The BEST EVER overture – which show gets your vote?

“Overtures are out of style now. I miss them. It’s the show’s way of welcoming you.” The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Drowsy Chaperone’s Man in the Chair had a point. Overtures may have somewhat fallen out of favour, but they serve an important purpose – allowing the audience to settle, sweets to be unwrapped and, most important of all, to introduce the audience to the show’s musical themes; a little amuse bouche to whet the appetite before the main course arrives.

So which is your favourite overture? Vote below Read more

Review: CHRISTMAS, Theatre N16 – Don’t miss this gritty, bleak midwinter classic ★ ★ ★ ★

If the thought of “Peace, Love and Goodwill to All” fills you with horror, you just might need a trip to Balham’s Theatre N16 where Simon Stephens’ play, Christmas, puts a brutally honest, deliciously cynical twist on the holiday season.

Set in a bleak East End pub where Frank Sinatra looks down from the wall and landlord Michael (Brendan Weakliam) is up to his eyes in debt, the first punter to arrive is casual labourer Billy (Jack Bence). Billy still lives with his mum and although he thinks f**king is an adjective, his limited vocabulary still has a sardonic wit – “I couldn’t, Michael, help but notice the striking economy of your Christmas  decorations”. It’s not just the decorations that are sparse – so are the customers. Read more

Review: The Snow Queen, Theatre N16 – A tale of imagination to melt the heart ★★★★

When I was eight I remember subjecting my family to a puppet version of Cinderella, performed entirely from behind the settee. Theatre N16 have created a not dissimilar effect with their Christmas family show, The Snow Queen which runs until 22nd December. But rather than feel cheap, its home-made special effects and seemingly non-existent production budget lend it a charm so utterly beguiling that no lavish pantomime could possibly hope to compete.

Read more

What’s Your Musical Theatre Starsign?

Are you a capricious fire sign with a flair for the dramatic, or a tranquil Chiquitita with the soul of a water-bearer? Which sign is your ideal match and who should you avoid at all costs? Whether you’re Earth, Air, Fire or Water, find your birthday below and see whether 2017 is going to be high flying adored or a flash bang wallop of a year!

Darryl Van Horne (Fire)
March 21 – April 19
darryl-van-horne_fotor
Van Horne people are creative and insightful but can also be stubborn, controlling and fiery – just like this Witches of Eastwick bad boy. These horny little devils have a short fuse, but don’t take it personally – it’s just their inner fire shining through! They have an excellent sense of humour, and BOY do they know how to party!

Snog = Daisy & Violet Hilton or Donna Sheridan
Marry = Simba or Legolas
Avoid = Sandy & Ariel (and cherries, obviously…)
Prediction for 2017: We see a visit to 42nd Street, a curtain raising and many dancing feet. Possibly it’s just the queue for the ladies loo…

The Beast (Earth)
April 20 – May 20
beast_fotor
Being a Beast is all about strength, stamina and will. Stubborn as hell, the Beast will stand his or her ground to the bitter end but it’s okay because Beasts are also loving, sympathetic and kind. Beasts are patient listeners, great at putting up shelves, and make wonderful teachers. Although occasionally selfish, they are always generous with their time and happy to share their crockery.

Snog = Sebastian or Ariel
Marry = Sandy or Dr Dillamond
Avoid = Daisy & Violet Hilton & Legolas
Prediction for 2017: On a visit to Aladdin, you’ll meet a tall, dark stranger. It could spell romance – or might just be an usher with an ice cream trolley.

Daisy & Violet Hilton (Air)
May 21 – June 20
daisy-violet_fotor
Adaptable, balanced and versatile, Siamese twins are quick to understand and adapt to any situation. They can be tough to predict and may turn from hot to cold in a twinkling. Imaginative and affectionate, they also inspire others and are great self-starters. Their charisma is infectious – just watch out for the mood-swings!

Snog = Darryl Van Horne or Simba
Marry = Mary Sunshine or Donna Sheridan
Avoid = Beast, Sebastian, Aurora & Ariel
Prediction for 2017: Whilst trying to go your separate ways at Les Mis, you get your knickers in a twist and become entangled with the French Resistance.

Sebastian (Water)
June 21 – July 22
sebastian_fotor
Crustacea love home-life, family and being under the sea. Sea creatures are ruled by tides and are often a bit to-and-fro and can be crabby. Quite conservative, they’ll often hide their true feelings and have a reputation for being fickle. Sebastians make loyal, sympathetic friends but may withdraw into their shell and when they retreat, let them be.

Snog = Beast, Sandy or Dr Dillamond
Marry = Aurora or Ariel
Avoid = Daisy & Violet Hilton & Mary Sunshine
Prediction for 2017: Whilst in the day seat queue for Wicked, you catch the eye of an exotic stranger and spend the rest of the day comparing limpets.

Simba (Fire)
July 23 – August 22

simba_fotorSimbas are all about expanse, power and exuberance. Simbas are natural leaders with a tendency to be high-minded and vocal about their opinions. Simbas are brave, intuitive, head-strong and willful…but beneath their impressive mane of hair lies a generous, loving, sensitive nature that they do not easily share with others.

Snog = Daisy & Violet Hilton & Mary Sunshine
Marry = Darryl Van Horne or Legolas
Avoid = Sandy
Prediction for 2017: Following an evil uncle’s advice, you decide to go and see Cats. At the theatre, your tail gets caught in a revolving door, leading to a whirlwind romance.

Sandy (Earth)
August 23 – September 22
sandy_fotorSandys are chatty, inquisitive and gossipy. They are naturally intuitive, have remarkable memories, and advanced, analytical personalities. Sandys needs balance in their lives otherwise they may become short-tempered, impatient and selfish. Sandys are excellent teammates and work well with other pink ladies.

