Well, we certainly have a major film in Baz Luhrmann's
THE GREAT GATSBY (cert. 12A 2hrs. 24mins.). Whether
it is a true representation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's wonderful novel
is debatable. It stars Leonardo Di Caprio as Jay Gatsby and Tobey
Maguire as the narrator of the story, Nick Carraway. The wild parties,
drink, music and dancing are caught almost to perfection but the
more intimate moments are lost in the general over-indulgence.
Di Caprio gives a good portrayal of the rich Gatsby who moves
to a house across the water from the lady he is trying to win back.
Once too poor to secure Daisy (Carey Mulligan) in marriage, he now
yearns after her as she lives a life of wealth and indulgence with
her brutish husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton). It is 1922 and,
by chance, Nick moves into the house next door to Gatsby and becomes
involved in his life as Jay uses Nick, who is second cousin to Daisy,
to woo her anew.
Carey Mulligan and Leonardo
Nick watches and comments as Tom romances the wife,
Myrtle (Isla Fisher), of the local garage owner, George Wilson (Jason
Clarke) and Daisy falls under Gatsby's spell but is loath to leave
her husband and child. Nick also observes the lavish parties thrown
by Gatsby to lure Daisy to his opulent house. Jay, himself, keeps
away from the throng of people enjoying his hospitality.
Luhrmann has caught the luxury of those wealthy enough to enjoy
all the 20s have to offer. His use of 3D adds to the beautiful production
design and lovely costumes (under the direction of Luhrmann's wife,
Catherine Martin), but the characters get somewhat lost in all the
excitement. In particular we don't see enough of the relationship
between Myrtle and her husband (who are both very good actors) and
Tom and Myrtle so that the tragedy, when it occurs, comes out of
the blue. I am not sure that those who haven't read the book will
be able to easily follow the early part of the film. Carey Mulligan
looks and acts well as Daisy and, to my mind, is as good as Mia
Farrow was in an earlier version. The director uses music that wasn't
around in the 20s and it is not too intrusive. It is the emphasis
on spectacle that detracts from the actual narrative and so distorts
Fitzgerald's story. It is a notoriously difficult book to film and
Luhrmann has made a good stab at it.
As far away from the gaudiness and loud music and in your face
production design of Gatsby as you could get is THE KING
OF MARVIN GARDENS (cert.15 1 hr. 43 mins.), the re-issue
of the 1972 U.S. classic from the 70s. It is the third film that
Bob Rafelson directed himself, after Head and Five Easy Pieces.
In this story of two brothers, Jack Nicholson stars as David, a
radio talk show host on a middle-of-the-night programme. He is a
sad, depressed, character who tells his audience stories about his
childhood. At the beginning of the film, David is giving a long
monologue about how he and his brother let his grandfather choke
to death. David is living with his father, who is quite old and
sick. The other brother is Jason (Bruce Dern), who works alongside
an African American mob. The opposite of David, Jason is outgoing
and very energetic, currently involved with two women: Sally (Ellen
Burstyn), an ageing beauty, and Jessica (Julia Anne Robinson), who
Sally is training to be the next Miss America.
They come together after a time apart when Jason calls David and
asks him to help him get out of jail. He is in Atlantic City, New
Jersey and it is there that the main action takes place. He talks
David into helping him set up a property deal. David is most sceptical
but tags along with his brother and the two women accompanying him.
While the men are opposite each other in terms of their characters,
they seem to need each other, even though their understanding of
one another is minimal. But as the somewhat strange business venture
proceeds, tragedy strikes the brothers.
