Tag Archives: charing cross theatre

The Mix: a bowl full of London theatre buzz #2

Welcome to the second instalment of The Mix, in which I’ll look at some of the things in London theatre which have caught my eye.

A is for Admissions

Poster for Admissions.
Poster for Admissions.

Alex Kingston stars in Joshua Harmon’s new comedy at the Trafalgar Studios, where it runs until 25 May, after which it has a run at Richmond Theatre until 1 Jun.

Described as a “bold new comedy” this both takes a knock at the status quo and, timely enough, reflects some of the corruption going on overseas over fixed university and school places. I will be reporting back from this show soon. For information see
https://trafalgarentertainment.com/shows/admissions/

B is for Bunker and Boulevard

Inside the Bunker Theatre.
Inside the Bunker Theatre.

The Bunker Theatre was converted from an underground car park into an ambitious, artist-led space with two resident companies, Damsel Productions and Pint-Sized. Now in its third season, The Bunker presents an interesting mix of productions in an eclectic space underneath the Menier Chocolate Factory. I’ll be visiting to see Funeral Flowers later in the year.

The Boulevard Theatre has been announced as Soho’s newest playhouse, due to open in autumn 2019. Built on the site of the legendary Raymond’s Revuebar, this vibrant arts venue will host theatre, comedy, cabaret, music, film and literature with a seated capacity of 165.

C is for the Canal Cafe

Inside the Canal Cafe Theatre.
Inside the Canal Cafe Theatre.

The Canal Cafe Theatre celebrates its 40th birthday this year. Based on the edge of the Regent’s Canal, above the Bridge House Pub, the 60 seat theatre (arranged as table seating) presents comedy and drama, and helped to launch acts such as Miranda Hart and the League of Gentlemen. It is the home of the NewsRevue, the world’s longest running comedy show.

D is for Dog (Curious Incident)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

Currently running at the Piccadilly Theatre until 27 April 2019, this National Theatre revival has a relaxed performance on the 6 April. Based on the book by Mark Haddon, this quirky show focuses on 15 year old Christopher, an exceptional boy who experiences the world in quite a different way to the norm. With five-star reviews, I’m looking forward to seeing this next month. For more information go to
https://thepiccadillytheatre.com/show/the-curious-incident-of-the-dog-in-the-night-time/piccadilly-theatre

E is for Etiquette

via Excite.com

Mobile phones, takeaways, sing-alongs, photography, heckling, late comers, drunk audience members, coughing, noisy sweet wrappers, putting drinks or bags or yourself on the stage, you name it. It’s a tough old world out there and theatre is a nice escape for many of us, so if you’re guilty of any of the items in the list: just stop!

A few things you may want to bear in mind if you want to be a model audience member – put your phone away (switched off) during the performance, keep your singing in your own head, don’t snap pics, don’t interrupt or talk, don’t stagger in late, don’t stagger in drunk, suck a cough sweet and sip on a bottle of water (or if you’re coughing badly, stay at home in bed), bring loose sweets only, respect the performers’ space even if it is just literally that rather than a conventional stage.

Simple, isn’t it?

F is for Frozen

Frozen - the Broadway production.
Frozen – the Broadway production.

If you’d been on the Theatre Royal Drury Lane backstage tours last year just before the theatre closed for renevation, you will have known that Frozen was set to be the first new show on re-opening in autumn 2020, but it is now official, and you can sign up for information and pre-sale of tickets. No news yet on whether any of the Broadway cast will transfer with the show but you can read the rave review of the New York production at
https://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/reviews/review-of-disneys-frozen-on-broadway

The film of Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time, and the stage production, directed by Michael Grandage, has already won a Tony Award nomination for best new musical. The Drury Lane production will feature set and costume design by Christoper Oram, lighting design by Natasha Katz, choreography by Rob Ashford.

G is for Groan Ups

Poster for Groan Ups.
Poster for Groan Ups.

