How To Choose The Perfect Show for Mother’s Day

Mums come in all shapes and sizes – and one size most definitely does not fit all! Treat that special person in your life this Mother’s Day with a trip to London’s glittering West End: Mums can be step-mums, carers, gran, a special aunt, friend or, let’s face it, even your Dad in a pair of kinky boots! So, show someone you care about them this Mothering Sunday with our tips on what to see – for every type of Mum!

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Many shows don’t perform on Sundays so we think it’s best to book ahead for a future date, then just pop your tickets in a lovely Mother’s Day card and you’ll be sure they have something special to look forward to later in the year!

Classical Mum
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The King and I – Treat your Mum to this sumptuous revival of the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic. Opens June 2018
The Sleeping Beauty – English National Ballet present Tchaikovsky’s Fairytale classic. From June 2018.
London Philharmonic Orchestra – choose from any of this world-renowned orchestra’s classical concert series.

Serial Mom
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Chicago –Hollywood stars, greed, corruption and choreography to die for!
The Mousetrap – There’s a dead body, but who dunnit? Perfect for the even the most murderous mum.
Little Shop of Horrors – The carnivorous musical heads to the Regents Park open air theatre – a killer treat for any mum this summer.

 

Camp as T*ts Mum
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Strictly Ballroom – Baz Luhrmann’s classic musical tangos on to the West End stage in May.
Kinky Boots – get out those killer heels and strut on down to the Adelphi Theatre for the West End’s most fabulous night out!
There’s Something about Jamie – If you like your musicals gender-fluid then don’t miss this heartbreaking, funny and gorgeous show about coming of age and breaking down doors!
Songs For Nobodies – Bernadette Robinson brings Judy Garland, Edith Piaf and every other Diva you can image to the beautiful Wilton’s Music Hall. Don’t miss it!


Rock Mom
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Bat Out of Hell – The surprise hit of last summer – this big brash beast of a show is back in April!
School of Rock – Laugh, cry and rock it out! This Broadway smash is still rocking the New London!

 

Showgirl Mum
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42nd Street – Come and meet those dancing feet! Glitz, glamour and the best tap dancing you’ll ever see!
Dancing on Ice Live Tour Get your skates on! Wherever you are, this year’s tour is coming to a town near you!

 

Mum-A-Mia!
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Mamma Mia! – What better way to tell your Mum you love her than with an Abba song?
Tina – No Proud Mary can miss this rags to riches life story of Tina Turner.
Dreamgirls – Unleash your mum’s inner-diva with this tale of the music industry making stars and breaking hearts.

 

Romantic Weepy Mum
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Phantom of the Opera – The West End’s greatest love story will leave you reaching for the tissues.
Les Miserables – If you’ve seen it before, go again…and again…and again.
Brief Encounter – the classic film comes to life on stage. We adored it and now it’s back!

Thinking Mum
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Chess
– Not just a game but one of Musical Theatre’s finest scores – and it’s got Michael Ball in it!
Company – Classy, sassy, smart and starring Mel from Bakeoff as well as Broadway legend Patti Lupone.
The Grinning Man – Brilliant puppetry and even more brilliant humans!

Culture Mum
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Tartuffe
– Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Moliere’s comedic masterpiece relocates to Tinseltown but loses none of its wit.
Lady Windermere’ Fan – Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy of manners exposes the hypocrisy of Victorian society, with help from Jennifer Saunders.


Laugh Out Loud Mum
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The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
– screwball comedy, slick farce and a bank heist that couldn’t possibly go wrong…
The Play That Goes Wrong – now a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, the title tells you all you need to know!

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration? And to all the mums, aunts, carers, grans, and kinky-booted dads out there…A Very Happy Mother’s Day!

Going to see Chess? Check out our 20 most awesome fan facts!

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: We review a night of genius, whores and whisky galore

You might be forgiven for approaching the Wyndham’s Theatre with a sense of trepidation for a play which lasts 3 hours and 20 minutes. Eugene O’Neill’s master work is a tour de force for any five actors brave enough to tackle this monumental drama and at its heart, O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a soul-searching examination of claustrophobic family dynamics, drug and alcohol dependency.

Much of the Bristol Old Vic’s production is commendable. The set is a clever interweaving of period design and minimalist modernism, it’s monolithic glass structure both encapsulating the feeling of claustrophobia and yet bringing in the threat of the “outside” with symbolic references to weather, the ebb and flow of coastal fog echoing the haze of morphine-induced mental decline of the matriarch, Mary Tyrone.

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Lesley Manville as Mary Tyrone – a matriarch in mental decline

The Tyrone family’s summer home, a mixture of wood and wicker mismatched furniture, grand but not affluent, evokes the state of the family’s finances, but as the play unfolds it becomes clear that this is perhaps more emblematic of the miserliness of Mary’s husband James Tyrone (Jeremy Irons) than a lack of wealth. Irons is a dashing Tyrone and what he lacks in gravitas he makes up for in handsome grace.

James Tyrone’s relationship with his wife is complex. There are moments of cruelty – as James tells his sons “She’s so fat and sassy there’ll soon be no holding her” but rather than intending to insult, these barbs come with a sense of genuine affection which is at once unsettling and reassuring. The deliberate overlap of dialogue gives early scenes a sense of pace but occasionally the cacophony of voices can overwhelm the subtleties in the dialogue.

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Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville embrace, but can their love survive through the fog of addiction?

Lesley Manville’s virtuosic portrayal of Mary is as vulnerable as it is statuesque. She seems to live on her nerves – hardly surprising with one son throwing away his salary on whores and whiskey and the other a sensitive consumptive. The fog which seems to blight seaside Connecticut symbolises Mary’s mental state, as she stumbles through her days in a haze of addiction.

Often it is their sons who speak plain truth. James Jr (Rory Keenan) in whom whiskey seems to liberate verity, often at the expense of tact, seems to say what no-one else can – or what they choose not to. Keenan’s performance is solid, but bearing a passing resemblance to Brad Pitt helps distract from a vocal delivery that occasionally put me in mind of Krusty The Clown (another off-shoot from a dysfunctional American family).

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James Jr (Rory Keenan) – plain speaking and whiskey swigging Brad Pitt look-a-like.

Mary’s frail nerves are not helped by a sense of homelessness – this summer home giving way at long intervals to time spent on trains and in hotel rooms. Her sense of envy is palpable when the neighbours drive by in their new Mercedes but it’s their seeming respectability rather than their car which she really envies. “I have always hated this town and everyone in it” is said without malice, and there is a heart-breaking honesty when she tells her husband that “this home was wrong from the start” and that “the only way is to make yourself not care”.

Her neurosis plays heavily upon her relationships with her sons, both of whom care deeply for their mother, often manifesting itself in obsessing about details “Why do you look at me like that – is my hair coming down?”. Their father is seemingly trapped by his own obsessive compulsion to acquire ever more properties, albeit with mortgages attached – and both are victims of their own past.