Snog = Sebastian & Aurora
Marry = Beast & Dr Dillamond
Avoid = Darryl Van Horne, Simba & Legolas
Prediction for 2017: Following a trip to Motown, you decide you need a complete new look – less like Dana and more like Diana Ross.

Mary Sunshine (Air)
September 23 – October 22
mary-sunshine_fotor
Mary Sunshines are all about balance, justice, and equality. They like to see the good in everyone and with Venus as their ruling planet, are understanding, caring, and often the champion of underdogs. They can be quiet and shy but in spite of an introverted nature they make excellent debaters, and intuitive problem solvers.

Snog = Simba or Legolas
Marry = Daisy & Violet Hilton or Donna Sheridan
Avoid = Sebastian
Prediction for 2017: After an embarrassing incident with a full-body scanner at Heathrow Airport, you decide to calm down with a trip to Chicago – rumoured to be flying back in 2017.

Aurora (Water)
October 23 – November 21
aurora_fotor
Aurora is beautiful but often misunderstood. Bold and capable of spinning massive webs with a cool, calm confidence. Despite their glamour, they are often secretive, but they are always observing from a dark corner of their web. Aurora can be argumentative and pack a powerful sting, but that’s all part of the game.

Snog = Sandy, Dr Dillamond
Marry = Sebastian, Ariel
Avoid = Daisy & Violet Hilton
Prediction for 2017: After a spinning accident, your home-made silk blouse is ruined. Cheer yourself up by visiting Kinky Boots to look at the lovely costumes.

Legolas (Fire)
November 22 – December 21
legolas_fotor
Legolas is the great philosopher of zodiac signs. They have a great ability for focus, and can be very intense. They are not very patient and get annoyed if they miss the target first time. However, when faced with failure they can make comebacks often against incredible odds. They make loyal friends and lovers, but may fear commitment.

Snog = Mary Sunshine or Donna Sheridan
Marry = Darryl Van Horne or Simba
Avoid = Beast, Sandy & Dr Dillamond
Prediction for 2017: Upon arrival at Mamma Mia, your bow is confiscated by security. Whatever were you thinking, taking a crossbow to the theatre?

Dr Dillamond (Earth)
December 22 – January 19
dillamond_fotor
Dillamonds are philosophical and highly intellectual. They apply their knowledge to practical matters, and strive to maintain stability and order. They are very intuitive, but often hide their light under a bushel. They are patient and determined with broad shoulders, and would rather tackle others’ problems than their own.

Snog = Sebastian, Aurora or Ariel
Marry = Beast or Sandy
Avoid = Legolas
Prediction for 2017: A trip to see Hamilton turns into a comedy of errors when the lady behind can’t see past your horns. You might want to book a box next time.

Donna Sheridan (Air)
January 20 – February 18
donna_fotor
Donnas (not to be confused with the kebab) go about accomplishing goals in quiet, often unorthodox ways, but their methods are surprisingly effective. Donnas will take up any cause, and are humanitarians of the zodiac.  They are honest, loyal and easy going and make natural friendships. Donnas can be prone to laziness but are often artistic and poetic.

Snog = Darryl Van Horne & Legolas
Marry = Daisy & Violet Hilton or Mary Sunshine – but pretty much anyone will do
Avoid = You are so lovely you get on (and off) with almost everybody
Prediction for 2017: A trip to see Mamma Mia ends in chaos when you discover your tickets are triple-booked…and all of them may be the father!

Ariel (Water)
February 19 – March 20
ariel_fotor

Mermaids have fantastic general knowledge, and love their gadgets and gizmos. They keep an extremely low profile, are honest, unselfish and trustworthy. They can be overcautious and are sometimes gullible but in the end, Ariels often succeed through sheer determination. They are especially protective of friends and family.

Snog = Beast & Dr Dillamond
Marry = Sebastian or Aurora
Avoid = Darryl Van Horne & Daisy & Violet Hilton
Prediction for 2017: Take the plunge and try out a blind date! Nothing quite says “I am a strong, confident mermaid” like a first date at Beautiful!

Think you know your musical theatre? Test your Musical Theatre IQ with our Anagram quiz!

Christmas Crackers: Nudity, Burlesque and Potted Dick

Thrills, stockings, drag queens and swingers – Christmas in London never disappoints and this year along with the traditional treats, there are some real crackers to chase the winter blues away.

So while the wine is mulling, the goose is getting fat and the halls are decked with boughs of holly, it’s high time y’all get yourselves into the wonderful West End – here are our top tinselly tips for a Rocking Yule and an unforgettable Xmas! Read more

‘I Just Want Mulled Cider Dammit!’ | Winter Wonderland Adventure.

Here’s a fantastic little post about how to get the very most out of a trip to Winter Wonderland! We’re really enjoying a day spent stalking out favourite bloggers 🙂

The Clumsy Koi Carp

Yeah, we did that Brit thing and went to Winter Wonderland because we enjoy getting drunk on over priced alcohol in a forced fun atmosphere.

Ok, so it was only a little over priced and the fun wasn’t forced, that was genuine. It was a beautifully festive day, surrounded by happiness and friendship, with sunshine and a crisp chill in the air (which allowed for my tartan scarf and big, square, tortoise shell sunnies for extra sass).

Processed with VSCO with g3 preset

The three essential things I found to make your trip to Winter Wonderland as stress free as possible are:

A) leave enough time to get about and explore.

B) go with good company.

C) go in the mind that you will end up spending, so budget accordingly.


