Mad Padraic is an Irish terrorist in the time of The Troubles, he’s too violent and unpredictable even for the IRA. But he loves his cat. When the only thing he loves is killed, Padraic wants vengeance. So begins Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at the Noel Coward theatre in London.
If you’ve only seen Aidan Turner in Poldark, you’ll be amazed at how hilarious as well as threatening he is as this man of extremes, flipping from anger to tears to a twinkling smile in the space of a few seconds.
He’s well supported by Denis Conway as his father Donny, Chris Walley straight out of RADA but hitting it out of the auditorium as the hangdog youth Davey, Charlie Murphy as Padraic’s equally crazy love interest and, in fact, all the cast. Every character is as thick as two slices of peat- but maybe we all are when it comes to understanding terrorism.
Martin McDonagh’s play is the blackest of black comedies. Written nearly 25 years ago but more relevant than ever, it satirises terrorists and how their distorted idealism, in which violence breeds violence, leads to a blind pursuit of their goals at the expense of morality or even decent human behaviour.
Michael Grandage’s comical production
The first act has some great funny lines. I particularly liked a description of cats as ‘full of themselves’ but it mainly serves to introduce us to the characters and set up all the fastmoving action of the second act. That’s when it really takes off with one violent incident leading to another in a series of twists so ingenious that that every so often they got a round of applause from the audience.
And what violence! Michael Grandage’s triumphant production is so exaggerated that everything becomes comical but even so, it’s still quite a shock to see someone’s brains splattered across a wall, live on stage.
It’s so totally over the top, it goes down the other side and over another top.
The Lieutenant Of Inishmore with Aidan Turner is at the Noel Coward Theatre London until 8 September 2018.
Here’s the YouTube review of The Lieutenant Of Inishmore with Aidan Turner on One Minute Theatre Reviews-
Fun Home is a perfect musical- a joyous story driven by mystery and tragedy; songs with clever lyrics and catchy tunes that give an extra depth to the tale; characters you believe in and care about.
The musical is based on an autobiographical graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. We meet Alison as she’s in the process of creating her book. It’s an attempt to look back and understand how she tackled coming out and how her closet gay father came to commit suicide. As a song from early on says, ‘I want to know what’s true, dig deep into who and what and why and when, until now gives way to then.’
Although there is a central tragic event, this does not stop it being an uplifting evening.
Two younger versions of Alison take us through episodes of her life as today’s Alison narrates and comments. All the cast are tremendous singers and actors- Kaisa Hammarlund as the nervous narrator Alison, Eleanor Kane as the gauche teenage Alison and on the occasion I saw it, Harriet Turnbull as the troubled small Alison, displaying a skill rare in an child actor.
Jenna Russell plays the suffering mother and Zubin Varla is tremendous as the complex father. There’s also great support from Ashley Samuels and Cherrelle Skeete.
The songs, composed by Jeanine Tesori with lyrics by Lisa Kron, are by turns humorous, heartbreaking and, most importantly, totally integrated into the story. Perhaps it helps that Lisa Kron also wrote the book.
A quick word of praise for David Zinn’s clever set which is like an extension to the father’s character. It’s detailed when it needs to be, spins round as scenes change, and is bleak and blank at appropriate times. And there is a wow moment late on.
There’s a lightness and movement in director Sam Gold’s tender, funny production that give the still moments huge impact.
Fun Home is a touching look at the relationship between parent and child and a wonderful celebration of being true to yourself. It’s the kind of evening I always hope for when I go to the theatre.
Alfred Molina stars in the first UK revival of John Logan’s Red since Michael Grandage directed it at the Donmar Warehouse back in 2009. At that time the play about the abstract painter Mark Rothko went on to win six Tony Awards following a Broadway transfer, including one for Best Play. Alfred Molina reprises the role of the painter and is joined by Alfred Enoch who you may recognise from TV’s How To Get Away With Murder. It’s at Wyndham’s Theatre from 4 May.
