Saturday 27th May

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The Braille Legacy © Charing Cross Theatre

The Braille Legacy review

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French musical The Braille Legacy recently held its world premiere at Charing Cross Theatre, telling the true story of Louis Braille’s invention of his eponymous tactile alphabet which helped transform the lives of blind people ever since.  

Directed by the highly-acclaimed Thom Southerland (Titanic, Parade), The Braille Legacy has many of the ingredients required to be a classic: a strong story with bleakness and hope, a young cast with impressive voices and a thoughtful approach to presentation.  

However, as Sandip Kana writes below, a few glaring issues prevent the production from fully allowing its thought-provoking message to shine through.

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Category: Theatre
An American in Paris © Dominion Theatre

An American in Paris: sheer musical magic

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By Sandip Kana

In 1951, An American in Paris wowed film fans with its elegant blend of music and ballet.  It is no surprise that over 60 years later, the stage production at the Dominion Theatre is equally as mesmerising.  With Christopher Wheeldon in charge of direction and choreography, and Bob Crowley employing masterful set designs, the musical is an explosion of colour and irresistible movement.  For all the show lacks in dialogue, it certainly delivers in dance and visuals.

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Category: Theatre
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Jonathan Pie: Live review

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Tom Walker‘s ranty yet astute live show as comedy creation Jonathan Pie will be available to buy on his website from Monday next week.  Ian Cater attended the recorded performance at The O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 3rd March 2017, and reports below on Walker’s brilliant delivery and ‘rare ability to spew out persuasive points amongst the bile’.

Tom Walker’s weekly videos as alter ego Jonathan Pie are as close as we currently get in this country to The Daily Show or Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  Or perhaps The Late Show with Steven Colbert is a better comparison, given Walker uses his fictional creation – a television news reporter who rants acerbic views at his producer during out-takes – to make important arguments about politics, the media and society in general.

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Category: Comedy
MARK THOMAS 1 - Please credit Tracey Moberley

Mark Thomas: “You’re constantly climbing a ladder, but the last rung you always pull away from yourself”

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Mark Thomas is performing his latest highly-acclaimed show – The Red Shed – at Battersea Arts Centre until Saturday night.  It is an incredible piece of work, perfectly blending comedy, theatre and journalism while provoking laughter, emotion and thought.  Ahead of his return to London, Ian Cater caught up with Thomas to discuss audience participation, lost sheep and David Walliams.

London audiences have four more chances to experience The Red Shed – a homage to the Wakefield Labour Club where Mark Thomas first ‘found his politics’ and became involved in the 1984 Miners’ Strike.  And, no matter what your political persuasion, I can hardly recommend this amazing production enough.

It’s neither pure comedy, nor pure theatre.  Instead, The Red Shed is a masterful lesson in storytelling – an art in which Thomas undoubtedly specialises.

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Category: Comedy
Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls
Claire Machin, Sophie-Louise Dann, Joanna Riding, Claire Moore and Debbie Chazen in The Girls

The Girls – If you’re going to see one musical this year, it has to be Barlow’s!

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Hotly anticipated musical The Girls is now being performed at Phoenix Theatre until July 2017.  Based on the hit 2003 film Calendar Girls, Tim Firth (who wrote the film) and national treasure Gary Barlow have joined forces to return this heart-warming story to the stage.  In doing so, as Shannon Rawlins writes below, they have produced the best British musical since Billy Elliot.

Film, play, musical – Phoenix Theatre’s brand new production The Girls has been on quite the journey.  Now, in the heart of the West End, you can hear sung the true tale of a Yorkshire Women’s Institute group’s fundraising efforts of producing a nude calendar to raise money for a memorial sofa.

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Category: Theatre
jonathan-pie

Tom Walker: “You learn a lot about Jonathan Pie: are you really cross with Theresa May or just pissed off at life?”

Tom Walker brings his excellent comic creation – Jonathan Pie – to the capital next month for a fascinating character piece touching on Brexit, Trump and all that’s wrong with modern society.  Ahead of shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and London Palladium, Ian Cater interviewed one of the most provocative and insightful performers of British satire.

This week, The Independent complained that while Trump’s election has provoked a strong reaction from American comedians, their British counterparts have failed to respond to Brexit so robustly.  Joe Sommerlad’s article spoke sense, lambasting networks for denying UK chat shows political agendas, and starving Stewart Lee and Charlie Brooker of greater screen time.

However, it was flawed in one crucial aspect.  The piece omitted a major contributor to recent British satire: Jonathan Pie.  Pie – a fictional news reporter created by actor Tom Walker in 2015 – has become one of the ‘must see’ commentators on post-Brexit current affairs.

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Category: Comedy
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Hedda Gabler at Lyttleton Theatre until 21st March 2017

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Ruth Wilson’s complex, witty and sinister portrayal of Hedda Gabler at the National Theatre may well be the stage performance of 2017.

Hedda Gabler is probably the best play you’ll see all year.  That’s partly in the writing: Henrik Ibsen’s dark portrayal of a beautiful, bored and destructive woman – first debuted in 1891 – has been marvelously modernised by Patrick Marber (Closer, Notes on a Scandal) and directed by Ivo van Hove.  But it’s mainly in the acting: Ruth Wilson dominates every scene from the moment you take your seat to see her slumped over a piano, drunkenly, distractedly and despairingly stabbing a tune from its keys.

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Category: Theatre
The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre
The Kite Runner © Wyndhams Theatre

The Kite Runner: A remarkable stage production

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Written by Sandip Kana

Matthew Spangler’s stage production of Khaled Hosseini’s best-selling novel, The Kite Runner, makes an astonishing West End debut at Wyndham’s Theatre.  Its limited run lasts until 11th March 2017.

Given the popularity of Khaled Hosseini’s novel upon its release in 2003, and its highly successful movie adaptation four years later, it always seemed likely that The Kite Runner would become a stage production. However, given the complexity of the narrative, playwright Matthew Spangler faced numerous barriers and concerns that his efforts would fall short.  Those concerns are unfounded: what was undeniably an epic novel, scripted into an epic film, has been adapted into an epic play.

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Category: Theatre