We got into town at about 3pm, which left us plenty of time to wander about and adventure through China Town in search of bubble tea. We…

View original post 936 more words

Our favourite Bloggers: Travels of Adam

We’re always on the lookout for great new blogs – especially when they come with a personal recommendation for cultural pursuits. One of our favourite recent discoveries are the Travels of Adam’s City Guides and coolest cultural things to do around the world.

Travels of Adam: A man with a taste for travel
Travels of Adam: A man with a taste for travel

In 2010, Adam quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and went on a trip around the world. Since 2011 he’s been living in Berlin—Europe’s most hipster city, and somewhere he describes as “probably the best place in the world”.

Times Square - Broadway shows don't come cheap, so save your dollars where you can!
Times Square – Broadway shows don’t come cheap, so save your dollars where you can!

Something that’s sure to be of interest to theatregoers, is Adam’s excellent guide to NYC on a budget. As Adam says:

“Whether it’s in Williamsburg—the birthplace of hipster culture or good old Manhattan art, there’s just so much cool alternative free things to do and see. While its’ incredible size, population and diversity make it—quite frankly—an overwhelming place to visit, there are a handful of ways to make a visit to NYC much easier—and cheaper!”

free-moma-nyc-1793

Adam’s top tips include how to get cheap or free admission to museums (unlike London, most charge entry), how to eat on the cheap, where to walk, which parks to visit for great farmer’s markets (and maybe even see Madonna for free!) plus, most crucially, how to find somewhere affordable to stay.

budget-berlin

Hopping across the Atlantic, Adam’s also written a terrific guide for visitors to his favourite city of Berlin that’s equally useful whether it’s your first visit or you’ve already fallen in love with one of Europe’s most bohemian and creative cities.

hamburger-bahnhof

Packed full of tips on where to get great beer, enjoy “Street Food Thursday” or do fun Touristy stuff, I wish I’d had this to hand the first time I arrived in this amazing city – once home to Christopher Isherwood whose work inspired the musical Cabaret.

The always popular Bearpit Karaoke at Mauer Park on Sunday afternoons – The happiest place to be in Berlin
The always popular Bearpit Karaoke at Mauer Park on Sunday afternoons – The happiest place to be in Berlin

So if the thought of getting away from it all has ignited your wanderlust, check out some of the quirky, unique and downright hip hotels Adam’s found to stay around the globe. Remember, you’ve got the world at your feet and these boots are made for walking!

You can follow Adam here via the Travels of Adam blog.

Want to beat those winter blues? Check out our feature 12 of the world’s most incredible Open Air theatres and get inspired for summer 2017!

REVIEW: Peter Pan (National Theatre) ★★★★

It’s always great to read a really well written, fair and balanced review. I now really REALLY want to see this!

The Mortal Fool

A refreshing, creative take on a much-loved classic tale is brought to the National Theatre; a perfect show for children and adults alike.

Peter Pan is a story which is ingrained in everyone’s childhood. We all know the adventures of the ‘Boy Who Never Grew Up’, his fights with pirates, teaching Wendy to fly, and of course his fairy-partner Tinkerbell. But with such a classic tale which is constantly iterated in pantomimes, films, and television shows – how can it be made different and stand out?

This co-production with Bristol Old Vic centres the story firmly around the idea of motherhood; a prevalent theme in the story, anyway, and really zooms in on this by casting Captain Hook as a female (Anna Francolini). Francolini, in her large gothic skirt get-up complete with hat and hook, is pretty scary as Hook. She is threatening, licking her bared gold teeth at…

View original post 724 more words

Scenes From the End: Tristan Bates Theatre from 6-10 December

Scenes From the End is a powerful solo opera starring the virtuosic Héloïse Werner. Described by Classic FM as “extraordinary” we were dying to know more about this gifted performer, so we met Héloïse to delve deeper into the highly unusual world of opera-for-one, and discovered a truly unique talent with a flair for the dramatic and a gift for communication.

Hi Héloïse. How would you describe your style of performance? Read more

Review – Buried Child: A chilling deconstruction of the American dream ★★★★★

When Sam Shepard’s Buried Child premiered in the US in 1978 it propelled him to national celebrity. New Group’s towering new production now arrives at The Trafalgar Studios from an acclaimed Off-Broadway run and feels as important and shocking today as it must have done nearly 40 years ago. Read more

Meet the cast of This House  – Whips, Punch-ups and Hard Brexits

Will Brexit boost or break West End shows? Would This House characters have voted Trump or Clinton? Who secretly wants to date Chukka Umunna? Read our Q&A with the cast of the West End’s top political drama This House as the stars reveal all!

This House previously played two sell-out runs at the National Theatre, and received unprecedented critical praise. Set between the fateful years of 1974 and 1979 with fist fights in Parliament and Labour facing a vote of no confidence, This House strikes a chord today as we once again lurch from crisis to political crisis.

This House is directed by Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things) and written by James Graham (The Vote at the Donmar Warehouse and Channel 4’s Coalition). Graham’s play Privacy is set to open in New York, starring Daniel Radcliffe.

Giles Taylor (The Members Chorus)
Speaker 1, Sergeant 2, West Lothian and Ensemble

Giles Taylor
Giles Taylor – The Members Chorus

What was your first professional job?
Aladdin at the Thameside Theatre, Grays

This House deals with party politics in the 1970s. Do you think parliament is a very different place today?
I think it is filled with far more careerist politicians now, out for their own personal gain. In the 1970s MPs really believed their party’s policies and felt passionately about them.

If your character could vote in the US election, do you think they would have voted for Clinton or Trump?
Clinton

How do you think the Brexit vote will affect West End Theatres?
I hope it will mean that punters reach for theatre either for escapism or to reflect their own fears and insecurities in this uncertain age, and to reconnect with their humanity.

