Theatre Reviews

Queen Anne

Queen Anne ascended to the throne in 1702 after her brother-in-law King William died. She was not glamorous or beautiful, she failed to produce any heirs and reigned for only 12 years.

RCS’s Queen Anne, now transferred to the Westend, marks Anne’s development into a strong leader. It portrays the unhealthy relationship been Anne and the Duchess of Marlborough and it’s eventual demise.

Anne, played by Emma Cuniffe, is pathetic, obsessed with her best friend and emotionally manipulative. Marlborough, played Ramona Garai, is cunning and politically manipulative. Refreshingly, it is not a feel-good play about friendship and female loyalty as one might imagine. My heart swells to find a play of this kind on the westend with women as the focus. Anne and Malborough make and undeniably engaging pair, especially as the ‘puppet master’ gets tangled in her own strings. Garai and Cuniffe’s performances are well matched. Natalie Abrahami’s production is at times fast paced but at other times rather static, there is quite a bit of dialogue which can be difficult to wade through if you’re having trouble catching up with the political machinations. The satirical musical interludes (led by James Christie as the dapper Lord Maynwaring) are immensely entertaining and allow the peasants with short attention spans (me) to get the jist of things. Costumes are also gorgeous, elegant dresses just shy of the extravagant Georgian era.

For those not well versed about this period of time (like myself) it can be a little difficult to follow, but I am quite rewarded in what I discovered about this rarely acknowledged Queen. For example it was her reign that lead to the development of the two party system we have today. And she also solidified Protestant rule in Britain by naming her successor the German King George.

Queen Anne is running at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until September 30. Cheapest tickets are £15. There are also day tickets in person at 10 am on the day of the performance. £10 or £5 for 16-25s

Theatre Reviews

The Committee

In 2015 the charity Kids Company went bust just a week after receiving a government grant of 3 million pounds. Founder Ms Batmanghelidih was accused of mismanagement. She argued demand for Kids Company was unsustainable due to institutional failings by the government.

The Committee is a verbatim piece from the transcripts of the evidence given by Batmanghelidih and chairman Alan Yentob. And, of course, adapted into a musical. I’m determined to believe that anything can be turned into a musical and I haven’t been proved wrong yet (does anyone remember that episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were they all start singing randomly and, initially, nobody really notices – well it was a bit like that.) The Committee was very interesting to watch, I had only briefly heard about it in the news when it happened at the time so it was all very enlightening. however, if it had not have been a musical I probably would have switched off – on the surface the issue doesn’t appear very thrilling.

The singing is skillful and operatic. Batmanghelidih, played by Sandra Marvin, sings woefully of the injustice she has witnessed working with the charity. The musicality of the hearing allows you to feel partly sympathetic to Batmanghelidih. Despite  her apparent failings she did try to fight for poverty stricken children of which there are simply too many. Although nobody really comes across very well. Despite seeing ‘The Committee’ I’m still not sure who/what is blame for the Charities failure – at least I’m sure there are several contributing factors.

The Committee is on at the Donmar Warehouse until August 12. If you are under 25 you can see it for free. Sign up at The Donmar Warehouse website for Young and Free email alert for when they release free tickets.

Theatre Reviews

Gloria

Set in the cubicles of a magazine publishing company, three twenty-something editorial assistants all viciously vie for the next step up the ladder. Initially, Gloria reminded me of Ugly Betty. It felt like watching significantly less glamorous Ugly Betty. It had similar themes of ruthless ambition in a dog eat dog world, although now within a slowly dying industry being consumed by the internet. The titular character Gloria is the office freak who is the butt of everyone’s jokes.  Everyone in the office seems to be overtly unhappy but lacking in inspiration as to what to do to change, that is until something major happens at the end of the first act that shakes everything up.

SPOILERS AHEAD- Do not read the text in bold if you’re planning on seeing this play, it may inhibit your enjoyment.

 Major spoiler warning! Gloria, having been snubbed one too many times, goes on a killing spree in the office. It’s sudden, bloody and visceral. I was lulled into a false sense of security thinking I knew what I was going to get from this play. I was left in a state of shock in the interval. The second act focuses on the survivors of the incident and they way in which they exploit the tragedy, gaining book and television deals. For survivors Kendra (Kae Alexander) and Dean (Colin Morgan) Gloria is the most significant thing that has happened to them. I found it all strangely relevant owing to the recent spat of tragedies this country has faced – which couldn’t have been predicted whilst the play was in post-production. Do people, whether knowingly or not, exploit tragedies for their own gain? The character’s come from a world of constant ambition so when they are thrust into a life post-disaster they are still unable to let go of their ruthlessness. It’s a fascinating and engaging story.

