Our January 2019 highlights
The Representation of the People Act was passed 100 years ago, giving (some) women the right to vote in the UK for the first time. Take a closer look at some of the less well known suffragettes whose perseverance made it all happen at this exhibition.
See the work of TfL's very own sisterhood at this exhibition displaying work from key female graphic artists who have designed for London Transport and Transport for London in the 20th and 21st centuries.
See the Foundling Museum through some patriarchy-smashing lenses. Women, who have each achieved firsts in their different fields, pick their favourite objects from the museum’s collection.
Raise a wee dram to Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns! From foot-stomping ceilidhs to haggis-fuelled feasts, London's got Burns Night celebrations covered. Take a look at our pick of the best Burns bashes.
This exhibition explores the long and fruitful artistic exchange between Venetian master artist Giovanni Bellini - yes, the cocktail is named in honour of the peachy hues of his paintings - and his son-in-law, fellow Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna.
Videogames will encompass both the design and culture of its namesake since the mid-2000s, looking at exceptional artwork and animation, player communities and political conversations that define this era of gaming.
Following on from its run at the Coliseum in 2017, ‘Bat Out of Hell: The Musical’ has transferred to the Dominion in a parade of dry ice, skin-tight leather, fire-belching motorbikes – and just a smattering of self-awareness.Really, it’s strange that a jukebox musical of the songs of Meat Loaf took as long as til 2017 to hit the stage. Jim Steinman’s songs drip with such mythos – youthful dreams, cars on highways, wild boys, lovelorn girls – that they half-seem destined for this daftly operatic tale of star-crossed lovers Raven (Christina Bennington) and Strat (Andrew Polec). She’s the daughter of tyrant Falco (Rob Fowler), who keeps her under lock-and-key in his penthouse-fortress; he’s the leader of a ‘Mad Max’-esque tribe of street mutants who cannot physically age beyond their late teens. Based on the amount of crotch-grabbing going on, their hormones have clearly gone nowhere.The show careens between rock ’n’ roll bangers – ‘All Revved Up With Nowhere To Go’; ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ – and tinkly piano ballads: ‘I Will Do Anything For Love’; ‘Heaven Can Wait’. You swiftly realise that they all basically tell the same story: of brutish, untameable men who are perfectly happy ravishing their swooning beauties, while offering them little else. And this is the main charge to lay against ‘Bat Out of Hell’: it’s mired in such unreconstructed ideas of romance. That’s partly countered by giving such sentiments to the female cast, so with ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’, it
Kander & Ebb’s ‘Chicago’ is, in a certain light, an unlikely West End long-runner. Jagged, cerebral, jazz-inflected and cynical, it is much darker and weirder than its fellow distance-going hits. Gone the distance it has, though: the 1996 Broadway revival of the sardonic ‘20s-set show is still on over there and lasted almost 15 years in the West End before having a lie-down for a few years. Great original reviews, an iconic design, the successful 2002 film version and general good fortune have played their parts. But regular infusions of celebrity blood have accounted for a lot: by the end of its last West End stint it had entered a semi-zombiefied state, a smart, sophisticated musical now propped up by household names who rarely had the chops to do it justice. Thus it proves upon its return. Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr has been cast in the role of louche lawyer Billy Flynn. He’s... okay. He can’t really sing but he has a rumpled, unaffected charisma that at least makes him likeable. His presence hardly feels like event theatre, though: he’s here to get bums on seats, not fuck with the show’s formula. Experienced musical theatre performers and ‘Chicago’ veterans Sarah Soetaert and Josefina Gabrielle hold down the main parts of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly, feuding femme fatales in Prohibition-era Windy City. And they’re solid: the show retains a classy edge and strong fundamentals, not least because of the high kickin’ choreography, styled after that of the show’s o
Marianne Elliott’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical comedy ‘Company’ was announced at what felt like some point in the late Cretaceous Period. And we knew from the get-go that the lead role of terminally single 35-year-old New Yorker Bobby (a man) would be gender switched to Bobbie (a woman), played by Rosalie Craig. The potential for this to be a novelty hung over it… but now that it’s here I’m going to cheerily declare that Elliott has found hidden depths in what was already a stone-cold classic. In 2018, when the borderline geriatric likes of Tom Cruise and Daniel Craig still regularly play sexy bachelors, the notion of a 35-year-old man being under any great pressure to settle down seems kind of quaint. But there is, of course, intense pressure for women to do so, before society deems them wanting for letting their youth and fertility run out. The nagging concerns heaped upon Bobbie for her singledom make total, crystal clear, perfectly realised sense. (NB Bobbie is straight, with the hopeless trio of lovers now men – a move that takes a certain misogynist sting out of the writing). ‘One is lonely and two is boring’ runs Sondheim’s most pithy summation of Bobbie’s dilemma, and it’s intentionally never resolved. Craig is immaculate as a hazy woman trapped in an existential funk. Her coupled-up friends have committed to things, and it hasn’t made them happy. So Bobbie remains an outsider in her own life, committed to nothing, a permanent glass of bourbon her
