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Thursday, 14 September 2023

REVIEW: God Of Carnage at The Lyric Hammersmith

Yasmina Reza’s (translated by Christopher Hampton) unassuming but vicious satirical unmasking of the modern-day middle class, God Of Carnage, has stirred up attention since it first premiered in 2008. Boasting as a hit on Broadway and The West End, its anticipated revival has been met with great expectation. In this new version directed by Nicholas La Barrie, the question I was left asking, however, is why this play now?

God Of Carnage introduces us to two middle-class, pre-middle-aged couples who are brought together by the act of violence between their two eleven-year-old children Ferdinand and Bruno (whom we never meet). What begins as a ‘civil’ interaction and desire to de-escalate the incident between their boys, quickly unleashes a swirling passive-aggressive dance between the four parents fulled by entitlement, misguided values and unrealistic expectations.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

REVIEW: Accidental Death of An Anarchist at the Lyric Hammersmith

Anyone familiar with pitching a theatre show these days will know there is one question you always have to answer to be in with a shot of doing your show; ‘Why now?’ This is a question that this production of Accidental Death of An Anarchist at the Lyric Hammersmith answers with every second of its stage time.

Though Dario Fo’s classic satire was based on the death of a real-life anarchist in police custody following the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing, at its heart it is a play about corruption in the police that is not limited to a time or place. 

A maniac walks into a police station impersonating a judge, forensic specialist and bishop… and that’s not even the funniest part! Tom Basden’s adaption of Darren Fo and Franca Rame’s ‘Accidental Death Of An Anarchist’ is from start to finish a comedic masterpiece filled to the brim with jokes, gags and more! 

Monday, 30 January 2023

REVIEW: Frantic Assembely’s Othello at The Lyric Hammersmith Theatre

A tragedy fuelled by jealousy and revenge, Othello, can be seen as one of Shakespeare’s most challenging works to navigate. Loyalty and love lose out too dark thoughts and desires that lurk in the best of us which performers and audiences alike must confront in themselves. 

Frantic Assembly’s two-hour adaptation of this complex text finds a way to make it relatable as they bravely tackle challenging aspects of the human condition amplified in it with gusto for a modern-day audience. It is a visual retelling of the story as much as an exploration of classical language with a contemporary tung and has something to offer any die-hard lover of Shakespeare or those more intimidated by the Bard.

Sunday, 27 November 2022

REVIEW: Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyric Hammersmith

Every Pantomime reflects its local community and in many, a style emerges which embeds itself in each new production. Berwick Kaler in York, Andy Ford In the Southwest, Kevin Johns in Swansea, Matt Slack in Birmingham and Elaine C Smith in Glasgow each has a distinctive style that is recognisable as “their show” and brings back the audience each year to celebrate Christmas. The Lyric Hammersmith situated in a diverse community in West London has developed its own style over the last thirteen years, setting itself the goal of moving the genre on to reflect the themes and issues it sees as connecting it to its young local community. Its programme for Jack and the Beanstalk proudly highlights the recycling of materials in the show, its casting is diverse and inclusive, and its adaptation sets out to innovate on a traditional Pantomime story.

It's fascinating to experience this approach which begins with the venue; with the traditional Frank Matcham auditorium transplanted into a modern bustling foyer space. We are presented with a colourful stage setting drawn from arcades & video games and a loud band of four (which often overwhelms the vocals) raised up on a platform above the stage in a design by Good Teeth. Rarely does this staging give any sense of location or the magic of pantomime but creates a square box in which the cast tries to tell the story. The Cow is nothing like the charming black and white panto creature of the programme pictures but instead, two people stood upright in a ludicrous gold skin that fails to generate any pathos or love. The Beanstalk, despite a row of audience blinders being flown in, does not grow magical from the small bean but instead is a large structure flown in from above and strong enough to be climbed with visible safety wires. The Giant is not some fearful tall creature stomping around the stage, but a large box borrowed from Minecraft that slides forward. As a result, there is no magic or spectacle.