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Matthew Beard (Edmund) is introspective as be battles to survive illness and family implosion

Edmund, the younger son, is prone to coughing fits and is a cerebral being whose primary concern should be his own health (he is suffering from tuberculosis) but seems to care far more for his mother’s wellbeing. Edmund (played by an introspective Matthew Beard) is well-read and well-travelled – but in seeming to wish to portray this, O’Neill’s play often dwells in long languorous conversations about Neitzsche, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman. While providing intellectually stimulating insight into O’Neill’s own influences (they are viewed with suspicion by James Tyrone who is a Shakespeare purist) conversations result in scenes which are often overly long and dramatically tiresome.

In a family dynamic further complicated by Mary’s blaming James Jr for the infant death of her second son, and accusations that her morphine addiction is due to her husband employing the cheapest doctor possible, scenes often repeat the same points and as a result the play feels over-long. Much needed comic relief is provided in the form of feisty Irish servant Cathleen (Jessica Regan) who lights up the stage every time she strides onto it.

Eugene O’Neill’s play is, as an intellectual examination of family dynamism and literary philosophy, a work of undoubted genius and Lesley Manville gives a performance worthy of an Olivier Award. For those reasons alone, this is a production worth seeing and worth sticking with. For this theatregoer, I just wished it had been 45 minutes shorter – sometimes, even in the presence of greatness, less is more.

You can buy tickets here for Long Day’s Journey Into Night for performances until 7 April  2018.

Running Time: 3h20m including one intermission

Wyndham’s Theatre, Charing Cross Road

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

Chess The Musical: What’s It About? 20 Most Awesome Fan Facts

In 2018, Chess The Musical returns to the West End Stage after a 30 year hiatus. It’s an epic score – big enough to rival Phantom and Les Miserables and demands big voices. The production features English National Opera’s award-winning Orchestra and Chorus – with lead roles to be announced soon. It’s written by the boys from ABBA and Sir Tim Rice but there’s so much more you might not know!

What’s it about?

Cold War, East vs West. In today’s era of Russia’s cyber-threat to Western Democracies, that seems more relevant than ever. Chess takes the rivalry, subterfuge and political plotting of two global super-powers and transfers the action to the World Chess championships, where defection, gamesmanship and espionage are as rife as in the corridors of power. It’s a love story between characters whose lives are torn apart by powers they cannot control. Chess is probably best summed up as “The Thinking-Person’s Musical.”

Who are the main characters?

Freddie Trumper (The American). A gifted Chess prodigy, Trumper is probably the most talented player in the game, but an explosive temper and deep insecurities leave him vulnerable as both a player and a human being.

Florence Vassy (His Second). A Budapest-born immigrant. She is as close to Freddie as anyone can be, but despite her support, he treats her terribly and pushes her right into the arms of his Russian rival, Anatoly.

Anatoly Sergievsky (The Russian). Anatoly’s heart lies in his homeland, but his first passion is the game he loves – Chess…that is until he falls deeply in love with Florence. Despite his suspicion of Florence’s motives, Anatoly is torn between love and duty and leaving everything behind for the woman he loves.

Svetlana Sergievsky. Anatoly’s Russian wife, and puppet of the Russian Establishment. She loves her husband but with their marriage growing as cold as a Siberian winter, she will use whatever means possible – including the power of the Russian state – to win her husband back.

Alexander Molokov – The Russian’s Second. From his position of power in the political establishment, he tries to control every aspect of Anatoly’s game – and life.

The Arbiter – The game’s referee, ensuring that the rules of Chess are upheld whatever is going on outside of the game.

Here are 20 awesome facts & Chess trivia you might not know!

  1. To date, Chess remains the world’s most successful ever musical based on a board game (although Monopoly The Musical is still in the pipeline!)
  2. According to The Guinness Book of Records, the single “I Know Him So Well” remains the most successful ever by a female duo, retaining the No.1 spot in the UK Singles Charts for 4 weeks.
  3. Chess premiered in London on 14 May 1986, but the London Version nearly didn’t happen when the original director, Michael Bennett, fell ill. Then, Tommy Körberg (Anatoly) was hospitalized almost missing the show’s opening night.
  4. It’s a popular misconception that Barbara Dixon played Svetlana in the Original West End Cast: In fact, it was Siobhán McCarthy – although Dixon did appear on the Original Concept Album.
  5. After several revisions, Chess opened on Broadway in 1988 but lasted just two months. Fortunately a bootleg version of the Original Broadway Chess survives on youtube.
  6. In 1987, Whitney Houston & her mother, Cissy Houston recorded a studio version of I Know Him So Well for Whitney’s second album, Whitney.
  7. Susan Boyle captivated the hearts of the nation with her performance of I Know Him So Well in an ITV Special. I Dreamed A Dream: The Susan Boyle Story, dueting with a terrified-looking Elaine Paige.
  8. Susan Boyle also teamed up with by Peter Kay’s alter-ego Geraldine McQueen in a never-to-be-forgotten version for Comic Relief.
  9. …but even that’s not the only version of I Know Him So Well performed in drag!
  10. Uber-fans can watch the whole of the Chess in Swedish on Youtube. At 1h38m50s, it includes one of the most hypnotic trapeze duets ever seen in a stage musical.
  11. There are so many beautiful songs in Chess. Probably the second most famous is Anthem, performed here in the 2008 Albert Hall version by Josh Groban
  12. Anthem cropped up again in 2011 when Jai McDowell wowed the judges on Britain’s Got Talent with his version of one of Chess’s most moving songs.
  13. Let’s not forget another 80s iconic hit, which also comes from Chess, One Night In Bangkok, performed here by one of the original London cast-members, Murray Head
  14. …it was also covered by Elaine Paige in a version that the choreographer would probably rather forget!
  15. Over seven-hundred cans of hairspray were used on the video of I Know Him So Well, single-handedly creating the hole in the ozone layer which appeared directly over Elaine Paige and Barbara Dixon.
  16. Chess has been reworked and rewritten numerous times since the 1980s, including a version entirely in Swedish (2002). In 2018, two different versions will play on opposite sides of the Atlantic in New York and London.
  17. Benny and Bjorn also wrote Mamma Mia – but you might not know that they also penned a rather beautiful musical called Kristina Från Duvemåla, which is available in a concert version. The title role is played by Helen Sjöholm, who also plays Florence Vassy in the 2002 Swedish version of Chess and who gets to sing the Swedish version of Someone Else’s Story, originally featured in the Broadway version.
  18. The game of chess originated in Persia – a fact you’ll get to know if you listen carefully when you see the show!
  19. A concert version of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall featured both Idina Menzel and Kerry Ellis – who have both starred as Elphaba on both Broadway and the West End stage.
  20. A version of Chess at the Kennedy Centre, NYC, runs in February 2018 and features a revised book by Danny Strong, who played Jonathan Levinson in Buffy The Vampire Slayer!

You can buy tickets for Chess The Musical which are on sale now. Not sure where to sit? Check out our seat reviews for the London Coliseum.

Chess runs from 26 April to 2 June 2018. Direction by Laurence Connor (School of Rock and Miss Saigon on Broadway and in the West End, Les Misérables on Broadway, and the international Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour). Choreography by West End legend Stephen Mear.