It’s getting fractionally warmer and sunnier so what about a visit to the open–roofed Shakespeare’s Globe? Hamlet and As You Like It lead the summer season.
From 1 May, Park Theatre in Finsbury Park present the UK Premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s political thriller Building The Wall, a harrowing tale set in 2019 when terrible events have resulted from Donald Trump making good on his promise to build a wall between Mexico and the United States.
Rick played by Trevor White (who you might have seen playing Henry Miller in The Durrells) is incarcerated awaiting sentencing for the crime of the century. He grants just one interview – to Gloria, an African American historian, played by Angela Griffin. In a world of ‘fake news’ surrounding one of the world’s most powerful and controversial political figures, Gloria is Rick’s only chance to tell his version of the truth.
Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband has its official opening night on 3 May at the Vaudeville Theatre in London as part of its Oscar Wilde season. An ambitious government minister’s smooth ascent to the top seems assured until a woman appears with damning proof of his previous financial chicanery. The cast includes theatrical heavyweights Edward Fox and his son Freddie, Susan Hampshire, Sally Bretton and Frances Barber. When it finishes in London it moves west to the Theatre Royal Bath from 18 July while The Importance Of Being Earnest follows at the Vaudeville from 20 July.
Peter Brook called them ‘the finest ensemble theatre in Europe’. So there’s a little bit of excitement that the Maly Drama Theatre of St. Petersburg are returning to London for the first time in over a decade to play a ten-show engagement at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket beginning 8 May. The 28-strong cast will be peforming the UK premiere of Vasily Grossman’s magnum opus, Life and Fate, an epic tale about Russia told through the fate of a single Jewish family. The company will also perform their critically acclaimed production of Chekov’s Uncle Vanya.
Summer Holiday.A brand new stage musical version of the film begins a tour that will cover most of the country. The show will include all of the hits from the movie, which of course starred Cliff Richard, plus some more of his hits.
Taking on the lead role of Don made famous by Cliff Richard is singer-songwriter Ray Quinn. Ray shot to fame in The X Factor in 2006 and has subsequently carved out a career for himself in stage musicals including playing Danny Zuko in Grease in the West End and appearing in Dirty Dancing, Legally Blonde and The Wedding Singer. For the first 8 weeks of the tour, the role of Jerry, the long-suffering agent, will be played by Bobby Crush. The iconic red double-decker bus makes its first stop at the Liverpool Empire on 8 May.
Jordi Galceran’s The Grönholm Method gets its UK premiere at The Menier Chocolate Factory. The successful American director BT McNicholl makes his UK directorial debut.
Set in the offices of a New York City Fortune 500 company, four unsuspecting candidates embark on the most testing job interview of their lives. This taut play – which premièred in Barcelona in 2003 to great critical acclaim- exposes the psychological depths people will go to in order to get what they want. The production opens on 10 May.
It may be associated with Christmas these days but Peter Pan is an excellent theatrical entertainment any time of the year and to prove it the Open Air Theatre at Regents Park have a version running from 17 May. In this spellbinding production, the story becomes an allegory for World War One as wounded soldiers escape into the world of their imagination.
It sold out last year at The National Theatre. Now Nina Raine’s Consent is getting a West End run. It’s a searing look at the law in which friends take opposing briefs in a contentious legal case. The key witness is a woman whose life seems a world away from theirs. At home, their own lives begin to unravel as every version of the truth is challenged. You can see what the Daily Telegraph called a ‘tense, entertaining modern-day tragi-comedy’ at the Harold Pinter theatre in London from 18 May.
Kay Mellor’s Fat Friends‘ triumphant tour has reached Scotland. It’s at King’s Theatre in Glasgow until 5 May and His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen from the 21-26 May.
