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Wednesday, 26 April 2023

REVIEW: Dancing at Lughnasa at the National Theatre

The National Theatre has the expertise and the resources to do full justice to classic plays and this revival of Dancing at Lughnasa (the harvest festival in Ireland), which I first saw at the Lyttleton in 1991 with Frances Tomelty and Alec McCowen, is a testament that they can deliver beautifully staged, brilliantly acted drama that charm and enthral the audience. Yet though I recalled the title and was charmed by it the first time, I had no memory of the characters, or the story so came to this revival fresh.

Brian Friel’s best-known play is exquisitely staged on the large Olivier stage creating a perfect setting of rural Irish countryside a walk away from Ballybeg with its rolling hills, mature trees and fields of wheat surrounding the quaint cottage shared by five sisters. It perfectly captures the idyllic atmosphere of the summer of 1936 when the world outside was changing with war in Spain and manufacturing replacing the traditional homespun skills. The absence of walls for the cottage cleverly gives an intimacy to the small room they spend so much time in but also allows us to clearly see their reactions as they listen or peer out at what is happening in the garden. I’m not sure any commercial theatre could stage a play so perfectly and this is surely what we should expect from our National Theatre.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

REVIEW: Jack Absolute Flies Again at the National Theatre

There was a time when a visit to the National Theatre guaranteed the very best in productions and performances and we rushed to book when the season’s programme dropped through our letter box, now we wait for the reviews to tempt us to go online to book a visit to the ageing concrete venue that is looking the worst for wear around its edges. Shows like Warren Mitchell in Death of a Salesman (1979), Guys and Dolls (1982) and Anthony Hopkins in Pravda (1985) remain some of the greatest production I have ever seen. Another two memorable shows were the 1983 production of Sheridan’s The Rivals with Geraldine McEwan and Fiona Shaw and Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors (2011) so we were tempted by the generally favourable reviews for Richard Bean’s reworking of the classic restoration comedy the Rivals into Jack Absolute Flies Again. The result was an amusingly pleasant Saturday night in a two-thirds full Olivier Theatre.

Bean’s reworking with Oliver Chris takes the basic love story from The Rival’s moves it from Bath to a Second World War Airfield (on the pretext of celebrating the Eightieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain, sadly missed due to Covid delays) and adds some of the comedy elements that worked so well in One man two Guvnors as the cast regularly break the fourth wall. However, in that hit, the cast created believable characters and the farce had a logic that made it funny. It was played for laughs with brilliant slapstick but was never over the top nor relied heavily on sexual innuendo. In this latest adaption despite the best efforts of the cast the comedy feels more laboured, the jokes more often miss the mark and none of it seems remotely believable! 

Monday, 8 November 2021

COMING HOME: Elander Moore, recently finished his run in The Normal Heart at the National Theatre

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back!

The Normal Heart (written by Larry Kramer) premiered off-Broadway in 1985, in the midst of the AIDs crisis this play was an important piece of theatre and enjoyed great success in its original run. The play made its UK debut at the Royal Court in 1986 and has been revived many times, including on Broadway in 2011 directed by Joel Grey and in 2014 a television drama film version of the play was released, starring Mark Ruffalo, Jim Parsons, Julia Roberts, Joe Mantello and many other incredible artists. 

This story is as important as it ever has been, in a world where we have moved on so much in terms of LGBTQ+ rights as well as medication and science to combat HIV and AIDs we still have a very long way to go with education and laws around the world. Channel 4 released the series ‘It’s a Sin’ at the beginning of this year and the programme broke records with over 6.5 million views within a few weeks of release. The need and want for these stories are there, so The Normal Heart at the National was a welcomed revival. 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

COMING HOME: Christopher Tendai, last seen in Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre and Artistic Director of Dance Company CTC

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

An up and coming choreographer and creative himself, as well as an accomplished West End performer, Christopher Tendai was appearing in the London production of Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. Appearing in the ensemble and covering the role of Rudolpho before the theatres shut their doors back in March 2020. Over the pandemic, he has been keeping himself very productive with his creative work but he also went on to appear in the National Theatres pantomime, Dick Whittington, in December. He was the Dance Captain and Swing on the show but the run was short-lived due to London being moved into tier 4. 

After Matilda and Dick Whittington being cut short for Christopher, he has been through his fair share of disappointments through this but he remains positive, telling us that if he could give out a piece of advice to people it would be “to take each day at a time. Don’t beat yourself up if your body takes longer to get back to where it was. We have all suffered trauma over this pandemic so make sure to be kind to yourself.” 

