21 December 2010

Theatre Quiz at the National, Lyttelton

Theatre Quiz: Tate, Gatiss, Russell and Chris vs. Puwanarajah, Lanipekun, Timms and Williams
Emma Freud takes charge of two rival National Theatre companies as they do battle over theatrical knowledge in the annual quiz, assisted by scorer Miranda Hart.

The Teams

The Amazing Ayckbourns

Catherine Tate (Team Captain)

Mark Gatiss

Jenna Russell

Oliver Chris


The Stunning Shakespeares

Prasanna Puwanarajah (Team Captain)

Alex Lanipekun

Joseph Timms

Finty Williams

Running time: 45mins

This was, as ever pure, undiluted fun. Despite the scarcity of my theatre visits this year, I was heartened that I'd clearly managed to be more on top of the scene than I'd given myself credit. Ms Hart was delightful and the teams were gorgeous and entertaining.

30 October 2010

Design For Living by Noël Coward

Otto - Tom Burke
Grace Torrence - Nancy Crane
Matthew - Edward Dede
Gilda - Lisa Dillon
Photographer - Matthew Gammie
Mr Birkbeck/Henry Carver - John Hollingworth
Miss Hodge - Maggie McCarthy
Leo - Andrew Scott
Helen Carver - Maya Wasowicz
Ernest Friedman - Angus Wright

Director - Anthony Page
Designer - Lez Brotherston

Seen mid-run at the Old Vic.

Bloomin' hilarious & I got in for free!

Once you get past the silly hoity toity stuff, it's so contemporary. The set was incredible and when the drapes revealed the New York skyline the audience gave a round of applause....in a matinee!

In fact, the audience were really good and the cast were sexy.

25 October 2010

Tribes by Nina Raine

Billy - Jacob Casselden
Beth - Kika Markham
Sylvia - Michelle Terry
Christopher - Stanley Townsend
Daniel - Harry Treadaway
Ruth -Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Directed By Roger Michell
Designed by Mark Thomson (no doubt while he wasn't busy carving up the BBC)

Seen towards the end of it's premiere run at the Royal Court in a wonderful seat.

This was a hundred different kinds of awesome but for a more articulate appraisal I see nothing more fruitful than pointing in this direction. I don't wish to appear lazy but this says a lot of what I would say and more.
Unless I missed it, they fail to mention that Harry Treadaway seemed to be wearing the same underpants he sported in Over There. They are no more sexy now than they were then.

19 October 2010

Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

Krapp - Michael Gambon
Directed by Michael Colgan

A production from The Gate Theatre seen during a short run at The Duchess. Seat was a freebie in row K. As I was entering, I saw Stephen Dillane leaving from the earlier performance.

You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. You could also hear the man next to me breathing heavily, the woman on the other side of me sobbing, a man in the centre stalls snoring, someone back-stage clanging doors and the man who had to take a break for a pee was in danger of upstaging Mr Gambon.

That would, of course have been impossible. He was wonderful. The script isn't as I had remembered it but who knows, my previous experience may have played fast and loose with it. There were more 'spools' as I recall.

It's not for everyone but if there is no phonebook available for Mr Gambon to read, a Beckett monologue is a fair substitute.

12 September 2010

Notes Still In Draft Form

Other commitments leave this blog in a bad state.
I still have to post on the following productions:

Earthquakes in London
Danton's Death
Through The Glass Darkly
Hens by Alia Bano
Rough Cuts
Ingredient X

08 September 2010

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

HANNAH BINGHAM- Ensemble/Florence (Dance Captian)
SOPHIE JUGÉ - Ensemble/Mrs Taylor (Dance Captain)
REUBEN KAYE - Mr Lewis/Mr Farraday
DUDLEY ROGERS - Stevens Senior/Man on pier
GEMMA SALTER - Ensemble/Sarah
KATIA SARTINI - Ensemble/Ruth
PAUL TATE(Unwell tonight)- Meredith/Mr Spencer
LEEJAY TOWNSEND - Dupont/Policeman
ALAN VICARY - Lord Darlington
REBECCA WHITBREAD - Ensemble/Dorothy


Music, Book & Lyrics by Alex Loveless
Directed by Chris Loveless
Movement Director Omar F. Okai
Instrumental Arrangements & Ensemble Vocal Arrangements by Rowland Lee
Musical Director/Dance Music & Vocal Arrangements by Richard Bates
DAVID SHIELDS - Set & Costume Design
Seen at the lovely little Union Theatre after a delay due to a cast member being ill.

