Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2019

Congratulations to the nominees and winners of the 39th year of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards now sponsored by TV channel Dave.

Best Comedy Show was won by Jordan Brookes for his show I’VE GOT NOTHING.

Best Newcomer was won by Catherine Cohen for her show THE TWIST…? SHE’S GORGEOUS.

The Panel Award went to Jessica Brough, Founder of Fringe of Colour.

Well done to all the nominees who made up very talented shortlists.

How amazing to think that next year will be the Award’s 40th anniversary.

I was very privileged to be a judge on these Awards, then sponsored by Perrier, in 1985. That year’s winner were a brilliant group called Complicité. And look what happened to them!


Find out more about Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards at their website here

Shows to look forward to in September 2019

Welcome to September’s show highlights. Here are my picks of the most interesting shows that you can find around London and the UK.

So, after a rash of festivals in Edinburgh and London, there’s just a moment to catch our breath before the next wave of great shows kicks off in early September. Fasten your seatbelts!

Off-West End

PRELUDES sounds fascinating. Based on a true story of the composer genius Rachmaninoff’s sessions of hypnotherapy, PRELUDES is an intriguing new musical by three-time Tony Award-nominee Dave Malloy (Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Ghost Quartet). It examines the crippling debilitation and harm the world can do to people, and how the dramatic and musical process can be used as therapy to restore them back into the fullest of creative lives. PRELUDES runs from September 6th until October 12th at Southwark Playhouse.


FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY In a run-down community hall on the edge of town, a woman has been cooking lunch for those in need. A choir is starting up, run by a volunteer who’s looking for a new beginning. A mother is seeking help in her fight to keep her young daughter from being taken into care. An older man sits silently in the corner, the first to arrive, the last to leave. Outside the rain is falling.

FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY is the culmination of a trilogy that began with BEYOND CARING – ‘Unforgettable’ (The Times) – and followed by LOVE – ‘the National’s play of the year, and then some’ (Evening Standard). Alexander Zeldin’s new play promises to be another uncompromising theatrical experience that goes to the heart of our uncertain times. Playing at the National’s Dorfman Theatre from September 9th to October 12th.


Hampstead Theatre Downstairs is an undisputed treasure trove of new writing, and this looks set to continue with EITHER . Running from September 19th to October 26th, Ruby Thomas’ funny, smart and sexy debut play probes our romantic choices in life and explores the human need to connect and be loved – regardless of the ramifications.

A young, loved-up couple are surrounded by life’s infinite possibilities and temptations. And at a time in their lives where they have little responsibility, they’re determined to live this chapter as fully and spontaneously as possible. But in their pursuit to enjoy all that life has to offer, should every opportunity that comes their way be taken?


FALSETTOS , the double Tony Award winning musical from James Lapine and William Finn finally gets its London premiere (courtesy of Selladoor Productions) at the Other Palace from August 30th until November 23rd. Featuring a brilliant cast including Laura Pitt-Pulford (LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE), Natasha J Barnes (WASTED) and Daniel Boys (AVENUE Q) amongst others.

An hilarious and poignant look at a modern family, FALSETTOS revolves around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon to be bar mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbian neighbours, Originally created under the spectre of the AIDS crisis, this ground-breaking musical about family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion, which reminds us that love is all that really matters.


ANNA BELLA EEMA  “Something is coming. It’s either the interstate or the end of the world”. Precocious child Annabella lives in a deserted trailer park. Schooled by her eccentric mother Irene, she learns to co-exist with the vampires, werewolves and monsters that lurk in the world outside. Desperate to ward off the new highway that threatens the demolition of their home, Annabella steps outside to build a girl out of mud. The girl comes to life. The girl is Anna Bella Eema.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lisa D’Amour’s (Detroit, National Theatre) part ghost story, part fairytale, part coming-of-age fantasy, ANNA BELLA EEMA is a dazzling burst of storytelling from the dark heart of American Gothic. Playing at the Arcola from September 11th to October 12th.


