From The Box Office reviews The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice

This sensational production is a treat for children and parents alike, guaranteed to have you singing to your favourite classic Disney songs and have little ones dancing along with much-loved characters.

From the energetic warm-up dance to the final incredible ensemble performance, The Wonderful World of Disney On Ice is a stunning demonstration of awe-inspiring ice skating. The masterful stunts and tricks will leave your jaw on the floor, as characters from Elsa and Anna to Jessie, Buzz and Woody glide across the ice performing fun, charming and daring routines. Looking around at the children’s faces throughout the performance, it was amusing to see that their amazement was mirrored in their parents’ expressions as well!

The show is the perfect balance for a great family day out – with a run time of just 2 hours (including a 20 minute interval), children were engaged and enjoying themselves from start to finish. Dancing to the songs, singing along and waving to their favourite characters, the joy and excitement was palpable, with anticipation building after every routine as we wondered which characters and songs we’d be treated to next.

The best part of this experience for me (because this is far more than just a show), was seeing the wonder in my 5-year-old niece’s face as the cast skated around, performing dazzling stunts while special effect fireworks and lighting lit up the arena, and the joy and excitement that she felt as her favourite characters waved to her in the crowd. Disney holds a special place in the heart of many children (as well as many adults, as was evident from the parents around me!) and this production is merely another example of what makes Disney so very special. With such a wide variety of characters, both from the older classics, such as Aladdin, and new favourites, such as Frozen, there is something in the show to please every generation that grew up watching the heart-warming films.

Note: if you’re worried that you can’t book tickets to see the show because you don’t have children – don’t! I saw a number of groups who had decided to leave the kids at home and have a day of child-like joy with their friends.

The tour still has dates available in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiffbook tickets at your nearest arena now from £20.70.

From The Box Office Reviews: The Inheritance Part 1 & 2

While the idea of sitting through 7 hours of theatre may seem daunting, it’s important to note that each part of The Inheritance is a self-contained play, i.e., you can technically see one without seeing the other. If you are determined to only see one of the plays, I highly recommend that it is Part 1, however, I recommend more strongly that you see both.

Following a highly successful run at The Young Vic theatre, Matthew Lopez’s two-part, seven-and-a-half-hour play The Inheritance transferred to the Noël Coward Theatre in London’s glittering West End – and rightly so. This is a play that should have a permanent feature in London’s theatre landscape; in every city’s theatre landscape, in fact. This is a play that will make you laugh, move you to tears and teach you about the harrowing events that the LGBTQ+ community has survived, as well as the issues still facing the community today. I would go as far as to say that this is not merely a play; it is far more profound, far more transcendent. It is, in short, the epitome of what theatre should be.

 

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Matthew Lopez’s writing is nothing short of genius. From hilarious quips and quick wit to poignant monologues and graphic accounts of sexual experiences, there is no line without purpose, no word wasted, and not a single fault to be found in this script. The production, masterfully directed by Stephen Daldry, is staged with practically no set and very few props, yet every scene is bursting with such vivid descriptions that it comes to life right in front of you, without the need for assistance from physical objects or sets. What Lopez does with flawless precision, though, is create humans: his are not just characters in a play, they are men who are complex and conflicted, and who yearn for a place in this world, just as any other person does. From the inherently kind-hearted Eric Glass (played by Kyle Soller) to the deeply damaged Toby Darling, child of privilege (played by Andrew Burnap),  you’ll become whole-heartedly invested in every character and the stories they have to share.

Each cast member deserves recognition for their incredible performances. Even the characters with the shortest stage time are wholly entrancing, which only serves as a demonstration of the incomparable talent of this cast. However, it would be impossible for me to not mention Samuel H. Levine, who plays both the well-off actor, Adam, and the young rent boy, Leo, who’s story was one of the most captivating features of the play. Also deserving a special mention is Paul Hilton, who doubles as E.M. Forster (Morgan), upon whose work this play comes to fruition, and as Walter, perhaps the most remarkable of the characters. Both actors are, quite frankly, too remarkable for words.

