Wrens, Upstairs at the Gatehouse

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It is May 1945. On an Orkney naval base, news that peace is about to be declared has reached one of the women’s cabins. But while the “big war” may be ending, there are little wars ongoing between the bickering, distrustful Wrens – until one of their own finds herself in a predicament that forces an uneasy armistice in even those.

Annie McGravie’s script, being performed here in preview by Tiny Teapot Theatre in preparation for a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, throws seven very different characters together in a confined space. Fireworks are inevitable, of course – but a successful play finds the original and unexpected, and truth be told we don’t get too much in the way of that here. What we do get, though, is the sense of cataclysmic change approaching – the prospect of encroaching peacetime being as daunting as the start of a war.

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Wrens, Upstairs at the Gatehouse2Scott Matthewman2011-07-31 17:05:34It is May 1945. On an Orkney naval base, news that peace is about to be declared has reached one of the women’s cabins. But while the “big war” may be…

In preview: Lend Me a Tenor, Gielgud Theatre

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Last night was the first preview of a new musical, Lend Me a Tenor, at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. If the name seems familiar, that’s because it previously existed as a knockabout farce of the same name, which had success at the same theatre (then called the Globe) 25 years ago and was recently revived on Broadway.

This new musical version see Ken Ludwig’s original play adapted by Peter Sham (book and lyrics) and Brad Carroll (music) into an evening of riotous comedy, high farce, stirring musical numbers, great tap routines – pretty much your perfect night at a musical.

And that was only the first preview. I can only imagine how it will improve before press night on June 15.

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In preview: Lend Me a Tenor, Gielgud Theatre4Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 12:42:40Last night was the first preview of a new musical, Lend Me a Tenor, at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. If the name seems familiar, that’s b…

Betty Blue Eyes, Novello Theatre

A musical set in a Britain of austerity, nearly bankrupted after an expensive war waged on multiple fronts, with the public’s only glimmer of hope built upon a forthcoming royal wedding? Betty Blue Eyes has surely found the perfect time in which to open (it is currently in previews, with press night on April 13).

In reality, the musical has been in gestation for quite some time now. When I interviewed George Stiles and Anthony Drewe for The Stage Podcast several months ago, their music for this adaptation of Alan Bennett’s film A Private Function was already eagerly awaited, and the number Magic Fingers had been showcased in the one-off concert A Spoonful of Stiles & Drewe in July 2008.

The fates have conspired to make the show’s concepts seem particularly appropriate now, with its message of how the proletariat should be wary of the upper classes bending the law to their own ends. Mind you, I’m sure that even if Britain were in an age of enduring prosperity, we would be able to find a parable in the tale of the little man struggling to find his place amongst the oppressors without losing his soul in the process…

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