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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?
This year I have once again hosted my parents for Christmas in London. It’s the third time I have hosted and think I have now got it pitch perfect to keep two teenage-esque 60-something year olds entertained and not falling out. Thought I would share some ideas for future Christmas planning.
If you are childless Christmas Eve can feel a little strange. You’re not counting down to Santa coming (and if you are, get a grip. You’re a grown adult) so you’re not filled with all that fizzing excitement. Instead you want to get through the day without falling out
Nutcracker will have sold out at the Royal Opera House weeks ago. If you’re mad keen on this try for a Friday Rush ticket or try the ENB at the Coliseum. I’d suggest a play. Last year we opted for the dark comedy Hangmen and this year we did the political comedy This House. The theatres won’t be as busy so you might be lucky and get a seat upgrade. We were moved from the gods to the stalls which was nice.
If church is required and you want to go all out I would suggest the service at Westminster Abbey. Tickets for Westminster Abbey are free but have to be booked and are allocated swiftly so keep an eye on the Westminster Abbey site from early November. The midnight mass is an option or the 11am service on Christmas Day. Alternatively head along to your local church.
There is no transport on Christmas Day other than Boris bikes. Parking is suspended so that is handy. The roads are way busier than you’d expect. And so many tourists. SO. MANY. TOURISTS. Take a scooch round Parliament Square and every tourist visiting London seems to have congregated. Nothing is open so what else you gonna do?
Hardly anything is open on Boxing Day. If you like shopping then get yourself to Oxford Street and take in the chaos. If you like a more sedate pace the I would suggest Kew Gardens or the Southbank Centre. All major museums and galleries are closed but Kew is open so take a lovely walk to burn off the turkey. You’ll have to rely on the tube as trains aren’t running yet. The Southbank Centre is open and this year had an open Argentine tango lesson for all to enjoy which my parents loved.
And the day after?
The museums finally reopen on 27 December after closing there doors late on 23 December. That’s three days of tourists that have come to London for NOTHING to be open. It will be busy but get yourself a ticket booked for an exhibition and your parents will love it. This year we did the Revolution exhibition at the V&A and Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum.
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.
Get yourself to the Royal Academy before the end of the year to see Abstract Expressionism. Really worth the visit.
Tickets available online or free if you’re a Friend of the RA. Abstract Expressionism closes on 2 January 2017.
Anastasia should be a one act ballet. It started its life as a one act ballet but MacMillan added two additional acts as a prologue. He originally created Anastasia for the German Deutsche Oper Berlin in the late 1960s focusing on Anna Anderson who claimed to be daughter of the last Tsar of Russia. When transferring the ballet to London for the Royal Ballet in the 1970s the extra two acts were added. They are so different that it feels like you walked into a different theatre for third act.
Anastasia is on at the Royal Opera House until 12 November. Tickets available online.
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.