The film is photographed by László Kovács with an acute eye for
the unusual view of Atlantic City in the winter. This is a holiday
venue before the advent of casinos and tourist shops. Bob Rafelson
manages to direct his actors in a naturalistic style yet with flashes
of surrealism. Bringing to life this search for the American dream,
the four main actors give sterling performances. The two women are
Ellen Burstyn as Sally, the older of the pair, an ageing beauty
queen who is attached to Jason and Jessica, (who turns out in fact
to be Sally's stepdaughter), played by Julia Anne Robinson - whose
only acting role this was as she died tragically two years' later
- who is also sweet on Jason. Burstyn is excellent, showing brightness
and gaiety at one moment and then a troubled aspect as she watches
Jason kissing Jessica. Robinson has a luminous beauty and also a
good comic touch which is shown when she tap dances in a spotlight
as the group of four put on their own Miss America pageant. Jack
Nicholson gives a subdued yet moving portrayal of the introverted
younger brother and Bruce Dern excels in the role of the brash,
gregarious brother with a criminal past. When they act together
the screen sparkles with the force of the dialogue and the contrast
between the loud, over confident Jason and the depressed, solitary
Chris Wedge has made a delightful CG animated film, EPIC
(cert. U 1hr.42mins.), which can be seen locally in 3D or 2D. Unlike
The Great Gatsby, which has made some people feel sick watching
it in 3D, Epic is worth making the effort to see the 3D version.
The views of the fields, flowers and various insects are very pretty.
Amanda Seyfried voices 17-year-old Mary Katherine, known as M.K.
She returns to visit her father, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason
Suseikis) who is not so much an absent minded Professor as seemingly
unaware of anything else in the world other than his work. This
includes his daughter as he rushes around trying to prove that there
is a forest containing very small people.
By chance M.K. finds herself involved in the life of the Leafmen,
who are, indeed, the little men her father has been looking for.
We meet young Nod (Josh Hutcherson) and his guardian Ronin (Colin
Farrell), who takes care, too, of Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) and
also cares for her. As the Queen dies M.K. manages to catch the
magic pod, the "Life-force of the forest" she's holding and makes
her way to Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler, rock and roll icon from Aerosmith),
who will ensure the forest and natural life continues. Wicked Mandrake
(Christoph Waltz) tries hard to stop the Leafmen and it is up a
small group led by M.K. and Nod to save the Leafmen's world. There
are a number of interesting characters: two comic animals, Mub,
a slug (Aziz Ansari) and Grub, a snail (Chris O'Dowd) play a major
role. While the animals always look fine, the 'human' faces have
a strange appearance.
There used to be children's films and adult films but now we are
given family films and all the better for this trend as - taking
Epic as an example - there is much here to be enjoyed by all ages.
It is an interesting and different kind of story with good, well-thought
through characters and beautiful photography.
Also highly recommended: Steven Soderberg's BEHIND THE
CANDELABRA (cert. 15 1hr. 58mins.), which is based on the
autobiography of Scott Thorson, the much younger lover of the over-powering
Liberace, and their six-year relationship.
Wonderful performance by Michael Douglas as Liberace. He captures
the performer and the gay side of the star. Matt Damon manages to
be gay without being at all camp. Well-written dialogue and great
production design makes this a must-see for anyone who remembers
the original entertainer as well as those who want to see acting
of the highest order. There is a nice little cameo from Debbie Reynolds
as Liberace's mother (how time flies for those of us who loved her
in Singin' in the Rain!).
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon
You could say warts and more warts about BEWARE
OF MR BAKER (cert. 15 1 hr. 32 mins.), a documentary about
the very bad-tempered drummer. Ginger Baker. An unusual film just
because it does actually give you a real picture of the musician
- gifted in everything except personal relationships including partnering
women. The poor director, Jay Bulger, is hit in the nose by Baker
and still perseveres with his filmmaking.
There is a really exciting production of Stephen
Sondheim and George Furth's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG
at the Harold Pinter Theatre (booking until 27 July). Although the
show was initially a failure in 1981, it has now been given a new
lease of life by Maria Friedman in her first directorial effort.
And what a grand production it is. The reverse chronology here works
to the advantage of the show both in terms of music and story. It
starts in 1976 and ends in 1957 and tells how a struggling composer,
Franklin (Mark Umbers) and his playwright friend Charley (Damien
Humbley) make friends with Mary (Jenna Russell) and remain in touch
throughout their lives even though Franklin becomes a famous Hollywood
producer. They have their difficulties as Damian remains true to
his moral conviction and both he and Mary disagree with Franklin's
lifestyle and gradually the friendship turns to disillusionment.
