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Posts Tagged ‘London Theatre’

I’ve supported the Globe since its first season and have had some great nights there. It has occasionally seemed like a tourist trap, but mostly it has made me look at Shakespeare differently and I’ve come to enjoy him in modern theatres less. I think this is the first Midsummer they’ve done(?), in which case that’s surprising as it seems the most obvious choice for the Globe. So its very welcome and doesn’t disappoint. Again here, I found myself absorbing more of the verse that I normally do and I lost myself more in this bizzare fantasy world. It uses the space very well, looks lovely and has had some excellent perfomances. It’s a traditional, captivating production and one of the best things I’ve seen at the Globe.

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A musical opening soon after Gone With The Wind could consider itself lucky, but this one doesn’t really need the luck.

 

It’s a chamber piece, rather than the epic of Les Miserables or Miss Saigon by the same writers. The latter was based on Madam Butterfly and this is a modern La Traviata.

 

It’s a great story, cleverly relocated to the Second World War, with gorgeous music, terrific lyrics and a small but highly talented ensemble and a small but lush orchestra. The show really suits the TR Haymarket (pity about the obscene programme and drink prices though!), the staging is impeccable and the excellent sound (for once not over-amplified) ensures you hear every word.

 

Ruthie Henshall is perfect casting and rises to the challenge of the part (though she was thrown around so much I was wincing!). I know Julian Ovenden’s work less, but this is a star turn. There’s a certain frisson seeing Alexander Hanson’s menacing Nazi general soon after his Nazi-hating Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and it’s another fine interpretation. I was immensely impressed by Matt Cross in Days of Hope at the Kings Head last year so its great to see him deliver another excellent performance as Pierrot, alongside equally excellent performances from Simon Thomas and Annalene Beechey In these important supporting roles.

 

This show comes in at just under half the length of GWTW but packs twice the emotional punch. I loved it – but will the critics?…..whose indifference to Les Mis sits alongside Decca’s rejection of the Beatles as one of history’s great errors!

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It’s a great idea and I have nothing but admiration for the writing, the staging and the performances of this piece. My problem with it is the implausibility of a couple of Harper’s encounters and the pace and length of the piece, which results in more being less. It could have been a lot better.

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Pink Bedroom

After 27 years of London theatre-going, it’s great to come across a new venue and the Courtyard Theatre, in a 19th century library in trendy Hoxton, is a very well-run one too. These four very short Tennessee Williams plays aren’t classics but the production values, staging and performances are high quality fringe indeed. The characters are the usual TW suspects – dysfunctional and unfulfilled souls from the deep south – but it’s well worth a visit to Hoxton for lovers of one of the great 20th century dramatists.

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I wish I was fluent in French, so that I could see this play in both languages and find out how much of it is Reza and how much of it is Hampton…. and to see it with a bog standard cast, to see how much of it’s success is writing and how much casting (as was the case with Art)…..and to see it directed by someone else to see how much Matthew Warchus’ brilliant staging makes a difference……Anyway, as it is, four fine actors deliver some great lines perfectly in a clever piece which is great at changing direction on a word and is never predictable – and has more depth than a simple comedy too.

 

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Let’s start with the good news. Almost all of the performances are very good. Darius Danesh, in particular, is a revelation. John Napier’s use of space (with some re-cycled ideas from Starlight Express) serves the ‘epic’ nature of the show very well (thought the dress circle walkway is underused). I have never been to a musical where the sound is so good you can hear every word (though sometimes not knowing who’s singing them) without being beaten into submission by the volume. Unfortunately, the show just isn’t good enough for all this talent. It’s seems odd to say this, but it feels that by rushing to cram in everything they deliver something that appears slow (and at 3hrs 45mins is way too long). It switches style from melodrama to realism and then they occasionally try to ‘do a Kneehigh’ but can’t pull it off (the birth scene, the child’s death scene…..). Scenes are so short that characters don’t develop and songs are by-and-large mere snatches – when you do get a fully formed song, it aint half bad. The sum of all this is, to borrow from the leading man, you just don’t give a damn about anyone. I have rarely felt so uninvolved or unmoved by anything. How one of the world’s most talented and experienced directors of musicals decided to take the over-ambitious work of a novice straight to one of the highest profile stages in the world is the real mystery. After 14 or so musical hits, I think he’s about to get his first big musical flop

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Malora

This is a stunning adaptation of Greek Tragedy framed by South Africa’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. There are three superb central performances and one of the most effective chorus’ I’ve ever seen in GT. True drama – gripping, moving, harrowing but ultimately uplifting. Two weeks in a 200 seat theatre is not enough!

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Visiting Mr Green

By the interval, though I had enjoyed the four or five short scenes, I found the set-up a bit implausible and I wondered where it was all going. By the end of the play, you have been on a satisfying and very human journey of warmth and poignancy with much humour. Wonderful to see Warren Mitchell again, too.

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Major Barbara

I’ll go and see anything with Clare Higgins and Simon Russell Beale in – even a Shaw play! Again, they don’t disappoint. Clare’s role isn’t anywhere near big enough for her immense talent, but it is good to see her in something other than Greek or American tragedy. The play is less preachy than many Shaw plays, with balanced arguments and some great lines, and has retained some relevance for a 2008 audience. I don’t know whether it was me flagging or the production flagging, but I found it lost its way in the second act (a pivotal one in the mission) which seemed lost on the vast Olivier stage.

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Well, Eurovision has come early and it’s just an elongated Spanish entry! Who on earth decided to bring this Am Dram show to London? The sets are tacky, the music is bland europop, the choreography-by-numbers is straight out of a pop video and the attempts at bi-lingual audience participation are excruciating. Are there enough Spanish ex-pat theatregoers in London to allow it to survive the month – or will they bring in a simultaneous translation by Terry Wogan and send themselves up?

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