This review dates from April 2017 and is the Clapham Omnibus production. It first appeared on the Essential Surrey website.
April runs a guesthouse on the site of an old WW1 field hospital, catering to the ‘war tourists’ visiting the battlefields and graveyards of the western Front.
Despite it being the start of the season, she has only two guests – Pam, who has spent all her adult life living with and caring for her mother, and Tom, a former military man who runs battlefield tours and sells souvenir tat (“we went to Ypres and all I got was this lousy mug”). In this new play by Victoria Willing, we watch the three bicker and quarrel as they await the arrival of other guests and the return of April’s son. As the evening progresses, the atmosphere turns poisonous and we learn more about the motivations, the secrets and the histories of the protagonists. Continue reading
This review dates from November 2016 and refers to the Glyndebourne Company’s production at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking. It first appeared on the Essential Surrey website.
Tickets for the summer season at Glyndebourne sell out remarkably swiftly, so the opportunity to see the Glyndebourne company on tour is not one to be missed. Last night’s performance of Don Giovanni at Woking’s New Victoria theatre did not disappoint, with a strong orchestra conducted by Pablo Gonzalez, wonderful singing – particularly in the ensemble pieces – and a striking and ingenious staging.
Mozart’s anti-hero is a man with no moral scruple, his catalogue of sexual conquests numbering thousands, and the women he can’t seduce he takes by force. The opera opens with his attempted rape of the noblewoman Donna Anna, whose screams alert her father the Commendatore, whom Giovanni murders – in this production most brutally, battering him to death.
Giovanni and his servant Leporello (a fine performance from Brandon Cedel) flee into the night, leaving Anna (sublimely sung by Ana Maria Labin) and her fiancé Ottavio swearing vengeance on the murderer. The Commendatore will be Giovanni’s nemesis. Continue reading
This review dates from October 2016. The production was seen at the Richmond Theatre.
A Room With a View is a visually interesting, but wordy and emotionally unengaging adaptation of the E M Forster novel.
Lucy Honeychurch – a young middle-class Edwardian woman – is visiting Florence with her older, spinster cousin Charlotte Bartlett as chaperone. There are suffragettes on the streets of London, but ‘ladies’ are still expected to follow the Victorian rules surrounding ‘class’, social status and polite behaviour.
In their pensione Lucy and Charlotte meet George Emerson and his father – socialists and humanists, with radical ideas about religion, sexual equality and life. The snobbish Charlotte rebuffs the approaches of the lower middle class Emersons, but Lucy falls for George and, on a day trip to the Tuscan countryside, kisses him. Charlotte is mortified and whisks Lucy away from Florence.
This review first appeared on the Essential Surrey website and is from August 2016.
“Extravaganza Macabre” by Little Bulb Theatre at Battersea Arts Centre, is tremendous fun from start to finish, a knowing comedy from a talented cast that mixes music and melodrama and some great jokes and sight gags.
Devised to initiate BAC’s new open-air Courtyard Theatre, the production makes great use of the limited space, the energetic performers appearing and disappearing from all possible entrances around, above and below the performance area.
The setting is that we in the audience are present for a Victorian theatre company’s performance of the melodrama ‘Extravaganza Macabre’, the tale of lovers Ernest and Elizabeth, separated on their wedding day in tragic circumstances, and how, aided by a clairvoyant maid, a chipper cockney orphan boy (called ‘Chipper’) and his dog (called ‘dogdog’, “because he’s a dog”), they overcome the murderous Lord London to be reunited. Continue reading
Review of the Alan Bennett plays that form Single Spies, at the Richmond Theatre, March 2016. First published in Essential Surrey
In the 1930s, the British security services were penetrated by a group of double agents who passed on many secrets to Stalin’s Soviet Union over the next two decades. The group became known as the Cambridge Circle (they had all been friends from university) and included Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and the art historian Sir Anthony Blunt. Burgess and Maclean fled to the USSR in 1951, Philby followed in 1963. Blunt was granted immunity from prosecution and anonymity on the basis he cooperated with the authorities.
Alan Bennett’s Single Spies, at the Richmond Theatre until Saturday, actually consists of two plays. The first is an adaptation of the script for the 1983 TV movie An Englishman Abroad, about a meeting in Moscow between the actress Coral Browne and Guy Burgess. The second is A Question of Attribution, an imagined encounter between the Queen and Blunt, who was Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures until he was exposed as a traitor and stripped of his knighthood in 1979. Continue reading
Review of the Northern Broadsides’ production of Merry Wives at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. March 2016
Northern Broadside’s Merry Wives, at the Rose Theatre in Kingston this week, is Shakespeare redone as a classic English farce, with entrances and exits timed to perfection, and all the characters that have become staples of the genre – the lecherous old man, the jealous husband, the dopey servant, thwarted lovers and the bawdy old woman.
In a fast-paced production the cast pull off the performance with great energy, communicating their enthusiasm to the audience throughout. Continue reading
Review of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s production of Maxine Peake’s Beryl at the Rose Theatre, Kingston. March 2016
Beryl Burton is the cycling superstar that you’ve probably never heard of. British All Round champion for 25 consecutive years from 1959 to 1983, she held every national title (at one point simultaneously), won seven world titles, and her 1967 record for the 12 hour time trial is unbeaten to this day.
Maxine Peake’s Beryl is an entertaining celebration of this extraordinary woman’s life, told with a cast of just four, in a series of short scenes linked by narration. There’s humour as well as drama, as we go from Beryl’s childhood in Leeds and her marriage to Charlie, to the years when she was the all-conquering champion of the road and track. Samantha Power captures Beryl’s single-minded dedication to becoming the very best, and her refusal to give up, whatever the odds. Continue reading
Review of the production at Woking Theatre in February 2016. Published in Essential Surrey.
Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is a breathtaking visual feast from start to finish, an incredibly rich box of delights that oughtn’t to be missed.
Bourne has reimagined Tchaikovsky’s ballet as a dark gothic tale that starts in a fin de siecle royal household of servants and garden parties, and comes right up to date with its final scenes in a neon-lit nightclub. There are new characters and a new narrative structure that allows Bourne to take the old fairy tale and inject humour, wit, elegance and sex, and combine classical ballet with variations inspired by 20th century dance styles. There are even vampires (yes, really). Continue reading
This review originally appeared on the Sheengate Publishing site. The production ran from 7-14 November 2015.
King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies. Old men make fatal misjudgements, the younger generation are corrupted by ambition and the blackest parts of human character are revealed. Nature itself seems to rise in rebellion, but love and loyalty offer hope, and through suffering comes the wisdom to see the truth and the goodness of the human spirit. Continue reading
This review first appeared on the Sheengate publishing website. The production, by Headlong Theatre, was at Richmond Theatre from 3-7 November 2015.
The Glass Menagerie at Richmond Theatre is an impressive and moving production of Tennessee William’s “memory play”, with strong performances from the entire cast.
According to Tom Wingfield, one of the protagonists, the play is “truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion”, a memory of events that happened several years before, when he was living at home with his overbearing mother Amanda and his disabled and painfully shy sister Laura.
The staging is one room, set back on the stage to emphasise its distance from both the audience and the present. As Tom says in his introduction, as a memory play it is “dimly lighted… not realistic” and we see a stage stripped of nearly all furniture and props, with no windows and no homely touches. The actors are barefoot and, although the play is set in 1937, their hair and costumes belong to no particular period, as if to show that that such details are unimportant and distracting, and that it is only the interaction of the characters that is significant. Continue reading