Musically, the show works in this backwards storytelling and
Friedman enhances the words and music with her directing skills.
We initially hear Franklin's wife singing Not a Day Goes By outside
the divorce court, and it is a most bitter song. When she first
sings the song, it is seven years earlier and is now a love song
that she sings on her wedding day. Sondheim's score is exact and
musically interesting. It is also extremely well executed.
The cast are all of a very high standard - not just
the three leads but the minor ones as well. Russell is often heartbreaking
as she yearns for a better and different life but ends up as an
alcoholic. She has a super voice and is able to act out the songs.
Umbers is spot on as Franklin who begins as a creative enthusiast
and ends as someone who enjoys the riches of fame. In a smaller
role, Humbley also puts the songs across well and shows us how his
character remains true to his ideals. The structure of this musical,
although unusual, works well and this is an absorbing and exciting
night at the theatre.
Box office: 0844 871 7615
GEORGE SAVVIDES reviews THE PLAY THAT
GOES WRONG at the Trafalgar Studios, London:
This deliciously funny comedy from Mischief Theatre began life
at the Old Red Lion under the title "The Murder Before Christmas"
before it was revived earlier this year at the same venue under
this new title. From the moment the audience enters one is aware
that something is not exactly right - the stage managers are still
running around and fixing things on the purposely naff set while
the lighting and sound operator still searches for his Duran Duran
CD. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are staging their most
ambitious project yet - the 1920's murder mystery "Murder at Haversham
Manor" and try to forget past failures such as "Ugly and the Beast"
and "Two Sisters". But the stage is set for disaster, with a wobbly
set, jammed doors, props and furniture not in their right places
and the dialogue which literally goes round in circles.
It is a confidently directed production by Mark Bell that works
a treat and the actors - all former LAMDA graduates - embrace their
roles with great relish which is highly infectious. Writers Henry
Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields are also in the show and
their contribution is essential in conveying the necessary style.
Dave Hearn is excellent as the wide eyed Cecil Haversham, the murder
victim's brother who is having an affair with his fiancée Florence
Colleymoore (Lotti Maddox). They share a lovely chemistry between
them and treasure the thought of being on stage despite the fact
that everything is collapsing around them. A very funny comedy very
much worth seeing!
Note: this play has now ended its run at this theatre
Telling spooky tales to a group of mates in an Irish pub is just
right for the intimate setting of the Donmar Warehouse Theatre.
THE WEIR (until 8 June), written by Conor McPherson
and directed by Josie Rourke, has a near-perfect cast of actors,
who put across all the loneliness of their individual characters.
Taking place in a rural setting in 1977 (the year the play was
premiered), Brendan's pub welcomes three men to their evening pint
or three. Joining them this evening is a stranger, a woman who asks
for white wine. As each of the men tell their stories Valerie, who
seems, impressed, listens carefully before topping them with a chillingly
tragic tale of her own.
Brian Cox as Jack, Ardal O'Hanlon as Jim, Risteard Cooper as Finbar
work well together and are believable as mates. They are supported
by ever-helpful Barman, Brendan,(Peter McDonald). Dervla Kirwan
displays the right mixture of awkwardness and city sophistication
as she joins in the banter. Unused to ladies in his bar, Brendan
takes Valerie into the house to use the toilet.
This is a very well-written play with a great setting - it looks
as though the characters are sitting in a genuine pub. Cox is excellent
as the seemingly gruff Irishman who expresses his loneliness in
a magnificent speech at the end.
Box office: 0844 871 7624
Two Russian plays - unknown to me before seeing them here - are
playing at the Arcola Theatre, London (until 1 June). LARISSA
AND THE MERCHANTS, by Alexander Ostrovsky in a new version
by Samuel Adamson, is directed by Jacqui Honess-Martin in a lively
production on a long platform with the audience sitting (on hard
benches) on each side. The different venues are depicted simply,
with a table and waiter for the coffee house. Starting with a dance
with two musicians we move on to Larisa's story.