Mischief Theatre (The Play That Goes Wrong, The Comedy About a Bank Robbery) have announced their new show, set to open at the Vaudeville Theatre in September 2019. Groan Ups is a brand-new comedy about growing-up, asking whether we are really that different at 30 than at 13, this is being pitched as “a lesson not to be skipped”.

For more information go to
https://mischieftheatre.co.uk/shows/groan-ups .

H is for Hope Mill and The Hope

Pippin, which transferred from Hope Mill to the Southwark Playhouse.

The Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester is proving to be a rich source of musicals transferring into the capital, with Pippin, Aspects of Love, Yank, and Hair.

Based in Ancoats, the company is a joint venture for creative couple William Wheldon and Joseph Houston, and producer Katy Lipson. Together they are Hope Aria and their current musical project is Rags.

Find out more about the theatre and its shows at
https://hopemilltheatre.co.uk/

Over at the Hope Theatre in Islington, a new production is underway. Thrill Me: the Leopold and Loeb Story centres on the murder popularised in the Hitchcock film Rope, this time made into a musical by Stephen Dolginoff. The show runs from 2-20 April. More information at
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/

I is for the Iris Theatre

Summer productions at the Iris Theatre

The Iris Theatre is one of London’s award winning theatre companies, performing each summer in the grounds of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden (known as the ‘Actors Church’).

This year’s summer season runs from 19 June-1 Sept and comprises Hamlet and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If the classics don’t appeal, try a ticket for a new musical Parenthood runs on the 3 May or Cleopatra runs on the 11 May.

For more about the company and its shows go to
https://iristheatre.com/

J is for the Jazz Cafe

Interior of the Jazz Cafe in Camden

Approaching its 30th anniversary in a former Barclays Bank branch in Camden, this ecletic nightspot offers a wide range of music and dance events. For listings and information visit
https://thejazzcafelondon.com/

K is for Katzpace

Inside Katzpace

Katzpace is a new 50 seat theatre based at London Bridge, under the German Bierkeller. Billed as “London’s coolest theatre” it showcases theatre and comedy with an edgy and intelligent feel, hosting scratch nights, queer theatre, improv and more.

At the start of April it becomes on of the venues for the 2019 London Pub Theatre Festival. Its resident theatre company, Exploding Whale Theatre, is made up of recent graduates. Keep an eye on the venue and its work at
https://www.katzpace.co.uk/whats-on

L is for LIVR

Shot from LIVR, used by permission.

LIVR merges live performance, streaming and virtual reality to provide access to theatrical experiences via a mobile phone and a headset. It is the first VR platform dedicated to theatre, to offer “the best seat in the house without leaving the house”.

With a monthly subscription and a growing library of content, this may revolutionise how we access our theatre spaces and productions. I hope to offer a full feature on how this works later in the year.

For more information see https://livr.co.uk/faq and remember it is “LIVR like Fiver”.

M is for Maggie May

Publicity image for Maggie May
Publicity image for Maggie May

Over at the Finborough Theatre, musical Maggie May is enjoying a revival in its first London production in half a century. Lionel Bart’s show is a hard-hitting celebration of working-class life on Merseyside and runs to the 20 April. It also commemerates the 20th anniversary of Bart’s death.

For more information go to
https://finboroughtheatre.co.uk/productions/2019/maggie-may.php

N is for National Theatre

National Theatre
National Theatre

The National has announced its new season and it is entirely made up of male playwrights, which is a little disappointing. However, I will be attending to see Hansard, featuring Alex Jennings and Lindsay Duncan, and I am intrigued by their new musical show for children and the young at heart, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear.

Find out more at https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/your-visit/season-page

O is for Open Air Theatre

Open Air Theatre, Regents Park
Open Air Theatre, Regents Park

The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park is often a martyr to the English weather, but unfailingly presents a summer season to shout about. This year the American perennial Our Town goes shoulder to shoulder with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while musical and opera fans are served by revivals of Evita and the ENO’s Hansel and Gretel.