In a single sentence, why do you think audiences love This House?
I think they are surprised by how entertaining it is, when they expect a dry, political drama.

Can you name your own MP (without using google!)?
Catherine West

Politics is often described as show-business for ugly people. If you HAD to go on a date with a politician, who would you choose and where would you go?
Chuka Umunna – and we’d go to see This House, of course! 

David Hounslow (Joe Harper)

David Hounslow
David Hounslow – Joe Harper

What was your first professional job?
Soldier, served seven years in the Royal Corps of Signals

If you were standing for parliament, what would your manifesto promise be?
A huge social housing building program.

Would your character have voted for Clinton or Trump?
Clinton

How do you think the Brexit vote will affect West End Theatres?
In the medium term could see a slight dip in European numbers but will recover.

In a single sentence, why do you think audiences love This House?
The outstanding writing, fast paced, funny and moving.

Can you name your own MP (without using google!)?
Chuka Umunna

Politics is often described as show-business for ugly people. If you HAD to go on a date with a politician, who would you choose and where would you go?
Dennis Skinner and take him to Brasserie Zedel!

Malcolm Sinclair: Humphrey Atkins

Malcolm Sinclair (Humphrey Atkins)
Malcolm Sinclair – Humphrey Atkins

If you were standing for parliament, what would your manifesto promise be?
There IS such a thing as Society.

This House deals with party politics in the 1970s. Do you think parliament is a very different place today?
Somewhat different. Class divisions are less obvious.

Would your character have voted for Clinton or Trump?
Clinton, reluctantly

How do you think the Brexit vote will affect West End Theatres?
Badly.

In a single sentence, why do you think audiences love This House?
In the form of a brilliant comedy thriller, it tells a wonderful story, which surprises us with its relevance.

Can you name your own MP (without using google!)?
Jim MacPatrick?

Christopher Godwin: The Members Chorus
Batley, Woolwich West, Belfast North, Western Isles and Ensemble

Christopher Godwin
Christopher Godwin – The Members Chorus

If you were standing for parliament, what would your manifesto promise be?
To make sure funding for the Arts and Music in schools is kept up. The Arts keep a culture healthy.

This House deals with party politics in the 1970s. Do you think parliament is a very different place today?
I do think Parliament is different. MPs have become more career focused and less ideological and altruistic.

Would your character have voted for Clinton or Trump?
Definitely not Trump. It would have to be Clinton. Not an ideal choice but a damn sight better than the demagogue they’ve elected.

How do you think the Brexit vote will affect West End Theatres?
It could go either way. The weak pound may encourage visitors from abroad which would favour Musicals mostly, I suppose. It will make it more difficult for straight plays. If the funding for Theatre gets cut any more the long term effect will be a diminution of quality and it will be harder to get a proper fee. 

If you HAD to go on a date with a politician, who would you choose and where would you go?
I would choose Tracy Brabin who’s just been elected MP for Batley. She’s taken over from Jo Cox, so tragically murdered in June, and is now representing the Doc’s old constituency.

In a single sentence, why do you think audiences love This House?
The opportunity to peep behind the scenes of Parliament is irresistible, and thanks to James (the show’s writer), it’s all true!

Buy tickets now for This House at the Garrick Theatre – booking until February 25th 2017. Performances are at 7:30pm every day excluding Sundays, with matinees on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at 2:30pm.

Running time 2 hours and 55 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.

Casting includes Phil Daniels (Les Miserables, EastEnders), Nathaniel Parker (Wolf Hall), Steffan Rhodri (The Mentalists, Harry Potter), Kevin Doyle (Downton Abbey) as Michael Cocks, Malcolm Sinclair as Humphrey Atkins, Sarah Woodward as Lady Batley, David Hounslow as Joe Harper, Ed Hughes as Fred Silvester and Lauren O’Neil (Silent Witness, Midsomer Murders) as Ann Taylor. Further cast members include Christopher Godwin, Peter Landi, Matthew Pidgeon, Tony Turner, Giles Taylor and Orlando Wells.

This House is recommended for ages 14 and up.

Passionate about your favourite show? Check out our run-down of the best online theatre forums and join the debate!

Stepping Out with Angela Griffin and Tracy-Ann Oberman

Stepping Out charts the lives of seven women and one man who, once a week, try to tap their troubles away in a dance class. Fame beckons when the group is asked to take part in a charity gala but there’s only one problem…they’ve all got two left feet. Over the course of several months of rehearsal, we get to know the group with all their quirks and neuroses; Perfectionist Vera, gobby Maxine, uptight Andy, bubbly Sylvia, shy Dorothy, eager Lynne, cheerful Rose – and not forgetting Geoffrey!

Stepping Out won the Evening Standard Comedy of the Year Award, 1984 and was also made into a musical which became a film in 1991, starring Julie Walters and Liza Minnelli. Prior to the show’s West End return in March, we took a moment out of their pre-London tour with two of the stars of this wonderful, heart-warming comedy – Angela Griffin (Waterloo Road, One Man Two Guv’nors) and Tracy-Ann Oberman (Eastenders, New Tricks):

Tracy Ann Oberman as Maxine
Tracy-Ann Oberman as Maxine

Hi Tracy-Ann. Did you have to take any special dance classes for Stepping Out or could you tap already?

I’ve never danced a step of tap in my life. I was in a play at Royal Exchange Manchester and a lovely tap teacher called Daniel came and showed me a few basic moves pre rehearsal.

