The war has not yet started

Southwark Playhouse, London (****)

© Steve Tanner, (l-r) Sarah Hadland, Hannah Britland, Mark Quartly - awaiting escape or maybe not, over the border, past custom control...

© Steve Tanner, (l-r) Sarah Hadland, Hannah Britland, Mark Quartly – awaiting escape or maybe not, over the border, past custom control…

Well, here’s a thing now, a season of plays up from Plymouth – but no ordinary season when steered by Simon Stokes and Jenny Topper. Continue reading

2017 Round-up – partial and prejudiced

Last year, I wrote: `Recalling the year past …I’m struck again by the richness and talent of so many shows I’ve seen, particularly in the smaller and off-West End and Fringe venues.

With the demise of the repertory system, it is the fringe and alternative theatre that has stealthily and often in unrecognised ways provided the apprenticeship and forcing house in recent years for all that is best in our theatrical, cinematic and televisual life.

We take it so for granted, the unstinting hours, the passion, the labours of love, for little remunerative reward, that forms our cultural backbone. ‘ Continue reading

How to Win Against History

The Maria, Young Vic Theatre, London ****

© Kristina Banholzer, Seiriol Davies as the cross-dressing Henry Paget, Marquis of Anglesey, starring in his own show and theatre...

© Kristina Banholzer, Seiriol Davies as the cross-dressing Henry Paget, Marquis of Anglesey, starring in his own show and theatre…

Seiriol Davies’s How to Win Against History is not quite like anything I’ve ever seen before. But then again, it is. A pastiche, a satire, a brilliant piece of aesthetic camperie on a par with some of the best, wackiest shows of the alternative, gay scene of the late 1980s and ‘90s by such as Bloolips with the inimical Bette Bourne, Davies is absolutely in the tradition of Lindsay Kemp and probably Oscar Wilde – had Oscar performed as much as written. Continue reading

Eugene Onegin

Arcola Theatre, London ****

© Andreas Grieger, Anthony Flaum as Lensky, Felix Kemp as Onegin. The duel scene

© Andreas Grieger, Anthony Flaum as Lensky, Felix Kemp as Onegin. The duel scene

Something very exciting is happening in small scale opera. This is the third one I’ve seen in as many months, all striking in their own ways but Onegin is by far the most enjoyable. Continue reading

The Rake’s Progress

Wilton’s Music Hall, London ***

© Catherine Ashmore, Jonathan Lemalu as Nick Shadow and Robert Murray as Tom Rakewell - on the way down but saved by a queen of hearts...

© Catherine Ashmore, Jonathan Lemalu as Nick Shadow and Robert Murray as Tom Rakewell – on the way down but saved by a queen of hearts…

This is a labour of love, Selina Cadell and Eliza Thompson’s inaugural production for their newly formed OperaGlass Works for which they raised all the funds, a cool £145,000. Continue reading

The Secret Theatre

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London
****

© Marc Brenner, Aidan McArdle as Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's Secretary of State and creator of national security with a web of spies and double agents.

© Marc Brenner, Aidan McArdle as Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s Secretary of State and creator of national security with a web of spies and double agents.

What with the BBC’s Gunpowder Plot and now Anders Lustgarten’s spymaster drama, we really seem unable to quite slough off our fascination with those grisly times when terrorism came in Catholic terms and we were once again at daggers drawn with our European neighbours. Continue reading