mon 17/06/2024

Theatre Unlocked 4: Shows in concert and a contemporary classic comes to TV | reviews, news & interviews

Theatre Unlocked 4: Shows in concert and a contemporary classic comes to TV

Theatre Unlocked 4: Shows in concert and a contemporary classic comes to TV

A New York duo celebrates Sir Noël; Samuel Beckett bewitches and bewilders once again

Mother England: Victoria Hamilton and Helen Schlesinger in 'Albion'Marc Brenner, here and also of Victoria Hamilton (bottom)

After months spent sifting amongst the virtual, I'm pleased to report that live performance looks to be on the (socially distanced) rebound.

The week ahead sees the start of a six-week run at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park of the alfresco venue's seismically exciting revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, this time performed in concert with multiple casts due to the vocal demands of the score. And the ever-wistful and beautiful A Little Night Music finds the onetime Olivier Award winners from Carousel (a lifetime ago, and yet the memory is entirely immediate) pairing up once again: Janie Dee and Joanna Riding make beautiful music wherever they go. All is not lost on the digital front: Samuel Beckett is on offer twice-over, thanks to the tiny but always-enterprising Jermyn Street Theatre, and Noël Coward's singular wit and glittering world continue to tantalise, thanks to two leading lights from the world of American cabaret, Steve Ross and KT Sullivan. For more on these offerings, plus the TV premiere of Mike Bartlett's hauntingly Brexit-infused Albion, read on. 

Beckett Double Bill, digital theatre 

The tiny Jermyn Street Theatre minutes from Piccadilly Circus continually punches above its weight, rarely more commendably than with a recent double-bill by Samuel Beckett as directed by Sir Trevor Nunn: a meeting of theatrical grandees in a venue that seats 70.

Now available on Digital Theatre, the pairing of plays consists of James Hayes (pictured below, photo c. Tristram Kenton) in the ever-haunting, mortality-inflected Krapp’s Last Tape, a solo work premiered in 1958, alongside a real rarity, The Old Tune adapted by the Irish master from a radio play by Robert Pinget. Niall Buggy and David Threlfall are the formidable actors on view there.

James Hayes in 'Krapp's Last Tape'

Love, Noël, IrishRepOnline 

Steve Ross and KT Sullivan are mainstays – legends even – on the cabaret circuit in London as well as New York. So they should have as good an understanding as anyone of the buoyant wit of Noel Coward and his circle, a glittering away of entertainers that included Gertrude Lawrence, Elaine Stritch, Marlene Dietrich and the Queen Mother, to name but a few.

All the more reason, therefore, to herald Love, Noël, a two-person celebration of the songs and letters of the British master which was filmed at the Players Club in Manhattan and is available through Saturday at #IrishRepOnline. Reservations are free but a donation is requested.

Jesus Christ Superstar: the Concert, Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park 

Timothy Sheader’s production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera has been a sizable and sustained hit at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, where Sheader is at the helm. It was seen twice at that address, transferred indoors last summer to the Barbican and had embarked upon a three-year North American tour before the pandemic struck.

Starting tomorrow, a series of rotating casts, including some of the originals from this staging, will be performing the piece in concert nine times a week through Sept. 27. Protocol has required a vastly-reduced capacity in the auditorium (390 seats down from 1256), which will be compensated for at least in part by a live-screen relay on the theatre’s lawn, allowing 5,000 more playgoers to share in the experience.

A Little Night Music, Holland Park

Janie Dee and Joanna Riding appeared in Stephen Sondheim’s eternally witty and wounding musical in a 2015 concert at the Palace Theatre, and here they are again performing the same piece in the socially distanced environs of Holland Park for one-night only and with a cast that includes Damian Humbley, Fra Fee, and, singing “Liaisons,” Hilary Harwood.

The event (sold out, but there are always returns) will be staged in front of Holland House, where the Opera Holland Park Theatre usually stands and capacity has been reduced to 200 to satisfy ongoing guidelines on social distancing.

Albion, BBC4 and iPlayer

Victoria Hamilton in 'Albion'We haven’t heard much from north London ’s mighty Almeida Theatre since the pandemic began. All the more reason, therefore, to welcome the airing on BBC4 on August 16 of Albion (and available after that date on iPlayer).

The Mike Bartlett play, directed by Rupert Goold, was seen twice at the Islington venue and won leading lady Victoria Hamilton (pictured right) a Critics’ Circle Award for her performance early in 2018.  Set in the garden of an English country house, the Brexit-inflected drama conjoins politics and family dynamics into an elegant whole that tips the nod towards Chekhov while retaining its pointed and poignant voice throughout.



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