Friday, 31 July 2009

NOTES: Spike Milligan’s Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall

(Been crazy busy this week between going to the theatre, going out with friends, and working on some original writing projects so I fell waaaaaaay behind in getting reviews up. This and the follow-up piece are as much reminders that I saw the things as actual reviews.)

Long time favourite of the British comedy and radio scene, much has been made of Spike Milligan’s experiences in the Second World War. From his delayed entry to his role as the battery’s joker to his ultimate discharge after suffering PTSD upon failing a suicide run, the play is an inventive, energetic adaptation of Milligan’s memoirs that’s well acted, well sung (there’s actor-musos), and includes some clever design. The first act, despite being shorter, feels a few minutes too long (it needs to lose about 3-4 minutes) though it lets out just at the point where “feeling long” turns into “actually going to check my watch.”

In other words, there’s actually something decent on at the Hampstead. Not that it’s too surprising when you see that it’s actually a production by the Bristol Old Vic making an extended stop before going out on tour. Do see it, the tickets are reasonably priced and you can get a nice coffee beforehand.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

REVIEW: Quadrophenia

(This is the site’s 200th post.)

In 1973, The Who released an album that would change the world forever, influencing rock contemporaries and spreading through the ages, ultimately resurfacing in the grunge movement (Eddie Vedder cited it as a primary influence), jam bands (Phish covered it in full at a Halloween gig), and even pop-punk (American Idiot).

That album, was, of course, Quadrophenia (duh, it’s in the post title) and it is, without a doubt, one of the greatest works in the history of rock music. A densely layered concept piece, Quad bridges The Who’s definitive loud sound - everybody plays lead on every song - with the synths, strings, and musical complexity of the burgeoning progressive movement. Quad’s beauty lies in its ability to harness these sounds without giving in to the pretentiousness of prog: this is an album about the explosion of a movement, of violently encountering the transition from youth to adulthood, and of desperately trying to find oneself in the world. It’s bleak, harsh, and yet spiritual, ending with the potential for hope.

Like Tommy and the abandoned Lifehouse project, Quadrophenia tells something of a bizarre story as only The Who could get away with. It’s 1964, and a lad of 16 named Jimmy is leaving school, getting a well paying but distinctly working class job, and spending his money on the speed and fashions required to stay in with the mod scene that he follows but never quite connects to. As his life begins to deteriorate, Jimmy finds himself split into four personas modeled on the members of The Who: a tough guy (Roger Daltrey), a romantic (John Entwistle), a nutter (Keith Moon), and what’s labeled a hypocrite but really more of an ineffectual and observer (Pete Townshend, who wrote and scored the entire album.)

When things hit bottom at home at the end of the first disc, Jimmy takes off for mod central in Brighton, only to find his solace shattered in the off-season with the city nearly deserted and after a disappointing encounter with one of his heroes.

It sounds simple, but deciphering the story in full requires reading the album’s liner notes or seeing a video of the 1996-1997 tour with its linking narration. The songs themselves give little away, reflecting emotion and a personal journey but not providing a wider frame of context. It’s of little surprise, therefore, that when Quadrophenia was turned into a film in 1979 that much of the original story (and music) was discarded. It also guarantees that fans familiar with the film but not the album are going to be completely lost at Quadrophenia, the musical.

Returning to roots, the stage Quadrophenia dispenses with any sort of dialogue and sticks to the music and attempts to tell its story through lyric and dance. As suggested above, this is quite an undertaking, especially as the original double album is just over 85 minutes and the production truncates one song (“I’ve Had Enough”) and cuts the second leitmotiv instrumental (“The Rock”), which brings the story to a head on vinyl. Making up the runtime are seven early Who songs, some of which were brought out of cold storage for the film, and reset into context. For those familiar with the album, the additions in the second act will feel like padding. For everyone else, they’re going to fit right in. Either way, the added tracks add a sense of authenticity to the period - Quad is very much later Who, and doesn’t sound like anything from 1964.

