Showtime

by Hazel Kyte

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Woodside Park Synagogue or the United Synagogue.

 

GROAN UPS -VAUDEVILLE THEATRE

From the company that brought THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, I loved this, not so much a farce as a very funny observation on how you can see the adult from the child, as you saw a group from the start of school life, through the years to a final school reunion - all totally recognisable - and also recognizing people you knew and know!!!! Only on til mid December, I highly recommend it, with a couple of serious moments, and a lot of laughs - very well written and performed.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF JOE EGG - TRAFALGAR STUDIO

This revival of Peter Nichol's play, of his personal experience in bringing up a handicapped daughter is heart breaking and brilliantly performed. All cast are superb, and Toby Stevens, Claire Skinner and Patricia Hodge are unmissable.

 

UNKNOWN RIVERS - HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS

Chinonyerem Odimba's play about the problems of black young women in today's British Society is well written and performed.

 

CHEMISTRY - FINBOROUGH THEATRE

This two hander  about mental illness by Jacob Marx Rice is superbly performef by Caoimhe Farren and James Mear - but oh so depressing. And beware the strode lights.

 

I DO I DO - UPSTAIRS AT THE GATEHOUSE

Hurrah for a 'feel good' musical,  music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones, a delightful duo with the multi talented Gemma Maclean as Agnes and Ben Morris as Michael, set in their bedroom between the years of 1890 and l940, this couple sing and dance, accompanied by Henry Brennan, who is also a first class musical director... for a great evening, and a smile on your face, this is my suggested venue for the next few weeks. I think I want to see it again!!!

GOD'S DICE - SOHO THEATRE

Must admit, I found this most disappointing. Written by David Baddiel, and I had loved his previous piece, this seemed to be an elongated joke put on stage, although Alan Davies, playing a university professor of mathmatics was adequate, as was Alexandra Gildbreath as his wife, and Nitin Ganatra as their friend Tim, the young lady playing Edie. a student who misintreprets his ideas and equations to prove that  G-d exists, and starts a new cult-- was totally inaudable, marring the production.

 

LUNGS - OLD VIC

Brilliant two hander, written by Duncan Macmillan, directed by Mathew Warchus and starring Claire Foy and Matt Smith as a young couple, first just together, then contemplating a family, and various scenes through the years - first class performances and altogether a good theatre evening.

 

EITHER - HAMPSTEAD DOWNSTAIRS

Clever piece of theatre with converstation between a couple, but short pieces, and conversation continues with other characters coming in, as if the conversation was ongoing.

 

THE ICE CREAM BOYS - JERMYN STREET TO 2ND NOV.

 Written by Gail Louw,  a fascinating piece, superbly acted as Jacob Zuma played by Andrew Francis,  former President of South Africa meets up with Jewish South African Ronnie Kasrils, who masterminded the intelligence service - together in a clinic, with shared memories and old scores to settle. Ronnie is played by the 'gorgeous Jack Klaff' of whom I have been a fan for many years, and Thandi Dube is the nurse.  Well worth the visit, played with humour, a good 'exploration of politics and power' .

 

BOTTICELLI IN THE FIRE - HAMPSTEAD  

Set in 1482, this production would be X rated for orthodox audiences, so you have been warned. Very well acted, and fantastic stage effects, Botticelli is an artist and playboy in Florence, crossing the Medicis, his patron, whose wife is his model and mistress, the play sets out to question how much we are willing to sacrifice 'when society comes off the rails' (their quote, not mine)

 

THEY SHALL NOT PASS -THE BATTLE OF CABLE STREET - ARCOLA

 I was lucky enough to get to see this as a matinee, on one of the only two performances. Written and performed by Steven Berkoff, it is the story of that historic day on 4th October l936 when the Mosley fascist march was stopped by the East Enders and the Dockers...He also tells of the uprising of Nazi Germany, and Crystal Nacht. Steven adds his personal memories of an East End upbringing - the kosher restaurants and their menus, the public baths, school days, in a superb 'collage' - almost poetry, and totally mesmorising. If  he does more performances, try and see him - it wll be memorable. 