Further reading:

CHESS – theatre Wiki Fan Page
A Guide To Musical Theatre – Chess

Love Musical Theatre trivia? Check out our other posts, including 10 things you didn’t know about Andrew Lloyd Webber

 

Inside Pussy Riot: Meet the terrible infants bringing anarchy to London!

Would you sacrifice everything for the sake of a liberal world?

Pussy Riot is a feminist protest punk rock band from Russia. The group gained global notoriety in 2012 when they stormed Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Saviour to stage a protest performance against Vladimir Putin: Three of the group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yakaterina Samutsevich were arrested, charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and thrown into prison.

The group gained global notoriety in 2012 when they stormed Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Saviour

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Pussy Riot: The group gained global notoriety in 2012 when they stormed Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ The Saviour

Now free, Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda (Nadya) Tolokonnikova has joined forces with razor sharp theatre group “Les Enfants Terribles” to transform London’s Saatchi Gallery into a dark and powerful theatrical experience based on her incarceration. Les Enfants Terribles are one of the most innovative and exciting theatre companies working today – their groundbreaking immersive work includes Olivier-nominated ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground’, ‘Dinner at the Twits’ and ‘The Game’s Afoot’.

Run by Oliver Lansley and James Seager the company is dedicated to creating original, innovative and exciting theatre using props, puppetry and live music. We met Oliver and James and took a step into a fascinating – and sometimes scary – world of immersive theatre…Inside Pussy Riot.

Hi James and Ollie. Thanks for meeting us! We just saw your show, Terrible Infants at Wilton’s Music Hall. It’s full of puppetry and twisted fables. How different will Inside Pussy Riot be?

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Oliver Lansley: Artistic Director of Les Enfants Terribles

Ollie: Wilton’s is a crash course in Les Enfants Terribles I suppose. It’s pure “what we do” as a Theatre company – it’s about storytelling using different techniques to tell that story, so that will all still be present in the Pussy Riot show but obviously with a very different subject matter. Terrible Infants began ten years ago and was the first for everything – we knew we wanted to do a show using diverse elements like puppetry and live music and we genuinely just threw ourselves in at the deep end. And that’s the way that we’ve worked ever since. In terms of other shows, everything comes from the subject and the story, thinking “What is the best way to tell this story?”. That might be puppets, it might be an immersive piece, a straight play, audio or visual. It could literally be anything – so long as it tells the story. And with Pussy Riot, we’re choosing what we feel is genuinely the best way to tell the story.

So do you use elements of puppetry or will Inside Pussy Riot be an all-human performance?

It’s all about the humans, but there is an elevated theatricality and we’re at pains to point out that we’re NOT trying to create a prison simulator. It will still be very much a piece of theatre. We’re quite irreverent in the way we create work. Pussy riot are also arch provocateurs who do everything with a wink, tongue in cheek – they stick a pin in the pomposity of patriarchy and the establishment – and we’re trying to reflect that anarchic approach.

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James Seager – Les Enfants Terribles Producer

How did you come to be involved with Pussy Riot?

We were approached by the Russian producers, Bird & Carrot – and they were our direct link to Pussy Riot. They were asked to do a piece for Art Riot for The Saatchi Gallery and they’d seen our immersive show, Alice’s Adventures Underground. They started talking about the idea of a massive piece of theatre. For us it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to collaborate on something completely different to what we’d done before.

Who should come and see the show and who might you expect to see in the audience?

Anyone with any interest in Pussy Riot themselves or their politics should definitely come to the show, but even if you don’t have any political interest you should come because you’ll learn about what Pussy Riot do and how important that is to all our lives, particularly at the moment in a world of Trump, Brexit and Le Pen. I think it’s important to express our freedom of speech and that’s something we should hold very dearly. It’s a different audience than I would usually expect. There is something so important to be said in this show, and I hope it asks the audience to question their own beliefs and what they themselves would be prepared to stand up for.

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Nada…is very public about her opposition to Putin and other political figures.

After what’s happened with Harvey Weinstein, Inside Pussy Riot seems particularly relevant – how much is this a feminist piece and how much is it universally anti-establishment?

Well I think you can’t really talk about Pussy Riot without it being an issue of feminism, but whether we like to or not, we can’t really escape issues of patriarchy now, be that Putin or Trump or indeed Weinstein. Our world, our society, is run by lots of rich white men in positions of power – and we’re aware as privileged white males of the irony of saying that. Essentially the two things [feminism and patriarchy] are intrinsically linked.

We were also keen to make sure that this was female-led as well, with a female director and a female designer, but we also took a creative decision that the whole cast is female and I think that was hugely important.

Essentially we wanted the piece to feel as if Pussy Riot had taken over the asylum. We’re not creating a prison simulator experience – it’s very much Les Enfants Terribles’ take on what happened.

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“Essentially we wanted the piece to feel as if Pussy Riot had taken over the asylum.”

How did you both meet and Les Enfants Terribles begin?

We met about 17 years ago as actors in an open-air Shakespeare production. Ollie was going on to do a Berkoff Play at the Edinburgh Festival and asked me (James) to come on-board. We did a play in Edinburgh every year until 2006 – everything really began from there. Venues started to become interested in us…one of the big transition shows was the first incarnation of Terrible Infants ten years ago, which opened a lot of doors for us and took us all over the world.

And what are you working on next?

We like to choose things which excite us and also that lend themselves to a particular genre. The next big project is taking Alice’s Adventures Underground to China – so we’re off to Shanghai to oversee that.

How’s your Chinese?

I think we’re just going to have to trust they’re saying the right things!

And finally…is there any fear that the KGB may come knocking on your door after Inside Pussy Riot?

It’s not something we ever thought about at the start – but a month in once we started developing the piece we thought “Maybe this is something we should think about!” – especially as we are working with Nadya, who is very public about her opposition to Putin and other political figures. We believe it’s important to champion free speech, that’s something worth standing up for and ultimately, it’s a story worth telling.

www.insidepussyriot.com
#insidepussyriot

How to “theatre up” your Pumpkin!

Looking for some theatrical inspiration this Halloween? Whether you’re having a party, trick or treating, or just looking for something to spook the neighbours, we’ve found some truly terrific theatre pumpkins courtesy of our friends on the world wide spider-web. Read more

Think you know London’s West End? Test your knowledge in our Theatreland quiz!

Do you know the West End’s streets like the back of your hand? You may think so…but less than half of theatregoers can correctly name 8/10 of these theatrical streets! Can you score a perfect ten?

  1. On which Covent Garden street might you encounter a dark and ghostly female opposite one of London’s Oldest Stage Doors?
  2. Which south London street links an Old Victorian with a Young pretender?
  3. Which Ipswich musical shares its name with any number of streets leading to the nation’s capital city?
  4. What street links Monopoly with a Church of Latter Day Saints?
  5. Which street, sharing its name with a Scottish county, regularly hosts performances of the majestic variety?
  6. On which street might you take a stroll and meet an operatic diva and a grand old Duke?
  7. Which theatrical thoroughfare links a magical potter with a bunch of revolting students?
  8. Which street links a Los Angeles boulevard with a Chichester gypsy?
  9. Which London street will soon see a demonic child at one end and a gothic monster at the other?
  10. Where might you bump into a famous beau on the way to one of central London’s tiniest theatres?