 

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I could write endlessly about these plays, trying, and probably failing, to explain in any comprehensible way just how thought-provoking, triumphant, moving and profound they are. In truth, I cannot recommend them enough and I cannot praise them enough – nor could anybody else for that matter. All I can really say is: when you see them, you’ll understand.

Don’t miss out on The Inheritance at the Noël Coward Theatre until January 19th 2019!

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From The Box Office Reviews: Heathers The Musical

Following a hugely successful run at The Other Palace, Heathers The Musical officially opened on the West End last week. Rave reviews have poured in for the show, hailing it as ‘sheer, joyful exuberance’ (City AM) and praising Carrie Hope Fletcher as ‘dazzling’ (The Stage). Here at From The Box Office, we couldn’t agree more…

Based on the 1980s cult classic, Heathers The Musical is your typical story of a high school nobody who becomes a somebody under the wings of the popular girls. It’s also the classic story of (spoiler alert) boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy turns out to be a murderous psychopath who wants to blow up a school… okay, so not exactly your typical high school drama. It is JD’s psychotic tendencies that, in fact, make this show such a wildly enjoyable experience – among other things, of course.

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In terms of music and vocals, this production is stunning. Carrie Hope Fletcher delivers a powerhouse performance and Jamie Muscato is her perfect opposite; Seventeen may just be one of the greatest musical duets I have heard in recent musicals! With a score that features songs such as Candy Store and My Dead Gay Son (yes, you read that right), this show is guaranteed to deliver laughs while also providing poignant moments.

This is not simply a musical that stands on its songs, though. The characterisation is, in fact, what makes the show work as an overall production. Each element, the comedy, the stunning vocals, the film references, would all be useless if you couldn’t relate to the characters – but oh, how you can. While they begin as your stereotypical high school students, their problems soon come to the forefront. If anything, Seventeen highlights just how much pressure and heartache these students have to deal with at a young age, when they should be enjoying what will be their glory years.

In short, if you’re looking for a feel-good, riotously hilarious yet touching, sing-your-heart-out musical experience, you’ll more than find it with Heathers. (Note: it also doesn’t hurt that the high school hunks walk around the stage half naked for the majority of the show). This is a musical that ticks all boxes and shouldn’t be missed – we only wish it were going to be in the West End for longer!

 

Heathers The Musical ends on Saturday November 24th. If you don’t want to miss out, book now and pay zero fees on selected tickets here! (Book by 17th October) 

From The Box Office Reviews: Missing at The Battersea Arts Centre

After its opening at The Battersea Arts Centre in 2015, the run of Gecko’s physical theatre production, Missing, was interrupted when a fire destroyed the iconic venue’s Grand Hall. After repairs and renovations, the show has been reintroduced as the opening of the centre’s Phoenix Season, and what an opening it is…

Missing is certainly not your average piece of theatre. The distinct lack of dialogue may initially intimidate viewers that do not usually expose themselves to such pieces, but I urge you to see it. What this show does so well is to communicate a kaleidoscope of emotions in the most human way possible: the movements of the cast, performed in an intricate and complex choreography for the duration of the show, express everything you need to know, and are even almost primal at parts. The cast, through their physicality, do not just tell you the story of Lily, a woman emotionally damaged by the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, but show you it and, more importantly, present it to you in a way that makes you feel her pain for yourself.

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The choreography and composition of this production is nothing short of mesmerising. There is not a single moment that does not demand your full attention, no movement wasted, and no action without significance or consequence. There is a risk, I think, when relying heavily on physical theatre to express a story such as this one, that you will lose the audience’s attention or fascination as the show goes on. That simply doesn’t occur with Missing. Before a sequence has the chance to become uninteresting, it is interrupted, sometimes only momentarily, with a flashback, or the glimmer of a memory from Lily’s childhood, and then snapped back into the present moment or into a new sequence.

The little dialogue that is present in the piece is spoken in a range of European languages, which, for me at least, merely reiterates the universality of the emotions that are evoked by the actors’ movements. You do not need to understand the words that they are saying, for their movements and how they speak communicate to you more than the words themselves could anyway.