But does the adaptation actually work? For the most part, yes. Pete Townshend himself has contributed to and supervised director Tom Critchley’s adaptation, teaching the cast about the period and ensuring that his vision is accurately represented, much as he did with the original Broadway production of Tommy. This isn’t to say there aren’t problems (more below), but overall the show is stunningly true to the spirit of the album and it bursts across the stage in a whirlwind of sound and fury.

First and foremost, John O’Hara’s orchestrations are stunning. Adapting the score for nine pieces (2 keys / 2 guitars / 2 strings / bass / drums / brass), the music gains a level of undercurrent for the motiv structure to shine through and guaranteeing that the music is appropriately loud. It’s also a tribute to Jason Barnes’s sound design that the cast are still able to be heard over the blaring band without ever getting painful to hear and without the muffled and echo-y tones of most tours (and touring venues).

Credit also goes to Frances Newman for her excited, visceral choreography and Carl Perry for the costumes so stylish as to remind us in one shot why the mods looked so damn cool: I left the theatre wanting one of Jimmy’s marked up parkas, even if the revivalist/torch carrying mods of here and now find the garment passé and stereotypical.

So where’s the big problem? Well, as I mentioned before, the story can be obtuse, and while the staging brings it to life as much as possible, it doesn’t always manage to make sense of itself on stage. One reason for this is the presence of a Young Jimmy representing the whole id, who struck me as somewhat superfluous. There’s also some time jumping in an attempt to clarify some lyrics in the face of onstage happenings which would be a spoiler to reveal here. Sophie Khan’s set doesn’t help much either: there’s a sofa for the first few scenes, a revolve, and a giant ring in the second act. The band are visible on a two tiered cage at the back for a couple of cast members to climb on, but otherwise the location prompts are determined by how much the viewer is paying attention to the lyrics. Clubs are easy, a solo moment on a pier not so much.

Another, more pressing issue, is in the portrayal of Jimmy’s personalities: all four are played by different actors in identical clothes. The technique is engaging and works as the situation shifts from Ryan O’Donnel’s romantic reaching out to others to George Maguire’s tough guy fighting with his father (John Schumacher), but it can be difficult to tell the four apart, especially when Maguire is physically very similar to ineffectual Jimmy Rob Kendrick and maintains similar body language. Jack Roth’s lunatic tends to slouch and keep a worrying grin, and Ryan O’Donnell keeps a saddened look most of the time though he too blends into the others at times. A second viewing made it easier to work out who was who at times, but the majority of visitors won’t make the effort.

Confusion aside, all four of the lads - three of whom have been with the production since workshop - are fierce to watch as are the rest of the cast including Kevin Wathen who stands out as The Godfather, singing most of the early Who numbers and Sydney Rae White as the abstract Girl.

At the end of the day, the weaknesses of the piece are, in their own way, amplifying its strengths. The abstract nature of the story and focus on internalised conflict make it a universal tale of putting behind childish things, not unlike Spring Awakening, but better. It’s like the class braniac gut punching the captain of the rugby team at graduation. And it’s absolutely bloody brilliant.

Where: Touring until 3 October. Check the show website for details.
When: Tu-Sa, Fr/Sa are two show days.
How Much: Varies by stop. Tickets were £7.50-£28 when I saw the show.
Concessions: Varies by stop. ATG theatres are doing twofers for members on some nights.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £30. It’s worth every penny to hear the music performed live though some may find the story difficult to follow.
RZ Other Notes: This is not a traditional show for musical queens. One such person posted on a message board that she hated the show - it was too loud for her taste, and when asked what she was expecting confessed that she’d never listened to The Who before and didn’t care for serious rock in general. Her loss. While I doubt that Quadrophenia will convert fans of traditional MT fare to The Who, much as We Will Rock You is unlikely to convert haters to Queen, I can only hope that people do give it a try because it really is that brilliant.

