Have I mentioned enough that it was my birthday? Because I did. It was a birthday. And once again, I treated myself to some more shows! I mean, what else is there to do?
Earlier in the month my trip consisted of four shows in London that have a lot of hype around them. I must add that I saw Young Marx at the Bridge Theatre too but I did a separate post on that which you can read here.
Network @ National Theatre, Lyttleton.
The first show I saw post 21st birthday was Ivo Van Hove’s production of Network at the National Theatre. The production was an instant sell out at the NT. And it’s no wonder when you have a hat trick of fantastic creatives. Ivo Van Hove is an excellent director with A View From The Bridge, Hedda Gabler and Lazarus in his credits. Lee Hall’s play Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is one of my favourite shows from this year, so it is exciting to see him adapt and write something new. And the actor to play the lead? Only bloody Bryan Cranston, making his London stage debut. As soon as I saw the initial casting/creative team, I threw my money at the National. And I’m so glad I did because I thought it was absolutely incredible.
Network is based on the 1974 film of the same name. The play follows a news anchor called Howard Beale (played by Cranston) who has been fired from his position. During one of his last broadcasts, he tells the world that he is going to commit suicide on air. This turns into a media frenzy and Howard becomes a bigger star than before. Ivo Van Hove’s production uses mixed media from using news cameras to show the close ups on a massive screen at the back of the stage to including an audience to dine alongside the actors on stage. It’s a technologically ambitious production with various cameras wired up to capture the action on stage and off stage (including one segment outside the theatre). They highlight the incredible performances from an incredible ensemble but particular stand outs include Bryan Cranston as Howard and Michelle Dockery as Diana, a producer at the network who uses Howard’s breakdown as a means to drive more ratings. Ultimately, I think the play looks at how celebrities’ (particularly male celebrities) mental health is portrayed and treated within the media. It’s one of my favourite shows this year.
Network is running in the Lyttleton at the National Theatre until 24th March 2018. For more information please visit https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/network
Big Fish @ The Other Palace.
The Other Palace is one of my favourite theatres in London. I love discovering new musicals and The Other Palace is the perfect venue to do so. Big Fish is based on the novel Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace and the film written by John August and directed by Tim Burton. The musical follows the relationship between Edward Bloom and his son Will. The show opens at Will’s wedding as he warns his father not to tell any of his adventure stories to the guests. Once Edward ends up in hospital, Will searches for the meaning behind all the stories. John August wrote the book to the musical and the beautiful score was written by Andrew Lippa.
Norbert Leo Butz originated the role of Edward Bloom on Broadway and in this production Edward Bloom is played by 2 actors. Kelsey Grammer plays Edward Bloom and Jamie Muscato plays a younger Edward Bloom in the scenes where the stories are playing out. The colourful set and costumes designed by Tom Rogers enhance the imaginative atmosphere of the show; even though most of it is set in a hospital room.
Nigel Harman has directed a wonderfully beautiful and emotionally moving show about a father and son that even I found myself wiping my face at the end. I absolutely adored it and even though there’s a big name star at the forefront, don’t let that distract you from the gorgeous story and music.
Big Fish is running at The Other Palace until 31st December. For tickets and more information please visit https://www.theotherpalace.co.uk/whats-on/big-fish-the-musical
Venus In Fur @ Theatre Royal Haymarket
Venus In Fur is a two hander play written by David Ives. The play follows a play within a play structure. Thomas Novachek, a writer-director looking for the perfect actress to star in his play titled Venus In Fur. In stumbles Vanda who begs Thomas to give her a chance to prove she is the actress he has been looking for. David Oakes and Natalie Dormer star as Thomas and Vanda, both actors have impeccable chemistry together which was the main factor of the play being as good as it was. Particularly Natalie Dormer who flowed between Actress Vanda and Play Vanda through her accents and posture seamlessly. The play deals with themes of gender roles, power plays and also dabbles in masochism. It is a quick play at a running time of 90 minutes without an interval and sometimes the writing does fall flat, causing the play to drag. However, it is worth sticking through for the fantastic performers from the leads.
Venus in Fur is currently running at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 9th December. For tickets and more information please visit http://www.trh.co.uk/whatson/venus-in-fur/
An American In Paris @ Dominion Theatre
Based on the 1951 film with a lush score by George and Ira Gershwin, An American In Paris has taken over the Dominion Theatre with incredible direction and choreography, direct from Broadway. Christopher Wheeldon has adapted the film to stage with some of the most amazing choreography in the West End right now. The show isn’t a typical musical, if anything, it is more of a dance show with singing. Wheeldon’s choreography drives the show so beautifully, that some numbers don’t have or need dialogue for the scene to work. The scenes are executed to tip top perfection by Leanne Cope and Ashley Day as the leads Lise and Jerry and an incredible ensemble.
The only real problem I had with the show was rooted in the book. Obviously, yes, this is based on an old musical and set in a time where, yes, the values would’ve been interpreted differently. However, did this stop my friends and I taking the piss after the show? No, it didn’t.
Regardless, it is still a show that’s very different to pretty much everything else in the West End right now. I highly recommend going before the engagement ends on January 6th for the choreography and direction. And I will be rooting for them at the Olivier Awards next year.
An American In Paris is currently running at the Dominion Theatre until 6th January 2018. For tickets and more information please visit https://www.anamericaninparisthemusical.co.uk/
And that’s it for the essay. What have you seen at the theatre lately? I’d love to know!
Until next time,