Reviews Round-up: Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndhams Theatre

This summer, David Tennant and Catherine Tate appear together on stage for the first time in a brand new production of William Shakespeare’s timeless comedy Much Ado About Nothing.

Two young lovers, Claudio and Hero, are to be married imminently but the devious scheming of a resentful Prince looks set to thwart the nuptials. Meanwhile, marriage seems inconceivable for reluctant lovers Beatrice and Benedick whose endless witty sparring threatens to keep them apart forever.

Directed by Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Bush Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s great plays and reminds us all of the failings and triumphs of the human condition in our never ending search for perfect love.

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“The chemistry Tennant and Tate established in Dr Who survives in their performances as the disputatious lovers. Tennant, an old hand at Shakespeare, brings a fine mixture of wit, cynicism and sudden love-struck wonder to Benedick, speaks the language with Scottish-accented clarity, and proves highly sympathetic but never ingratiating.”

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
[Rating:4.0/5]

“Tate gives an excellent account of Beatrice as the kind of larky, high-spirited woman who uses her wisecracking gifts as a defence against emotional engagement: significantly, while Benedick turns up at Leonato’s party in female attire, she comes dressed as a man. I’d only beg Tate to resist a textual change made, presumably, out of political correctness. In the gulling scene Shakespeare’s Beatrice says of Benedick: “I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.” Tate substitutes “with” for “to” to soften the note of submission: totally unnecessary since there’s no danger of this sparky couple ever being anything other than sexual equals.”

Michael Billington
Guardian
[Rating:4.0/5]

“It would be hard to conceive of a more gloriously engaging portrayal of Benedick than the one David Tennant is now offering in Josie Rourke’s production of Much Ado About Nothing, a staging that transforms Shakespeare’s demobbed soldiers into white uniformed naval officers on shore leave in Gibraltar during the 1980s.”

Paul Taylor
The Independent
[Rating:3.0/5]

“There are disco lights, strippers, brilliantly pastichey pop tunes by Michael Bruce, allusions to the 1981 royal wedding, a sex doll and – a personal highlight – some hopeless noodling with one of those cheap little Casio keyboards I coveted as a nine-year-old.”

Henry Hitchings
The Evening Standard
[Rating:4.0/5]

“Shakespeare’s lovely romance is set, here, in the Eighties, in what seems to be Majorca or Ibiza. Benedick (Mr Tennant) and his brother officers are rigged up in the white uniforms of naval types fresh back on shore. Benedick’s non-girlfriend Beatrice (Catherine Tate) is slouchy in the modern way: slack-hipped, sunglasses in her hair, a packet of Camel cigarettes in hand. She is far from likeable.”

Quentin Letts
The Daily Mail
[Rating:3.0/5]

“Whichever way you slice it, Much Ado has to be charming and beautiful – it’s neither at the Wyndham’s, in this brash and noisy eighties, heavily cut version directed by Josie Rourke, accommodating the warring Benedick and Beatrice of David Tennant and Catherine Tate.”

Michael Coveney
The Stage

“The scene in the church, where Benedick declares his love for her is a fundamental turning point in the play. Tennant’s “I do love nothing in the world as well as you, is that not strange” is spoken like a giant sigh, but Tate’s protestations of love are masked by a succession of funny voices – it’s like hearing a love scene spoken by Dick Emery.”

Maxwell Cooter
Whatsonstage.com
[Rating:3.0/5]

Book tickets for Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndhams Theatre!

Reviews: Elisabeth Moss & Keira Knightley in The Children’s Hour at Comedy Theatre

When a schoolgirl’s whisper spreads, it triggers a chain of events with extraordinary consequences. Karen Wright (Keira Knightley) and Martha Dobie (Elisabeth Moss) run a girls’ boarding school in 1930’s New England, where they become entangled in a devastating story of deceit, shame and courage.

Banned in London and several cities across America, THE CHILDREN’S HOUR received its world premiere on Broadway in 1934. Generations on, its potent exploration of a culture of fear remains startlingly relevant.

Fresh from the theatrical triumph of Jerusalem, Ian Rickson directs two internationally acclaimed actresses and a dynamic ensemble in one of the 20th century’s most compelling dramas.