Motown’s girl groups sang about needing love, love. But behind all the sappy stuff there was cold hard cash. Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s 1981 musical is built on sharp insights into pop’s economic realities. And this slick belated UK première, fronted by ‘Glee’ star Amber Riley and dripping in more Swarovski than a banker’s chandelier, doesn’t let you forget it. The plot’s not-so-loosely inspired by the story of The Supremes. The Dreams are three African-American teenage girls who sing gorgeous close harmonies in talent contests, until a gig singing back-up for sex symbol Jimmy Early (a cartoonishly hip-rolling Adam J Bernard) brings them closer to the big time. But they’re not quite there. Their music is ghettoised on separate charts, and their hits are stolen by milk-white matinee idols. Director Casey Nicholaw’s fast-paced production plunges us right into these backstage frustrations. The Dreams’ machiavellian manager Curtis Taylor Jr (Joe Aaron Reid) is waiting in the wings with a plan to get the dough rolling in. It’s none-too-subtly implied that leader Effie, played by an astonishingly good Amber Riley, doesn’t have the face for stardom – she’s relegated to the background, in favour of picture-perfect Deena (Liisi LaFontaine). In ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, Riley proves what a mistake that is with a stupefying solo – her huge, wracked voice seems to swallow up the room (and blows away all memories of Jennifer Hudson’s version in the 2006 movie).
‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ is a burst of joy in the heart of the West End. This new British musical, transferring from the Sheffield Crucible, is the real deal. Watch out, tired revivals: there’s a new kid in town. Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels. Director Jonathan Butterell’s production is a high-impact blaze of colour, combining video projections with seamless scene changes and a live band above the stage. It captures the frenetic energy of being a teenager. Every element of this show works beautifully together. The music, by The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells, is a deft mix of irresistibly catchy, pop-honed foot-tappers – try not to hum ‘And You Don’t Even Know It’, I dare you – and truthful, heart-wrenching numbers. This is Sells’s first foray into writing for musicals, but he’s always excelled at telling stories in song. He is matched by the show’s writer and lyricist Tom MacRae. Apart from notable exceptions like Punchdrunk’s ‘Doctor Who’-themed kids’ show ‘The Crash of Elysium’, he’s largely written for TV, but this works well here. His dialogue is punchy, funny and often lands with a sting. While most of the characters exist to orbit Jamie, they still have their own stories and these are crisply told. As Pritti, Jamie’
Already lined up to transfer to Broadway in 2019, it would be pretty embarrassing for all involved if Rachel Chavkin’s musical theatre staging of Anaïs Mitchell’s massively acclaimed 2010 ‘folk opera’ album ‘Hadestown’ was received less than rapturously at the NT for what is, effectively, its warm-up for New York. ‘Hadestown’ is not perfect, but it is really, really good. The wonderfully diverse songs of Mitchell’s expanded, virtually sung-through soundtrack are the bedrock. From the demonic trombone riff that powers opener ‘Road to Hell’, through Hades’s stentorian authoritarian anthem ‘Why We Build the Wall’, to the graceful encore some two-and-a-half hours later, it is a musically thrilling, lyrically eccentric articulation of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth that has gratifyingly little to do with musical theatre convention. As much as anything else, it works because of Chavkin’s exceptional casting. Amber Gray, a regular with Chavkin’s avant-garde theatre company The TEAM, is boozily magnificent as sozzled party-girl Persephone. André De Shields, the original Broadway Wiz in ‘The Wiz’, is scene-stealingly brilliant as a suavely shamanic Hermes. Eva Noblezada is a sweetly grungy Eurydice. Patrick Page’s bowel-quakingly low voice as Hades is practically a special effect. The biggest problem with ‘Hadestown’ is that it feels like a staging of an album. It’s a brilliant staging of an album, but nonetheless, the characters and plot are wholly contained within the relatively i
