Theatre Reviews

Not only are we the best Theatre Bar and Restaurant in the West End, but we also have a set of the best Theatre Critics and Journalists ready to review whatever is new in the West End and Fringe.  If you would like to be reviewed, please contact us at events@phoenixartistclub.com. Our reviews are brought togther and edited by Joanne Corrigan, an Editor at BBC News for many years.

Trevor Nunn’s Revival of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ announces West End transfer!

TRANSFERRING TO THE WEST END THIS MARCH! Direct from its sold-out run at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Tony and Olivier award-winning director Trevor Nunn’s ‘exuberant revival’ (The Telegraph) of the classic Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof transfers to the West End for a strictly limited run. The Playhouse Theatre will be specially transformed into […]

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Notre Dame de Paris, London Coliseum

“Simply Beautiful!” Almost twenty years ago, Notre Dame de Paris had its West End premiere at The Dominion Theatre and the reviews were much less than desirable. One of the show’s stars, Daniel Lavoie claims “The write ups were horrible. They killed us”. Simply put, the show didn’t translate as well as they’d hoped. The […]

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Re-Visions, Camden People’s Theatre

“Re-Visions is a strong piece of fringe theatre but can be stronger. After a few more revisions, that is.” The play within a play is a well-known concept for a fringe piece, but has it ever before been performed as ‘meta’ as this? Re-Visions tells a story of a director trying to realistically recreate a […]

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Cheating Death comes to The Cockpit Theatre this February!

Max Nowaz’s ’Cheating Death’ is a play packed with dark humour and staged with wit and originality as it follows a man’s attempts to crawl back to normality. The first staged play from established novelist Max Nowaz introduces us to John, who wakes up inside a coffin at his own funeral. Max has enjoyed notable […]

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Hollywood star Matthew Broderick to make his West End debut this May!

Broderik (famous for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and The Producers) will take the lead in ‘The Starry Messenger’ by the Academy Award winning writer of Manchester-By-The-Sea, Kenneth Lonergan. Coming to the Wyndham’s Theatre from 16 May, comes a story of struggle and hope. This moving piece of theatre finally comes to the West End after […]

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The internationally acclaimed, original ‘Notre Dame de Paris’ production comes to London for its 5,000th show!

Full Casting and ENO Orchestra Announced for the original spectacular at The London Coliseum at the end of January! Nicolas Talar for Enzo Products Ltd and Adam Blanshay Productions have announced the full casting for Notre Dame de Paris. Twenty years after its Parisian debut, and after receiving international acclaim in 23 countries worldwide, the […]

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Ralegh: The Treason Trial, Winchester Great Hall & Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“Immersed in history on the stage where it happened!”

On the 17th November, 1603 in The Great Hall, Winchester hundreds gathered expectantly as Sir Walter Ralegh was brought before the Court to be tried for treason. On the anniversary of this historic trial 415 years later an audience again gathered in the Great Hall to hear the trial re-enacted from verbatim accounts by sources present at the original trial and compiled, edited, dramatised and directed by Oliver Chris. The only difference this time was the absence of ruffs and doublets in favour of the bureaucratic dress of a modern day courthouse.

With 12 members of the audience sworn in as jury members, the performance became a court hearing as the Attorney, Coke, played by Nathalie Armin proceeded to read the indictment and deliver ‘the proofs’. As in 1603 it was done with ‘intemperate zeal’ as Coke declared to the jury and gallery that Ralegh was “the most vile and execrable traitor that ever lived” haranguing and attacking him at every turn. Modern dress maybe but with no right to counsel and with little or no protection from judges, Popham, Cecil and Howard, Ralegh, was left to defend himself against the circumstantial, somewhat contradictory and often hearsay evidence levelled at him.

Simon Paisley Day gives an impressive and studied performance as Ralegh, railing against the court’s decision not to produce the only witness to the alleged conspiracy, Lord Cobham, whilst entreating the jury to accept his protestations of innocence.

At the conclusion of the evidence the jury were taken out to consider their verdict and given just 15 minutes, the time it took the original jury to deliberate and make a decision. Joined by the Clerk of the Court to ‘guide’ us through the evidence, the ‘12 good men and true’ or in this case 7 good women and 5 good men, set about their task having diligently taken notes throughout. A straw poll at the start of the debate revealed a unanimous group but with the Clerk’s interpretation of the evidence, an imperious Amanda Wright, after a quarter of an hour, which flew by, 5 members had been swayed. As the Foreman of the Jury it would not be appropriate to reveal our majority verdict save only that some of us would have been be-knighted and some beheaded!