Press Reviews:-

“The play is far from perfect. It’s hard to believe that the grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) would fall so readily for her grandchild’s accusations, and though she is sometimes entertaining, the preposterous old actress who gives elocution lessons at the school doesn’t earn her dramatic keep, despite the sometimes laborious comic endeavours of Carol Kane.”

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
[Rating:4.0/5]

“There’s only one question to which everyone wants the answer: can Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss cut the mustard? The short answer is that they prove as potent a combination on stage as at the box office. But, for all the excellence of their performances, and Ian Rickson’s ministrations as director, nothing will persuade me that Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play is any more than well-intentioned melodrama.”

Michael Billington
Guardian
[Rating:3.0/5]

“Knightley’s Karen begins as a focused, professional woman, looking elegant in period bob and pencil skirt. Hellman wants us to see how the pupil’s falsehood planted the seeds of mistrust not just in the parents but within its victims. Knightley’s performance is at its best in the difficult scene with her loyal fiancé (Tobias Menzies) when she realises that she will never be sure that he has managed to overcome all doubt and that she is not prepared to marry him on those terms. The actress’s manner here wavers most convincingly between angry touchiness and tearful tenderness as, in passages of poor man’s Ibsen, she released them both to their separate freedoms” 

Paul Taylor
The Independent
[Rating:3.0/5]

“In short, the acting is cogent, and the stars deliver. Yet for all the glamour and hype, it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is a very good production of a historically significant but rather flawed play.”

Henry Hitchings
The Evening Standard
[Rating:4.0/5]

“Miss Knightley’s role demands raw self-evisceration. That is what a great actress would bring to it. Miss Knightley tries. By God, she tries. She turns in a performance of which many a journeywoman thesp’ would be proud. But is she a real leading lady? Is she a genuine stage star? Not quite.”

Quentin Letts
The Daily Mail

“Directed with an unsparing, unflinching wash of feeling, beautifully designed by Mark Thompson and with lighting, music and sound (respectively by Neil Austin, Stephen Warbeck and Paul Groothuis) that all make their own seamless atmospheric interventions, this is commercial theatre not just at its most pricey but also best.”

Mark Shenton
The Stage

“This remains a gruesomely appropriate play on two counts: as a dissection of a whispering campaign twenty years in advance of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, let alone the insidious WikiLeaks brouhaha; and as a prescient commentary on how suburban puritanism and its sidekick, gloating prurience, stick their big noses into relationships between teachers and charges, especially today.”

Michael Coveney
Whatsonstage.com
[Rating:4.0/5]

Book tickets for The Children’s Hour at Comedy Theatre!

Review: Woody Sez – The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie

Woody Sez opened at Arts Theatre, London on 18th January 2011 (previewing from 13th January) to positive reviews and it’s easy to see why.  It’s playing until 2nd April.

Woody Sez is a musical which tells the story of American singer-songwriter/balladeer/folk musician Woody GuthrieWoody Guthrie is played by the talented David M Lutken (who also created this musical along with Nick Corley).  Other talented cast members include Darcie Deaville (Lefty Lou), Helen J Russell (Nora Guthrie, Mother) and Andy Teirstein (Pete).

Woody Sez is presented by Mary Cossette Productions and Hartshorn Hook Productions.  The tune-filled musical is directed by Nick Corley with Musical Direction by David M Lutken, Scenic Direction by Luke Hegel-Cantarella, Lighting by Matt Frey and Costumes by Jeffrey Meek.

The show contains many, many songs of Woody Guthrie that many will remember – one of the most famous being ‘This Land is Your Land’.  For those who don’t know the story of Woody Guthrie or his songs, you will be in for a real treat.  Those who are familiar with this great artist will be in for a memorable time.  Guthrie has had quite a life filled with loss and hardship and this, along with life experiences, is portrayed in his songs associated with all he had seen particularly in the Dust Bowl Era of the Great Depression.

