My Stagey Week - 15
Updated: May 6, 2019
If you’re going to see anything at the Kings Head Theatre you can guarantee a few things, the theatre will be uncomfortably warm, you’ll be squished into the row of seats, and the show will be a bit basic.
“That bed’s from Ikea” commented someone sat next to me whilst I was there on Tuesday, referring to the modest set.
Committed to their pledge of paying everybody working on and off the stage equity minimum, the set designs are consistently substandard, which can usually be said about their shows in general.
Basic comforts like elbow room and air conditioning are given over as the audience are packed in to the back room theatre of the Kings Head pub in Angel, to watch any of the two or three shows on any given day.
As a business model to increase turnover, the Kings Head Theatre programmes at least two shows at any given time, which run back to back with a short turn around between each. It’s a model usually used at festival venues, which although doubles the capacity of the venue also limits the productions to enable fold away sets that can be quickly changed.
I was at the Kings Head to watch the show that currently fills the late slot, Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked. Try shouting that out to a pub full of people who are not queuing for the 9.30pm performance, without getting a few odd looks.
In the queue for the press night performance were Kings Head alumni, director Rikki Beadle-Blair, writer Peter Darney and actor Rich Watkins. I chatted briefly to theatre critic Paul Vale, before giving producer Richard Lambert a hug as I took my seat.
It’s not a terrible play. But it is bizarre. Written by Rob Hayes. It was originally produced for the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014, where received notoriety for its explicit title and topic. The gags are quite clever, but after ten minutes loses momentum. It feels like a great short stand up comedy routine stretched into a full play.
Actor Linus Karp is perfectly cast as the awkward misfit in this one man play.
Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked runs until 27th April at the Kings Head Theatre.
As London was basking in glorious sunshine on Wednesday, I made my way to the Union theatre in the afternoon to interview the cast of Market Boy.
Written by David Eldridge and originally staged at the National Theatre in 2006, it’s an ambitious play for the sixty seat Union Theatre, as artist director Sasha Regan has brought in twenty-one actors, she had asked me to interview eighteen of them, in groups of three.
“There are some great characters” Sasha said, describing her cast.
My job in these interviews is to steer the questions knowingly so that I can later reduce the sixty minutes of interview footage down to twenty. I ask each group the same questions so that I can edit and the link their answers together.
It’s always a pleasure to meet new people though my interviews, and I love finding the funny moments.
The job itself of editing the videos can be tricky, especially trying to keep the videos interesting and balanced so that everybody gets a fair share of screen time.
The full interview can be seen here:
Market Boy runs at the Union Theatre until 11th May. http://www.uniontheatre.biz/market-boy.html
I was excited to see this week, news that Jonathan Harvey and the Pet Shop boys have teamed up again for Musik the follow up to Closer to Heaven.
Frances Barber returns as Billie Trix the role she first played 18 years ago West End musical Closer To Heaven for the 50-minute, one-woman show Musik this summer in Edinburgh.
Musik will run from 5th to 24th August at the Assembly Rooms (Bijou venue).
I have always adored Jonathan Harvey’s writing and although I didn’t see the original production of Closer to Heaven in the West End, I did see a later production at the Union Theatre.
Casting was also announced for Jack Maple’s production of The View Upstairs at the Soho theatre later this year.
The line up will include, from Eastenders and Jesus Christ Superstar, Declan Bennett. Recent contender in ITV’s The Voice, Cedric Neal. Stage goddess Victoria Hamilton-Barritt. John Patridge. As well as broadway and Smash star Andy Mientus
Fabian Aloise will choreograph hashing also been announced to choreograph Evita.
On Wednesday evening, I find myself in an increasingly familiar situation, having a plus one and nobody to take.
I find myself continuing to turn down pairs of tickets when I am now offered them, as time and time again I simply struggle to find a date.
You would think that living in London, it wouldn’t be that hard, especially when people constantly say to me, “ooh you see a lot of theatre, take me sometime”.
But each time I have a spare ticket to offer, suddenly people are too busy, or it’s too short notice, or they don’t feel like it. I accept that some of the shows I see might not appeal to everyone, but the spare ticket this time was for All My Sons at the Old Vic, which I was sure would.
The 1947 play by Arthur Miller, has been revived with international screen stars Sally Field and Bill Pullman and Doctor Who star Jenna Coleman.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the play, and couldn’t be sure what to expect, the Old Vic continues to blow hot and cold for me.
I absolutely loved Sylvia, A Monster Calls and A Christmas Carol, but I really didn’t enjoy Wise Children and most recently An American Clock.
A friend who was in A Christmas Carol who had seen All My Children the night before hadn’t been impressed, which worried me. But at least I didn’t have to worry about a date. After posting on Facebook, my friend Fran offering to accompany me.
