Theatre round-up: 22 Nov 2015

Sometimes you just have to see a show more than once (or should that be four times). This week had a couple of repeats, but since both were brilliant, I’m not complaining… So here’s what I’ve been enjoying this week:

Harlequinade / All On Her Own

I was lucky enough to be at the first preview of Harlequinade, one of the plays in the Branagh season at the Garrick Theatre. And when I was invited to see it again this week, I jumped at the chance. The double bill by Terence Rattigan begins with Zoë Wanamaker in All On Her Own, a short but incredibly intense piece about a woman who finds herself talking to her dead husband late at night after one too many whiskies.

It’s followed, in a swift change of pace, by Harlequinade, a comedy about a theatre company rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and The Winter’s Tale. The brilliant cast is led by Kenneth Branagh and Miranda Raison as the company’s lead actors, the Gosports – but for me, the star of the show is undoubtedly Tom Bateman as their overworked manager, Jack Wakefield. It’s a very funny play, and I only wish it had been a bit longer; there are so many actors that some of them get very limited stage time. Overall, though, it’s a lot of fun and I’d recommend it, especially if you’re not sure about Shakespeare – this play might just change your mind.

Review for London Theatre Direct to follow.

This week's theatre

Miss Saigon

My fourth trip to see Miss Saigon and I love it a little bit more every time. This particular outing was booked in response to the announcement that the show will be closing in February (news that still outrages me). There’s not a lot to say that I haven’t said before – I love the tragic love story between Kim, a Vietnamese girl, and Chris, an American GI; I love the music by Boublil and Schönberg; I love the helicopter, which still gives me a little thrill every time; I love the brilliant cast, especially Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer and the incredible Eva Noblezada as Kim (and a quick shout out to Richard Carson, who was a fantastic Chris on Friday evening); and I love how it makes me cry like a baby every time.

Basically, I love it.

Review for London Theatre Direct (written in February – after visit no.3 – so some cast members have changed)

This week’s theatre

Bit of a quiet one – lots of other things going on – so just the one show coming up this week:

The Illusionists, Shaftesbury Theatre

Theatre round-up: 8 Nov 2015

Right, I haven’t done a theatre round-up for weeks – not because I haven’t been going to the theatre (far from it) but just because of lack of time. There are definitely not enough hours in the day lately.

So in an attempt to get back into a routine… this week I’ve had two theatre trips. And one of my recent reviews, of The Forbidden by Doll’s Eye Theatre, got a mention in an article on the Guardian website, which was pretty exciting 🙂

Anita and Me, and Rotterdam

Rotterdam (Theatre503)

It’s New Year’s in Rotterdam, and Alice is finally ready to come out to her parents by email – until her girlfriend Fiona makes the sudden announcement that she wants to start living as a man. Suddenly finding herself in a relationship with Adrian, instead of Fiona, leaves Alice wondering if this means she’s now straight. This touching and heartwarming comedy by Jon Brittain considers the labels placed on us by society, but also those we place on ourselves. Well worth a look if you can get there – it’s on until 21st November.

Review of Rotterdam for LondonTheatre1

Anita and Me (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

Based on Meera Syal’s 1997 novel and adapted by Tanika Gupta, Anita and Me is the story of 13-year-old Meena, and her friendship with the rebellious Anita. Faced with changes within their family and their neighbourhood, the girls have to decide what’s most important to them. This is a fun, entertaining play with some catchy tunes – but it tries to squeeze a bit too much in to a relatively short time, which makes it hard to get into the story or identify with the characters. I didn’t love it – but definitely didn’t dislike it either; it has a lot of potential to be a really good show.

Anita and Me review for LondonTheatre1

What have you seen at the theatre this week? Any recommendations?

Next week’s theatre

Puttin’ on the Ritz – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Staying Alive (Blackshaw Theatre Company) – Pleasance Theatre

Theatre round-up: 7 Sept 2015

In the week that London got kinky, here’s my theatre round-up:

Kinky boots

I went to a preview of Kinky Boots last week, and basically haven’t shut up about it since (apologies to my friends, family and Twitter followers). I haven’t seen the movie, so didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for – I figured it would be good fun, but wasn’t expecting to be so totally blown away. Kinky Boots is based on real events and tells the story of Charlie Price, who teams up with new friend Lola (a.k.a. Simon) to create a range of fabulous footwear for men. With star performances from Killian Donnelly, Amy Lennox and Matt Henry, and some truly sensational dance numbers, Kinky Boots is ridiculously good fun; you can’t help but leave the theatre smiling. I already want to see it again (and then again).

Kinky Boots review for London Theatre Direct

Thoroughly Modern Millie

A lively and high-spirited revival based on the 1967 movie, in the intimate setting of the Landor theatre. Thoroughly Modern Millie is the story of a Kansas girl who arrives in 1920s New York determined to make a new life for herself by getting a job and then marrying her boss. Simple, right? Ironically, a lot of the attitudes are actually not very modern at all (and the show also features a bizarre and very un-PC sub-plot about a woman pretending to be Chinese). But the show brings to life the spirit of the 1920s, particularly during the fantastic dance numbers, which are worthy of a much bigger production, and impeccably performed by the small, hard-working cast. Credit also to the brilliant five-piece band, who were great despite being a four-piece for half the show because their bass player got stuck on the Northern Line.

Thoroughly Modern Millie review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

The Man Who Had All the Luck

Arthur Miller’s first play to be produced is a fable about a man who seems to get everything he wants in love, business and life in general. But as his friends and family all lose out on the thing they want most in the world, he starts to wonder when his own luck will change. This revival by End of Moving Walkway, to coincide with the centenary of Miller’s birth, features a strong cast, with one actor playing no fewer than four parts, and a minimalist set with a hidden secret. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, with characters the audience can really relate to, the play invites us to consider where our luck comes from, and the role of each individual in creating our own destiny.

