An Inspector Calls must be a popular play for school students. I guess a GCSE text. The Thursday matinee awash with secondary children who did not look thrilled to be missing double maths on a Thursday afternoon. The girl in front of me chose to sit on the floor throughout. One can only assume so her teacher couldn’t spot her texting. Either way, wonderful to see the stalls full of children seeing some great theatre.
An Inspector Calls is a classic play that was revived by the National Theatre in the 1990s to critical acclaim. The play focuses on the Birling family, a well to do family who are enjoying dinner and celebrating the engagement of there daughter. They are disturbed when an inspector calls. The inspector informs them of a death of a young woman and believes she is known to the family. It seems the family in their own way have had an association with the dead girl.
This revival is well worth seeing and is playing until 25 March. Tickets available online.
Nice Fish is quite the play. Random. Gripping. Odd. Funny. Charming. It has it all. But I have no idea how I would describe it to someone. Especially the ending which is just brilliantly different. Nice Fish opens with a cold scene and a tiny model of a hut, a fisherman and a steam train. Darkness falls. Two fishermen appear on the ice who are trying to drill holes in the ice to catch the fish below.
Nice Fish opened in New York last year and is enjoying a short transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre with Mark Rylance (who also co-wrote Nice Fish). There was quite the frisson for seeing Mark Rylance on stage by the audience. He had a pretty special 2016 with an Oscar win in one of the biggest movies of the year. I don’t think the crowd queuing down Panton Street in the cold were necessarily late comers to admiring Mark Rylance but it definitely adds something, does it not.
The audience for the matinee that I went to were quite the ‘Chatty Cathys’ with one even taking a few snaps on their phone throughout (defo an Bridge of Spies fan). Credit to the front of house staff at the Harold Pinter for being so professional and polite.
Nice Fish is playing at the Harold Pinter theatre until 11 February. Tickets available online. If you turn up dressed as a fisherman or a fish you’ll get a complimentary ticket. That’s worth it, surely?
It’s always a challenge to know how to entertain one’s parents on Christmas Eve. A theatre trip seems like the perfect way to keep them entertained pre the Big Day. And why not relive their past? So, a sharp comedy about the minority government of the 1970s seemed to fit the bill. Tickets were swiftly booked for This House.
This House opened at the National Theatre in 2012 to critical acclaim and sold out performances. I was lucky enough to enjoy a brilliant performance in the spring of 2013 at the National so was pleased to see the transfer to the West End.
This House begins as Edward Heath calls an election and loses and power transfers to Harold Wilson and his minority Labour government. The action is all viewed from the opposing whips offices in the Commons as they chase the votes. Seems the 1970s were a turbulent time: issues with Europe, issues of devolution in Scotland and Wales, unpopular leaders and women wanting to balance their political life with their home life. Thankfully 2016 is very different…..oh, maybe not.
Seeing This House at the National Theatre I remember a rotating set and members of the audience sat in House of Commons style seating right on the stage. The audience still manage to get on stage (and seemed to take part in some House of Commons votes!) in the Garrick but no rotating set. The pace is firmly set by the Speaker of the House keeping you abreast of which latest member of the House has died making the Labour government even more of a minority.
Whether you’re into your politics or indeed remember the events of the 1970s this is a play you simply must go and see. It’s fast, sharp and funny. I cannot recommend it enough. Especially if you have parents in town that need entertaining!
This House is playing at the Garrick until 25 February. Buy tickets online.
Have you seen Fleabag on BBC Three? If you haven’t you have a treat in store. Hours of lolz ahead of you. Fleabag on the tv (or on demand online as BBC Three now is) was first a show at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival. A one woman show that has now been revived and is showing at the Soho Theatre for a very limited run.
Fleabag’s friend has recently died. A friend who she ran a guinea pig cafe with. She has just dumped her boyfriend and is checking out some new gentlemen callers (some of this show is very relatable for those dating in 2016, for sure). Her sister is very uptight – not like Fleabag at all. Her dad is not coping well with two motherless daughters. He seems so disappointed in his daughter. Which is a shame as she seemed very kind looking after the drunk girl on the tube who was suffering what some might call a wardrobe malfunction.
Fleabag on stage is brilliantly sharp, quick, warm and belly laughing funny. No wonder it was commissioned for tv. It works so well in both formats and I am delighted to have seen it live. A real treat.
I managed to get tickets at the last minute through returns online. Follow Soho Theatre on Twitter for return announcements or queue for returns.
Fleabag is on at the Soho Theatre until Friday 16 December 2016.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
How do you follow a seven book mega film franchise? Well, with a two part theatre extravaganza, of course. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is six hours of theatre in one day. And it still goes too quickly.
Tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child went on sale at the end of October 2015. I queued online for over 2 hours to get my tickets. I then waited 10 months to actually sit in my seat. I felt very invested in its success before I had even entered the Palace Theatre.