Saturday, 26 December 2020

REVIEW: Dick Whittington at the National Theatre (Online)

There are now eighty Pantomimes available online according to the British Theatre Guide website competing for our viewing time at home and targeting the three million ticket buyers who usually see a live pantomime each Christmas. Many charge a fee to watch or request a donation and those funds are so important to these venues for their survival until next year's Pantomime. With the cancellation of so many Pantomimes this year the National Theatre decided to put on its own version which, when London went into Tier 3/4 Lockdown, was forced to close and a captured preview is now available free of charge for a short period. It is prefaced with an appeal to donate or buy tickets in 2021 for the other affected venues but should the significant resources on display at the NT compete against the multitude of online Pantomimes that seek our attention and funds? Indeed should public funds be used at all to create a show competing with them? The answer must be that they need to do something different and raise the bar to justify the competition.

The NT has restaged the Lyric Hammersmith's version of Dick Whittington in the round in a socially distanced way which creates the feel of an expensive circus ring with traps and lights embedded in the floor. It is a modern retelling of the usual rags to riches story with only the occasional double entendre. Indeed in Sheffield venues Damian's PopUp Panto, also available online for a fee, it defines the essence of Pantomime as "pure joy, quirky humour, warm energy, familiarity and nostalgic". The NT version seems devoid of this essence, the characters are overly intense and serious, almost smug and self-satisfied, and the production lacks warmth and was conceived in a London bubble.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

REVIEW: Macbeth at the National Theatre

It was with some trepidation that we stepped into the vast Olivier theatre for Rufus Norris's production of Macbeth as so many of leading theatre critics had savaged the show and reset expectations to a low level. Certainly first impressions were not good with the enormous circular stage framed by long drapes of black plastic hanging limply from roof to floor, a huge metal ramp arcing downstage and a number of Chinese poles reaching up towards the lighting grid covered with more strips of rubbish. It presented a confusing image of some dystopian future, a mix of Mad Max and Blade Runner, with drab dirty costumes dug out of an ancient mod's wardrobe. Yet despite the foreboding, the wonderful central performances shine out in the gloom and produce a stripped back engaging Macbeth with each character focusing you into their own dilemmas and ignoring the mess that surrounds them.

Rory Kinnear is an experienced Shakespearean actor and he draws you in with his clear strong enunciation so every word is understood and heard . He is at his best in his soliloquies downstage directly at the audience and in his scenes with Lady Macbeth, played by Anne-Marie Duff. When we first meet her reading his letter aloud we focus in on her and ignore the ridiculous concrete bunker that is presented as their castle.They both shine through the chaos and show the different emotions of their characters. Kinnear is at times strong and decisive but also we seem him quake with fear when Banquo's ghost (Kevin Harvey)appears or tenderly hold his wife's body when she dies. Duff too is horrified and recoils when she finds the two murder weapons but decisive when she uses them to incriminate the guards and then painfully a lost soul in her sleepwalking. These critical scenes show them at their best and create memorable moments in the production.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Sonia Friedman Productions and the National Theatre announce transfer of Nina Raine’s Consent following sell-out run

Sonia Friedman Productions and the National Theatre today (12 March 2018) announce the West End production of Nina Raine’s Consent following the 2017 critically acclaimed sell-out run at the Dorfman Theatre. Directed by Roger Michell and originally co-produced and commissioned by Out of Joint, Consent will begin previews at the Harold Pinter Theatre on 18 May for a strictly limited 12-week run. Opening night will take place on 29 May with booking through to 11 August 2018. Tickets for this West End transfer - with over 14,000 priced at £25 or under - will go on public sale on Thursday 15 March 2018 at 10am.

The cast includes Claudie Blakley, Stephen Campbell Moore, Heather Craney and Adam James with further casting to be announced. Set is by Hildegard Bechtler, with costumes by Dinah Collin, lighting by Rick Fisher, music by Kate Whitley, sound by John Leonard and casting by Amy Ball CDG.

Nina Raine’s ‘blistering new play’ (New York Times), directed by Roger Michell, makes a triumphant and timely transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre this May, following a sold out season at the National Theatre.

