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Posts from the ‘Jeannette’s Theatre Reviews’ Category

15
Mar

Two LONDON plays – Mogadishu and Frankenstein

Currently playing at the Lyric, Hammersmith is an excellent first play by former teacher Vivienne Franzmann,  called Mogadishu.

MogadishuSet in a sink school, it is fast moving, witty and poignant.  The central character is a liberal teacher (always write about what you know!) who is wrongly charged with assault and racial abuse.  A group of excellent young actors play the schoolkids in whose hands her fate lies.  Unlike other reviews I’ve read of this play, I’m not about to give away the plot – if it were a book it would be a real page turner.  This is certainly one to catch

http://www.lyric.co.uk/whats-on/production/mogadishu/

The National’s Frankenstein has to be one of the most written about productions of the year so far and has the added twist of the two leads alternating in the roles of Dr Victor Frankenstein, the mad scientist, and his creation, often in B horror movies referred to as the monster, but here, in a text more in keeping with Mary Shelley’s novel, simply called the creature.

Everything you may have read about Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller is true – they are truly superb in the lead roles.

The lighting is electrifying, as is the set and the production, directed by Danny Boyle.  My quibble is that the adaptation of the text by Nick Dear is a little clunky and some of the acting of the rest of a cast somewhat wooden.  But nothing can really take away from the power of the piece.

Not surprisingly it has sold out, even for the next set of performances, but will be shown as a one-off in selected cinemas as now happens quite frequently with National Theatre productions.

Worth trying to catch, it really is some experience

Jeannette Nelson, Theatre Critic

Jeannette NelsonJeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.


15
Mar

London Theatre Review: The Heretic

Richard Bean’s ‘The Heretic’ showed great promise in the pre-opening hype, just like so many plays these days of which a great number disappoint.  I’m happy to say that this play lived up to the hype;  well, almost.  The first three acts were superbly crafted, funny, and rang so very true.

Diane - The HereticThe heretic is Diane played by Juliet Stevenson, an academic who does not agree to be swallowed up in the maelstrom of global warming enthusiasts. Instead she sticks to the rigour of her scientific findings in her limited field where she can find no evidence of rising sea levels.  There are many highlights, and so many memorable quips, but the prize must go to a filmed interview with her, and Maldives politician and Jeremy Paxman for Newsnight.  Or perhaps to the scene which involves her choice of union representative, a toy polar bear.

The HereticThe last two acts flag a little and get a bit silly.  But only a bit.  I criticize really in the context of the brilliance of the first three.

The play is shortly ending its run at the Royal Court.  But there is perhaps hope that like that theatre’s last runaway success, Clybourne Park, it may transfer to the West End.

The Heretic website

Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

9
Feb

Theatre Tips for 2011

Another new year, another feast for London theatre goers.  For the lovers of musicals there is no shortage.  The old favourites like Les Miserables, The Lion King and Billy Elliot are still around (and may well be for many years more), but newcomers to the block include The Wizard of Oz with Michael Crawford, and Ghost based on the Hollywood film.
The National’s first blockbuster could be a version of Frankenstein, or Twelfth Night directed by Peter Hall to mark his 80th birthday and starring his daughter Rebecca.
As now has become the custom, many of the Off West End theatre productions transfer to the West End, including the well-acclaimed Clybourne Park which arrives at the Wyndhams Theatre via the Royal Court.
The year of Sondheim’s 80th birthday may have passed, but revivals of his excellent work still continue with a production of Company at the rather draughty Southwark Playhouse near London Bridge.
Let’s hope for a nice summer as the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre has in its repertoire The Beggars’ Opera, though for the first time in its history is not putting on a full Shakespeare play; it will be staging a version of Pericles for youngsters though.
The Arcola Theatre in Dalston is about to move to new premises and always puts on exciting productions.  Fringe theatre just seems to move from strength to strength.  And of course you’re rarely disappointed by anything the Almeida, the Donmar or the Tricycle presents; here’s hoping that the Hampstead Theatre, now under the artistic direction of Peter Hall’s son Edward, manages to find its feet.
Out of London, the big event of the year must be the re-opening after refurbishment of the RSC Theatre and the Swan Theatre in Stratford. The new season runs from April to November.
So there you have it – a smattering of the joys to come in theatreland.  Don’t forget the half-price ticket booth at Leicester Square (with another outlet now at Brent Cross) and look for bargains at www.lastminute.com/theatre or www.whatsonstage.com .  Keep a sharp eye out for reviews, and if they’re good, don’t tarry before booking.  There may be a recession, but now as in previous ones, theatres continue to do well.  Everyone needs a bit of culture after all!

