Quite the range at the theatre this week from a classic musical to an adaptation of a Strindberg play and a new interpretation of a great Shakespeare play.
Anything Goes at the Barbican*
Running until: 3rd September
Ticket link: https://www.londonboxoffice.co.uk/anything-goes-tickets
Returning to the Barbican for the summer after a triumphant run in 2021 and finishing up a UK tour around the country, I’m so happy London gets to experience the joy of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes once more. Taking place on the SS America, the musical follows the shenanigans of the guests aboard the boat. With huge glossy numbers and a whole lot of heart, this is a really wonderfully joyful production.
I had seen the production twice last year and had such a fun time. Nothing really happens in terms of plot, but with some superb performances and brilliant staging at the centre, you can’t help but be entertained and I think that’s just what we need sometimes. Some of the humour is very slapstick which doesn’t always work for me at times but Kathleen Marshall’s direction has some standout moments, particularly in songs like Friendship and the final 10 or so minutes of the show. The real star of the show is her Olivier Award winning choreography that just excels in every single number.
Leading the cast this time round is Kerry Ellis as Reno, who is really good in this and she’s clearly having a great time in the role. I don’t think she played into the comedy all that much given how much of it is in the show and from her character. But I still think she did a great job, it’s certainly a departure from previous roles for her. Returning from the production in 2021 are Samuel Edwards as Billy who was sublime along with Nicole-Lily Baisden who was angelic. I was so chuffed to see Carly Mercedes Dyer return as Erma, she stole every single scene she was in, just so effortlessly hilarious and charming.
A lot of fun and genuinely great entertainment especially if you love stunning choreography and if you missed the London run the first time round.
The Dance of Death at Arcola Theatre*
Running until: 23rd July
Ticket link: https://www.arcolatheatre.com/whats-on/the-dance-of-death-2/
Across a 90 minute run time, a couple who have been married for 30 or so years is pushed to the limits as their bickering begins to spin out of control. Having toured the country for the past couple of months, the play has now landed in London at the Arcola Theatre where it was initially commissioned. I didn’t know anything about this play going into this nor did I know much about the original August Strindberg play this is adapted from. What starts off as quite an interesting exploration of marriage, the play runs out of steam quite quickly.
I do appreciate the one set that doesn’t change adding to the cabin fever atmosphere that is caused by Alice and Edgar in their relationship, which I thought was clever. There is some really strong and atmospheric lighting design by David Howe that works really well here. In the acting department, both Lindsay Duncan and Hilton McRae have really good chemistry together. They both tap into the comedic sides and darker sides of the play really well. But even they can only do so much when the jokes stop being funny because they’ve been so overused throughout. It’s funny at first but eventually runs out of steam, leaving the second half of the play just incredibly boring.
If you like intense dramas then this one is for you because you do get some really good performances out of this. But I don’t think this one was much for me.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream at St Paul’s Church*
Running until: 13th August
Ticket link: https://iristheatre.com/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream-3
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is flipped on it’s head in this production from Iris Theatre. Set in the modern day, the production takes place at Athens Academy as the characters aim to get to their end of school year prom.
I really love this play and this is certainly a very unique production directed wonderfully by Sara Aniqah Malik. Utilising the space of St Paul’s Church, the promenade aspect works well which is fun to experience even if it did take a while for me to get used to. The entire cast are excellent, many of whom juggle multiple characters. I particularly thought Zena Carswell was fantastic in her three tracks.
The thing that lets the production down for me is that the modernisations didn’t always work for me. The insertion of modern language felt really out of place and made the tone feel uneven. There’s a whole section where the mechanicals are known as a Glee club but suddenly have to do a play at regionals? That felt misunderstood. There’s also a huge music section that felt so out of place and felt like filler. I did appreciate some of the changes they made to the plot in order to accommodate the production. But some of them felt out of place as well.
It’s a fun and unique production but I think it could’ve done with some improvements.
Until next time
Categories: On Stage