 

Want to check your scores? Get out the answers to our quiz here!

Mad about theatre? Check out our other free to play quizzes and stretch your theatre brain.

The Up & Coming: 7 New Shows Opening In London This Autumn That Will Stir Your Soul!

Do you live for your next Theatre fix? Then you are up for a treat with an extraordinary autumn season in London’s West End. Theatreland is so abuzz with rehearsal gossip it feels like Eros might spontaneously combust! Forget Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – the wizarding world had better get ready to cry “stupefy!” with the flurry of fantastic shows swooping in for their London openings. Here is what you need to know about the next big things:

1. Oslo

When? Playing a the National Theatre From 5 to 23 September, then transferring from 2 October to the Harold Pinter.
What is it? A Broadway smash which flies into the West End via the NT. This Tony-award winning play tells the tale of two maverick Norwegian diplomats who worked, hidden from the world in a forest-shrouded castle outside Oslo, to enable top secret talks between Israel and Palestine – one of the most explosive relationships in history.
Where is it?
National Theatre and then transferring to the Harold Pinter Theatre
Who’s in it?
Toby Stephens (BBC’s Jane Eyre) and Lydia Leonard (Wolf Hall)
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for Oslo and choose your perfect seat

2. Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

When? In Preview from 3 October
What is it? The UK Premiere from Tony and Olivier Award-winning director Marianne Elliott and playwright Simon Stephens (the creative team behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time). In a London train station, two strangers collide…and their lives will never be the same again. Heisenberg spins truth and lies like an infinite ball of string and ponders the question: what brings people together in this uncertain world?
Where is it?
Wyndham’s Theatre
Who’s in it? Anne-Marie Duff (Elizabeth I, Shameless) and Kenneth Cranham (An Inspector Calls)
How do I get tickets?
You can book tickets here for Heisenberg – choose your seats today and take advantage of great preview prices

3. Venus in Fur 

When? In Preview from 6 October
What is it? An adaptation of the 1870 novel, Venus in Furs by the Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (hence the term “masochism”). When seductively beautiful actress, Vanda Jordan, appears unannounced for an audition with director Thomas Novachek, she’s determined to land the leading role in his new production – despite seeming totally wrong for the part. During a single evening in downtown Manhattan, their sexually charged meeting becomes a seductive dance to the very end.
Where is it?
Theatre Royal, Haymarket
Who’s in it?
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones) and David Oakes (Shakespeare in Love, Victoria) star, with direction by Patrick Marber
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for Venus in Fur and choose your own seats
Best Quote
‘You don’t have to tell me about sadomasochism. I’m in the theatre’

4. A Woman of No Importance

When?  In preview from 6 October
What is it? Oscar Wilde’s glittering satire on English upper-class society with Wilde’s razor sharp wit shines a spotlight on social hypocrisy at the turn of the nineteenth century…but the upper classes haven’t reckoned on the arrival of Mrs Arbuthnot. Wilde gives snobbery a two-fingered salute with some of the best lines you’ll ever hear in a theatre.
Where is it?
Vaudeville Theatre
Who’s in it?
Eve Best (Hedda Gabler) and Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax)
How do I get tickets?
Buy tickets here for A Woman of no Importance and get unbiased seat reviews

 

5. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

When? In preview from 6 November
What is it? A modern fairy tale based on the real-life story of sixteen-year old Jamie New, struggling to fit in on a Sheffield council estate and bursting to tell his secret. The songs, by lead singer-songwriter of The Feeling, Dan Gillespie Sells and writer Tom MacRae (listen here on spotify) are instant classics. With the love of his loving mum and friends, Jamie beats the bullies and steps fearlessly out of the darkness into the spotlight.
Where is it?
Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Theatre
Who’s in it?
John McCrea (The Busker’s Opera), Josie Walker (Matilda), James Gillan (Wicked)
How do I get tickets? Buy tickets for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and get best-seat advice from other theatre lovers

 

6. The Exorcist

When? In preview from 20 October
What is it? The perfect scare-fest for a dark autumn night. Forty-five years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel left an entire generation paralyzed with fear, The Exorcist is unleashed on West End audiences for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by award-winning film and theatre Director Sean Mathias (Bent, No Man’s Land). Guaranteed to leave you slightly hysterical.
Where is it? Phoenix Theatre
Who’s in it? Casting is yet to be announced
How do I get tickets?
Tickets for the Exorcist are on sale now – just don’t go alone!
Most likely thing to hear? “I’m telling you that ‘thing’ upstairs isn’t my daughter…” followed by the screams of a terrified audience ducking behind their seats.

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7. Hamilton

(of course this is the most highly anticipated show opening in London, but it is already sold-out)

In Preview from 21 November
What is it? Pirates of the Caribbean meets American civil war as a penniless immigrant becomes US Treasury secretary. As is often the case with those rising to power, Hamilton was self-destructive and fallible, qualities that make for a perfect musical – with more riffing than a Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé diva-off. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop score gets under your skin so you’ll be humming it for weeks. Add in pistol fights, fisticuffs and affairs and you’re in for a real treat!
Where is it? Victoria Palace
Who’s in it? Newcomer Jamael Westman plays Alexander Hamilton supported by Giles Terera (Book of Mormon), Michael Jibson (Our House), Rachelle Ann Go (Miss Saigon)
How do I get tickets? Kill someone. If that fails, we’re promised a daily lottery in-person at the theatre prior to each performance and a weekly lottery online for performances taking place the following week. Follow Hamilton’s Twitter account or Facebook page for updates.

Further ahead

Is it too early to mention the C word? Yep… Christmas is only a few months away and we’re SO excited we’ve already booked tickets to see the Old Vic’s new stage production of A Christmas Carol starring Rhys Ifans, arriving in a new adaptation by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stage writer Jack Thorne. Our other top stocking-filler for Christmas 2017 has to be booking tickets to see Dick Whittington at the London Palladium starring West End royalty Elaine Paige, Charlie Stemp, Nigel Havers and Julian Clary!

Review: Jon Brittain’s Rotterdam shoots an arrow right at the heart of the human condition ★★★★

Tired of unrelentingly bad news? Need some sunshine to drive away the rain? Then follow the rainbow to the Arts Theatre, currently home to the sensationally funny and deeply moving Olivier Award-winning transfer of Rotterdam. With its central themes of transgender identity, sexuality and non-linear relationships, I must admit that I expected an evening of tense, serious theatre – not a bit of it. Read more

Wild thing, I think I love you!

Kinkier than Kinky Boots and with more class A drugs than Keith Richard’s medicine cabinet, composer John LaChiusa’s version of The Wild Party opened this week at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new venue “The Other Palace“. We took time out with two of the show’s stars, Tiffany Graves and Dex Lee to talk sex, drugs and musical orgies:

Before we get down and dirty, here’s what you need to know:
There are two versions of The Wild Party (the other is by Andrew Lippa). This is the Michael John LaChiusa version.