While this kind of production may not appeal to every kind of theatre fan, it is the kind of show that is unmissable merely for what it achieves and how it does it. If you go only to appreciate the intricacy of the movements and experience the emotions that it evokes, Missing is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

 

Book your tickets to Battersea Art Centre’s Phoenix Season here

 

From The Box Office Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest

It’s a play that has been performed to death, with a plethora of West End adaptations in the past decade alone. Each new staging promises to either revive the original humour, or offer some revolutionary new interpretation of Wilde’s final play, with most ending up underwhelming or forgettable. Enter Michael Fentiman, the director who, for me at least, has hit the nail square on the head in the Vaudeville’s latest production of the classic…

The atmosphere is charged from the very beginning, with the opening notes of the piano that Fehinti Balogun is ‘playing’ immediately setting the pace that the rest of the play is to follow and filling the stage with a certain air – an air which later proves to be rampant sexual tension.

The chemistry between the cast is electric, with Balogun’s Algernon serving as the perfect opposite to Jacob Fortune-Lloyd’s Jack; watching Algernon as he danced gleefully on Jack’s every last nerve, and seeing the latter unravel as a result, was the single most satisfying thing I’ve seen play out on a theatre stage for a long time. An unsurprisingly divisive element of Fentiman’s adaptation is Algernon’s bisexuality: while it could be viewed as a problematic plot element, personally it simply adds to the whimsical nature of this character and reflects the values that he himself expresses about love and romance.

I take great pleasure, however, in stating that it is the female cast members that steal the show. Pippa Nixon’s Gwendoline is truly hilarious: from her less-than-subtle flirtatious exchanges with her beloved ‘Ernest’ to her on-again-off-again friendship with Cecily, there is not a dialogue that is not seized upon and mined for its comedic value. Jack’s sweet ward, Cecily, is perfectly portrayed by Fiona Button – she is flirtatious, she is bold, she is fabulous, and does well to not be overshadowed by the heavyweight and audacious characters that she shares the stage with.

And, of course, Lady Bracknell. Sophie Thompson had big shoes to fill with the past iconic performances of this role, but if she was feeling the pressure to do it justice, it certainly didn’t show. From the moment she enters each scene, her dominance is apparent, with characters and audience alike holding their breath while she asserts her will in an operatic manner.

This is a comedic masterpiece through and through, from the obvious wit and epigrams of Wilde’s original text to the more subtle and playful elements that Fentiman adds, there was barely a moment that did not warrant a laugh from the audience. It was a simple joy to watch the riotous events play out with hilarious repercussions.

If you don’t wanto miss out on the final play of Classic Spring’s Oscar Wilde Season, grab tickets right here, and if you’re still not sure, click here for all the reasons why you need to see this latest production of Wilde’s classic.

From The Box Office Reviews: The King & I

After a fantastic opening night, The King & I looks set to become a West End smash-hit. Reviews are pouring in, hailing it as a five star unmissable show. From The Box Office blogger Kennedy Porter was lucky enough to see the production during previews and has written us our very own review.

Heart-warmingly nostalgic are the two words that predominantly stuck with me after seeing this incredible adaptation of the classic film. Having never actually seen the film, I wasn’t sure if I would experience the full effect of the magic or understand the humour, however I wasn’t just pleasantly surprised, but genuinely blown away.

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Kelli O’ Hara is sensational as Anna, perfectly capturing the essence of a woman who is not afraid to stand for what she believes in. Vocally, her performance is stunning, reminiscent of Julie Andrews’ Mary Poppins, which only adds to her charming air and the heart-warming feel of the production as a whole.

The chemistry between O’ Hara and Watanabe simmers from the moment they first share the stage, building subtly with every scene, right up until the explosive climax between Anna and the stubborn King. Even as he lies weakened by illness, it seems as though the final ounces of strength that he needs come from the fire that she ignites within him.