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. ‘Hamilton’ is stupendously good. Yes, it’s kind of a drag that there’s so much hype around it. But there was a lot of hype around penicillin. And that worked out pretty well. If anything – and I’m truly sorry to say this – Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury, is actually better than the hype suggests. That’s because lost in some of the more waffly discourse around its diverse casting and sociological import is the fact that ‘Hamilton’ is, first and foremost, a ferociously enjoyable show. You probably already know that it’s a hip hop musical, something that’s been tried before with limited success. Here it works brilliantly, because Miranda – who wrote everything – understands what mainstream audiences like about hip hop, what mainstream audiences like about musical theatre, and how to craft a brilliant hybrid. Put simply, it’s big emotions and big melodies from the former, and thrilling, funny, technically virtuosic storytelling from the latter. ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the opening tune, exemplifies everything that’s great about the show. It’s got a relentlessly catchy build and momentum, a crackling, edge-of-seat sense of drama, and is absolutely chockablock with information, as the key players stride on to bring us up to speed with the eventful life that Hamilton – the ‘bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman’ – led before he emigrated to America in 1772 as a teenager
Fabulously sassy, uplifting and ever so kinky, the Tony Award-winning musical that’s been dazzling audiences has finally high-kicked its way from Broadway to the West End. RECOMMENDED: Read an interview with Cyndi Lauper Based on true events, the story about a struggling Northampton shoe factory began life as an independent film, following in the footsteps of Brit-hits ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘The Full Monty’ and ‘Made in Dagenham’, before being transformed into a musical. Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, with music and lyrics by pop icon Cyndi Lauper, ‘Kinky Boots’ follows factory owner Charlie Price (Killian Donnelly) whose chance encounter with drag queen Lola (Matt Henry) inspires a production line of sexy heels for transvestites that helps save the family business. This show is a lot of fun and the script plays up the comedy well, offering the cast some brilliantly tongue-in-cheek one-liners. It’s unfortunate that the script falls flat during the romantic storyline between Charlie, his fiancée and factory co-worker Lauren, which comes across as uneven and flimsy. That can be forgiven, though, as it’s the eccentric costumes and high-octane dance numbers like ‘Sex Is in the Heel’ that draw the audiences in. Henry gives Beyoncé a run for her money with some athletic dance moves, accompanied by a chorus line of incredibly toned drag queens. Some of the full company numbers are particularly well put together – especially the stylized boxing sequence during ‘In T
If the second longest running show in the West End was looking a little tired, a rejuvenating orchestral facelift was just what the doctor ordered. Cameron Mackintosh's 'little girl' has shaken off that 1980s synth vibe and finally woken up to the organic noughties. This is a new, richer sound with strong operatic undertones and even the faint echoes of chamber music. Led by compelling ex-'Phantom…' Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, this dynamic cast blows a whirlwind through the Queen's Theatre, hurtling along Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg's famous melodrama. Aided by a swirling revolve and John Napier's stunning constructivist set, we follow Jean Valjean's journey across France as he attempts to escape his criminal past and make amends. Hadley Fraser as Javert, Valjean's fated pursuer, matches Karimloo's booming vocals and moody stares step for step (at one point rather sweetly causing a premature ovation). Craig Mather and Lisa-Anne Wood do very prettily as lovelorn young leads Marius and Cosette. But it is Alexia Khadime's soaring 'On My Own' that storms the barricades; her plucky and faithful Eponine genuinely pulls at the heartstrings. For all its legions of fans, there are many who would sniff at this revived 'Les Miserables', branding it 'opera lite'. In a sense they would be right: all this histrionic bombast is only really making soap opera respectable. But so what. This updated and improved production is a real rabble-rouser and while it may be tosh, i
Things are constantly going bump in the night in director Robert Hastie’s intimate staging of ‘Macbeth’. Voices hum, whispers fill the air and strange knockings turn the entire wooden structure of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse into a haunted mansion, glimmering in dirtied mirrors and candlelight.But these eerie flourishes don’t detract from a staging that puts all the focus on a strikingly counterintuitive reading of Shakespeare’s text. Often, Macbeth is cast as a rugged, brutal Scottish warlord, stabbing his way to power. Paul Ready’s central performance is different, more effete. He’s intensely proud of his own cleverness, but his arrogance means he’s all the more easily manipulated. As both his real-life and onstage wife, Globe boss Michelle Terry is unusually warm and humorous, almost schoolteacherly, hiding her ambition in pregnant pauses. There are some surprisingly witty moments. She reminds a post-murder Macbeth to plant his bloodied knife at the scene, like she’s chiding a husband who’s forgotten to put his plate in the dishwasher. But there’s anguish too, as revealed in her agonising howls during the sleepwalking scene. Shakespeare’s Globe commitment to 50:50 gender casting throws up some interesting choices, too. Anna-Maria Nabirye’s emotive performance as Macduff brings new weight to his anguish over his lost wife and children, heightening the production’s emphasis on domesticity under threat. Fittingly, Macbeth’s climactic second act interaction with the witches
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