excuse to gather your pals together to have a great night of belly laughs and naughtiness. Tickets are an absolute steal and if you have any sense of humour at all, you’ll love this show.Appauling Shakespeare but a bloody brilliant night out. Review by Harriet Langdown Rating: ★★★★Seat: E27 Stalls | Price of Ticket: £21.50
June 27, 2018
If you missed Jez Butterworth’s wonderful play Jerusalem in its 2009 West End run then hurry along to the Watermill Newbury for this excellent revival which is on until 21stJuly. The delightful theatre offers a perfect setting for the fictional village of Flintock , which is only a 40 minute drive from the Village of Pewsey from where Butterworth drew inspiration. The council of Kennet and Avon as the antagonists of the play keep it set nearby. It is a picture of isolated rural village and as one character says, the villagers’ don’t go “east of Wootton Basset”. The auditorium and foyer are decked out for the village May Day festival in flowers, fairy lights and bunting to create this idyllic scene.At the centre of this play is Johnny “Rooster” Byron a drunken drug dealer who has lived in Rooster’s wood for years and is a magnet for the waifs and strays of the village. He is an intriguing character repellent and charming almost at the same time. A cross between the drunken philanderer Falstaff , the Pied Piper leading the village youths astray and Fagin , a loveable rogue trading off others weaknesses. But there are also hints of Henry V at Agincourt, St George protecting a threatened maiden and King Arthur telling tales of past glories at his round table. This complex character is brilliantly played by Jasper Britton from the moment we first meet him refreshing himself after a long night by dipping his head into the toilet and flicking the water over the front row, to his mesmeric bloodied final rant he is on stage virtually the whole time and gives a spell binding performance. He holds the audience attention in his glorious fantastical story telling of Summers of Love, Babies with born with bullets in their mouths, daredevil stunts, Girls Aloud fantasy and Giants who built Stonehenge yet he touches them too in his relationship with the young Marky and his mother Dawn (Natalie Walter).Rooster holds court outside his dilapidated caravan in amongst the junk and beneath the trees: an excellent set design by Frankie Bradshaw that makes the most of the small space. Here we meet his disciples, followers and customers, a curious mixture of degenerates and oddballs. Ginger (Peter Caulfield with very bright dyed hair!) is older and has remained loyal to Rooster for a generation .He is a dreamer but knows when Rooster’s exaggerated tales have gone too far. He is hilarious when tripping on one of the substances supplied by his friend. The Professor (Richard Evans) too is of an older generation who seems to have stumbled bewildered into the group but keeps returning for more! Another occasional visitor is Wesley, Robert Finch, the local landlord who finally is forced to ban Rooster after a fracas but seems to secretly yearn for his freedom and occasional supply of drugs. Dressed as a Morris dancer we see his humiliation and despair. The young villagers easily develop individual characterisations but provide ensemble support to Johnny.As the six o’clock deadline imposed by the F99 eviction notice, the threat levelmounts and Troy Whitworth (Adam Burton) adds dark evil tension that changes the mood and undermines Johnny’s resistance. His fifteen year old daughter Phaedra, (Nenda Neurer) who seems to be trying to hide from her father’s influence opens the show singing the hymn Jerusalem the words of which “And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark Satanic Mills?” seem to infer we should side with the rural traveller rather than the NIMBYism of authorities and residents.This is not a show for those easily offended by the language and it always surprises me that the use of F and C swear words gets such easy laughs and there are some odd passages like the overlong game of the Genus edition trivia questions but Lisa Blair as director has produced a wonderful enjoyable production with a towering central performance from Jasper Britton.Review by Nick WayneRating: ★★★★★Seat: Stalls D | Price of Ticket: £26.50
June 26, 2018