 

THE NICETIES -FINBOROUGH THEATRE

Written by Eleanor Burgess, this was a brilliant two hander, as Janie Dee as Janine, a College History Tutor is confronted by Zoe,  a black student in the American Northeast College, Spring 2016 - first seeking her help, and then turning on her as not teaching of the black slave trade, and taking things to extremes by recording comments and reporting, out of context.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF - PLAYHOUSE THEATRE

Transferred from the Chocolate Factory this is the best production I have seen of this wonderful 'shtetll' classic since original with Topol, which we saw the night before he left the show to go back to Israel at the start of war.  Now directed by  Trevor Nunn, with original choreography by Jerome Robbins and Matt Cole.  The story based on Sholem Aleichem's story, with book by Joseph Stein, music Jerry Bock and lyrics Sheldon Harnick is fresh as ever. The whole theatre takes on 'shtetl' appearance, and the cast are superb -  Andy Nyman's Tevya has a personal relationsip with the Almighty, Maria Friedman - wonderful as always, as Golde, the daughters all had great voices, and this is all round first class entertainment for any age.

BIG - THE MUSICAL - DOMINION THEATRE

This new musical production certainly lives up to it's name - Book by John Weidman, Music by David Shire and Lyrics by Richard Maltby - stunning choreography - also direction by Morgan Young, this is a 'fun piece' with a moral... 'be careful what you wish for....' Josh is coming up for l3, but lacks height and confidence, so when he goes to the fun fair, and makes a wish to a machine, he cannot believe his wish is granted and instant growth has made him BIG  - so, adult size, but childhood mentality, he finds himself, out on the street, wanting to go home... but fortune has him meeting up with the executive of a toy company, who is inspired by his capacity to recognise 'fun' in a way none of his staff understand. The story is fun, sets first class, lively tunes - good half term entertainment, Well performed,  and certainly worth a family visit.

 

MOTHER OF HIM - PARK THEATRE

Evan Placey's play is totally mesmorising, largely thanks to a brilliant performance by Tracy -Ann Oberman's as Brenda Kapowitz, separated mother of Jason and Matthew.Set in their Toronto home, December l998, Brenda is dealing with l2 year old Jason's not wanting to go to school, and her older son - seventeen year old Matthew, who has been accused of rape, and is under house arrest.  This is a tense piece, which holds your attention every moment, as Brenda is beseiged by journalists outside her home, and desperate for help, which friend and lawyer Robert tries to give. There are two boys playing Jason, and the young man we saw was superb - small, dark, good accent and totally convincing as young boy just wanting to celebrate Chanukah and get back to a 'normal life'.  I cannot recommend this play highly enough - it is thought provoking and terrifying - as a Mother is torn between love and horror at her son's behaviour.

FALSETTOS - THE OTHER PALACE

Typical of New York Jewish  Humour, book by James Lapine with music and lyrics by William Finn - superb voices all round.. when Jason's parents split up, they think that Jason should see the 'shrink' his father has attended - which ends up with his mother Cordelia 

re-marryiing Mendl, the 'Shrink 'whilst Marvin, the father, goes off with Whizzer - Time passes, and Whizzer and Marvin split up, but then get together again - just before Jason's barmitzvah - I dont want to spoil the story line, which is strong and funny and moving. The story is clever and the music superb, with a most accomplished cast. I had previously seen this in New York and think the London production excellent - and the audience were obviously of the same opinion.

 

A VERY EXPENSIVE POISON - OLD VIC

Superb production - first class writing, acting and direction. Theatre at its best - educational,  totally gripping. with enough humour in a serious subject to hold your interest  Will certainly look out for more plays by Lucy Prebble.

 

AMSTERDAM - ORANGE TREE

Written by Maya Arad Yasur, Israeli, and translated by Eran Edry - this had a totally different format, with four actors 'telling the story' rather than performing roles. I found it difficult to follow, as one heard of Jews living in Amsterdam, during the War and also the Freedom Fighters. An important story with the horrors of the labour camps... told as a very large utility bill is found unpaid post war.... almost a 'detective story'.

 

THE WEATHERMAN - PARK THEATRE

Eugene O'Hares play deals with a most unpleasant subject - modern slavery an human trafficking in the UK - but this is deliberate as he wants the subject brought to more notice, and each seat contains a leaflet on how to combat this atriocity should you come across it. Having said that, the performances are all quite superb. Mark Hadfield as Beezer and Alec Newman as O'Rourke - two of life's 'losers' are prevailed upon to 'baby sit' a young girl, who will be delivered to their home by Turkey- Cyril NIri - a driver and odd job helper for Dollar - the main man and their landlord, David Schaal. The other cast member is Mara, who never speaks, Niamh James. This is a horrific  scenario, but brilliantly written and performed, and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the production.You have been advised of the subject matter, but I admire the Park Theatre for having this play in their repertoire.l 

 

APPROPRIATE - DONMAR WAREHOUSE

INAPPROPRIATE would have been a better title for this brilliant play written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, and showing, as it does, sibling rivelry, colour and racial prejudice, as they get together in their family home, a grand wreck of a plantation house, after the death of their father - to try and save whatever they can financially. Extremely well acted by the entire cast, but must make special mention of Monica Dolan as 'Toni' eldest  sister, ranting and raving to cover her grief. Not a play for the faint hearted as this disfunctional family air their grievances - and find our the horror of some of their history. Jews and blacks - no one is left out in this play of prejudice and hatred.