Set in 1878 in the fictional city of Bryakhimov on the Volga river,
Larisa (Jennifer Kidd) is about to marry a nerdy Government official.
She is finally engaged after being introduced by her pushy mother
(Annabel Leventon) to many suitors, all of whom reject her as she
is of Gipsy blood and, more importantly, has no money for a dowry.
She is not in love with her future husband, Yulii Karandyshev (Ben
Larisa finds that past suitors now seem to be interested in her,
but not for marriage. She once again falls under the spell of Sergei,
who has previously discarded her, ("He's perfect" she announces)
and leaves with him. However, it all goes disastrously wrong.
There are good, age-appropriate performances (in that they all
look the right age for the character they are playing) with lively
gypsy music. This is performed in the Studio Theatre.
Also at the Arcola in their Main Theatre is SONS WITHOUT
LOVERS (until 15 June), a new version of Anton Chekhov's
Platanov. Adapted and directed by Helena Kaut-Howson, the audience
sits on three sides with a balcony over one side. There is a very
small acting space. Although originally set in 1880s Russia, in
this version it is now modern times and the 'hero' Misha Platonov
is dressed in torn trousers. He is a village schoolmaster, who sees,
"No point to anything."
Jack Laskey as Platonov
The women around him don't share this view and one after the
other they fall for him and about his person. Although he has a
sweet, helpful wife, Sasha (a nice, modest performance by Amy McAllister)
he responds to the women and finds himself chasing skirts rather
than dealing with more weighty matters. Full of self-disgust, he
is like a Russian Hamlet.
Jack Lasky as Platanov is one to watch out for in the future -
he is mesmerizing and it is obvious why women find him sexily attractive
in spite of his care-free attitude and appearance and uncombed hair.
The women surrounding him are all good, with their
own characteristics: there is Susie Trayling as a rich widow; Marianne
Oldham as a newly married quiet lady until she gets near Misha and
Jade Williams as an angry feminist.
Box office: 020 7503 1646
Highly recommended: PASSION PLAY (Duke of York's
Theatre until 3 August). Peter Nichols' play has the unusual device
of the two main characters having alter egos. Here Samantha Bond
is the other half of Zoe Wanamaker's betrayed wife while Oliver
Cotton is the alter ego for Owen Teale, the husband who falls for
the conniving siren, played by Annable Scholey.
Annabel Scholey and Zoë Wanamaker
in Passion Play
Somewhat boasting in her description of her marriage
of 25 years, Eleanor (Wanamker) is in no way prepared for her husband
James (Teale) to fall for his late friend's widow (Scholey, playing
the vampire so well that members of the audience have been known
to boo her!).
Worth seeing for Wanamaker's most moving performance as she begins
by being self-satisfied with her good marriage and ends up being
agonisingly mentally injured by her husband's betrayal.
Box office: 0844 871 7623
Directed by Lia Williams, the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse
production of THE MATCH BOX at the Tricycle Theatre,
London (until 1 June) is such a sad little play. Leanne Best plays
Sal and delivers a monologue about the death of her 12-year-old
daughter. As we listen to her account of how she didn't believe
her friend who brought the news to her or the policemen who came
to her door soon afterwards. It was only with the arrival of her
parents that she faced up to the awful truth.
We now see the young woman in a very simple room with a bed, table
and upright chair on an island off the coast of County Kerry. She
seems to be confined there. Her daughter was shot, caught in the
cross fire of young boys fighting. All the time she talks Sal plays
with matches as we gradually discover their significance.
It is written by Frank McGuiness in a simple and imaginative yet
realistic manner so that Sal's description of her child being still
warm to the touch but not breathing, even after death, is absolutely
correct. The part of Sal is acted in such a heartrenderingly true
fashion by Best, who interprets all the nuances of the grieving
mother that the audience is left almost stunned at the conclusion.
