#125 - "Chewy, nuanced performances" - theatre review, Mood Music 04/05/18

Old Vic

Although it’s set in the music industry and has been tagged a #MeToo drama, Joe Penhall’s play about the complex and sometimes exploitative relationships underpinning creativity surely has elements of autobiography. Ben Chaplin is Bernard, a veteran producer moulding/feeding off the raw and fragile talent of Seana Kerslake’s young singer Cat. Both actors give chewy, nuanced performances but the intricate structure – overlapping conversations between the leads and their lawyers and therapists – makes for a slow start and a lot of explanation. Roger Michell's production warms up quite a bit and makes interesting points about power, but the play is unbalanced. Bad Bernard has all the best lines.

#124 - "A devastating expression of grief" - theatre review, Nine Night 03/05/18

National Theatre

Natasha Gordon’s first play is an absorbing study of cultural and familial tension among first, second and third generation Jamaicans in London: it starts off rackety and funny and ends with a devastating expression of grief. Dead matriarch Gloria must be mourned for nine nights until her spirit passes but her family is divided over money, authority, religion and tradition, and there’s an abandoned daughter in the mix. The plot’s a bit over-engineered but Roy Alexander Weise’s production chugs along, driven by Franc Ashman’s brittle Lorraine and the superb double act of huffy Cecilia Noble and languid Ricky Fearon. The last scene really moved me.

#123 - "Pandemonium" - theatre review, Absolute Hell 27/04/18

National Theatre

Pandemonium: that’s the word for Rodney Ackland’s sprawling slice of post-war Soho in which a huge cast of characters are all pursued by particular demons. Sex, booze, jealousy, guilt and shame all slop through the door of the crumbling La Vie En Rose run by Kate Fleetwood’s brittle Christine, and it’s the play’s bold depiction of gay life – realised most fully in Charles Edwards’s feckless writer, Hugh – that really surprises. Joe Hill-Gibbins’s judicious production offers large doses of caterwauling and camp, so the intrusion of real life, in the shape of reports from the Nazi death camps feels all the more raw.

#122 - "Inspired grilled artichokes" - restaurant review, Jose Pizarro 27/04/18

Bermondsey St

Days before I was invited to Jose Pizarro’s flagship Spanish restaurant I was at a Michelin-starred place and I know which I prefer. Pizarro, who has done his time in fine dining, then in simple fare at Brindisa, now fuses the two in his relaxed and friendly Bermondsey dining room. I could happily graze just on the Pica Pica tapas selection: the divine Jamon Iberica, Padron peppers crunchy with salt, inspired grilled artichokes with a pristine egg yolk stirred in. But it would be a shame to miss the Presa Iberica, served thrillingly pink, in which you can taste the acorns. Sherry and wine by the glass were cleverly paired.

#121 - "A difficult work I could engage with endlessly" - theatre review, The Writer 24/04/18

Almeida Theatre

Boldly metatheatrical, justly furious, terrifically frustrating… I fear I'm mansplaining Ella Hickson's full-throated shout against the patriarchy, which is also a cry of anguish about the how awful and hard it is to be a true artist (groan). The politics are fascinating, funny and apposite, but the play challenges conventional narrative and expectations: in other words, even corralled by Blanche Macintyre’s production, it’s a deliberate, huge, hot mess. Purnell disarms impatient audiences and critics by mincing their views onstage, and even indicts her onstage avatar, played by Romola Garai, for white privilege (and for being tall). A difficult evening, but one I feel I could engage with endlessly.

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