Review: It is a truth, New Wimbledon Theatre, Studio

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

The audience were transfixed as a women in a prom dress and slightly orange make-up dmonstrated the various flaws, struggles and fears of Austen’s female protagonists and explicated on how they are directly parallel to many of our own today, it’s seems times haven’t truly changed. A moment of unexpected genius. Let’s just say looks can be deceiving.

In a room full of chattery Jane Austen fans the buzz is certainly palpable. Jayde, (Jaleelah Galbraith), a loveable Bristolian, who likewise idolises Jane Austen, is as conversational as her crowd, commanding attention from the outset and jovially entertaining for the duration of her performance. In a stand-up comedy show like no other, Jayde is here to spiritedly help her audience navigate the expectations placed on modern women through an anecdotal lense and with a period twist. Think Bridget Jones, Colin Firth, the world of online dating, and much more, as Jayde hilariously justifies how Austen’s ideology is still relevant today, stating that feminists should look to Sense in Sensibility rather than Single Ladies for validation.

This quaint character piece is a wonderful evening out for Austen fans and feminists alike, providing a relevant and relatable commentary upon modern ‘courtship’, from its soaring highs to its tragic lows. Galbraith’s style of comedy is exquisite, she is both expressive and gregarious, though Jayde is a stereotypical character and comically so, she comes across incredibly real and raw, as she lays bare all of her heartbreaks, embarrassments and failures. Yet her comedy is wonderfully backed up by literary wit and factual knowledge. Additionally, Galbraith is an excellent storyteller, something required to keep up with her various and elaborated anecdotes, interwoven throughout her piece, with smatterings of improvisation and moments conversing with her audience, the performance doesn’t feel recited or pre-written, the mark of a truly talented comedian as she manages to stay on track despite minor deviations, all whilst maintaining her character’s familiarity and like-ability.

As aforementioned the piece is wonderfully entertaining and at points, laugh-out-loud funny, yet Galbraith could do with working on her pacing, she speeds though many of her stories as if not coming up for a breathe, (trying to cram her script into a single hour, perhaps?) And it thus, becomes difficult to keep up with her train of words, let alone train of thought. Furthermore the modern thematics such as Harry Potter and the implications of speed dating are sporadically chosen, feeding well into comparing and contrasting Jane Austen’s world to the world we live in today, yet they also appear to detract a little too much from Galbraith’s clever utilisation of Jane Austen, her circumstances and her words. These modern exertions do not need to be taken out entirely as they are necessary for relevancy and ground the piece, but instead toned down a touch in order to streamline effectively and give the literaric research a larger much presence.

Nevertheless, It is a truth is a clever and tangible piece, decompartmentalising the modern female experience.

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Review: Dear Elizabeth, Gate Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

So unbelievably playful and strong!

Tamsin Greig and Angus Wright provided a memorable masterclass in storytelling, emoting and reactivity on January 24th 2019 at the Gate Theatre. An evening of pure electricity never to be repeated again. (Though it was recorded for archive purposes).

As two actors, (Greig and Wright), enter the long rectangular space at opposing ends surrounded by audience members on both sides, they address the room as friends and beam at each other knowingly, a twinkle in their eyes. Safe in the knowledge that they are in this together and though the evening ahead may be a bumpy ride, that mistakes are okay, they are human and that is the whole point of this experiment, to create and present something truly anthropoid, not perfect and neat but raw and ephemeral. Ultimately reflective of true life.

With that in mind, Dear Elizabeth is presented to its audience by two different actors each night and most intriguingly, in every performance these actors have no idea what is going to happen, they simply follow any written instructions and read the real letters of American poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, letters that amounted to over 400 in number. Due to to the work’s very make-up, it would be easy for one to liken it to a script reading session that happens to be in front of an audience, two actors trying to stumble their way through the first read, but Dear Elizabeth is certainly not that. Sarah Ruhl has carefully curated the real words of Elizabeth and Robert, yet the designed presentation of them here is profoundly exciting and thrilling. The rehearsal room devisers and strong creative team’s work, leaves the groundwork for the actors to feel encouraged to read and enact the letters appropriately, following instructions and periodically receiving the text in a variegated manner, as well as various accompanying props, (or technical elements). These details being indicative of the letter’s content or the standing of the character at that time in their life. This dispersive and playful effect, makes for quite the opposite of strenuous readings of lengthy paragraphs of text with little stimulation coming from the delivery. Often the other actor is left looking amused at what they are faced with, or forced into something their instructions haven’t yet warned them about. An excellent nod to the unexpected nature of life and human relationships, whilst remaining hugely entertaining. As things get messy and props mount up, we are discernibly faced with the sporadic and convoluted nature of Robert and Elizabeth’s connection.

The vibrancy of the performance in these carnalised moments is thus matched by the utilisation of a joyous instrumental soundtrack and of strategic black outs or transposing  lighting states, the lighting and sound doing much to not only emote and accent the piece, but more importantly to convey this overall ‘playfulness’. The atmosphere here enacting much like the dance of flirting, another aspect of Elizabeth and Robert’s relationship, though it was platonic, their words indicate an underlying intensity, something deep, sensual and romantic. The aforementioned physicalisations of the letter’s content, thus paint wonderfully vibrant pictures of Elizabeth and Robert’s affection towards each other, as well as their cutting pain and suffering, or brisk euphoria. These are beautiful and fleeting glimpses into two lives, lived very much apart, yet connected by words. It is the apart nature of their lives which is prodigiously demonstrated though the design. The two character’s being given their own domains, writing desks at either end of the playing space. The middle ground being utilised to indicate real-life meetings or simply a particular closeness between them. Plastic sheeting, tinged with a turquoise blue sparkles along the floor, it represents the continents and therefore bodies of water that were often between Elizabeth and Robert, added to by the distance of the actors.

There is not much more to say about the work as it is something that you have to experience to truly understand. A tenderly crafted commentary upon genuine human connection, using two real individuals and their own words, brought to life in an incredibly human manner. The delivery is both exhilarating and palpable, you won’t ever see anything else like it. Let Dear Elizabeth take you through tender moments of compassion, quickly followed by witty instances of hilarity and delight, bookend by absolute heart-wrenching sorrow, the show runs until February 14th, click here to book.