I’m also sad that the tour has apparently been cut short - early press implied that the show would go until November, including stops in Milton Keynes and Wimbledon, which would have been incredibly convenient. Now I have to debate going down to Brighton (relevant but mostly sold out) or somewhere a good distance from London if I want to see it again before it ends - sales have varied location to location but are nowhere good enough to suggest that a West End transfer would be profitable.

Oh, and why the hell didn’t someone get the cast on T4 to promote this show? It’s still incredibly relevant 35 years after the album came out.

Friday, 24 July 2009

RE-VISIT: “We Will Rock You”

I’ve always been something of a defender for We Will Rock You. Yes, it’s a shameless jukebox show, and yes, Ben Elton’s script isn’t nearly as good or as smart as it could (or should) be, but you can tell that they made a serious effort to create something interesting and it’s paid off. It’s also one of the first shows I reviewed on this site.

So when offered a deal I couldn’t refuse on tickets, I gladly snapped them up. And in retrospect, I was a bit harsh on my prior worth paying - only £15? What was I thinking?

Anyways, most of my prior comments stand as written, but as always, a few changes have been made and a new cast are in, so here goes again with the magic bullet points.

-Some of the background animations have been changed. They still look good, and somehow WWRY manages to be the only show to go nuts with the light boards and NOT make my eyes hurt, perhaps because the lighting in general is so damn impressive.

-Michael Jackson has been added to the list of those who died early. But where the hell is Keith Moon?

-I went on what turned out to be the night of a thousand understudies. John Boydon was again on as Galileo in the first act, playing the role as a bit more stupid and his ticks were more pronounced than I remember. His voice was also going, and he was replaced in the second act by Matthew McKenna who was excellent as Galileo’s more confident side.

-Continuing the understudy trend, TV casting reject Rachel Tucker was on as Scaramouche. To be honest, I think this is the perfect role for her. She wails on the numbers, and brings a completely new take to the role: rather than the fiesty cockney she has a heavy Scottish accent and speaks with a slow burning and intentional sarcasm. She may not be as fierce as other Scaramouches, but it works brilliantly.

-In a rare occurrence, Mazz Murray was out and Rebecca McKinnis was on as the Killer Queen. It was nice to see a new take on the role, but Ms. McKinniss didn’t do very much to make the role her own. Her voice was also on the thin side and she lacked the command presence during her songs that Ms. Murray or the original Killer Queen, Sharon D. Clarke, possessed.

-Rounding out the swings, Amanda Coutts was on in Ms. Tucker’s regular track as Meat and Rakesh Boury as Britney Spears. The duo were fine, nothing to really comment on here.

-Gary Lake is a rather crass Pop, and it’s amazing that Alex Bourne can still be excited about doing the show every night after how many years in?

-The ensemble need a dance call. Some of the choreography was out of sync and you can see where bits and pieces have been revised over the years because some people do the old moves and some the new ones...

-I was off to the side in the rear stalls and the sound was an issue - the lyrics were totally drowned at times (Seven Seas of Rhye). Then again, most people are expected to know the words going in. I don’t recall having these problems when sitting in the centre, but I also didn’t note anything in the prior review so it’s hard to remember.

In short? We Will Rock You is still a fun night out for Queen fans and tourists and well worth a visit to say you’ve gone. The design aspects are still impressive, and the cast work their butts off. And dude. It’s Queen.

Where: Dominion Theatre
When: Open Run. Check listings for times.
Cost: £27.50-£60
Concessions: £20 student tickets, best left when the BO opens; £13.50 SRO when otherwise sold out
RZ unofficial “worth paying”: £35. Half price plus fees. It’s a very good show but a standing O pay full price no matter what show? I’m still not convinced, especially with how much better the book could be.
RZ other notes: There are a lot of tourists and “not often at the theatre” types here. They liked to go to the loo during the show. Very annoying.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

REVIEW: “Blink! ...and you missed it”

It seems right to post about this as a follow-up to Too Close to the Sun. After all, there’s something about us theatre folk that craves, nay, demands an obsession with revisiting failures. And on the cabaret circuit, nothing draws out the hardcore like a concert of hits from everyone’s favourite flops.

