Most popular posts of 2019

Micha Colombo as Prospero, Aaron Peters as Ferdinand and Alexander da Fronseca as Miranda. Shot by Adam Trigg.
The Tempest
Photo credit: Adam Trigg

In terms of total views, 2018 was a bit of a freak year – so 2019 hasn’t managed to live up to it. However, it has continued on the trajectory that we would have been on had Mind the Blog 2018 not been so ridiculously popular… And, as ever, I’ve been watching the stats page like a hawk; it’s always interesting to see which individual posts strike a chord with readers, so here are the top 15 most viewed from 2019!

15. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch
In my experience, it’s a decidedly rare thing to find a new musical that has firepower in both the music and the book; more often than not the story side of things can end up quite lacking, which doesn’t make for an enjoyable show – no matter how good the music is. Nothing to worry about as far as Unfortunate is concerned, however! The fact that it’s a parody means that they have the source material to bounce off, giving some of the songs we know & love from our childhood a bit of a tweak & a twist (Tim Gilvin), as well as coming up with a well thought out angle on the story (Robyn Grant & Daniel Foxx). Throw in a few modern day influences such as environmental awareness and Love Island (that’s right) and you’ve got an incredibly well-rounded show. Read more…

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The Wrong Ffion Jones
Photo credit: Pete Le May

14. The Wrong Ffion Jones
It’s rugby day, but she’s here anyway! Welcome to Walesland for The Wrong Ffion Jones, where not even the Wales v. England Six Nations fixture will stop the tour guides. Join Ffion Jones as she takes you on a whistle-stop tour around a fully-encased dystopian Wales, complete with Gavin & Stacey World and Catatonia Car Park – unless she inadvertently incites a good old Welsh uprising first, that is… Read more…

13. Globe 2019: Henry IV part 1, or Hotspur
With Henry IV parts 1 & 2, we enter into a lesser known period of history as well as encounter two plays that aren’t often performed – and this is definitely a great time to give them an airing. The in-fighting of the nobility is reminiscent of the lack of clarity in current British politics, with different parties taking chunks out of their own ranks on pretty much a daily basis; the turbulence of those times (which eventually led to the Wars of the Roses) echoes through to modern-day instabilities and the unofficial civil war that is Brexit. Falstaff’s exclamation “Lord, Lord, how this world is given to lying” strikes quite a chord here, provoking plenty of wry laughter. Read more…

12. Macbeth (Antic Disposition)
Probably my favourite aspect of the production is how the witches are brought into play – by being a constant, legitimate presence they are somehow simultaneously spooky and very natural. As servants they can be around to overhear key information without being noticed, and may also have reasons to bear a grudge – plus being women doesn’t exactly help them in that period of history. All of these things combine to explain how & why they’d help set this bloody course of events into action. Louise Templeton, Bryony Tebbutt and Robyn Holdaway are suitably creepy in the roles, creating a strong & powerful presence as a triumvirate. Read more…

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11. Globe 2019: Henriad Trilogy Day
When the new season was announced, I have to admit I was rather pleased; not only were we finally about to see some history plays in the main Globe Theatre, but I’d also get to tick off another couple from the Shakespeare list while I was at it. When the RSC brought their Henry cycle to town a few years ago I only ended up seeing Henry V, and it’s taken until now for me to get the chance to see Henry IV – and in both parts, too. (I’m even more thrilled to learn, via the programmes for these productions, that the team will be continuing onto Henry VI in the winter season!) So, given the opportunity, of course I was going to say yes to an invite to the press trilogy day. Read more…

10. A Pissedmas Carol
“Marley was dead, to begin with” – or had he just passed out from a night out on the Victorian lash? Shit-faced Showtime are here to help, with their very first Christmas show – a brand new musical version of the festive Dickens classic, rebranded as A Pissedmas Carol. Head over to Leicester Square Theatre to warm your cockles and learn something new about the spirit of Christmas (be it gin, vodka, whisky…). Read more…

9. Globe 2019: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
This production has a lot to live up to, as the most recent iteration of this particular play at the Globe was Emma Rice’s smash hit back in 2016 – though for some it didn’t represent the values of the theatre, it nonetheless proved to be incredibly popular and lives long in the memory. It’s therefore quite satisfying that Holmes’ production is also incredibly colourful, exuberant, involving & diverse; this is probably the most over-the-top Shakespeare at this theatre since Michelle Terry took over, and the response from the crowd the most rapturous. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the more well-known works, so it will always draw a reasonable crowd, but to pack out the house like this is wonderful to see – and really helps to create a great buzz by the final scenes. Read more…

