Women’s Prize for Playwriting opens April 7th!

Budding women playwrights resident in the UK and Ireland will be cheered to know that the Women’s Prize for Playwriting opens for submissions on April 7th.

The award, the first of its kind, has celebrated and supported much female talent, and last year announced joint winners. One of the two 2020 winners, Amy Trigg’s REASONS WHY YOU SHOULDNT LOVE ME has been chosen to be the play which reopens the Kiln Theatre in Kilburn, in May.

To find out more information, visit 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

Shows to look forward to in August 2019

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

As you’ll know, August brings us the Edinburgh Festival where the austerely lovely maiden-aunt of a city becomes a kind of endless lasagne of performance , with hundreds of shows in every conceivable space. Good luck to everyone up there! But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do or see in the rest of the country. Oh no! Just take a look below for a wide range of ideas to suit your own tastes. Enjoy!

Off-West End

SHACKLETON’S CARPENTER , Harry McNish, was pivotal in ensuring the survival of those who went on Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914-17 Antarctica expedition.

When the Endurance sank, leaving the crew of 27 stranded, McNish, brilliant carpenter and shipwright, defied Shackleton, but went all the way with him and ensured all 28 were saved.

For all his bravery and ingenuity, McNish was – oddly- one of the very few who were never awarded the Polar Medal. His health impaired by these shattering Polar experiences, he emigrated to New Zealand where his condition worsened, and he could only get dock work. Now, alone and destitute, one still night on the dockside, in his fevered mind he relives the Endurance expedition, pitting himself once more against Shackleton whilst still plagued by the ghosts of his past. Playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 17 August.


“It would be abnormal if someone didn’t die.
You know, that would be very strange.
We’d pay a lot of attention, I think, if that happened.”

THE COLOURS is the latest play from Harriet Madeley, who gave us the highly-praised THE LISTENING ROOM, which was a collection of interviews around the effects of violent crime. In this show, five people lie on a Welsh beach, moving through fantasy, memory and reality as they process the most profound yet ordinary of experiences: nearing the end of life.

As they describe moments from their lives, dig into their present experience and reflect on what the future has in store, we are taken on a rollercoaster ride of the human imagination… and transported all the way to the brink; as far as the eye can see.

THE COLOURS was created from interviews conducted with patients at Ty Olwen Hospice in Swansea and Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff. THE COLOURS plays at Soho Theatre Upstairs until 17 August.

Please Note: this play deals with medical themes and life-limiting illness.


Until Sat August 3rd. Something different! OUT OF THE WINGS Festival presents its fourth annual festival, exploring untapped theatre from the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world. Over five days, a series of staged readings bring to life new English translations of works by playwrights from six countries, alongside workshops, talks and events, in celebration of theatre in translation. At the Omnibus Theatre, Clapham. More information and tickets here.


Until August 10th. Howard Zinn was an American historian, professor and social activist, widely considered one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His book, A People’s History of the United States, has sold two million copies and is read in schools throughout the U.S. THE TIME OF OUR LIES explores Zinn’s personal history, including being a soldier who dropped bombs on Royan, France in WWll. That fateful moment troubled him for the rest of his days and shaped the man who would become a moral compass for the United States in ways that are more relevant today than ever before. 

Starring Daniel Benzali as Howard Zinn, and directed by Che Walker, THE TIME OF OUR LIES is a battle cry for democracy, transparency, and inclusion. The play embodies Zinn’s battle for social justice and his lifelong struggle against false historical narratives written by those in power that poison the well for true democracy. At the Park Theatre.


Extended to August 3rd and then opening in the West End 27 Sep-4 Jan – If it’s laughter you’re after then you can’t go far wrong with Michael Frayn’s NOISES OFF, returning to the scene of its first success in 1982 at the Lyric, Hammersmith. In this new production, directed by Jeremy Herrin, Meera Syal stars as Dotty, ageing actress who has sunk her life savings into a cheap production of a tired sex comedy, hoping that a quick UK tour will bag her a comfy retirement pot. Naturally, things go awry in ever-more disastrous ways, from the set to the cast to the sardines, as we see the show deteriorate from the rehearsal to the insanity of the end of the tour. With dizzying split-second timing, physical comedy and an incredibly complex plot, at its best this is a show to relax and enjoy to the full! Now where did I put those sardines……..


Playing now 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, it runs to 7 September – and no doubt continuing elsewhere if the ever busy Ms Clarke will find time….


Playing at the Soho Theatre until Aug 24th, THE VIEW UPSTAIRS is the European premiere of Max Vernon’s new musical following its off-Broadway season, here starring John Partridge and Tyrone Huntley, amongst a really first-rate cast of powerful performers. It all starts when Millennial fashion designer Wes buys an abandoned building, not knowing that this forgotten gem was the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ‘70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans, starting an exhilarating journey of seduction and self-exploration in the summertime heat with the rush of lust, sex and incense mixed in the air. Filled with a collection of beautiful love songs and power rock ballads, this is a hopeful musical about friendship, community, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go. Although the book could be further developed, it’s the music that will win you- it’s carefully-crafted and authentically 70s-sounding. 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).

Now playing at the Coliseum until 31st August, after which it embarks on a UK tour.

