A round-up of reviews

Links to reviews posted elsewhere in the last couple of months.

While this blog has been quiet for a few weeks, I’ve been writing elsewhere. Below is a collection of reviews I’ve been writing – the most recent at the top.

Relative Values, Harold Pinter Theatre

17 April, The Public Reviews:

…It is the satire of social class and obsession with Hollywood celebrity that helps Relative Values seem relevant today. It’s such a pity, then, that director Trevor Nunn chooses to open every new scene with newsreel footage from 1951, as if to force the play into some status as a historical piece… [it] feels like some bizarre form of theatrical taxidermy, attempting to cement the play into a form which does it an injustice.

ShellShock, Waterloo East Theatre

11 April, The Public Reviews:

What is perhaps most annoying about ShellShock is that one can see the germ of a good idea being strangled by ham-fisted writing and direction. It cannot seem to decide if it is a gruelling family drama, or a children’s musical…

The Beautiful Game, Union Theatre

9 April, Musical Theatre Review:

Where The Beautiful Game works is in those moments where it tries less hard to be a political statement, and more to expose the conflicting emotions felt by a group of young people struggling to grow up in an inner city riven with violence and prejudice. And it is those moments where the intimacy of a fringe space, the performance of the young cast and some spirited direction and choreography works most effectively.

Damn Yankees, Brockley Jack Studio

April 7, Musical Theatre Review:

…It is not the Devil who gets the best tunes, but his subordinate, the sultry temptress Lola (Charlotte Donald), who does her best to get Joe to succumb to her charms while unwittingly falling for his. Her two Latin tempo numbers, ‘Whatever Lola Wants’ and ‘Who’s Got the Pain’… are the highlights of the show’s musical score

Another Country, Trafalgar Studios

5 April, The Public Reviews:

It feels remarkable that this play is over thirty years old… In a year which has seen Russia clamp down on gay rights while England and Wales celebrates same-sex marriage, while government clamps down on benefits cheats but turns a blind eye to a cabinet member cheat her expenses, Another Country feels utterly contemporary, wholly relevant – and completely unmissable.

Stephen Rahman-Hughes in cabaret, London Hippodrome

March 31, Musical Theatre Review:

The audience at the Hippodrome’s Matcham Rooms was not quite as packed for Stephen Rahman-Hughes’ cabaret gig on Saturday night as it has been for other, perhaps better known, faces from the world of musical theatre. But for anybody who stayed away, it was their loss, for they missed a soulful, inspirational, unpretentious performance.

Thérèse Raquin, Finborough Theatre

March 21, Musical Theatre Review:

This is not a show that contains stand-out solo numbers, preferring instead ensemble recitative, repetition upon repetition building up tension. The result is a show that sounds musically different from much of today’s musical theatre – but at the risk of understanding characters’ internal struggles that much less.

The Union ♥ Wilton’s aftershow party

While we’re on the subject of photoshoots, exactly a week prior to seeing Children of Eden, I was fulfilling a similar function at The Union ♥ Wilton’s, a showcase of numbers from The Union Theatre’s recent repertoire of musicals, performed at (and in aid of) Wilton’s Music Hall in East London. Wilton’s has a unique atmosphere (and I don’t mean in that musty, damp way that the Union itself had) – it’s a genuinely beautiful, character-filled space which also lends a unique acoustic air to shows that are put on there. Unfortunately it is literally falling apart at the seams, and after being turned down for Lottery funding its present Capital Fund is struggling to maintain the building in its current state, let alone perform the repairs that can ensure this magnificent space can be savoured for generations to come.

It was a beautiful evening of theatre, and I’d like to thank the organisers of the evening for the invitation to share it with them.

To find out more about Wilton’s and its Capital project, go to www.wiltons.org.uk.

Best Little Whorehouse in Texas press night photos

The same day as the Sheffield Crucible 40th birthday party, I went to the Union Theatre to see a revival of the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which I reviewed for The Stage. And then after the show, the Union’s small bar space played host to the cast and producers.

Back in the saddle

Things have been a bit quiet recently, blogwise. This has partly been down to being struck down with a flu-like bacterial infection which laid me low for a couple of weeks. Once I managed to get my temperature back down below 40°C, it took a while for me to get back into the swing of things.

Last Friday I made my first visit back to the theatre in quite a while, for the press night of Godspell at the Union Theatre, which I was reviewing for The Stage.

I hope to be seeing some more theatre soon – I have new musical Cleveland Street at Above the Stag lined up for next week, for example – at which point normal service will be resumed.

Sweeney Todd, Union Theatre

Editor’s Rating

The railway arch cavern of the Union, which so many productions have to work against, provides additional atmosphere to Sondheim’s love letter to the decrepit brutality of old London. Combined with a strong ensemble performance, it creates a winning version of the musical.

Emma Francis plays Mrs Lovett with the requisite amount of good humour necessary to bring the audience onside to her cannibalistic plan. Impressive in comedic timing and singing voice, she dominates Sweeney himself (Christopher Howell), who only seems to come alive when singing. Of the other leads, Leon Kay’s Anthony is strong, while Katie Stokes struggles to make anything of the already thin role of Johanna. Stealing as many scenes as possible is Nigel Pilkington, whose unctuously camp Beadle Bamford lifts the whole production.

With the small venue placing the audience so close to the action, the atmosphere is heightened by the ensemble, who excel both vocally and through Sally Brooks’ choreography. While the set design does not allow for a particularly effective barber’s chair/oven combination, Sophie Mosberger’s use of the space available allows for a satisfying climax, with an emergency exit providing a double use for exits of a different kind.

Reviewed for The Stage

Sweeney Todd, Union Theatre4Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 13:06:27The railway arch cavern of the Union, which so many productions have to work against, provides additional atmosphere to Sondheim’s love letter to th…

Sugar Snap, Union Theatre

Editor’s Rating

Promoted as a play to recognise the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Alex Cooke’s new work manages to shoehorn in many cliches of gay theatre without ever really rising above them.

The generally weak cast frequently stumble over lines in a manner that suggests neither hesitancy nor infirmity on the part of the characters, but under-rehearsal or lack of confidence. This often renders character dynamics painful to endure, especially between photographer Frazer (David McGillivray) and his ageing war veteran father (Donald Elliott).

The notable exception is Alec Parkinson who, as the young man that reminds Frazer of his long-departed unrequited love, is in a different league to the rest of the cast. That they visibly improve when he is on stage is a measure of his ability.

The script does occasionally display elements of wit and well-observed comedy, but for every good piece of dialogue there are several that seem trite. One cannot help feeling that the advice Frazer gives to his young student – to help improve his art, he needs to focus and be confident in his artistic decisions – is a lesson that this production needs to apply to itself.

Sugar Snap, Union Theatre1Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 13:43:44Promoted as a play to recognise the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality, Alex Cooke’s new work manages to shoehorn in many cl…