BLUES IN THE NIGHT - KILN THEATRE

First class performances  all round, with good band, as three ladies 'sing the blues'. main performers Clive Rowe and Sharon D. King - with a couple of very able dancers thrown in for good value -

 

GO BANG YOUR TAMBOURINE - FINBOROUGH THEATRE   

Excellent revival of Philip King's l970 Northern play, about a young man coping with the death of his mother, the unwelcome return of his estranged father, and loneliness. David (Sebastion Calver) and his later mother were ardent members of the Salvation Army - and get support from Major Webber (Patience Tomlinson) but his real salvation comes from a cheerful lodger Bess Jones (Mia Austen) -until his father Thomas (John Sackville) reappears. Extremely well written and performed, with first class set. Well worth seeing.

EUROPE - DONMAR WAREHOUSE

Revival of David Grieg's moving play, first performed 25 years ago. This is about immigrants, borders, hate and jealousy ...adele so nothing changes. Michael Longhurst directs a superb cast, headed by Ron Cook, as Fred, a pompous station master - who does have a heart, and includes Kevork Malikayan as Sava, a would be immigrant, and Natalia Tena as Katia his daughter - brilliant acccents, Faye Marsay plays Adele, a local with  ideas of travel, and Stephen Wright is Billy, her frustrated husband. The play is powerful and provocative, with scenes of violence and amazing effects.

 

THE END OF HISTORY - ROYAL COURT

Jack Thorne's story of a family, directed by John Tiffany, shows family life  over the course of over thirty years, sibling rivalry, new romance, or lack of it, and parents setting out to give their children 'standards' of behaviour. Well written, very well acted, and holds your attention for the twol hour performance - no interval. Remember parents have no experience, and just hope for the best.

THE TIME OF OUR LIES - PARK THEATRE

This is based on Howard Zinn's  classic national best seller A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. Bianca Bagatourian has undertaken to make this into a 70 minute play, directed by Che Walker - it is certainly not the most enjoyable 70 minutes I have spent in a theatre, but probably the most educational.  Howard Zinn was born in l922 in New York, his parents being poor immigrants, 'I lived in all Brooklyn's best slums', he recalled, no books at home but he went on become a historian, author, professor and activist. The play deals with his views of American History, War and Racism - from when he was first knocked  unconscious at a political rally in Time Square.  It is an amazing evening, and ther performers - a variety of races and ages make you understand Zinn's philosophy 'If you don't know historyit is as if you were born yesterday. and if you were born yesterday, anybody in a position of power can tell you anything and you have no way on checking on it.'  He queries what is  liberty, what is democray, why do we go to war..... it does not leave you with a smile on your face, but plenty to think about.

THE GUY BAKER JAZZ ORCHESTRA - CADOGAN HALL

Superb evening introduced by Sir Michael Parkinson celebrating the 1930s Jazz scene.

 

KT SULLIVAN is coming into The Pheasantry, accompanied by Jon Weber - with their tribute WHEN BARBARA MET WALLY - This is the best showing who used to be the best.... I am away, or else would be the first in ther queue for two of my favourite New York Cabaret greats.... check Pheasantry for times and dates.

SWEAT - GIELGUD

Strong play, written by Lynn Nottage, set in USA - based on residents of Reading and their story about closing of factory, strike and how depression hit the small man and woman once again. Very well acted, though accents occasionally difficult to follow.

 

CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN - HAROLD PINTER THEATRE

Adapted by Rhona Munro from the novel by Louis de Berniere, and directed by Melly Still, this is a first class production - a timeless love story and the history of Ephalonia - one of the Greek Islands, and how they suffered from multi-invasions during the war. The whole cast are excellent but must make special mention of Madison Clare as Pelagia, and Alex Mugnaioni as Captain Corelli, who thinks that music can civilise the world. I would not term it a musical but Harry Blake, who has written music for the piece was appointed by Cameron Mackintosh as Resident Composer for the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2017. Although it depicts War and battle, it has great charm, and evenutally a 'feel good' factor.