Friday, 19 January 2018

REVIEW: Network at the National Theatre

The 1976 Oscar winning film Network was made at a time when the leading TV channels dominated the media landscape in America and in Britain delivering huge audiences and the leading two or three networks battled each other for audience share to drive advertising income. The management poured over the audience shares and overnight ratings and judged the programme producers on those audiences. This new play adapted from the film by Lee Hall , is based firmly in the studios of one of these networks and set in September and October 1975 but much of the dialogue points clearly at the new multimedia world of today , the arguments about fake news and the public's passionate engagement through social media. 

As the news this week is dominated by the collapse of Carillon, the central background to the play is the ownership of UBS network by the CCA a large business conglomerate, its drive for profits and a potential change of ownership. Howard Beale is the main news anchor of UBS, the failing channel but his announcement that he will blow his brains out on the live news show in two weeks time prompts a surge in ratings. This brings into sharp focus the clash between traditional impartial presentation by a news cost department which has become stale and the sensationalised showbiz style of a function driven by appealing to audiences and being a profit centre. Howard Beale becomes the pawn in this business game.

Monday, 4 December 2017

FIRST LOOK: Pinocchio at the National Theatre

On a quest to be truly alive, Pinocchio leaves Geppetto’s workshop with Jiminy Cricket in tow. Their electrifying adventure takes them from alpine forests to Pleasure Island to the bottom of the ocean. This spectacular new production brings together the director of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and the writer of Matilda the Musical.

For the first time on stage, featuring unforgettable music and songs from the Walt Disney film including I’ve Got No Strings, Give a Little Whistle and When You Wish upon a Star in dazzling new arrangements, Pinocchio comes to life as never before. 

Cast includes Joe Idris-Roberts (Pinocchio), Audrey Brisson (Jiminy Cricket), Mark Hadfield (Geppetto),Annette McLaughlin (Blue Lady), David Langham (The Fox), David Kirkbride (Coachman), Dawn Sievewright (Lampy), Gershwyn Eustache Jnr (Stromboli) together with Stuart Angell, Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge, Stephanie Bron, James Charlton, Rebecca Jayne-Davies, Sarah Kameela Impey, Anabel Kutay, Michael Lin, Jack North, Clemmie Sveaas, Michael Taibi, Scarlet Wilderink and Jack Wolfe.

Monday, 11 September 2017

The National Theatre announce full cast for the world-premiere of Lee Hall’s NETWORK

This autumn the National Theatre will stage the world-premiere of Network, Lee Hall’s new adaptation of the Oscar-winning film by Paddy Chayefsky. 

Directed by Ivo van Hove, the cast includes Bryan Cranston as Howard Beale, Michelle Dockery as Diana Christenson and Douglas Henshall as Max Schumaker.

Howard Beale, news anchor-man, isn’t pulling in the viewers. In his final broadcast he unravels live on screen. But when the ratings soar, the network seizes on their new found populist prophet, and Howard becomes the biggest thing on TV. 

Network depicts a dystopian media landscape where opinion trumps fact. Hilarious and horrifying by turns, the iconic film by Paddy Chayefsky won four Academy Awards in 1976. Now, Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) and director Ivo van Hove(Hedda Gabler) bring his masterwork to the stage for the first time, with Bryan Cranston (All the Way, for which he won the Tony for Best Actor, Breaking Bad and Trumbo for which he was nominated for an Oscar) in the role of Howard Beale. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

FIRST LOOK: Medea at the National Theatre

Medea is a wife and a mother. For the sake of her husband, Jason, she’s left her home and borne two sons in exile. But when he abandons his family for a new life, Medea faces banishment and separation from her children. Cornered, she begs for one day’s grace. It’s time enough. She exacts an appalling revenge and destroys everything she holds dear.
I choose to take back my life. My life.
Helen McCrory returns to the National to take the title role in Euripides’ powerful tragedy, in a new version by Ben Power with music written by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp.
Terrible things breed in broken hearts.
Medea will be broadcast live to cinemas around the world on Thursday 4 September. To find your nearest venue visit

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Review

Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” was published in 2003. It was the winner of more than seventeen literary awards and has now been adapted by Simon Stephens for the production that opened at the Apollo theatre in March 2013 after a successful stint at the Cottesloe with the National Theatre. It received much critical acclaim and won seven Olivier Awards including Best New Play. It has now transferred to the Gielgud Theatre where it re-opened on Monday 7th July 2014.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time follows the story of 15 year old Christopher Boone who suffers from Aspergers Syndrome, and Autism. After his next door neighbour’s dog, Wellington, is killed with a garden fork, Christopher sets it upon himself to be a detective who must be “very very brave” and find out who the murderer is. As his journey takes off, we see his life at his “special school” where the kids are “stupid, although I’m not supposed to say that” (says Christopher). Despite his illnesses, Christopher is a superb mathematician and has set it upon himself to be the first 15 year old at his school to sit a Maths A-Level exam.  We also learn about his family life, and his career aspirations for the future as we follow his journey from 12:07am on the night of the dog’s murder…