The cast of six are fantastic across the board. Comically multi-roling a range of different characters. Colin Morgan is especially good as the haggard yet sassy Dean (It’s been five years since the end of BBC’s Merlin and I’m still not used to Colin Morgan playing grown-up parts!) Kae Alexander also makes an amazing Kendra, caffeine-fuelled and motor-mouthed.

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkin, an American playwright, recently had a second play on in the London theatre scene – The Octoroon which closed yesterday at The Orange Tree Theatre. For those who enjoyed that I would strongly recommend seeing Gloria. If you do want to see it you are in luck! An extra week has been added to it’s run. Gloria will be at Hampstead Theatre until July 29th.

Hampton Theatre have an £10 under 30’s deal that apply to certain seats- which I personally love! It’s not just students who are poor. In my experience twenty-somethings are even more strapped-for-crash than students.

There is also a petition started by a Colin Morgan fan base asking Hampton Theatre to have the play recorded for those who do not live within travelling distance of London –> Petition to Hampton Theatre

 

Theatre Reviews

Angels in America – Part One: Millennium Approaches

New York, 1985. Mid Reagan era. Mid AIDS epidemic. Tony’s Kushner bizarre, magnificent, two part play can only be described as a epic, theatrical marathon. This is why I love theatre.

The play follows a group of people all somehow connected. Prior Walter (Andrew Garfield) suffering from AIDs, hallucinating his ancestors; his Boyfriend Louis (James McArdle) suffering from his hallucinating lover; the closeted Roy (Nathan Lane) also suffering from AIDs and hallucinating dead people; Harper (Denise Gough) suffering from an existential crisis and hallucinating Eskimos and her husband Joe (Russel Tovey) the closeted republican. There’s a thin line between hallucinations and reality, all the while there’s an an overwhelming anticipation of something coming. The whole show is seriously freaky and I’m told part two only gets freakier. Just when I got comfortable and thought I knew what I was watching the set unfurled itself like an ominous labyrinth.

The performances are faultless from everyone of the all-star cast. What could potentially be boring, stereotypical characters are developed in 3 dimensional humans that jump off the stage. The use of multi-roling is also the best I have seen in a long time.

Usually I would say that a two part play (the first act having two intervals!) is a little indulgent – it does no favours for the battle for theatre inclusivity. However I can excuse it in certain exceptional occasions (Harry Potter – OMG so good) for which this is one. I just hope this does not become a trend in future play-writing. It’s difficult enough to get tickets to one play! I’m having to watch part two at my local cinema with National Theatre live on the 27th of July. I cannot wait!

Angels in America is at the National Theatre until the 19th of August. But good luck getting tickets because everything is sold out! My friend Amy, got these tickets through the £20 ballot which you can enter. Or there are £15 (£30/33 for double show days) day tickets if you show up before 9:30am. Although, apparently quenes for Angels in America have been known to start as early as 6am!

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The Girls

It seems to me that the West-End is trying in vain to find the new equivalent of ‘Billy Elliot’. I have recently sensed a theme of new “home grown” musicals being based off quirky and classically British films. ‘Bend it like Beckham’, ‘Made in Dagenham’ and now ‘The Girls’. All these a bit hit and miss, and all with disappointingly short runs.

‘The Girls’ by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, is based off the real life story of a Yorkshire WI group who scandalously posed for a nude calendar and in doing so raised millions for Bloodwise (a blood cancer research charity). This was done in the memory of one of the group’s husband who died of blood cancer. Their story was originally made into a film, ‘The Calendar Girls’, and then into a play of the same name. Firth and Barlow obviously figured that a musical should naturally be the next evolution of the story.

It’s a bitter-sweet, yet heart-warming story. It deals with themes of grief and what to do with life after the loss of a loved one. Joanna Riding’s performance as the widowed Annie is beautifully honest and relatable. Her chemistry with Best Friend Chris (Clare Moore) was particularly strong. In fact it was the chemistry the whole group of girls had that was a strong point.

I, however, found that the show dragged. Like, really dragged. The first act was as slow as a lazy afternoon walk through the hills of Yorkshire. I often found myself thinking “Do you really have to sing about that?” Plus quite a few of the songs were not particularly memorable. Thankfully the pace picked up in the second act, when the group hilariously got their kit off. Each member of the group had their own battles to face and their own reason to do the calendar. When it finally came round dis-robing the event was all the more riotous because of those battles. Props to the fantastic group of actors for such inspiring confidence! I’m not going to lie, I saw quite a few nipples.