 

THE STARRY MESSENGER - Wyndhams Theatre

Written by KInneth Lonergan and directed by Sam Yate, set in New York, Matthew Broderick plays Mark a Teacher at the Hayden Planetorium (built l935 and demolished )1997 - facing a 'mid-life crisis'. His wife Anne (Elizabeth McGovern) is caught u p with 'family visits' - his son, unseen,  with his music, and when Mark meerts single mother Angela (a student nurse) (Rosalind Eleazor) with a son who is fascinated with the museum and 'space', they form a relationship. This play runs for over 150  minutes, long by today's standards, and has rather a slow start, but the story holds you, and it is very well acted.

 

THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE - AGE THIRTEEN AND THREE QUARTERS - THE MUSICAL - Ambassadors.

Lively, good music, terrirfic performances by mult-role playing cast, made this a 'real fun' evening. We were lucky enough to have Aaron Gelkoff playing Adrian - and doing it superbly - his teachers (sitting in front of me - and his grandmother seeing it yet again - have every reason to 'kvell') - he is a very talented young man, who we will certainly hear more of. I am assured that the other young actors playig the role are equally good, (they are limited to so many performances a week). This runs to October 12th - and I would suggest would make a great 'night out' for Barmitzvah boys wanting a party with a difference - no Jewish content - just age related!!! I loved it, as did all the audience - I* would say age ll upwards!!!

MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM - BRIDGE THEATRE

A total delight. Nick Hytner's direction takes even Shakespeare to new heights. The acrobatic ensemble, the crowd management (as this is a performance which has a standing audience around and on stage), is amazing, the performances first class, the twists to the normal 'rude mechanicals' humour brilliant. Must make special mention of Hammed Animashaun - one of the funniest Bottom's ever. Try and get to see this, it is completely different.

BITTER WHEAT - GARRICK THEATRE

Written and directed by David Mamet, brilliantly acted by John Malkovitch, this is the story of a most unpleasant man,  a film producer  who uses his power for favours  and money, and the language matches. With all this, it is gripping, superbly performed  and has snatches of humour in the most unexpected times and places, typical of Mamet. The audience were ecstatic, but I would hate to meet this character in real life! That's what makes it good theatre.!

RUTHERFORD AND SON - RNT

Gila Sowerby wrote this play in the early  1900s, and even today the story is relevant, of an overbearing parent, who puts the family firm before the family. First class performances, particularly Roger llam as John Rutherford, the father, and Polly Findlay's stark direction shows all the misery.

 

SMALL ISLAND - RNT - ALSO RNT LIVE

Having visited the RNT in person on Wednesday,  I took the easier option on Thursday to see their brilliant production on film. Having read the  book by Andrea Levy some years ago, I knew the story of the Windrush community coming from the Caribbean to England at the end of the War, and how badly they were treated and received by 'the Mother Country'. This is a history lesson of top calibre, superbly directed and performed, and I now will try and see it on stage. But three cheers for all these filmed performances which make it so easy to see live performances on screen, at a fraction of the cost and easy access, how lucky we are to have such opportunities.

HAMILTON - VICTORIA PALACE

Finally got to see the rave rap of the century, Lin-Manul Miranda has certainly done a brilliant job bringing he story of Alexanxder Hamilton, a penniless Caribbean immigant who arrives in New York City on the eve of the American Revolution to become George Washington's right hand man, and one of the founding fathers.  The story is sung in rap form, but clearly enough to hear all the words, and if it is not as 'tuneful' as the Great American Songbook shows, it is a great history lesson, beautifully choreographed with movement and dance - very good voices, and understandable how this 'new style has been a muilti-award winner and 'sell out' in both New York and London. Tickets are made available every few months, and it will run for years...

WAITRESS - ADELPHI THEATRE

In from Broadway, this is a lightweight musical about a waitress. having marital problems and finding herself pregnant - dont worry there is a happy ending, and lots of song and dance - non of it memorable, but pleasant enough, except for what I felt un-necessarily bad language in what should be a 'famlily show'... not that the  audience seemed to mind!! Usual ecstatic applause all round. Certainly not Sondheim!!!!

COME FROM AWAY - PHOENIX THEATRE

Book, music and lyrics  by Irene Sankoff and David Klein, this was a TONY WINNER, and well deserved. Directed by Christopher Ashley, this  slick London production is very well worth a visit. Running just under two hours with no interval, it is a history lesson, with comedy and pathos, as we learn of the experiences of the community of Gander, Newfoundland, when during the horrors of  9/11, no planes could land in the USA,  and 7,000 passengers were stranded in an area where the local airport was hardly ever used, and almost on the point of closure. The warmth and generosity of the community is told with music and song, not necessarily tunes you will come out humming, but you will certainly have a 'feel good' warmth, and have learnt a lot about the goodness of people as you emerge. There is even a Jewish twist to the story, go and see it.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Woodside Park Synagogue or the United Synagogue.

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