84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff is lovely, gentle story about a transatlantic friendship between a New York writer and a London bookshop owner which starts in the 40s and goes through to the 60s. There’s a new tour of James Roose-Evans’ stage adaptation starring the excellent Stefanie Powers and Clive Francis. It begins at Darlington Hippodrome on 23 May before moving on to Wolverhampton, Malvern, Richmond, Oxford and finally Cambridge Arts Theatre.
Frantic Assembly are always worth a look. From 25 May at the Lyric Hammersmith, the company presents Fatherland by Simon Stephens of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time fame. Fatherland is described as ‘a bold, ambitious show about contemporary fatherhood in all its complexities and contradictions’. It’s ‘a daring collage of words, music and movement will transform the Lyric animated by a 13-strong cast and a multitude of voices’.
These days we often associate Christopher Hampton with his brilliant translations of plays but he’s a fine playwright in his own right as DangerousLiaisons, Art and Atonement attest. His adaptation of Moliere’s Tartuffe re-locates the comedic masterpiece to present day Los Angeles. Orgon is a French media tycoon determined to become part of Hollywood royalty. He falls under the influence of Tartuffe, re-imagined as a radical American evangelist, who plots to steal his fortune, seduce his wife and marry his daughter.
It stars Paul Anderson from Peaky Blinders and Audrey Fleurot who I love from the French TV police drama Spiral. Tartuffe will be the West End’s first ever dual language theatre production, in English and French with surtitles throughout the performance. It opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 25 May.
And finally in this section, a closure. This month offers your last chance to catch Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman. The Royal Court production directed by Sam Mendes ends its hugely successful run at the Gielgud Theatre on 19 May.
Booking Opens In May For These Top Theatre Shows
The Royal National Theatre has announced some new productions. Rhys Ifans appears in a new version of Eugene Ionesco’s Exit the King. It’s written and directed by Patrick Marber. You’ll know him from plays like Dealer’s Choice, Closer, Three Days in The Country (his version of Turgenev’s A Month In The Country), After Miss Julie (his version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie) and Don Juan in Soho (his version of Moliere’s Don Juan). I suppose we should be grateful he’s kept the same name this time. Exit The King is a tragi-comedy about a dying king- and dying in general. The first performance is on 17 July.
It’s part of the Travelex Season so there’ll be hundreds of £15 tickets available for every performance
The intimate Dorfman Theatre is the venue for the world premiere of Home, I’m Darling by Laura Wade, author of Posh. Katherine Parkinson who you’ll know from The IT Crowd and Humans plays Judy in this unsettling new comedy about one woman’s quest to be the perfect 1950s housewife. Home, I’m Darling, which is a co-production with Theatr Clwyd, runs from 24 July.
Make a note in your diary. Public booking for Exit The King and Home I’m Darling opens on Friday 18 May at 8.30pm. If you’re a member, you can book earlier.
Some new NT Live screenings were also announced. Nottingham Playhouse’s The Madness of George III with Mark Gatiss can be seen on 20 November. Before that, Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of King Lear starring Ian McKellen will be broadcast live from the Duke Of York’s on 27 September.
Talking of King Lear, the casting has now been announced. Reprising their roles will be Sinéad Cusack as Kent, Danny Webb as Gloucester and Kirsty Bushell as Regan. I can tell you all of these were superb in the original production. The production opens at the Duke Of York’s on 11 July. There are only 100 performances scheduled.
The Park Theatre in Finsbury Park London is always worth checking out for high quality productions. Their latest season is now on sale. It opens with the world premiere of a black comedy called End Of The Pier by Danny Robins. Les Dennis plays a former comedy presenter and national treasure thrust back into the limelight, at the centre of a media frenzy. Then there’s a revival of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, the world premiere of a psychological thriller The Other Place and a revival ofJoanna Murray-Smith’s Honour, an unflinching portrait of what happens when a secure marriage suddenly stalls.
Riaz Khan’s book Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual which details his experience of racism, the violence and the pop-culture in 1980s Leicester has been adapted for the stage. It’scoming to Curve Leicester from 26September to 6 October. We’re promised an immersive experience from director Nikolai Foster who is Curve’s Artistic Director.