Then again, if my experience (along with Mark Shenton’s) is anything to go by, there aren’t that many hardcore to go around. At least not for a month-long run at the Stag, which may be why these things are usually one-nighters.

But I digress.

Officially, any show which is commercially produced and fails to return turn a profit to its investors is a flop. For entry into Not Since Carrie, the flop-lover’s encyclopaedia, a show needed to fail financially AND run for under 250 performances (and run before 1988, though a second volume is long rumoured to be in the works.) The shows in Blink!...vary. Some are long running financial failures, some didn’t cross the pond well, and some are just, well, there.

At this point I should really just hand things over to Mr. Shenton, as his previously linked post on Blink! matches the majority of my thoughts almost word for word. A few other bits to bullet-point though...

-The narration was heavy on the Wikipedia (lots of dates and performance counts) and lacking in any sort of useful context for the songs. If you’re highlighting shows that nobody knows, then you have to give the audience some context lest the acting be completely lost. And yes, I have written better.

-The narrative delivery also came across as too casual and a last-minute concern. I liked that it was split amongst the cast, but it was thrown off and clearly not of much concern.

-”New Music” from Ragtime was well condensed from six characters to two, but played at a turbocharged tempo, which undermines the beauty of the song. Props for trying something different, but no.

-The two medley sequences, one on UK hits/US flops and one on actor-musos, despite being the most questionable in terms of merit in a piece like this, are the most entertaining parts of the evening.

I wish I could be more positive about Blink!, but the evening found itself squarely in the realm of decency, never falling too far or rising too high. It’s amusing and fairly cheap and the bar’s not too expensive for pre/post/interval drinks. And remember, it could always be worse.

Where: Above the Stag
When: Until 16 Aug, Tu-Fr @ 19:30, Sa @ 17:30 & 20:15, Su @ 18:30
How much: £10 unreserved
Concessions: None
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £5 with an E for Effort.
RZ Other Notes: I’d give it the £10 if someone had the clever idea of including a drink with the ticket price.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

REVIEW: Too Close To The Sun

(EDIT: This review has been quoted by the Daily Mail!)
(ANOTHER EDIT: This review has also been quoted by the Independent!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Trainwreck Express is now calling at the Comedy Theatre.

I’m not sure where to go from there, really. It’s rare that such a disaster opens in the West End, and Too Close To The Sun is certainly an amusing disaster to watch as it descends further and further from shocking to abysmal to “oh no they didn’t” and beyond.

I guess we should begin at the beginning, with James Graeme coming down the stairs as Earnest Hemingway and revealing how badly his costume was measured as he lifts his arms and we see the waistband holding his mic pack. Some bad dialogue and he goes offstage, a toilet flushes, and he comes back onstage with a glass of urine which he analyses and leaves on the mantle until the end of the rather long opening scene where a stagehand removes it by the time the set swings around again.

The actual plot (in as much as there is one, and it’s all in the second act) involves a gold-digging secretary (Tammy Joelle) hoping to become wife number five, old friend and slimeball producer Rex De Havilland (Jay Benedict) trying to convince the Hollywood hating Hemingway to sell his biography rights, and wife #4 (Helen Dallimore) strutting around as mistress of the domain controlling Hemingway’s diet and setting rules for everybody while working as fast as she can to get rid of the competition for Earnest’s affections. Oh, and conveniently enough, none of Hemingway's books are actually mentioned by name. Perhaps the estate caught the foul wind of what was going on.

