The most hyped up show in London’s West End at the moment is undoubtedly Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre.
Tickets have been booked up more than a year in advance. There’s a script book for Potter fans so those who can’t make it into London can get stuck into the story too. There’s a #keepthesecrets campaign to stop spoilers spreading uncontained across the internet.
But does the play actually live up to expectations?
I went to see it on Sunday October 15, 2017 after booking tickets in August 2016 and I have quite mixed feelings. Here they are, represented mostly in gif form.
I wrote about Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre back in April here.
The production has since moved to the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road and changed a fair bit of the cast. And for eight weeks, until August 21, that includes sexism-defying Hollywood actress/comedian Rebel Wilson as Miss Adelaide.
Putting her own touch on the Hot Box singer and 14-year fiancee of Nathan Detroit, Rebel made the most of every opportunity for a cheeky, slightly outrageous joke and often had the audience roaring with laughter. She definitely brought a comedic edge to the show that gave it an extra oomph, especially as the audience was clearly willing her to do well.
Keen to move out from under the Friends shadow, Matthew Perry – perhaps better known as Chandler Bing – wrote and starred in what could be described as Friends after the watershed.
The End of Longing follows four people, two pairs of friends who meet in a bar under slightly coincidental circumstances and, of course, couple off. But one pair fares slightly better than the other, more volatile, couple.
As you would hope from Perry, who played a hilariously bitter and sarcastic character on TV for 10 years and undoubtedly had that attitude engrained into his soul, the play is packed with acerbic humour. It actually made me laugh out loud several times, which is rare for me. So I would definitely say the humour was a success, and that’s largely what makes it worth your time (though beware it is rather rude at times!)
Back in February I crazily won four box tickets at the Royal Opera House to see this production of Chabrier’s comic opera L’Etoile.
One of my group was a total opera novice and went away on such a high. She loved it, as did the rest of us. The story had all the best farcical tools of such a comic opera with lots of rather Monty Python-esque prop and staging elements (for example a huge finger which descended to point suggestively at something) which added to the joy.
Some reviews have slated the production for being preposterous and clumsy, but I honestly thought the craziness of it all and the unusual and daring staging made it more fun and interesting. And it was an easy one to get into for a non-regular at the opera.
A glitzy, showy, classic musical at the spectacular venue of the Savoy Theatre (it has now moved to the Phoenix Theatre with a slightly different cast). As a big fan of Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando in the iconic movie version of the gambling love story, my hopes were very high.
One word: wow. If this production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is this good recorded and shown on a cinema screen, I can only imagine how incredible the atmosphere and tension in the room must have been live on Broadway.
The play of course follows George (James Franco) and Lennie (Chris O’Dowd) as they arrive at a new ranch for a new job. Lennie is mentally disabled but hugely strong and often gets into trouble due to his love of stroking soft things – including mice, puppies and ladies’ dresses. They enter acute dramas already in play at the ranch, including Curly’s new wife acting ‘like a tart’ and inciting arguments, but stick together with their big dream of one day owning and tending their own land.
The play starts small as George and Lennie settle down for the night before arriving at the ranch the next morning. Their conversation reveals a lot about them and their dynamic and sets up everything necessary for the rest of the story, while in a minimalistic set using only a small river for help.
Roald Dahl’s tales have so far stood the test of time and are still proving fruitful for adaptations and reinterpretations.
Aside from Matilda the Musical, also currently on in the West End, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal Drury Lane follows hot on the heels of a film adaptation spearheaded by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, which itself came 34 years after Gene Wilder’s classic turn as Willy Wonka. (That may seem a long time, but the latter seems to have stuck in the public conscience).
So what can the theatre show offer that you can’t just get from choosing one of the movies and slouching in front of the TV?
Sunny Afternoon will cheer up even the most miserable of London evenings. Just don’t go in with a headache or the guitars – the loudest I have heard in musical theatre thus far – will only make it worse.
Written by Ray Davies himself, the show follows the story of The Kinks (Ray and Dave Davies, Pete Quaife and Mick Avory from their early days together in Muswell Hill, as they hit the big time, get kicked out of America and find their feet again. It’s an organic, natural story and although it flounders a little in the second act, it generally moves along well and cleverly incorporates the hits.
Because the songs are of course the backbone of the show. The cast and band (especially John Dagleish as Ray) are magnificent, giving the audience an experience surely not far off the real Kinks.
Bradley Cooper becomes John Merrick in the current production of The Elephant Man.
Running for just 12 weeks at the Royal Theatre Haymarket in London, after a successful Broadway run, the crowds are flocking to see the Hollywood actor who does not disappoint in this serious role, despite potential scepticisms that may arise from his previous work, including comedy franchise The Hangover and action capers like The A Team and Limitless.
But this is on an altogether smaller scale in one of London’s grand and beautiful theatres. The stage is stark and simple, usually dressed with at most a pair of hospital curtains, a bed and a table. This makes the transition between scenes seamless and never too jarring, moving from a freak show to the clever use of a train to the hospital where Merrick spends the rest of his days.
Sweeney Todd is a popular piece at the moment, perhaps due to the themes of discontent and inequality in London. There have recently been critically-appraised performances in Twickenham and London’s oldest pie-and-mash shop in Tooting. But the ENO offers something spectacular and brutal on a different scale for this tale of a cut-throat barber driven by revenge for his tragic wife and stolen daughter, supported by the pie-baking Mrs Lovett downstairs.
This tone is summed up in the opening number after the chorus has sat down behind the orchestra which is set into the stage, and the main cast has stood behind music stands along the front. Partway through The Ballad Of Sweeney Todd, the cast slams down their scores, rips up their formal dress and knocks flowery props to the floor. The front-and-centre piano is thrown upside down to act as a minimalistic prop rather than a vehicle of ‘proper’ classical music.