Play – ‘Belleville’, Donmar Warehouse, 6th January 2018

 

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Myself and my friends R and J are big Donmar Warehouse fans (we are lucky enough to be Friends of the theatre, so get priority booking- very useful for a tiny theatre which usually sells out quickly). ‘Belleville’ was exactly the kind of play we like- a romcom-type set up where things slowly start to unravel. The beautiful young American couple seemingly living the expat dream in Paris… but of course, they aren’t.

I enjoyed the buildup of the story, the gradual development of the characters and the slow realisation that all was not as it first seemed… I would have liked a bit more of the background story but the Donmar generally goes for short punchy plays and this was no exception.

The only thing that upset us was – in the final scene, there’s a short conversation in French of which we could only understand snippets. I daresay it wasn’t crucial to the play, but it would have been nice to know what was being said!

Overall: An enjoyable evening’s theatre; but if you’re not a fluent French speaker, take one with you or be prepared not to understand the final scene!

Musical – ‘An American in Paris’, Dominion Theatre, 4th January 2018

Big ‘cheesy’ musicals are one of my favourite things. I was raised listening to Andrew Lloyd Webber and the Gershwins and even now I am pretty much word-perfect on ‘Cats’, ‘Starlight Express’, ‘Crazy for You’, ‘Grease’* and most of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ (*I know ‘Grease’ isn’t Lloyd Webber or Gershwin!)

So ‘An American in Paris’ was always on my list to ‘get around to’. With so many shows to see and so little time, however, it had slipped down the priority list somewhat -until I discovered that the rest of the world clearly doesn’t value big musicals as much as I do and, in fact, the show was closing in early January. Cue much panicked messaging to try and coordinate dates and, luckily, my friend P and I managed to get this date in our diaries and book tickets just in time.

Unsurprisingly, I LOVED it. It had everything I like best – jazzy dance routines, uplifting songs, sparkly bright sets. If you don’t leave this musical singing ‘I Got Rhythm’, I don’t really know how to respond to you.

Overall: great uplifting easy-to-watch show. If you have nothing to do tonight or tomorrow, try and get a return!!

Play – ‘A Christmas Carol’, The Old Vic, 14th December 2017

Once again, my friend K deserves much credit for her organisation. We booked tickets to this in August and I suspect that if we hadn’t we wouldn’t have got to go. Much buzz around Rhys Ifans playing Scrooge; spoiler alert -he was great but not by any means the best thing about this production.

So first things first -the set. I’m a sucker for a good quirky/interesting set and this is definitely one of those- the stage is in a ‘cross’ shape with the stalls seats around it and action happens on all parts of the stage. Lots of old Victorian-style lanterns hang over the stage casting moody light. Doorways cleverly pop in and out of the set.

The best thing by far however, is the music. There’s a live orchestra and Christmas carols are beautifully interspersed with the story. The cast also ring handbells which is a lovely atmospheric touch.

All of the cast were superb; the only thing I didn’t love was when it descended ever so slightly into pantomime territory with giant food items being thrown/passed around the theatre, but I suppose after all it is a Christmas show which is meant to appeal to children too. Anyway, it didn’t in any way dim the appeal of this fantastic show.

Overall: as Christmassy as Christmas can be, yet also great theatre. Do your best to go!

Play – ‘Heisenberg – The Uncertainty Principle’, Wyndham’s Theatre, 27th November 2017

Perhaps my expectations for this play were unrealistic. But the reference to Heisenberg in the title made me think that there would be something in here that pertained to science, or at the very least to the life of Heisenberg himself. Whereas actually, this is a mild romantic comedy at best and a waste of 90 minutes at worst.

On the plus side. I liked the set where things effortlessly moved in and out of it. And certain moments of Kenneth Cranham’s delivery made me smile.

But. Nothing about the love story was really plausible- certainly not the speech in which Anne-Marie Duff’s supposed waitress character referenced Heisenberg, and certainly not the part where she propositions the elderly butcher she has met on a bench. And there just wasn’t enough spark between the two of them to keep me interested, in the absence of ANYTHING else in the story whatsoever.

Overall: it’s not about Heisenberg, fair enough. Unfortunately it’s not about anything else much either.

Play – ‘The Lady from the Sea’, Donmar Warehouse, 25th November 2017

I’m going to go a little smug with this one because it’s rare that I manage to write about things in such a timely fashion that anyone might actually be able to see it after I’ve written about it. BUT this play is on for another week and I see there are a few tickets left for later this week so please, if you get a chance, do go.

I love the Donmar Warehouse as it’s such a beautiful, intimate little venue and I’m lucky enough to have received membership as a birthday present from friends this year, so I see most of their productions. When my friends R and J started talking about this Ibsen play, I was envisaging something set in the frozen wastelands of Norway. But actually the setting of this production has been transferred to a Caribbean island and it’s absolutely beautiful with a rocky pool on the stage itself which is used to good theatrical effect.

It’s a quick production; 1hr45min straight through with no interval. Regular readers will know that generally that’s the kind of thing I like and it is, but on this occasion I would actually have liked it to be just a tad longer to flesh out the characters more; while Dr Wangel and his wife Ellida (‘The Lady from the Sea’) were well drawn, the doctor’s two daughters, particularly Bollette, could have done with a little more development. She had a lot of promise but it wasn’t entirely there for me. However, all the cast were simply superb.

Overall: beautiful modernised production of Ibsen on a stunning set in a great little theatre; well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Play – ‘Witness for the Prosecution’, London County Hall, 23rd November 2017

Regular readers will know there are certain things that can guarantee I will be enthusiastic about a play- I’ll see anything with Tamsin Greig in it for example. Another thing I’m always enthusiastic about is Agatha Christie -I started borrowing her mystery books from my school library aged 11 and shot through them all in a matter of months. Since then I’ve seen pretty much any film/TV/stage adaptation that’s come along and I’ve seen ‘The Mousetrap’ twice, though not for many years (in fact perhaps a repeat visit is in order!) so I was keen to see this new production, and the fact that it was set inside London’s County Hall was a real bonus.

I know the story well (I’ve read it and seen the TV adaptation in the past) so it wouldn’t be fair to comment on the twist since I knew what was coming, but as always with Christie, you’ll get a clever mystery with an outcome you don’t anticipate. I LOVED the setting, with a real magistrates’ bench for the judge to sit at (and the jury get sworn in on the left hand side bench just before the play starts -keep a look out for it!) and the layout feels like you really are part of the performance, especially in the courtroom scenes when you feel like you could be in the spectators’ gallery.

Overall: great fun in a unique and beautiful setting. Go go go.

Play – ‘Oslo’, Harold Pinter Theatre, 20th November 2017

No, not another sneaky post about our Scandinavia holiday, but the title of the play which has had a lot of buzz around it -not surprisingly with the challenging topic of little-known Norwegian diplomats arranging peace talks between the Israelis and the PLO.

It certainly is fascinating, but my advice is to do your homework (if you don’t know much about the background you will be pretty lost) and you do need to concentrate- miss a bit of dialogue and you’ll spend the next half hour whispering to your companion trying to catch up (in my case frantically asking my friend R ‘so was that an Israeli..?’) However, it is well worth a watch and there are some lovely touches of humour included within the serious stuff (the enthusiasm for the Norwegian cook’s waffles was great!)

Overall: not easy watching, not lighthearted, but a proper good stimulating evening’s theatre.