And the Also Recognised Award Winners are…

It’s the moment you and the rest of Theatre Land have been waiting for, yes it was the announcement today of the new annual Also Recognised Award Winners. After a month of voting that has quite honestly flown by and the involvement of over 15,000 people voting, Terri Paddock and Mark Shenton’s awards can only be described as a resounding triumph. After founding MyTheatreMates.com , these awards are reinforcing what a powerhouse the Paddock and Shenton Duo are in British Theatre. They have created with the Also Recognised Awards, accolades that are voted by the people who watch Theatre, to reward those who make Theatre happen.

Here are the Winners below:

Best Musical Direction Alan Williams for his work on Jamie Lloyd’s revival of Sondheim’s Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Theatre Event of the Year – Nimax Theatres for its reopening of the Apollo Theatre just three months after its partial ceiling collapse.

Best Ensemble Performance awarded to the satirical Forbidden Broadway, which transferred to the West End’s Vaudeville Theatre from the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Best Shakespearean Production A second Jamie Lloyd production, Richard III starring Martin Freeman as part of Lloyd’s Trafalgar Transformed seasons at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios.

Best Original Music – awarded to Joe DiPietro and David Bryan for their original score and lyrics on Memphis The Musical at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre.

Best Solo Performance – awarded to Juliet Stevenson for her performance as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days at the Young Vic.

London Newcomer of the Year – awarded to performer Damian Buhagiar, who made his debut in the London premiere of Lin Manuel-Miranda musical In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse.

Best Twitter EngagementLes Miserables (@lesmisofficial) at the Queen’s Theatre

Best Show Poster Urinetown at the St James and Apollo Theatres

Best Show TrailerMiss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre

Please let me know your thoughts on the winners, would love to hear your views.

The Buzz In Theatre Land That Could Rival A Colony Of Bees!

There is a loud buzz at the moment that is resounding throughout the theatre land of London, being spearheaded by a Queen Bee or should I say King bee..yes you guessed it a certain Kenneth Branagh. I am excited by the Kenneth Branagh season of five plays at London’s Garrick Theatre performed by The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, but there are a host of other imminent jewels in the theatre crown that I want to share with you too! There are new Musical Theatre productions coming to London this spring and summer, two of which Beyond Bollywood (The London Palladium) and The Dreamers ( St James Theatre) I have written preview articles on this blog. Both are new Musicals and both containing original music opposed to being a ‘juke box’ show, so they have caught my attention to say the least. The Tristan Bates Theatre will be showing a double bill play Barren & The Revlon Girl by OctoberSixtySix Theatre Conpany from June, continuing the theatres momentum of showing hard hitting and topical dramas this spring. 

The wonderful news that Gypsy is extending to November 2015 at the Savoy Theatre is very much being embraced by the unanimous praise it has received by press and public alike! 

These are just the tip of the iceberg of the many theatrical highlights that will be wowing you in the next few months. Would love to hear what Productions are getting you excited for the near future? 

At 6ft (And Invisible) Harvey Didn’t Steal The Show…But Dreyfus And Lipman Certainly Did!

Harvey-Review-Theatre-Royal-Haymarket

Honestly, who wouldn’t want a companion who is loyal, tidy and..invisible..oh and a rabbit?! This is the question I asked myself when Official Theatre http://www.officialtheatre.com/ sent fellow blogger Jonathan http://www.flaneur.me.uk/ and myself to see the 1944 comedic play Harvey by Mary Chase, at The Theatre Royal Haymarket.

James Dreyfus is Elwood P Dowd, a middle aged bachelor who has one of the sunniest dispositions of any character I have seen in recent times. He has inherited his Mother’s rather grand house after being by her side when she died and Elwood’s sister Veta (Maureen Lipman) and her daughter Myrtle-Mae (Ingrid Oliver) have now come to reside with him. How cosy this family unit seems, well it would be if there wasn’t the small hindrance of Elwood’s friendship with an invisible 6ft white rabbit called Harvey. Veta tries to get her brother sectioned at a sanatorium for his own sake, but mostly for that of her family’s good name. What then entails is the neurotic Veta being mistakenly sectioned instead of Elwood and then a man hunt ensuing for her brother ( or should I say rabbit hunt?). 

Dreyfus is perfectly cast as the eternally optimistic, charming and very eccentric Elwood. I had my reservations at the beginning of Harvey that Dreyfus might be a little manic in the role but director Lindsay Posner has made sure the staging wasn’t too frantic. His American accent did waver in places during the first Act, but Elwood is such a hilarious character that Dreyfus’ interaction with Harvey more than compensates. Him reaching up to clean Harvey’s ears is very convincing and shows his great mime talent. The slapstick naivety of Dreyfus compliments the often dry humour of Lipman who gave an exceptional performance as the long suffering Veta who really did make me laugh out loud especially her one liners to her downtrodden and timid daughter Myrtle-Mae.

David Bamber as Doctor Chumley was a bit too reserved I would have preferred a lot more pomp from him but overall there was a strong supporting cast that got the ‘screwball genre’ just right. With an authentic 1940’s feel to the production that captured a long gone era that I thought was rather touching even if this wasn’t the original intention.

Although some dialogue did at times seem quite static in it’s delivery, the overall direction from Posner was very impressive with a fluidity in the transitions between scenes. The second Act seemed slightly more fast paced than the first which ultimately did mean the climax of the play did feel slightly rushed.

With such great and skilled performances from the two leads James Dreyfus and Maureen Lipman, it is safe to say the title star was somewhat over shadowed by these two charismatic actors. This wonderful production is not without its flaws but is a testament to writer Mary Chase’s witty script that has definitely stood the test of time, helped by the performances of exquisite actors.