For more information go to https://openairtheatre.com/whats-on

P is for Pub theatres

Theatre 503 at The Latchmere, Battersea
Theatre 503 at The Latchmere, Battersea

London is chock-full of pub theatres, intimate and exciting spaces which generate new work and give a sideways slant on old favourites. They often have left-field or evocative names – The Hen and Chickens, Etcetera, Tabard, Katzpace, Bread and Roses. They may be small, but they are an essential part of London’s theatreland.

I’ll be visiting the King’s Head later in the year, and hope to experience some more of these very special venues in the future. To find out more about some of this quirky spaces, go to https://londonist.com/london/on-stage/london-s-pub-theatres-mapped

Q is for Queer

via Female Arts
via Female Arts

London’s theatreland is a safe and energising space for LGBTQ+ shows, with venues such as Above the Stag, the King’s Head, Soho Theatre, Hackney Showroom, Arcola Theatre, Park Theatre, The Glory, The Yard, Camden People’s Theatre, and more showcasing new writing, queer seasons, or even entire programming with the rainbow flag prominently in focus, the metropolis can certainly hold its head up with pride.

R is for the Rose

Inside the Rose Theatre
Inside the Rose Theatre, Kingston

The Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames celebrated its tenth birthday last year and shows no signs of slowing down. As well as some excellent upcoming shows including Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and The Snow Queen, the theatre now has an Emerging Artists Fellowship in honour of its founder, Sir Peter Hall.

There is also a second Rose in London, the Rose Playhouse on Bankside. Billed as “Bankside’s first Tudor theatre”, this was the site of the Save The Rose campaign in 1989, and what has since been uncovered enjoys English Heritage Scheduled Monument status. Events taken place regularly, and there is a 30th anniversary gala planned in May. The Rose is still in desperate need of support – visit http://www.roseplayhouse.org.uk/experience/events/ to find out more.

S is for Shapeshifting

Cillian Murphy in Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Photo credit Colm Hogan.
Cillian Murphy in Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Photo credit Colm Hogan.

If you move quickly and get across to the Barbican Centre you can catch Cillian Murphy’s astonishingly physical and visceral performance as the Crow in Grief is the Thing With Feathers, which runs until 13 April. It’s sold out, but returns might be available on the day.

T is for Tributes

Philip Bretherton in Tony's Last Tape
Philip Bretherton in Tony’s Last Tape

Over in Clapham rehearsals are underway for Tony’s Last Tape, a transfer from Nottingham in which Philip Bretherton plays Tony Benn, at the Omnibus Theatre. Presented by Excavate, this is based on the diaries of one of Britain’s seminal and most divisive politicians, and is accompanied by an exhibition – Tracey Moberley’s audio diaries of Tony Benn.

The show runs from the 2-20 April and I will be reporting back on it soon. Find out more at https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/tonys-last-tape/

U is for Underbelly

The Underbelly Festival
The Underbelly Festival

It’s British Summer Time so it must be time for return of the Underbelly Festival at the South Bank. Running from 5 April-29 September 2019, you can enjoy family-focused shows, comedy, cabaret, and the circus across 31 seperate shows. Now in its 11th year, there is also a large outdoor bar, street food, and a truly festival atmosphere with shows which are short (less than an hour), cheap (less than £20), and cheerful.

V is for Violet and Vincent River

Poster for Vincent River
Poster for Vincent River

Two shows to highlight this month.

At the Charing Cross, Jeanine Tesori’s musical Violet continues until the 6 April. This award-winning tearjerker set on a greyhound bus and its environs benefits from an excellent set and some very good performances.

Meanwhile, over at the Trafalgar Studios 2, Vincent River is a one-act play focusing on hate crime in Dagenham. It previously ran at the Hampstead Theatre in 200, and in the West End in 2007. It plays from the 16 May-22 June.