Monday, 3 October 2022

REVIEW: Iphigenia in Splott at the Lyric Hammersmith

If you have followed Iphigenia in Splott from Wales to the rest of the UK, Berlin and New York, you won’t be surprised that this review will sing its praises. Over the last seven years, none of its biting commentaries has been lost as it embarks on its final outing at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Sophie Melville as ‘Effie’ makes large of the little moments that create a life. In a totally commanding one-woman performance, she takes the audience on a tour of their own preconceptions of the loud and provocative central character. Instantly, without warning, you are whisked away to the world as Effie chooses to see it, regardless of whether you hate it, love it, or are scared of it. The point is to try and understand it, as it is slowly compressed by an invisible austerity pressing down from above. Melville’s immense, boisterous physicality is dampened until, finally, she is still, with her every word bearing the tragedies that has made her so.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

REVIEW: Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith

Ten years after Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love premiered, it has returned to the stage. The play is in three acts in different eras with the same baby boomer couple, Sandra (Rachael Stirling) and Kenneth (Nicholas Burns). Their lack of empathy and understanding of their own middle class, white privilege is as relevant and fascinating now as it was in 2010. 

The first act is set in 1967, when young Kenneth is staying with his older, sterner brother, Henry (Patrick Knowles). Henry has invited his ‘girlfriend’, Sandra – dressed in a vivid purple dress - round for a romantic evening but she hits it off with dressing gown-wearing Kenneth instantly. They connect over Oxford University and their excitement of ‘things changing’ in London and the future ahead of travelling, getting high and being free. Bartlett’s text captures the language used at the time; the dismissal of feminism and homophobic slurs. 

Saturday, 23 November 2019

REVIEW: Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith

The Lyric Hammersmith is a curious venue with the wonderful Frank Matcham interior reinstalled inside a new seventies breeze block box with basic finishings and this year's Christmas offering of Cinderella which runs from 16th November to 5th January 2020 seems to follow the same idea with the traditional classic Pantomime story updated in a modern basic frame. I doubt that there will be a more politically correct version of Cinderella on offer this year reflecting the affluent diverse local population and attracting an audience of yummy mummies with their kids.

Jude Christian who wrote and directed the 2018 pantomime Dick Whittington, and directed the 2017 Jack and the Beanstalk, has written "the usual Lyric twist" version of Cinderella set in The Hammersmith of today. Here Buttons is a female tailor who falls in love with one of the ugly sisters, Cinders in dungarees and aspiring to be an astro physicists, falls for a shortsighted shy Prince Bob and the Stepmother has a pet alligator! There are jokes about zero hours contracts, January 31st tax deadlines, Fracking, drones near Heathrow and Pizza Express in Woking and then curiously innuendo references to Fallopian tubes and having only one ball to give the show a grown up feel. 

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

REVIEW: Solaris at the Lyric Hammersmith

Solaris, adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s novel, to the stage by David Greig has previously been made into a film in 1972 then again in 2002. Kris (Polly Frame) arrives from earth to investigate abnormal activity on the space station orbiting Solaris. With the aim to bring Snow (Fode Simbo), Sartorious (Jade Ogugua) and Gibarian (Hugo Weaving) home in 10 days, she arrives to find one of the scientists is dead and other strange visitors have appeared on board, including an ex-lover of Kris’, Ray (Keegan Joyce). Solaris explores a combination of scientific theory about the consciousness of the planet, as well as touching on escapism and morphed reality. The ocean-covered Solaris brings their dreams to life in a way which is unclear if it is doing this sadistically or through kindness.

It is an expertly scripted psychological thriller full of mystery and certainly makes you question whether human explorations are beneficial for development, or will we end of destroying everything in our existence? The play is cinematic but does work well on stage, at times the acting is unconvincing and too dramatic for the theme- but each performer brings a new perspective to the table. Solaris has the potential to become a dark, heavy show but Joyce’s ‘Ray’- despite horrifying at times- with Matthew Lutton’s direction added a dose of childish humour and fun to the narrative. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

REVIEW: A Doll’s House at the Lyric Hammersmith

This production of A Doll’s House is an adaptation from Henrik Ibsen’s book, first performed in 1879 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Tanika Gupta’s version remains in the same year yet set in Calcutta. The leading lady, originally named Nora, is now a young Bengali woman, Niru (Anjana Vasan), married to an older Englishman, Tom (Elliot Cowan) who ‘worships and exoticises her’ (Gupta, 2019). A Doll’s House explores the relationship between Niru and Tom during the colonialism of India by the English. This determines the power dynamics between the couple and their friend, Dr Rank (Colin Tierney) in a bizarre way. Her husband is creepy and subtly controlling- quite disturbing to watch onstage. Meanwhile Niru battles the anxiety of her secret debts to Kaushik Das (Assad Zaman). 

