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Theo Bosanquet

Theo Bosanquet

Listings and reviews (20)

Misalliance review

Misalliance review

3 out of 5 stars

Nothing says Christmas quite like three hours of George Bernard Shaw, so the Orange Tree has programmed a rare revival of his 1909 oddity ‘Misalliance’, a long-winded meditation on marriage. Shaw once said glumly, ‘All I hear in my work is the sound of the typewriter’, and it's easy to see why. But for all its verbosity – it’s entirely comprised of drawing room conversation – ‘Misalliance’ does contain some memorable aphorisms and an action-packed second half. Set in the large home of a nouveau riche lingerie seller, it skewers the hypocrisies of the Edwardian era while giving some eerie predictions for our own. The sight of two 60-plus men propositioning much younger women certainly gives pause for thought.  There are eight marriage proposals in all, though few succeed. The primary objects of desire are Hypatia Tarleton, daughter of the aforementioned lingerie baron, and Szczepanowska, a Polish trapeze artist who literally drops from the sky when her plane crashes into the Tarletons’ greenhouse. The plane is piloted by the rogueish Joey Percival (Luke Thallon), a schoolfriend of Bentley ‘Bunny’ Summerhays whose engagement to Hypatia is soon thrown into jeopardy by his arrival. Meanwhile, Bentley's father Lord Summerhays (Simon Shepherd) harbours his own intentions for his would-be daughter-in-law. Paul Miller’s production, the first major revival since the 1980s, is a real ensemble effort. Marli Siu is a steely Hypatia, who delivers many of the stand-out lines (‘who wou

Rapunzel review

Rapunzel review

3 out of 5 stars

‘Rapunzel’ isn’t part of the usual panto fairy-tale canon, and Trish Cooke’s version for Theatre Royal Stratford East doesn’t really make a convincing case for it. A huge issue is that the eponymous long-haired heroine is locked in a tower for most of the show, meaning she doesn’t get to interact with other characters until after her release. Cooke gets around this somewhat by bulking out the story with a riff on ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, but it’s an uneven marriage. Another sticking point is the confluence of the dame and the villain. Michael Bertenshaw’s Witch Maddy is someone to boo and hiss but also laugh with as she tries to beat old age by brewing a magic potion out of her captive’s hair. Although Bertenshaw’s performance is enjoyably game, the crossover – much like the potion – is never quite right. Other elements are more successful, including Gemma Salter’s rapping Baby Bear and Juliet Okotie’s no-nonsense Mrs Bear. There’s also a great turn from Julie Yammanee as a swashbuckling Goldilocks, who proves princes are irrelevant by saving Joanne Sandi’s purple-haired Rapunzel herself.  Pooja Ghai’s production has its finger firmly on the pulse of contemporary culture; it was great to see the schoolchildren around me bouncing along to meme hit ‘Man’s Not Hot’. Robert Hyman’s original songs feel rather tame and traditional by comparison, with tired refrains such as ‘Once Upon a Time’.  The production values here are admirably high, with designer William Fricker off

The Dark Room review

The Dark Room review

3 out of 5 stars

In a motel in Australia's Northern Territory a social worker is trying her best with a troubled teenager. The girl wears a grubby hangman’s hood and is highly aggressive. She has clearly been abused, but exactly what is going on is murky. Also in the motel is a policeman and his pregnant wife. They’ve come from a wedding and he wants to go out for the afterparty. But it soon becomes apparent his desire to attend is less to do with bonhomie and more with a dubious loyalty to the groom, whose recent actions towards a young detainee have placed him in jeopardy. The clear thread joining these stories is the state’s treatment of vulnerable young people, and the cyclical nature of abuse. Despite its Australian milieu these are universal themes, emphasised by the production’s association with the NSPCC. But while writer Angela Betzien evokes a moving tapestry of the multifarious ways in which young people can be victimised – starting with mistreatment in the womb – the strands struggle to bind. Occasional overlapping dialogue and interactions between the policemen and social worker are not enough to create an effective dovetail. This being said it’s a deeply stirring and troubling evening, helped by a taut and tense production from Audrey Sheffield. The threat of violence hangs over every scene. And it features some impressively committed performances from the ensemble. Alasdair Craig teems with anguish as Craig, the cop with a conscience, while Katy Brittain and Annabel Smith spar

