Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kept Waiting: Four Days of Grace at The New Diorama in  Regent's Place

It's not often that an off-west end theatre could be called smart, at least not the ones I usually attend. 'Efficient', yes, 'welcoming',  usually, but  'smart verging-on-glamorous' is definitely unusual.

Given the location, perhaps it's not so surprising. A three- minutewalk from Warren Street tube station,  it lies on the other side of Euston Road, in a newish  area of high-rise offices called Regent's Place. It's not far, either, from Regent's Park tube.

I sipped a cider in the sparky wine bar among a crowd of fashionable young office-workers,  with fashionably loud voices. The two sitting next to me, though, were actresses, evidenced by their gossip about auditions. It's usual for supporters to turn up on press night, so I wasn't suprised. I just hoped they wouldn't try to orchestrate a standing-ovation at the end of the play. (They did)

The theatre itself doesn't disappoint, with its nicely-raked rows of well-padded seats, upholstered in the theatre complex's signature orange. Studio theatres-in-the-round encourages an intimacy with the actors, but if someone tall sits in front of you it can be a problem. No need to worry about that here.

The play didn't disappoint either, with its instantly engaging  scenario - a perky young woman waits in her flat for a fridge to be delivered, and while she does she takes the audience into her confidence. As she waits, and chats, we learn with an increasing sense of dread about the events that have led up to this point.

Here's my review on The Public Reviews Website

Monday, March 19, 2012

When a  Plan  didn't  Come Together : Legally Blonde at  the Savoy Theatre and  Song of the Seagull at the Menier Gallery

It was a mistake to try to see two shows in one day, I admit, but the ensuing fiasco wasn't  entirely  my fault. I'd applied to review the Chekhov play well in advance but only got news about Legally Blonde the day before, and confirmation of tickets on the same day as the matinee.

Not a problem, though - I'd walk between the venues, and meet daughter Catherine at some backstreet pub near the Menier. We were  determined to spend  some 'quality time' together.  My Westminster Guide friend Joanna recommended one called the Gladstone in Lant Street that specialised in pies. I love pies, which is possibly why I've  had to lose some weight over the past few months. I reckoned that as I lost a stone I deserved a pie.

I can't say I was mad raving keen on 'Legally Blonde' but I'd quite enjoyed the film . It was slick, of course, and the choreography was excellent, also I love the Art-Deco style of the Savoy, not to mention that it's handy for Charing Cross. However, the chorus of High School friends was too loud and screechy.  The message seemed dubious to me, too - the heroine changes her dress style to be accepted at Harvard Law School but finally decides that reverting  to stereotype is empowering. I wasn't convinced.  I agreed with Miranda's Hart's preface in the programme there's nothing wrong with frothy entertainment, but to my mind this show's message was ambiguous, to say the least. My (male) companion liked it and the first two rows of the stalls gave it a standing ovation.

Never mind, there were pies and Chekhov to look forward to, in venues that were unfamiliar and therefore doubly attractive. I set off just after five, with plenty of time because the Menier Gallery show didn't start until 7.30pm. Unfortunately, I'd reckoned without my out-of date map and a tendency to get lost in what Catherine called the original Dickensian backstreets.

An hour later, I arrived at the pub, where the beautiful pies smelled rich and savoury. Unfortunately, a whole crowd of other people were in front of me and by the time I reached the counter there would be, I was told,  a thirty minute delay for pie service.

We couldn't risk missing the start, so we had to leave,  pieless. Catherine left the Menier reluctantly  half way through the show but I stuck it out to the bitter end, and  my ravening hunger was only  finally assuaged at  a Cornish pasty stall at London Bridge around 10.30pm. So not a good result for either of us. Quality time postponed.

It's a wonder, really, that I was able to concentrate on  the production, but I liked it so much I gave it a five star review. It's on The Public Reviews website.

Monday, March 05, 2012

A Double Tragedy: The Duchess of Malfi at the Greenwich Playhouse

I love to attend London  Fringe Theatre performances in return for writing reviews and I'm especially happy to attend press nights at the Greenwich Playhouse. Over the past 17 years or so I've seen many excellent European classics in the inimate studio setting of the 80-seater theatre above a pub.

The Prince of Orange, as it used to be called, was located next to  Greenwich Rail and DLR stations.   The Galleon Theatre Company, under partners Alice de Sousa and Bruce Jamieson, who  undertook acting roles, directed and translated plays, guaranteed a modestly priced but thoroughly enjoyable night out.

The name of the venue is now Belushi's, no longer pub but a wine bar, with a backpackers hostel accessed to the rear of the bar, through the same door that leads to the upstairs theatre.

Earlier this year the owners announced they wouldn't  renew the the theatre lease.  It seems they prefer to expand the hostel accommodation in time for  the London Olympics.

At the end of the Press Night performance of The Duchess of Malfi,  star and producer Alice de Sousa asked the audience to write to Greenwich MP Nick Raynsford and their local council members to request support in finding  a new venue  in the borough.

It's a tragedy that a long-standing  institution should be threatened with disappearance for the sake of a one-off event which seems to have very little local support.

My review of The Duchess of Malfi appears on The Public Review website