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Thursday, 7 July 2022

REVIEW: Mad House at the Ambassadors Theatre

A family reunion can either be a wondrous occasion, or a total disaster. When Daniel’s (Bill Pullman) children Nedward (Stephen Wight) and Pam (Sinead Matthews) come to visit, to see how much they’re being left in the will and how much their father’s house is worth. It already has the recipe for a chaotic affair. Except for the other child Michael (David Harbour) whose already been living at his father's home for the past eleven months to care for his dying father. It becomes apparent quickly that this is one family reunion that won’t be forgotten in Theresa Rebeck’s dark comedy. 

For a start, what’s immediately impressive is the set, rural Pennsylvanian home with a great deal of attention to detail, Frankie Bradshaw’s set design immediately transports you to an old man’s home. With the homely but messy feel around the place, the set saves its biggest surprise till the second act for a surprising reveal. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

REVIEW: Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre

At a time when gender, sexuality and identity are at the forefront of politics, Mike Bartlett’s 2009 play COCK is more relevant than ever before: The world is changing, people are listening and educating themselves, representation onstage and in the media is increasing, and folk are questioning and exploring who they really are.

We find ourselves witnessing the end of John & M’s relationship and - through a few snapshots - learn that John has had sex with a woman. What follows is a rollercoaster of inner conflict, hysteria, identity dysmorphia, and some very awkward moments. The text lends itself to Noel Coward’s Private Lives, with John & M sniping at each other constantly, and taking it in turns to land a real scorcher. Bartlett’s text, coupled with the brilliance of Marianne Elliott’s direction, fizzes away until breaking point, where something has to give. As the tension builds towards the end of the play, Elliott isn’t afraid to eke out the silences, to really create an unpleasant dinner party. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Thursday, 28 October 2021

REVIEW: The Shark is Broken at the Ambassadors Theatre

I was unable to get a ticket for The Shark is Broken when it played Edinburgh Fringe in 2019 but I did see Ian Shaw’s very funny companion piece of Runyon short stories, Guys Dolls and Pies so I knew I had missed a treat. It’s been a long wait but finally, this brilliantly funny and insightful look into the world of the three main actors on the iconic Jaws movie has finally made its way to the West End for a short season offering a short sharp antidote to Lockdown and a reason to get out to live theatre.

It is very much of its time and only an older generation will easily recognise the period setting music that fills the auditorium as you take your seats before the show. The 1974 hits of David Essex, Paper Lace, Suzi Quatro, The Rubettes, and ABBA takes us back to the time the film was being made by a twenty-five-year-old Steven Spielberg off the coast of New England. The brilliant set design by Duncan Henderson and amazing video projections by Nina Dunn transport us into a small boat on the sea with waves lapping its sides and seagulls flying overhead where the film’s stars rest between takes, The familiar Jaws theme opens the show, and you really hope that the shark will make an appearance amongst the waves but of course, it does not because “Bruce”, the shark, is broken again. As the unseen crew offstage try to repair it or replace it, we eavesdrop on the banter between the three familiar faces as they wait in the boats small cabin to start shooting again. 

Ian Shaw, the son of actor Robert Shaw who played the shark hunter Quint, plays his father and co-wrote the piece with Joseph Nixon based on his father's diaries. He is the dominant figure in every scene, cajoling and bullying the others to fill the time while drinking heavily from whisky and rum bottles concealed around the boat. His two set-piece speeches when he tells of Robert Shaw’s alcoholic father (the actor’s grandfather) and his speech from the film about surviving the attack on the USS Indianapolis in which many crew were eaten by sharks are both spellbinding highlights of the show.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

REVIEW: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾: The Musical at the Ambassadors Theatre

For almost forty years, Sue Townsend’s books have delighted readers of all ages. Adrian Mole and his friends have been translated into 33 languages and sold over twenty million copies worldwide. Despite being set in the 80’s, these beloved characters and the world they live in are timeless. Composer-lyricist duo Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger quickly earned the trust of Townsend, despite not being the first to pitch a musical version. So taken with their ideas, she sold them the necessary rights for just £1. Townsend very sadly passed away in 2014, never seeing the musical premiere in her hometown of Leicester for the following year.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾: The Musical is a constant thrill. We follow Adrian’s quest to win the heart of new girl Pandora Box, and the collapse of his parents’ marriage, with Mole himself narrating through his regular diary entries. Cleary and Brunger supply an original score packed full of numbers that feel like classics by the time the second chorus comes around. Gone are the days where child actors sing nursery rhyme lyrics and give two-dimensional performances. In this show, the juvenile leads are intelligent and sink their teeth into complicated material, clever lyrics, and melodies that often stray from the beaten path. Shows like Matilda and School of Rock have proven just how much our youngest stars are capable of nowadays, and this show certainly allows them to soar.

Friday, 28 June 2019

INTERVIEW: Lara Denning, currently in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 at the Ambassadors Theatre

Lara Denning is currently playing Miss Elf and Doreen Slater in the West End transfer of the new musical, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4, having previously been in the production at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Her other credits include Mrs Wormwood & Miss Honey in Matilda (West End), Louise and Eve in Ruthless the Musical (Arts Theatre, London), Mrs Cratchit in Scrooge the Musical (Curve Theatre), Mrs Bucket in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory (West End), The Rocky Horror Show (European Tour), All the Fun of the Fair (UK Tour), You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (UK Tour), Dirty Dancing in Concert (UK Tour), Can Can (Sadlers Wells, London) and Grease (Cyprus).

You’re in the West End transfer of the new musical, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. Tell us a bit about the show.

It’s based on the book THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE AGED 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. It’s about a year in the life of a quirky teenager in the 1980’s (1981 to be exact). He is going through puberty and starting to like girls, whilst his parents are going through a crisis in their marriage and he emotes through this diary how he’s feeling. It’s a VERY funny show. We were all teenagers once and we remember going through puberty, first loves and how everything felt like a huge deal even though as adults we see it as so small. Adrian is living his drama. He introduces you to several quirky characters along the way too. It’s a brilliantly devised show. And it will have you laughing and crying all at the same time. It’s a real treat for children going through teenage years, as well as the adults who’ve already been through them too.

What makes this show different to others in the West End at the moment?

It feels like it’s a quintessentially British show. I don’t think the subject of puberty has been tackled in a musical before in this much detail and honesty, and with such humour and joy. I think it’s different because it has its own identity and it doesn’t hold back as it’s seen through a teenager’s eyes so anything goes!
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