The Knowledge review

The Knowledge review

3 out of 5 stars

In the age of Uber, a play about cabbies taking ‘The Knowledge’ – a fiendishly difficult examination of their familiarity with London’s streets – may seem an anachronism. And indeed, it largely is. But Maureen Lipman’s production, based on a TV play by her late husband Jack Rosenthal, has a big enough heart that its essential irrelevancy is forgivable. Beginning in 1979, when the TV play was broadcast (with a cast that included Lipman), ‘The Knowledge’ revolves around four disparate characters attempting to navigate both London’s geography and their equally complex personal relationships. Ted (Ben Caplan) is trying to live up to the pressures of a Jewish cab-driving dynasty; Gordon (James Alexandrou) is keen to pick up more than just passengers; Chris (Fabien Frankel) wants to prove himself to his career-minded girlfriend; and Miss Staveley (Louise Callaghan) must overcome ingrained sexism. Overseeing them all is the eccentric examiner Mr Burgess, created on screen by Nigel Hawthorne and here brought colourfully to life by Steven Pacey. He has a tendency to slip into accents, ask outlandish questions and generally carry on like a Monty Python sergeant major. But, as becomes apparent as his charges struggle through the lengthy course, there’s method to his madness. Despite Pacey’s eye-catching performance, this is very much an ensemble effort, and the cabbies’ gallows humour proves infectious. It’s easy to sympathise with their long-suffering partners (assuredly portrayed by J

The Majority

The Majority

3 out of 5 stars

After thrilling audiences with 'Bullet Catch' four years ago, Rob Drummond returns to the National with his latest one-man theatrical experiment, a roundabout look at the principles of democracy. Its central conceit is that the audience are given handsets with which to register votes. There's a distinctly gameshow feel to proceedings as Drummond asks us questions ranging from our policy on latecomers (we voted to admit them) to our political views (it will shock you to learn the press night audience were over 90 percent white, liberal remainers).  It’s an intriguing if well-trodden idea; only recently audiences at the Lyric Hammersmith were asked to vote on the outcome of courtroom drama 'Terror'. However in Drummond’s hand it's playfully used to raise moral conundrums. Would we save the lives of five neo-Nazis or a single left-winger? Do we believe in absolute free speech? Should we pause the show so that a man can have a pee? There’s a central narrative thread involving Drummond’s friendship with a socialist bee-keeper he encountered in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum. It’s a relationship that facilitates Drummond’s political awakening – he’d previously been ambivalent – culminating in a violent incident that causes him to question whether his new-found views are justifiable. But the really interesting idea is the extent to which our lives are governed by the rule of an often slender majority – there’s no need to emphasise the topicality of this. By wrappin

Hansel & Gretel

Hansel & Gretel

2 out of 5 stars

Iris Theatre mark their tenth anniversary this year, and their residency at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden has deservedly become a summer staple. But this year's family offering is a disappointment: a laboured and confusing take on the 'Hansel & Gretel' story. Artistic director Daniel Winder has broadened the Grimm tale to encompass the mythology of Baba Yaga. So the witch in the gingerbread cottage now has two sisters, and the second half sees Hansel venturing into the afterlife to rescue Gretel. It’s an interesting exercise in myth-mixing, but as storytelling for children it’s unforgivably convoluted. The audience shuttles between multiple stages in the gardens of the church, starting with Hansel and Gretel’s humble house and progressing through the woods to the full-scale (if not edible as billed) gingerbread cottage, all evocatively conjured by set designer Amber Scarlett. Indeed, visually it’s very impressive, including the climactic scenes inside the church itself. The cast do their best to engage the young audience, Josie Brightwell and Will Kelly in particular bringing much-needed levity as the Baba Yaga sisters. But they’re battling uphill with a script that’s dry as dust; humour and entertainment are largely subjugated to lengthy exposition - at times it’s like watching a PhD on fairytales being acted out. One problem is that Hansel and Gretel (Rosie Abraham and Dashaye Gayle) are cast as saviours not just of themselves but of their entire world. This turns what

