Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rollicking Farce: Lend Me a Tenor:The Musical at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

When a failing operatic troupe in the American mid-West decides to stage a performance of Verdi's Otello they hire a real Italian tenor, hearthrob Tito Merelli.(Michael Matus)

The skirt-chasing star arrives late, and quarrels with his jealous wife,(Joanna Riding) who leaves him, prompting his apparent suicide. Self-doubting but talented Max,(Damien Humley) a member of the troupe, is persuaded to take his place. Problem solved ....or is it? In the best traditon of farce, things can only become more complicated.

Exasperated empresario Henry (Matthew Kelly) oversees the mayhem in the funniest musical farce I've seen for some time. The groundwork for the final mix-ups and hilarious set-pieces are carefully laid down, the singing is superb and the dancing hellhops are a sheer delight. The tour-de-force operatic performance by Cassidy Janson in the second act will leave you gasping.

The programme features an unusual piece (lacking a byline) about plays that change their names and one by Antonia Fraser linking a royal wedding and Betty Blue Eyes That's another superb musical currently running at the Aldwych.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Candida by George Bernard Saw at the Greenwich Playhouse

I nearly didn't get to see this interesting play, which would have been a pity because I gave it four stars when I reviewed it for Remotegoat. The young man at the box office hadn't been notified that I'd be there and seemed to think I was trying out some get-into-theatres-free ruse.

When he finally relented he said he'd run out of programmes. I was flustered by then and said I couldn't do a review if I didn't have the names of all the participants. I was all for leaving and went back into the bar, but my partner persuaded me not to. Luckily, he's suave and tactful at times when I feel embarrassed and angry.

By then the young man had found a photocopy of the programme.

What made it worse was that there were only a dozen people in the audience, it being a Wednesday night. You could argue either way as to whether the box office man was conscientous or officious, I suppose.

In future, I'll note the name and number of the theatre contact, as supplied by Remotegoat, just in case the person at the box office is mistrustful. It wouldn't do me any harm, either, to copy some of my escort's manners.

Click here to read the review

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kicking over the Traces

I saw two films recently that appealed quite independently of any inherent merit; they reminded me that film for me is chiefly an escape into another world, enhanced (ideally) by womb-like warmth, darkness and silence except for what's happening on the screen.

In Water for the Elephants a would-be vet is just about to sit his final exams in a sepia-tinted library, where it seemed the students sat so close round oak tables they couldn't help but see one another's answers. Just as he's unscrewing his fountain pen some fusty old men in suits arrive to say his father is dead. Cut to where lawyers are explaining his father's farm is forfeited to pay debts. Cut to him jumping on a moving freight train at night and nearly gets beaten up - it transpires that he's leapt aboard a circus train.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Stranger Tides starts with Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow arrested for disguising himself as a judge. He ends up, manacled to a chair, in front of a bewigged Richard Griffiths as King George, in the wonderful painted hall at Greenwich Naval College. Cut to his escape in a coach through the grounds, with a startled dowager Judi Dench, then he's driving a truck of burning coals and scattering the street crowd.Cut to some sword play in a tavern. Cut to scrubbing the deck on a pirate ship, with the bosun's whip whistling round his ears.

I think you can forgive films almost anything if the openings are as exhilarating as this - minimal preparation and straight into the action. I came away from both regretting that I hadn't run away to the circus or to sea. Either seemed to promise a life that was colourful, companionable and full of incident.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Two classic plays: Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and GB Shaw's Candida

After two very different versions of Macbeth within a short time, Roy was apprehensive about my next choice of play to review for the Remotegoat website. I've taught the play a few times so I appreciated the novelty, but for someone who doesn't, the two very unusual interpretations were probably confusing.

Still recovering from a recent operation, I looked at the list of plays for review and picked out two classic plays that didn't involve too much travelling. I was a bit apprehensive all the same about A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Brockley Jack pub. It's a play more suited, I thought, to outdoor venues such as Regents Park Theatre. But the interpretation was superb. Thinking about it, although it's all outdoors the action takes place in a wood at night, so the slightly spooky atmosphere the players and the venue helped create was entirely appropriate. I gave it five stars.

The full review can be seen here

The production made me see the point of a play that I knew well but never really liked or understood, so it deserves the accolade.

The other 'classic' at Greenwich Playhouse was one I hadn't seem before - GB Shaw's play Candida is apparently rarely performed, but the Playhouse seems to specialise in classic revivals - good for me because, as with The Brockley Jack, it only takes me about fifteen minutes to get there.

I have fond memories of Shaw, as my first amdram role with the 'Castaways' in Penge was as a maid in Arms and the Man a play better known in its musical form as The Chocolate Soldier, just as Shaw's Pygmalion, is better known as My Fair Lady.

Candida is a perfectly structured play, although it suffers from Shaw's usual fault of characters seeming at times mere mouthpieces for his social reform ideas. The acting and direction were good enough to gloss over this aspect and I was thoroughly entertained so I gave it four stars.

The full review can be seen here