Oddly enough fires were the main source of most of his hardships from losing the family home to a fire to losing a sister in a fire to his father being injured in one.  He even lost a 4-year old daughter in a fire.  There was also the hardship of the family’s financial ruin and the institutionalization and eventual loss of his mother.  Personal losses as well as life experiences provided the inspiration for his stories told by song.  Guthrie was an advocate for truth, justice, and fairness which was often portrayed in his music, books, and poems.  He also wrote a column titled Woody Sez for The Daily Worker newspaper for several months.

Guthrie has been very inspirational and influential with many musicians world-wide.  The ideas and feelings of his thought-provoking songs are as relevant and meaningful today as they were in his time.

All this is honestly portrayed in Woody Sez by four very talented singers/actors.  Whether folk music is your forte or not, you’re bound to enjoy this biopic musical.  Be prepared to be entertained… just relax, enjoy, and let your toes do the tapping.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:5.0/5]

Tracie Bennett’s End of The Rainbow Press Reviews

Olivier Award winning star of Hairspray Tracie Bennett returns to the West End Stage in Peter Quilter’s new play based on the later life of Judy Garland. Directed by the multi celebrated award winning Terry Johnson, End Of The Rainbow received 5 star reviews and nightly standing ovations on its pre London run.

Press Reviews:-

“A star is well and truly reborn at Trafalgar Studios where Tracie Bennett brings to vivid last-gasp-of-life Judy Garland … Over the days of the play, high hopes turn to high drama as Judy’s personal demons rear their ugly heads … The two men currently in her life… tussle for dominance, one offering a chance of escape, the other switching from protector to force-feeding enabler. Tracie Bennett is a performer who I’ve always admired for her abundant verve … With Garland, in full amphetamine-fuelled frenzy and paranoid desperation, Bennett has the role of her career and she gives it the performance of her life … Bennett’s Garland veers from comedy to rage to pathos, a manipulative, out-of-control mess. The onstage concert scenes, in which Judy fights with her mic lead, confuses numbers, forgets lyrics and spins around like a whirling dervish, are simply terrifying to watch as you worry whether she’s about to either fall over or implode … Terry Johnson’s slick production also afford Bennett an opportunity to demonstrate her own Garland-like vocal power… she delivers a spine-tingling rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’. A fitting tribute to two extraordinary talents that wins a richly deserved standing ovation.”

Terri Paddock
Whatsonstage.com
[Rating:5.0/5]

“It is not often that an audience rises in unison as if wired together like a table-footie team. It happened for Tracie Bennett’s extraordinary performance as Judy Garland … Bennett comes garlanded with best supporting awards, but this is stardom. But Peter Quilter’s beautifully structured script asks far more, even musically … She has to lose it on stage, tangle in the mike lead, shriek out a number wired on pep pills, or, alone on the carpet, choke tearfully through ‘The Man that Got Away’ … And she has to be a wit, a wiseacre, someone to like … Terry Johnson’s direction is clear and unfussy, and the balance… is particularly fine. Whenever you feel unease at being a voyeur of a dead woman’s decline, Judy cracks a line or belts a number that restores respect. Whenever you relax into the comedy, you are moments from being jerked back into horror … The moments of greatest emotion are all unexpected — Judy’s horror of the pill bottle, her farewell to the pianist, Anthony’s distaste when left alone with Mickey. At the heart of it a brilliant, chaotic, difficult, abused and beloved artist is paid a fitting tribute. ‘Immortality’, as Judy says sadly, ‘might just make up for everything.'”

Libby Purves
The Times
[Rating:5.0/5]

“Unless they have some radical new information to impart, I could happily accept a moratorium on all bio-plays about Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Maria Callas. This one by Peter Quilter reprises the sad saga of Garland’s last days … But its only real virtue is that it gives Tracie Bennett a chance to offer an impressively plausible portrait of the doomed star both on and off stage … Fortunately this melancholy saga is interspersed with glimpses of Garland in action singing some of her bestknown songs. Quilter’s play, however, deals in symptoms rather than in causes … It says virtually nothing about a Hollywood studio system that in the 1930s pumped its child stars with amphetamines … The play also offers few insights into performance psychology … The play’s main virtue is that it does at least show Garland could be funny … And, of course, there are always the songs, which Bennett delivers with the right mixture of emotional intensity and vocal bravura … Hilton McRae also gives an impeccable performance as her loyal accompanist … And Stephen Hagan as Deans does all he can with a character who shifts from stern protector to master-manipulator … It’s hard to love a play that invites us to wallow in Garland’s tragic decline without offering much in the way of enlightenment.”

