Described as “a theatre adventure with food and music”, this 100 minute entertainment explores our dietary customs at the present time and in the future. We begin in a waiting area where we are served aperitifs which look like neat spirits but are in fact fruit/vegetable juices, misleadingly coloured. We are then seated around tables in the dining room, where a musician (Alasdair Macrae) and four waiters/performers begin to entertain us with amusing songs, comedy sketches and food, peppered with pertinent facts about how and what we eat. Delights that are put before us include savoury profiteroles and sweet egg sandwiches, also baked locusts and crickets (both bland, but perfectly edible), serving to demonstrate how our choices of foods are influenced by appearances and irrational prejudices. The songs and comedy segments satirise the diet industry, supermarkets, dealings in foodstuff commodities, etc, etc. If anything, the show’s themes are too scattered, when a sharper focus on fewer, very specific topics could have made a greater impact and left a more lasting impression. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable piece of lightweight fun.
Not booking for the National’s Christmas extravaganza means risking missing out on the next War Horse; booking for it risks having to sit through a mindless kids’ show. Sadly, although not entirely without merit, this falls more into the latter category. Written by Erich Kastner and set in Germany (mostly Berlin) in 1929, it is a simple story of a boy, Emil, who has his money stolen by a banker (very topical) and enlists the help of a horde of other children to reclaim it. The plot has no mystery, no twists or turns and, at about two hours with interval, it is stretched just about as far as it can go. Despite deploying much of the technical wizardry that the Olivier stage can offer, the first half of Bijan Sheibani’s production falls very flat. The second half starts well with music evoking Berlin nightlife of the era and includes an excellent chase through a sewer, but, overall, it is not much livelier until the last 10 minutes when elements of pantomime are introduced to bring about a rousing finale. The leading junior roles are alternated nightly in a company that includes over 30 children, all on stage together at times. At this performance, Emil, a precocious lad, was played with confidence, but the characters of some of the other children were not brought out as strongly as they might have been, more due to writing and direction than to weak performances. Amongst the adults, Stuart McQuarrie stands out as a dastardly villain. Okay, maybe I am 60 years too old for it, but I found this show a real disappointment. As a postscript, it is interesting to note that the National has just opened two new shows playing in repertory in its main auditoriums – this and From Morning to Midnight in the Lyttelton; both are set in Germany in the early part of the 20th Century, both have a similar look, both have key scenes in a bank, a hotel room, a small house and a street. Perhaps thrift does not come high on Mr Hytner’s agenda, but would it not have been possible for them to alternate on the same stage, using the same sets?
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-bald-prima-donna-old-red-lion-theatre-london/
John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 novel of the supernatural has already been turned into a highly successful Swedish film and an American one. However, this stage adaptation by Jack Thorne, produced by the National Theatre of Scotland, gives stunning proof, if more is needed, that, when its forces are properly harnessed, live theatre has a power that can be equalled by no other medium. It is a relatively simple story of a young adolescent boy, brutally bullied at school, and his friendship with a “vampire” who appears as a girl of similar age. This is not the soppy romance of the Twilight series; the characters being much younger, the relationship is chaste and there is a sense throughout of childhood innocence coming face to face with the harshness of adulthood. Underlying themes of self-empowerment and the merging of clashing cultures also give the play depth and texture, making it much more than just a feast of shocks and gore, although there are plenty of both during the course of the evening. The set is beautiful to behold – snow on the ground, bare Winter trees towering high, lit in amber and then in blue – and director John Tiffany’s staging is rich with imagination, incorporating several sequences of balletic movement to the accompaniment of a haunting, atmospheric score by Olafur Arnalds. The two leads give performances that belie their tender years; Martin Quinn makes the boy diffident and awkward, gaining fresh confidence through the friendship; Rebecca Benson transforms convincingly from sweet little girl to ferocious predatory animal in an instant. This is an evening of beauty and terror in equal measure and, immediately, it can be ranked amongst the theatre highlights of 2013. If Bill Kenwright’s involvement with the production can be taken to mean that a West End transfer is already assured, it could also become one of the big commercial successes of 2014.
My review can be seen at http://www.thepublicreviews.com/dickens-abridged-arts-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/changing-rooms-drayton-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/halbwelt-kultur-jermyn-street-theatre-london/