Fran is a beautiful young actress who trained at Guildhall. We had met on a writing course at the National Theatre and kept in touch.
We met early, as Fran wanted to buy me a belated glass of champagne for my thirtieth. I explained it had been my thirty-seventh birthday, which would make it extremely belated. Fran flattered me by saying I honestly didn’t look older than thirty. Some people will say anything for a free ticket.
I bought myself a brownie from the bar while Fran nipped out to the Old Vic’s temporary toilets, a row of Porto-loos in the adjacent street. We then chatted and caught up while we flicked through the programme as Fran pointed out Bessie Carter, daughter of Jim Carter and Imelda Staunton, who like Fran had also trained at Guildhall. In All My Sons she understudies Jenna Coleman.
The play began, with a nifty piece of stage design that I really liked. The set beautifully wraps around the architecture of the building.
The first half was admittedly slow, but once the play settles in by the second act, I left feeling thoroughly satisfied by the beautifully devastating story.
Sally Field was superb. I have always had a fondness for her as an actress, notably because she looks and reminds me of my own mother. I adored her performances in TV series Brothers and Sisters and the Smokey and the Bandit films that I would watch as a child.
Bill Pullman tripped over his lines a few times but this was only the third preview, and he is a screen actor.
I left the theatre feeling elated that i had enjoyed the play, and had the chance to see one of my favourite screen actresses on a London stage.
All My Sons play at the Old Vic Theatre until 8th June.
A comfortable two hour running time left plenty of time for me to head over to Above the Arts theatre to join some friends celebrating the fiftieth birthday of Sarah Dearlove. I missed Tim McArthur’s performance as Sister Mary, but was in time for a glass of prosecco and a slice of cake baked by Sarah Waddell who had baked me some brownies for my birthday.
We popped across to the Phoenix Arts Club after to continue the party there, where Kitty Whitelaw had been performing and I bumped into Ashley Luke Lloyd who has recently returned from a tour of Flashdance in South Korea. He looked well as he drank with his boyfriend Aaron.
On Thursday, I finally got to see the current tour of the Rocky Horror Show. I had been too busy the week that it was in Wimbledon. This week it was in Bromley, down the road from where I live.
Rocky Horror is nearly fifty years old, and is a classic. Over the years I have seen several productions of it.
Reunited again after appearing together in Flashdance, Ben Adams from pop band A1 and Joanne Clifford from Strictly Come Dancing play Brad and Janet.
I’ll admit, I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Ben since his A1 days. Unfortunately for me, Ben wasn’t on the night I went. A notice in the programme announced that his understudy Jake Small would be playing Brad. I was delighted when I read that Jake had trained at Arts Ed, as I knew this meant the show was in safe hands, and sure enough Jake smashed it.
The show is bonkers, and best enjoyed with a group of people and after a few drinks, especially if you dress up. Sadly, I was on my own, sober and just wearing jeans and plain a t shirt. Around me, others had made an effort, as people dressed in suspenders with hats, canes and feather boas.
Over the years the show has evolved as audience members are encouraged to heckle the narrator.
Philip Franks, who I remember from the TV series The Darling Buds of May, does an incredible job of managing and responding to the heckles, allowing for some hilarious as libs. At times the heckles are funny and do add to the proceedings, at other points they become a bit incessant where you just wish they would pipe down.
The set of this touring show is still as basic as I have seen in recent years, but as to be expected.
Impressing on all levels though, Callum Evans gives possibly one of the best portrayals of Rocky that I have ever seen. Callum not only sings and dances superbly but lends his acrobatic prowess to the proceedings. He looks incredible, aseptically encapsulating the role, but also bringing some subtle acting choices that really bring out a depth to the character, which lets face it was never particular written to have much depth.
Callum is someone I already knew having met him whilst he was in Grease, and then later Chess and Salad Days, and he has always been in great shape, but he has taken extra lengths and worked incredibly hard, with a strict diet and fitness regime. I have a lot of admiration and respect for him.
The Rocky Horror Show continues to tour until November. https://www.rockyhorror.co.uk/tour
Although I now live in London, I always go home to Cumbria and my parents for Easter, however this year I delayed my trip and spent Good Friday in London. Forgetting that my gym had closed early because of the bank holiday, I ditched my attempt at a quick work out, and grabbed some fish and chips and a bottle of cider to enjoy in the sunshine.
I then made my way to the Other Palace for Gretel! and the reason I had stayed in London for.
Gretel! Is a brand new musical with music and lyrics by Charlie Turner and book by Liv Warden.
Liv is a friend who I have talked about before in my blog. We did a writing course at the National theatre, where she went on to write a play called Anomaly that was produced earlier this year at the Old Red Lion.