Monday, 27 May 2019

REVIEW: Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) at the Lyric Hammersmith

Carl Grose’s Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love stories) demonstrates the corruption in politics; the mayor is murdered by a hitman and the tale unfurls to catch the killer, with diversions of love and bribes. It stems from the urban myth of a dead dog being crammed into a suitcase (for whatever unfortunate reason) and being stolen by a stranger on the journey; this is cleverly weaved into the plot with several twists and turns of fate. The story is complex and multi-faceted, told through drama, spoken word and music, with unfriendly appearances from Punch and JudyOver the two and a half hours, you will experience shock, nausea, shivers down your spine and be overwhelmed with the creativity Kneehigh incorporate into their shows. 

The first thing you see upon entry to the auditorium is the brilliant set. Mike Vale’s design adds levels and intricate ways to move around the space; it’s a real spectacle. The costumes depict each character perfectly and, although fairly modern, make it difficult to pinpoint which era the show is in. It’s a timeless storyline, so could be anywhere from the 1980’s to even a futuristic setting. Lighting Designer Malcolm Rippeth has done a stunning job of capturing each scene and location, I hugely admired his work.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

REVIEW: Ghost Stories at the Lyric Hammersmith

Nearly ten years since Ghost Stories first began rehearsals at the Lyric Hammersmith, Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s play has been performed seven cities in six different countries. It has since been made into a film and returns to London after five years to the place where it began. 

Simon Lipkin’s Professor Goodman, an expert in Parapsychology, pays tribute to the vintage horror stories and creepy pictures that spooked the world. He debunks each myth with explanations of why we tricked ourselves into terror, before interviewing three people about their unexplained supernatural experiences. 

Having seen the show at the Duke of York’s in 2010, I was aware of the additions to the new version of the play. Without giving away any spoilers, I found the new scene particularly insensitive. The show has drastic contrasts between humour then very dark moments which made the themes confusing- is it trying to be a light hearted spooky comedy? Or a sinister, deeper show? Dyson and Nyman try to justify most elements of the stories near the end of the play, but some areas aren’t explained, which was baffling and had me wondering if I had missed out on some key plot points.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

REVIEW: Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith

In what you might think is a new show about Brexit, Leave to Remain at the Lyric Hammersmith is actually a “modern love story with music”. The story follows Obi (Tyrone Huntley) as he agrees to marry his boyfriend Alex (Billy Cullum) in a bid to ensure he is able to stay in the UK as his work is relocating and they control his visa. What we learn along the way is that both have secret pasts that they try to hide from one another and families that they bash heads with. 

The components of this production fail to deliver. 

What this show does is set conventions to start with, which we follow and agree to as an audience, but then breaks them. Tyrone sings the majority of the score for a good portion of the beginning, making us think this is an interesting devise which justifies the choice of genre. However when everyone starts to chime in we lose that and realise that this is in fact a poorly written musical with no idea what its trying to be.

Monday, 15 October 2018

REVIEW: othellomacbeth at the Lyric Hammersmith

Based in the heart of Hammersmith is the beautiful Lyric Hammersmith theatre, which is currently home to othellomacbeth, a condensed version of the Shakespeare tragedies Othello and Macbeth, joined one after the other with a transition appropriate to our modern day society. This is a bold production combining with HOME in Manchester, having played there last month before transferring to London.

To do such a bold move of putting these two well loved tragedies together means that director Jude Christian needs to really pack a punch with the staging, but sadly it was rather hit and miss. In particular at the beginning of Othello I believed that the staging was very static, and the actors didn’t seem sure whether they were addressing the audience or each other, making a confused opening. However as the play progressed, the spacing became clearer and dialogue flowed with more conviction, being exciting at points, and the Three Witches as such added a haunting and multi-layered depth to the second half.

Monday, 13 October 2014

BUGSY MALONE to re-open the Lyric Hammersmith from April 2015 following redevelopment

In April 2015, Sir Alan Parker’s world famous stage musical Bugsy Malone, based on his acclaimed film, will re-open the Lyric Hammersmith following a multi-million pound redevelopment. The Lyric’s Artistic Director Sean Holmes will bring to life the UK’s first professional stage production of Bugsy Malone in over a decade.

The multi-million pound project to expand the current Lyric Hammersmith building, creating new facilities and improving the building’s environmental sustainability, is one of the largest cultural developments in West London. The building work represents the first major face-lift of the Lyric in 35 years. 
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