Theatre

Review: Spamalot

By John Jeffay, July 8, 2010

Spamalot is a mix of camped-up musical, Monty Python silliness and Arthurian legend that would have even the most-hardened detractor of Cleese, Palin, Idle et al whistling along to a final reprise of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Browse the list of musical numbers and you get a feel for just how silly it is. It opens with the Fisch Schlapping Song, then He Is Not Dead Yet, in which a plague-ridden corpse insists he is still fit enough to join King Arthur, followed by His Name is Lancelot, in which the newly-outed knight "likes to dance a lot".

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Review: Charley's Aunt

By John Jeffay, July 1, 2010

The audience howled, wept and shrieked at this marvellous re-working of a comic treasure.

Oliver Gomm shines magnificently as Charley's aunt - although the rest of the cast deserves similar praise.

It would, in truth, be hard to find fault with this furiously paced farce, as it lurches from silly to very silly and beyond. The play has not aged since Brandon Thomas wrote it almost 120 years ago, and Braham Murray's production at the Royal Exchange was hilarious from start to finish.

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Review: Welcome to Thebes

By John Nathan, July 1, 2010

There is no lack of ambition in Moira Buffini's take on ancient and modern tragedy. Her latest play recruits classical characters from Greek myth and sets them in modern, blood-soaked west Africa. Where ancient plot does not fit modern tragedy, Buffini has no qualms about making changes.

Some of the links to modern equivalents are obvious. Theseus (David Harewood) is an American-style president, the charismatic leader of democratic Athens who arrives by helicopter and is shadowed by secret service agents.

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Review: Dinnerladies

By John Nathan, June 24, 2010

If the sitcom was a giggle then this should have been a belly laugh. Victoria Wood's Dinnerladies, chronicling the mundane lives of mostly middle-aged women in a canteen kitchen, was a hit on telly. The switch to stage is, however, more of a miss.

Much of Wood's sparkling wit and finely observed comedy has been preserved, as have actors Andrew Dunn and Sue Devaney, who played Tony and Jane on the small screen.

But the truth is that a 30-minute television programme is spread far too thinly when it is presented as a two-hour show.

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Review: Sucker Punch

By John Nathan, June 24, 2010

Set against the Brixton riots of the 1980s, Roy Williams’ hugely enjoyable boxing play asks its audience to suspend too much disbelief. Black boxer Leon (Daniel Kaluuya) is the last hope for white trainer Charlie (Nigel Lindsay), whose casual racism turns nasty when he bans Leon from seeing his daughter. Though Kaluuya delivers the most charismatic performance currently on the London stage, you wonder how many charmers like him ever climbed into the ring. Less convincing still is the plotline that sees Leon’s old friend Troy return as a fighter, having been scouted punching a cop.

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Review: Through A Glass Darkly

By John Nathan, June 24, 2010

I left the theatre exhaling through puffed cheeks in that way you only ever do when you have been through an ordeal. Ordeals are hard to recommend.

But in the way other people's misery puts life into perspective, and funerals leave you with a satisfying resolution, Jenny Worton's adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's film at least makes you feel you have earned the right to enjoy life after it has finished.

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The play that tore Israel apart

By Ben Lynfield, June 24, 2010

Army Chief of staff Haim Bar-Lev joked that it was raunchy enough to be performed for the boys at the front with Egypt. Defence Minister Moshe Dayan condemned it for undermining morale and giving succour to the enemy. Members of the audience hurled curses, stink bombs and stones while critics called for its creator to be locked up in a mental institution.

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Review: Dreamboats and Petticoats

By John Jeffay, June 17, 2010

It is 1961. Most of the cast on stage were not born. And most of the audience were.

Welcome to Dreamboats and Petticoats. Hardly the title of a show to drag kids away from Facebook and the World Cup. But the high-tempo and unashamedly low-brow juke-box musical had the older generation off their seats and dancing in aisles. And I really mean dancing in the aisles. There really were genuinely old people standing up at towards the end, wobbling without inhibition to Let's Twist Again and C'mon Everybody.

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Review: The Fantasticks

By John Nathan, June 17, 2010

For 50 years this musical has been part of the New York theatre landscape. Japanese director Amon Miyamoto’s solid revamped version will last less than a month in London, not because it is bad — it is well performed, and Harvey Schmidt’s score is sweet enough — but because at the heart of this love parable about boy and girl neighbours, there is no heart at all, but a banal little message delivered by teenagers and parents from central casting. Americans must love a platitude.

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Review: After the Dance

By John Nathan, June 17, 2010

First the Donmar revived Simon Gray's portrait of post-war England and now with Thea Sharrock's beautifully observed, superbly performed production, the National have done the same for Terence Rattigan's rarely seen pre-war offering. Both works reveal the emotions cloaked by English reserve.

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