Michael Billington
Guardian
[Rating:3.0/5]

“In Peter Quilter’s bio-drama Garland is brought vividly to life by Tracie Bennett. Deftly directed by Terry Johnson … Quilter uses the London concerts Garland gave right at the end of her life as an opportunity to delineate the agonies of her inexorable decline. His Judy is a troubled, erratic diva … Bennett’s performance is courageous — raw, emotional and astonishingly energetic. It’s much more than a skilful impersonation; it feels as if she has assimilated the essence of Garland’s personality. She’s well supported by Hilton McRae, who as her camp accompanist proves a witty yet touchingly awkward counterpoint to the bristling, businesslike urgings of Stephen Hagan’s Mickey. While this is the kind of fare guaranteed to elicit standing ovations, there are times when End of the Rainbow veers towards histrionic schmaltz. It’s somewhat repetitious and not genuinely illuminating. Still, this is surely essential viewing for Judy Garland fans, who will savour its moments of knifing poignancy, and Bennett is superb.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard
[Rating:4.0/5]

“It’s a terrible old cliche that it takes a star to play a star – but in the case of Judy Garland there never has been and never will be a star big enough to fill her tiny red shoes … During the course of Peter Quilter’s play with songs End of the Rainbow the amazing Tracie Bennett finds it. You can’t play Garland, you can only inhabit her and that’s precisely what Bennett does … Bennett’s own wiry frame and wired delivery exhibits uncanny parallels with Garland’s own and vocally there isn’t a huge adjustment to be made before you start believing you are listening to the real thing … Emotionally speaking, this is far from being a cut-and-paste job … When Garland’s loyal gay pianist (the excellent Hilton McRae) offers to take her out of the nightmare … you think for a second or two that she might actually… save herself … Bennett’s anguish as she realises that she has just dismissed her last chance is palpable … When Bennett sings “The Man that Got Away” she already knows that Mickey Deans – the last man in her tragically short life –  is most definitely not Mr Elusive … It’s a simple but neat theatrical device that takes us from hotel room to stage and back again and the frisson of excitement as Gareth Valentine’s cracking little band is revealed for the first time … Bennett… aspires to keep the memory alive and she gives us what is by any standards an astonishing turn. She might as well collect the Olivier now.

Edward Seckerson
The Independent Online

“There are moments in the theatre when you lean forward in your seat with shivers racing down the spine, and realise there is nowhere on God’s earth you’d rather be … End of the Rainbow is one such occasion, offering one of the greatest musical theatre performances I have ever witnessed. Tracie Bennett’s star turn as Judy Garland in the last raddled months of her life is blackly comic, deeply harrowing and superbly sung, and will be talked about for years to come … Judy Garland’s long, sad decline has become the stuff of showbiz cliché … Yes, it’s upsetting to watch as the declining star attempts to drag herself on stage yet again … but there is also something heroic about it … Set in 1968, Garland… has a new fiancé in tow, a former discotheque manager … She is reunited, too, with her gay MD and accompanist, played with wry wit and great tenderness by Hilton McRae, who, unlike her fiancé, loves her unconditionally … Terry Johnson’s compelling production keeps switching between private life and public performance, while Bennett brilliantly captures Garland’s brittle wit … The moments when she literally begs for pills and liquor are almost too painful to watch … At once fragile and funny, tragic and tough, and rising to superb musical heights, Bennett’s performance is as dazzling as it is unforgettable.”

Charles Spencer
Daily Telegraph
[Rating:5.0/5]

“The danger with writing a play about such an iconic figure as Judy Garland, is that it can become a bit too much of a fact-checking exercise. Thankfully Peter Quilter’s sublime script secretes more than enough exposition within the narrative whilst creating a real sense of drama and pathos.”

Paul Vale
THESTAGE

Buy tickets for End Of The Rainbow!

Deathtrap Press Reviews at Noël Coward Theatre

A murder mystery so wickedly good, it’s to die for!