If you could “step out” on a date with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Mel Brookes – so we could re-enact scenes from Young Frankenstein, The Producers and Blazing Saddles. Love that man!

Tracy-Ann Oberman cuts a dash
Tracy-Ann Oberman cuts a dash in top hat and tails

Which dancer do you most admire?

Matthew Bourne. Oh and Isadora Duncan (the scarf thing).

The show was written in 1984 with only one man to seven women in the class – do you think plays like Stepping Out and shows like Strictly have changed that?

Yes. It’s become Postmodern mainstream and almost cool! Look at Aljaž Škorjanec on Strictly. Who wouldn’t want to be him!?

Who wouldn't want to be Al
Who wouldn’t want to be Aljaz Skorjanec!?

Do you have any superstitions when performing?

None it’s a load of twaddle.

If Stepping Out was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?

Paris-Brest.

Anyone for a slice of Paris-Brest?
Anyone for a slice of Paris-Brest?

If you could master one skill that you don’t have already, what would it be?

To sleep for eight hours solid. And wake up refreshed.

Angela Griffin as
Angela Griffin (Sylvia)

Hi Angela! Did you have to take any special dance classes for Stepping Out or could you tap already?

I wasn’t able to tap, so i booked my daughters dance teacher to give me 6 hours of lessons before we started rehearsing and hired a community centre hall to practise in.

If you could “step out” on a date with anyone, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

I would step out with my husband at this moment in time, because I’ve barely seen him whilst being on tour… but if he was busy I’d give Ryan Gosling a tinkle.

Who needs Ryan Gosling when your hubby looks like this?
Who needs Ryan Gosling when your hubby looks like this?

Stepping Out was written in 1984 with only one man to seven women in the class – do you think plays like Stepping Out and shows like Strictly have changed that?

I still think that women dominate when it comes to local dance classes.

During rehearsals, lots of things go wrong. What’s been your own worst on-stage disaster?

I’ve had so many!!! I’ve smashed glasses, had my chicken fillet boobs come flying out…. and a classic on this tour is when I came off stage and thought it was a costume change, only to realise when I was half dressed that my cue line had just been said on stage and I had to run on (very late) dressed in the wrong costume.

Angela steps out in style
Angela steps out in style

Do you have any superstitions when performing?

I try not to.

If Stepping Out was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?

Gin cake!

Gin Cake - make ours a double!
Gin Cake – make ours a double!

If you could master one skill that you don’t have already, what would it be?

I would love to speak another language.

Book tickets today for Stepping Out at the Vaudeville Theatre
Vaudeville Theatre
404 Strand
London WC2R 0NH

From 1st March 2017 to 18th June 2017

Cast Includes AMANDA HOLDEN | ANGELA GRIFFIN | TRACY-ANN OBERMAN | TAMZIN OUTHWAITE | NICOLA STEPHENSON

Please note: Amanda Holden will not appear from 29 May – 3 June.

Running time: TBC

Can’t get enough of the West End’s biggest stars? Read our interview with West End heartthrob Michael Xavier.

Pre-London Review: The Wind in the Willows

The Wind in the Willows is the latest collaboration between Julian Fellowes (book) and song-writing team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Their adaptation of Half a Sixpence is enjoying rave review in the West End, and George and Anthony are no strangers to creating hit shows for the whole family to enjoy having previously won an Olivier Award for Honk! (which famously beat The Lion King to the top honours) and also written new songs for Mary Poppins.

Rufus Hound and Lord Julian Fellowes (c) www.windinthewillowsthemusical.com
Rufus Hound and Lord Julian Fellowes (c) http://www.windinthewillowsthemusical.com

The Wind in the Willows starts promisingly with company number Spring, its richly layered harmonies making full use of the large cast (and bearing more than a passing similarity to Riverdance). Read more

Discover Your Identity in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Do you have powers of a Jedi? Are you called to the Dark Side? Star Wars Identities is a ground-breaking exhibition exploring the complex notion of identity through the characters of Star Wars. Visitors are taken on an interactive identity quest and leave with their own personalised, unique Star Wars Character.

Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]

We took the journey through the galaxies to the O2 to discover whether we were Sith or Wookie…and it came as no surprise to learn that we were complete baddies! The very good news is that Star Wars Identities runs until 3rd September 2017 and it’s really easy to find. If you haven’t been to the O2 before, it’s easy to access by tube – exit at North Greenwich station on the Jubilee line and follow the signs – you can’t miss it! You can also take the frequent Thames Clippers from central London which is brilliant fun. There are a huge range of restaurants and bars both around and within the O2, so you’ll have an amazing time whatever the weather.

Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
The exhibition was developed and produced by Montreal’s X3 Productions in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd and uses an extensive archive collection from the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. If you’re not a huge Star Wars fan, fear not – the exhibition is hugely entertaining with narration throughout and even if you’ve never seen the films there’s plenty to keep you engaged and entertained.

Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
As you enter, you’ll be given a head-set and armlet and then be guided through into a darkened lobby. It’s worth mentioning a couple of things:

  • Make sure your headset is working – if you do have any problems, ask staff for a replacement as you’ll get far more out of the exhibition.
  • Watch the optional video before you head inside – again it ensures you get the most out of your visit.
  • When choosing names & options for your characters, choose wisely! We tried to change ours but our first choices seemed to stick!

Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities divides the concept of who we are into three major themes:

  1. Origin
  2. Influences
  3. Choices

As you travel around the exhibition, you’ll see blue “hearing” symbols on the floor – they’re the best places to stand for optimum listening on headsets. Really, do use them – they help a lot! You’ll get to choose ten components of your character’s identity:

Species
Genes
Parents
Culture
Mentors
Friends
Events
Occupations
Personality
Values

As you’re making your choices, you’ll be guided through a complete multimedia experience and some of the most incredible costumes, props and models from the Star Wars films. Face down Darth Vader, meet Yoda and Chewbacca and get up close and personal with R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Choose your friends carefully - there are opportunities at every turn
Choose your friends carefully – there are opportunities at every turn

The exclusive Lucasfilm collection covers the entire Star Wars saga, the first and second trilogies, the animate Clone Wars and television series. The exhibition is open to all ages. After visiting, everyone will know what forces inhabit them and which hero or villain they identify with.

Expect your visit to last between 1 and 2 hours

Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Star Wars Identities at the o2 [Photography Niall Palmer]
Opening Hours
10.00 – last ticket entry 18.00 (slots are every 15 minutes)

You can buy tickets now for Star Wars Identities

Looking for inspiration for other family entertainment? Check out our top tips for family theatre-going in London’s West End.

On Stage Disasters: When Peter Pan Goes REALLY Wrong!

On-stage calamities, trips into space and a French bulldog hidden in a handbag – no two days are the same for the cast of Peter Pan Goes Wrong. We asked the stars of the hit West End comedy, Harry Kershaw, Bailey Patrick and Bryony Corrigan to share their real-life disasters and tell us what makes them laugh their tights off:

Hi Harry, Bailey and Bryony! Peter Pan never grew up…can you think of one thing that you never grew out of?

Harry: As a child I bumped into things by mistake quite a lot. Sadly I haven’t grown out of that!
Bailey: Being excited about everything and anything. I still struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve or the day before I go on holiday and get pretty excitable around a swimming pool.
Bryony: Biting my nails. Unfortunately, Horrid habit.

There are some things you just never grow out of...
Are there some things you just never grow out of? Arrrr matey!

What’s the worst thing that’s gone wrong in Peter Pan Goes Wrong that shouldn’t…and did anybody notice?

Harry: There were two days of carnage during previews here at the Apollo. On the first day Bailey (who plays Trevor) and I collided with each other and my hook (which is heavy and metal) smashed into his face. He had a massive bruise on his face for some time but was back on stage the next day because he’s an absolute tank.
Bailey: I was hit in the eye with Captain Hook’s hook but covered it up with a bandage that I was wearing during the last 5 mins of the show and managed to make it through to the end using one eye whilst negotiating a spinning stage, catching Wendy, putting out a fire and unclipping Peter Pan. Members of the cast didn’t even notice until I disappeared rather sharpish just before the curtain call to A&E…
Bryony: It looked like an old school horror the way the blood had splattered. I think the audience thought it was just fake red blood…fortunately Bailey is fine now!!!!  

Watch that man - he's got a mean right hook!
Watch that man – he’s got a mean right hook!

If you could fly like Tinkerbell, where would you most like to go?

Harry: I’d watch the northern lights.
Bailey: I’d spend most of my time overlooking my beautiful city – London.
Bryony: I’d fly up to the solar system to look at the planets and stars!

If you could fly anywhere, where would you go?
If you could fly anywhere, where would you go?

What’s your favourite scene in the show?

Harry: I particularly like the parts of the show which are different every night. The audience really are an extra character in this show and that’s very fun to play with. Any of the scenes which are painful for Chris are great… So most of the show!
Bailey: It’s very difficult to answer that without spoiling the surprises and because I have so many favourite scenes in the show. However, I find it very hard to keep a straight face when Captain Hook and the pirates are all on stage together – especially the conversation between Hook, Cecco and Percy.
Bryony: Harry as Captain Hook has a scene on his own where he often ends up interacting with the audience. It’s hilarious and great for us to listen to as the cast as it is one of the parts that is truly different every night.

Bailey Patrick, Harry Kershaw and Bryony Corrigan
Bailey Patrick, Harry Kershaw and Bryony Corrigan

If you went to Neverland, what’s the one thing you’d take from home that you just couldn’t live without?

Harry: Contact lenses.
Bailey: My girlfriend and my French bulldog Alfie hidden in her bag. They both come everywhere with me and always have me in fits of laughter and make me smile every day.
Bryony: I have a sheet like a small blanket that I’ve had since I was little for bed. Probably that. Yeah, I should probably do some growing up too.

Who's afraid of the big bad...er...terrifying...crocodile?
Who’s afraid of the big bad…er…terrifying…crocodile?

Captain Hook was afraid of a crocodile. What are your phobias?

Harry: 
I get very nervous of standing too close to the yellow line at tube stations. If somebody is standing too close to the track I hate it.
Bailey: I don’t really have any, although I’m not particularly keen on snakes.
Bryony: Spiders – isn’t everyone?

Apart from Peter Pan (obviously!) what was your favourite story or book as a child?

Harry:
My grandfather used to read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ on Christmas Eve every year to all the family. I would hold a candle. It was excellent.
Bailey: Peter Pan was and still is my favourite. If I had to pick another I’d have to say Robin Hood.
Bryony: Green Eggs and Ham. Dr Seuss!!!! (“I do not like it Sam I Am”)

If I wear black, they'll never see me!
If I wear black, they’ll never see me!

Who should someone bring with them to see the show?

Harry:
I think it would make a brilliant date. If you enjoy watching people fall over you’ll have a great night. It’s a great alternative Christmas show.
Bailey: It’s been so skillfully written that the adults laugh and cry just as much as the children and are often even more enthusiastic to get involved with the mayhem. We’ve all been in situations where things go from bad to worse: It’s watching how the characters deal with these constant mishaps and push through their pains to ensure they finish the show that produces such face ache for the audience who always have such huge smiles on their faces as they leave.
Bryony: My grandparents come and love it, my 6-year-old cousins come and love it…anyone who has done amateur theatre or watched an amateur production or even a professional production where something has gone wrong. It’s a silly Christmas Bonanza completely driven by the heart!