TORCH SONG, Harvey Fierstein’s Tony-winning play about the life and loves of a drag artist in 1970s New York runs from September 6th to October 13th at the Turbine Theatre in Battersea, next to the Power Station. This inaugural production at the venue is directed by Olivier-winner Drew McOnie


FOR SERVICES RENDERED A warm September afternoon in an idyllic English village. Tea is served on the terrace. Sounds of a tennis party float across the lawn. But this England has no place for the heroes of the First World War. No jobs to sustain them, no mantelpieces for their medals, and no money for their debts. Against the odds, three sisters must carve new paths in an uncertain world.

Somerset Maugham’s sharply observed and passionate play is a Chekhovian examination of desire, frustration and hope.

FOR SERVICES RENDERED runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre from September 4th to October 5th. Directed by JST’s Artistic Director, Tom Littler.


HOW LOVE IS SPELT “She wanted spontaneity, adventure… I said I can be spontaneous… I just need a little bit of time to plan.” Peta is new in town and ready for whatever London has to throw at her. She’s looking for romance, for friendship, for exciting people to lead her on big adventures. But being an independent woman in the new millennium isn’t easy, especially when there’s a constant reminder of the life you’re trying to escape. With each new encounter, Peta flirts with what might have been, but has the journey to London put enough distance between her and her past?

This is the first major revival of this fascinating and funny play from Susan Smith Blackburn Prize-winning playwright Chloe Moss (This Wide Night, Soho Theatre; Dickensian, BBC) which was first produced at Bush Theatre in 2004. How Love Is Spelt is directed by Charlotte Peters (Associate Director War Horse, UK Tour and An Inspector Calls, West End). Playing at Southwark Playhouse from September 4th to 28th.


At the Royal Court from September 3rd to 21st, TOTAL IMMEDIATE COLLECTIVE IMMINENT TERRESTRIAL SALVATION by experimental theatre maker Tim Crouch arrives in London after a controversial season at the Edinburgh Festival.

“You should all have a book.  Does everyone have a book? This book is part of the play. 
In a minute, we’ll all open this book and we’ll invite you to turn the pages.”

The writer manipulates a group of people to sit together and believe in something that isn’t true. The book he’s written predicts it all: the equations, the black hole and all the words we’ll speak until the end.

On this last day, at this last hour, a defector finds her voice and returns.

In this new play, presented through stage action and illustrated text, audience and actors turn the book’s pages together, they study the images and they sometimes share the words out loud.


ALL OF ME is an intimate and absurd exploration of wanting to live, wanting to die and what can happen if we sit together with the dark. Olivier Award nominee Caroline Horton reunites with director Alex Swift (★★★★ How to Win Against History, Young Vic) to bring you the show that happens after the curtain call, when the lights have gone down but the mess remains. Playing at the Yard in East London from September 10th to 28th


Until September 7th at the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, the Olivier and Tony Award nominated musical BLUES IN THE NIGHT is in its first major London revival in 30 years. Directed by Susie McKenna and starring Olivier Award winners Sharon D. Clarke (Death of A Salesman, Caroline or Change, Ghost, Amen Corner) and Clive Rowe (Guys and Dolls, Carousel), Blues in the Night is a steamy compilation of 26 hot and torchy blues numbers that frame the lives and loves of four residents of a downtown hotel. Featuring soul-filled songs by blues and jazz icons Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen and many more.


West End Opening

Well, we have had quite a slew of film to stage adaptations in the last few years, haven’t we? Whilst it’s true that they will never have the same qualities as the originals, they are often worth seeing for the talent involved. A case in point is the restyling of the classic 1951 Ealing comedy THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT which originally starred Alec Guinness. All about a scientist who creates a miracle fibre which doesn’t wear out, the discovery is seized upon by both the mill owners and the trades unions who all want to suppress it. It will be intriguing to see how Sean Foley (adaptor and director) works with the fifties nature of the story and manages to bring his own quirky eye to the story details. Reuniting Foley with Stephen Mangan, (they worked together on JEEVES AND WOOSTER to great success in 2016), this will be an interesting experiment in itself.


Outside London

Manchester is in for a treat. After 50 years Jerry Herman’s classic musical MAME is back! When young Patrick goes to stay with his Auntie Mame, he walks into a fast-living world of fun and and joy. It will be a real treat to see two-time Olivier-winner Tracie Bennett (Follies) (pictured above, top right) as Mame, with the great Tim Flavin and Harriet Thorpe (Absolutely Fabulous) (pictured above, centre) as Mame’s “old, old, old friend” Vera Charles. Get set for some high-octane musical fun! The celebrated score includes the rousing title number, plus “Open a New Window,” “If He Walked into My Life,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “Bosom Buddies” and “That’s How Young I Feel.” A tour must follow. Previews from September 28th and playing till November 9th.