Ingeniously clever and hilariously twisted, Deathtrap is the most celebrated thriller by Ira Levin, author of The Stepford Wives, Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil and A Kiss Before Dying.

Matthew Warchus directs a unique cast which includes Simon Russell Beale (lead in the sell-out National Theatre production of London Assurance) and Jonathan Groff (star of the hit US TV series Glee and lead in the Tony Award winning Broadway production of Spring Awakening). Time Out Best Actress Award-winner Claire Skinner will also star alongside celebrated New York stage actor Terry Beaver and Academy Award-winning actress Estelle Parsons.

Deathtrap Press Reviews:

As an act of period restoration, this isn’t a patch on Warchus’ makeover of Boeing-Boeing with Mark Rylance. Russell Beale’s Sidney Bruhl, a once successful playwright with a severe case of writer’s block, is driven to ecstasies of jealousy by a script sent to him by Groff’s too-cute-to-be-true Clifford Anderson, whom he tutored on a writers’ course.
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:2.0/5]

Jonathan Groff makes a fresh-faced, apparently likeable adversary, but the other characters are thinly drawn with Claire Skinner wasted in the role of the wife, and the character of a bonkers psychic downright irritating in Estelle Parsons’ over-pitched performance.
Charles Spencer for Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

Russell Beale is excellent value and there are genuinely frightening moments, but I’m not convinced this is a classic thriller. What Levin has written is a diverting meta-thriller implying he is delivering the final obsequies over a once-flourishing but exhausted genre.
Michael Billington for Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

With characters vying for possession of a murderous doubling-crossing stage-scenario that they are test-running in reality, the show has a built-in excuse for relentlessly jokey self-congratulation at its own ingenious meta-theatricality. It could get terribly grating, but Warchus wisely keeps the campiness within bounds and skilfully softens up the audience for the genuinely scary surprises.
Paul Taylor for The Independent (www.independent.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

Levin’s extravagantly plotted script is full of ingenious self-reference. It’s also outrageous; it strains credibility and appears thoroughly knowing about doing so. The result, besides a lot of good laughs, is a series of boldly theatrical and frankly camp moments, sometimes very silly yet perfectly calculated to jolt audiences out of their seats.
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Author Ira Levin wittily puts every bitter pill that a playwright has had to swallow on the table, as he has a writer of once-celebrated stage thrillers Sidney Bruhl, who has discovered, in his words, that “nothing recedes like success”, now reduced to teaching seminars on writing them instead of seeing his own successfully brought to the stage. It is at one such seminar that he meets a younger fan Clifford Anderson, who turns into his protege.
Mark Shenton for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

All My Sons at Apollo Theatre – Press Reviews!

All My Sons – the first great success of Arthur Miller’s supremely influential career – is a compelling story of love, guilt and the corrupting power of greed.

Joe Keller (David Suchet) is alleged to have supplied World War II fighter planes with defective engines, leading to the deaths of innocent pilots – a crime for which his business partner took the fall. One of Keller’s sons, himself a pilot, is thought to have been killed in action. But his mother (Zoe Wanamaker) can’t accept his death and equally, can’t accept that her dead son’s fiancee has transferred her affections to her other son. The confrontations that ensue lead to the uncovering of a shameful family secret…

All My Sons Press Reviews:

It was once said that “cover-up” is the great theme of American drama, and Miller’s 1947 play, which established his reputation and is now hailed by some – David Mamet, for instance – as his true masterpiece, contains the mother of all cover-ups. Joe was an ambitious manufacturer of household and industrial goods in the war – including a batch of faulty cylinder heads that caused the death of 21 pilots. Did he know about the fault before shipment?
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:5.0/5]

Zoë Wanamaker is also outstanding as his wife, clenched with grief and driven almost mad by the lie on which her life is based, and there is terrific support from Stephen Campbell Moore as the honourable surviving son and Jemima Rooper as the girlfriend who delivers the coup de grace.
Charles Spencer for Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

David Suchet’s superb Joe is a man who conceals his guilt under a backyard bonhomie. He joshes his neighbours, lands mock punches on his loved ones’ faces, and plays the beaming, pipe-smoking patriarch. But, confronted by the truth of his past, Suchet shrivels before our eyes. It is as if the values by which he lives have been stripped bare along with the man himself.
Michael Billington for Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:5.0/5]