I had a brief falling-out with one of my favourite people on the
matter of principles after seeing Henrik Ibsen's PUBLIC
ENEMY (Young Vic until 8 June): after recounting an incident
of some 50 years back, she accused me of lacking principles! As
one who is unfortunate enough to be too truthful at times, it was
met with (temporary) resentment.
All this as a result of this new translation by David Harrower
played in modern dress by a very competent cast. In a brightly lit,
excellent cinemascope set (the stage is very wide) showing the inside
living-room of Dr Stockmann's attractive house with a lovely view
we meet Thomas Stockmann (Nick Fletcher), who is the chief Medial
Officer in the Norwegian spa where they live, just as he announces
that he has discovered that the town's spa waters are toxic. Far
from being praised for his announcement, his brother, the Mayor
(Darrell D'Silva), local journalists and indeed the small business
men and almost all outside his immediate family, turn against him.
Nick Fletcher and Darrell
D'Silva in Publc Enemy
It is at this point that Stockmann addresses the
community - but in fact he is speaking directly to us, the audience
- and tells us, "The majority has power…the minority - the men who
see things from a different angle, the men who are true to what
they see - …the minority is always right". At the time of hearing
this it almost makes one want to stand up and cheer!
If you want a well-argued play and one that will make you think,
but, hopefully, not make you quarrel, this is it.
Box office : 020 7922 2923
Do go and see THE HOTHOUSE (Trafalgar Studios
until 3 August): Jamie Lloyd's very funny production of Harold Pinter's
play about the staff of a psychiatric hospital. John Simm is unrecognisable
as the dour father in the recent The Village on TV and here he displays
a comic touch second to none…well Simon Russell Beale as the boss
is full of swivel eyed double takes and rightly deserves his place
at the top of the acting league.
Roote (Simon Russell Beale) runs a sort of psychiatric institution/rest
home. On Christmas day, as he is trying to celebrate with one of
his members of staff, Gibbs (John Simm), he learns of two disturbing
facts: one of his patients - all are identified by numbers, not
names - has died and another woman has given birth. The rest of
the play shows Roote getting more and more apoplectic as he attempts
to sort out the double disasters. He is not greatly assisted by
his staff, who rush in and out giving their own views on the situation.
Simon Russell Beale on left
and John Simm in The Hothouse
Sharp, biting dialogue is delivered at speed by a
terrific cast ably led by Russell Beale and Simm. The play is uproariously
funny and it is so good to have a laugh aloud comedy to enjoy.
Box office: 0844 871 7632
Well, for me at least, summer has officially arrived with the beginning
of the seasons at the Globe Theatre and the Open Air Theatre, Regent's
Jeremy Herrin uses the open air setting well to convey a shipwreck
and then the stories that take place on the island ruled by Prospero
in THE TEMPEST (Shakespeare's Globe, London until
18 August). Here he seems to concentrate more on the relationship
between Prospero (Roger Allam) and his daughter, Miranda (played
by Jessie Buckley, a finalist in the search for Maria in the BBC
show, I'd Do Anything ), and the realtionship between Prospero and
the shiprecked men.
The Tempest at the Globe Theatre
with Roger Allam as Prospero and Jessie Buckley as Miranda
The magic parts are performed simply with an athletic Ariel (Colin
Morgan) and a banquet that is set on fire. Caliban (James Garnon)
is a convincing half-fish half-human monster. There are tender romantic
scenes between Miranda and young, enthusiastic Ferdinand (Joshua
James). One can understand their feelings as first love blooms.
Allam at times seemed to be treating his part in ironic fashion.
While he has a good, vibrant voice, it is not very musical. He is
more homely than magical. Buckley attacks her part energetically
and you can believe in her voiced amazement at all the wondrous
men around as she has only known her father and Caliban before.
On the afternoon I attended, it was a typical English
summer's day, starting with brilliant sunshine and ending with rain.
You will need to take, or hire, a cushion if you purchase a seat.
If you are able to stand for nearly three hours (only sitting down
in the interval) then the best bargain in the London theatre is
the £5 standing places for "groundlings."
