The History Boys – Miller Centre Theatre Company – Review

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Caterham’s very own likely lads

It’s one of my favourite plays, but I’ve only ever read it (and seen the wonderful film adaptation). So I was excited to finally get to see it brought to life by the Miller Centre Theatre Company.

A superb bunch of lads gave their all as the eponymous History Boys, battling their way against the social, educational and sexual mores of 1980’s grammar schooling. I went to a single sex grammar school (in the 1990’s not 80’s I hasten to add!) and I suppose that’s why I like the play so much, as I can identify strongly with the characters and situations.

However, even if you’re not from the world the play is set in I think it gives everyone something to think about, especially what is real education? As education ministers seem to become even more concerned with statistics and “results”, Alan Bennett shows us that what we take from our schooling is more than just the exam results.

Each of the cast give bring their characters to life and the superb set transports us from classroom to headmasters office and staff room seamlessly.

It’s been wonderful to finally see a production of this great play (one of best plays of the  21st Century so far, in my opinion), brought to life so competently. It’s sold out for its run, you may be able to get returns, but the cast deserve to be playing to full houses, A* to everyone involved.

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Regional theatres need continued investment

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Regional theatres have been in the news today, as their Artistic Directors met at the National Theatre to discuss how they can promote themselves and flag to the government (both local and national) that economic cuts will hurt not just theatres but communities, culture and the economy.

Danny Boyle has been on many radios and TV programmes today flying the flag, here’s him being interviewed :

Danny Boyle interview

A fuller interview was on Radio 4’s Front Row tonight, which will soon be available as a podcast.

Let’s hope local and national governments listen to the compelling arguments offered.

 

Singin’ in the Rain – Palace Theatre, London – Review

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Finally the time had come for me to see Singin’ in the Rain. Would I find it a splashing success or a damp squib?

The story of the show is very much of its time, but it’s a fun story set at the cusp of silent movies changing to talkies. The score contains many well-known songs and you’ll find yourself tapping your toes to numbers such as Make’em laugh, Moses Supposes, Good Morning and the title song Singin’ in the Rain.

A show with three star performances – Adam Cooper, Scarlett Strallen and Daniel Crossley.

The leads of Adam Cooper, Scartlett Strallen and Daniel Crossley, give stunning performances. Adam Cooper’s dancing is effortlessly sensational. My wife has always raved about Adam Cooper as she’s seen him in his former days in the Royal Ballet and she saw him last year in White Christmas I can see why she rates him so highly now.

Scartlett Strallen was a triple threat par excellence, precise dancing, great acting and sensuous singing, she was a pure joy to watch. Her numbers Would You? and You Are My Lucky Star wooed us all, simply beautiful.

Daniel Crossley stole the show for me though, his character Cosmo has some of the best lines and laughs, but he really was the one to watch and he was top of his game be it acting (including some great physical comedy), singing and dancing. His Make’em Laugh was a high point of Act 1 and the show overall I’d say.

Daniel Crossley makin us laugh

Katherine Kingsley as Lina Lamont, has to create an ear shattering and awful voice, no mean feat, her vocal warm up must be the toughest in the West End! She carries her part with great humour and fills the huge Palace theatre with her performance, a really tough part but she gave it her all and the incongruous voice with the beautiful hip swinging woman is a great comic touch to the show.

The biggest part of this show is the rain though. I’d opted for dry seats in the Dress Circle, but as the rain came down there was a collective excitement as we saw Adam Cooper re-create the iconic dance and we rejoiced as he splashed those in the front few rows of the stalls.

Regular readers will be wanting to know one thing though – How does it compare to Top Hat?  Which I went to the opening night way back in April and I review here.

Well this is a better show in my opinion, the story while still rather twee is much less improbable than Top Hat and the humour is better too. The cast also had space to move and so the choreography felt smoother and more spacious. Adam Cooper is a better leading man than Tom Chambers, although I actually think Daniel Crossley is the star of Singin’ in the Rain. It would be unfair to compare the Strallen Sisters, but I have to say they are equally wonderful and I honestly don’t think one is better than the other. (I’ll have to see Zizi in her next production to see if it’s a trio of triple threats in that family) This show had better chemistry between its leads and an exuberance and effortlessness that I just didn’t feel in Top Hat.

Apparently it’ll need to run for 40 years to use an Olympic pools worth of water!

If you could only see one of them, this would be the one I recommend. This productions set, choreography and cast, give it that edge and wow factor I thought was missing from Top Hat.  If you are after an evening (or matinée) of pure classy escapism, this is the perfect show.

STARS: * * * * (and a half)

Here’s the promo video:

London International Mime Festival 2013 – I’ve got my tickets, have you got yours?

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Now I know that for the last two years I’ve raved about the London International Mime Festival (one post is here , the other here )and said “I was going to go”, and then never quite made it the last two years, much to my chagrin.

HOWEVER I’m pleased to say I’ve booked up for a couple of the shows for 2013’s and I can’t wait.

As I’ve said previously, this is a real highlight of the theatrical calendar and a great start to the year. It also gives me a chance to catch some international theatre, which I think is really important as it is so easy to get caught up in the UK (and London) centric theatrical world sometimes. Although it’s great to see some of the UK’s top talent too.

Back by popular demand Gandini Juggling

I’m off to see The Gandini Jugglers show Smashed, which is coming back by popular demand. I managed to catch 10 mins of them this summer outside the National Theatre and that was enough for me to make them top of my list for this festival.

Wolfe Bowart’s piece Letter’s End, looks just like the sort of physical theatre play I enjoy.

Australia’s Wolfe Bowart is the only other one I’ve currently got tickets for as his show Letter’s End looks like just my cup of tea. Others I’m hoping to catch are Switzerland’s Zimmermann & de Perrot in Hans Was Heiri and the UK’s Invisible Thread’s, Les Hommes Vides also looks like an interesting piece.

Zimmermann & de Perrot’s set for Hans Was Heiri looks fantastic.

The full line up can be found here. It usually sells out so get your tickets asap. See you there!