I just realised that in all the chaos of the last couple of weeks, I forgot to do my March theatre round-up… And I thought I’d better remedy that, as there was a lot of it, and it was all fab. (I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw something I didn’t like at all; not sure if that means I make good choices or I’m just too nice. But anyway.)
In case anyone’s interested, I do post during the month about theatre too – I write reviews of everything I see, either here, or on londontheatredirect.com or londontheatre1.com. You can find all the links to these reviews on my Theatre page.
So here we go with March’s selection:
Let it Be (garrick THEATRE)
Any Beatles fan’s dream. Let It Be is the ultimate tribute act, taking you on a whistlestop tour of the Fab Four’s career from their humble beginnings in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, through the conquest of America and on to the psychedelic Sgt. Pepper days. The four stars are great, nailing the voices and mannerisms of the original band, and showing off their Scouse accents in a nice bit of banter between songs. The atmosphere’s very relaxed; unlike most shows, you’re encouraged to take photos and tweet in your song requests while the band are on stage, and the bar remains open throughout the evening. And of course, there are plenty of opportunities for getting up and having a dance.
Conclusion: Not your typical night at the theatre, but great fun. Go prepared to twist and shout, and you can’t go far wrong.
othello (waterloo east theatre)
Following a recommendation on Twitter from Caroline of Carn’s All About Theatre, I spontaneously booked to see this modern retelling of Shakespeare’s play. At only 100 minutes, Time Zone Theatre‘s production cuts out a lot of the preamble and gets straight down to the central story. Charming yet psychotic Iago, annoyed at being passed over for promotion in favour of Cassio, is determined to have his revenge by convincing his boss that his wife is cheating on him, with tragic results. Set in the world of business, Othello is a chilling look at the things people are willing to do in order to get ahead, performed by a talented cast of five at the tiny and intimate Waterloo East Theatre.
Conclusion: intense and full-on, this is a fantastic new version of a well-known story. Unfortunately, it’s now closed, but here’s the trailer, so you can see what you missed 😉
The Nether (Duke of York’s THEATRE)
The Nether is a disturbing look at a possibly all too real future, in which it’s possible to plug yourself into life support and spend the rest of your life in a virtual world. And in that other world, you can do anything you like, however bad it might be, without any consequences. Because if you’re not actually doing it, it’s not real, right…?
The play isn’t an easy watch – I often found myself squirming in my seat and willing a scene to end – but at the same time it’s so brilliantly written and staged that the play becomes a must-see. The two-level set is stunning, bringing to life both the real and virtual worlds through the use of computerised graphics. And with so many ethical questions raised, you may find that your post-theatre discussions go on well into the night…
Conclusion: a brilliant, mind-bending 80 minutes, which leaves you with many questions and the uncomfortable feeling that what you’re seeing might not be fictional for much longer.
Create, scratch, refine, repeat (morley college)
Morley College’s first scratch night (where companies perform an extract from their work and get feedback from the audience) was also my first time reviewing for LondonTheatre1. Four companies, who are all taking their work up to Edinburgh this summer, performed for 15 minutes each, and the audience were given feedback forms with questions to answer ranging from ‘what do you think this play is about?’ to ‘what do you imagine happens next?’
It was a very different kind of theatre experience, but I really enjoyed seeing a variety of work on display: Room by Created a Monster, To She or Not To She by Joue le Genre, Labels by Worklight Theatre and The Thomas Clifford Show by Selah Theatre. The shows cover themes including celebrity culture, gender equality and mental illness, all in very different ways, and kind of made me wish I was going to Edinburgh this summer…
Conclusion: my first scratch night, this was not only a chance to see some great theatre, but also an interesting insight into how a play comes to life.
And then there were none (Churchill theatre)
You can’t beat a good whodunnit, especially when it’s by the queen of murder mystery, Agatha Christie. In And Then There Were None, ten people are lured to a remote island off the coast of Devon, and it’s not long before they begin to die in various horrible ways. With nobody else on the island, we know the killer is one of the ten, but which one?
After a relatively slow start – necessary to set the scene and introduce the complicated cast of characters – the action gains pace, and soon the bodies are piling up, with the audience on the edge of our seats, waiting to see who meets their end next. The star cast includes Paul Nicholas, Frazer Hines and long-time company member Ben Nealon (who I remember from Soldier Soldier, because I’m old), and they all do a great job with the complicated script, which has them moving constantly on and off stage, to keep us on our toes.
Conclusion: a tense and brilliantly staged production of a classic story. A bit slow at the start, but gripping once it gets going.
Cymbeline (Waterloo East theatre)
After the success of Othello, I headed back to Waterloo East to see another updated Shakespeare, this time Cymbeline. I admit I didn’t know anything about this play beforehand, and now having seen it, I can only sum it up in one word: bonkers. The king’s daughter, Imogen, wants to get married to her girlfriend Posthumus, which has upset the queen, who’d prefer her to marry her step-brother instead. Enter Iacomo, who convinces Posthumus that he’s seduced Imogen, even though he hasn’t. And before we know it, everyone’s run off to Wales, of all places.
It’s a crazy story, somewhere between a comedy and a tragedy, and packed with just about every Shakespearean plot device going – misunderstandings, coincidences, girls dressing as boys, potions that make you seem like you’re dead when you’re not… I don’t think it’s Shakespeare’s best, but this production was good fun, and I liked the bold decision to make Posthumus a girl, even though I didn’t really see why it was necessary (and actually probably just confused things further).
Conclusion: an entertaining production of a little-known play. I don’t know if I’d rush to see Cymbeline again, but suspect that’s down to the work itself, not this version, which I actually really enjoyed.
And that’s it for March! What have you seen at the theatre recently? Any recommendations?
Check out all my reviews below.