Imelda Staunton on the National’s new blockbuster musical Follies

Published in The Telegraph on July 14, 2017

It may not open till next month, but the first release of tickets for Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the National Theatre are already entirely sold out. However thousands more are on sale today from 8.30am, at the same time as a first-look photograph of the cast is unveiled.

The level of love for the musical has surprised its star, Imelda Staunton – but then, it hasn’t had a full staging in London since 1987. The story of the Weismann Follies’ vaudeville showgirls, who return to the theatre they performed in 30 years previously, features standards such as ‘Losing My Mind and ‘I’m Still Here’, and garners serious devotion among Sondheim fans.

Continue reading “Imelda Staunton on the National’s new blockbuster musical Follies”

Jack Thorne on staging disability and transporting Harry Potter to the West End

Published in The Independent on Sunday on February 21, 2016

His face may not be familiar, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of Jack Thorne’s TV programmes – Skins, Glue, This is England ’86, (and ’88 and ’90 come to that), The Fades – or maybe his hit stage version of vampire movie Let the Right One In, or council budget-cuts drama Hope, which played at the Royal Court. Continue reading “Jack Thorne on staging disability and transporting Harry Potter to the West End”

Why Christmas shows are going down a psychedelic rabbit hole

Published in The Independent on Sunday on December 4, 2015

At no other time of the year are family-friendly shows more welcome than at Christmas. Yet it’s also often a time of boringly traditional, bankable fare. Panto reigns and theatre can tend towards the literary, twee and old-fashioned: Dickensian orphans in the faux snow, endless visits to Narnia and Neverland. This year, however, there’s a sleigh-full of alternative shows hurtling down a distinctly psychedelic rabbit hole. Continue reading “Why Christmas shows are going down a psychedelic rabbit hole”

On revivals, and the urge to ‘bring back to life’ past triumphs

The words ‘10th Anniversary Revival’ are given as much prominence as the author’s name – Tim Crouch – on the National Theatre’s promotional material for An Oak Tree; a new ‘10th anniversary edition’ of the playtext accompanies. Such subtitling flags up its rare status: a genuinely experimental, fringe show that has achieved international acclaim, academic recognition, and much love from audiences – and performers (a key point, of which more later). Continue reading “On revivals, and the urge to ‘bring back to life’ past triumphs”

Review: Beyond Caring, National Theatre

Published in The Independent on May 4, 2015

Three casual workers arrive for the night shift at a meat factory. There’s hard-faced Becky (Victoria Moseley), timid, dowdy Susan (Kristin Hutchinson) and Grace (Janet Etuk), forced into employment despite her rheumatoid arthritis. They join Phil (Sean O’Callaghan), the only full-time member of staff and a gentle giant type – though like all of them, he seems bruised by life. Continue reading “Review: Beyond Caring, National Theatre”

In praise of Caryl Churchill

Published in The Independent on Sunday on April 12, 2015

Who is Britain’s greatest living playwright? Tom Stoppard has often been bestowed with this honour, as he was, again, in the barrage of press marking his comeback play The Hard Problem earlier this year. But, for many, there’s another clear candidate, Caryl Churchill – and her claim to the title is set to be showcased in the months ahead, with three major revivals of her work.

First, a production of Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, her early play about the English Civil War, opens next week at the National Theatre. Then in July comes Manchester International Festival’s take on her 1994 twisted fable The Skriker, starring Maxine Peake and with music by Antony Hegarty and Nico Muhly, followed by the transfer to the Young Vic of Michael Longhurst’s acclaimed production of cloning drama A Number. Continue reading “In praise of Caryl Churchill”

Indira Varma: From Game of Thrones to Man and Superman

Published in The Independent on February 17, 2015

George Bernard Shaw’s play may be entitled Man and Superman, but I’ve just met its superwoman. A new production of this rarely performed play opens at the National Theatre next week, directed by Simon Godwin, and starring Ralph Fiennes as Shaw’s speechifying philosopher, Jack Tanner. But Indira Varma – who plays his romantic sparring partner Ann – is in no doubt as to the importance of the female lead in this epic play.

“Ann, who does not speak half as much as Tanner, should bear the mantle for women,” the 41-year-old actress says. “He wants to be the superman, philosophical man or whatever, but I feel Ann is that too – she just doesn’t talk as much. She’s practical.” Continue reading “Indira Varma: From Game of Thrones to Man and Superman”