London Theatre

by Lynn on August 31, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

A little taste of some of what I saw in London in July on my summer vacation. I will deal at length with all of these and everything else I saw in London, in my Slotkin Letter for my regular subscribers.

Betty Blue Eyes

At the Novello Theatre. Based on the film, A Private Function. A group of people secretly plan to have a feast to celebrate the marriage of Queen Elizabeth II. The feast is a pig that they are secretly raising, against the rationing rules, until they get caught.

Sweet. The music and lyrics are clever and distinctive. I couldn’t help but think that the story is so small and the music makes it a larger than necessary story. It’s amusing. The mechanical pig is adorable, bodily noises notwithstanding. Unfortunately it did not catch on as it hoped and will close in September.

The Cherry Orchard

At the National Theatre. A fine performance as Lopakhin by the always intriguing Conlith Hill. But a strangely unengaging performance by Zoë Wanamaker as Ranevskaya, which is strange because she’s such a compelling actress. It all seemed flat.

Ghost, the Musical

At the Piccadilly Theatre. Based on the popular movie of the same name. Directed by Matthew Warchus, who never met a popular show he didn’t want to direct. And he’s really successful at it too—Lord of the Rings notwithstanding. This is a musical for people who don’t go to the theatre, but want to see the movie on stage. It has lots of busy animation, projections, flashy lighting, noise, overmiking and everybody bellows the non-descript, unimaginative music. Acting is non-essential. It of course is doing great business and is Broadway-bound. A forgettable night in the theatre.

London Road

At the National Theatre. About the effects on a community of a serial killer who killed prostitutes in Ipswich, England. The dialogue is taken verbatim from interviews and transcripts of the people in Ipswich. And it’s been set to music. The music follows the rhythms of the speech. There is no effort to rhyme because people don’t speak in rhyme. Astonishing theatre.

One Man, Two Guvnors

At the National. An adaptation of Goldoni’s Servant of Two Masters. About a servant, who is always hungry, trying to serve two masters at the same time. It stars the wonderful James Corden. It is directed with exquisite detail by Nicholas Hytner. It transfers to the West End in the fall, then to New York in the Spring. A hugely entertaining, achingly funny production.

Richard III

I actually saw two productions of this. First at the Hampstead Theatre presented by artistic director Edward Hall and his company, Propeller. An all male company. It was inventive, chilling, gripping and so full of imagination that it just went like a bat out of hell. Hall carries on the family theatre business with great style—his father is Sir Peter Hall.

The second production of Richard III was the starry, hyped-to-the-skies Old Vic production starring Kevin Spacey directed by Sam Mendes. Mr. Spacey gave his first line in a clear, tempered voice and bellowed everything else. He put more effort into twisting his body out of shape—if you’ve seen The Usual Suspects then you know what he does with his left leg—than he did with the performance. This is a self-absorbed, selfish actor who barely engages with any other actor on stage. Disgraceful.

Director, Sam Mendes felt he had to announce every scene with a projection telling who the scene is really about: i.e. “Lady Anne”, “Margaret”, “The Public” as if we are too witless to figure it out. The acting of the men is uneven. The women are all strong. The glitzy production goes on tour and plays New York in the Spring. An annoying, unimpressive production, except for the women.

The Wizard of Oz

At the Palladium. Directed by Jeremy Sams. Additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
While Ghost, The Musical tries to recreate the movie on stage, The Wizard of Oz takes the film and makes it a theatrical musical. Jeremy Sams is a stylish, gifted director with oodles of imagination and a true theatrical sense. The tornado scene alone is stunning and worth the price of admission. This musical is for people who love musicals, theatre and a great time. It is beautifully performed, designed and directed.

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