I am incredibly supportive of Liv, so when she told me that she was developing Gretel! and presenting it at the Other Palace with only three performances, I changed my plans to make sure I could attend one of them, and I’m really glad I did.
I loved it. The music has a nice blend of classic and pop with catchy melodies. The book is hilarious thanks to Liv’s ear for modern dialogue.
I chatted earlier in the week to a friend who writes for the Stage, who recommended that I shouldn’t bother seeing work-in-progress. But I completely disagree. I am still lucky enough to see theatre for enjoyment rather than work, and although it was a work in progress. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I have to say think it was just as good if not better than some fully staged and developed theatre that I see.
Last week, on this same stage at the Other Palace, I saw Steven Sater’s attempt at a new musical Murder at the Gates. Which honestly, felt dated and old fashioned.
Liv and Charlie, as young women on trend, have created something fresh and exciting, and are proving why theatres like the National should be investing in new, younger and more female writers and creatives.
Liv had told me that Charlie had begun writing the music to this in November and then Liv had only come on board to write the book in February. Liv had done a superb job directing the piece.
I was amazed by how well developed this piece was. Given that Murder at the Gates has been in development for other two years, it felt no where near as accomplished as this. I can’t wait to see how Gretel! will continue to progress.
What also impressed me about this presentation was that all the cast were off book, and everyone was incredibly well cast with gorgeous voices and superb acting. Tom Duern who I had interviewed as part of the cast of Pirates of Penzance was playing the role of Ginger, and was superb.
Credit has to go to the producers Scott McDonald and Tom Payne. The production values were incredible with immaculate attention to detail by the costume and hair designers Molly Griffiths and Jevdet Orgen.
The production was dedicated to the charity Galop, who combat violence towards LGBT+ people, providing advice and support to victims of homophobia, sexual violence and domestic abuse.
More information about the organisation can be found at www.galop.org.
Here is the link to my blog about Liv Warden.
Straight after Gretel!, I raced across to the Underbelly to catch Tuck Shop Live! A brand new drag show from producer Christoper D. Clegg.
Chris set up Tuck Shop as a platform to produce and manage drag artists. They currently have a touring show Gals Aloud as well as Drag Live in Soho and Rosie Beaver. As well as this they have weekly web episodes of The Tea Bag with Ophelia Love. Kitty Scott Claus.
The Tuckshop Live at the Underbelly Festival featured Ophelia Love. Kitty Scott Claus. Herr The Queen. Cheryl Hole. Meth. Taylor Trash. Cara Melle. Poppy Cock. Tayce.
I also managed to get a quick photo with Cheryl Hole after the show. Cheryl is rumoured to be one of the contestants in the new UK version of Ru Paul’s Drag Race
Tuck Shop presents Fantastic Beaver 2. The Rhymes of Grindr Wald, comes to the Underbelly on 9th May at 9.30. With tickets from £14.00
I also had the pleasant surprise of bumping into my pal Abigail Carter Simpson.
Abi and Louie (a.k.a. Kitty Scott Claus) are friends who have done two pantos together in Chelmsford. We caught up for a couple of drinks afterwards.
Abi dragged me in to soho, where thanks to the protests I was stranded with no way to get home. I eventually got home around 5am and had to be up three hours later to drive up to Manchester.
I stopped off at the Hope Mill theatre to say hello to Joe and Will. I only ever really see them at press nights dressed up to the nines, so it was quite cute to see them in shorts and baseball caps as they manned the theatre bar.
The weather was glorious, which was rare for Manchester. Any time I usually visit it rains.
I was here to watch the matinee performance of West Side Story at the Royal Exchange Theatre. It is a beautiful theatre presented in the round.
Andy Coxon and Gabriela Garcia we’re playing Tony and Maria. I was also hoping to see Jordan Cunningham but he was at his brothers wedding for the day. I couldn’t keep my eyes off Justin Lee Jones who I had last seen in Strictly Ballroom. He’s very good.
Andy was incredible. I first met him a few years ago during filming for the Les Mis movie. He then went on to lead the casts of Yank and Hair. He is a bonafide leading man. His voice is sublime with incredible acting skills. Also if anyone ever questions whether an openly gay actor can convincingly play straight roles, they only need to watch Andy master them.
I had forgotten how beautiful the score of West Side Story is, and this production does a commendable job of not meddling with it. The choreography and staging is subtle and faithful to show’s legacy.
Gabriella encapsulates Maria beautifully, with the entire cast commanding the stage.
Having practically sold out before they even opened. The Royal Exchange has announced that West Side Story will now return in 2020.
A little exhausted, I then drove home to Cumbria to spend the rest of the Easter weekend with my parents, my brother, his girlfriend and her children.
The weather continued as I spent most of the weekend stuffing myself with fish and chips and chocolate. I then loaded the car with more Easter eggs and drove back to London with my brother.