I should point out that the music, lyrics, and production are by the same team responsible for the infamous 2005 flop Behind the Iron Mask, if that gives any of you an idea of the quality you’re in for. The brilliant dialogue includes lines like “What are you doing now?” “Looking for a decent script.”, “What part of Popeye never rusts?” “The part he sticks on Olive Oyl.”, and there are such witty lyrics as “I was the big barricuda” and “A hoochy-cootchy Alabama way down south” a scene on where to best stick the gun muzzle when killing yourself, and the night’s big laugh moment involves Hemingway sings a ballad about being stuck in solitary silence while Rex is off being manic about the film possibilities in a half-lit part of the stage and upstaging the song.

And speaking of being half-lit, someone must be pissed at Helen Dallimore because she wasn’t lit at all in her last couple songs.

But there’s lots of reasons to be annoyed about the cast, particularly Mr. Benedict who, despite being in numerous musicals, is entirely incapable of singing this score on key. Then again, neither can anybody else - perhaps the a-lyrical lyrics (Rhymes? Metre? We don’t need those here!) and a-melodic melodies (and I don’t mean in the avant garde outsider musician sense) are to blame, given just how many blown notes and painful flats there were. Although, perhaps a comparison to outsider musicians isn’t entirely off base: the opportunities for unintended laughter easily matched those of a Florence Foster Jenkins concert, though Madam Flo had the charisma to avoid losing over half her audience at the interval. She also, wisely, stuck to a single piano and didn’t inflict Connor Mitchell’s half-decent half-wtf arrangements on an unsuspecting audience including some unfortunate children.

Many of us weren’t smart enough to leave, however (including - to quite a few surprises - the West End Whingers), and pressed on through the second act with a Blitz spirit, not willing to surrender to the pain and wanting to see just how they could top themselves next. Would the raw timbre set catch fire? Would the stuffed deer head begin talking as Earnest planned to kill himself? We still hadn’t had a geriatric sex scene, so it was an obvious thing to hope for. Ultimately we got none of those three, but we were treated to some of the worst drunken acting in ages and some pointless songs after the suicide.

In other words, the creative team from Behind the Iron Mask have provided something for everybody who missed their previous outing to tell stories about and a guaranteed entry in a West End version of Not Since Carrie. It’s tacky, ugly, and the must-see disaster of the year. Flop collectors will cherish this, though I doubt anybody else will. Those trying to go certainly shouldn’t PAY for a ticket, but freebies are out there if you look and chances are you can collect a stub from someone walking out after the first 10 minutes without missing much.

Hell, you could probably just walk right in and the ushers wouldn’t care - it’s not like the theatre’s going to be anywhere near full anyway.

Where: Comedy Theatre
When: Until 5 September. Tu-Sa @ 19:30, W/Sa @ 14:30
How Much: £10-£55
Concessions: Almost certainly and Ambassador Friends can get top tickets for £20 at all performances. It’s also on lastminute for £10 and has appeared on their sales for as little as £3.
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £5 for trainwreck entertainment value.
RZ Other Notes: Like with Shakespeare, tragedy can be a source of many laughs. Also consider checking with the discount booths by Leicester Square around closing time - some may have extras or promo tickets to give away.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

REVIEW: “Call Me Madam”

(So I usually don’t blog about shows at the Gatehouse as I’m on friendly terms with the owners. But, this isn’t an in-house production so...)

Thom Southerland is seen as one of the up and coming wunderkinds of musical theatre direction. Focusing primarily on classic musicals, he and producing partner Nick Robinson have set about bringing back the golden age classics, including the upcoming premiere of Rogers & Hammerstein’s State Fair and, at the Irving Berlin estate’s request, this production of Call Me Madam.

One of Berlin’s less-often performed works, Madam takes an oil baroness turned ambassador (a fierce Beverly Klein) and her progressive attaché (Mark Henry-Evans) and drops them into the Lichtenstein-like Dutchy of Lichtenburg. Their goal? I’m not exactly sure - when she leaves she’s told not to give them any money, which sets up her pulling out the chequebook when she finds herself attracted to local politician Cosmo Constantine but he stands firm and doesn’t take the money - at which point...her job IS to get them to take the loan and be indebted to the US through the machinations of her liason? This all made sense (I hope) in the original version, but the book was reworked here for length and cast size which has left something of a Dutchy-sized gap in the book’s logic.