 

Angela Clerkin – Performer
Helena Lymbery – Performer
Isabel Adomakoh Young – Performer
Leo Bill – Performer
Chris Thorpe – Performer
Lucy Ellinson – Performer
Sue MacLaine – Performer
Nadia Albina – Performer
Emma Frankland – Performer
Jo Clifford – Performer
Jo Horton – Performer
Emma Dennis Edwards – Performer
Seiriol Davies – Performer
Temi Wilkey – Performer
Amelia Stubberfield – Performer
Charlotte Josephine – Performer
Phoebe Fox – Performer
Caoilfhionn Dunne – Performer
Annabel Baldwin – Performer
Sarah Ruhl – Writer
Joseph Akubeze – Performer
Nigel Barrett – Developer & Deviser
Hannah Ringham – Performer/Developer & Deviser
Angus Wright – Performer
Kwame Owusu – Performer
Linda Broughton – Performer
Dickie Beau – Performer
Sule Rimi – Performer
Lucy Bairstow – Performer
Nina Harding – Stage Manager: Props
Jonjo O’Neill – Performer
Lucy McCormick – Performer
Jade Anouka – Performer
Nina Bowers – Performer / Developer & Deviser
Tamsin Greig – Performer
Travis Alabanza – Lodetti
Christopher Green – Performer
Christopher Brett Bailey – Performer
Lois Chimimba – Performer
Thalissa Teixeira – Performer
Tim Crouch – Performer
Kayla Meikle – Performer
Emun Elliott – Performer
Shalisha James Davis – Performer
Hattie Morahan – Performer
Ellen McDougall – Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive
Moi Tran – Designer
Sam Spruell – Performer
Jon Nicholls – Sound Designer
Elizabeth Chan – Performer
Ed Borgnis – Production Manager
Phil Massingham – Production Electrician
Jenny Skivens – Stage Manager: Book
Sally Hardcastle – Design Assistant
Yasmin Hafesji – Assistant Director
Lucy Morris – Stage Manager: Props
Frankie Henry – Performer
Jessica Hung Han Yun – Lighting Designer

Review: Leave to Remain, Lyric Hammersmith

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(Photo: Johan Persson)

 

Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Described as a modern love story, Leave to Remain, blends vibrant compositions by Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, with a stylised poignant book by writer Matt Jones. It spiritedly navigates the complexities of modern relationships, mixed with toxic masculinity, multiculturalism, recreational drug use and penetrable city culture. A diverse story for our time and our city, wouldn’t you say?

The narrative tenderly follows young, gay couple Obi and Alex, who decide, after only a ten month relationship to get married. The immediacy, a result of Alex‘s visa coming to an abrupt end as he chooses to not move with his company to the Middle East and wishes to stay with Obi, decisively not returning to America either. Marriage to Obi, thus giving Alex his International Leave To Remain, ultimately providing the work with it’s namesake, whilst broaching the difficulty of relationships that span cultures and continents. A worthwhile commentary considering the cultural vibrancy of London, (the city setting of the work). However as the pair seek to form a union, it appears they don’t know much about each other’s past and must face their families together. It is here we learn of Obi’s strict Nigerian father who cast him out at 16, and witness a piercing exegesis on ingrained cultural defamation towards homosexuality and its psychological effect, particularly with Obi hiding this from Alex. As Obi laments his family missing out on all of the important moments in his life and tries to persuade them to attend, Alex’s family are seemingly more open, flying across the world to be there for the big day. Yet, even his family aren’t as united as they appear, and Alex’s past addictions and life attempts come to light. Making Leave to Remain a powerful portrait of the modern concept of self, consanguinity, the gay lifestyle and parental relationships. Think Kinky Boots’ Not My Father’s Son with a fresher, more indie vibe. (*Listen to Shame from the show).

It is interesting that a piece following the struggle of an ex-drug addict and his relapse in the face of mounting pressure (caused by an uncertain future), opened just as a study was released claiming that eels in the Thames were showing levels of hyperactivity due to large amounts of cocaine presenting itself in waste water. A reflection of the prevalent and very real recreational drug culture in London. Thus, it is worth mentioning that Leave to Remain’s commentary on avocational drug usage is mature and palpable, commendable as many attempts at such, glamourise or over exaggerate. We see Obi and friends trying to hide their use of cocaine from Alex before a party, this is the first act of true compassion we witness from Obi towards Alex, Obi attempting to protect him through concealment. What ensues is an extraordinarily slick and precise, stylised movement sequence, demonstrating the drug’s affect on Obi and friends as they enjoy a night out together. Yet, these movement sequences continue to come thick and fast throughout the piece. They are wonderfully unique and of possibly the best execution we have ever seen in terms of fluidity and power. But most importantly, they do much to tie the work together, linking back to drug use and indicating Alex’s prior substance abuse, demarking it as an important social concept, whilst also generally demonstrating the pain, anguish and euphoria of the protagonists as they navigate the possibility of a future together. These lucid sequences particularly thrive due to the strength of the ensemble who gel together flawlessly, aptly performing the complexities and accents.

The connectivity of these laxations thus conveying the fundamentals of the piece, particularly relationships and the delicate balance required in order to sustain them. Whether they are that of a parent-child/father-son dynamic or of marriage and sanctity. Therefore Leave to Remain provides an excellent exposé on propinquity, not only does it explore the possibility of a marriage between Obi and Alex alongside their dysfunctional relationships with their parents, it also highlights that even marriages that appear perfect aren’t always what they seem. This is where the work delicately fades in on and dissects Obi’s parents marriage, subtly showing his mother’s disagreement with his father’s religiously steered disapproval of his sexuality and the cutting of Obi out of their lives, we are directed towards the love she holds for her son combined with a fear to speak up in order to endure her marriage. Similarly the snide comments from Alex’s father in response to his mother’s excitement and expropriation, tenuously point towards martial problems with separation on the cards. The piece ultimately pointing out that marriage is a giving and taking, reciprocal agreement. It is a commitment to be the other person’s reason to stay. Much like Obi is Alex’s reason to stay in the UK emotionally, as well as literally, as the marriage effectively grants him International Leave To Remain. Therefore the choreography set to Okereke’s score, combines with Jones’ ingenious book eloquently, all vibrantly and sagaciously tackling the subject matter. An amicable venture that pays off, what is presented is gently balanced and sympathetic visual theatrical anarchism, that is not only truthful but affectionate and raw. The vibrancy of the compositions reflecting the millennial, indie, city-slicker/party lifestyle, despite bleak times and adversity, clearly the life-blood of Okereke himself. With the book also giving the character’s much needed dimension and wit.

Though, it is important to note that there is something strikingly undeveloped about the work, Jones’ book is incredibly intelligible, yet the piece seems somewhat predictable. Whilst Okereke’s score neglects a true stand out number, it plays like an indie-pop opera that continuously lands on the same level, not necessary utilising the talents of its performers. Nevertheless, as earlier mentioned the entire cast symbiotically work together incredibly well, whilst Tyrone Huntley, (Obi) and Billy Cullum, (Alex) provide heart-wrenching, gripping and pure performances that both astonish and delight. The set surrounding them, is beautifully understated, compiled of a grungy looking warehouse vibe, complete with upper walk way, some set pieces and screens that are brought on and off, suggestive of a converted building made into flats, (a commonality in the city). Ultimately allowing the performance to speak for itself. The lighting design alternatively coacts, dynamically working well to react and move with the movement sequences. Both techniques appropriately furnishing the overall offering.

