Game at the Almeida Theatre

Monday, March 30, 2015 0

I

 have talked before about how much I enjoy immersive theatre, being part of the action can be fun and exciting, even a bit of a thrill.

Last week, I saw a new play by Mike Bartlett (of King Charles III fame) called Game at the Almeida, a play that wasn’t billed as immersive and yet I have seen few things that have made me feel quite so complicit in the action. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a long time.

The description on the Almeida website is deliberately vague:

In a housing crisis, a young couple are offered a home of their own. But at what price?

This gently hints at what is a truly chilling narrative, but as I did not look at any reviews beforehand, I had no idea what was in for, which contributed to the suspense.

Each audience member is given a large pair of headphones, as we are walking into a most unusual set. The headphones are worn throughout the play, which has the effect of making you feel isolated from everyone else in the audience and also completely immersed in the action. The audience is also segmented into small box-like sections, with a dark barrier where you’d expect the stage and a number of TV monitors. This contributes to the heightened tension before it even begins.

It starts with sound coming through the headphones as the monitors come to life. A young couple are viewing a modern and well decorated house, they are very excited about moving there and discuss starting a family. As the curtain finally rises, the house with the couple is revealed. At the same time you hear (thought you do not see it at first) another conversation, this is hard to discern, but it appears to be a job interview. Eventually one of the screens shows a man in a military uniform getting a job, the job comes with a gun.

I don’t want to reveal the plot, as it’s worth seeing it uninformed. All I am going to say is that as it ended there was no applause, and the set up really doesn’t allow for it, but we all sat there in stunned silence for a long moment before hurrying to get out, to leave it all behind.

Nevertheless, this is definitely a play worth seeing. Just make sure to read the warnings:

The production contains nudity, startling noises and acts some people may consider violent.

Game closes this Saturday, but tickers are still available from the Almeida Theatre website.

Top 5 Musicals: New to London

Sunday, March 15, 2015 0

I

 shared my all time favourite musicals last week, but in reality I don’t actually see that many new musicals, preferring to spend the majority of my theatre going time seeing plays. Nevertheless there are a number of musicals coming out this year in London that I am really REALLY very excited about. These are a mixture of brand new, new to London and revivals and I’ve not seen them before, but I really want to! These should be booked ASAP.

Gypsy

gypsy

I have never seen Gypsy and it’s a classic that I am super excited about, especially following the rave reviews it received at Chichester and Imelda Staunton at the helm. I saw her in Sweeney Todd a few years ago and she was fantastic.

In a sentence: Gypsy is a Sondheim musical from 1959 based on the life of American striptease artist – Gypsy Rose Lee, though it primarily focuses on her mother Rose, the original show business mum, as she and her two daughters travel across the country with their vaudeville act.

Opens: 28th March (oooh exciting, only a few weeks away!)

Where: The Savoy Theatre

Bugsy Malone

Bugsy Malone simple logoI love the movie and have loved the musical ever since we did it at school when I was 12 years old and the boy I had a massive crush on played the title role. It also saw it at Secret Cinema and it was my first Secret Cinema experience and as such the most awe inspiring, so I have very fond memories of hiding under the table with my friend whilst a mighty custard pie battle raged above us.

In a sentence: Bugsy Malone is set during the prohibition where two rival gangs (of children!) fight a turf war with custard guns and really if that doesn’t convince you, I am not sure if anything will.

Opens: 11th April

Where: Lyric (Hammersmith)

Carrie

carrie musical

I didn’t even know there was a musical version of Carrie, in fact I’ve read the book (and all those years later, I still have a vivid memory of the first few pages, you should check it out if you haven’t) but not seen either of the movies. This is the first time the musical is showing in London since it’s original production, which was a spectacular flop. It transferred to Broadway and closed only just a handful of shows at a huge financial loss! However, I think that the Southwark Playhouse sounds like the right home for it and I am very curious to see it.

In a sentence: Carrie is a bullied teenage girl with a magical secret, and there is a lot of blood, I mean it’s Stephen King, so definitely not one for the squeamish.

Opens: 1st May (Only on for 1 month!)

Where: Southwark Playhouse (This is one of my favourite venue for off West End musicals)

Bend it Like Beckham

Image-1

Oh my god, this is one of my favourite movies, one which I have seen countless of times and as such the news that it’s being made into a musical has made me super happy. Really can’t wait for this one, I have very high hopes for it and from what I’ve read it sounds like it will meet my expectations. Also, the cast is perfect!

In a sentence: Bend it like Beckham is about a girl that happens to be awesome at playing football, much to the dismay of her fairly traditional Indian family and the obstacles she has to navigate on the path to following her dreams. (Sounds cheesy, but it’s epic, trust me.)

Opens: 15th May

Where: Phoenix Theatre

Kinky Boots

kinky boots simple logoI was very tempted to see this on Broadway when I was in New York last year, where it won 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, but resisted because of the news that is going to open in the West End. It sounds seriously fun. Also googling it just now I discovered that there is also a movie! With Chiwetel Ejiofor in the role of Lola! Must see this.

In a sentence: Kinky Boots is based on true events and tells the story of a man who inherits a shoe factory from his dad, to save the business he begins an unlikely partnership with Lola, a cabaret performer and drag queen.

Opens: 21 August

Where: Adelphi Theatre

Am I missing anything?! Comment and let me know!

Top 5 Musicals: The Starter Pack

Sunday, March 8, 2015 2

I

get asked for theatre recommendations by friends and family fairly often. It sends me into a sort of panic that is usually reserved for realising you’ve left your phone at home or you have your phone, but you are running late and the maps aren’t loading. Yes, I am pretty reliant on my phone and yes, I go to the theatre often and I see a lot. Knowing what is showing is not the problem, but knowing what would appeal to you without playing 21 questions first is and not to mention the expectations that my recommendation has to be good, which is pretty weighty. It’s especially worse when someone is visiting London and wants to see a show, by which they mean a big flashy musical.