“JOYFUL DISASTERS FROM COMEDY MASTERS. GORGEOUS!” Libby Purves, BBC Radio 4

“RIDICULOUSLY FUNNY” Peter Kay

You can book tickets here for Peter Pan Goes Wrong
Apollo Theatre
Until 29 January 2017

footer-logo

Looking for perfect shows for any age? Check out our handy hints for taking kids to the theatre this Christmas!

Review: Half A Sixpence – Plenty of flash but not much chemistry ★★★

There is a gentle elegance to Half a Sixpence, the latest retelling of H G Wells Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul, which American tourists will adore. It has oh-so British charm by the bucket and spade and leading man Charlie Stemp truly deserves every plaudit heaped upon him following the show’s out-of-town reviews in Chichester.

Read more

Review: School of Rock – 7/10 see me

School Report – Autumn Term 2016

Dear Mr & Mrs Lloyd Webber

Thank you for asking for an update on Andrew’s progress this term. Andrew is an extremely capable pupil and clearly enjoys the movie “School of Rock”, so we were very pleased when he decided to adapt it for the stage as his most recent school project. The whole school had very much enjoyed his earlier projects The Phantom of the Opera and also the one about the cats. Read more

A brilliant new farce: Curl Up & Die by Anna Longaretti

When Ruth inherits her Aunt’s hair salon, she gets more than she bargained for: Belligerent blue-rinsers demanding their weekly shampoo & set, an untimely visit from Health and Safety and a snooty judge from FAB HAIR all pale into insignificance with the discovery of a dead body under the drier!   Read more

Review: Playwright Lucy Burke delivers a darkly moving Glitter Punch ★★★★

 

4star

Every now and then I spend a night at the theatre that allows me to feel I’ve discovered something extraordinary. Lucy Burke’s challenging new play Glitter Punch is just such an experience. Theatre N16, having moved south of the river to Balham, was the most recent residence for the play and the sounds of a salsa class below and passing trains were soon forgotten as the stars aligned to reveal the raw, affecting and thought-provoking story of 16-year-old college student Molly who embarks on an ill-fated relationship with college tutor, John.

Glitter Punch has already enjoyed sellout shows in Edinburgh – now Some Riot Theatre brings this brutally honest tale of forbidden love to a series of London venues.

John (Hadley Smith) and Molly (Hannah Lawrence)
John (Hadley Smith) and Molly (Hannah Lawrence)

Lucy Burke is a playwright who understands how to play with language – revealing her characters’ inner thoughts through a combination of staccato rapid-fire monologues and sparse brooding silences.

Molly (Hannah Lawrence) first encounters tutor John (Hadley Smith) at her Salford college whilst both are smoking outside. Her observation that he is wearing “actual shoe” shoes betrays her immaturity as much as her social immobility. Her vocabulary is limited and her emotions often strangled by a seeming inability to pause for breath. She appears acutely aware of her own shortcomings and her self-deprecating put-downs are used as a form of self-harm designed to make attacks from others seem less painful. “I’m shit with words and my tits are too small” becomes her mantra.

Hannah Lawrence [Photo: Michael Shelford]
Hannah Lawrence [Photo: Michael Shelford]
It would be easy to over-play someone like Molly as Salford’s answer to Vicky Pollard, but Hannah Lawrence’s performance instead soars intelligently, searching for the truth in the text and imbuing Molly with a porcelain vulnerability.

Hadley Smith has a highly challenging role to play as John: Limited dialogue (I only counted a few lines throughout the hour-long performance) offers him little to hang a characterisation upon but rather than allowing this to restrict his performance in this uneven two-hander, Smith, instead, offers up an enigmatic performance and brings an aching depth to the role of a college tutor coping with bereavement.

Hadley Smith as John
Hadley Smith as John

Romance blossoms over cigarettes and a shared vulnerability – John’s father only recently died and it seems that college is the only reliable constant in Molly’s near-feral existence. Courtship is secretive at first, conducted almost entirely in John’s car and flat. Molly’s sexual awakening is awkward, with a scene reminiscent of Carrie at counterpoint to discussion of favourite colours and Friends characters. Whilst their relationship is entirely consensual, there is always the nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right. This is less Educating Rita, more the grim everyday reality of a girl escaping life with a mother who makes terrible choices and a step-father who often leaves them sleeping in cars.

John’s effect on Molly is transformational – as she says, it’s “like he has marked me but in a good way not like a cat pissing on a tree or chlamydia” but for every bleakly funny line, there is also a profound sense of humanity to Burke’s writing. When Molly finds pills by John’s bedside his explanation is characteristically simple – “I felt very empty”. His description of grief as like losing a tooth – you can still eat but your tongue keeps going back to the hole left behind – is heartfelt.

Theatre N16 in its current home at the Bedford, Balham
Theatre N16 in its current home at the Bedford, Balham

Glitter Punch is gritty and honest and if you want a chance to see two gifted young actors who are destined for great things then I’d urge you not to miss this production. Credit is also due to Peter Taylor’s direction, which allows the play to inspire – with the actors literally breathing their way in and out of each scene.

Every ounce of drama is extracted from Burke’s script and brought to life in technicolor through Taylor’s direction and Lawrence’s outstanding central performance. It would be interesting to see the play (which is only an hour long) extend to allow both actors to play other roles – from “Steve the Dosser” to Molly’s mother’s friend offering her cocaine in the loos at The Horse and Jockey.

