Friday 21st July

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Wil Greenway: The Way The City Ate The Stars review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Greenway elevates the art of storytelling with this lyrical, moving, funny and compassionate tale of love and tragedy in New South Wales.

Eleven months ago, I reviewed Sarah Kendall’s show, Shaken.  In hindsight, and having listened to more of her work since on Radio 4, she perhaps deserved more than three stars.  However, I stand by the assertion that for storytelling to work effectively live, “it needs a higher laughter-count, or a more vulnerable and relatable narrator.  Kendall’s very talented, but projects an Antipodean toughness from the moment she bounds onstage talking forcefully about dick drawings and bowel movements.  As a result, she finds it hard to generate much sympathy from an admittedly difficult crowd, necessary before embarking on a story that portrays her younger self so unfavourably.”

I restate this to contrast Kendall’s countryman, Wil Greenway, who last night delivered an equally challenging story at Soho Theatre with a different outcome.  When he entered the stage after a short introduction from his folksy, melodious backing musicians (Will Galloway and Kathryn Langshaw), I was ready for a similarly forthright, Kendall-esque approach, given the Melburnian’s solid frame, thick auburn beard and topknot.  But it quickly became clear that Greenway’s a gentler type of performer and someone who could end up going very far.

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Category: Comedy
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Legally Blonde: The Musical review

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Over the past few days, City Academy has delivered an impressive amateur production of Legally Blonde: The Musical at Hammersmith’s Polish Theatre.  As Ian Cater writes below, Alan Pearson’s production features faultless choreography, admirable enthusiasm and a large cast that – by and large – rose towards the standard of its stronger performers.  And by not taking itself too seriously, the show satisfies a range of recipients, whether or not they love the film or its message.

Before Thursday, I’d never seen Legally Blonde or its musical spin-off.

This was largely through choice – rather than opportunity – as the tale of a Valley Girl, Elle Woods, who heads to Harvard Law School to win back her boyfriend and, in the process, disprove assumptions about her intellect ain’t normally my cuppa cha.  I don’t proffer this preface in an attempt to claim any cultural high ground, but to acknowledge how well this show and – in particular this cast – did in winning me over and recovering from a slightly sticky start.

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Category: Theatre
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On The Town: an entertaining take on the 1940s musical, despite underwhelming aspects

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This year’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre summer programme kicks off with On The Town, Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s 1940s musical about three sailors enjoying their shore leave to the full in New York City.  

Directed and choreographed by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie, the concept seems promising and the show has a lot going for it.  However, as Sandip Kana writes for What’s On London below, the colourful and tuneful production often underwhelms, although strong showings from the female cast members ensure it still makes for an entertaining night at the theatre.  

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Category: Theatre
Romeo and Juliet © The Globe Theatre

Romeo and Juliet: a violent and visionary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic love story

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Emma Rice’s final season as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre sees the return of quintessential love story, Romeo and Juliet.  And with typical ambition, Rice has appointed Daniel Kramer – her equivalent at the English National Opera – to deliver as unique a take on the play as Rice herself brought to A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer.  

Some might consider Kramer’s dark, volatile and confrontational production to be an affront to the play’s traditions.  But, as Sandip Kana writes below for What’s On London, this would underplay the important, visionary and fearless contribution Kramer has managed to make to this all-time classic.

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Category: Theatre
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”

Rating:

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