Not wanting to give anything away, #keepthesecret, this is a play that you must see. It doesn’t matter that you can’t get tickets until December 2017 – book them now anyway. You will be on the edge of your seat. You’ll be blown away by the magic. It has to be seen.
Groundhog Day the movie is a real guilty pleasure of mine. A film with Bill Murray and Andie McDowell where his day is on loop. What’s not to love? Knowing the team behind Matilda where working on the musical stage version was reason enough to get excited and ensure I secured some tickets.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of the 1993 film, Groundhog Day follows the tale of Phil Connors, a local tv man, who is in Punxsutawney on 2 February to see the groundhog turn (it’s a weather tradition thing) and gets trapped by a snow storm. Waking the next morning it is still 2 February and continues to be so for a long time. Repeating the day over and over.
Transferring this well known tale to stage, when the audience have such an expectation for such a loved film, must have been a challenge. A challenge executed perfectly. The staging, pace, costumes and characters made me love this version more than the film. Tim Minchin’s lyrics and music were wonderfully brilliant and you’ll definitely be looking them up on youtube when you get home.
This is a musical that is smart, funny and as soon as you leave makes you want to book again. If it doesn’t transfer to the West End I’ll be disappointed. It needs a longer run and a wider audience. Expect a sweep of awards at the next Olivier awards.
Groundhog Day is on at the Old Vic until 17 September. Book tickets online.
When Cleansed came to stage in February there were reports of people fainting, walking out and generally being appalled by the gruesomeness of what was on stage. I’d half forgotten this when I booked to see this on a Wednesday afternoon. I’d perhaps not got into the right zone to watch so much violence and nudity.
The play, written by Sarah Kane, was originally performed at the Royal Court in the late 1990s. The revival at the National Theatre has received some mixed reviews (Telegraph, Guardian, Spectator) yet I quite enjoyed it. The nudity just made me wonder how naked the actors had to get in rehearsals and when two actors swapped underwear whether this was really hygienic. Nudity has perhaps had its day as shocking. The sad-masocistic torture left me in shocked and the shooting of rats with a gun genuinely made my heart skip a beat.
The audience was incredibly young, perhaps as it was a Wednesday matinee. But a real positive to see the majority of the seats filled with people under 30.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, written by August Wilson in the early 1980s, has been revived by the National Theatre. It follows the story of Ma Rainey and her band at a recording studio in Chicago, set in the 1920s.
People, Places and Things has transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre after a critically acclaimed run in the Dorfman Theatre at the National. The lead actress Denise Gough won the Oliver the night after I watched this play. If she hadn’t won there would have needed to have been a recount. Her performance was pure brilliance. This was already a hot ticket so pause reading this and book a ticket now!
People, Place and Things follows the addiction of Emma, an actress, who is checking herself into rehab. She is funny, likleable and at times a little too relatable. Denise Gough perhaps gives the most realistic performance of a drunk I’ve ever seen. Just the right amount of stumbling and mumbling.
This was a joint production between the National Theatre and Headlong. Headlong were behind the brilliant Chimerica which I adored when it transferred to the West End in 2013. People, Places and Things had the same pace, sharp change of set and drew you in to the story in the same dynamic way. Please, Headlong, keep producing these new, fresh, fast placed plays.
People, Places and Things is on the Wyndham’s Theatre until 18 June. Tickets available online and day tickets are available at 10am for £25.
The Jamie Lloyd Company production of The Maids at the Trafalgar Studios is a star studded line up that should not be missed. The brilliant Uzo Aduba from the Netflix hit Orange is the new Black, the talented Zawe Ashton from the rather amusing Fresh Meat and Laura Carmichael from Downton Abbey. Three talent and zeitgeist actresses, for sure. Sadly the night I attended Uzo Aduba was not performing yet her shoes were filled by the incredible understudy (sadly, I did not note her name) who should certainly not be an understudy and owned the role.
The Maids was first performed in France in the late 1940s and focuses on two sisters, Solonge and Claire, who are maids for their rich mistress. The two sisters act out fantasies of murdering their boss wearing her clothes, make up, perfume and jewels. The play, I learn afterwards, is loosely based on two French sisters who murdered their employer in the 1930s. Although this production still uses the format of maids and a rich mistress the dialogue felt so fresh it could have been any workplace or any group of female friends with issues.
The play is one act with barely time for the two main actresses to catch their breathe. The intensity of no scene change and remaining in the same set throughout kept you involved throughout. Shame the seats at the Trafalgar Theatre are so uncomfortable as that did make me wish their was an interval just so I could regain feeling in my lower back. That aside, you must go see this play. I think I’ll be going for a second viewing to enjoy Uzo Aduba in the role.
The Maids is showing at the Trafalgar Studios until 21 May. Buy tickets here with £15 tickets available for sale on the first Monday of the month.