Review – Promises, Promises, Southwark Playhouse

Thursday 19 January 2017

cxo6_jfxcae2livWhen The Whingers saw this on the Broadway (with Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth) in 2010 they did an unprecedented thing (well, they may have done it other times but they can’t be bothered to check); awarded separate ratings for the first and second acts. If that’s not an argument against interval departures we don’t know what is. Not that it will stop them of course.

Promises, Promises has more promises in its creatives, than even its title. Music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics Hal David, book Neil Simon and it’s based on one of Phil’s favourite films; the 1960 Billy Wilder film The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – The Kite Runner, Wyndham’s Theatre

Thursday 12 January 2017

the-kite-runnerKites on stage! Might Phil put them up there with balloons, one of his other theatrical bêtes noires?

There are a few fluttering about, but not as many as you might expect given the title. And they’re a little disappointingly realised. Things on the end of bendy sticks. Not high fliers or not there at all (mimed). You may be reminded of the birds in the opening sequence of the stage version of The Lion King. Thankfully they’re not used as metaphors. Well, they probably are, but it went right over Phil’s head. If only the kites had too.

Khaled Hosseini‘s novel The Kite Runner sold millions. Phil hadn’t read it or seen the film which probably helped considerably. So the story of a deep friendship between two boys (one a servant to the other) in a tribally conflicted Seventies Afghanistan which also covers the Soviet invasion, the Taliban surge and 9/11 took him completely by surprise. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Cinderella, London Palladium

Friday 6 January 2017

palladiummainPhil saw his first Palladium pantomime 31 years ago, which also turned out to be the venue’s last Cinderella and its penultimate pantomime for decades. Babes in the Wood was its last for almost 30 years – what ever happened to that title? Or Puss in Boots? Or Humpty Dumpty? Or Goldilocks and the Three Bears come to that?

That 1985 Cinderella included Hope & Keen, John Junkin, Paul Nicholas and Des O’ Connor who was rather brilliant at managing to keep the thing afloat. Just. There were real ponies, Step Sisters (they eschewed calling them the Ugly Sisters even then) called Cagney and Lacey and Dame Anna Neagle who died a few months after struggling on as the Fairy Godmother.

It was a pretty lacklustre affair, never reaching the dizzying heights of spectacle Phil expected of Palladium panto legend. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Hedda Gabler, National Theatre

Friday 9 December 2016

nt-live-hedda-gabler-portrait-listings-image-uk-722x1024A few weeks ago, on the Nothern Line, while Phil was running his fingers along the lines of type in the Metro he noticed he was sitting next to a woman concentrating on a script with all the “Mrs Elvsted” parts underlined. Suspecting it might be for the National’s Hedda Gabler he went off and did a bit of internet stalking and discovered that it was Sinéad Matthews who takes that role in the this production.

Perhaps Phil should have torn her manuscript into pieces, scribbled notes all over it so that she could piece it back together again to get a better understanding of her role. To explain that would need a SPOILER ALERT. Of course if it had been Ruth Wilson (who plays this Hedda) next to him he’d have torched it for her. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – After October – Finborough Theatre

Wednesday 7 December 2016

after-october-mainPlays with similar themes seem to becoming a bit of a habit with us.

Following on from last week’s Once in a Lifetime which took a pop at playwrights struggling to make sense of being holed up in Hollywood studio basements comes Rodney Ackland‘s possibly semi-autobiographical not-seen-in-London-for-over-eighty-years After October. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Dreamgirls, Savoy Theatre

Tuesday 6 December 2016

furthercastingannouncedfordreamgirlsatthesavoytheatreThe was an incident during the extended interval of last night’s preview performance of Dreamgirls.

Police swooped into the Savoy’s gorgeous auditorium creating a fine old brouhaha. It can’t have been good for bar takings. Punters lurked in the stalls craning their necks to see what all the fuss was about.

Had the rozzers been called in to stop the unnecessary and deeply annoying X Factor whooping, applauding and ovating that had been going on mid-songs? We could only live in hope. Couldn’t agree more with Mr Shenton. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Once in a Lifetime, Young Vic

Friday 2 December 2016

oial_326If you’re waiting for a review of Nice Fish you’ll have a jolly long wait. Phil was away and sold his tickets to Andrew (What? Did you expect Phil to give them away?) who went with Katy. Both were underwhelmed. The best he could say about it was it was 90 minutes with no interval though even that was too much for people behind him who departed before the end. Bullet dodged.

But, with a busy theatre period ahead (5 shows in 9 days, and Andrew coming along to all but one) what were the chances of being entertained for the second of them, Once in a Lifetime, after the charms of She Loves Me ? Read the rest of this entry »


Review – She Loves Me, Menier Chocolate Factory

Tuesday 29 November 2016

slm-220x300You wait for ever for a seductively old-fashioned and tuneful period musical about a shop assistant falling in love, staged handsomely on four turntables and you get two in a row. What are the chances?

Following on the heels of the winning Half A Sixpence comes the Menier’s seasonal offering She Loves Me (book by Joe Masteroff, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and music by Jerry Bock).