Mrs Orwell

Mrs Orwell

3 out of 5 stars

This intriguing but rather dry new play from Tony Cox details the relationship between George Orwell and his second wife Sonia Brownell, who he married shortly before dying of TB at the age of 46. Cox implies that the 30-year-old Brownell’s decision to marry the literary giant was monetary rather than romantic. Her subsequent entanglement with artist Lucian Freud (Edmund Digby Jones) – conducted on her husband’s hospital bed – and pining for a French lover further endorse the theory. Certainly the marriage, the cause of much media speculation at the time, was no ordinary attachment, and the motivations on either side are never wholly convincing. As a result Cressida Bonas, herself no stranger to the media spotlight for a high profile relationship, struggles to find consistency in the central role. Our sympathies are constantly thwarted, such as when Bromwell appears to accept Orwell's proposal only after learning of his royalty figures. But she does capture a sense of Sonia’s spry intelligence; she was a literary editor who would become her husband’s greatest defender in later life. Her heated exchanges with publisher Fred Warburg (Robert Stocks) give some indication of what was to come.  Sympathetically directed by Jimmy Walters, the play does provide an intriguing portrait of Orwell himself. Peter Hamilton Dyer skilfully conjures the author’s eccentric brilliance, arguing with publishers one minute and slurping tea from a saucer the next. Convinced he has three more novels

The Blues Brothers - Summer Special

The Blues Brothers - Summer Special

2 out of 5 stars

The Blues Brothers are a great constant of the entertainment world. The act that started on Saturday Night Live in the '70s before finding success on the big screen has become synonymous with sunglasses, saxophones and the words ‘good night out’.This latest tribute wouldn’t seem at all out of place on a cruise ship; it’s loud, brash and packed with the usual Blues Brothers favourites (which contain notably little in the way of actual blues). Leads Joshua Mumby (Elwood) and David Kristopher-Brown (Jake) make a decent central pairing. The former, who also directs, proves a dab hand at the harmonica, while the latter is admirably agile. But everything is delivered with the subtlety and soul of a sledgehammer. Jake’s tender rendition of Guilty - ‘it takes a whole lot of medicine darling / for me to pretend that I'm somebody else’ – briefly threatens pathos, then it’s back to bashing through the hits. The cabaret space at the Hippodrome, reached by snaking through the blackjack tables, has been steadily increasing the quality of its programme in recent years. So it’s a shame this production feels so by-numbers. The seven-piece band play well enough and the back-up singers are fine, but a few rictus grins give the game away. And why does the volume have to be so ear-splitting? The venue is small, just 230 seats, but the levels are turned to ‘O2’.Lyrics get distorted, over-mic’d instruments melt into a homogenous backing track. An opportunity to offer something stripped down, laid b

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence on Whitehall’s Relationship with Kids Company

3 out of 5 stars

This verbatim musical based on a committee hearing about the infamous collapse of Kids Company won't win any prizes for pithiest title. But it’s an innovative and timely dramatisation of a case that epitomises the contemporary politics of poverty. Nobody emerges with much credit from the hearing, which took place in a House of Commons committee room on 15 October 2015. The two people at its centre, Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh and chair Alan Yentob, come across as well-intentioned but painfully out of their depth. In Adam Penford’s production they largely sit in front of the panel with their backs to the audience, their faces projected on screens like criminals in the dock.  Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke co-wrote the book and lyrics with actor Hadley Fraser, and they’ve done a good job of filleting the three-hour enquiry to a digestible 80 minutes. Composer Tom Deering sets various phrases from the session to music, but unlike its genre forebear 'London Road', it isn’t sung through. The cast sing largely by way of emphasis: 'We want to learn,' the committee croon in close harmony; 'This is not a show trial,' sings chairman Bernard Jenkin MP (Alexander Hanson), somewhat patronisingly. A chorus of disapproval. Unfortunately, the music is largely featureless. It lacks any real tonal variation, and the pseudo-operatic style soon grows repetitive. It isn’t until the closing moments that we’re finally given something of substance as Batmanghelidjh (a superb Sa

