The Falcon’s Malteser review – The Vaults

3 star review

With the school holidays now under way, here’s a delightful detective caper that will help keep the kids the amused over the summer.

Adapted from the 1986 book by Anthony Horowitz (creator of the Alex Rider series amongst many others), this lively stage show follows the adventures of inept private investigator Tim Diamond (Matt Jopling) and his smart 13-year-old sibling Nick (Sian Eleanor Green) as they attempt to crack a case involving a box of Maltesers left in their care by a diminutive Mexican who is then murdered in his hotel room.

THE FALCON'S MALTESER
Matt Jopling and Sian Eleanor Green in The Falcon’s Malteser (Photo: Geraint Lewis)

As they get closer to the heart of the mystery, the Diamond Brothers meet an array of  eccentric and dangerous characters, all of them played with energetic exuberance by Fergus Leathem and Samantha Sutherland.

Amid the foreign accents and frantic costume changes, there are some brilliant songs: my particular favourite being one set to the funky bass line of Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. Genius.

It seems mean not to mention that Jopling – who plays the aforementioned bass line -later performs an Elvis-style number on a guitar while in handcuffs. Now that’s even more genius.

THE FALCON'S MALTESER
Fergus Leathem, Matt Jopling, Sian Eleanor Green and Samantha Sutherland in The Falcon’s Malteser (Photo: Geraint Lewis)

Jopling and Green are immensely likeable as the crime-busting duo, while Leathem and Sutherland brilliantly bring to life the long list of supporting characters that includes Johnny Naples, The Fat Man, Lauren Bacardi and hitman Himmell (who owns a gun called Gott).

Directed by Lee Lyford, this pun-packed play’s 80 minutes flies by and leaves you wanting more. It’s another hit from Horowitz.

The Falcon’s Malteser is at The Vaults, near London’s Waterloo Station, until 25 August

 

 

 

 

 

The Night of the Iguana review – Noel Coward Theatre

4 star review

After last year’s triumphant Summer and Smoke, along comes another impressive Tennessee Williams revival to take up residence in the West End.

Clive Owen makes his return to the stage as the disgraced Reverend Shannon in this slow-burning drama set at a remote and run-down hotel in Mexico in 1940.

Dressed in a crumpled white linen suit, Owen’s Shannon is a dominating presence as soon as he appears on stage, talking incessantly, full of nervous energy and verging on a breakdown as a thunder storm brews in the skies above.

the night of the iguana - anna gunn as maxine faulk (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
Anna Gunn as Maxine Faulk (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

The hotel is run by the recently widowed Maxine Faulk (Anna Gunn), who wants Shannon for herself, despite his predeliction for underage girls. The atmosphere becomes highly charged at the arrival of impecunious artist Hannah Jelkes (Lia Williams) and her grandfather Nonno (Julian Glover), who she describes as “the world’s oldest living and practising poet”.

Both Gunn and Williams are stunningly good in their interactions with Owen’s Shannon. The sexual tension hangs in the air like a fine mist.

the night of the iguana - clive owen as rev. t. lawrence shannon and lia williams hannah jelkes (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
Clive Owen and Lia Williams (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

At some three hours long, James Macdonald’s production lets the intricate emotional beats play out slowly, especially in the second half.

Special mention must go Rae Smith’s impressive set. The ramshackle hotel verandah is created in loving detail while above it towers a craggy rock face and arching palm trees.

The thunder storm, when it arrives, is a cracker. And, in case you were wondering, there really is an iguana.

The Night of the Iguana is at the Noel Coward Theatre until 28 September

the night of the iguana company (c) brinkhoff.moegenburg.
The Night of the Iguana (Photo: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shannon is clearly a man with problems,

Macbeth review – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre at Blenheim Palace

4 star review

This is pop-up Shakespeare on a grand scale.

In the grounds of Oxfordshire’s opulent Blenheim Palace, a replica Elizabethan theatre – inspired by London’s Rose Playhouse (1587) – has been constructed on the very route that Shakespeare is thought to have travelled from Stratford and London.

Macbeth is one of four plays being staged here over the summer (along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet).

Directed by Damian Cruden, this is an atmospheric production with lively battle sequences, brutal murders and scary supernatural scenes. The witches’ skull masks are particularly nightmarish.

In the title role, Alex Avery gives a wonderful insight into Macbeth’s conflicted soul. This scene in which he thinks he sees Banquo’s ghost at the feast – during which he directly addresses several members of the audience in the “groundling” area – is particularly well done.

Suzy Cooper gives one of the most powerful performances of Lady Macbeth I can recall. Her wailed “all the perfumes of Arabia” speech – with the sky darkening overhead – is a wonderfully intense moment.

There’s strong support from Mark Peachey as Banquo and Paul Hawkyard as Macduff. Paul Stonehouse deserves as special mention for his amusing turn as the Porter. Christopher Marin’s percussion-rich score is superb too.

It always feels special to see Shakespeare being brought to life on the type of stage on which it was originally performed. With its lashings of Game of Thrones-style gore, Blenheim’s Macbeth is a bloody good show.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre at Blenheim Palace runs until 7 September

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat review – London Palladium

5 star review

What a journey this musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice has had. In 1967 it started life as a 15 minute pop cantata for a school choir in South Kensington. In 2019, and thousands of performances later, here it is back at the London Palladium – the same theatre where heart-throb Jason Donovan famously donned the multi-coloured coat in 1991.