Read my review of the show here


Touring the UK

Now nearing the close of this 50th anniversary UK tour, the tribal rock musical HAIR carries on with abandon, starring Jake Quickenden, Marcus Collins and Kelly Sweeney. See it in August in Cologne (Germany) before it returns to the UK to play Glasgow as the last date of its tour.


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 August at Manchester, Bournemouth, Glasgow and Woking . Read my review of the show here


LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is out on a national tour until September. See it in August at Canterbury, Dublin, Oxford and Worcestershire. Read my review of the show here


Also….

See 1927’s ***** GOLEM for free – now! Right here….

For fans of innovative company 1927 (THE ANIMALS AND CHILDREN TOOK TO THE STREETS and GOLEM), you will be happy to know that 1927 are giving you a second chance to watch the brilliant show GOLEM, until 8th August. It’s right here, above. Enjoy!

Thanks to 1927 for making this available and wishing success to their new show ROOTS which plays the Edinburgh Festival in August, details here


NT Live Broadcasts

Throughout August across the UK there are Encore screenings of the much-praised National Theatre productions of THE LEHMAN TRILOGY and SMALL ISLAND. To find screenings in your area check out the schedule of NT Live website, details here.


Kidsweek 2019

For the whole of August, a child aged 16 or under can go to any participating London show for free (where tickets are available) as long as they’re accompanied by a full paying adult. Adults can also buy up to two extra children’s tickets at half price… and there are no booking fees!

Find out more and book here


Shows closing

THE STARRY MESSENGER closes August 10th at Wyndham’s Theatre

PRESENT LAUGHTER closes August 10th at the Old Vic

THE END OF HISTORY closes August 10th at the Royal Court Theatre

SMALL ISLAND closes August 10th at the National Theatre

Disney’s ALADDIN closes August 24th at the Prince Edward Theatre

THE BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES closes August 24th at the Roundhouse

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR closes August 24th at the Barbican Centre

THE LEHMAN TRILOGY closes August 31st at the Piccadilly Theatre

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM closes August 31st at the Bridge Theatre


Review: WIFE

IN BRIEF Four part time-travelling play explores the prices paid for marriage by those termed “wives” in an earnest but uneven script, well-acted and directed.

WIFE is four one-act plays linked by related, conflicted characters, spanning 90 years of time- 1959, 1988, 2019 and 2049. It’s a very uneven, sprawling but earnest show which aspires to look at the state of marriage across the years, through interactions with Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, using the play and theatre as reference points along the way. Anyone who does not know Ibsen’s play will still find this show accessible.

In 1959, teacher Daisy loves actor Suzannah but is married to accountant Robert, who sexually assaults her. The resulting (unwanted) child -Ivar- in 1988 pressures Eric, a young carer (for the previously mentioned Daisy) to come out too quickly and in doing so causes their relationship to split. In 2019, Eric’s daughter Clare tracks down the previously mentioned Ivar to ask about her father who has been killed. Ivar is now married to Cas, a self-obsessed performance artist wasting Ivar’s money on vanity projects. In 2049, Clare’s daughter Daisy is in love with the theatre and actor Suzannah, who tries to help her unravel the mystery of the tambourine, a family heirloom, and inscriptions therein. Cyclically, and quite satisfyingly, we return to 1959 to the first meeting between Daisy and Suzannah, where all the possibilities began.

Samuel Adamson has produced an intense play, with only a few laughs amongst the angst, but it held the audience from start to finish. Adamson’s thrust seems to be that the state of marriage has never provided equality and liberty; in the first part it is seen as a traditional trap for women, the second is as an unfocused aspiration to “have what heterosexuals have”, the third is lazy and an anachronistic accessory, and the fourth seems unnecessary. The play says much more about homosexual relationships than heterosexual ones and as such is a more useful debater about how society’s outsiders seem to have become politically neutered by being brought inside the law. However, this is all rather academic and somewhat dry. The section in the future was less compelling to me and perhaps only there to frame the circularity device, it did not interest me as much as the other parts.

Indhu Rubasingham skilfully directs with a humanity and care for the characters, while also providing us with a very funny and much welcome first act curtain which completely drags us into the present. A cast of six do a good job with the material they are given.

As a wider exploration of marriage the play is lacking, but as an examination of same-sex relationships and how they relate to the social and legal strictures of the day it fares better. From Daisy’s 1959 “arranged marriage” to Ivar’s 1988 struggle for self-expression, to Ivar’s 2019 realisation that the grass isn’t always greener (“We got what we wanted… and we lost”) to young Daisy’s open relationship of 2049, it’s an interesting discussion. For me, the play works best when in the present, highlighting self-obsession and expression which appear to have engendered complacency amongst those who have not had to fight for the rights they have been gifted with. As a discussion, this show has many loose ends and unexplored avenues which made it rather frustrating for this viewer.

The “wife” term will mean different things to different people in different times. As it is used here, it’s first as a prisoner, then a camp joke, then a self-conscious archaism, then- who knows?  Rather than accepting society’s definitions, how much better to first know, and be ourselves – to find our own truth, not a label.

I hope that WIFE finds its audience.

WIFE runs at the Kiln Theatre, Kilburn, until 6 July. Information and tickets here