To conclude, Leave to Remain still needs work to really push it to the next level. But it’s subject matter is intriguing and relevant, whilst the delivery is effervescent and modern. A clean and ultimately enjoyable watch. To find out more and book your tickets, click here.

*Kele Okereke also recorded the soundtrack and it is now available on Spotify and ITunes.

 

Obi – Tyrone Huntley
Alex – Billy Cullum
Diane – Johanna Murdock
Chichi – Aretha Ayeh
Grace – Rakie Ayola
Raymond – Sandy Batchelor
Damien – Arun Blair-Mangat
Kenneth – Cornell S. John
Brian – Martin Fisher

Written by Matt Jones
Written by Kele Okereke
Directed by Robby Graham
Designed by Rebecca Brower
Lighting by Anna Watson
Sound by Mike Thacker for Orbital
Music Supervisor – Phil Cornwell
Associate Musical Director / Kate Marlais
Casting Director – Will Burton CDG

 

 

The Twelve Shows of the Year – 2018 edition

This year has been a fantastic year for exceptional, affecting and meaningful theatre, something that should be celebrated loudly. This Year of the Women has been characterised by, and offered a plethora of exceptional pieces promoting gender equality and women’s power, whilst giving a voice to those that typically have none. Thus, let’s look back at the best incremental productions this year…

Once again, we’ll be counting down from twelve to one, our list comprising of musicals, plays and even works in progress, with the majority of productions as per usual coming from London-based venues, though there are regional exceptions. We would also like to offer two honourable mentions, firstly to the Old Vic’s return of their truly magical production of A Christmas Carol, the ensemble of which have been providing thrilling and awe inspiring performances this festive period, as well as a mention to the Young Vic’s Twelfth Night, whose community-led, musical retelling made Shakespeare incredibly vibrant and more importantly accessible to all. But without further ado, lets begin the countdown, here’s number twelve…
12. I’m Not Running, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

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David Hare’s newest work intricately intersects politics with the personal, telling the tale of a fictional 2018, using a narrative that explores personal choices and their public consequences, through a twenty year intimate friendship.

Hare spiritedly writes for female empowerment, he anatomises the current political landscape and grippingly stages what it must be like for a women in the male-dominated topography of government, particularly capturing the consensus of women feeling as if they are not being taken seriously because of their gender. A sense wonderfully encapsulated in a section when politics and leadership are arrogantly mansplained to the female protagonist, affinities with which can only truly be shared by women. Hare furthermore, does not simply skate over issues such as FGM and the NHS, he bountifully sounds off about them.’ Read the rest of our review by clicking here.

I’m Not Running runs until January 31st. Click here to book tickets.

 
11. Fun Home, Young Vic.

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Winner of 5 Tony Awards, this electrifying Broadway phenomenon staging Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel took America by storm and colourfully exploded onto the British Stage this year. The show introduces it’s audience to Alison at three stages of her life. Memories of her 1970s childhood in a funeral home merge with her college love life and her coming out.

This delicate musical wonderfully examines Alison’s relationship with her father, through which she finds they had more in common than she thought. ‘Fun Home is both tragic and completely uplifting. It is a delicate personalised piece that packs a punch and is ultimately relatable even for those that do not find themselves to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community.’ The perfect way to celebrate pride month this year. Read more here.

Fun Home may have closed, but writers Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori will have yet another musical on the London stage when Violet opens in January at the Charing Cross Theatre, click here to find out more.

 
10. Wise Children, Old Vic

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A collective of collaborators brought together by Emma Rice cemented their formation this year with their first production Wise Children, from which they take their name, now touring the UK. Wise Children stages the impossible, that being Angela Carter’s last novel that spans over three generations.

It’s 23 April, Shakespeare’s birthday. Exploring the lives of Nora and Dora Chance, we join them on their 75th birthday and their father’s 100th Birthday as they reflect upon their father, or lack of a father, alongside their years in show-business providing an interesting commentary upon gender and perception, artistically contrasting utter joy with painful turmoil. ‘As a love letter to the theatre and not just Shakespeare, Wise Children wonderfully employs any and all theatrical techniques in order to exhibit the breadth of talent within the collective, from puppetry to actor-musicianship, song and dance, to burlesque, caricature and even a specifically generated gestural language similar to sign language. Each technique symbolically representative of the theatre industry and its trials, tribulations, skill requirements and unlimited boundaries.’ Read our full review here.

To find out more about the Wise Children collective or to book to see their current tour, click here.

 
9. Zelda, The Other Palace (Studio).

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With sounds similar to Post Modern Jukebox, Zelda brought the debaucherous 1920’s to The Other Palace Studio utilising an exquisite and satirical post modern score of reworked modern songs. Situated in the home of infamous flapper and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald and her husband F.Scott Fitzgerald, we meet the pair as they are throwing a party like no other… Packed with drama and wit, though the presentation was a work in progress and only semi staged, it provided so much viscerally, it wasn’t difficult to imagine a fully staged, extravagant party with huge numbers and intricate choreography to match.

With the piece filled with climactic and decisive drama, it is interesting to find that the work also has an absurdist and humorous layer to it. In the midst of these poignant moments the character’s sing modern, popularist songs such as Rihanna’s Umbrella and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy.’ To read the full review click here.

In the titular role Jodie Steele absolutely shone, and do not despair, though she has finished her stint in Heathers, she can currently be seen in Rock of Ages on tour across the country. Click here for more info.

 
8. The Lehman Trilogy, Lyttleton Theatre (National Theatre).

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Legendary director Sam Mendes returned to the National this year to direct Ben Power’s English version of Stefano Massini’s vast and poetic play. The story follows a family over three generations, a family and a company that changed the world. Providing a history of western capitalism in the scope of this famed banking family, the production following from the formation of their firm through to its collapse 163 years later, dramatically triggering the biggest financial crisis in history. With the narrative being told in three parts on a single evening this is an epic offering demonstrating the changing definition of the American Dream.

Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles provide a masterclass in acting and storytelling, effortlessly shifting from character to character between gender and age instantaneously. Engendered by the intricate revolving office space and representational style of the piece.

This illuminating and beautifully metaphoric work can be seen on Broadway next year and will then return to London for a West End run at then Picadilly Theatre in May. Click here for more information.

 
7. 100, 200, 300 Milligrams, John Thaw Studio (Tristan Bates Theatre, The Actor’s Centre)

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Presented as part of The Blacktress Season, a collaboration between the John Thaw Initiative and Blacktress UK, Gloria Obianyo debuted her self-written and directed one women show, a musical weaving of a tragic monologue. Executed magnificently, focalising her work meaningfully on mental health and responsibility.