Touring the UK

C’est Magnifique! Achieving the near-impossible task of translating a unique French movie to the stage, and doing so in some style, this UK tour of AMELIE will bring a smile to your lips and warmth to your heart, as we follow our heroine helping others but finding it hardest to help herself. With a tuneful score and dynamic Audrey Brisson as Amelie, this is your passport to joie de vivre. See it in September at Eastbourne, Inverness and Southampton . Read my review of the show here


If you love the Latin crossover music of Gloria Estefan you will enjoy ON YOUR FEET! It has had mixed but mostly positive reviews, unanimous in the musical content of the show. It looks good and sounds just great, with a brilliant band (worth the price of admission alone) who never let the energy flag.

Featuring 26 hits, this Tony Award nominated show ran on Broadway for two years, for over 750 performances. ON YOUR FEET! is the inspiring true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and charts their journey from Cuba to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom. Featuring some of the most iconic pop songs of the era, including “Rhythm is Gonna Get You”, “Conga”, “Get On Your Feet”, “Don’t Want To Lose You Now” and “1-2-3” and many more.

ON YOUR FEET! is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde), with choreography by Olivier Award-winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and book by Academy Award® winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman). See it in September at Birmingham, Plymouth, Nottingham and Sunderland. Read my review of the show here


James Lapine and William Finn’s LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is a musical adaptation of the hit 2006 quirky road movie. It’s touring the UK and is worth a visit. See it in September at Leicester, Cardiff, Aberdeen and Liverpool, where the tour closes. Read my review of the show here


Also….

From 13 to 22 September, there are over 100 theatre-related events going on across the country during Heritage Open Days. Most likely a theatre near you will be opening its doors to offer tours of the buildings. Intrigued? Then take a look at their website here where you can search what’s happening near you.


Every September since 1992, London Open House has enabled public access to 800+ buildings, many of which are inaccessible at any other time of the year, with associated walks, talks and tours over one very busy weekend, now attracting over a quarter of a million people annually.

22 theatres and 5 cinemas are listed in this year’s offerings, ranging from the grandeur of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s freshly-refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre to the Victorian charms of Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, to more modern offerings such as the National Theatre. All will be open for exploration via tours and/or talks on-site. Tucked away in the “entertainment” category is the first cinema to be Grade-I listed, the incredible Tooting Granada (now rather cheesily-titled Buzz Bingo, but inside still an awe-inspiring and richly-detailed movie palace)

Please note that some sites require advance booking while others do not. Do check with the Open House website on each venue’s individual listing page for full details. Also, a lot of venues will open on just one day of the weekend, not both, so do please check before you travel.

Find out more at the Open House website which you can find here


NT Live Broadcasts

September brings two NTLive broadcasts to screens around the UK and further afield. On September 12th Phoebe Waller-Bridge brings her hit show FLEABAG to UK-wide audiences from the stage of Wyndham’s Theatre.

Then on September 26th (and later dates) it’s the welcome return of one of the National’s biggest successes of recent years, Richard Bean’s ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS starring James Corden in a career-boosting role for him.

To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


London Shows closing

September 7th- BLUES IN THE NIGHT closes at The Kiln Theatre

September 8th- JOSEPH closes at the London Palladium

September 9th- EQUUS closes at Trafalgar Studios

September 14th – THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY closes at the Menier Chocolate Factory

September 21st – EVITA closes at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park

September 28th – THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA at the Noel Coward Theatre

Theatre FootNotes for August 2019 – a summary of other theatre events in my diary

SHACKLETON’S CARPENTER at Jermyn Street Theatre – Mon 12th August, 75 minutes

Suddenly awoken from a nightmare, Harry McNish bursts out from under a tarpaulin covering a lifeboat. McNish was Shackleton’s Carpenter, and this is his story. Malcolm Rennie is an old dependable at places like the Finborough where his expressive face and physicality are welcome additions to period plays. Here, though, he is the whole show, recounting for 75 minutes the particulars of Shackleton’s perilous 1914/15 Antarctic expedition in which McNish was instrumental in saving the crew’s lives. We are plied with information to colour the portrait.