Based on this viewing alone, Southerland’s reputation strikes me as...slightly misplaced. Despite his fascination with remarkably American shows (recent work including The Unsinkable Molly Brown and a version of RENT which friends told me to avoid as it was guaranteed to inspire rantage), he doesn’t always get his continuity right: cast members had no idea how to handle the flag, money was miscoloured, accents were broad, and word was that a current London newspaper was used during previews rather than anything looking period. And given that Southerland also reworked the book for this production (a necessity of a shrunken cast), did he have to leave in the constant “I’m a Republican” references? Nobody laughed at them.

In terms of getting actors in the right place and hitting their emotions? It’s fine, and Southerland made a decent go of working to the thrust's demands but there’s nothing revolutionary about the staging.

Enough moaning, though, because it was still a good time out thanks to Drew McOnie’s lively choreography along with Klein’s vivid performance (though the whole cast are lovely and free from any of the show's blame) and, of course, Berlin’s enchanting songs. Alex Weatherhill does his best to negotiate a five piece band, reduced from the original 36, and thanks to the small space and focus on the brass lines, the music maintains a jazzy feel and doesn’t sound empty in the venue.

A final weakness, however, is the lighting, which came down to a no-show from the designer and an enterprising student doing the whole thing on the get-in day in his place - forgivable but annoying nonetheless.

See it if you’re local or have a soft spot for the classics.

Where: Upstairs at the Gatehouse
When: Until 16 August. Tu-Sa @ 19:30, Su @ 16:00
How Much: £12 (All Days but Sat), £15 (Saturday), UNRESERVED SEATING
Concessions: £10/12
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £10. I really should say £12 since there are no discounts, but it's value compared to top ticket price...time to pull out the bus passes and student IDs?
RZ Other Notes: Maybe State Fair will be better? It was entering rehearsals while Madam was in previews.

THOUGHTS: What’s Wrong With Angry?

Sometimes a play’s background is more interesting than the actual show. In this case, What’s Wrong With Angry was a contemporary piece about the consequences of Section 28 and disparity in British age of consent law between straight and gay couples. At the time of its premiere, the tale of an out schoolboy amidst a swirl of scandal, cottaging, and violent schoolmates was controversial, shocking, and a tour de force which clearly spawned countless imitators because there’s no other way it could seem so sappy - complete with main character about to swallow a bottle of pills and then throwing it away to declare his choice for life - and cliché now.

Was it more relevant back in 1993? Almost certainly, but time and advances in civil rights, complete with David Cameron recently apologising for Section 28, have blunted the play’s edge and place it in an odd void between introspective period piece (not enough real period depth) and Grange Hill/After School Special. The sad thing is how much things haven’t changed, especially for queer youths, but this isn’t the play to send the message anymore.

So why bring it back? I have no idea, though the current production at the Kings Head is directed by its author, Patrick Wilde, and he makes a decent if not inspired go at things, with the selection of backing and transitional music being the best part. The cast are a mixed bag, though I can’t pull up names thanks to the Kings Head website not listing anybody, but focal character Steven, who is on all the posters and out and proud, is well played, as is his female best friend. Conflicted love interest John is a weak link in the cast, while a sympathetic teacher is portrayed...well, no so much portrayed as phoned in and incredibly fake.

In short, find the film (retitled Get Real) instead.