Whilst one can re-enact history, even with the benefit of hindsight, one cannot rewrite it. The reaction of the audience when the verdict was read out was testament to just how much everyone had become enthralled with the drama being played out in front of them.

After its short run at the Winchester Great Hall, 16th-18th November, it transfers to the atmospheric Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe for a limited run from the 24th-30th November.

PHOENIX RATING:


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Winners announced for the very first WhatsOffStage Awards!

  

“These awards are a huge round of applause for all those unsung heroes who make the theatregoing experience the best it can possibly be!”

This post is a little less ‘theatre reviews’ and a little more ‘reviewing theatres’. We at The Phoenix Arts Club recognise the importance that theatre venues have on the overall experience on going to see a show – and we’ve heard some equally entertaining stories from the teams themselves too! Today, WhatsOnStage presented the first ever WhatsOffStage Awards – that’s right! In a small ceremony near Green Park, the venues were taking centre stage and being celebrated for the hard work they do.

In an announcement last month Sita McIntosh, WOS’s Chief Operating Officer, said; “We are delighted to announce the first ever WhatsOffStage Awards this year. We want to celebrate the areas of the industry that don’t always receive the recognition they deserve but which are instrumental in ensuring audiences and communities are able to engage with and enjoy live theatre. These awards are a huge round of applause for all those unsung heroes who make the theatregoing experience the best it can possibly be!”

And the winners are: The National Theatre (Most Accessible Theatre), Hull Truck Theatre (Best Box Office), The Unicorn Theatre (Most Child-Friendly Theatre), The Young Vic (Best Community Theatre), The Other Palace (Best Food & Drink), Hope Mill Theatre (Best Front of House Team), Prince Edward Theatre (Best Stage Door), Victoria Palace Theatre (Best Theatre Facilties), Shakespeare’s Globe (Best Theatre Website) and Hope Mill Theatre (Favourite Theatre).

WOS’s award ceremony was a great success and they hope to see it grow in the coming years. Around 4,000 votes were cast this year by the public.

We at The Phoenix Arts Club congratulate all the winners and, most importantly, every theatre team who without, the show would simply not go on. Now come on down to us and celebrate – we’re open past curtain call after all!

Photos of some of the nominated venues and winners:

Top (left to right): Hull Truck Theatre, The Other Palace, The National Theatre.

Bottom: Hope Mill Theatre

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Company, Gielgud Theatre

“Everybody Rise!”

It’s not always wise to re-imagine a piece of work previously fêted as a great musical but when the composer gives his blessing and that composer is Stephen Sondheim we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Director Marianne Elliot’s gender swapping Company not only works but brings the 1970’s musical bang up to date, adds a whole new dimension and is, dare I say it, an improvement on the original.

Rosalie Craig’s Bobbie hits her 35th birthday and regardless of a really good job, a great apartment and several boyfriends, an awareness of a ticking body clock and whether it’s time to commit looms large especially when surrounded by well-meaning friends, all couples, who have opinions and are not slow in sharing.

One of those couples is Paul (Alex Gaumond) and his fiancé Jamie (Jonathan Bailey). Originally Amy, but in this updated version it makes complete sense that Bobbie would have at least one male couple amongst her friends and without having to change any of the dialogue, Bailey gives an incredibly honest, searing and funny performance of  “Getting Married Today”, a man, on the morning of his wedding, suddenly struck by the realisation of his situation, previously denied to him and getting cold feet, albeit temporarily!

Another of Elliott’s great coups is the luring of Broadway royalty Patti LuPone back to the West End stage after 25 years away. The multiple Olivier, Tony and Grammy award winner said she wouldn’t do another musical after her last show War Paint closed in 2017, declaring them too gruelling and exhausting, but couldn’t resist the opportunity to work with Elliott – and thank goodness!

LuPone’s star quality and portrayal of the acerbic Joanne is sheer class and no musical theatre fan worthy of the name should miss this opportunity to witness her imperious performance, not just of Ladies Who Lunch, but throughout. Everybody rise!