8. Day 4: The Marvelous Wonderettes
Emily Bestow’s costume designs, with typical fifties sweetheart dresses in act 1, and outfits reminiscent of sixties go-go dancers for act 2. The pastel colour scheme sees each girl with her own individual shade, matched to props such as lollipops & exercise books, and creating a cute aesthetic. Joseph Hodges’ direction makes great use of the performance space, and even involves the audience as the girls identify Mr Lee and various other personalities. Read more…

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The Price
Photo credit: Getty Images

7. The Price
Jonathan Church’s production of The Price originally ran at Theatre Royal Bath last year, but its transfer to London’s West End comes slap bang in the middle of an unofficial Arthur Miller season; productions of An Enemy of the People and The American Clock have already graced London stages, and The Last Yankee was performed in Bolton earlier this month – plus The Crucible, All My Sons, Death of a Salesman and another version of An Enemy of the People are all scheduled over the coming months. The Price has garnered three Olivier Award nominations, including Best Actor for David Suchet. Read more…

6. Macbeth (The Shakespeare Project)
What I also appreciate is that The Shakespeare Project has addressed the Fléance plot hole, creepily returning him to the fray alongside the Weird Sisters to suggest that Banquo’s side of the prophecy could still come true. This is very often overlooked in productions of Macbeth (as it does seem as if Shakespeare himself forgot Banquo’s son when he finished writing the play), so it’s incredibly satisfying when a company picks up on it – Polly Findlay’s 2018 production for the RSC is the only other time that I recall it being considered, also to great effect. Read more…

5. Matilda the Musical
It’s not surprising that Rob Howell took away the Olivier Award for Best Set Design; when you first enter the auditorium you’re greeted with a large set of Scrabble-like tiles escaping from the performance space, a few of them spelling out some of the key words from the show – which gives you something to puzzle out while you wait for it to begin! From then on there are lots of little treats in store, as desks appear & disappear, swings are swung on, and gym kit is produced for one of Miss Trunchbull’s Phys. Ed. classes. Matthew Warchus’ direction is inventive & surprising, sending ripples of delight through the audience as the show is brought to them; whether it’s Miss Trunchbull making a grand exit through the middle aisle, student choirs popping up in the boxes, or Mr Wormwood picking on you for reading, it’s hard not to feel involved. Adding an extra sense of fun to proceedings is Peter Darling’s choreography, throwing up its own surprises along the way. Read more…

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Avenue Q
Photo credit: Matt Martin

4. Avenue Q
Avenue Q is now 16 years old. It is almost inevitable that a show like this will show its age (for example, I only know the Diff’rent Strokes catchphrase “What’chu talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” through indirect means), but oddly it still makes it work. Its outrageous humour and catchy musical numbers carry it through; one moment you’ll be gasping or cringing, the next you’ll be crying with laughter. There are some real earworms in Jeff Marx & Robert Lopez’s score – I challenge you to keep The Internet Is For Porn out of your head! The live band (led by MD Dean McDermott) injects some extra energy, and the cast provide some wonderful harmonies when they’re not making us roll in the aisles. Read more…

3. Day 6: Understanding Shakespeare
As audience members, we generally only see one side of a Shakespeare production: the end result. But how do companies get to that point? In a bid to understand the creative process that goes into developing a Shakespeare production, I talked to Robert Myles – actor for Merely Theatre (amongst others), dramaturg, and creator of the Shakespeare Deck. Read more…

2. Day 5: Missed The Boat: Hadestown
Rachel Chavkin certainly made the most of her time in London recently – before directing a new production of The American Clock at the Old Vic, she oversaw the transfer of Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown to the National Theatre. I’m not quite sure how I managed to miss this one… The National’s season announcements do often seem to come out of nowhere, and then you have quite a while to wait for the general on-sale (which usually coincides with the tightest part of the month, or after I’ve already budgeted for everything) – which always seems to be a terrible experience from what I can tell. I do remember that the performance schedule for this show was incredibly unhelpful, as they’d be on a break whenever I was free (and vice versa), and it was obviously rather difficult to get your hands on Friday Rush tickets. Read more…

1. The Tempest (Lazarus Theatre)
As ever, Lazarus Theatre have well and truly put their stamp on this famous play. Personally, I find The Tempest rather infuriating (and *whispers* a bit dull) – of all Shakespeare’s subplots, the ones we see here are possibly the most tedious. It’s a credit to this production that these sections are made more bearable (and even entertaining); most threads of the story have been retained, but the running time comes in around a comfortable two hours. Read more…

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