Glitter Punch – no frills just thrillingly good theatre

The show, though, is not unrelentingly downbeat. A visit to the beach at dawn is powerfully symbolic of light entering two broken lives, and there are frequent laughs delivered through the sometimes bawdy script “He could fart the alphabet and I’d still love him.”

The final scenes of the play are deeply touching and will best remain a secret as they contain the twists which truly mark out Glitter Punch as a great play by a remarkable new writer. The subject matter will no doubt provoke debate for audiences, but Burke never moralises, instead choosing simply to present the case of a student-teacher relationship and to allow the audience to form its own opinion of a society where 16 years of failure by adults continues unchecked but a relationship with another adult is utterly condemned.

Lucy Burke: the future of British Theatre looks bright
Lucy Burke: the future of British Theatre looks bright

This play has a bright future. If I have one critical observation it’s that in its current form it’s possibly geared more for the screen than the stage – but then I would have missed some of the finest acting I’ve seen on stage all year and felt that Theatre was losing a great writing talent to the world of Film & Television – which really would be criminal.

Glitter Punch
Reviewed 9 November 2016 at Theatre N16
From 21-25 November at The Lion and Unicorn Theatre in Kentish Town.
Buy Glitter Punch tickets here

Listen to Lucy Burke’s interview on Wandsworth Radio on Soundcloud
Visit Some Riot Theatre on Facebook
Follow Some Riot Theatre on Twitter
#glitterpunch
#supportnewwriting

How to choose the Perfect Show for Kids (by Age)

Does the thought of tantrums, tears and ticket prices put you off taking kids to the theatre? Wondering which shows will suit different ages? We’ve put together a handy guide to theatre-going for kids from 0-99, as well as a few top tips to help you get the most out of a family trip to the West End.

top_tips_v_variation_2

 

  • Be in control
    Gauge how much your child can handle – some shows can be a bit scary for very young children. Bear in mind that many West End (and regional) shows have a minimum age limit, but don’t be put off – there are plenty of great shows even for the very youngest theatre-goer.
  • Babes in arms
    Occasionally a theatre many adopt a “babes in arms” policy, where a very young child/baby may be able to share your seat. The norm is that everyone needs their own ticket, and only shows specifically aimed at very young children will admit babes in arms – we definitely advise that you check before you book.
  • Getting there
    Plan your journey. It’s a great idea to allow children to help with this, tell them what transport you’ll use, how many stops etc so that it’s all part of the day out.
  • Before the show starts
    With their full attention (I know, as if!) explain that everyone will be sitting still for a long time and that they will need to use the toilet before the show can start…even if they are adamant they don’t need to go!
  • Setting the scene
    Discuss what might happen in the auditorium. Explain that some of the characters may do funny or scary things, and there might be bright lights or music or loud noise but it’s okay because you are with them.
  • Don’t fall foul of merchandising!
    Decide what you can afford before you go. If you have bottomless pockets that’s great, but many theatres will allow you to take in your own sweets/drinks if you’re discrete and you’ll save a small fortune in the process. If you’re going to a panto, the pressure to buy show merchandise can be overwhelming. Be smart and buy your glow-sticks from Amazon!
  • Booster Seats
    These are brilliant if you have very small children. Many theatres will have these but often run out, so get there at least 30 minutes before curtain up and ask the Front of House staff. You may be asked to pay a small fee in some theatres.

thinking

Choosing what to see!
Here are some suggestions of the great shows coming up:

5-year-olds

Ages 3-5
Peppa Pig’s Adventure 
– Ages 3+
Room On The Broom – Ages 3+
Stickman 3+ but all ages welcome
The Snowman – Suitable for all ages
images-2

Ages 5-12
Disney’s Aladdin The Musical – Advise 6+. Be aware that very young children may not admitted
The Wider Earth – Advise 10+ as the scientific terminology may be harder for younger audiences to understand, but the puppetry is still amazing for younger children!
Peter Pan – Ages 5+
Operation Ouch – Ages 5-12
Snow White (The Pantomime) – Ages 5+
Disney’s The Lion King – Advises 6+ but will admit from 3 years old with tickets
The Play The Goes Wrong – Ages 8+
Matilda The Musical – Advise 6+ with some scary moments
School of Rock The Musical – Advise 8+ with under 4s not admitted
Thriller Live! – Advise 5+ but young children may find certain moments frightening
epic-reads-book-nerd-problems-giveaways-quizzes-books-reviews-zn8ye5-clipart

Ages 13+

(PG) = Parental Guidance advised, show may contain strong language or adult themes

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – Recommend 11+ some adult themes
Dreamgirls (PG)
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – (PG)
Les Miserables (PG)
Mamma Mia! (PG)
Motown The Musical (PG) Some strong language and adult themes
The Mousetrap (PG)
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical – Suitable for all but may contain PG moments
The Woman In Black – Suitable for all ages, although it is very scary!
Wicked (PG)

Rules and regulations
Generally, children under 16 are not permitted to attend the theatre unaccompanied and all children require their own ticket unless specifically stated (eg babes in arms). Most West End Theatres will not admit children under 5 unless specifically stated. Age suitability is only given as a guide.

Young adults
Tell your young friends and family about Mousetrap Theatre – this terrific organisation exists specifically to help young theatregoers enjoy West End shows at a fraction of the price.

Relaxed Performances
These are usually geared to children who may have additional needs or for whom theatre-going may otherwise be daunting. For details, always call or email the venue before you book to find out when and if those performances are available.

Theatre shows as a whole provide a great experience for the whole family, so find a show within your budget and ensure you take your peeps to this wonderful experience – they’ll remember it forever!