Looking even further ahead, this year’s London Palladium pantomime will be Snow White. It will star Dawn French as The Wicked Queen and sees the return of Julian Clary as The Man in The Mirror. Also in the cast are Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and a particular favourite of mine Gary Wilmot as the dame. It begins on 8 December 2018 and runs until Sunday 13 January 2019. Public booking opens on Friday 4 May 2018. Last year’s Palladium panto Dick Whittington from the same production team won an Olivier
You don’t have to go to London for a great panto. The Great British Pantomime Awards 2018 named last year’s Salisbury Playhouse panto Jack And The Beanstalk ‘best panto at a theatre with less than 750 seats’. This year their panto is Beauty And The Beast.
If there were instructions for the correct assembly of a stage play, how would they read? First, get a good theme. In Thomas Eccleshare‘s Instructions For Correct Assembly, we have at least two: dealing with grief;and when we create something how much responsibility and control do we have.
Then you need a plot. Again we have two. We start with a married couple, who enjoy DIY, constructing a human robot. It becomes apparent that they are trying to create an improved version of their young adult son who died. The second story- of what happened to their son- is told in parallel.
The two stories don’t always fit easily together. The sci-fi story leads to some hilarious moments as the robot tries to please but reveals his essential amorality. There’s a scene at dinner with friends where his inability to filter leads to sexual remarks so rude I can’t repeat them here. On the same occasion, he states his ambition to sell junk food outside secondary schools before responding to the shocked reaction and eventually muting it to organic healthy food. The other story is a poignant sometimes brutal portrayal of what it’s like when your child is an addict.
Then you need good characters and you need to assemble a cast of good actors to play them. Jane Horrocks as Max and Mark Bonnar as Harry are excellent as the fragile but positive parents. They make a believable loving couple. Michele Austin and Jason Barnett are exactly right as their friends- the Joneses, as it were, with whose child Harry and Max can only wish theirs could keep up with.
Brian Vernel is brilliant both as the son and, especially, as his fast talking robot replacement. Alike but subtly different, both try to impress and both lie. Neither ‘son’ turns out how the parents plan- and this is the glue that holds the play together.
A good production also needs a good designer. Cai Dyfan’s superb set starting as a tight aperture through which we view the action gradually opens up to show that the world cannot be controlled.
As with many assembly packs, there is one piece missing. A heart. Perhaps this is deliberate on the part of the author but, funny and interesting as it was, I didn’t find the play emotionally involving.
Instructions For Correct Assembly performs at the Royal Court‘s Jerwood Theatre Downstairs until 19 May.
See below the review on the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews
The lights come up and there on the stage is Carey Mulligan. No set, just Carey Mulligan.
She’s the only person we’re going to meet for the next hour-and-a-half. She holds our attention for that long. We do see some colourless generic sets occasionally during Girls & Boys at the Royal Court but the main image you are left with is that of a single person alone on a blank set.
It’s a tour-de-force. Yes, she’s very engaging with her twinkling eyes and dimpled smile. But, more than that, she has the skill of seeming to speak directly to you. Her pauses make you hang on her words. Her timing is Olympic stopwatch standard.
Now delivery is one thing but, no matter how great an actor she is, she needs the words- and Dennis Kelly’s play, looking back on the story of a relationship from its light hearted beginning to its devastating end is also a grand achievement. It’s funny, insightful and sharp as a 4K TV. The language is at times rich, almost Rabelaisian, and at others pared down to the bone.
I’m guessing that the director Lindsey Turner made a major contribution to this triumphant production. It begins like standup comedy and ends like the bottom has fallen out of the world. Paralleling the course of the woman’s relationship, I began roaring with laughter and ended in shock.
Girls & Boys with Carey Mulligan at the Royal Court continues until 17 March 2018
Here’s the review from One Minute Theatre Reviews on YouTube-
The first thing to say about Macbeth at the National Theatre is that Rory Kinnear and Anne-Marie Duff as the murderous couple do full justice to Shakespeare’s magnificent poetry and his insights into human nature.
Director Rufus Norris places Macbeth in some post-apocalyptic version of today’s world. Rei Smith’s design is a disaster but not in the way some critics meant. The striking black and broken set underlines that something terrible has happened. Society has broken down into low tech tribes fighting for turf. They exist in ruined buildings, wearing cobbled together clothes and sitting on what looks like furniture salvaged from the tip. The characters’ many different accents take the setting well away from Scotland into what could be any modern war zone.
Beautifully acted by Rory Kinnear & Anne-Marie Duff
Macbeth is an ordinary person who finds himself in this extraordinary situation- and no-one does the complexities that lie beneath ordinary people better than Rory Kinnear. You feel that in peaceful times, his Macbeth could have been the guy from accounts, so low key and sensitive and humorous is his portrayal. Yet, in this time of war, he’s become a successful soldier.
Once his ambition to become the top man is sparked by the witches and his wife, even though he clearly isn’t a leader and despite his conscience and all the horrors, he heroically follows through what he started. Unlike Anne-Marie Duff’s wonderfully agitated Lady Macbeth, who, when tested, can’t cope. Rory Kinnear’s everyman Macbeth does dreadful deeds but makes us wonder what we could be capable of in such violent, anarchic times.
The production is a little lacking in tension at times, especially at the end, which I put down to this grubby small scale war needing to be played out in more confined space than the Olivier. Then again, a smaller theatre would have meant less people getting to see this dystopian, beautifully acted production.
Here’s the review on the YouTube channel One Minute Theatre Reviews-
March 2018: Reviews of Howard Brenton’s The Shadow Factory with Anita Dobson at the new Nuffield Southampton Theatres city centre space and J K Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre London. Plus my selection of the best theatre shows opening or going on sale in March.
Subscribe to the One Minute Theatre Reviews podcasts by clicking the RSS icon in the sidebar or subscribe via iTunes
I guess you’ll either love or hate the crude humour of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, currently at The Garrick Theatre London. Think Carry On or Benny Hill. Think corny jokes about women bewitched by men who are large down below and men hypnotised by women who are large up top.
Personally I loved it. It takes a comic genius like Brooks to turn what could seem base and old fashioned into good-hearted fun. And, despite being primarily a movie maker, he knows how to write a stage musical. The Producers was a huge hit and Young Frankenstein, again based on one of his movies, deserves to be.
Mel Brooks has a way of creating hilarious characters and putting very funny words in their mouths. Those words come thick and fast so, if some jokes miss the target, there’s a hit close behind. Brooks’ view of male-female relationships may seem like a relic from the past but the conflict between ego and id is eternal. So the theme of men and women having their ideals undermined by their animal desires is the stuff of great comedy.
Take the number Please Don’t Touch Me, led by Dianne Pilkington, as an example. It contrasts hilariously Frankenstein’s fiancee’s prim behaviour with her filthy mind.
Lots of laughs from Ross Noble and Lesley Joseph
All the song-and-dance numbers are superbly choreographed in classic style by the director Susan Stroman including a wonderful version of Puttin’ On The Ritz.
The cast may change but there is enough meat for any good performer to get their teeth into. Having said that, I’ve nothing but praise for the current team. Hadley Fraser has the biggest part (you see how Brooks’ humour is catching). He is spot on as the high-minded Frederick Frankenstein.Summer Strallen, who was outstanding in Top Hat, shows why she is one the best musicals performers around. They’re a lovely pair- Fraser and Strallen, I mean (damn you, Mel Brooks!).Lesley Joseph and Ross Noble get lots of laughs as the servants. (Sorry, I’ve run out of sexual innuendos.)
The stereotypes of men and women are dated but if you can accept that, Young Frankenstein is a lot of fun.