Jeanette Nelson, Arts Critic

Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.
9
Jan

New Richard Bean play

The Heretic logo

The Heretic logo

A new Richard Bean play will shortly be opening at the Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square.  The Heretic is an interesting take on the climate change debate.

The last Richard Bean production I watched certainly courted controversy. England People Very Nice was a rumbustious romp with a cast of hundreds of all colours, shapes and sizes Bean traces the lives of waves of immigrants to London’s Bethnal Green, from the Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews to the Bangladeshis.

Newspaper critics were utterly divided on the play’s merit.  The Guardian and the Indie were less than impressed, calling it stereotypical and racist, amongst other comments.  Charles Spencer in the Telegraph loved it, and the Jewish Chronicle thought the idea of eating bacon sandwiches outside a synagogue on the day of Atonement hilarious!
It is a satire (a comment on TV called it the satire of Alf Garnett, and indeed one of the characters sports a West Ham scarf) and is cleverly helped along by using the play within a play device – the actors playing the actors are in a detention centre, waiting to hear if they have been granted permission to become British immigrants themselves.
What did I think?  I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Jeannette Nelson, Arts Critic
Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

9
Jan

London Pub Theatre

Pub culture is changing in London.  This of course has always been so, but it seems to have speeded up in recent times.  Demographic changes in certain areas have led to pub closures as new groups move in who do not drink alcohol and for whom a pub has little attraction.  Receipts dwindle and the shutters go down.  Other pubs are saved by moving with the times.  The smoking ban has certainly made them more family friendly places, and more appealing to those who may have frequented them in the past but were driven away by the hazy fumes of cigarette smoke.  Comfy sofas, much improved food menus and ranges of better quality wine draw in a different crowd.

And pub theatre seems to be thriving.  Not that it’s a newcomer to the London scene.  The Bush theatre above the pub on Shepherds Bush Green has been there for decades, as has the Finborough in Earls Court.  The Pentameters pub theatre in Hampstead claims to be the oldest in London.  The Etcetera Theatre above the Oxford Arms in Camden Town recently made the news by putting on a horror show so frightening that it had members of the audience running out screaming  into the street!

More and more pub owners see that a profitable use (both in money and community terms) can be made out of the large space up the stairs from the pub and two particularly excellent ones are, I believe, worthy of mention.
First up is Upstairs at the Gatehouse, which is where it says it is, above the Gatehouse pub in Highgate village.  It puts on a mixture of professional and non-professional productions (I hesitate to use the word amateur as this often conjures up a false impression of what’s on offer), and the standard is consistently high. The theatre’s been functioning for over a decade and attracts an audience of all sorts (exactly as a community-based theatre should), including the ‘celebs’ of the area (the leader of the Labour party lives a couple of stonethrows away, for example).
 

A Slice of Saturday Night

A Slice of Saturday Night

Why traipse into the West End and pay those impossible West End prices when for less than half the cost you can spend a wonderful evening out in an intimate space.  You can even enjoy a delicious Loseley icecream in the interval for a mere £1.50!  Currently showing is ‘A Slice of Saturday Night’, an 80s musical about the 60s which is absolutely great.  Watch out for  ‘Troy Boy’, a reworking of Offenbach’s ‘La Belle Helene’, in the weeks to come.

 

The other relative newcomer worthy of mention is the Cock Tavern on the Kilburn High Road.  A much more intimate space than the Gatehouse, it made its name with almost its first foray into the world of theatre with a company called Operaupclose and their version of La Boheme. 

La boheme

La boheme, photography Leonora Saunders

With the first rows of the audience almost sitting on the playing space (and those in the back rows not that far behind) it certainly was up close!  With handsomely rewritten lyrics transporting the hovel in Paris to a typical student digs near you and talented fresh-faced young singers delivering them, it really was a wonderful experience.  The ‘coup de theatre’ was performing the second act, which takes place in a tavern, in the public bar of the pub itself.  I think that by the time I saw the production (back there for a second run by popular demand), the locals had got used to the strange goings on in their pub, but I’d have liked to have seen one of the earlier performances!

 

 

Jeannette Nelson Arts Critic

Jeannette Nelson: Arts Critic

So, there are some thoughts on what’s struck me as interesting.  But if you’ve got a local pub that has been enterprising enough to use some of its space for theatrical endeavours, why don’t you check it out sometime.  I’d be surprised if you were disappointed!

Jeannette is a bit of a culture vulture who enjoys art exhibitions, cinema and classical music, but her main interest is the theatre. For several years she ran theatre discussion groups for which her MA in Modern Drama together with teaching skills stood her in good stead. She prefers to concentrate on the many off West End and fringe productions as well as that real treasure of the London theatre scene, the National.

 

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