The Plot

The Wild Party is set on a single evening from about 10 o’clock at night until 6 in the morning. The party’s hosts, Burrs and Queenie, have a feisty relationship and their guests enjoy copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. As the party fizzes, the night takes a dark turn with murder, rape and infidelity on the cards.

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Tiffany Graves (Madeleine) “I always end up playing murderesses, witches or bitches”

Tiffany Graves plays Madelaine – so who better to tell us all about her character?

I always seem to end up playing murderesses, witches, or bitches. This time I’m playing a lesbian stripper! My character, Madeleine True, arrives at the party with Sally, who she met a couple of nights ago, and with whom she’s now madly in love.

Do you get to preserve your modesty?

Well, the show opens with four of us playing chorines in Burrs’s vaudeville act and in that number we’re not wearing all that much! But my costume as Madeleine is quite modest – I’ve certainly worn less!

You’re no stranger The Other Palace?

Indeed – I performed here in what was the cabaret space downstairs with Anita Louise Coombe as The Desperate Divas, and I’ve guested for Jonathan Reid Gealt, Stuart Matthew Price and David Bedella.

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Dex Lee (Jackie) “[It’s] testing yourself emotionally and physically…that’s what drew me to the part”
Dex, you’re playing Jackie. How did you get started as a performer?

I started out doing lots of dance festivals, tap, jazz, and musical theatre and then aged 18 I got into ARTS ED. I got a DaDA and did my three years of training, and then did Scottsboro Boys at the Garrick Theatre and In the Heights at the Southwark Playhouse. I also toured the UK in Hairspray, playing Seaweed which was so much fun! Most recently I played Danny Zuko in Grease at Leicester Curve.

Did you always want to go into Musical Theatre?

Absolutely. I would perform at festivals where you’d have Musical Theatre sections, Song & Dance sections and I’d watch things like the Rat Pack with Sammy Davis Jr – I was very much into that style of performance where you’ve got to be able to do it all.

Your character, Jackie, couldn’t be further away from Seaweed or Danny Zuko. Did you have any doubts about taking on the role?

Our director, Drew McOnie approached it very sensitively. We spoke about the themes of the show and wanted to make it as truthful and accurate in its depiction as possible. The beauty of Theatre is that you get a chance to explore scenarios that you wouldn’t put yourself in, testing yourself emotionally and physically. That’s what drew me to the part.

Is there a show you would tear your own arm off to appear in?

I guess I’d love to do a Rat Pack style show. Sammy Davis Jr did Golden Boy, so maybe something like that? I guess I’d also love something totally opposite – a classic show like Les Mis…or maybe Kinky Boots!

What do you love to listen to?
Anything that you’d find playing at a late-night jazz bar at three in the morning. Gregory Porter, Louis Armstrong, that jazz style – that’s what would be on my ipod.

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“Louis Armstrong…that’s what would be on my iPod”

Tiffany, over to you. How would you describe the music for The Wild Party?

The score is very jazzy with intricate harmonies. When we first had the sitzprobe it was a massive leap from rehearsing with just a piano to singing with the band. I’ve been to quite a few and this is one of those where I thought gosh, this is really quite special. The brass, clarinet and sax sound really cool.

How many are in the cast?

There are fifteen of us and we’re mostly all on stage for about 70% of the show. I play opposite Melanie Bright who plays my girlfriend Sally. She doesn’t say much because she’s off her face on heroine for most of the show! We do all mingle, particularly during the orgy – which I suppose is rather the point!

Who are some of the other characters?

There’s Dolores, the legendary performer who’s entering the twilight of her career, two producers, Queenie who’s also a vaudevillian actress, Tate who’s her best friend, another vaudeville star who’s moved over to Broadway. There are lots more – bohemian, artistic types who are all into drugs and having a good time.

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Dex Lee (right) with Choreographer & Director, Drew McOnie

Dex…What are your plans after The Wild Party?

I want to travel the world! Ever since I did my A-levels, I’ve thought about travelling but I didn’t take a gap year. So I want to go and explore the world! I want to start with a Buddhist temple, but I’m not sure where yet…

Do you see yourself back in Musical Theatre when you return?

I definitely want to expand my horizons. I’d love to do some TV work as well as straight plays. I did a play at the Royal Court called Father Comes Home from the Wars which opened a whole new perspective on performance.

Who were the pivotal people in your journey to a performing career?

I’d definitely say my sister – when we did those dance festivals, we did them together. Also the head of Arts Ed, Chris Hocking.

And your sister – is she still performing too?

Yes, and she’s definitely a name to watch out for in the future – Miriam-Teak Lee. she’s in the third year of Arts Ed so watch this space!

And Tiffany, if you could have been a performer in any era, when would you go back to?

Gosh…I’d probably go back to the golden age of Hollywood. Of course we have La La Land now, but I think the era when they really did it to perfection was the 1940s & 50s.

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Tiffany Graves “I’d probably go back to the golden age of Hollywood”…

Who else is in the cast?

Refreshingly, there isn’t any stunt casting. Frances Rufelle and Donna McKechnie are obviously really well known, but they’re famous because they can do it. Victoria Hamilton-Barritt and John Owen Jones also feature prominently and there are 15 of us in the cast. It’s been a lovely rehearsal period because everyone just gets on with what they’re doing – there’s been no drama or egos.

Is there an age limit for the show?

Yes, it’s recommended for 16+

Book tickets for The Wild Party – running until Saturday 1st April.

Review: The Wild Party – exposes a raw humanity ★★★

Launching Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new venue with a production of Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party was always going to be a risk. There’s the inevitable confusion when a show has two versions (remember Ken Hill’s version of Phantom of the Opera?) and people know the songs in the other version (by Andrew Lippa which featured Idina Menzel).

LaChiusa’s version, nominated for a Grammy and 7 Tony Awards, has arguably the more intelligent score, weaving intricate jazz with the original Joseph Moncure March narrative poem and keeping closely to the spirit of 1920s prohibition America. But where the LaChiusa version triumphs in cleverness, at times its songs merge into a messy soup of similarity.

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You’d struggle to find a stronger cast anywhere in the West End [Tristram Kenton]
Drew McOnie’s direction relies a little too much on his strength as a choreographer, at times seeming to come at the cost of deeper characterisation. There’s a scene near the beginning of the show where the show’s leading lady, Queenie (played with throaty lasciviousness by Frances Ruffelle) is strapped to the bed like a grown-up version of Regan in The Exorcist: fortunately we were spared the crucifix, but we were also spared the thrills.

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The dashing Simon Thomas as Black (left), and the sensationally smokey Victoria Hamilton-Barritt as Kate (centre) in rehearsal

Fortunately, each time Act One begins to lag, another guest arrives. And this is quite a party: just about every invitee seems already to have consumed a lifetime’s supply of narcotics on their way to Burr’s & Queenie’s somewhat minimalist residence (hats off to a clever use of multiple staircases). And it’s here The Wild Party both earns its name and hits a snag. The dynamic of Act One is simply too high, too soon. Rather than grow and beguile, drawing the audience in, we’re instead treated to a talented cast working their socks off simply to make their characters seem real. Each seems to have a hollow emptiness, existing in a theatrical vacuum and whereas Kander & Ebb’s Cabaret breaks up the moral bleakness of the era with musical brilliance, here the songs simply ring with a hollow despair.

