Review – Two revivals – Educating Rita at the Menier; Sweet Nothings at the Royal Northampton (courtesy of Young Vic)

Best news from the Menier Chocolate Factory is that the seats are comfortable!! Yay!! They even have some form of lumber support!! Woohoo!!

Educating Rita Willy Russell’s play about the Liverpool hairdresser ambitious for literary knowledge is so well known, primarily because of the ace performances of Julie Walters and Michael Caine in the film, that there can only be two possible reasons to mount a revival. One would be if it was to drastically update it somehow, so that it told a different story more relevant to today; the other would be simply to wallow in its humour and charm relying on tiptop performances and red hot script.

Larry LambWell this production largely falls into the second category. It looks very much like it did in the 1980s and Larry Lamb and Laura Dos Santos turn in first rate entertaining performances. For anyone new to this play it would be a splendid account of it. For me, unfortunately, I found myself mentally repeating some of the lines with the cast as I realised, in the words of Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson, that I knew it so well. It hadn’t occurred to me that this would happen. I rather disappointed myself.

Laura Dos SantosThe “updating” aspect of it included a reference to the lottery which I’m sure wasn’t there in 1980; but my main quibble with the production is the removal of the interval. I rather like an interval. I am of an age where after about 70 minutes I get an urge to have a walk – possibly to an area set aside for liquid refreshment – possibly to another area where liquid refreshment previously consumed can be comfortably released into the environment. I also *can* have a tendency to nod off. Which I regret I did slightly about three quarters of the way through, and if I’d had 15 minutes break I would have been refreshed. It also deprives you of the chance to talk to your theatre companions and ask what they think of it – other people’s comments in the interval often shape the way you look at the second half. In this instance, the constant talking of the two characters for 100 minutes just gets a bit much.

Anyway, these are quibbles. It’s very good.

Sweet Nothings Sweet Nothings, just finished at the Young Vic, is a fin de siecle piece from Arthur Schnitzler, writer of La Ronde and other naughty plays. You know where you are with Schnitzler. It’s going to be menacing, sexy, provocative and ultimately deadly. This is no disappointment. Actually it’s a completely terrific production, superbly acted. The first scene with four young people having a drinking party which might well turn extremely sexual, depending on how it goes, is vibrant, confident, tactile, intimate, daring…. Natalie DormerThe four actors must have done some damn good workshops to get that level of understanding between them. I was particularly impressed with Natalie Dormer as Mitzi, every bit the bad girl, and Jack Laskey as the spoiled and brutal Theodore, wanting everything (and everyone) his way.

Jack LaskeyThen the party is broken up by a threatening presence and the only way is down for the naughty Fritz, who has been found out by his mistress’s husband. Oh dear. I challenge you to ze duel, etc. I was spellbound throughout. It’s going on to Kingston and Warwick, then Austria, Germany and Madrid before it finally closes, so catch it if you can.

Review – Another theatrical catch-up post

I really must keep up to date with these entries. I’m disappointing myself.

ian maxwell fisherSunday March 28th saw us at the Lilian Baylis theatre at the Stage Door of Sadler’s Wells to see the Lost Musical, Paris, by Cole Porter. If you don’t know, Lost Musicals is a fantastic thing. They dig up shows that haven’t seen the light of day for yonks and then perform them on an empty stage with just chairs and a piano. We’ve seen seven or eight of these over the years and they never fail to delight. Anne ReidThis year’s show, Paris, (it’s the one where “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love” first appeared), is one of the funniest and most entertaining we have seen. The cast includes the wonderful Anne Reid who completely steals it. All hail the miraculous Ian Marshall Fisher who puts these things together. There are two more on this year, I confess we haven’t booked for them and I fear it may be too late to get decent seats. Ah well, there’s always next year.

Hedda GablerGood Friday, April 2nd, we saw Hedda Gabler at the Oxford Playhouse. Front of House at the Oxford Playhouse were obviously having a bad hair day. It’s always been a wonderful theatre, I remember it from when I was a teenager going there with Mum. And as a student, I was their College Rep. Happy days. But it’s not a good idea to have just one position where you can buy programmes when it’s a full house, and then only when they require you to have the correct change…. And why have they removed the signs that say Seats 1-10 this way, Seats 11-20 that way, we were all walking over one another to go in the right direction. Sigh.

Tim McInnernyAnyway it was a very good production of Hedda Gabler; Ms Gabler herself played by Rosamund Pike was a very dismal person right from the start. It was never a good idea to let that woman anywhere near those pistols. It was great to see Tim McInnerny again, I last saw him in a student production of Measure for Measure on the very same stage and I am pleased to say I gave him a glowing review in a student newspaper. My hunch was right, he came good. I didn’t enjoy the show quite as much as I thought I would, and it brought back memories of a more thrilling Janet Suzman in the role circa 1977, maybe it was my age!

Sondheim Birthday ConcertThen last Sunday, April 4th (Easter Day, you may remember) we saw a celebration for Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday at the Derngate in Northampton, with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the wonderful Maria Friedman, with the also wonderful (if not quite as much) Graham Bickley and Daniel Evans. It was a most jolly and entertaining affair. They started off with a concert version of Merrily We Roll Along, none of which I had heard before and it certainly made me want to see The Real Show. Maria FriedmanMuch of the rest of the evening brought back memories of Side by Side by Sondheim, but with some twists: a gay version of “Getting Married” – with Amy now Jamie – which worked pretty well. Daniel Evans and Maria Friedman in bed doing “Barcelona” was a hoot, and her “Send in the Clowns” was most moving. There was a fabulous symphonic suite containing about three songs from Sweeney Todd; and then some more Todd songs, including A Little Priest in which Ms Friedman forgot the lyrics, which shows that even the divine are human. It was a great night and left you buzzing for more.