Of course, the King and Anna aren’t the only ones involved in a complicated relationship. The show’s young lovers, Dean John-Wilson (Lun Tha) and Na-Young Jeon (Tuptim), both shine as young souls separated by old traditions and provide a Romeo and Juliet-esque tragedy that will bring tears to your eyes and have you cursing the powers that be for daring to keep them apart.

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Ken Watanabe is nothing short of spectacular. From humorous confusion to intimidating, domineering and child-like stubbornness, there is no moment in which his performance doesn’t demand your complete attention, just as you would expect from a King.

Overall, this new production of a classic tale ticks every box, even the ones that you wouldn’t have thought you wanted ticked. It’s funny and light-hearted, and provides a comic look at outdated attitudes that you’ll realise still exist even today, all while also being intense and suspenseful. It will make you laugh, it will melt your heart, it will dazzle you. In short, it’s sensational.

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If you don’t have plans to see The King and I, you need to change your plans as soon as possible. It’s two delightful hours of light-hearted humour and touching romance that will leave you feeling nostalgic and like a child all over again.

Have you seen the show already? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you thought!

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

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

Review: Don Juan in Soho – a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos

David Tennant stars in an update of Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho, loosely based on Moliere’s tragicomedy ‘Don Juan’. Having premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in 2006, Marber describes his new adaptation as ‘naughty but nice’.

Set in contemporary Soho, the focus of the classic French play is transformed to a more intimate – and particularly filthy – insight into the life of Don Juan: a hopelessly sexist, cruel seducer, who lives only for pleasure.

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The play is opened by dancers dressed innocently – and ironically – in white, as the audience awaits what is soon to become a thrill-ride of debauchery, anarchy, and chaos. Anna Fleischle’s classic, simplistic set, featuring the impressive statue of Charles II, provides the perfect backdrop, while tensions rise as Tennant’s arrival on stage is eagerly anticipated.

Tennant thrives in his almost animalistic character: Don Juan (or DJ) seduces women (or at least attempts to) as often as possible – even if they happen to be a newly-wed crying in a hospital waiting room over their husband’s critically-ill state. He pursues his prey until they surrender: he made huge effort with Lottie, played by the compelling Dominique Moore, until their wedding day when she had become less interesting and ‘have-able’. 

David is suitably mischievous, revealing a side to his acting capabilities that is far removed from the sci-fi protagonist we knew and loved in Doctor Who, and the dour Detective Inspector in Broadchurch. He is no stranger to the stage, however, having played in Hamlet in Gregory Doran’s critically-acclaimed RSC production and in Richard II at The Barbican more recently.

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Adrian Scarborough shines as Stan, a highly amusing but often disloyal side-kick to DJ, who claims that DJ will “do it with anything… even a hole in the o-zone layer”. As the play progresses, you find yourself growing increasingly empathetic towards sweet, stumpy Stan; the moment DJ admits the admiration he has for his companion is almost touching (it’s difficult to commit to describing a character as outrageously amoral as DJ as ‘touching’).

The hilarity of the play is certainly enhanced by its modern additions, perhaps most notably the reference to one of Trump’s many controversial remarks, but also DJ’s lecture on modern society having the need to be “friended, followed, and liked” and how we have so-called ‘progressed’ from “charcoal to the iPhone”. 

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Despite DJ’s barbaric behaviour and severely out-dated views, Tennant succeeds in winning the audience over: you somehow forgive his lifestyle and find yourself planted firmly by his side.

Don Juan in Soho is running at the Wyndham’s Theatre until Saturday 10 June. For an unmissable, scandalous evening, book your tickets here.

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+

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

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

Must-See London Theatre 2017: When, Where, Who & Why + How To Book

Mad about Lin-Manuel Miranda? Crazy about Sienna Miller? Intrigued by immersive theatre? 2017 has already been a blockbuster year for London & West End theatre. So what else is in store? When can you go? And how can you get the best seats?
Here, with our top ticketing tips, are the unmissable shows that the rest of 2017 has to offer.

sienna miller plain edit.pngCAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF

When? 13 July – 7 October

Where? The Apollo Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London, W1D 7EZ.