Gloria writes with such a level of compassion and emotion, synergistically inclusive of an awarity of her audience and the story she is trying to tell, that her compositions feel immediately real and raw, particularly when entwined with a psychological, poignant monologue. Resulting in an instantaneous bond of affection and empathy being formed between her and her audience. Obianyo’s musical configurations enacting cleverly, feature pockets of witty relevant phraseology and well-crafted metaphors, something she, through her character Remi, jestingly comments upon‘ throughout, to read our full review click here.

Obianyo can currently be seen in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre, a production filled with both spectacle and exceptional acting. The piece runs until January 19th, click here to book tickets.

 
6. The Lovely Bones, Birmingham REP.

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We were lucky enough to go to a pre-show talk with writer Alice Sebold in which she enlightened us not only upon her life and work, but the intricacies of this adaptation by award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery and we must say what she has to say is both fascinating and imminently worthwhile. Here Lavery takes Sebold’s delicate world and stages it so incredibly viscerally, giving it its own soundtrack and appearance whilst sustaining its heart wrenching qualities and stylistically allowing for the non-specifities of Susie’s heaven, making it aesthetically stunning, yet simple and imaginative. In short, it can be anything you want it to be.

With Susie dead, having been abused and brutally murdered, all she can do is watch her loved ones and her murderer as they go on living, in this beautifully tragic production, Susie is consummately played by Charlotte Beaumont backed by an ensemble of extraordinary actors who multirole terrifically. The piece providing a detailed examination into humanity, eloquently juxtaposing euphoria and tragedy.

The tour unfortunately finished in November, but hopefully it will be back soon.

 
5. Network, Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre)

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‘We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore’. Lee Hall’s adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s film of the same name, saw Bryan Cranston make his British stage debut toward the end of last year continuing into this year. Cranston gave the performance of a lifetime, supported by a powerful and large cast, including exquisite performances from Douglas Henshall and Michelle Dockery.

Network depicts a dystopian media landscape where opinion trumps fact. Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston), in his final broadcast, unravels live on screen. But when the ratings soar, the network seize on their newfound populist prophet, and Howard becomes the biggest thing on TV. Utilising cameras, live feeds and projections, this big budget work did much to construct the world of television and news broadcasting upon the National stage. Directed by the incomparable Ivo Van Hove, whose work proves to be continuously magnetic and electrifying, this truly was satire at it’s best. To read our review click here.

Cranston is reprising his award-winning role on Broadway this year. Click here for more info.

Additionally, Ivo Van Hove will next be directing All about Eve starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Click here for tickets. 

 
4. SIX Divorced. Beheaded. LIVE!

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If you don’t know what SIX is, where have you even been? Taking the UK by storm and becoming somewhat a phenomenon with fans young and old, SIX is a girl-power, pop musical and concert experience telling ‘her-story’ from the perspective of Henry VIII’s wives and importantly includes an all female cast and band. We’ve been lucky enough to follow this production since it’s work in progress days earlier this year, having seen it at the Arts Theatre pre-Edinburgh, since then we’ve caught it again a few times in London and Kingston. Currently finishing its UK tour, SIX will be heading back the Arts Theatre for an open ended run in January.

One of the most inventive elements of the work is its experimentalism with the musical theatre form. The piece has remained intuitively not linear, moves away from providing a strictly musical theatre score and is self-aware. It allows the queen’s to speak directly to their audience and become their own storytellers, the pop-genre, concert-style becoming the force driving the narrative, this form symbiotically validating stories told by women. Proving these can be witty, clever and engaging and do not have to be about, or even include men.’ To read our newest review click here.

To book tickets for the Queen’s return to London or to find out about the upcoming Chicago production, click here.

 
3. Sylvia, Old Vic.

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Featuring a past queen of the aforementioned SIX, Genesis Lynea in the titular role, and pop royalty Beverley Knight as her mother, this offering added a further girl-power / women’s rights explosion to the theatrical landscape this year. Billed as a hip-hop musical, Sylvia tells the story of the Pankhurst family and the suffragettes, from mobilising and militancy to politics and diplomacy. With inevitable stylistic parallels to Hamilton, this musical satirically and dramatically presented as a work in progress, left audiences begging for more, particularly for a cast recording. The perfect stand for women’s rights in a year characterised and celebrated for their past bravery.

Not only is the piece powerful and motivated, there is something so eloquently personal about the production as well, perhaps because it delves deeper into the lives of these powerful women and not just their involvement in the unions, particularly that of Sylvia. This makes her intrinsically identifiable with every women in the audience, as the varied occurrences in her life, such as love, lust, passion, family issues and beliefs are practically universal. This is superbly conveyed through the costuming as well, as from the neck down we get gorgeous and detailed period costumes, but above this the actors sport modern hair and make-up, reminding us that though they are portraying women from 100 years ago, they are women of today and have the same struggles as we do.’ The production unfortunately was caught in a media frenzy, to understand why and read our comprehensive open letter and review of Sylvia click here.

Sylvia will be back, to sign up to here more click here.

Alternatively, Sylvia herself, Genesis Lynea will be choreographing new musical Club Mex at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester. Click here to book. 

 
2. Hadestown, Olivier Theatre (National Theatre)

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Rachel Chavkin directs this folk-opera non-specifically modernising the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice fusing American Folk Music and New Orleans Jazz. Hadestown crucially uses myth and music to comment upon the current socio-political climate in a polished and stylised, indirect manner.

Quite simply astonishing! Hadestown is wholeheartedly urgent and relevant, beautifully executed and thoroughly entertaining, the work is wonderfully inventive and imaginatively staged.’ To read our full review click here.

Hadestown runs at the National Theatre until the end of January, before transferring to Broadway. To find out more click here.

Rachel Chavkin will next be directing The American Clock at the Old Vic, click here to book. 

 
1. Emilia, Globe Theatre.

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In this Year of the Women, the Globe Theatre in Michelle Terry’s capable hands, has delivered astonishing work, promoting change whilst demonstrating its inclusivity and diversity. Highlights include their magical Sonnet Sunday event, their inclusive production of As You Like It and their ephemeral and historical Voter’s Choice ensemble that went on to tour the country. But the most affecting and sincere offering was in fact a brand new production, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia. A dramatisation of the life and times of Emilia Bassano, told through her eyes and by a cast of entirely women, this is the story of a poet and women’s activist who was detrimentally said to have been the muse for Shakespeare’s dark lady in his sonnets.

‘…a manifesto rather than an absolute history. It chooses to focus upon the biggest issues of the today and not just simply the oppression of women… Malcolm also touches upon themes of physical abuse and violence, sexualisation and the stereotypical journey of a women, i.e birth, marriage child birth and death… Therefore, Emilia is monumental, the performances are exceptional and the underlying manifesto is timeless.’ To read in full click here.

