A very, very busy week at the theatre for me! Have seen such a range of shows this week (including 1 show I’ll be reviewing next week and a trip to London Zoo at night!) which has been a lot of fun.
Mad House at the Ambassador’s Theatre
Running until: 4th September
Ticket link: https://www.madhousetheplay.co.uk/
A new play by Theresa Rebeck, Mad House follows a family dynamic as the head of the family is in the last stages of his life. The play mostly centres around which of the three siblings will take over their father’s house and inherit the most money when he passes. Starring David Harbour and Bill Pullman, both returning to the West End, and a great supporting cast of British actors, Mad House is a wonderful new play about family that does take on some incredibly heavy themes.
The play itself manages to toe the line well between the dramatic and comedic aspects. Some of the humour is genuinely quiet funny. But there are some moments where Daniel (Bill Pullman) goes on these offensive rants that feel a bit Trumpian. I get that the audience has to be shown that yes, this man is an absolute arsehole – but surely there are better ways to do this. Particularly with so many people who are homophobic/transphobic/racist etc in the world – do we really need to see this on our stages? Other than those moments, I still really enjoyed the writing and I felt this was well paced.
Performances all round are fantastic. David Harbour is a real delight in this and has a wonderful dynamic with Bill Pullman that you can instantly feel the father/son connection from the very first scene. But it’s particularly towards the end of act 2 that David Harbour really gets to showcase how fantastic he is. Very happy to have him back in the West End, hope he continues to do more. The supporting cast deliver great performances as well but I thought Akiya Henry was sensational in her moving performance as Daniel’s nurse Lillian.
This does touch on some heavy themes around grief, death and suicide which if you handle that, then it’s worth sitting through. But maybe not so much if these are sensitive themes.
The Pride at Fortune Theatre
I won’t properly review this but I did get a chance to see a one off, script in hand performance of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s seminal play The Pride. The actors only had about 12 hours rehearsal time in total but this was put on to promote ATG’s West End Creative Learning scheme, focusing on cultural education. Director Aran Cherkez stated at the beginning of the show that this play was chosen because the themes presented in the 1958 and 2008 scenes in the play are still relevant to today. The entire company of actors were fantastic and after a while, I didn’t even realise they had their scripts in their hands. A really wonderful evening and I hope there’s more of these performances to come!
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at Richmond Theatre*
Running until: on tour until 9th July in York and 16th July in Cheltenham
Ticket link: https://littlevoiceuk.com/
Jim Carwright’s play has been well loved for many years thanks to its success in earlier West End productions and the film adaptation. Following a young woman called Little Voice who escapes her life by impersonating the female singers she listens to in her bedroom. She’s heard by a boyfriend of her mother’s who happens to be a record executive who gives her the chance of a lifetime – to be heard outside of her bedroom walls. It’s a good premise but ultimately I found this was an outdated and boring play that didn’t offer much in terms of what the audience was meant to take away from the play.
I will say though, the saving grace in this production is Christina Bianco’s central performance as LV. Known for her impersonations on YouTube, of course she was always going to be ace at that. But she really had me convinced in her portrayal as a childlike northern girl and I found myself rooting for her. But the script really lets her down. There’s a love story that feels forced and very much like filler material. There is also no real development between the acts where her first performance is an absolute disaster and then suddenly can perform infront of crowds. (If there was, it wasn’t clear). Alongside this, there’s a whole plot line that degrades Mari (LV’s mum)’s friend Sadie to just being the ‘fat friend’ which is just so unnecessary in today’s times. Fiona Mulvaney does her best but what a thankless job that Jim Cartwright has created. There’s also one scene where she vomits that was absolutely horrible and not needed whatsoever.
This was just a very long play that didn’t really offer much to the audience apart from showcasing Christina Bianco’s talent (which is worth the ticket price alone). My friend Sabrina and I were discussing this on the way home and we just did not know what we were meant to take away from this play or what the key message of it was.
Unfortunate at Underbelly Earl’s Court
Running until: 16th July
Ticket link: https://www.underbellyfestival.com/events-display/unforunate-the-untold-story
I have heard SO many positive things about this musical over the last few years and was so excited to get a chance to see it in London. Unfortunate tells the story of Ursula the sea witch who is finally given a chance to tell her side of the story. This is an absolute riot of a musical – incredibly fun, joyful and empowering all at once.
The entire six piece cast are fantastic led by a star making turn from Elliotte Williams-N’Dure as Ursula who commands the stage everytime she’s on it with a sublime performance. The supporting cast are fantastic too with special mentions to Allie Dart as Sebastian (amongst others!) and Miracle Chance as Ariel who were utterly hilarious throughout their different tracks.
The music fits right in with modern musical theatre’s pop sound and has constant bops with Hot Girl Summer and We Didn’t Make It To Disney being highlights. It’s a wonderful creation that Robyn Grant, Daniel Foxx and Tim Gilvin have made, I really hope there’s a full album in the works. The set designed by Abby Clarke fits right in the Udderbelly tent and works well in creating the atmosphere of the sea. I was also pleasantly surprised by the use of puppets in the production as well, which I thought was a really nice touch.
Overall, this is a fantastic new musical that’s definitely not for kids (some of it is quite explicit) but is still something to be seen. A charming wonderful new show that I hope has a further life.
Until next time
Categories: On Stage