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The National Theatre's GREAT BRITAIN will transfer to the West End this September

Richard Bean's new phone hacking play Great Britain, which opened at the National Theatre only yesterday, has announced that it is transferring to the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 10 September.
Nicholas Hytner's production was well-received after it opened following just a week's notice after the culmination of the phone hacking trial last week.
Billed as an 'anarchic satire', Bean's play delves into the murky waters of the press, police and political establishment, and the cast at the National includes Billie Piper, Robert Glenister, Oliver Chris and Harriet Thorpe.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Billie Piper will star in the new play GREAT BRITAIN by Richard Bean at the National Theatre

The details have finally been revealed of Richard Bean’s previously reported new play at Britain's National Theatre. For legal reasons the production was unable to announce until the phone hacking trial that has rocked the U.K. ended. Great Britain, directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Billie Piper, will open at the Lyttelton Theatre on June 30 and run through August 23. The production will have no previews.

The new play is an anarchic satire about the press, the police and the political establishment. Piper plays Paige Britain, the ambitious young news editor of The Free Press, a tabloid newspaper locked in a never-ending battle for more readers.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

KING LEAR broadcast to cinemas worldwide as part of National Theatre Live on 1 May 2014

Sam Mendes’ acclaimed National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR with Simon Russell Beale in the title role, will be broadcast to cinemas and performing arts venues around the world from the National’s Olivier Theatre on 1 May at 7pm (international dates may vary). 
An aged king decides to divide his kingdom between his three daughters, according to which of them is most eloquent in praising him. His favourite, Cordelia, says nothing.
Simon Russell Beale’s recent theatre work for the National includes Timon of Athens (Critics’ Circle Award: Best Shakespearean Performance), Collaborators (Evening Standard Award: Best Actor), London Assurance, Major Barbara, Much Ado About Nothing, The Alchemist and The Life of Galileo; elsewhere, The Hothouse and Privates on Parade (West End), The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard (New York and Old Vic); and Bluebird (New York). His films include My Week with Marilyn and The Deep Blue Sea; television includes Spooks, Falstaff in the BBC film of Henry IV, and presenting the series Sacred Music and Symphony.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Fuel presents THE ROOF commissioned by LIFT and presented in association with the National Theatre

Tickets go on sale at 6.30pm on Monday 10 February for THE ROOF, the brand new panoramic performance, directed by David Rosenberg (co-founder of Shunt) and Frauke Requardt, their third collaboration following Electric Hotel (also a Fuel production) and Motor Show.
In a purpose-built venue from set designer of the 2012 Summer Paralympics opening ceremony Jon Bausor, audiences for THE ROOF, standing throughout, will experience the breathless mix of 360 degree hair-trigger movement, influenced by free running and set against the skyline of London, with intimate, three dimensional music and sound by Dave Price via individual headphones.
A door opens and an immaculate figure steps out onto a roof. Knives are sharpened and the game begins...

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time: Theatre Review

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Bit of a mouth full isn’t it?! Based on the much loved novel by Mark Haddon, This recent National Theatre production had a majorly successful run at the Cottesloe. The production was also shown throughout cinemas worldwide in the National Theatre Live programme. The production has now transferred to the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End and has extended its initial run by 14 weeks, now finishing on the 31st August.  
This touching story is about 15 year old Christopher who has Asperger Syndrome, one of his neighbours Dogs gets killed and he decides to become a detective and find out who did this, along the way he finds out things he wish he never knew and also finds his mother. Although Christopher has Asperger Syndrome it is never actually said in the play, I think it’s very important that as an audience you don’t watch the play knowing he has this otherwise it becomes an observing experience. The clever thing that Simon Stephens has clearly done in his adaptation of the production is to not make reference to it, as an audience you can clearly see this fact about Christopher but by this not being pointed out you can then freely go on the journey with the character and the experience of watching the play becomes an emotional experience and one that means you can really understand this fascinating boy.  
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