Fortunately, the excellent band more than makes up for any lack of dynamic in the song-writing and their positioning above the stage provides a clever juxtaposition of order and disorder – even if the audience struggle to hear vocals as a result.

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Simon Thomas – matinee idol looks and a slinking physicality [Tristram Kenton]
I struggled at times with elements of the book & lyrics, not only in not being able to hear them properly (The Other Palace seems to have inherited the sound problems of the St James’ Theatre) but also in somewhat outdated references to black people being “more chocolatey” and a brief discussion about Jewish people changing their names to sound less Jewish (a theme which seemed to be ditched with completely in Act Two). Those themes are never explored and accordingly I felt like the piece was simply paying lip-service to certain characters.

But in other ways, Act Two improve enormously. Where Act One seems to spend overly-long introducing one character after another, the dramatic arc post-interval is rather more elliptically fulfilled. As the mood of the party shifts, the piece darkens deliciously and dynamic bonds between characters are strained to breaking point. One scene in particular is handled brilliantly, but will shock the most seasoned theatre-goer.

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The fabulously foxy Frances Ruffelle as Queenie (centre) in rehearsal

From a top-notch cast I must single out Simon Thomas, whose matinee idol looks and slinking physicality bring a feline suavity to Black, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is a smouldering and deliciously funny Kate and relative newcomer Dex Lee arrives with a bang as the explosive Jackie who delivers one of the night’s most genuinely shocking moments. But the rest of the cast, too, are from the very top drawer of Musical Theatre; Frances Ruffelle and John Owen Jones are ably supported by an on-form and bitingly funny Tiffany Graves as weary stripper Madelaine, Gloria Obianyo and Genesis Lynea as The D’armano Brothers and Donna McKechnie as faded leading lady Dolores.

At times, I did wonder if this wouldn’t have made better straight play than a musical. The vaudevillian theme, set at counterpoint to the intimacy of the party, would surely have packed a greater dramatic punch were there not so much actual music. John Owen Jones is a wonderful Musical Theatre actor, but where the scenes between Burrs and Queenie should have electrified, they simply shocked.

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Frances Ruffelle – Queenie was a blonde and her age stood still [Tristram Kenton]
One final word of caution when booking: Sadly, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has seen fit to preserve the curved seating at either end of the first few rows, so consider this when booking and avoid those seats if you’re tall.

So, is the show worth seeing? Well, yes actually. For all its shortcomings, you’d struggle to find a stronger cast anywhere in the West End, and when the show succeeds it exposes a raw humanity that most of us try our best to hide. Anyone who’s ever gone through a phase of partying just a bit too hard can’t help but smile at the line “I heard a rumour that six o’clock happens twice a day. I guess it must be true.”

Buy tickets for The Wild Party – booking until Saturday 1 April.

Suitable for ages 16+

10 ways to annoy Box Office staff

Work in a theatre box office and you’ll quickly develop a real love/hate relationship with certain aspects of your job. Most of the time it’s the best job in the world – you’re at the theatre all day – somewhere people go to be entertained only you’re getting paid for it. Box offices are generally fun, open-minded and relaxed workplaces and the vast majority of customers are lovely.

But even with the best job in the world there are always some things – or people – that will drive you mad. Here are our top ten:

  • When you ask a customer what date they want and they say “I don’t mind”. Because you can bet your bottom dollar, whatever date you pick, they won’t be able to make.
  • When friends you never hear from suddenly call…it’s pretty likely they want tickets. And normally it will be the ones you don’t have!
  • You spend ages searching for a customer’s tickets…only to find they ordered Print at Home. The clue is in the name…
  • People who spell their name r-e-a-l-l-y slowly – because SMITH is quite complicated…
  • …but people with REALLY complicated names just leave you guessing! Sometimes it’s like being at a spelling bee.
  • When you ask “how would you like to pay?”…and they say “Theatre Tokens”. Seriously, theatre tokens are fantastic – just not £500 worth all in five pound tokens 2 minutes before curtain up!
  • When you ask for a contact number, it’s like you’ve killed their firstborn. We ask for good reason – lost tickets, cancelled shows, medical emergencies. There are tons of good reasons why we need to know.
  • Customers who ask you a question and wander off before you can answer. You’d be amazed how many people pop in to ask directions and then disappear before you’ve explained.
  • Customers who call while they’re driving. No ticket is that important! There’s a good reason why we politely ask people to call us back when they have parked up.
  • When you ask for a surname, they just keep repeating their reference number. Funnily enough, we haven’t committed 80,000 numbers to memory. But we can DEFINITELY find your tickets in the COBO* box if we look under H for Henderson!

*COBO = Care of Box Office.

Most customers are great…and working in a Theatre Box Office is pretty fabulous, even on a bad day. So if you love theatre as much as we do, why not drop your CV in to your local theatre? Alternatively, check out one of these great sites and keep an eye out for new opportunities:

Creative & Cultural Skills – a great, clean and simple description of working in Box Office
Get In Media – A more in-depth look at duties, skills and what to expect from the role
Arts Jobs – A great site for scoping out new jobs

Working in a box office is one of life’s truly guilty pleasures…and that’s even without the chocolate hob nobs.

The Kite Runner – Reveals an Afghanistan few Westerners see ★★★★

 

I came late to Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner having somehow never read the Best Selling novel first published in 2003 or seen the 2007/8 film adaptation. I finally put that right with a beguiling stage version now running at the Wyndham’s Theatre – and it’s sheer delight.

The story concentrates on Amir (Ben Turner) and his friendship with Hassan (Andrei Costin) in 1970s Afghanistan. Amir has a privileged life: Hassan’s father is servant to Amir’s father, so Amir and Hassan’s friendship is genuine but hierarchical. Where Amir’s education has enabled him to read & write, Hassan, by contrast, is illiterate: something Amir delights in when he explains that “imbecile” means “intelligent”. Hassan looks up to Amir, not just as a friend but as a superior. His status as servant is dictated not just by his father’s position in the household, but by their Hazara (Shi’a) minor ethnicity – a sect widely looked down upon in Afghanistan.

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Amir (Ben Turner) and Hassam (Andrei Costin) Photo: Robert Workman

There is a great deal of humour in the play’s early scenes, with Matthew Spangler’s skilful adaptation deftly revealing the social complexity of Amir and Hassan’s friendship in a series of vignettes reminiscent of Blood Brothers. The young Amir may be educated, but even his naivety shows through when he asks his father, Baba (Emelio Doorgasingh) why John Wayne doesn’t speak Farsi since he is Iranian?

But, there are truths buried in Kabul and truth has a way of clawing its way to the surface. Kabul pre-1973 was largely peaceful, at least if you had money. Whisky was drunk and life was relatively carefree. The young Amir showed a skill for storytelling. In Hassan he had a captive audience, but Baba was largely disinterested – just wishing his son be more brave. Amir’s first story, of a man who discovers a magical bowl into which every tear cried becomes a pearl becomes a parable; the bowl is found by the happiest man in the world but whose greed ultimately overpowers him.

