#191 - "Larky celebration of old, boozy, sleazy Soho" - theatre review, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

Coach and Horses, Soho

Keith Waterhouse’s larky play first bemoaned the passing of old, boozy, sleazy Soho back in 1989. It should now be thoroughly outdated, but this version, staged in the under-threat Coach and Horses in which it is set, still feels beautifully apt. Robert Bathhurst is the soused, much-married hack and wit, locked in overnight and reminiscing about cat racing in Battersea, carousing in the Groucho, and failed relationships. There are cameo mentions for Soho characters Muriel Belcher, Frank Norman, Francis Bacon and Waterhouse himself: his famous ‘egg trick’ brings the house down. It’s a celebration of the shared wit of writer and subject; both now gone, though Soho tenuously endures.

#190 - "Bold if flawed", theatre review, The Henries 13/05/19

Shakespeare's Globe

In another bold if flawed Globe experiment, Henry V and the two parts of Henry IV are recut as a trilogy focusing on Hotspur, Falstaff and Hal, and cast from a small, diverse ensemble that’s 50% female, 50% male. This means we get a clear view of the arc of maturity travelled by Sarah Amankwah’s impressive, androgynous Hal - kick-started by Michelle Terry’s fiery, funny Hotspur – and the concept of gender is fascinatingly blurred. It also means a dull central play that Helen Schlesinger’s nimble, Jennifer-Saunders-ish Falstaff can’t save. But co-directors Sarah Bedi and Federay Holmes keep things brisk and there’s something special about watching the whole thing, as night turns to day, in the Globe’s wooden ‘O’.

#189 - "Majestic" - theatre review, Death of a Salesman, 09/05/19

Young Vic

Casting superb black actors as Arthur Miller’s doomed American family feels simultaneously revelatory and entirely right and normal in Marianne Elliott’s majestic revival. The interlaced tragedies of Willy and Linda Loman and sons Biff and Happy unfold with devastating force as if in a fever dream of flashbacks and fugue states. The Wire’s Wendell Pierce brings great physical charisma and precision to Loman, but is matched by the always superb Sharon D Clarke, and the supporting is very strong. The play is long and at times repetitive but here it feels both urgent and timely when so many, like the Lomans, lack a safety net.

 

#188 - "What a treat and what a cast" - Theatre review, All My Sons 08/05/19

Old Vic

What a treat and what a cast. Jeremy Herrin’s majestic revival of Arthur Miller’s study of guilt pairs Hollywood royalty with vibrant British talent to deeply affecting effect. Bill Pullman is beguiling and Sally Field wrenching as the older couple dealing with a lost son; but Colin Morgan and Jenna Colman match them as the surviving brother and sweetheart trying to build something new from wartime capitalism’s wreckage. Though subtle and superior, All My Sons suffers slightly from the prolixity and overemphasis that dogs Miller’s work, but this revival is as near to definitive as I can imagine

#187 - "Glittering, throaty style over substance" - Sweet Charity 07/05/19

Donmar Warehouse

Anne-Marie Duff brings throaty, careworn pathos to the role of the taxi dancer with an untarnished heart in Josie Rourke’s farewell production as Donmar boss. It’s no criticism to say Rourke’s glittering, Factory-inspired staging favour’s style over substance: Neil Simon’s puny story was only ever a frame for Cy Coleman’s songs and Dorothy Fields’ scintillating lyrics. Numbers like Hey Big Spender and Rhythm of Life – performed by an ensemble in Fosse fishnets and (once, brilliantly) Warhol drag – do not disappoint, and even though the gender politics are from another age, the tough broads of the Fandango ballroom stand out more vividly than the men.

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