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