sat 22/06/2024

Theatre Lockdown Special 13: Early Lloyd Webber, vintage Rattigan, and a Dame or two in conversation | reviews, news & interviews

Theatre Lockdown Special 13: Early Lloyd Webber, vintage Rattigan, and a Dame or two in conversation

Theatre Lockdown Special 13: Early Lloyd Webber, vintage Rattigan, and a Dame or two in conversation

Medeas past and present conjoin across a characteristically eclectic theatre week

Loincloth land: Donny Osmond as Joseph, with Joan Collins behindNBC/Universal

Stop the presses! For the first time in nearly four months, The Arts Desk can point to the first of several live theatre events amongst the highlights of the coming week: the tour across the nation's car parks to multiple drive-in audiences of Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain, a previous West End mainstay that has adapted with these strange times.

Those preferring simply to stay put will be rewarded with a typically motley array of theatre fare, ranging from an ageless Donny Osmond as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's often scantily clad Joseph and the Medea story repositioned once again to chime with our refugee-filled times. We have various stars chatting about Shakespeare, along with the invaluable Helen McCrory chafing at the strictures of an unhappy marriage. For more on all these offerings, read on. 

Blueprint Medea, YouTube 

Euripides’ vengeful heroine has been refreshed and adapted many times and for many and varied settings.

Writer-director Julia Pascal’s 2019 play for west London’s 50-seat Finborough Theatre refashions the character as a  Kurdish freedom fighter who arrives in the UK on a forged passport. There, she meets Jason-Mohammed, the son of Iraqi immigrants, and the tale proceeds from there to take its tragic toll. Ruth D’Silva (pictured below, photo c. Isabella Ferro) heads the five-person cast, reminding us once again of a venue that continues to punch above its weight. Streaming now to Sept 2. 

Ruth D'Silva as a refashioned Medea for our time The Deep Blue SeaNational Theatre at Home 

Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play is frequently revived but rarely with the brute power that was brought to it at the National Theatre in 2016 by the director Carrie Cracknell and her scorching leading lady, Helen McCrory, whom keen radio listeners may have heard just recently on Desert Island Discs. (The two women teamed up previously at the National on, you guessed it, Medea in 2014.)

McCrory plays the emotionally fraught Hester Collyer, who finds herself caught between a loveless marriage to a high court judge (Peter Sullivan) and a onetime RAF pilot (Tom Burke), with whom she embarks upon a torrid affair.

Streams for a week starting 7 pm on July 9. 

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, The Shows Must Go On

As we ease out of lockdown, so, too, is the weekly Shows Must Go On streaming taking a hiatus but not before promising a new sequence of titles from mid-August.

In the meantime, the series is bowing out with an encore screening, for 48 hours as is the norm, of the title with which the sequence began: the 1999 made-for-video version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the collaboration that launched the careers of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. A loincloth-wearing Donny Osmond makes an entirely genial and winning Joseph, and Maria Friedman is in characteristically firm voice as the Narrator at the head of a supporting cast that includes Joan Collins, Alex Jennings, and Lord Attenborough, the Oscar-winning film director.

Streams for 48 hours starting 7 pm on July 10. 

Horrible Histories: Barmy Britain, touring live

Had enough of staring at a screen?  Pile family or friends into the car and get motoring towards one of the many destinations being visited by this onetime West End stalwart over the next seven weeks. The Arts Desk, ever-indefatigable, will be covering author-adaptor Neal Foster's self-described "Car Park Party" during its July 18 stopover in Northampton: each site can accommodate 300 suitably distanced vehicles.

With the sound transmitted through the car radio, audiences will have a chance to acquaint themselves afresh with Queen Boudicca, Dick Turpin, Guy Fawkes and even Richard III, whilst the entertainment is billed as suitable for those age 5-105. One year older (or younger), and you’re out of luck.

Tours nationally July 11 - August 31. 

Judi Dench as the Countess in 2003/4Talking Shakespeare, RSC online

Ever wonder how thespian greats approach the Bard? Now you can find out when two Dames  –  Judi Dench and Harriet Walter  –  illuminate their classical craft in a series of online chats that also folds Ray Fearon, Paterson Joseph, and Patrick Stewart, amongst many others, into the weekly and very welcome mix. Their interlocutor will be Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran, who directed the spellbinding All's Well That Ends Well, with Dench as the Countess (pictured above, photo c. Manuel Harlan), that transferred from Stratford to the West End in 2004. 

I still recall the outstretched palms extended by Dame Judi near the end of that production in a gesture of supreme beneficence. Can genius be explained? Have a listen and find out for yourself. 

Starts July 13 at 5 pm and every Monday following. 

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