Who? Sienna Miller (Layer Cake; American Sniper) and Jack O’Connell (Skins) star in this new production of Tennessee William’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece.

Why? The play is one of Tennessee Williams’ best known works and was his personal favourite. Dubbed a twentieth century masterpiece, and with its star-studded cast, it’s potentially the biggest must-see of the year (after Hamilton, of course).
In the play, a southern family gather at Big Daddy’s cotton plantation to celebrate his birthday; Maggie (Miller) fights to save her marriage to his son Brick (O’Connell) as they tiptoe around family secrets and sexual tensions that threaten their relationship. Sounds intense, right?

How do I book? Book tickets for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof online or in person at the Apollo Theatre. Book in advance to get the best seats and prices (best availability from August).

aaip blogAN AMERICAN IN PARIS

When? Currently open until January 2018

Where? The Dominion Theatre. 268-269 Tottenham Court Rd, Fitzrovia, London W1T 7AQ.

Who? Featuring the Royal Ballet’s Leanne Cope and New York City Ballet’s Robert Fairchild.

Why? The multi-award-winning production is dancing up a storm in the West End after opening to a record-setting 28 five-star reviews in March. American GI Jerry Mulligan is starting his career as a painter in Paris when he meets beautiful young dancer Lise. With songs from George and Ira Gershwin, choreography that truly takes your breath away, and a whopping 28 five-stars, it’s probably worth seeing what all the fuss is about.

How do I book? You can book tickets for An American in Paris online (there is a no booking fee offer on until the 22 July) or rock-up at the venue and queue-up from 10 a.m. on the day of the performance to get some limited-release day tickets for £20.

Top tip: The Dominion has some of the best leg-room in the West End. Even rear stalls seats are good, and because the theatre is wide, you won’t feel far away.

amber riley blogDREAMGIRLS

When? Currently open until February 2018

Where? The Savoy Theatre. Savoy Court, Strand, London WC2R 0ET.

Who? Amber Riley, the American actress best known for her portrayal of Mercedes Jones in Fox comedy-drama series Glee, plays Effie White.

Why? The much-anticipated new production, featuring classics ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘One Night Only’ and ‘Listen’, follows the journey of a trio of young female singers called The Dreams on their stormy journey from their hometown of Chicago up the greasy pole of success and celebrity. You’ll probably have goosebumps by the interval, and you’ll definitely be standing by the end. Dreamgirls is truly an unmissable show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Dreamgirls online. And for the more spontaneous (or perhaps last-minute) people, you can queue at the venue from 10 a.m. Monday – Friday to get £20 tickets for same-day performances. Also, any returned tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis, so there’s still a chance of bagging some decent seats!
hamilton blog.pngHAMILTON

When? Opening November 2017

Where? The Victoria Palace Theatre. Victoria St, Westminster, London SW1E 5EA

Why? Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton is a history lesson in American independence, covering the real events surrounding America’s political foundation as well as Alexander Hamilton’s intriguing love life. In 2016, the show was nominated for a record-breaking 16 Tony awards, and won 11, as well as breaking all sorts of records on Broadway – not least for the amount of money it can demand for tickets.

How do I book? As anticipated, demand was extremely high and tickets sold out pretty swiftly after going on sale earlier this year. However, it’s rumoured that more tickets will be released in early autumn. Follow Hamilton’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

ross noble blog.pngYOUNG FRANKENSTEIN

When? 28th September 2017 – 10th February 2018

Where? The Garrick Theatre. Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0HH.

Who? Stand-up comedian Ross Noble, Lesley Joseph (Birds of a Feather), Summer Strallen (The Sound of Music), and Hadley Fraser (Les Misérables) star in this musical version of the classic 1974 film.

Why? Wickedly inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic novel, the revamped, restyled production reunites legendary filmmaker and comedian Mel Brooks and Tony-award winning director and choreographer Susan Stroman with the creative team behind their previous hit, The Producers. Think about it. A comical cult horror film parody featuring the one and only Ross Noble. What is there not to love?