The play’s first truly chilling moment comes in the form of the bullying Assef (Nicholas Karimi). Karimi’s physical portrayal of the Sociopathic Assef is uncomfortable to watch as Amir is confronted in the street. Only the threat of Hassan’s slingshot saves them on their first meeting, but it is portentous and all the more chilling in hindsight.

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Only the threat of Hassan’s slingshot saves them… Photo: Robert Workman

Barney George’s design, Charles Balfour’s lighting and William Simpsons’s projections are simple but highly effective, allowing seamless transitions from homes to streets with just the drop of a curtain or moving of a trunk but it is the soundscape created through a mixture of pre-recorded sounds and live drums, wind and Tibetan prayer bowls, which really creates the show’s unique atmosphere – hats off to Jonathan Girling and Drew Baumohi.

The show’s title comes from the traditional afghan sport of Kite Fighting, where kite flyers compete with one another using strings sharpened with broken glass to try to cut the strings of other competitors. It’s after Amir’s greatest victory that Hassan runs to retrieve the blue kite he has cut down and is confronted once again by Assef. Amir arrives but, gripped by fear is too afraid to go to his friend’s aid as Hassan is raped. The moment changes everything for both boys and tears two friends apart.

Unable to bear the shame he feels for not going to Hassan’s aid, Amir begins to avoid his friend and then to shun his company entirely. Deciding it would be easier if Hassan were not around at all, he asks his father whether they could get new servants, and then in desperation, conceals money and a watch under Hassan’s bed.

In an act of pure self-sacrifice, Hassan confesses to a crime he has not committed, and even though Baba forgives him, Hassan’s father decides that they cannot stay where his son has broken trust and the pair leave the home they have known for forty years.

The Kite Runner Company
The Kite Runner Company – Photo: Robert Workman

Act two begins with Amir and Baba’s fleeing Afghanistan following the overthrowing of the regime and subsequent Russian occupation. Smuggled in the back of a suffocating truck, the journey into Pakistan is fraught with risk and should be a lesson for anyone thinking that those fleeing war-zones would ever do so lightly.

The cast do a great job with frequent switches of costume and character and Ben Turner’s solid central performance gives the twisting story a strong anchor through a story which moves not just a country away, but soon to the other side of the Earth.

A slightly clichéd introduction to life in America follows, playing to stereotypes and is perhaps director Giles Croft’s only misguided moment.

A new life begins for Amir as he embraces the new possibilities before him. Romance blooms in the form of Soraya (Lisa Zahra) in a Flea Market where old ways survive but new lives must be pursued. Baba lives to see their wedding but soon afterwards succumbs to cancer. After Baba’s death, the return of his father’s friend, Rahim Khan (Nicholas Khan) reveals a shocking truth to Amir requiring a move in the story back to a post 9/11 Afghanistan, with new and still more terrible risk.

The Kite Runner offers a tantalising glimpse into a country of extremes and confusing beauty. Ben Turner’s central performance is solid and touching, and Nicholas Karimi’s disturbing portral of Assef is remarkable. But for me the show’s star was Andrei Costin’s utterly endearing and heartbreakingly vulnerable Hassan.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner Company – Photo: Robert Workman

At times, particularly in Act Two, the storytelling begins to feel a little laboured and the show would benefit from a few tweaks to speed the story along, but this warts-and-all story of a privileged but damaged life in Kabul reveals a side to Afghanistan that few Westerners see and never forgets that humanity can be found in even the darkest corner of our world.

Buy tickets for The Kite Runner, running until March 11
Wyndham’s Theatre
Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA

The Worst Behaviour in Theatres  – Your Top Ten

People texting, phones going off, parents leaving soiled nappies and even drunken theatregoers vomiting from the balcony…when we asked Facebookers to vote for the most annoying habit in Theatres, we were stunned at just how appalling some behaviour can be. So which terrible traits did you vote as the worst? Here are your Top Ten:

Number 10 – EATING HOT FOOD
We’ve known patrons in the West End arrive with a full McDonalds and wonder why they’re not allowed to eat it during the show. We can understand why people get confused since many cinemas allow food inside the auditorium – but then again, movies have the trailers to allow you time to gobble up up your hot dog!

But that’s not nearly as annoying as….

Number 9 – SOMEONE TALL SITTING UP IN FRONT OF YOU
You’ll probably know the dread as you take your seat only to find you’re sitting behind Marge Simpson. People can’t help being tall, but taking off hats and not doing your hair up in a big blue beehive all helps the people behind. Seats looking down to the stage from circle/balcony/mezzanine are generally a better choice as they tend to be more sloped, allowing shorter people a far better view – whoever’s in front.

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Probably not the hair-do to ask for just before a trip to the theatre…

So…what’s your eight most hated audience trait?

Number 8 – BODY ODOUR/POOR PERSONAL HYGIENE
We should all apply a little sensitivity (as well as deodorant) here. Some people have personal hygiene issues that they can’t help, but it can be pretty difficult if you’re sat by someone who would send a skunk running for cover. Definitely worth asking the ushers if you can move seats!

Still, you didn’t think even that was quite as bad as….

Number 7 – BEING INTOXICATED

We’re not talking about those of us who might like a G&T or glass of Pinot Grigio to enjoy in a plastic cup. No, these are the people who arrive at the show already half-cut and behave like they’re on a stag or hen do, turning their row into a nightclub. Fair enough if you’re at Dreamboys watching male strippers, not so good if you’re at Dreamgirls watching a West End musical.

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Are you sure that 2nd bottle of Chardonnay before the show was such a good idea?


Number 6 – UNWRAPPING SWEETS
Some people can’t seem to get through Act One of Les Mis without also getting through at least two packets of Werther’s Originals. Perhaps it’s to take the edge off seeing all those french prostitutes selling their hair? If Willy Wonka could just have invented “shhhh sweets” that don’t make a sound when unwrapped, he’d have been every theatre-goer’s hero!

So…what’s your number 5 pet peeve?

Number 5 – ARRIVING LATE
You’ve paid good money to see the whole show, so try not to be late. Some people are held up unavoidably – broken down trains, family emergencies… but some simply stroll in late because they can. It’s quite distracting to have lots of heads bobbing up and down as people try to find their seats in the dark – especially when they expect the people around them to fill them in on the story so far!

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If you do arrive late, try to take your seat with the minimum of fuss – and save any questions for the interval!

Which leads neatly on to your 4th most complained about behaviour…

Number 4 – TAKING PHOTOS/FILMING THE SHOW
It’s so much more rewarding to watch the show with your actual eyes. It can also be quite a pain for the poor ushers to have to disrupt others enjoyment of the show as they try to wrestle the perpetrator to the ground…

But even that doesn’t annoy you quite as much as…

Number 3 – TEXTING/MESSAGING
When someone is texting, their whole face is illuminated. This not only annoys the hell out of everyone near the person with their phone out, it also hacks off the actors. It’s a big problem and it’s not reserved to kids – some adults who should know better are often the worst culprits!

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Some theatres taser anyone found texting or checking Facebook during the show

But even that’s not as bad as….