The idea of setting this piece to music confused me at first but it is of course, the perfect candidate.
It really requires a lavish production which it cannot enjoy in this sweet theatre but all the stops were pulled out and in the end the material sells the whole thing.

Some songs are the kind you might have heard audiences singing as they left the Cambridge Theatre. Others were weaker and just plot serving whilst several were lost in some of the heavy-handed musical accompaniment.

There were some beautiful performances here which could certainly be retained for a bigger production. All in all, this was a wonderfully refreshing surprise.

31 July 2010

After The Dance by Terence Rattigan

Joan Scott-Fowler - Nancy Carroll
Helen Banner - Faye Castelow
Julia Browne - Pandora Colin
Dr George Banner - Giles Cooper
David Scott-Fowler - Benedict Cumberbatch
Miss Potter - Jenny Galloway
Partygoer - Daniel Gosling
Peter Scott-Fowler - John Heffernan
Moya Lexington - Juliet Howland
Williams - Nicholas Lumley
Cyril Carter - Lachlan Nieboer
John Reid - Adrian Scarborough
Partygoer - Leo Staar
Partygoer - Hannah Stokely
Lawrence Walters - Giles Taylor
Arthur Power - Richard Teverson
Partygoer - Natalie Thomas
Partygoer - Charlotte Thornton

Director - Thea Sharrock
Designer - Hildegard Bechtler
Music -Adrian Johnston

Glimpsed through the gap between the big headed men in the cheap seats at the Lyttelton, mid-run.

Despite being in considerable pain and having had to hobble from a distant parking space in a potential curtain-up missing panic, I completely adored this wonderful production.

With the exception of Adrian Scarborough's wonderfully considered John Reid, the rest of the characters are either detestable or pathetic but in the hands of this glorious cast, they are entirely engaging throughout the three hours of the performance. Everyone felt as though they'd been wearing their character for months and despite the almost farcical arc of the story-line, I was involved and captured for the duration.

Am I cruel to have gained such enjoyment from an incredibly pretty young blonde in front of me needing almost every scene to be explained to her?

I haven't seen a curtain call with such sustained red eyes (from Mr Cumberbatch) since The Seagull with Carey Mulligan.

21 June 2010

Welcome to Thebes by Moira Buffini

Eurydice - Nikki Amuka-Bird
Megeara - Madeline Appiah
Pargeia - Rakie Ayola
Junior Lieutenant Scud - Omar Brown
Ensemble - Jessie Burton
Talthybia - Jacqueline Defferary
Ensemble - Daniel Fine
Ensemble - Karlina Grace
Junior Lieutenant Scud - Rene Gray
Theseus - David Harewood
Ismene - Tracy Ifeachor
Ensemble - Irma Inniss
Prince Tydeus - Chuk Iwuji
Girl - Alexia Khadime
Phaeax - Ferdinand Kingsley
Aglaea - Aicha Kossoko
Ensemble - Cornelius Macarthy
Haemon - Simon Manyonda
Tiresias - Bruce Myers
Euphrosyne - Pamela Nomvete
Ensemble - Clare Perkins
Ensemble - Victor Power
Polykleitos - Daniel Poyser
Thalia - Joy Richardson
Antigone - Vinette Robinson
Ensemble - Zara Tempest Walters
Sergeant Miletus - Michael Wildman

Directed by Richard Eyre & Designed by Tim Hatley

Seen on the night before the press came in the Olivier with Kwame-Kwei Amah was in the audience.