Emilia excitingly returns to the stage this year, this time at the Vaudeville Theatre. Click here to book your tickets and remember this is essential viewing!

The Globe’s next hotly anticipated venture will be an all female version of Shakespeare’s Richard II in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse in 2019. Click here to find out more. 

 

As aforementioned this year has been an incredible year for theatre decisively characterised by activism. With this in mind, we are certainly looking forward to the year ahead! Stay tuned for our article detailing the most exciting productions set for 2019.

Oh and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Review: 100, 200, 300 Milligrams, John Thaw Studio, (Tristan Bates Theatre, The Actors Centre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸

Obianyo’s voice is a unique gift, glorious in tone, range and power it lends itself to a series of different styles, soaring and filling the space wonderfully, yet her song writing ability is something to be considered far more superior.

Gloria writes with such a level of compassion and emotion, synergistically inclusive of an awarity of her audience and the story she is trying to tell, that her compositions feel immediately real and raw, particularly when entwined with a psychological, poignant monologue. Resulting in an instantaneous bond of affection and empathy being formed between her and her audience. Obianyo’s musical configurations enacting cleverly, feature pockets of witty relevant phraseology and well-crafted metaphors, something she, through her character Remi, jestingly comments upon in her piece 100, 200, 300 Milligrams. Remi, a budding musician, is the parent of her parent, and by that we mean her mother suffers from a form of schizophrenia and often refuses to take her medication, resulting in her continuously turning away carers and eventually being sectioned, meaning Remi is often responsible for her mother and has been since she was a child. An increasingly difficult amount of pressure for a young adult, something Remi is now buckling under.

Though she self-proclaims that the dialogue needs work and it does in places, lacking some clarity and logic here and there, (something that may well be attributable to nerves also), what was provided by Obianyo in this manifestation of the work was for the most part aptly plaintive, juxtaposed by moments of endearing humour, that in part resembled a stand-up comedy performance, giving Remi a characterful and warming persona, a light to the darkness of the mounting pressure physically shown in the more consequential and impassioned sections of despair, where Remi tries to appease her mother. These feelings good and bad bubbling inside of her, are thus shown staggeringly by Obianyo’s own prolific acting abilities. Something she should be wholeheartedly proud of, we’ve never seen someone perform so powerfully, moving both themselves and us to tears in the process.

Most importantly 100, 200, 300 Milligrams truthfully considers what it is is like to be a young carer and admirably traverses the themes of mental health and suicide in an anecdotal manner. It delicately takes the concept of youth and explores what being a young carer means in relation to this. Such as the effects of losing your childhood through having to look after someone, juxtaposed with the needs of a young adult. Touching upon the urge to escape and explore the world, whilst delving into the euphoria of sex and relationships. Something Remi reveals she has done, but then as she explains, her obligations taint this due to their mental and physical constraints upon her life. Constraints that mean she battles both the stigma of having a ‘crazy’ mother and the difficulties of her mother’s non-compliance. Though the thematics are weighty, the delivery was nothing but charming and moving. Here, it is worth mentioning the wonder of Remi’s world that Obianyo effortlessly crafted, which warmly invited us in. This is Remi’s story, so you are in Remi’s room, hearing directly from Remi herself and it is incredibly personable. The engendering of Remi’s world, was not only built through a personal direct address, but also via the use of the stage space. The platform enacting as her bedroom, which, as a result, appeared remotely messy, filled with personal items, shoes, pens, paper and scraps of songs she had been writing. Yet the space simultaneously was distinguishable as the set up for a music gig, with both a mic and guitar stand, instruments and amp. Giving a reflection to Remi’s personality and aspirations, (as a musician and creative mind), whilst also practically providing the means to weave music into the piece, with Remi singing, writing and rehearsing here to pass time. Ultimately, it presented a safe space for the character to talk about her situation, a space that was hers. The bedroom setting was also the location of the plot, with the character retreating to her room to wait for the carers to arrive, her presence being required as means to let them in, as her mother had been refusing to whilst she had been away on tour. This sense of waiting beautifully accented the piece, with a ticking clock forming a continuous soundscape.

The only apparent criticism is the dialogue, as earlier mentioned it needs to be more developed and refined. An overall flow, as well as a cause and affect methodology must be applied in order to help in the earning of tension buildingm simply so Remi’s outbursts don’t appear as 0-100’s without much cause, giving us a greater understanding and reasons to feel empathy for her. She is already so likeable as a character, but just needs a coherent voice and means behind her. On the flip side, as aforementioned, the score was truly eloquent and beautiful, with Obianyo proving herself to be an exceedingly talented musician, playing guitar tempestuously whilst even navigating percussion at the same time. She surprisingly goes as far as to demonstrate her abilities as a looping artist, layering samples and harmonies on top of each other and even splitting a few beats along the way. A skill that to perfect live is particularly difficult, yet Obianyo, having demonstrated her pure talent, utilises it further for comedic effect in composition ‘I feel shit’. Another stand out songs are ‘Give Me A Reason’ and the upbeat, ‘Hey Momma’ number, in which Remi envisions the best possible, but totally fantastical scenario in which she can ask her mother to take her meds. If you want something to compare the overall vibe to, you could look to Charlie Fink’s Cover My Tracks which played limited performances at The Old Vic last year before touring. This stark comparison only provokes us into asking, when and where can we get an EP? The music is equally as, if not more stunning that the Noah and the Whale frontman’s and he released his music beforehand, don’t leave us hanging!

100, 200, 300 Milligrams was presented as a work-in-progress at the Tristan Bates Theatre in the John Thaw Studio for two nights only as part of the Blacktress Season. It is written, composed and produced by Gloria Obianyo. The Blacktress Season showcases the voices of identifying Black British Womxn from October to December, a John Thaw Initiative in collaboration with Blacktress UK for new writing/works in progress. To see what else is on click here.

To conclude, we ultimately hope Gloria Obianyo develops her piece further and presents it to audiences again soon. To visit Gloria’s soundcloud click here.

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Review: Hadestown, Olivier Theatre (National Theatre)

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸🍸🍸

Quite simply astonishing! Hadestown is wholeheartedly urgent and relevant, beautifully executed and thoroughly entertaining, the work is wonderfully inventive and imaginatively staged.