I’m a bit on the fence with The Girls. For me it was a problem with pace. A whole half hour could have been shaved off the 2 hours 45 minute running time in my opinion.

The Girls is on at the Phoenix Theatre and is closing on the 15th of July. But a national tour is starting on the 15th of August in Leeds!

To find out more about the work Bloodwise go to–> https://bloodwise.org.uk/

Theatre Reviews

Junkyard

1979. Bristol. A bunch of no good, scrappy youths are tricked into building a playground out of junk by their groovy, flare wearing mentor. Junkyard, a charming musical by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), harks back to a time where children ran free and savage.

This ensemble cast are each exceptional at portraying this sense of youth and adventure in this unique coming-of-age tale. There’s a sense of disillusionment, yet a powerful spark of childish optimism. There’s light and shade to all the characters. Admittedly the first act is an extremely slow burner. The songs felt dreary, repetitive and not particularly emotive. I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. But when the second act came rolling in I fell in love with the group and I fell hard. Erin Dotherty’s performance as Fiz was timed to comedic perfection. And Jack Riddiford’s mischievous Higgy won my heart with his cheeky/creepy smile and completely erratic characterisation.

The playground itself was any child’s (and probably set designer’s) dream. The actors constructed it themselves throughout the play.  An impressive barricade was even constructed during the climax of the second act – one that could possibly rival Les Mis! I was tempted to get up and play on it myself, despite the fact I’d probably get a splinter and a life-long ban from The Rose Theatre.

One might assume that having not spent my childhood in the 70’s or 80’s I would not be able to connect with the sense of nostalgia the play evoked, yet the message of the story is still relevant to today’s generation. Children will always have the right to play no matter how many times the term ‘childhood’ is redefined. And places like the Lockleaze playground in Bristol should always be there to facilitate that right.

A feel good show that is not for all the the family because the word punt* is used quite a lot.

Junkyard at The Rose Theatre closes on Sunday the 30th of April.

Special thanks to @amymccann39 for booking these tickets. The Rose run a under 26 £5 offer for certain performances, Mon-Thurs & Matinees.

 

 

 

*what rhymes with punt?

Theatre Reviews

Exodus/Incoming

I get so excited when it comes to immersive theatre. I think it’s a fantastic form of theatrical storytelling that is still in it’s Caterpillar stage and I want to be at the heart of it when it goes full Butterfly mode. It’s crazy that only a handful of companies in London are currently exploring it; Colab Factory, Specifque and Parabolic to name a few.

But…I don’t know whether I can legitimately review Incoming/Exodus as a piece of immersive theatre. It’s one of those things that just blur the lines between everything so just ends up being an defined as an “experience”.

It was like a glorified board-game. One of those board-games that gets whipped out at Christmas because Uncle Darren* thinks everyone is watching too much TV and we’re not “communicating” as a “family”. But the board-game is kinda depressing and by the time the game is over you’ve missed The Queen’s speech, and Strictly and Doctor Who. And everyone’s feeling kinda bitter towards Uncle Darren. But it’s not Uncle Darren’s fault. Uncle Darren was just trying to help.

The premise was that (for some reason) the Borough of Southwark had become its own separate state and we (the audience of 8) had to fulfil our civic duty and decide on the incoming immigrants. The applicants ranged from an Iraqi refugee, with a broken leg and two dependant brothers to Dr Jagdish with a net worth of 4000,000 (which I attempted to pronounce as four thousand, thousand) and plans to open a laboratory which will provided 1000’s of jobs. It was about deciding a difficult balance of contributors and dependants without depleting our resources too much. I always knew immigration was a difficult subject, especially in a world with so many refugees, but now I have the experience off actually making these decisions. Our meeting leader cleverly identified those of us that might be pragmatic and those who are empathetic. I don’t whether my own government is too pragmatic or too empathetic, I really don’t know enough on the subject but I certainly will try to learn more. Which is an excellent take away.

On the flip side however I did get quite bored. I knew these fictional case files weren’t real so the stakes didn’t feel very high. There was also a really annoying American lady in my group. She seemed very touchy. A lot Americans seem a bit touchy nowadays – can’t think why.

The basement we were in was also very poorly lit and I hit my head on a pipe. Not cool. The rest of the Colab Factory is simply charming though!

Incoming/Exodus at the Colab Factory until May 29th

tickets are £12

*I don’t actually have an Uncle Darren