Completing the line-up is Mel Giedroyc as Sarah, George Blagden as PJ, Ashley Campbell as Peter, Richard Fleeshman as Andy,  Richard Henders as David, Ben Lewis as Larry, Daisy Maywood as Susan, Jennifer Saayeng as Jenny, Matthew Seadon-Young as Theo and Gavin Spokes as Harry and there’s not a weak link to be found as they master Liam Steele’s clever choreography around a very effective set designed by the Olivier and Tony winning Bunny Christie, who previously collaborated with Elliott on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

From Sarah and Harry’s sitting room, featuring some very funny competitive martial arts, Bobbie’s bedroom with multiple doors and overlapping visitors to subway train carriages carrying Another Hundred People, Company sweeps you along on a journey through New York peppered with wit, irony, regret, bitterness and hope.

Craig’s Bobbie is a complex mix of defiance, confusion, denial, longing and finally an understanding and acceptance of who she is and what she wants and her rendition of Being Alive, is yet another interpretation of what’s gone before but no less effective.

This production is stylish, sublime and simply marvellous. Oh Mr Sondheim, What Would We Do Without You?

PHOENIX RATING:

Company is at the Gielgud Theatre and has just extended its run to March 30.

Photographs: ©Brinkhoff/Mogenburg

You can buy tickets for this spectacular show, HERE! Read more

The Inheritance, Noel Coward Theatre

“Arguably the best play this year!”

Earlier this year, the Young Vic presented the world premiere of The Inheritance – a two-part, seven hour play by American playwright, Matthew Lopez about a group of gay men in New York and their lives but, under the surface, we see a community still dealing with the aftermath of the AIDS Crisis from the generation before. The play has received critical acclaim and has now transferred to the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End.

What seems to be a mix of ‘Angels in America’ and ‘Howard’s End’ (the latter is credited as the script’s inspiration), Lopez’s play mainly focuses on the relationship of Eric Glass and Toby Darling (played by Kyle Soller and Andrew Burlap respectively). After receiving the news that his rent-controlled apartment on the Upper East Side will soon no longer be his, Eric decides to keep the news from Toby – who he worries will leave him. Toby is in the middle of re-writing his first novel for the stage and depends on the financial and emotional stability that Eric provides. Soon, the couple meet young, attractive, budding actor Adam (Samuel H Levine) who causes friction between them. Alongside Eric’s growing friendship with Walter (Paul Hilton), a fascinating older gay man with a house that has tremendous history, things start to develop in ways that Eric and Toby could never imagine.

Bob Crowley’s set is simple but effective. A large communal table that all the actors sit along as it raises and lowers throughout. The play starts with a group of writers unable to find a way to start “their story” and they have the assistance of E M Forster himself (also played by Hilton). The story starts as a homage to the opening line in Howard’s End (“One may as well begin with Helen’s letters to her sister”), “One may as well begin with Toby’s voicemails”. Other plot points such as property, finance, politics and community reflect strongly with those in Howard’s End.

Whilst the first part of this two-part play breaks the characters down, the second starts to build them back anew. We close the first part on Eric in Walter’s house, outside of the city, where Walter took his friends to spend their final days and look after them during the AIDS epidemic. The stage is then flooded by ‘ghosts’ of those men and it is one of the most moving pieces of theatre I have seen in recent years.

We are soon introduced to other complex characters such as Walter’s husband, Henry (John Benjamin Hickey), a billionaire republican with viewpoints that challenges those of Eric’s peers. This involves a feisty debate in the second act regarding the 2016 presidential election that showcases Lopez’s impeccable writing talent.

With the subject matter and length, The Inheritance seems like a heavy commitment even for the avid theatre goer. But Lopez’s ability, along with Stephen Daldry’s masterful direction, to craft scenes and finish acts is similar to those of a television boxset. You just want to keep watching! Hilton’s performances are a highlight and Vanessa Redgrave, who shows up very near the end, provides another beautiful, insightful performance as the only female in this astonishing cast.

The Inheritance was a clear choice to transfer to the West End and now it can be seen at the Noel Coward Theatre, for a limited period, until January 19. The play is touching, emotional and frequently hilarious. Many would ask if this two-part show justifies its length. Perhaps not, but you won’t be mad at the time spent watching arguably the best play this year!

PHOENIX RATING:

Photos: Tristram Kenton

You can buy tickets for The Inheritance by clicking;

PART ONE, PART TWO or COMBINED. Read more