Hadestown, formulated from a Folk-Opera concept album of the same name by Anaïs Mitchell, previously played Off-Broadway in 2016 and is here reinvented before heading to Broadway, having been developed by Rachel Chavkin. It takes the Greek Mythological legend or ‘tale’ of Orpheus and Eurydice and updates it dramatically, situating it non-specifically in a New Orleans-esque Jazz bar, the score drawing much upon the vintage New Orleans Jazz style, fusing it with modern American Folk music to engender an overwhelming sense of old meeting new, much like this adaptation of a classic, whilst the story is old, the retelling is new. A concept embedded creatively into the show, as the narratorial character Hermes states, it’s a sad song but we sing it anyway, a song, (story) that is sung over again in the hope that it’ll eventually turn out differently. Referencing firstly, the dynastic nature of mythology being aurally retold over the centuries, as well as the tragic quality of the tale, Orpheus being a man who could charm even the stones with his singing, and Eurydice the woman he lost when he looked back as he tried to lead her out of the Underworld, she having previously sold her soul to Hades in desperation. Secondly, it is where the urgent nature of the show presents itself, this ideology of it being a sad song that we sing anyway making the piece self-aware, recognising that the story it is telling is a tragedy, but that it is important to tell it because history continues to repeat itself and it’s only by remembering and recognising the mistakes of the past can we prevent them from happening again. Therefore it is relevant to note that the piece throws out a vital comparison to Trump’s America and the widespread indoctrination of the masses, a result of a rich-poor divide (gods and men), ‘times being what they are’. This idea being brought to a hilt in the song ‘Why We Build the Wall’ sung by Hades. Hades in a type of call and response, reiterates that they build a wall around Hadestown to keep out the enemy, the poor (enemising and scape-goating the defenceless). He, much like Trump is business man and industrialist, who wields his power to protect his finances and thus to control people, Hades also proves to have an attitude towards possessing women. His desire to build a wall for ‘protection’, as ‘they want what we have got’, is much like Trump’s, built upon the basis of an inherent prejudice. Yet of course, as the piece suggests history repeats itself, there can be no doubt that this level of indoctrination has happened in the past, (with Hitler’s rise to power for instance) and could happen again, the prevention of which being the powerful driving force behind the production. Therefore, the stylistic choices within the lively score are also of interest, contemporary American Folk music being of the Trump era, an era defined by a leader wanting to rid America of immigrants, folk music also originating in the south, a region known to be more inclined to agree with Trump’s agenda. The vintage New Orleans Jazz style then going onto complement this, presenting a parallel to the past. The style being born from oppressed African-Americans in the late 19th Century, who were seen to not belong and as a lesser people, enslaved by industrialists, (mostly in the American south again), to work freely for their business until eventually emancipated, granted civil rights and racial equality, (a battle that has arguably never truly been won). Referenced by Hades being characterised much like a slave owner or foreman, with a silver whistle and army of slaves, 1 million feet who fell in-line and who bow down to him.

With this in mind, the production is extraordinarily and stylistically staged to convey it’s self-awarity. It is most importantly highly Brechtian in treatment, employing the use of a narrator, Hermes. The messenger god here, becoming the god who aptly delivers the tale. Consistently, he breaks the fourth wall and adopts a series of personas, introducing us to each of characters and accompanying us throughout the tale with several witty, well thought out asides. Portrayed by André De Shields, he is exceedingly exuberant and charismatic. Delivering an intriguing moral commentary upon the action, Hermes is the storyteller who reminds us to be cautious and to learn from what we see. The piece ultimately not ending on the tragedy itself, he instead goes on to tell us that we’re, (us as human beings), gonna sing it again, an uplifting yet ominous ending referring to mankind being once more faced with the conditions for an unjust tyrant to rise to power, but the hope that we can change things to prevent their ascension. And with this, the opening scene repeats itself in beautiful synchronicity. The work offering the audience a chance to change their future.

This embedded moralising past and present synchronicity explains the non-specificity of the location and time period, ‘don’t ask where, brother don’t ask when’, allowing for a unique Brechtian-style staging that is suggestive of various locations (and reminiscent of different stages in history) rather than realistically creating them, again demonstrating that this is a story being told by Hermes and that it is not actually happening. Thus the jazz bar set remains throughout, (though it later parts and widens making way for, and suggestive of the grandeur of Hadestown, ‘the electric city’), meaning we are encouraged to imagine the various locations, a requirement alleviated somewhat by the use of the hydraulic drum revolve of the Olivier Stage, (employed to create the sense of Orpheus walking all the way to the Underworld in pursuit of Eurydice for instance). In keeping with this story-telling style, the piece also adopts the use of a number of actor-musicians, all other musicians remaining onstage in full view of the audience, somewhat resembling the popular stage version of Once, referring to the importance of composition and the aforementioned meaning-making in the style of it, whilst reiterating the story as being recanted to us and not actually happening now.

Having earlier mentioned the use of the hydraulic drum revolve, it is worth dwelling upon the newest exhibition in the National Theatre’s Wolfson Gallery, ‘Playing With Scale, How Set Designers Use Set Models’. Next to the Olivier Cloakroom, the exhibition mentions how the Oliver Theatre’s auditorium was originally designed as an indoor resemblance to the Ancient Greek Theatre found at Epidaurus. Irony can be found in the fact the auditorium now houses a new staging of a Greek epic. But the staging employing the aforementioned innovative drum revolve, three semi circular segments, two of which can be lowered and are interchangeable revolving back up to stage level, meaning old meets new once more, another creative synergy. The drum revolve here being used to dramatically lower characters down to Hadestown, as well as dynamically, as an industrial/steel-looking plinth for Hades to stand upon and marvel at the city he has built through money, power and greed, a symbol of industrialisation. The most tantalising part of the work is however, as is to be expected, the score. Mitchell’s compositions are truly magnificent, they float around a number of catchy and dynamic musical motifs that frequently recur having been interwoven into a number of the songs, such as Orpheus’ melody to bring back summer, Way Down In Hadestown and The Chant (Keep Your Head Low) of the Hadestown workers. Their repetitive nature not only reinforces the melodies making them memorable and linkable to certain parts of the action, they also demonstrate the sense of history repeating itself. Each moment being aberrantly punchy and heartfelt. Another motif, ‘What Ya Gonna Do Now The Chips Are Down’, particularly emphasises the euphorically metaphoric nature of the work. Firstly this refers to the saying denoting to difficult circumstances, thus Eurydice’s desperation, whilst Orpheus writes a song to bring back summer she tries to sustain the two of them but has ran out of a means. The motif next physically refers to Hades’ power play, he having offered her a new life down below and given her a ‘chip’ or token for the train to get there should she choose to use it. However chips can also relate to gambling if she makes the decision to go she is gambling her life for something seemingly better.