People who don’t like this dramatist argue that that is precisely what Miller himself can’t resist doing. It’s true that there are moments when the themes – the penalties of denial and of putting self and family before the collective good – are spelt out too insistently. But watching Howard Davies’s emotionally searching, expertly acted revival, you’re persuaded that this is a small price to pay for the play’s fierce moral fervour and the psychological penetration of its insights.
Paul Taylor for The Independent (www.independent.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Suchet is Joe Keller, an ordinary man with one excruciating flaw. He’s materially comfortable, but his security is the result of canny dealings during the Second World War, and there’s a nagging suspicion that the facade of respectability he’s erected is just one good nudge away from collapsing.
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Each time one sees Zoe Wanamaker on stage she gains an extra dimension. Here she plays Joe’s wife Kate as a striking matriarch refusing to believe that her older son Larry died in the war. A woman in denial perhaps, but between her moments of grief and desolation she still invests the character with warmth, even a sense of flirtatious gaiety as an unwelcome visitor threatens the family security.
John Thaxter for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

For more information about show and tickets, click here!

Sweet Charity at Theatre Royal Haymarket Press Reviews!

Sweet Charity follows the misadventures of love encountered by the gullible and guileless Charity Hope Valentine, a woman who always gives her heart and her dreams to the wrong man. Cy Coleman’s score features favourite hits such as Hey, Big Spender; If My Friends Could See Me Now and The Rhythm of Life.

Sweet Charity Press Reviews:

Best of all there’s Mark Umbers (once the definitive Freddie Eynsford-Hill) as the nervy tax accountant Oscar – love strikes in the first and only Broadway Act One closer set in a jammed elevator, played here like a snappy Mike Nichols and Elaine May sketch – and Josefina Gabrielle as the most cynically world weary prostitute.
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:4.0/5]

Who would have thought that a scruffy, unsubsidised fringe theatre in south London would be giving Broadway a lesson in how to stage classic American musicals? But that is the happy fate and extraordinary feat of the ever-enterprising Menier Chocolate Factory.
Telegraph (www.telegraph.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

The Menier has discovered a winning seasonal formula. You take a non-vintage Broadway musical based on a European movie, cast and choreograph it to the hilt, and invest it with a wild humour. It worked with La Cage aux Folles and it pays off just as handsomely with this joyous revival of a 1966 show, with a score by Cy Coleman, drawn from Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria.
Michael Billington for Guardian (www.guardian.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

There’s excellent work around Outhwaite. Annalisa Rossi and Ebony Molina stand out among Charity’s workmates. They’re a delightfully jaded troupe — “Who dances? We defend ourselves to music,” says one — and Stephen Mear’s choreography is full of original, counterintuitive touches.
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:4.0/5]

This is the heterosexual version of La Cage, staffed by equally resilient but even more downtrodden, world-weary sex workers. Matthew White’s production is rooted in a tough sense of reality, and although Tamzin Outhwaite’s punchy Charity may lack an essential vulnerability, she’s also quite clearly one of life’s survivors. So are the wonderful pairing of Josefina Gabrielle and Tiffany Graves as her confidantes and fellow hostesses. Their rendition of Baby Dream Your Dream, about dreams that won’t in fact be realised, could be plucked direct from Chicago, and not just because Gabrielle and Graves have respectively previously played the leads in the current London production of that show.
Mark Shenton for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

For more information about show and tickets, click here!

Mrs Warren’s Profession at Comedy Theatre Reviews!

What is Mrs Warren’s profession? Her daughter Vivie has never really known much about her mother. A prim young woman, she has enjoyed a comfortable upbringing, a Cambridge education and a generous monthly allowance. Now she has ambitions to go into Law. Is it conceivablethat all this privilege and respectability has been financed from the proceeds of the oldest profession? How will Vivie react when she finds out the awful truth about her mother’s ill-gotten gains?

