Also in January…..

Posted: January 19, 2018 in Theatre

A few to be going on with (there could be more).

 

Witness for the Prosecution (London County Hall)

Writer: Agatha Christie      Director: Lucy Bailey

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It was going to take something special to get me to go to a revival of Agatha Christie’s ropey old courtroom melodrama, Witness for the Prosecution, particularly as I had remembered the denouement from seeing Billy Wilder’s matchless 1957 film version. So here it is – something VERY special, performed in the grand Council Chamber of London County Hall, former home of the GLC, murdered in 1986 (Maggie Thatcher dunnit). The Chamber is a near-perfect stand-in for the Old Bailey and the appropriately named Lucy Bailey creates her sight specific staging imaginatively to deliver a perfectly thought out production. It is a pleasure to occupy one of the plush leather seats along benches encased in polished wood, but, sadly,  “Ken woz ‘ere” cannot be found carved in any of them. The setting works so well that the creaks in the play (there are many) pass by almost unnoticed and a more than decent cast (including David Yelland, Patrick Godfrey and Philip Franks, all bewigged) does the rest. A good old fashioned treat!

Performance date: 18 January 2018

 

The Comedy About a Bank Robbery (Criterion Theatre)

Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer & Henry Shields      Directors: Mark Bell with Nancy Zamit

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having already anchored The Play That Goes Wrong in the Duchess, Mischief Theatre completes the second leg of its possible bid for West End domination by planting this bonkers comedy deep in the bowels of Piccadilly Circus. Mischief indeed! Here we have a show that mixes the sort of pun-filled gags that we thought had been laid to rest alongside Tommy Cooper with music hall routines, dashes of Feydeau and physical comedy reminiscent of Buster Keaton. Yes it’s a comedy and yes it’s about a bank robbery – one in Minneapolis circa 1960. “How can we stand this over-the-top zaniness for more than two hours” we ask at the start, but resistance quickly becomes utterly futile when the timing and delivery of all the jokes are perfection and the execution of the slapstick is little short of miraculous. There are many more cerebral shows around, but few can be more hilarious. They DO still make comedies like they used to!

Performance date: 14 January 2018

 

42nd Street (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane)

Book: Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble      Music: Harry Warren      Lyrics: Al Dubin      Director: Mark Bramble

⭐️⭐️⭐️

After Follies at the National, this spectacular homage to the golden days of Broadway could be labelled, perhaps unfairly, Follies-lite. Unlike Sondheim’s masterpiece, this is a show in which little enjoyment would be lost by checking in our brains along with our Winter coats. The story is about who knows what?. It’s the songs, almost all standards, and the eye-popping, glittering dance routines that matter and they are delivered by a company of, let’s say, 60, emphasising yet again what an incredible pool of performing talent British musical theatre has to draw from. In one of the few theatres in the World big enough to stage something on this scale, the show is probably aimed primarily at tourists and Essex coach parties (confirmed by the constant patrolling of ushers to demand switching off of mobile phones). Those of us spoiled by the intimacy of off-West End theatres may have trouble adjusting to it, but it’s undemanding fun anyway.

Performance date: 9 January 2018

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