Donovan is back too – this time as the Elvis-inspired Pharoah – while the role of Joseph goes to newcomer Jac Yarrow, who’s yet to finish drama school. Based on tonight, he doesn’t need to worry about his grades.

sheridan smith in joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat photographer tristram kenton
Sheridan Smith as The Narrator (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

What’s striking about this no-expense-spared revival is what they’ve done with the Narrator. Sheridan Smith is a magnetic presence as she sings, dances, grins, gurns and laughs her way through multiple roles, including Joseph’s father Jacob (with a comical fake beard) and Potiphar’s wife. She’s clearly having a ball.

Directed with a huge sense of fun by Laurence Connor, the energy in this show is so palpable you could make a coat out of it.  Yarrow, who is blessed with a wonderfully clear singing voice, earned himself a standing ovation on opening night for his spine-tingling rendition of Close Every Door.

jason donovan and the company of joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat photographer tristram kenton
Jason Donovan as Pharoah (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

Donovan arrives with a bang in Act Two onto an Ancient Egyptian set where the bling dial has been turned up to 11. Singing with a deep voice that seems to emanate from his golden boots, he pulls all the right moves during the rock’n’roll spectacle of Poor, Poor Pharoah/ Song of the King. The guitar-playing Egyptian god statues are a particular highlight.

There’s so much visual panache and whirling choreography that’s easy to miss some of the finer detail while you’re transfixed by events on the other side of the Palladium’s vast stage. It’s impossible, however, to miss the show’s brilliantly conceived camels. If I was kid, I’d want to ride one home.

Yarrow, who turned 21 last year, has arrived in the West End as a fully-formed star, and surely a glittering career lies ahead. But there’s no doubt who this production is really all about: it should be subtitled The Sheridan Show.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is at the London Palladium until 8 September  

sheridan smith, jason donovan, jac yarrow and the company of joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat photographer tristram kenton
The spectacular Egypt set by Morgan Large (Photo: Tristram Kenton)

 

 

 

 

 

The End of History review – Royal Court

3 star review

He may be best known these days for writing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but Jack Thorne’s new play about a pair of leftist activist parents and their offspring has a magic all of its own.

Directed by Thorne’s regular collaborator John Tiffany, the first act begins with Sal (Lesley Sharp) and David (David Morrissey) getting their three grown-up children – all named after socialist heroes – together for a meal at their home in Newbury in 1997.

Eldest son Carl (Sam Swainsbury) brings his posh girlfriend Harriet (Zoe Boyle) home to meet the family for the first time, super-bright student Polly (Kate O’Flynn) is back from Cambridge University, and youngest son Tom (Laurie Davidson) has been in trouble at school. It’s fair to say that the gathering doesn’t go smoothly.

After setting up the family dynamic in act one, we get to see how things play out in 2007 and then 2017.  To say more would spoil things, but it’s a journey that’s beautifully handled over the play’s interval-less one hour and 50 minutes.

Sharpe’s Sal is a joy to watch, whether she’s over-sharing with Polly about a new mattress (“We never have sex any more because we don’t want to damage the springs…”) or gabbling about Little Chefs while trying to make small talk with Harriet. She’s got great comic timing. Morrissey, meanwhile, gets to twist our emotions during a key speech in the third act.

The story raises interesting questions about privilege, inherited wealth and how different generations judge success over time. In Tiffany’s expert hands, the transitions between the decades become absorbing mini-sagas all of their own.

Those coming to the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs looking for an incisive commentary on British politics over the last thirty years are going to be disappointed. But those who want a wonderfully observed family drama about the changing – and often challenging – relationships between parents and children are in for a treat.

The End of History is at the Royal Court until 10 August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rosmersholm review – Duke of York’s Theatre

5 star review

I finally managed to catch up with Rosmersholm in the final weeks of its West End run. I’m so glad I did. After so many five star reviews it’s always a risk that you go in with high expectations and come out disappointed. Not so with Ian Rickson’s wonderful production of this lesser-known Ibsen work.

With its themes of political polarisation, conflicted desire, and the destructive power of the press, this 1886 play – adapted by Duncan Macmillan – feels like it could have been written this year.  Yes, it’s wordy, but never dull.

The story opens in the ancestral home of John Rosmer, a year after the suicide of his wife. The house reeks of neglect and is spoken of as a place where no laughter is heard.

Rosmersholm
Hayley Atwell and Tom Burke in Rosmersholm (Photo: Johan Persson)

Tom Burke is absolutely solid as Rosmer, a pastor who has turned his back on his faith, but the two standout performances come from Hayley Atwell as Rebecca West, the feminist friend of Rosmer’s late wife, and Giles Terera as Governer Kroll, Rosmer’s politically-motivated brother in law.

Atwell makes an instant impression as she sweeps into Rae Smith’s expansive set and insists on opening the windows and tearing down the dust sheets over the Rosmer family portraits. Neil Austin’s superb lighting design often makes scenes look like an oil painting come to life.

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Photo: Johan Persson

A later scene in which Kroll presents Rebecca with a series of shocking revelations about her past sees both Terera and Atwell on searing form. Rickson ends things with a set piece that reminded me of the jaw-dropping conclusion to Stephen Daldry’s production of An Inspector Calls.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some stunning Ibsens over the years such as Carrie Cracknell’s A Doll’s House at the Young Vic, and Matthew Warchus’s The Master Builder at the Old Vic.  What a delight to add this rarity to the collection.

Rosmersholm is at the Duke of York’s Theatre until 20 July