#42 - "Unroadworthy comic vehicle" - Lettice and Lovage

Menier Chocolate Factory

Peter Shaffer’s utterly daft 80s comedy about two older women waging war on modern mediocrity was a vehicle for Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack: Trevor Nunn’s revival feels less than roadworthy. Initially at loggerheads over historical truth and theatrical flair, Felicity Kendal’s fruitily chuntering Lettice and Maureen Lipman’s beadily acerbic Lotte bond over shared ideas of beauty and romance. The middle act is the most amusing and successful, but it’s bracketed by absurd contrivance and cliche; surely, today we can come up with better roles for ripe actresses than this. Nunn’s production has an under-rehearsed, stuttering air: you catch flashes of these two delicious comics on top form, but they are rare.

#41 - Chips with everything - celebrating London's historic cheap eateries

Rock and Soul Plaice, Endell St

With so many resonant cheap London eateries gone and going – Bloom’s, The New Piccadilly, the Picasso – we should fiercely celebrate those that remain. Today and tomorrow (17-18/05/17) the Rock and Sole Plaice in Endell St will sell chips at the 1982 price of 10p to celebrate the current owners' 35-year contribution to a history dating back to 1871. Is the title of “London’s oldest chippy” disputed, as London’s oldest pub or first fringe theatre always are? Doesn’t matter: when I’ve indulged, the chips here have been superb (thick, crunchy, golden), the paraphernalia (white coats, wooden forks, generous vinegar, that punning name) impeccable. Long may it fry.

#40 - "Sprawling, over-the-top brio" - Angels in America

National Theatre, Lyttelton

Twenty-five years on from its NT premiere Tony Kushner’s eight-hour spectacle has lost none of its power, pertinence or sprawling, over-the-top brio. In an 80s New York afflicted with Aids and Reaganism, seven humans and one angel crash messily through each other’s waking and dreaming lives, sparking fevered questions of politics, religion and sexuality. That a key figure – the closeted, infected McCarthyite Roy Cohn – was also Trump’s mentor seems almost too perfect. A fine cast revels in the talkative, emotive excesses and Marianne Elliot gives the play’s bold swagger free rein. The design, especially the articulation of the angel is, as Andrew Garfield’s anguished hero Prior would put it, faaabulous.

 

#39 - "Great nosh" - Monty's Deli

227-229 Hoxton Street

Fat, flaky pastrami on pillowy rye; smoked turkey smothered in tangy beetroot mustard mayo and slaw; crisp pickles; luxuriant chopped liver with blackened sweet challah bread. This is great nosh. Jewish deli Monty’s, a former market pop up, has found an airy home in the distressed carcass of a Victorian butcher’s shop (it’s non-kosher, btw). Think Delancey St enlivened by smiley millennial Hoxton cool – a bagel bar and tables on one side, low-rise booths on another. There’s decent house beer and wine but it’s really all about the calorific dishes. All those mentioned above were excellent, as were vinegary potato salad with sweet onion and velvety chopped egg with blackened challah. Latkas alone were a bit meh.  

#38 - "Brutally funny, focused and provoking" - Consent

National Theatre, Dorfman

Wow, this is brutally funny, incredibly dense stuff. In Nina Raine’s play, two barristers working on a rape case find issues of consent and violation spin into their lives outside the courtroom. Infidelity, the politics of marital sex, abortion, baby hunger and the harsh offhandness of lawyers are debated in alternately witty and vehement adversarial exchanges: indeed, the play is so layered it’s impossible to cut through to any conclusion. Perhaps that’s the point. Roger Michell’s production is tightly focused and provoking, and frames fine performances especially, from a brittle Anna Maxwell Martin and from Adam James as a serial-shagging lawyer, “the yardstick of shit”.  

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