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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

I bought tickets to Sunset Boulevard with a sense of both excitement and dread: How could this possibly live up to the hype? Could Glenn Close still sing? Having had the privilege to see Glenn in 2002 at the National Theatre in A Streetcar Named Desire, and having Sunset Boulevard as one of my favourite scores, I was worried I might just be expecting, well, too much?

Following a hugely successful run at the National Theatre, Headlong Theatre’s gritty, bleak and darkly funny tale of addiction and redemption as seen through the eyes of actress Emma has now moved to the Wyndham’s Theatre. The reviews are in – so what did the critics think of the show’s West End transfer?

"A character you can't tear your eyes from"
“A character you can’t tear your eyes from”

Chris Bennion for The Telegraph said Denise Gough’s Emma was