Wonderful seat at the side. Wonderful because I would not have like to have paid a great deal more than we did. It was much too loose and wobbly. The performances were great but it needed a shake-out and a brutal hand. It was self-conscious and a little bit too smug. It couldn't decide if it wanted to be contemporary or a classic. The execution of the helicopter arrival and departure was worth the entry price alone. The sound control was precision perfect and the use of the fans were completely over the top but very gratifying.

18 June 2010

The Man by James Graham

Ben - James Graham
Inland Revenue - Michelle Luther

Directed by Kate Wasserberg & designed by Fly Davis.

Seen at the Finborough on the penultimate day of it's run

Incredible performance of a wonderful piece of writing. Subject matter much too close to home.

29 May 2010

The Last Stand to Reason by The Pajama Men

Written and performed by Shenoah Allen & Mark Chavez plus their tireless musician, Kevin Hume at the Soho Theatre. I think I saw James Serafinowicz as I was leaving. Does that count as an 'audience notable'?

My first impression was that this show wasn't as tight as Versus Vs Versus but that may have been contingent upon the absence of the impact from seeing them for the first time and the hard-to-warm-up audience.

It's undeniably clever stuff, well crafted and presented. In a piece this long, not all of it's going to work at a consistently good level but I would never hesitate to see them again. Mark looks and performs as though Shenoah just drew him during a long period of procrastination, then got someone to animate him. I meant that as positively. He does things with his voice that most people would need sophisticated equipment to replicate.

A quick scoot around for reviews of the current show has been relatively fruitless. I was in a packed audience on the last night of a very short run. I'd hate to see them in a less intimate venue but surely they can support a longer run?

10 May 2010

The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard

Billy - Tom Austen
Debbie- Louise Calf
Max - Barnaby Kay
Annie - Hattie Morahan
Henry - Toby Stephens
Charlotte - Fenella Woolgar
Brodie -Jordan Young

The production is directed by Anna Mackmin, with designs by Lez Brotherston.

Seen during it's revival at The Old Vic.

A timeless piece of acute observation and honesty, beautifully constructed and punctuated with what are now the creme of nostalgic tracks.

The performances are wonderful and the shift in chemistry seamless and almost comforting. It's a terrible shame that the press photos don't include Ms Woolgar. It was such a joy to see her so relaxed in a contemporary role.

Telegraph, Times, Independent and Guardian.

03 May 2010

The Roman Bath by Stanislav Stratiev
Version by Justin Butcher

Ifan Meredith - Ivan Antonov
Bo Poraj - Vasilev MA
Rhona Croker - Martha
Lloyd Woolf - Lifeguard
Christopher Hogben - Deaf Mute/TV Assistant/Committee Member 2
Jonathan Rhodes - Banev/TV Director
David Schaal - Party Rep/Workman 2
Wendy Wason - Miss DiMatteo/TV Presenter
Richard Atwill - Column/Workman 1/Committee Member 1
Directed by Russell Bolam
Designed by Jean Chan

Seen on Press Night at the Arcola Theatre. Alan Corduner popped into the bar at the interval but I don't think he was in the audience.

I enjoy farce and slapstick when it's well written and performed - Boeing, Boeing is a good case in point.

This is a bit of a mess. It gets of to an awfully tortured start with a tv news crew. It has a worthy theme to explore but the characters are two mannered and audience aware. I'm sure the actors where doing the director's bidding but it dimishes the respect all concerned should have for the audience. This could have made as much impact and been far funnier if the everyone had performed with more commitment to being present in it. Bo Poraj seems to keep himself within the piece but even he started to despair towards the end. Lloyd Woolf's lifeguard was both well written and even though it was the most ridiculous character, his performance was the most consistently credible.

My notes on the night read something like: This needs some serious tightening up and then a load of waffle I can't read except a note about someone in the audience that looked like Joe Cornish in profile but was disappointing face to face. Proud to be an air-head.

Independent, Guardian and Time Out.