Harvey is at The Theatre Royal Haymarket until 2nd May 2015

http://www.officialtheatre.com/

The Dreamers.. A Heroic True Story From The Nightmare That Was World War I

When I heard about The Dreamers, instantly I felt compelled to write a feature Article about it’s significance. Capturing a period in history that has rarely been adapted for a Musical Production, The Dreamers can definitely be described as innovative. The production tells the story of a World War I Hero Captain David ‘Reggie’ Salomons, who before his tragic demise, led his men in the 1915 battle of Gallipoli. With words and music by James Beeny and Gina Georgio, the powerful score is performed by the Band Virgin Soldiers and a cast of 20 Actors.

Captain David ‘Reggie’ Salomons photo above

As well as the original score, there is also very impressively narration of actual correspondence from those soldiers who fought in World War I by Sir Tim Rice, Amanda Redman and Christopher Beeny. This on screen narration makes The Dreamers something quite exceptional, as it is the sheer foundations for this production. The unity of a cast of both men and women to show that those who fought for their country will not be forgotten is a strong gesture, especially it being the centenary of the Battle of Gallipoli this year.

 Composers James Beeny and Gina Georgio with narrator Sir Tim Rice

After receiving it’s premiere last year, The Dreamers will be performed at St James Theatre for a limited run from 30th June-11th July. I am excited that a new Musical Production as pioneering as this one is playing to an audience at such a renowned London Theatre. When basing a Musical or Play on historical events it is never an easy feat, but with such a profound subject such as War it should be mesmerising. New Music retelling history keeps the fallen Soldiers memories alive. But what especially makes The Dreamers unique, is the music is inspired by true life accounts written by the Soldiers themselves.

The Dreamers will be at St James Theatre 30th June-11th July 2015 http://www.stjamestheatre.co.uk/theatre/the-dreamers/

Here is a link to Virgin Soldiers (featuring The Dreamers cast) singing ‘The Dreamers Anthem’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6-Cbv2u9Ro

Production Photo credit: Linda Blacker

Game Theory Was A Game Of Two Fascinating Halves At Tristan Bates Theatre

 Game Theory is a double bill of two plays Membrane and Mutiny by writer Odessa Celt and directed by Lois Jeary.

The first of the two plays Membrane, is set in a consultant’s office, the first few moments capturing the awkwardness and society small talk. We as the audience are then hit with the realisation that the patient Halima (Nadia Shash) and Consultant Paul (Andrew Pugsley) know each other very well. “Most women choose a Doctor they don’t know” Paul tells Halima. This is because Halima has come for a consultation on a hymenoplasty, a procedure to reconstruct the hymen. Halima comes across calculating and efficient, her duty to what is expected of her as a Muslim British-Arab wife holding a heavy burden that Shash animates impressively.

Paul considering his job, is interestingly against Halima having the hymenoplasty procedure throwing every weapon in his arsenal that sees a tug of power between the two actors that unfolds with fire. The cultural reasons of Halima’s argument do come across almost like facts rather than in built beliefs like a lecturer to a class, which could come down to the script rather than Shash. The plot twist for Paul’s stubbornness against carrying out the procedure is that Halima and himself lost their virginities to each other when they were teenagers, to which the cool and collected Halima says “I gave you my virginity now I want you to give it back”. Halima says she can enter paradise if her good deeds outweigh the bad, which would evidently include appearing a virgin on her Wedding night.

Pugsley is very convincing as the smitten Paul who puts a more human spin on the situation that wrestles feminism, cultural expectations and a procedure that poses so many questions. Perhaps his rose tinted view of Halima has made Paul weak, but this plot device has added to the tension between the two characters and has made a topical play relatable as well as thought provoking to the audience.

Both characters actions are made out of a desperation, one for cultural acceptance, the other love. They both take advantage of the vulnerabilities that each other are battling. As much as the religious and cultural impact of having an operation such as hymenoplasty will be significant, Halima has emotional needs as does everyone. Paul asks Halima of her future husband (who interestingly doesn’t get much of a mention) “Will he still love you when you are 76?” and my answer would be is it such a loss if he doesn’t?

The Second Play Mutiny is set in the not so distant future where newborn genomic coding is offered to the parents of a newborn, so they can essentially know the future health conditions their child will / won’t endure. Emma ( Georgina Blackledge) and Charlie (Andrew Pugsley) are the couple who are still in the aftermath of Emma’s labour when offered the test, that has to be signed by both parents..on an ipad ( this is 21st century afterall).

The test rather than holding the answers to any questions, opens a can of worms so to speak with the couples relationship. Blackledge in particular captures the realism of just giving birth superbly, having to be overcome fatigue to argue the reasons she is against the genomic coding with her strong willed husband.

The Director Lois Jeary makes good use of the theatre space with Pugsley’s exasperation letting him pace around the space that really heightened his performance as Charlie spouted the reasons he believed their son should have genomic coding. Convinced that his wife and himself could discover “allergies and cancer’s” their son will develop, Emma would rather “give him the choice”.

As the play progresses we discover some of the reasons for both spouses extreme views. The couple have had to endure the pain of a stillborn daughter as well as watching Emma’s father dying of Motor Neurone Disease. As an audience we are encouraged to sympathise in this unique situation, in particular with Emma who writer Odessa Celt has made the protagonist and Blackledge certainly gives a heart wrenching performance.

The two plays Membrane and Mutiny although exploring modern and topical medical procedures, both capture humanity at it’s most fragile. Of course scientific development is what moves society forward, but the creative duo of Odessa Celt and Lois Jeary show the ethical repercussions of its development in an engaging and fresh production.

Game Theory

Tristan Bates Theatre 31st March -18th April 2015

http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/game-theory

Photos Camilla Whitehill