There are moments of sheer brilliance in Moliere’s 17th century play, The Misanthrope, and it is no surprise that it has been dubbed his best play. Fast forward 350 years to Theatro Technis in Mornington Crescent and you’ll see a daring, diverse and international cast from the Acting Gymnasium, with direction from Gavin McAlinden, who catapult the play to a contemporary fashion studio.
Currently showing at the Union Theatre is Julian Woolford’s adaptation of Lionel Bart’s failed musical Twang!! According to a 1966 issue of The Montreal Gazette, Bart’s musical was “the most expensive flop ever presented in the city.” It was performed 43 times and received many scathing reviews which led to the end of its tenure at the West End. Bart, the same songwriter who gave musical lovers ‘Oliver!’, lost his personal fortune because of the many failings of Twang!!: lack of a strong script; a badly underwritten part for Robin Hood; absence of comradery between the choreographer, writer and designers and, even, concerns over Bart’s recreational drug and alcohol usage.
In 2008, Woolford was commissioned to write a new book for the musical by the Estate of Lionel Bart. The current Head of Musical Theatre at Guildford School of Acting saw his adaptation performed first in 2013. Now in 2018, with direction from Bryan Hodgson and arrangement and orchestration by Richard John and Oli Jackson, there’s tons of fun and laughter to be experienced in this highly energetic, camp and tuneful production. Compared to fifty-two years ago there’s a lot more collaboration between the stronghold of sixteen young performers and musicians (John and Jackson) on show at Union Theatre’s jam-packed stage. Continue reading
Come and dance with a Teddy boy and Teddy girl
Many have never heard of the Teddy look before, yet for many people who lived in the UK during the 1950s this was a part of real life. It was a cultural trend that was found in many places; derelict buildings, and homes, which were destroyed by German bombs. Ten years after the Blitz (September 1940 – May 1941) young boys and girls, pretending to be adults, donned the Teddy aesthetic: a look epitomised by polished suits, super slick back hair and a passion for rock and roll music. It was Bill Haley and His Comets recording of ‘Rock Around the Clock’ in April 1954 that caused a musical shockwave across the Pacific – American culture had finally hit Britain.
Teddy, a musical by writer Tristan Bernays and composer Dougal Irvine, has arrived at the Vault Festival in Waterloo. The Vault Theatre has changed up its bar’s furnishings to a derelict and post-war feel to accompany the show. It is grabbing the attention of many original Teds, taking them down memory lane, and plenty of theatregoers who have never heard of the subculture before. Teddy is an immersive take of 1950s’ London seen through the eyes of displaced youths of post-war society, Josie (Molly Chesworth) and Teddy (George Parker).
This week the Royal Opera House (ROH) ended its successful run of Verdi’s Macbeth. A terrified and guilt-stricken Lady M., performed by Anna Netrebko, left haunting memories behind including scenes of her sleepwalking and dreaming she was washing blood off her guilty hands. Now the Covent Garden’s backstage has filled its walls with Richard Jones’s 2004 production of Shostakovich’s first and last opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934.). From Banquo’s ghost to Boris Ismailov’s ghost it is no coincidence that Shostakovich’s opera presents many parallels between his version of Lady Macbeth and Shakespeare’s own.
A dramatic opera set in a dark place
There is no joy in the world of the Macbeths: no sense of love for family or nation. Just a deep-seated desire for power and domination. Verdi wrote to Antonio Somma, his librettist for Un ballo in maschera, in 1853, “I prefer Shakespeare to all other dramatists” by which point he had already finished composing Macbeth (1847, revised 1865) and continued to celebrate his respect for the Bard with Otello (1887) and his final masterwork, Falstaff (1893).
Currently, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and National Theatre (NT) have produced two new productions of Shakespeare’s Macbeth which, unfortunately, haven’t received the best reviews. That said, the Royal Opera House did a better job with Verdi’s opera, a reduced version of Shakespeare’s play, which was sung by the showstopping Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, as Lady M., and Serbian baritone Željko Lučić, performing the role of Macbeth.
I didn’t watch Breaking Bad in 2009. No – I only started watching it after I took a selfie with the main actor Bryan Cranston on the last night of the National Theatre’s production of Network. Some of you may know Cranston from the TV series Malcolm in the Middle. I knew him from the movies he was in, such as The Infiltrator, Wakefield, which I still need to finish, and, funnily enough, Power Rangers. It was a bit strange to find him in Power Rangers, but hey – everyone needs to pay the bills. As the voice and face of Zordon, he didn’t do a bad job, either. Continue reading
Drawing towards the end of the production (which I saw nearly three weeks ago) is Richard Eyre’s Bristol Old Vic transfer: Eugene O’Neill’s penetrating play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Award-winner actors Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville headline the roles of married couple, James and Mary Tyrone, which is now showing at the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre until April 7th.
“A is happy”
Charles Court Opera is back at the King’s Head Theatre. As a fan of their pioneering productions I was delighted to hear the news. I recall seeing Charles Court Opera’s remarkable and memorable interpretations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s (G & S) musical concoctions: Patience in 2014, Trial By Jury and The Zoo in 2015. Now they grace the bright pub’s stage again with another G & S opera – that ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances and became the second longest musical theatrical work up until 1885. That work is none other than The Mikado – a hilarious satire of British institutions seen through the glasses of a Japanophile, which Gilbert became after attending an exhibition on Japanese artifacts in Knightsbridge.
Let’s talk about homelessness and housing in the UK
“Don’t take for granted the roof over your head” is one of the take-home messages from Cardboard Citizens’ production of Cathy, by the artistic director of Cardboard Citizens, Adrian Jackson, and writer, Ali Taylor. Last Wednesday, between leaving my Southwark office and arriving for the press night of Cathy at the Soho Theatre, I saw at least five people living rough on the streets of London. They were either asking for spare change or sleeping on top of cardboard boxes. According to the charity, Shelter, they estimate 307,000 people are homeless or living in inadequate housing (based on studies published in November 2017).
Fly back in time on the back of a kite with chimney sweeps dancing on the rooftops of London. Follow a curious bear, with a particular fondness for honey, on his adventures with a little piglet. Then, swing from tree to tree with apes and giant orangutans singing the words “I wanna be like you.” These childhood images are none other than the great works of Disney’s Mary Poppins (1964), Winnie-the-Pooh (1966) and The Jungle Book (1967). What makes these works truly magical are the musical scores and lyrics its creators, Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman (aka the “Sherman Brothers“), bestowed upon them.