Shaw’s ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship is one of his most witty and provocative plays. Written in 1894 but banned from performance until the racy 1920s, Mrs Warren’s Profession lays bare the rampant hypocrisy of Victorian society and its constrained morals

Mrs Warren’s Profession Press Reviews:

There is something bird-like in her trim physique, sheathed in glistening satins of scarlet, silver and dove grey, gathered to a 12-inch waist and topped in the last act with a Martita Hunt-style pill-box hat.
Michael Coveney for Whatsonstage.com (www.whatsonstage.com)
[Rating:2.0/5]

“If you want to pick and choose your acquaintance on moral grounds,” he tells Vivie, whom he absurdly wants to marry, “you’d better clear out of the country”. The play has its implausible, melodramatic and preachy moments, yet Rudman’s revival has the energy to keep you engrossed. That, in spite of a questionable performance or two. Should Yelland really be so much the sauntering Chekhovian roué in the white suit, so little the coarse brute Shaw wanted? And couldn’t Kendal be a bit more the woman others see as “brazen”, she herself calls a “vulgarian”, and a stage direction asks to lapse into her old Cockney self?
Benedict Nightingale for Times Online (www.timesonline.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

“If you want to pick and choose your acquaintance on moral grounds,” he tells Vivie, whom he absurdly wants to marry, “you’d better clear out of the country”. The play has its implausible, melodramatic and preachy moments, yet Rudman’s revival has the energy to keep you engrossed. That, in spite of a questionable performance or two. Should Yelland really be so much the sauntering Chekhovian roué in the white suit, so little the coarse brute Shaw wanted? And couldn’t Kendal be a bit more the woman others see as “brazen”, she herself calls a “vulgarian”, and a stage direction asks to lapse into her old Cockney self?
Henry Hitchings for Evening Standard (www.thisislondon.co.uk)
[Rating:3.0/5]

Michael Rudman’s production, with a determinedly unappealing Felicity Kendal at its centre, goes some way to put flesh on Shaw’s arguments. Kendal’s Kitty Warren, the rich brothel-keeper, and Lucy Briggs-Owen as Vivie, her clever mathematician daughter, make good sparring partners.
Heather Neill for TheStage (www.thestage.co.uk)

Much as I normally enjoy Miss Kendal’s art, I’m afraid she doesn’t show us enough of Mr s Warren’s undoubted steel, or amorality, or devilishness, or sexual hunger, or whatever it is. I didn’t feel she had quite worked out what made the character tick.
Quentin Letts for The Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk)
[Rating:2.0/5]

For more information about show and tickets, click here!

Legendary Flamenco returns to the Sadler’s Wells

Legendary flamenco guitarist Paco Peña returns to Sadler’s Wells with his latest show Flamenco sin Fronteras, after receiving huge critical acclaim at its premiere in 2009.

Working with 12 virtuoso musicians, singers and dancers from his own company and guest artists from Venezuela performing live on stage, Paco Pena explores the many dance styles that emerged through the migration of Spanish performers to Latin America in the early 1900s, and their significant impact on flamenco today.

Joyful, superbly danced and packed with all the intensity, depth and raw energy that have become this maestro’s trademark, this is a guaranteed way to bring some heat to the British summer!

Press Reviews:

“If you only see Flamenco once in your life, make it this” INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY

“A genuine virtuoso capable of dazzling an audience with technical abilities beyond the frets of mortal man” NEW YORK TIMES

“The joy of dance was never brighter” THE SUNDAY EXPRESS

“Paco Peña can conjure images of the warm south with a single stroke of the strings. Ole!” THE DAILY TELEGRAPH 

“There is surely no other guitarist with Peña’s range – a master of limpid classical lyricism who can also open up raw wounds of emotion” THE GUARDIAN

“Paco Peña’s new show is an unqualified success. A concussive orgy of music and dance that threatens to blow the roof off the auditorium” DAILY EXPRESS

Book Tickets for Flamenco Sin Fronteras at the Sadler’s Wells

Hop like a CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF to get your ticket!