Box office: 020 7401 9919
At the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, the first play of the
summer season is a surprisingly good production of Harper Lee's
novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (until 15 June). Surprising
because the book doesn't appear to lend itself to an outside production,
but director Timothy Sheader has managed to bring this story of
racial intolerance combined with the pursuit of justice to this
green setting where, amidst the trees of North London, it plays
out with conviction.
It begins in a not very promising manner with members of the
cast reading from the book as they move amongst the audience. Whilst
the main characters all have American actors, not all the minor
ones do, which is sometimes grating to the ear. The set is chalked
on to the stage showing 'our house,' etc. The cast then sit on each
side of the stage holding and sometimes reading from the book.
Robert Sean Leonard and
Izzy Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird
When Tom Robinson, who is black, is accused of raping
a white girl, the white lawyer, Atticus Finch (Robert Sean Leonard)
takes on his defence. In the small racially prejudiced town, Tom
stands little chance of acquital but, Atticus, observed by his young
daughter Scout (on press night, Izzy Lee), who is the narrator,
puts forward a telling case for justice and the importance of doing
what is right. "In our courts all men are crated equal" asserts
Once it gets dark, the action takes on a more intimate feel and
the set, even the courthouse, works just fine. That the production
works so well is due in no small part to Sean Leonard who is just
as one imagines he should be in the part of Atticus - strong, noble
and honest. This theatre has started the season with flying colours.
Box office: 0844 826 4242
There are two new productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company
in Stratford upon Avon: HAMLET and AS YOU
LIKE IT (both until 28 September).
Jonathan Slinger as Hamlet
I found Hamlet a competent, workmanlike effort.
Directed by David Farr, who presents a clear play with everything
clearly spelt out, it is not very exciting. Jonathan Slinger's Hamlet
is somewhat dull though, again, carefully presented. There is lots
of action in the play and Slinger displays anger at Ophelia (the
tender Pippa Nixon) and at his mother, Gertrude (Charlotte Cornwell),
but somehow it wasn't dramatic enough to hold my attention.
the memory of David Tennant's Hamlet in 2008 is just too dominant
a factor - he was so superb that it is hard for anyone to else to
measure up to him. The play takes place in the 1960s and this setting
Gregg Hicks, playing both the Ghost of Hamlet's dead
father and Claudius, Hamlet's new stepfather, not only brings out
the poetry in Shakespeare's verse but also gets the characteristics
of each person exactly right. Hicks has a great hand curling gesture
as the Ghost beckoning his son forward. Slinger's Hamlet is a very
ordinary, down to earth guy without the upstanding bearing of a
Prince. There is one unusual bit of staging when Hamlet comes on
stage singing Ken Dodd's "Happiness." I liked Cornwell's Gertrude,
who acts astonished when her son confronts her and even more so
when he kills Polonius in mistake for Claudius. Nixon's a most modern
Ophelia, with very short hair. She has to put up with quite a degree
of violence from Hamlet in his, "Get thee to a nunnery" speech.
The play livens up after Hamlet returns from his voyage to England.
Pippa Nixon appears as Rosalind in As you Like it.
This is a superb production and Nixon is the best Rosalind I have
seen since Vanessa Redgrave. The play is directed by Maria Aberg
with such style and vivacity and a real feeling for the language
of Shakespeare as well as the spirit of the play. Another modern
dress production, this has Orlando in a hoodie, but it all works
fine. The simple set works well also and the changes of venue are
There is a real frisson of love at first sight as Orlando and Rosalind
look at each other. When the two girls dress as country folk, Nixon's
almost flat-chested look in her trousers and braces works really
well and her hair is cut from long to very short so that she is
an acceptable young man in the forest of Arden. Touchstone is made
to look like Max Wall with a false red nose, white face and bowler
hat. Audrey dons a matching red nose to marry Touchstone. Jacques
(Oliver Ryan) is most miserable in the forest and can't wait to
leave. There are real tears in Nixon's eyes as she hears lovelorn
shepherd Silvius (Michael Grady- Hall) pining for his disdainful
Shepherdess, Phoebe (a lively performance from Natalie Klamar).