I Hear You and Rejoice

I Hear You and Rejoice

4 out of 5 stars

At the funeral of a brilliant woman, her husband Pat is silent. Well, silent to the world perhaps, but not to us. We hear his recollections loud and clear, of a luminescent figure who filled her Irish community with joy, love and more than a dash of uproar. Mikel Murfi – performing his monologue alongside its previously-seen prequel 'The Man in the Woman’s Shoes' in the Tricycle cinema while the theatre is refurbished – is an actor who sings when he speaks. The Irishman delivers his words with a rhythm and a lyricism best described as hypnotic. He plays many roles as the funeral progresses, flitting between quirky readings in the church and the backstories they evoke. Some are funny: the high-pitched lady singing her own version of the ‘p-salms’, the apologetic friend reading a scandalous rewrite of the gospel. But amid the laughter is a powerful meditation on the significance of a life well-lived, told from the bottom of a broken heart.  Murfi has something of the showman about him, in one scene memorably miming a trumpet, harmonica and gramophone record. He switches seamlessly between characters and settings, and although at times the sheer number of scenarios becomes disorientating, the central thread is never lost. And it builds to a deeply moving final farewell, as the true extent of Pat's dependence on his late wife becomes clear. 'The universe had to expand to accommodate her,' Pat says at one point of the woman who changed his life. What may sound like hyperbole elsew

Kiss Me

Kiss Me

4 out of 5 stars

Richard Bean – he of 'One Man, Two Guvnors' and 'Great Britain' fame – returns to more intimate fare with this short two-hander that started life at Hampstead’s Downstairs studio theatre last year. It’s intimate in every sense; the action takes place entirely on and around a bed belonging to ‘Stephanie’, a First World War widow who has paid ‘Dennis’ to inseminate her. This is the 1920s, and such services are in high demand due to the shortage of men. Dennis, working for a private clinic run by the matronly Dr Trollope (no kissing, she insists), has already fathered over 200 children.  But far from being a glorified rent boy, Dennis is the public school educated air to a Barbados sugar fortune and sees his new-found service as a Freudian way of repairing the guilt he feels at having missed the war. It’s an intriguing idea and Ben Lloyd-Hughes effectively captures the inner conflict of this buttoned-up man for whom undoing them has become a personal crusade. Opposite him Claire Lams gives a compelling portrayal of the funny and forthright Stephanie. She’s a woman out of time; a free-spirited, potty-mouthed lorry driver. It’s easy to see the attraction for Dennis - she says the unsayable and delights in teasing him. 'Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had sex?', she asks. 'Stoke Newington', he replies. But underpinning their flirtatious banter is the brutality of conflict, and Bean has found a novel way to evoke the scale of the horrors. Dennis speaks of the injured husband

Working

Working

4 out of 5 stars

Following the success of 'Godspell' and 'Pippin', and long before 'Wicked', Stephen Schwartz teamed up with fellow composers including James Taylor and Mary Rodgers on this song cycle dedicated to the world of work. Inspired by Studs Terkel’s book of interviews with a cross-section of American workers, the show first appeared in 1977 but has now been updated to include two new songs by 'Hamilton' maestro Lin-Manuel Miranda. The result is both a celebration of, and tirade against, the weird things we do to earn a crust. We hear from both the blue and white sides of the collar divide; and from the teacher to the steelworker, they’re united by a shared sense of missing out. What could they have achieved had they not been shackled to the nine-to-five? Not an original theme, perhaps, but one that hits home in a era where social mobility is grinding to a halt. Director Luke Sheppard has assembled an impressive ensemble of new and established talent. Stand-outs include Gillian Bevan as Rose Hoffman, the ageing teacher struggling to teach a class of 35. Siubhan Harrison delivers a knock-out rendition of James Taylor’s song 'Millwork', about a single mother struggling by. And Liam Tamne channels the life of an Uber rider with the catchy Miranda-penned 'Delivery'. Southwark Playhouse has built a reputation for high quality imports of unsung American musicals, and 'Working' is no exception. Although its sign-off message, that workers on all rungs of the ladder should given more public r

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