Design wise, alongside the use of the drum revolve, the visualisation of the piece is exquisite. Not only is the jazz club exceedingly detailed, moving pieces such as tables, chairs and lamps clipped into suspensions are, as required representative and breathable pieces that the actors interact with, using them to build various levels and locations with eloquence, precision and ease. Aptly supported by a vehement lighting design, all resulting in a colour palette to die for, if you pardon the pun. The dusty dark colours of the bar are thus spread across the costuming, this puts everything in direct contrast to the crimson red flower as shown in the artwork for the show, which Orpheus produces for Eurydice in lieu of summer, simply by singing his song. The flower is a glimpse of hope for the future and reappears throughout. It also acts as a big signifier towards the job of the arts in the social-political landscape of the world. Suggestive that art, much like Orpheus’ compositions, should be used as a weapon to promote positive change. This puts the piece very much on the edge of teenage rebellion, Orpheus in skinny jeans, guitar in hand being listened to by a collective of people, this ideology somewhat feeding into the electricity of the piece overall. A fire has been lit underneath the performers to tell this tale right and tell it in a way that promotes the next generation to do something worthwhile.

Going back to design, the only other costuming that does not comply to this dark palette is that of Persephone, Hades’ wife, the goddess who brings back summer every six months having visited her husband down below for the other six, above ground her dress is green to demonstrate a Mother Nature vibe, with her euphorically providing for the living. It thus turns black below ground as she is then unable to provide from there and winter sets in. This is a clear visualisation demonstrating the wonderfully representative nature of Michael Krass’ costuming. For instance once Eurydice has sold her soul behind closed doors, she emerges in a tremendous leatherette, dungaree-style work outfit and is the same as the other workers’, as she begins to realise what this means for her, she falls in line with the choreography the collective are performing, meaning we visibly see her conformity, something complemented by the strong and clear ensemble voice provided by these performers. Whilst on this matter it is worth mentioning the wonderfully vibrant choreography of David Neumann. His vision is inventive and strong, presenting here exciting contemporary choreography that is both sharp and focussed, in this particular section it does much to be representative of the idea of a factory line referring the industrialisation, thus complementing the motifs found in the composition and proving to be stylistically and equally as representational as the other creative choices. Revolving back to costuming, Hades of course dons a business suit, not only a stark comparison to the style worn by President of the United States, but also representative of his business sensibilities and wealth. Hermes, likewise wears a suit yet his is accented with feathers, an ingenious muted reference to the iconography of the god often seen with winged feet and a winged cap. Not only is the character aptly built as a narrator due to the messenger nature of the god in mythology, it is also important to state Hermes was also known as the conductor of souls, giving reason for him to be the train conductor collecting Eurydice’s chip to board the train to Hadestown. Whilst he was known as the protector of travellers, again giving meaning to him divulging directions to Orpheus to the Underworld via the River Styx. Therefore, though it is dramatically modernised, it is scintillating to see this adaptation cleverly referencing the original mythology in both design and conception. It is still firmly a world of God’s and men. And where would this world be without The Fates? Three sassy women strut onto the stage and harmonise rip-roaringly well, who are they? For many they will be the favourite part of the piece, especially as they are so characterful and audacious. These are of course, The Fates. Cloaked like fortune tellers, they don greyed gowns appearing as three ghostly, mystical figures. This distinctively propagates an image of them as the winds of change as they disengagingly swirl around the actors, referencing their ability to control life and destiny. They form the spirited Greek chorus of the piece, who, with Hermes moralise much of the action, whispering in the ears of the protagonists and following their every move. These Moirai, as they are known in mythology, are played consummately by Carly Dyer, Rosie Fletcher and Gloria Onitiri, who even strikingly perform choreography perfectly whilst wielding instruments, their talent is endless.

Alongside them, and the indomitable André De Shields are Amber Gray and Patrick Page. Gray’s Persephone, the bringer of summer, who is comically not necessarily sprightly, suffering from a form of substance abuse to get her through a difficult marriage, (relatable or what?) is vivacious and raucous. Whilst her comedic timing is quintessential, her voice is sublimely raspy and Herculean. Page is equally as coruscating, with an invigorating deep base voice, he is wonderfully dictatorial and stern. Whilst our two protagonists Reeve Carney, (Orpheus) and Eva Noblezada, (Eurydice) are simply empyrean. Their voices are equally as stunning, Noblezada demonstrating the richness of her voice at its most powerful and controlled, with Carney employing an exhilarating falsetto to match. The pair’s anguish and desperation to survive in a cruel world, being translated thrillingly through their apparent chemistry and superlatively reactive performances. They are backed by a diverse and spirited ensemble who do much to incite the general soundscape and tone of the piece, whilst effervescently slaying the choreography laid before them. To conclude, the performances within the work are striking, with a meticulous design behind them and explosive score, they do much to engender a Brechtian style, essential for the meaning-making. The end result is that of an urgent, modern piece that is a much needed commentary upon present affairs that references much of our past in the process. Hadestown runs in the Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre until Saturday 26th January before transferring to Broadway. For more information and to book tickets click here.

 

 

Amber Gray – Persephone
Patrick Page – Hades
Reeve Carney – Orpheus
André De Shields – Hermes
Eva Noblezada – Eurydice
The Fates: Rosie Fletcher, Carly Mercedes Dyer and Gloria Onitiri
Ensemble: Sharif Afifi, Beth Hinton-Lever, Seyi Omooba, Aiesha Pease, Joseph Prouse, Jordan Shaw and Shaq Taylor

Music, Lyrics and Book: Anaïs Mitchell
Direction: Rachel Chavkin
Set Design: Rachel Hauck
Costume Design: Michael Krass
Lighting Design: Bradley King
Sound Design: Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz
Choreography: David Neumann
Musical Direction and Vocal Arrangements: Liam Robinson
Orchestrations and Arrangements: Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose,
Dramaturg: Ken Cerniglia

 

Review: Company, Gielgud Theatre

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Martini Rating: 🍸🍸🍸

Marianne Elliott’s hotly-anticipated, gender-amended revival of Company has finally landed in the West End.