W is for Wembley and White City

Artist impression of the new Troubadour Theatre in Wembley
Artist impression of the new Troubadour Theatre in Wembley

New theatres are always worth celebration, and the first of two promised Troubadour Theatres opens in June, at Wembley Park, on the site of the former Fountain Studios. The inaugural productions are Dinosaur World Live and a stop-off for the tour of War Horse. The second Troubadour is due to open in White City, on former BBC Media Village land, later in the year, with two flexible spaces of 1,200 and 800 seats respectively. For more information see https://www.troubadourtheatres.com/

X is for King’s Cross (X)

Platform Theatre
Platform Theatre

In the vicinity of King’s Cross Station are a variety of fine performance spaces.

The Shaw Theatre is situated next to the British Library and has a programme of dance, musical theatre, drama and talks. They have recently made their My Fair Lady rehearsal space available for hire.

The Platform Theatre on Handyside St is part of Central St Martins at the University of the Arts and comprises four performance spaces and a bar.

King’s Place on York Way is described as ‘a hub for music, art, dialogue and food’.

Y is for the Yard

Inside the Yard Theatre
Inside the Yard Theatre

The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick aims to make “theatre about our world, today”. Around the corner from Hackney Wick Station in Queen’s Yard, this fully accessible space also boasts a bar and kitchen. Their current production, running to the 11 May, is a revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which for the first time has a female actor playing John Proctor. I’ll be reporting back from this show in April – for information and booking go to https://theyardtheatre.co.uk/theatre/events/the-crucible/

Z is for Z Hotels

Z Hotel Soho

Finally, if all the excitement leads you to want a place to lay your weary head, try the compact rooms of one of London’s Z hotels. With eight to choose from across the capital, and two more coming soon, this could be an affordable option for those of you travelling for your theatre fix.

Advertisements

Violet (Charing Cross Theatre)

Following a run of Jeanine Tesori’s musical Caroline or Change, London is now playing host to the UK premiere of an earlier work written with Brian Crawley, Violet, set on a greyhound bus, some of its stops, and in the memory of its main character.

Matthew Harvey and Kaisa Hammarlund. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Matthew Harvey and Kaisa Hammarlund. Photo by Scott Rylander.

The Charing Cross theatre auditorium has been reconfigured in the round, with a stage revolve and ceiling decoration. In this space Violet (and her younger self) join two soldiers and a rag-bag collection of travellers, across the southern states of the USA.

Violet was disfigured as a child and her faith has driven her to seek out healing from a preacher famous on television. She sees herself as ugly and people she meets comment on her scar, but the audience don’t see it (they see her from within rather than through the pitying eyes of others?).

Matthew Harvey and Kaisa Hammarlund. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Janet Mooney and Kaisa Hammarlund. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Tesori’s score may take a few repeated listens to be fully appreciated, but the ensemble pieces on the bus made me think of the airplane camaderie of Come From Away, with different concerns and overlapping stories.

Kaisa Hammarlund impresses as Violet, who trusts no-one and lives on sarcasm, cunning and nervous energy. In her quest for perfection she engages both soldiers, Monty (Matthew Harvey) and Flick (Jay Marsh) in romance, and makes peace both with herself and the Lord by the end of her travels.

Cast of Violet. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Cast of Violet. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Parallel scenes of card playing and musical memories with Young Violet (Madeleine Sellman at the performance I saw) and Keirom Crook as her father, struggling to raise a child who has the eyes and the smile of her dead mother, are effective.

I also enjoyed Janet Mooney’s dual roles as the fussy old lady on the bus and the hooker in the hotel where Violet is not welcome ‘cos she’s white’.

This musical is passionate, topical and heartwarming, and despite some odd staging decisions from director Shuntaro Fujita, it thrives in this intimate theatre and moves swiftly in an economical 95 minute running time.