There are so many to pick from and it can be overwhelming, so for my own sanity and so that I have a go to place next time someone asks, I am going to share my favourite musicals that are currently playing in London. A sort of starter pack for the uninitiated. If you occasionally see a musical, chances are you would have seen most of these. This list isn’t for you. (But my next post will be, so come back in a few days!) If you haven’t seen these, but would like to, there is hope for you yet.

Les Miserables

No musical rec list can exist without Les Mis. It’s the world’s longest running musical for a reason, it’s epic in the true sense of the word and seriously awesome. I may be speaking as someone that has the soundtrack on her phone (it honestly brightens my daily commute) but you can trust me. If you are a history buff, just remember that musicals are not known for their historical accuracy and let it go.. (wrong musical, but you get the point). Just writing about it is enough to get “Do you hear the people sing” in my head, where it’s likely to stay for hours.

Note: It’s not one I would recommend taking small children to, because they won’t like it and the people sitting near you will not like you.

The Lion King

This one you can take small children to, but I would also recommend it to big adults, it’s a wonderful magical show that is seriously memorable. And unless you live under a rock, (instead of on one…geddit? Sorry.) you will probably be familiar with at least half the songs. The first time I saw it I was 12 years old (I remember clearly sitting in the stalls and having the animals walking right by me) the last time was last year on my 28th birthday. It has a great soundtrack for climbing a mountain, but it works equally well when driving up one if you are less athletically inclined.

The Book of Mormon

One for the boys. Not that girls won’t love it, but this is a good one for taking someone who mistakenly believes they don’t like musicals. It is funny and rude and catchy and it will probably change their mind. If it doesn’t then make sure to take them to the Angus Stakehouse across the road for a debrief and that is guaranteed to be the thing they complain about instead. (note to non-Londoners: this is a joke, not a recommendation, avoid an Angus Stakehouse like your life depends on it!)

(For the record, I prefer Avenue Q, but it’s not currently showing.)

Wicked

Wicked is my favourite and I love it and you should love it too. It has a combination of a great and engaging plot, really memorable and spectacular songs, a fabulous set and the comfort and familiarity that comes from knowing the Wizard of Oz. It’s hard for me to be objective, blinded by my love as I am, but I just think that a lot of new musicals only get one of these things right and to see them all is such a treat.

Matilda

Matilda is my favourite of the recent crop of new musicals and the only one that I think will stand the test of time. It’s another one that is great for the whole family and truly magical. If you are picking between that and Charlie and the Chocolate factory, then you should go with the one that is on this list, because it is on this list for a reason. This reason is that it’s great, whilst Charlie is sadly average at best.

That’s it. Please let me know if you agree, and especially if you disagree. Next time I will share the brand new (or just new to London or very old, but recently returned to the London stage) musicals that I am most excited about seeing in the coming months.

Speed The Plow Playhouse Theatre Review

Sunday, November 23, 2014 0

L

ike many people in my generation (am I allowed to say this? Do you have to be of a certain age to refer to ‘your generation’?) I have always rooted for Lindsay Lohan. I’ve loved her ever since the Parent Trap and I’ve not lost hope that she will be all right after all. When news came out that Lindsay was going to do a play in London, I was cautiously excited. That plus the casting of Richard Schiff aka Toby from the West Wing meant that I absolutely had to see Speed the Plow.

I want to start on a positive, I didn’t personally pay for the tickets (my boyfriend did, thanks dear!) and we had excellent seats.

Right, enough about the positive! It’s unfortunate that what I got from Speed the Plow is mediocre performances in a really fundamentally uninteresting play. The first scene dragged so much, I couldn’t believe it had only lasted 35 mins when the interval began. Perhaps with more gifted actors, the material could have been elevated to something engaging, but it was not meant to be. It’s a dry play about a jaded movie executive who temporarily agrees to put his career on the line in order to ‘green-light’ a supposedly good book into a meaningful movie following a night of passion with his ambitious temporary secretary and then changes his mind again. In a word, the entire plot is reset so it ends at the same point that it started on and perhaps that is the point, but as we do not really see the reason for the changes, I didn’t buy any of the character motivation. A play does not need compelling plot or likeable characters in order to be entertaining, but if this is the case at least some killer dialogue would help. What we get is long speeches that I suppose are intended to zing with wit, but which felt flat and uninspiring and downright boring. The characters are are cardboard stereotypes, with not a drop of distinguishing personality and I did not care about or believe any of them.

But enough about the play itself, you are probably wondering about how Lindsay did and oh how wish I could say that she was a diamond in the rough and made it all worthwhile, but unfortunately I can not do that. I was nervously hoping that she would remember her lines, but she messed up the start of her big Act 2 speech and had to get a line fed to her, which in all my years of theatre going I have never before witnessed. It was incredibly awkward and though she recovered reasonably well, it did mean that I was unable to listen or concentrate for at least five minutes. And the rest of her lines she remembered, including the impassioned speech about fear and the end of the world, but that’s as much praise as I can honestly give her. Lindsay’s speech feels rehearsed and what’s worse, there is no chemistry between her and the audience, she leaves us cold and her supposed passion is wholly unconvincing. I’ve always liked her raspy voice and I liked it here, but she hides behind her hair and there is little visible emotion on her face. It’s possible that with a better material, she would have done ok, but elevating David Mamet’s uninspiring play is unfortunately beyond her skills as an actress.