The whole production is well performed and directed with verve.
But the chief delight is Pippa Nixon's Rosalind which is so delicately
performed that I am reminded just why this is one of my favourite
Box office: 0844 800 1110
Greg (Max Bennett) is very much in love with his new live-in girlfriend
Ginny (Kara Tointon). When she goes off to visit her parents in
the country, he follows her. Greg arrives first and joins her mother
in the garden, although in Alan Ayckbourn's comedy RELATIVELY
SPEAKING (Wyndham's Theatre until 31 August) it is not
so straightforward and, in fact, the people living in the country
house are not Ginny's parents at all but the husband is, in fact,
There are lots of double entendres which are very well played
particularly by the older couple, Felicity Kendal as the wife, Sheila
and Jonathan Coy as Philip her husband. The mistakes pile one on
top of the other in this short play (only 2 hours including the
interval) so that the audience is in fits of laughter almost from
Felicity Kendal (Sheila),
Max Bennett (Greg) and Kara Tointon (Ginny) in Relatively Speaking
The two sets show the contrast of the couples' lives
with Ginny's flat in London consisting of a very small room with
a bed and facilities off it while the older couple have a lovely
garden with a pretty house in view behind it. Director Lindsay Posner
extracts every ounce of humour from the play, which is so well-written
that all the actors have to do is to perform to the best of their
ability - which they do here and the result is hilarious.
Box Office: 0844 482 5120
Following in the footsteps (almost literally) of Le Cirque Soleil,
Casus, an Australian alternative circus quartet, perform amazing
feats in their show KNEE DEEP at the Riverside
Studios (until 22 June). On a fairly small platform, with the audience
on all sides, the three men and one young woman perform acrobatics,
balancing acts, gymnastics, twirling from ropes and even tightrope
walking and origami. They also walk on eggs.
They use amazing strength: at one point the woman has a man balancing
on her shoulders and the other two men off the ground on either
side of her body. Each artist has a separate moment to themselves
when they perform some extra special trick alone on the stage, including
one beating percussion on his own body. The only rather distasteful
act is when the young woman hammers a nail into her nostril - a
The variety of styles of the music adds greatly to the overall non-stop performance. It only lasts an hour but there are some extraordinary acts here and it is long enough to have your heart in your mouth…as it were. Well done Emma Serjeant, Jesse Scott, Natano Fa'anana and Lachaln McAuley.
How lovely to see the attractive Lee Mead on stage. In THE
WEST END MEN (Vaudeville Theatre (until 22 June) he is
joined by three others, David Thaxter, Glenn Carter and Matt Willis,
to perform songs from West End shows. Under director/choreographer
Mitch Sebastian they perform separately as well as together. Although
a couple of the male stars have better voices than Mead, he is certainly
the best looking of the bunch.
David Thaxton has a lovely musical quality to his velvety voice and he and Glenn Carter put across the songs with proper respect for the words and emotion behind them. Carter has a lighter voice but it is most expressive as he acts out his solos. Matt Willis, from the group Busted, has a pop voice and puts across his songs in that manner. Lee Mead might not have the best voice but he is great looking and sings satisfactorily - even with the bad throat that was announced at the beginning of the show.
The small group of musicians are placed either side of the acting area. The stars walk up and down steps set in the middle of the stage then round behind the musicians and back again. There is not much here in the way of choreography.
I liked the group performing a medley of songs from West Side Story - their voices blend nicely. Most of the music is good, but I didn't like the different arrangement of Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific. The four singing Bring Him Home from Les Miserables didn't work well as the song really needs just one to bring out the pathos.
After the interval Kerry Ellis joins the men
on the stage. She has a strong jazz-type voice and is a welcome addition. Also in the second half is a huge chorus who walk on singing from Les Miserables. Altogether a most pleasant evening and it makes a welcome change from some of the loud, raucous musicals around.