Review: The End of Longing, Playhouse Theatre

Published in The Independent on February 12, 2016

When you hear that Matthew Perry – Chandler in Friends – is starring in his own playwriting debut in the West End, the words “ego trip” float before the eyes as inevitably as pound signs no doubt floated before the producer’s. Continue reading “Review: The End of Longing, Playhouse Theatre”

Review: A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes, the Tricycle

Published in Time Out on October 15, 2015

Marcus Gardley’s decision to relocate Molière’s 1664 comedy Tartuffe to present-day Atlanta, Georgia seems a smart one: Tartuffe, a charlatan holy man, becomes Archbishop Tardimus Toof, a sleazy preacher who wants to make a fast buck. Archibald Organdy is the rich owner of a fried chicken company, who Toof ‘cures’ from heart cancer, inspiring a religious zeal more dangerous than his previous sickly malaise. Organdy’s family – prodigal daughter Africa, camp son Gumper, and Peaches, his lusty lover – are less impressed. Continue reading “Review: A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes, the Tricycle”

Making Measure for Measure for modern times

Published in The Independent on Sunday on September 27, 2015

Shakespeare plays apparently being like proverbial buses, the third major production of Measure for Measure in 2015 is about to open at the Young Vic in London; it follows Cheek by Jowl’s version at the Barbican and another at Shakespeare’s Globe. This glut is all the more unexpected given that it’s hardly a bankable big-hitter; Measure for Measure is a comparatively little-seen “problem play”, which has a troubling blend of tragic and comic elements. Continue reading “Making Measure for Measure for modern times”

Mathew Baynton interview: on playing Shakespeare – and playing the clown

Published in The Independent on Sunday on September 13, 2015

To be or not to be William Shakespeare? It wasn’t a hard question for actor Mathew Baynton to answer – especially as his take on the Bard is rather, well, irreverent. Bill is a new film made by and starring the Horrible Histories gang, who give the early life of Shakespeare their surreally comic signature treatment. Just don’t call it a kids’ film… Continue reading “Mathew Baynton interview: on playing Shakespeare – and playing the clown”

Review: High Society, Old Vic

Published in The Independent on May 15, 2015

What a treat this show is. A hotchpotch of previouses – adapted by Arthur Kopit from Philip Barry’s 1939 play The Philadelphia Story, but owing more to the 1956, Cole Porter-scored film version High Society, and with extra numbers from his back catalogue slipped in – this staging achieves the arguably rare feat of surpassing its filmic predecessor. Maria Friedman, a musicals veteran onstage, proves she’s just as good in the director’s chair, and the show certainly makes for a “swellegant, elegant” last hurrah for the Old Vic’s outgoing artistic director Kevin Spacey. Continue reading “Review: High Society, Old Vic”

Meet the QI elves: the fact-finders with their own hit show

Published in The Independent on Sunday on March 15, 2015

Everything is quite interesting. Or at least, it is when you’re a fact-hungry QI “elf” – one of the researchers behind the phenomenally popular and enduring BBC panel show. Spending their days trawling the internet and reference books, while keeping their ears pricked in everyday conversations, they are the show’s real brains, even if Stephen Fry gets to take the credit for their work on screen.

Though now, thanks to No Such Thing as a Fish – a weekly spin-off podcast launched by four of the elves last year – they are becoming stars in their own right. It sees them agree on four facts, which serve as a starting point for individual research missions, as they try to outdo each other with the silly, fascinating or just plain weird knowledge they’ve acquired. And there’s a big appetite for information about Tutankhamun’s mummified erection or the inventor of Shredded Wheat, it seems – one of Britain’s most popular podcasts, NSTAAF has been listened to more than seven million times in the year since its launch. It’s such a hit, they’ve even moved to the live stage: the quartet of Andy Hunter Murray, Dan Schreiber, James Harkin, and Anna Ptaszynski have a residency at the Soho Theatre, recording the podcast in front of a nerdily enthusiastic crowd. Continue reading “Meet the QI elves: the fact-finders with their own hit show”