02 May 2010

Hurts, Given and Received
by Howard Barker

September - Jane Bertish
Sadavee 1 & 2 - Issy Brazier-Jones
Feltray - Suzy Cooper
Detriment/Stays - Alan Cox
Chorus - Libby Edwards
Bulow/Rib - Nigel Hastings
Chorus - Mark Lewis
Always/Umber - Peter Marinker
Alzarin - Richard Maxted
Glove - Penelope McGhie
Bach - Tom Riley
Chorus - Matt Schmolle

Directed by Gerrard McArthur
Set Designed byTomas Leipzig

A production from The Wrestling School and seen at The Riverside Studios during their Howard Barker Season. Notables in the audience were Tom Mison, Christina Cole and Jemima Rooper.

This play is probably the strongest and best formed of the three but for a tiny little theatre, the staging of the two main productions were fabulous.

Tom Riley's performance was so beautifully paced and energetic. I forgot how much as ease he puts me even when the text is challenging. The play is are like a ballet of words. This guy's prose moves around with a structure Twyla Tharp would have been proud of. Completely enjoyable afternoon/evening.

I forgot to mention the drool. Now, I was used to having this effect on men when I was younger but it seemed to me that Tom spent a full 20 minutes drooling. He also seemed to be pretty much dead on our eye-line and I could hardly look at him. It glistened in the spotlight and he almost gobbed on one of his fellow cast. What IS it with boys and their drooling games?Seriously, Tom is on stage with so much patter all the time, I have no idea how he manages to summon up that much gunk each night with no evidence of a crafty bottle to hydrate him. The things they teach you at drama school, eh?

He's certainly one of those young actors whose professional diary I like to keep in my locker, shall we say but the supporting cast were beautifully complimentary.

For me to justify revisiting a production is a rare treat but I can honestly say, with objectivity and no silly bias, that as I left the auditorium on Sunday, I deeply regretted not having snagged one of those freebie Time-Out tickets. This production invaded my thoughts all week.

4 Star review and analysis plus notes from them wily Whingers.

Slowly by Howard Barker

Bell - Vanessa Ackerman
Calf - Suzy Cooper
Paper - Megan Hall
Sign - Penelope McGhie

Directed by Hanna Berrigan
Set Designed byTomas Leipzig

From The Wrestling School at the Riverside Theatre.

A production from The Wrestling School and seen at The Riverside Studios during their Howard Barker Season.

Weighty performances from this outstanding cast. The stark but powerful design of the set and wardrobe burned into the desperate situation in which these woman found themselves. Not easy or light but admirable, for sure.

Wonder and Worship in the Dying Ward
by Howard Barker

Narrator - Alan Cox
Atto - Nigel Hastings
Momper - Mirandar Cook
Windus - Jane Bertish
Slump - Deborah Penny
Portslade - Peter Marinker
Basin - Michael Sheldon
Cling - Richard Maxted
Loos- Stephen Omer
Onsee - Kristin Milward
Childlike - Chris Moran

The Proprieter
Architect - Vanessa-Faye Stanley

The Visitors
Ostend - Carolyn Backhouse
Doobee - Ross Armstrong

This was a rehearsed reading from The Wrestling School to start off a day of Barker productions. It took the form of a very physical reading. It was hard and chilling to watch but beautifully staged and performed.

29 April 2010

Posh by Laura Wade

Jeremy - Simon Shepherd
Alistair Ryle - Leo Bill
Rachel - Fiona Button
Toby Maitland - Jolyon Coy
Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt - David Dawson
George Balfour - Richard Goulding
Harry Villiers - Harry Hadden-Paton
Ed Montgomery - Kit Harington
Dimitri Mitropoulos - Henry Lloyd-Hughes
Charlie - Charlotte Lucas
Guy Bellingfield - Joshua Mcguire
James Leighton-Masters - Tom Mison
Miles Richards - James Norton
Chris - Daniel Ryan

Directed by Lyndsey Turner & Designed by Anthony Ward.

Seen in the Jerwood Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. Anthony Horowitz, Toby Jones, Nick Hytner, Rupert Friend and Keira Knightley in the audience.