How do I book? You can book tickets for Young Frankenstein online or in person at the venue.

iris theatre blogIRIS THEATRE

When? 21 June – 3 September

Where? St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden. Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED.

Why? Promenade around the world-famous grounds of St. Paul’s Church with Iris Theatre’s signature-style immersive productions of Hansel and Gretel and Macbeth. Their fresh and vibrant shows are affordable, accessible and cater to all ages in the heart of London. Guaranteed to fright and delight, you’d be a fool to miss this unique experience.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Iris Theatre productions online.

gatsby blog.pngTHE GREAT GATSBY

When? Currently open until 10 September

Where? Gatsby’s Drugstore. 2 Pilgrimage Street, London, United Kingdom, SE1 4AU. 

Why? Described as the theatrical event of the year, this immersive adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgeral’s seminal jazz-age novel is a night you’ll remember! The cocktails are flowing, the music is playing, the party is in full swing, and there’s the chance of more than a little scandal. Slip on your best 1920s dress and your dancing shoes, and step into the heart of the action in one of the greatest stories or the 20th century!

How do I book? You can book tickets for The Great Gatsby online. And if you fancy a late one with a little less theatre and a little more partying, book tickets for The Great Gatsby Lates.

Top tip: Due to high demand, tickets sell fast, so it’s a good idea to book in advance.

hair blog.pngHAIR THE MUSICAL

When? 4 October – 3 December 2017

Where? The Vaults Theatre. Arch 236, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN.

Why? 50 years since its debut, Hair The Musical has become more of a cultural and social phenomenon than a show, and is just as relevant now as it was back then.
Walk through the 60s to explore what it is to be free in this fully-immersive production, featuring psychedelic design and artwork, 60s-themed pop-up restaurants, and stalls brimming with tie-dye masterpieces and flower headdresses.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Hair The Musical online.

 

shit faced blogSHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE

When? Currently open until 16 September

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? 2017 sees Shit-faced Shakespeare stagger to London with a brand spanking new take on Much Ado About Nothing. Described as a ‘deeply highbrow fusion of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced cast member’, this show is perfect if you’re feeling a little less than equipped to take on a deeply moving, thought-provoking drama. Sit back, relax and giggle away at this ludicrously funny, light-hearted show.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Shit-faced Shakespeare online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

trump blog.pngTRUMP – THE PANTO!

When? 12 – 30 December

Where? The Leicester Square Theatre. 6 Leicester Pl, London WC2H 7BX.

Why? London’s number one dream-team panto producers are back to present their seasonal sauciness with Trump – the Panto! In a magical land far, far away, political overlords expel a ragtag bunch of fairy tale characters from the mystical woods. The intrepid characters embark on an unthinkable quest over the wall in search of the great Trump. Based on “a true story of alternative facts”, this adult pantomime is guaranteed to be a a night of hilarity (depending on your political stance, of course). You can read more about the show here.

How do I book? You can book tickets for Trump – the Panto! online or in person at the venue. The box office is open 2 hours prior to the first performance.

harry potter blogHARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD PARTS 1& 2

When? Currently booking until 22 July 2018

Where? The Palace Theatre. Shaftesbury Ave, Soho, London W1D 5AY.

Why? The play recently won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards, including Best New Play and Best Director, making it the most awarded West End production in the history of the Olivier Awards. If that isn’t reason enough to see a play, then I’m not sure what is…

How do I book? We’d strongly advise registering for updates. Each time tickets have been released they have sold out within hours. The next release of advance tickets is in Autumn 2017. You can sign up to the newsletter for here. If you’re a little hesitant to hand over your email address, you can follow the play on Twitter, Facebook and Instgram for updates.

Check out all the exciting shows the West End has to offer and get the very best seats via From The Box Office. Enjoy the rest of 2017 and happy theatre-going!

If you’d like to be the first to know of new shows, reviews, ticket offers and more, sign-up to our newsletter below!

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

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

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

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

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

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