January theatre round-up

Remember how I said I was going to get to one West End show a month in 2015? Well I’m currently smashing that resolution (which is just as well, as it makes up for the fact I’ve completely failed at the one about getting up earlier). In January I made it to three shows, and I’ve got three booked for February already, the first of which is tonight. But more on that in a minute.

First up in January was The Railway Children. Yes, again. This was a bit of an accident – I was offered two tickets, which I said I’d take if nobody else wanted them. Lunchtime on the day of the show, I got an email to say my tickets were waiting for me at the box office. A few panicked texts later, my sister Helen had rearranged her afternoon so she could come with me, and we were back on the platform for the second time in less than two weeks. Fortunately, it was just as brilliant as the last time – and this time we had the added bonus of knowing before we went in that it was definitely indoors (thus avoiding the small panic attack we went through the first time, when we briefly thought it was an open air performance – in December). I already reviewed The Railway Children after seeing it the first time, but I’ll just add that as much as I enjoyed the play both times, I think the kids sitting opposite us loved it even more.

The Railway Children

The second show was Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, in mid-January. This was a work outing with the girls from the office (we didn’t bother to ask the boys; it didn’t really seem like their cup of tea) and I was excited to see how they’d adapted the classic Spanish movie. I wasn’t disappointed. The show is as fast and frantic as the original, but the musical numbers – which I loved, and would buy the soundtrack tomorrow if I could – allow a breather every now and then and a chance for the fantastic cast, led by Tamsin Greig and Haydn Gwynne, to showcase their talents. It was hilarious, and yet at times really moving and quite emotional to watch the various ways people can fall apart when life takes an unexpected turn. My only advice is, if you can afford it, steer clear of the upper circle. We were in the front row and had to lean forward to see the whole stage, which meant we blocked the view of the people behind. Since I have a terror of upsetting others, this meant I spent most of the evening sitting rigid and ended up with a fairly sore neck by the end of the show. You also have to climb about a million stairs to get there.

(Ok, maybe not a million. But a lot.)

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, London

And finally, last week I managed to catch The Scottsboro Boys, which closes in a couple of weeks at the Garrick Theatre. If you can get tickets for this, you really should – it’s brilliant. Don’t be fooled by the happy clappy photos outside; this is not a cheerful story. It’s about nine young black men falsely accused of rape in 1930s Alabama, a true story widely regarded as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in U.S. history. As regular readers will know, I’m quite interested in this sort of thing, and, as I expected, The Scottsboro Boys left me speechless and horrified that such a thing could have happened in a ‘civilised’ nation, even eighty years ago. Judging by the silence that fell over the theatre as the show reached its conclusion, I wasn’t alone in that reaction. But in case you’re thinking it’s all doom and gloom, don’t worry – there are some big laughs in there too, not least during the scenes where two of the (male) actors play girls. And it’s fascinating to watch the cast rearrange the set, which consists of a pile of chairs, into a train, a prison cell, a courtroom, a bus…

I’ve reviewed all these shows for London Theatre Direct so you can read more there:

The Railway Children

Women on the Verge

The Scottsboro Boys

So, what’s in store for February? Well, tonight is Di and Viv and Rose, next week is Made in Dagenham and a couple of weeks after that is Jersey Boys. I haven’t seen any of these shows before so I’m excited – check back next month for the round-up 🙂


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