The Man Who Had All The Luck review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

Theatre round-up

Next week’s theatre

Jane Eyre – National Theatre

The Christians – Gate Theatre

And Then Come The Nightjars – Theatre503

Theatre round-up: 30 Aug 2015

Back on track after a week off, here’s what I’ve seen this week (plus one from the week before):

Twelfth Night

My second visit to see Oddsocks, whilst on holiday in Guernsey. Castle Cornet is a lovely setting, even when it pours with rain, and Oddsocks never fail to entertain with their unique, family-friendly approach to Shakespeare. Their Twelfth Night is a Britpop musical featuring hits from the likes of Adele, Roxy Music, Take That and – yes, really – PJ & Duncan. As always, you never quite know what to expect from an Oddsocks show, but it’s always a safe bet that it’ll be great fun.

Twelfth Night review

Madama Butterfly

I’m no expert on opera, but of the ones I know, this is a favourite. And this particular version, part of the Grimeborn Opera Festival at the Arcola Theatre, is different to any I’ve seen before. It’s a unique reinterpretation of the classic story, based on Japanese ghost stories, with a set that looks like something out of a horror movie. But it still retains the emotional punch of the original, thanks to the intimate, candle-lit setting and incredible performances – from the entire cast, but particularly from Natasha Rouhl as the tragic heroine, Butterfly.

Madama Butterfly review for LondonTheatre1

You won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews

Yes, that is actually the name of the show; it’s a quote from Monty Python musical, Spamalot. This is a gloriously, unashamedly stagey celebration of the contribution made by Jewish people to musical theatre over the last century. Which actually includes a lot more shows than I realised – Hairspray, The Wizard of Oz, Fame, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Godspell… even my favourite, Les Mis. The show, at St James Theatre, is fast-moving (sometimes a bit too fast), funny and filled with sensational performances from the cast of singers and dancers. If you’re a fan of musical theatre, this is the show for you.

You won’t succeed… review for Carn’s Theatre Passion

The Lion King

This was probably my fifth visit to see The Lion King, one of my favourite shows ever since I first saw it years ago. I don’t know how, but it somehow manages to turn me into a child, and by the time that opening scene (in my opinion, probably one of the best of any show) finally started, I was basically bouncing up and down in my seat like a five-year-old. And it was just as good as I remembered. Between the story, the humour, the music, the set and the incredible puppetry, it’s all brilliant, and so much fun it’s impossible to resist.

Bonus – this time, I was with a friend who’d never been to a musical before, so I was also really excited for her. And although I’d briefed her on the fake happy noises she was to make if she didn’t enjoy the show, the good news is that none were required, because she loved it too.

This week's theatre




Kinky Boots – Adelphi Theatre

Thoroughly Modern Millie – Landor Theatre

The Man Who Had All the Luck (End of Moving Walkway) – King’s Head Theatre

Theatre round-up: 18 Aug 2015

These posts are gradually getting later and later in the week… I’ll try and get back on track for next week, but in the meantime here’s the round-up of the last hectic few days.

Blood Wedding

I was interested to see this adaptation of the classic Spanish play, having studied the text at A-Level (and then again at uni) but never seen it performed. The enjoyable production by Dreamcatcher Theatre at the Bread and Roses has all the drama and tragedy that I remember; it’s the tale of a doomed wedding, and its characters really don’t stand a chance from the start. The play was first performed in the 1930s and contains some pretty old school views on various issues, particularly gender roles, but it’s also strangely relevant at times to the world we live in today.

Blood Wedding review for LondonTheatre1

The Backward Fall

Part of the Camden Fringe, this play about two sisters packing up their childhood home after the loss of their mother to Alzheimer’s packs quite an emotional punch. The strained relationship between the sisters is convincing and well portrayed, and the play makes a powerful point about the ongoing impact of this life-changing condition, not just for the sufferer but for those around them as well. The Backward Fall, by Penny Productions, is based on stories, research and interviews with real people affected by Alzheimer’s, which only increases its power for the audience.

The Backward Fall review for LondonTheatre1


So much brilliance I don’t know where to start. Consolation, by Théâtre Volière, is funny, devastating and educational all at once. The unlikely friendship of a middle-aged woman who thinks she was a Cathar heretic in a former life, and a young re-enactor from the local visitors centre takes us on an emotional journey that spans several hundred years, and ends with a totally unexpected but brilliant twist. The cast are incredible and the set is simple yet ingenious. There are a couple of plot details I missed, but I’d happily head back to the Bridewell Theatre and do it all again (all three hours) to make sense of them – which just goes to show how good this play is.

Consolation review for LondonTheatre1

The Two Gentlemen of Verona / Hay Fever

Kent-based Changeling Theatre never disappoint; this year we enjoyed a double bill of Shakespeare and Noël Coward at the lovely Boughton Monchelsea Place. Changeling interpretations, directed by Rob Forknall, are always mischievous and full of humour, with a brilliant and adaptable cast who seem to be having the time of their lives. And a ridiculously cute dog, who got the biggest cheers of the day without actually doing anything.

Changeling review

Spirit of the dance

A spectacular show, featuring the Irish dancing made famous by the better-known Riverdance, but also including other dance styles too – flamenco, tap, ballet, and even a bit of the Highland Fling – Spirit of the Dance is colourful, energetic and entertaining. Besides the cast of eighteen dancers, this show at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford also welcomed special guests the Three Irish Tenors, who – while slightly detached from the rest of the show – get the audience singing along to a few crowd-pleasing classics while the dancers have a well-earned break.

Spirit of the Dance review for Dartford Living

This week's theatre

Next week’s theatre

Twelfth Night (Oddsocks) – Castle Cornet, Guernsey