Kenneth Avery Clark and cast. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Kenneth Avery Clark and cast. Photo by Scott Rylander.

Violet continues at the Charing Cross Theatre until 6 April.


Mythic (Charing Cross Theatre)

mythic 4

Daniella Bowen as Demeter. Photo by Marc Brenner.

This bright new musical takes the stories of the Greek Gods and presents them as you might not have seen them before.

Zeus (Tim Oxbrow) is having a party to honour his daughter Athena, and his daughter Aphrodite (Goddess of Love) is doing her best to gain his attention.  What better way than to bring along the sheltered Persephone, daughter of the banished Demeter (Goddess of the Earth) to Olympus?

mythic

Michael Mather as Hades and the cast of Mythic. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Zeus is a strutter but ultimately a coward, and when Aphrodite’s power of love turns Persephone and the dangerous Hades (God of the Dead) to each other, and banishes Persephone to the Underworld, there are choices they all need to make.

In a brisk 80 minutes, seventeen songs contribute to this mainly sung-through musical, in which the twelve cast members all have a chance to shine, but especially Michael Mather (Hades) in his professional debut, Georgie Westall (Persephone), Daniella Bowen (Demeter), and Australian lawyer turned performer Genevieve McCarthy (a Paris Hiltonesque Aphrodite), who are all terrific and give their characters real depth.

mythic 2

Georgie Westall as Persephone and the cast of Mythic. Photo by Marc Brenner.

You don’t need to know your Greek mythology to enjoy this, although if you do you will get an extra kick from seeing the Persephone in the Underworld take unfold, and you might like her positive spin on Charon’s boat trips on the Styx or the gardens of Hell.

The score by Oran Eldor and book/lyrics by Marcus Stevens hits the funny bone while still presenting touching moments around the growing relationship between a teenage girl and her devoted mother (“I don’t always like you, but I always love you”), and the problems of having the need to play favourites (Aphrodite is such a spoilt brat until she is able to see how her powers can be used for good rather than mischief).

mythic 3

Genevieve McCarthy as Aphrodite. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Sarah O’Gleby directs and choreographs, and Chris Ma keeps tight control of a talented musical ensemble.  This has a lot of potential to grow and become a longer show,  but if you want to experience it as it currently is, and to support the company (Ben Lancaster, Ben Welch, Courtney Brogan Smalley, Eloise Davies, Jade Marvin and Jamie Ross fill out the remaining roles), go and see it now.

Mythic continues at the Charing Cross Theatre until the 24th November, and you can book tickets here.

 

 


Dusty (Charing Cross Theatre)

dusty

Dusty Springfield is one of my favourite singers.  Therefore a jukebox musical based on her life sounds appealing.  By the time I attended the show I was aware of the various problems which have affected proceedings; press night being postponed until over three months after opening (it is set for early September), technical issues causing performances to be cancelled and curtailed, a change of director, and tales of actors being forced to rehearse changes they will perform that very night.

Last week, it was announced that nine members of the cast will leave this show (out of sixteen – a spokesman for the show claimed there were nineteen cast members, which is worrying in itself).  So three cast members leave on the 8th August and the remainder on the 22nd August.  There’s talk of trouble behind the scenes.

So, what’s the show like?  It is a fusion of live performance from the actors, dancers and band, film clips of Dusty performing (of which more later), and the much-hyped holograms which apparently took four years to develop.  The show itself has been in planning for nine years (although it seems this is not the show pitched to Dragons’ Den back in 2009), but little of that planning, or indeed any professionalism, shows on stage.

Dusty herself is played by new stage school graduate Ellie Ann Lowe, and she does work hard, although any resemblance to the subject is nil, and we never believe in her character for a moment.  The show is put together with the framing device of an interview with Dusty’s ‘best friend’, the fictitious Nancy Jones, who seems to have gone through life with the same dress and without getting any older.  Nancy and Dusty’s relationship is played like one of the worst kind of teen dramas, where kids always pledge to ‘look after each other, no matter what’.