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical commentary is a comedy about life, love and marriage. Focalising on societal expectations and conventions, it follows Bobbie, an unmarried 35 year old whose friends can’t help wondering why. Originally a man, Bobbie is in this production a women, played by the indomitable Rosalie Craig, the musical not only dives into her lack of commitment and string of unsuccessful dates, but examines the relationships of her friends, peeling back the layers to see if their unions are as perfect as they appear to be. This brand new reimagining is thus ultimately an exploration into the life of the independent modern women, examining the tribulations of dating and casual sex today alongside the real yearning to procreate that many women experience in their 30s. With this in mind, Company is designed with a modern feel to it, Bunny Christie creates a wonderfully cinematic, aesthetically stunning stage design. One that moves and breathes with the cast, it pulls images back as others come forward into focus, similar to Christie’s recent work on the National Theatre’s The Red Barn. Consisting of moving white light blocks that connect and part seamlessly, each housing the set pieces and creating the various locations, the visual engendered here is clean and modern, locating the work in the present, after all with the gender amendments the piece aims to be both apposite and postulating, but these visuals dextrously have more to say than just this. Bobbie’s apartment is a small white block, the first we see, it’s size says much about the cost of living in the city as as a single working professional, living off of one salary and not two. Especially as Bobbie is slowly joined by her friends in the space, her apartment feeling more and more claustrophobic. This not just reflecting the apartment’s size and economic burden, but furthermore, the pressure her friends consistently put upon her, comparing their own seemingly perfect lives in relationships to her lonelier existence. They question the viability of being 35 and single, particularly as she reaches this doomsday milestone. This disseizing pressure, coinciding with the impending milestone being comically further perpetuated later when the room is consumed by two giant 35 balloons, filling the space around Bobbie, her friends entering the apartment and struggling to get around them. The design, thus beautifully and detrimentally encapsulates Bobbie’s internalisations. It is as if she thinks of something, we see a twinkle in her eye and as if by magic the set pieces come together and we know what it is, all through the tempered simplicity of a delivered visual. A particularly harrowing motif comes straight after the opening section in Bobbie’s apartment, once sufficiently filled with her friends they leave slowly, the apartment box glows red and we hear a baby cry. This is Bobbie’s aching and empty womb, demonstrated as her apartment stands empty and bare, it is a powerful optical of her desire to reproduce before it is too late. Aside from this the design also throws up a stark comparison between Bobbie and her ‘loved-up’ friends; her apartment is stark, white and empty aside from a table and chair, whilst their’s are bigger and filled with objects, the emptiness representing her lack of emotional connection to another human being and resistance to building a life with someone else yet. Christie can only be congratulated for her receptive and meaningful design, one that smoothly glides in creating both spectacle and elucidation. (A particularly stunning ocular is that of the train sequence during Another Hundred People, the moving carriages create powerful platforms for Liam Steel’s stylistic, connective and wonderfully raw choreography).

As earlier mentioned Rosalie Craig is indomitable. Her delivery of the seminal number, Being Alive, in which the protagonist decides to thrust herself into the world and experience it all, from being afraid of getting her heart broken to finding out what happens when you decide to love and be loved, is groundbreaking. She exhibits both power and control, demonstrating infallible vocal abilities whilst performing with sincerity and determination. Craig engendering both empathy and semblance with the character, a truly remarkable delivery of this newly designed Bobbie, the modern women. A sense that is consistent in Craig’s performance throughout, she is a true star from her power to genuine emotivity. Alongside her is Broadway royalty Patti Lupone in the role of Joanne, a part she performed in the filmed 2011 New York Philharmonic concert staging, alongside Neil Patrick Harris. Joanne is the cynical older friend of Bobbie and the source of much of the dry humour within the piece, something Lupone revels in. Though her performance is intuitive, skilled, witty and adept, with Lupone exhibiting equally as enviable vocals to those of Craig, this is not her show. It is well and truly Rosalie Craig who commands the stage, and though Lupone’s comedic timing is heavenly, it is difficult to appreciate it with fans screaming and cheering for her every time she enters the stage space and even each time she does something remotely of interest. We wish we were able to appreciate her craftsmanship more.

Though Marianne Elliott does much to make this a modern and provocative piece with an abundance of comedy and meaning making. The musical itself, albeit packed with satire, lacks the wow factor and this is not Elliott’s fault, her contemporary direction and decisions for this adaptation are exquisite, whilst Christie’s design is a breath of fresh air. It is the original book and score that lack pizazz, whilst there are a few standout numbers there is simply not much of a plot or high stakes at play. Yet it is worth mentioning the wonderful performances and passion exuded outwardly by the performers does much to give the lack of drive a pulse. Jonathan Bailey somewhat steals the limelight as blushing bride Amy, (now renamed Jamie). Jamie considers not marrying his fiancé Paul, (Alex Gaumond), with Bailey delivering a unique and positively intoxicating rendition of the famed number ‘Getting Married Today’. Elliott playing with the hilarity of Jamie turning down his right to get married despite same sex marriage only recently becoming lawful and by this point the musical reaches a certain level of brashness and in-your-face derision. Gaumond and Bailey’s chemistry is also impeccable, their performances instinctual and refined, with a sprinkling of comedy gold dust. Alongside them, Mel Giedroyc and Gavin Spokes as enigmatic and riotous couple Harry and Sarah, likewise bolster excellent chemistry and consummate comedic timing. Bobbie’s boyfriends, (formerly girlfriends), George Blagden (PJ), Richard Fleeshman (Andy) and Matthew Seadon-Young (Theo) deliver a succinctly innovational and farcical version of ‘You Could Drive a Person Crazy’, magnificently polished with detail.

Company inadvertently wasn’t for us, yet we do see the universal appeal and appreciate the artistry. This Sondheim extravaganza runs until 22nd December, click here to book.

 

ROSALIE CRAIG -BOBBIE
PATTI LUPONE – JOANNE
MEL GIEDROYC -SARAH
JONATHAN BAILEY -JAMIE
GEORGE BLAGDEN – PJ
ASHLEY CAMPBELL -PETER
RICHARD FLEESHMAN -ANDY
ALEX GAUMOND – PAUL
RICHARD HENDERS – DAVID
BEN LEWIS – LARRY
DAISY MAYWOOD -SUSAN
JENNIFER SAAYENG – JENNY
MATTHEW SEADON-YOUNG -THEO
GAVIN SPOKES – HARRY
MICHAEL COLBOURNE -UNDERSTUDY ANDY, PJ & THEO
FRANCESCA ELLIS -UNDERSTUDY JOANNE & SARAH
EWAN GILLIES – UNDERSTUDY PAUL, PETER & JAMIE
GRANT NEAL – UNDERSTUDY DAVID, HARRY & LARRY
JAIMIE PRUDEN – UNDERSTUDY JENNY & SUSAN

 

STEPHEN SONDHEIM – MUSIC & LYRICS
GEORGE FURTH – BOOK
MARIANNE ELLIOTT – DIRECTOR
LIAM STEEL – CHOREOGRAPHER
JOEL FRAM – MUSICAL SUPERVISOR & CONDUCTOR
BUNNY CHRISTIE – DESIGNER
NEIL AUSTIN – LIGHTING DESIGNER
IAN DICKINSON – SOUND DESIGNER
DAVID CULLEN – ORCHESTRATOR
SAM DAVIS – DANCE ARRANGEMENTS
CHRIS FISHER – ILLUSIONS
MIRANDA CROMWELL – ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
CAMPBELL YOUNG ASSOCIATES – HAIR, WIGS & MAKE-UP DESIGN
ALASTAIR COOMER CDG -CASTING DIRECTOR
CHARLOTTE SUTTON CDG – CASTING DIRECTOR
RACHEL BOWN-WILLIAMS & RUTH COOPER-BROWN LTD – FIGHT DIRECTORS