Excitement and anticipation was in the air as people arrived for Press Night on 1st December 2009 at the Novello Theatre, London for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

One word sums it up – BRAVO!  This Tennessee Williams play directed by the talented Debbie Allen and played by an all black cast is full of passion, conviction, drama, humor and touching moments.  The unchanging set seemed authentic… making you believe you were in a big beautiful mansion on a Mississippi plantation.  You could see the wealth and prestige of the Pollitt family.  The mirrors on either side of the Stalls seating area in the beautiful Novello Theatre actually made the stage seem bigger.

All the characters play specific contributing roles but James Earl Jones (Big Daddy) was bigger than life – what a presence!  Sometimes you weren’t sure what to think about Big Daddy as he was usually what could be perceived as loud, rude and uncaring.  However, maybe he was who he was from working his way up in the cotton fields to owning the largest plantation this side of the Nile and putting up being surrounded by mendacity.  There were some words (actually one word said a few times) and movements that I wasn’t expecting from James Earl Jones but they seemed to fit the character – so well done.  As Big Daddy faced his mortality, he was trying to figure out who to leave his large estate to… wanting to leave it to his favorite son, Brick, but not knowing he could handle the responsibility while being an alcoholic.

I expected Big Mama played by Phylicia Rashad to be bigger (literally), especially the way Big Daddy talked about her but she played her part really well… the way she acted ‘older’ and as a loving and devoted mother and wife… strong and fearless when she had to be.  You could see her love for Big Daddy though he said he wished he could believe it.  That’s a sad statement after 40 years of marriage though you saw some tenderness between them at the end.  It was odd how sometimes what he said to her made us laugh when in reality, we would have been upset at the harsh tone / words he used disrespecting someone who deserves respect.

Sanaa Lathan as Maggie the Cat and Adrian Lester as Brick the alcoholic husband/son gave outstanding performances.  There were times I had to laugh thinking she is hounding that poor man and does she ever shut up but by the end I was admiring her for her strength and perseverance.  She seemed genuinely concerned for Big Daddy and caring towards Big Mama though at first she did only seem worried (like the others) about what they would inherit.  I found myself wanting to defend or protect Brick as you could feel his pain with the loss of his best ‘friend’ and having to think / talk about that in an unwelcomed heart-to-heart with his father.  Maggie and particularly Brick seemed to have the genuine affections of Big Daddy which was such a stark contrast to how he talked to / treated everyone else.

Nina Sosanya (Mae) and Peter de Jersey (Mae’s husband, Gooper) did great in their supporting roles.  I was just wondering where the fifth kid was as they kept talking about their 5 kids and 1 on the way… usually there were only 4 on the stage that I noticed anyway.  You kind of loved to hate them as they were annoying with their pettiness and greed while appearing upper class / proper.

The show passionately and accurately touches on alcoholism, loss, illness (cancer), facing mortality, family gatherings, greed, family discontent, sibling rivalry, being childless, sexuality, love, pain, and fear.  It has everything.  All the actors gave it their all from Big Daddy to the servants to the children and everyone in between – that was quite obvious.  I liked the references to a ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ tying the title with the characters / behaviors.

The lighting was well done showing the sun setting, seeing the moon and stars, fireworks, etc.  As mentioned, the set/stage was well done and I thought it was interesting how the whole play took place in Maggie and Brick’s bedroom (due to Brick’s injured ankle) though it had everything needed from a sitting area to a bar complete with radio and television to a couple of doors leading out to the Gallery.

I’m not sure about the two ‘intermissions’ (or the 15 minute interval and 5 minute break).  I’m not sure the 5 minute break is needed unless people know how long it is so they can get back to their seats before the play continues although it gives people an opportunity to stand and stretch their legs.  The intermissions seemed to be timed right though according to what was going on within the play.  The safety curtain was a beautifully painted nature scene of the Mississippi contributing to the feel of the south.

It is certainly worth it to experience this brilliant play with the cast and creative team involved.  They are responsible for making this magnificent version of this play the success it is.  The Novello Theatre is the perfect venue… suitable luxurious-feeling surroundings (with marble and mirrors), comfortable seats… nice view from the Stalls (seemed to be light and spacious).

Bravo, everyone!  Bravo!  And ‘many happy returns’.

by Ann Kamran (stagetalk.co.uk)

[Rating:4.0/5]

Book Tickets for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at Novello Theatre!