Now at the end of his life, destitute, alone and unable to work, McNish lives along the wharfs in New Zealand, reliving his glory days and most terrifying hours. He is visited by the spirit of Shackleton (“the Boss”) and tracks back over their time together. In exploring McNish’s compromised loyalty, there seems to have been some kind of personality clash between himself and Shackleton, which might explain why McNish was derided for being a pessimist and nicknamed “the old carpenter”. Further antagonisjng Shackleton by defying him and suggesting a different course of action to the inflexible “Boss”, McNish effectively saved the whole crew. It may have been this which influenced McNish’s not receiving the Polar Medal (which almost every other crew member received), but we shall never know.

Rennie creates a haunted but flawed character. A loner, still turning over why he was “one of the boys, but not one of the boys”. His enormous skill as a shipwright saved the entire crew but cost him the use of his hands, evermore crippled by the legacy of intense work in unforgiving temperatures.  Both McNish and Shackleton were obviously very strong characters, but the point in the story  where Rennie plays them both is a bit unfocussed and fleeting, so that one wonders why it’s there at all. There’s a rather nice finish as all the crew appear to him and one feels a pivotal life moment, but so much has gone before was stretched out that it can only partially reclaim the interest. A respectful biography by Gail Louw, the more interesting parts are where he muses on his wives and the little girl he wanted to call him Daddy; but for me, these moments are rather too few and far between.

Lantern-eyed Rennie is an accomplished actor who pulls out every trick in the book to keep things interesting, but it felt rather like he himself was stranded. He could have had much better support than this. How much light and shade would an interesting lighting design and even more, a sound design have brought us into McNish’s fevered recollections. It was disappointing to have neither of these stage assets to help the story along, further increasing the pressure upon Rennie to deliver the goods entirely alone. Aside from anything else, to have given it some visual interest. This is yet another show which could be recorded for radio without changing a word. Honestly, I must say that it became a little repetitive and was rather too long for my taste. The mysteries remain unanswered, but at least Shackleton’s Carpenter belatedly has his time in the limelight, given respectful dimensionality by Rennie’s full-blooded perfromance.

London Theatre training for 16-25 year olds – apply by September 1st

YOUNG PLEASANCE LONDON AUDITIONS

Are you (or is someone you know) aged 16-25 and interested in professional theatre experience and training? The Pleasance Theatre in North London are recruiting for their Young Pleasance London Ensemble for the Autumn 2019 Term. 

You’ll need to fill out an application form, get it back to them by the deadline of September 1st, and participatory workshops held on Sunday 8th and Monday 9th September. There are limited bursaries available.

For more details, you can look here

Any questions, or further information, contact Young Pleasance Director Joel Gathouse on joel@pleasance.co.uk


London Open House, 21/22 September – bookings now open!

The largest festival of architecture and building design in the world, London Open House 2019 is coming in September, and the full programme has now gone live on their website.

Every September since 1992, London Open House has enabled public access to 800+ buildings, many of which are inaccessible at any other time of the year, with associated walks, talks and tours over one very busy weekend, now attracting over a quarter of a million people annually.

Run by a small team supported by volunteers, the astonishing breadth of London’s building design is celebrated by gaining rare access to private and restricted buildings.

Happily, entertainment buildings such as theatres and cinemas are also enthusiastically taking part, and it is this category which I want to tell you about.

22 theatres and 5 cinemas are listed in this year’s offerings, ranging from the grandeur of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s freshly-refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre to the Victorian charms of Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, to more modern offerings such as the National Theatre. All will be open for exploration via tours and/or talks on-site. Tucked away in the “entertainment” category is the first cinema to be Grade-I listed, the incredible Tooting Granada (now rather cheesily-titled Buzz Bingo, but inside still an awe-inspiring and richly-detailed movie palace)

Please note that some sites require advance booking while others do not. Do check with the Open House website on each venue’s individual listing page for full details. Also, a lot of venues will open on just one day of the weekend, not both, so do please check before you travel.

At the website you can check buildings by category and also by location to help you find Open House buildings near to you. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity!

Find out more at the website which you can find here