I saw this in it's raw state a couple of years ago during the Rough Cuts season. It had a wonderful cast and romped along in a manner that could have caused me to wonder about a full expansion being too loose but the material is rich and rattles along at a wonderful speed. It could have been a smug dig and I have to say I do question some of the character names but a quick glance at the double-barrelled actors names puts paid to any concern I should have there. Mr Shepherd is annoyingly smug and self-important but I guess that's the intention. Daniel Ryan was heartbreaking.

Read the reviews here.

07 April 2010

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

David Annen - Provost
Daisy Boulton - Juliet
Flaminia Cinque - Mistress Overdone
Trevor Cooper - Pompey
Emun Elliott - Claudio
Andrew French - Friar Peter
Lloyd Hutchinson - Lucio
Sean Kearns - Barnadine
David Killick - Escalus
Rory Kinnear - Angelo
Victoria Lloyd - Marianna
Anna Maxwell Martin - Isabella
Ben Miles - Vincentio
Mark Monero - Abhorson
Nick Richards - Justice
Jessica Tomchak - Francisca
Tony Turner - Elbow

Michael Attenborough - Director
Lez Brotherston - Design
Seen towards the end of it's run at the Almeida in one of the cheaper side seats with no detriment to my pleasure sensors. Audience member of note - Amanda Root.

Grumped up because my original post went missing in the ether. This is a beautiful production with a set design that would put Busby Berkeley to shame. The script was distilled to perfection, making this romp along at a pace that gave the perfect balance between satisfaction and mild hunger pangs.

The post-show talk did not seem to be made public knowledge (other than on the website) so it was poorly attended but gloriously intimate.

27 March 2010

Ghost Stories by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman

Mike Priddle - Nicholas Burns
Tony Matthew - David Cardy
Simon Rifkind - Ryan Guage
Professor Philip Goodman - Andy Nyman
plus whoever it was that plays the asthmatic boy that's not listed in the programme.

Directed by Jeremy Dyson, Sean Holmes & Andy Nyman
Designed by Jon Bausor

Seen regrettably too near too the end of it's run at the Lyric, Hammersmith in J5
I didn't spot any celebrities in the audience but was reunited with some long lost friends which felt even better

Just like The Mousetrap, the producers ask that not too much of the plot is revealed so that others may enjoy the full impact.

Sadly, much of the tension for this production is provided by unnecessarily loud noises surprising the audience from what is quite possibly the worst sound system I have ever had to endure in a theatre that charges for entry. I wish I'd seen this earlier in the run before the hype started because I expected too much of it. It had my three most detested ingredients - a noxious (and gimickly unnecessary) smell, bright lights persistently shone in one's face and noise that was intrusively distorted and painful. I ran out of digits to hold my nose, plug my ears and shield my eyes at one point.

That's all the negative stuff dealt with. I'm well aware that most of my gripes are personal to me and should not dissuade anyone else from seeing the show. The script, performances and set design were outstanding. Am I crossing a line if I say that this had me level pegging with the plot in every way that Shutter Island didn't? This is experiential theatre at it's best. The audience are silly, noisy and collaborative.

I wouldn't often bother to mention the programme but it's a treasure trove of dip-into delight, as is the website.

This deserves all the success it has enjoyed. If they can at least install a sound system that can cope with the volumes used, I would happily see it again..........but this time I'd wear a costume. It's a cult night out in the making. Drag your friends along.

I can't wait for the 10 year anniversary production.

19 March 2010

The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane

Diane - Tamsin Greig
Mitchell - Rupert Friend
Ellen - Gemma Arterton
Alex - Harry Lloyd
Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Designed by Soutra Gilmour

Seen towards the end of the run at The Garrick in a wonderfully central, half-price ticket...thank you!

A non-stop, laugh-a-minute, exhilarating joy-fest. The script was great, the cast were brilliant and the audience were amazing (except the dork next to me who took 30 second to catch up). The pace was perfectly judged, firing on all cylinders with just the right amount of breathing spaces for the audience to compose themselves. Getting applause from the cast is what makes theatre a totally satisfying entertainment. I was wonderful, dahling!