Where: Kings Head
When: Until 16 August, Tu-Sa @ 19:30, Sa/Su @ 15:30
How Much: £18 (reserved)/£15 (unreserved)
Concessions: £12.50
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £4 (Cost of renting the film at Blockbuster)
RZ Other Notes: None

Monday, 6 July 2009

THOUGHTS: “Forbidden Broadway”

I have to confess that taking a commission to see Forbidden Broadway at the Menier was a lot like being paid to see Spring Awakening: I’d seen both in New York and knew the material going in, and it almost felt like cheating to get paid to write about it.

The good news is that I like the London cast of Forbidden Broadway far more than I did the locals in Spring Awakening. Forbidden Broadway also has a tonne of new UK specific material, some of the best recent US bits (though they cut the dialogue sequences from the Jersey Boys and Spring Awakening segments), and a few of the old classics which never fail to amuse (Ten Years More, Circle of Mice.) Unfortunately there’s plenty of the diva jokes which, honestly, are my least favourite parts but I’ve never been gaga for Liza or Sarah so while the general humour is funny - as it is to the many, many tourists who kept Forbidden Broadway open through the years - I was always ready for the next show, trend, and gimmick to be eviscerated before my eyes. The humour is generic enough for casual fans to get it but there are layers for the hardcore to peel back and it’s oh so mean but only as a lesson in tough love.

Speaking of cuts, the show moved fast - VERY fast. When I saw Roast of Utopia I counted around 20-25 sketches, and I would hazard to say there’s closer to 30 here, though the production here is also a good 30 minutes longer. And, of course, time flies when you’re laughing your head off and trying to hide your jealousy that someone else’s blog got namechecked in the first parody and yours didn’t.

Still reading this? Why? Go book tickets (just leave some cheap ones available so I can go again!)

Where: Menier Chocolate Factory
When: Tu-Sa @ 20:00, Sa/Su @ 15:30
How Much: £25 except Saturday matinees £15
Concessions: Ask directly, £34/24 show + meal deal bookable in advance
RZ Unofficial “Worth Paying”: £25. The legend lives.
RZ Other Notes: What’s Jest End again?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

CATCHING UP: The doggerel days of summer....

So I’ve been away for a while. How long is a while? Long enough that it’s probably driven away what few readers I previously had. The reason for this absence? Some much needed freelance work that was for an unfortunately short time plus some equally required recovery time afterwards. I did manage to sneak in a few things in the interim, so in the interest of being a right speedy American, some one or two liners follow as I look up my last month in iCal...

The King and I @ Royal Albert Hall - Nice. Not impressive or amazing, but nice. It’s not one of my favourite shows to begin with, but Maria Friedman was lovely as ever and justified the three hours.

Been So Long @ Young Vic - Felt so long, despite only being 95 minutes. Decent cast but some “they got it wrong” bits in the set, virtually no plot, and little characterisation.

The Missionary’s Position @ Hoxton Hall - Music Hall meets morality play with some bad meta-theatricality at the end.

Zanna Don’t @ Upstairs at the Gatehouse - Not an Ovation production so no need to not comment. Zanna has a lot going for it including an incredibly catchy score, but the book has some major issues and doesn’t show the truly vicious nature of American high schoolers which undermines its message.

West End Live 2009 @ Leicester Square - Biggins was less annoying than last year though I wish I had video of him making his MJ crack in retrospect. Overall some good performances and it’s a nice if not crowded and exhausting event.

The World at One - Sellebrity @ Kings Head - Three twenty minute plays on the cost and demands of celebrity. Basically a lot of people being nasty to each other. I didn’t see the version on social networking, but this was OK and decent lunchtime fare. I’d go to another one.

Mincemeat @ Cordy House - A promenade look at an infamous WW2 operation in which the British military dumped a corpse on the coast of Spain with the intent of spreading misinformation. Again some displeasure from meta-theatricality (though this may be house style looking over the Cardboard Citizens website) but overall a fascinating production with an excellent use of a warehouse space. Bring water if you go.

And now I’m all caught up. I’m attending Forbidden Broadway at the Menier later this week, but have a commission so it’ll only be brief thoughts here. More to follow...