As Nancy, Francesca Jackson is good enough to carry a thankless role, but her presence is superfluous when there was enough real drama in the life of Dusty Springfield nee Mary O’Brien without creating fake friends.  Still, there has to be some semblance of a plot (and of a script), although Kim Weild (from Broadway) has not written anything particularly groundbreaking – one scene only worked dramatically, and that was when Dusty took her new friend Norma to the popular lesbian club The Gates and on to the dancefloor, leading into ‘All I See Is You’.

Those film inserts at least give us a sense of the real Dusty – but they are often out of synch with the sound and overshadowed by the backing band and singers who are so often sadly intrusive, with arrangements that do not fit the vocals in the original broadcasts.  What should be a powerful moment the first time we see Dusty as a solo artist on screen is marred by these irritating technical issues which should surely have been ironed out by now.  However, I would question the artistic choices which meant we saw a reproduction of the famous Motown show where Dusty duetted with Martha Reeves, rather than the far superior film sequence itself.

As for the holograms – the first one is in black and white and vaguely works as a curiosity, but the colour one which opens the second half (‘Spooky’) is atrocious, and if the lack of usable footage means we have to resort to a body double ‘singing’ with her back to the audience for half the song, it is time to give up.  There’s another one which segues from an excellent quality colour film clip of the real Dusty into this jerky, blurry travesty.  I was totally bemused as to why anyone thought this was a good idea.  And finally, there is a hologram performance of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ which just falls flat.

If I try to be kind to this show, I will say that the beleaguered cast work hard, although there is little atmosophere or enjoyment visible to the audience.  The whole thing is a major car crash which commits the unforgivable sin of making Dusty Springfield look as if she was a bit rubbish, which I am sure is not the creators’ intention.  Money has been clearly thrown at this show, but it hasn’t stuck, leaving a poorly directed and scripted mess which overreaches itself by trying to do too much and fails on nearly every front.

A show which resorts to getting the audience to sing along (to ‘In The Middle of Nowhere’) for no reason at all, is showing signs of desperation in my book.  Were it not for the fact that Dusty’s talent does shine through despite all the odds being against her (dodgy cutting of clips, that synch problem, dancers blocking our view of the clips, awful arrangements), I would give this even more of a negative review.  There’s a nice moment at the end where Dusty appears to be signing off ‘love and thanks’ on the see-through curtain which separates show from audience.  It’s the equivalent of being given a medal for endurance.

Those of you who got 50% off tickets as we did, from LoveTheatre, be aware that the venue will not accept your paper tickets and you will have to swap them for proper tickets at the box office.  Given that every other West End venue manages to deal with printed tickets, this just seems churlish to me, and the lack of customer care at the door in refusing our barcoded printouts did not impress. In other examples of over-pricing, a small bottle of water will set you back over £2 and a programme/brochure combo £8.

Do not waste your money on this show.  I would instead urge you to check out performances from the lady herself on YouTube, and to invest in a copy of the DVD collection ‘Dusty at the BBC’.  Miss Springfield, I am truly sorry your memory is being subjected to such rubbish as I saw last night.  Here, dear readers, have a look at what I am really talking about.

The producer of this show is seemingly planning a 3D hologram show about Jimi Hendrix.  On the evidence here I would urge him to reconsider, and I would advise audiences to ignore any such plans.


The Wee Writing Lassie

The Musings of a Writer / Freelance Editor in Training

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

The Book Dragon

Bargain Fantasy Book Reviews and Recommendations

KatieGloria

My thoughts and experiences with mental health, pregnancy and parenthood

Lady Don't Fall Backwards

Orders must be obeyed without question at all times.

monstagigz

Get the most in-demand tickets cheapest

Bipolar-Ilari

bipolar mixed type, ocd, social phobia

%d bloggers like this: