Confessions of Gordon Brown was a must see for anyone working in Westminster. Starting off at the Edinburgh Fringe before heading to Trafalgar Studios (with a short holiday to Brighton for Labour Party Conference) this was a real treat for all politicos.
Written by Kevin Toolis and performed by Ian Grieve you really did feel that you were watching Gordon Brown. Set in what looked like a personal office in Westminster, Brown shares his thoughts on his time in office, Tony and, of course, the Coalition. Ian Grieve is such a talent. He mastered Brown’s mannerisms and voice perfectly. There were times that he actually looked so much like Brown that you had to remind yourself this was a play and not a real life lecture.
The studio at Trafalgar Studios is small, dark and has quite a low ceiling. It really added to the mood that you were listening in on someone’s secrets. As it was so intimate you were never far from Grieve and could really feel the tension as he swore through Brown’s anecdotes of his rise and fall from power.
Confessions of Gordon Brown played at Edinburgh Festival prior to moving to London. I did wonder if amendments had been made to the script as it was so up-to-date with references to Damian McBride and his book Power Trip (published during Labour Party Conference). But you couldn’t really expect anything less as Toolis used to be a journalist in the House of Commons.
I hope this one man show is on stage again soon. It was such an impressive performance from Grieve. He captured Brown so well but was able to slip into other Cabinet members with ease mimicking their voice and accents brilliantly.
To watch an exert of the play visit the Confessions of Gordon Brown website.
Read reviews of Confession of Gordon Brown: Independent, ConHome
Monday evening saw the beginning of my Shakespeare season. In the coming weeks I’m seeing a mixture of Shakespeare (plays and ballets) at the Globe and in the West End. But Michael Grandage’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is likely to be the most talked about. With David Walliams and Sheridan Smith in lead roles is will definitely draw in the crowds.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is something we have all read and seen performed many times. As I sat watching I did think of all the dreadful school plays I had to endure of this as a child. Thankfully no traditional interpretation here. I don’t think I could commit to what era Grandage’s interpretation is set in. Theseus and Hipolyata seemed to be channelling Prince Edward and Wallace Simpson. Titania and the fairies would have fitted in nicely at a 90s rave. Whilst Bottom and his pal Peter Quince wouldn’t look out of place at a retro 40s tea dance. Regardless of the confused messaging of eras the costumes were super and it just worked.
But of course most people were keen to keen how Walliams would perform. There was a frisson of excitement when he first took to the stage. Bottom could have been written for Walliams by Shakespeare himself. (Unlikely, but I’m not to be ruling it out!) At times you did feel like you were watching a Little Britain sketch but that perhaps is just a sign of how easily Shakespeare can be adapted for a modern audience.
Sheridan Smith is the kind of actress you can’t help but warm to. She just seems to love what she does and watching her is a pleasure. She deserves all the accolades she will receive from this performance.
Walliams and Smith are of course the draw card. But it was the foursome and Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius that really steal the show. Very slapstick and silly. And very funny with it.
Michael Grandage’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is on at the Noel Coward theatre until 16 November. Buy tickets online or £10 day tickets available daily.
Read reviews online: Independent, Guardian, Telegraph
Midsummer Night’s Dream is also playing at the Globe until 12 October. I am seeing it in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to seeing how the RSC differ.
The Secret Agent is the latest production from Theatre O currently playing at the Young Vic. And what a production it is. A visual delight that will keep you enthralled from beginning to end.
Inspired by Joseph Conrad’s novel with the same name the story follows Verloc who is a secret agent (well, a double agent really) selling secrets from London terror cells to the Russians. Verloc lives with his young wife Winnie, her horrible mother and her brother (but maybe her son) Stevie. It’s clear that Winnie and Stevie have not had the kindest of lives. Perhaps this is why she ends up with a sap like Verloc.
Verloc heads to the Russian Embassy for a meeting with Vladimir. Vladimir is one of the best characters I have seen in a play (perfectly performed by Leander Denny). Vladimir is comical and sharp. The double act between him and Verloc is most amusing. You will be most disappointed that Vladimir does sadly not appear again.
The eccentric Vladimir tells Verloc he must bomb Greenwich Observatory – as who would expect time to be bombed? This is where things take a turn for the worse. Verloc decides to take Stevie with him on this bombing mission and sadness and heartbreak inevitably follow.
The true magic of The Secret Agent was the flow of the production. Every set and scene change was beautifully choreographed and meant there was never a break in the magic of the performance. It is quite a short play (just shy of an hour and a half) and perhaps just as well and so much happens. The story is quite quick moving with the occasional flashback giving a hint of Winnie and Stevie’s life before meeting Verloc. it is a real treasure of a performance and i can’t recommend it enough.
Try and see The Secret Agent while it is on at the Young Vic. It will then tour Warwick, Newcastle, Plymouth and Leeds. Book tickets online. The Secret Agent will be on at the Young Vic until 21 September.
Read reviews: Independent, Guardian
The Pride should make you proud. It should remind you of the social change we have seen in this country. It should make you proud of the equality and acceptance that we now have here in the UK.
The Pride follows the lives of Phillip, Oliver and Sylvia in the 1950s and today. The 1950s sees Phillip married to Sylvia. She is working for an author, Oliver, who she invites over to meet her husband. Phillip and Oliver have a recognition of each other but having never met before. That recognition is that they are both gay.
Cut to today and you see Oliver partaking in some rather unusual role play. His boyfriend, Phillip, has walked out due to his cheating so he’d gone online to find some company for the evening. Oliver seems to have quite the addiction to casual sex with strangers. His gal pal is Sylvia who provides the emotional support Oliver so desperately needs.
As the play cuts back and forward between now and the 1950s it makes you sad that so many men had to live a lie. They had to marry women they did not love and have just miserable marriages. And those poor women having to endure those miserable, loveless marriages.
Matthew Horne plays a number of characters (a Nazi, a therapist) but the stand out one for me was the editor of a lads mag. He had comissioned modern day Oliver to write a light piece on gay sex. He’s a real lads lad. But he shares a touching and tear jerking story of how his uncle died of AIDS and going to the hospital to say goodbye to him as a child. He spots a man by the bedside and is told that is his uncle’s friend. He demanded to know why he had never met this man before. And the confusion of the child as to why his uncle had never felt comfortable in being honest about his life. Heartbreaking.
The end of the first act is brutal. Oliver and Phillip are meeting for the last time in the 1950s. Phillip is disgusted by what he has done. Oliver is clearly in love with him. As they argue they eventually kiss. This kiss leads to the most graphic rape scene. As the stage drops to black there was just silence in the theatre. Really moving stuff.
The Pride is a real insight into the social change we have in terms of gay rights. But as Sylvia shares an anecdote of her evening out and her friends’ views on gay marriage it reminds us that we still have some way to go.
The cast return for the curtain call with To Russia With Love which cannot help bring you to your feet for this brilliant play.
The Pride is on at Trafalgar Studios until 9 November. Book tickets online.
Read reviews of The Pride: Guardian, Telegraph, Standard
Chimerica is the best play you will see this year. FACT.
The reviews of Chimerica have been incredibly positive but they will never do this play justice. It is so smart and well executed that it draws you in from the moment you sit down. I LOVED IT.
The story focuses on a photographer, Joe, who had been in Beijing in 1989 and witnessed the protests and massacre in Tiananmen Square. 23 years later and he visits Beijing again meeting up with a Chinese friend, Zhang Lin. Joe is still fascinated by the man who stopped the tank whilst holding his shopping. He begins to investigate it more. Is the man still alive and living in the US? Joe embarks on a new investigation into the tank man with some sad and unexpected outcomes.
Joe is such a flawed character. He is obsessed with this story he became involved in over 2 decades ago. No matter who might come into harms way he was going to continue with his investigation no matter the consequences Perhaps an interesting nod to the pitfalls of journalists pursuing their story.
The play is 3 hours long but you wouldn’t know it. It is as exciting in the last five minutes as it is in the first. The music, lighting and set were incredible. The set was a giant cube on the centre of the stage that rotated with images projected onto it. The lighting, music and images really set the scene and you genuinely felt you were in Beijing and then a second later in New York. Whoever designed that set needs some kind of award. It was just so damn clever.
The acting was superb by all but for me Benedict Wong as Zhang Lin stole the show. The emotional story of him losing his wife had me fighting the tears back. I really was gripped by his tale. Just an outstanding performance.
So, please, get yourself online and book tickets. You will be sad if you’ve not been to see this when it closes.
Chimerica runs until 19 October. Book tickets online or queue up for £10 day tickets.
Read reviews online: Telegraph, Guardian, Time Out
Limbo makes up part of the Southbank’s Wonderground this summer. The Wonderground is nestled on the Southbank showcasing cabaret, circus and a quirky little bar with fairground rides as seats. It’s a fun little location with some fun shows on offer. Worth heading down to just to hang out. But certainly worth taking in one of the shows too.
Limbo follows on from the very successful Cantina show last year. Some have said that Limbo doesn’t quite live up to Cantina but as I missed it I can’t really compare. The cast of Limbo are are versatile bunch. Not only can they dance, sing but they can also climb a 10ft pole and drop with timing, precision and grace. I spent most of the tricks with my hands over my eyes fearing that someone would fall or indeed catch on fire.
The mixture of dance, singing and crazy tricks really were gripping. I loved the sword swallower who then played with fire that the first few rows felt they were going to be burnt alive.
The show is all around you. It is on the stage, in the air and comes from all angles. Nobody would have had a bad view. The show has a real sense of humour too and you couldn’t help but laugh whilst being amazed at what you saw. The funny little sketch that saw two performers strip but never manage to take off enough pairs of ugly y-fronts to be naked really was a hoot.
A friend who I took with me has seen Cirque du Soleil many times and he thought this was much better. It is intimate. It is thrilling. It is exciting. It is something you want to see again and again.
Limbo will be on at the Southbank Centre until the end of September. Tickets can be booked online.
Read reviews online: Telegraph, Guardian, Standard