Number 2 – MOBILE PHONES RINGING
Very nearly the most annoying thing that can happen as Romeo is clambering up Juliet’s clematis is the loud ringing of a device that won’t even be invented for another 400 years. Many people put their phone back on at the interval and then forget to switch it off. Disaster – especially if you can’t remember where you put it! But even that is trumped by people who actually answer it!

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If your phone rings, don’t even THINK about answering!

But, there’s still one thing, even worse than any of these, that bothers you more than any other behaviour:

Number 1 – TALKING DURING THE SHOW
You’ve paid a small fortune for tickets, only to find that when the show begins, a few people near you just won’t shut up. It can be incredibly frustrating – the people you WANT to hear are on the stage. The odd comment is okay, but when it becomes a complete commentary on what’s happening, it really is time to get out your best “SHHHH!” and just hope they take the hint!

Have you ever had a truly terrible experience at a show? Add a comment and get it off your chest!

A total of 1,602 votes were cast.

Love theatre as much as we do? Have you checked out our “must-see” shows of 2017?

How to beat the Tube Strike

Many people will be avoiding Central London tomorrow, Monday 9th January, because of a 24 hour strike by Workers from the RMT and the TSSA. DON’T! Use Theatremonkey’s Day Seat Finder and make the most of the strike!

Most Zone 1 stations are likely to be closed during the action but that could be just the ticket to snaffle a bargain for often sold-out West End shows. Read more

Bad Behaviour in Theatres: What’s the worst?

We all know those moments in the Theatre that get our goat. People talking, phones going off, rude or antisocial behaviour….but what’s the one thing that makes you seethe more than any other? Let us know in our online poll. We’re looking for the top ten most annoying habits, so please share and let your friends vote too – and if we’ve missed something, please add it and we’ll include it!

You can vote more than once so don’t worry if you have more than one pet peeve.

We’d also love to hear if you’ve had a truly terrible experience or found a great or funny way to deal with annoying behaviour – leave us a comment and get it off your chest!

YOUR TOP TEN Musical Theatre Overtures EVER!

Long before mash-ups, some of the greatest composers ever to work in Musical Theatre created the perfect fusion of melody and rhythm, changing tempo, introducing themes, and combining the best bits of songs to entertain and entice audiences as they settle in for a night at the theatre.

Now, you’ve been casting your votes, humming along and tapping your toes to decide the greatest Musical Theatre Overtures ever written – and the results are in! Due to a three-way tie for tenth place, here are the TWELVE shows which made your TOP TEN Best Ever Musical Theatre Overtures:

1st Place – Gypsy
Music Jule Styne, Lyrics Stephen Sondheim

You voted the Overture for GYPSY your NUMBER ONE – and it’s easy to hear why: Although you may not hear Sondheim’s words in the overture, they somehow permeate every bar of Jule Styne’s melodious and pulsating score. Add the show’s orchestrators, Sid Ramin and Robert Ginzler to the mix, and you have the perfect recipe for an overture – and in your opinion it’s the greatest ever.

2nd Place
West Side Story
Music Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics Stephen Sondheim
Sondheim keeps turning up, doesn’t he? Again, you won’t hear his lyrics here, but you can’t really separate his words from those Bernstein melodies in your head. It does exist as an overture and featured in the film, but you won’t find it played in stage versions which makes it a slightly controversial number two in our list!

3rd Place – Candide
Music Leonard Bernstein, Primary Lyricist Richard Wilbur
It probably won’t surprise you to see Bernstein’s name appearing again – or to hear that Sondheim also wrote additional lyrics. The show may drag – the overture certainly doesn’t! Here’s the maestro himself conducting…

4th place – Phantom of the Opera
Music Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics Charles Hart & Richard Stilgoe
Despite not featuring on our original shortlist, this Lloyd Webber classic received so many votes in the “other” category that we just had to include it, although it’s not really an overture at all since it only features the title song. Not bad though, for a man who spends his life paddling around in sewers…

5th – Merrily We Roll Along
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Yes, that’s right. This time, not content with just doing the words, Stephen Sondheim thought he’d have a go at the music too. Possibly after seeing how much more money you get. We rather like this version…

6th Place – Mack & Mabel
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Eventually, more and more composers and lyricists cottoned on that if you write it all yourself, you get more money. Jerry Herman also achieved every composers dream by meeting Torville & Dean! Here they are putting his music to skating…just don’t tell Jerry they had to cut a bit of his overture out!

7th place (two way tie)
My Fair Lady
Music Alan Jay Lerner and Lyrics Frederick Loewe
My Fair Lady made a stage star of Martine McCutcheon when she took on the role of Eliza Doolittle at the National Theatre. Unfortunately, the Eastenders Actress took her character’s surname a bit too literally – which was fine until she was spotted “recuperating” at the Ivy.

South Pacific
Music Richard Rodgers & Lyrics Oscar Hammerstein II
It’s surprising not to have more Rodgers & Hammerstein shows in the top ten –  such was their dominance in Musical Theatre throughout the mid-20th Century that one wonders if they simply had all the other composers killed like Andrew Lloyd Webber did in the 1980s?

9th Place
Anything Goes
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Incredibly, Anything Goes turns 87 years old this year. It’s still as fresh as ever thanks to numerous re-writes and revivals. Had Porter not died he would be approaching 128 years old so it’s unlikely he would be writing anything as good now…thankfully he left us this.

10th Place (three way tie):
Guys & Dolls
Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Guys and Dolls is one of those great shows that allows theatre directors who have run out of other ideas still to suggest things at meetings.

Funny Girl
Music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill
Another top ten appearance for Jule Styne, who also took the top spot for Gypsy. It was recently revived and made a West End Star of understudy Natasha J Barnes.

Singin’ In The Rain
Music Nacio Herbert Brown & Lyrics Arthur Freed
The film starred Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds and is widely regarded as the greatest movie musical ever made. It also made a great stage vehicle for Tommy Steele who allegedly upset backstage staff so much that he ended up singing in far more than just rain…

You might like to check out these other shows which narrowly missed out on a top spot, but which come with a personal recommendation:

Annie, Bells Are Ringing, Carousel, Cyrano, Dear World, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Finian’s Rainbow, Fiorello, Hallelujah Baby, Irma La Douce, Jesus Christ Superstar, La Cage Aux Folles, Little Me, Mame, No No Nanette, Of Thee I Sing, On The 20th Century, Promises Promises, Sugar, The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public, The Fantasticks, The Man of La Mancha, The Music Man, The Wiz, What Makes Sammy Run, Wildcat

We’d like extend special thanks to all our facebook friends at Broadway Babylon and The Musical Theatre Appreciation Society for voting and offering up their expertise.

Love London Theatre? Check out our Must See Shows for 2017.

Review: Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol at the Lost Theatre ❅ ❅ ❅

If you love your musicals Christmassy and camp, pop on a scarf and head south to Stockwell, where a passionate group of amateur performers is taking on Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol at South London’s lovely Lost Theatre.

This Christmas Carol may not stick faithfully to the spirit of the original story, and the tunes may not be from Menken’s top drawer, but this version, with a book by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens (who also wrote the lyrics), does have an undeniable – if schmaltzy – charm. Read more