Essence It’s based on a play by Hungarian playwright Miklós László that inspired the films The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail. Tinder is yet to be invented and Amalia (Scarlett Strallen) and Georg (Mark Umbers), correspond gushingly in old-style ink (hurrah!) despite never having met, until that is, Amalia wheedles her way into a job at Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Budapest where Georg happens to work. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Half a Sixpence, Noel Coward Theatre

Tuesday 15 November 2016

half-a-sixpence-noel-coward-theatre-posterNot a glass-half-full version of The Threepenny OperaHalf a Sixpence brings good old-fashioned pleasures, two dazzlingly show-stopping numbers, gorgeous designs, nifty millinery, a musical first for us: a number set in a woodworking class and a gravity-defying new musical star to town. And we haven’t even got to the banjos and spoon-playing. Yet.

The original production was way back in 1963 and it’s not been seen in the West End since. Clearly there was a reason. Now its been revised restructured and tickled into shape at Chichester. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Peter Pan Goes Wrong, Apollo Theatre

Thursday 10 November 2016

cdnIt’s very rare that people ever take Phil’s advice. But after visiting Peter Pan Goes Wrong last year he declared grandly, “If Mischief Theatre don’t revive this every Christmas then something really has gone wrong.”

Rather unusually someone must have been awake, for here it is, inflicting itself on the same theatre for the seasonal period. Same show, new cast and still as energetically mad as a President-elect hairdo. Phew. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Amadeus, National Theatre

Wednesday 9 November 2016

798954Well, we went in humming Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” and we were still humming it on the way out.

This despite the 20 pieces of the Southbank Sinfonia who bang out Mozart’s music throughout the three long hours of Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, interact with the actors, occasionally having a stab at acting themselves, ripple like waves on the stairs of what constitutes a set and donning party hats to become part of the action.

If you don’t have a ticket you’re unlikely to get one for its current booking period now. It was practically sold out before the fairly spectacular reviews were delivered. But don’t despair, you need some good news this morning, it didn’t quite work its magic on us. Read the rest of this entry »


Review – Side Show, Southwark Playhouse

Tuesday 25 October 2016

side-show-artwork-image-700x455It’s a rum old world sometimes.

Two consecutive off-West End shows featuring poisonous homosexualists (Kenny Morgan, The Boys In The Band), then two in a row featuring a hostess trolley (The Red BarnThe Grinning Man). The latter a musical about a carnival attraction “freak show”. This one is too. What are the chances?

This is the 1997 Broadway flop Side Show (31 previews and 91 regular performances) which was revived and revised in 2014 only to flop again after a seven week run. Is someone trying to tell them something? Read the rest of this entry »


Review – The Grinning Man, Bristol Old Vic

Friday 21 October 2016

bov_grinning_man_carouselYes, Bristol Old Vic. So far off-West End, making Phil so off the West End in more than one way. Does this make Phil a South West Whinger?*

Embarrassingly, a few years since Phil saw a show there. Sometime in the seventies to be precise. Two school trips to see Henry IV parts 1 & 2. A bit of research revealed they featured younger versions of John Nettles, Charlotte Cornwell and Ian Gelder, plus Timothy West and Constance Chapman delivering their Falstaff and Quicklys. Who knew? Phil certainly didn’t as he wasn’t prone to splashing out on programmes in those days. He doesn’t any more. How things come full circle.

But a musical of a Victor Hugo novel? Nah, that couldn’t possibly work could it? Read the rest of this entry »


Review – The Red Barn, National Theatre

Tuesday 18 October 2016

xtheredbarnw300h200-jpgqitokypwyklne-pagespeed-ic-nxppd-1b7fThree characters stranded in a county house while a blizzard rages. One of the group is lost in the storm outside. Might he have done himself in or been murdered? The phone lines are down and a clock ticks ominously…

Has the National seen sense and finally put on an Agatha Christie? Might that same clock tick for another 64 years and counting? Sadly not.

A pre-show discussion heard Andrew suggesting it might be based on the notorious red barn murder in Suffolk where Maria Marten was shot dead by her lover. Phil was blissfully unaware of that case, “Well if it’s a whodunnit that’s ruined it for me” grumped Phil.

Phew, Andrew was off the hook. Not that red barn thankfully. This is David Hare‘s The Red Barn based on George (Maigret) Simenon‘s La Main. Though there is still an element of whodunnit and whydunnit and more than an touch of whydoitlikethis? Read the rest of this entry »


Review – The Boys In The Band, Park Theatre

Tuesday 18 October 2016

thumbnail_boys-in-the-band_a5-e1464015375465Second in a row of our series of plays featuring a splendid central performance by an actor as a blisteringly vile gay in a period drama at a north London fringe theatre.

Amazingly first time at the Park Theatre for Phil. And first time for The Boys In The Band too. No, Phil had never seen William (director of The French Connection and The Exorcist and once married to Lesley-Anne Down) Friedkin‘s 1970 film either. Andrew had. So when Phil suggested a trip to Mart Crowley‘s 1968 play Andrew replied, “I’m up for an evening of self-loathing”. Read the rest of this entry »