I have no idea what this little video achieves. I find it irritating until we get to the little bits from the cast.

18 March 2010

Ghosts by Henrick Ibsen
in a version by Frank McGuinness

Engstrand - Malcolm Storry
Regine Engstrand - Jessica Raine
Pastor Manders - Iain Glenn
Mrs Helena Alving - Lesley Sharpe
Oswald Alving - Harry Treadaway

Director - Iain Glenn
Designer - Stephen Brimson Lewis

Seen at the Duchess during the week before it's premature swan-song in a brilliant half price seat.

This was an evening but it felt like a matinee. It's hard to tell if posting early closing notices would have changed the atmosphere on stage but it certainly seemed to change the mood of the audience. The lack of expectation was palpable. There were a few too many drama students, apparently dragged there against their privileged wills, more concerned with who they were sitting next too and how much noise they could make with their bottles of drink.

The production is sour. It's wrong and I don't know why. I'm sure a quick scout around the reviews will tell me but I make a point of writing this without the benefit of anyone else's opinion. Early closing is an opinion all of it's own and I can't tell how much that influenced my reaction. Lesley and Harry could not have given more of themselves and I was almost ashamed to be part of an audience that laughed at their total commitment.

I'm going to be bold enough to lay some of the blame for this dull and unengaging production in the hands of Mr McGuinness but perhaps it was all too much for Mr Glenn. These are all good people so why didn't it work? It was my no means dreadful but when I think of some of the Ibsen I have seen in recent years, it saddened me.

03 March 2010

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare

Ouisa - Miriam Lucia
Flan - Anthony Head
Geoffrey - Ian Redford
Paul - Obi Abili
Doorman/DrFine - Stephen Greif
Hustler/Policeman - Kevin Kiely
Kitty - Sara Stewart
Larkin - Steven Pacey
Detective - John Moriatis
Tess - Zoe Boyle
Woody - Paul Stocker
Ben - Michael Goldsmith
Doug - Ilan Goodman
Trent - Kevin Trainor
Rick - Luke Neal
Elizabeth - Sarah Goldberg

Directed by David Grindley
Designed by Jonathan Fensom

Seen toward the end of it's run at the Old Vic for zippo - absolutely no money exchanging hands here save the bus fare.

It would be rude of me to be ungrateful for a free ticket and I am certainly not that person but I can see why they wanted to put any old flabby bum on a seat.

This is the kind of production that really benefits from a complete lack of pre-cognition. I enjoyed the film and found myself deconstructing scenes when I should have been letting it just flow around me. The performance were beautifully crafted and the set was sympathetic. For some reason, I gave my mind the luxury of wandering a bit too often but it passed the time and I wasn't itching to leave.

02 March 2010

London Assurance by Dion Boucicault

Cool, a valet - Nick Sampson
Martin, a manservant - Richard Frame
Charles Courtly - Paul Ready
Richard Dazzle - Matt Cross
Sir Harcourt Courtly, Bart - SImon Russell Beale
Squire Max Harkaway - Mark Addy
Pert - Maggie Service
James - Simon Markey
Grace Harkaway - Michelle Terry
Mark Meddle - Tony Jayawardena
Lady Gay Spanker - Fiona Shaw
Mr Adolphus Spanker - Richard Briers
Mr Solomon Isaacs - Junix Inocian
Servants - Mark Extance, Prasanna Puwanarajah
Doctor's Daughters - Fiona Drummond, Laura Matthews

Directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Mark Thomspon.

Seen on it's first night of preview, I believe in the the glorious chapel of mirth that is called the Olivier Theatre. Mark Lawson was apparently in the audience though I didn't see him.

A quick glance a the character names pretty much gives you the plot but the execution is all in a production like this. Despite seeing this right at the start of the run, it romped onto the stage in a state of perfection that no doubt enabled the team to luxuriate in the pleasure of fiddling with each subsequent show for their own enjoyment.

If you can't get to London, catch it in a cinema somewhere on 28th June 2010 where it will be broadcast live.