Most popular posts of 2021

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Photo credit: Rob Youngson

Unsurprisingly, in terms of hits 2021 was the worst year on record – I don’t actually remember writing as much as I did, so I’m glad that you’re still reading the minimal output I provide! And despite the lack of motivation, I still managed to complete a couple of challenge weeks.

I was obviously still obsessed with stats in 2021, so here come the most popular 20 posts of the year…

Paul McGann and Gracy Goldman, Bad Nights and Odd Days, Greenwich Theatre (credit Lidia Crisafulli) (2)
Photo credit: Lidia Crisafulli

20. Bad Nights and Odd Days
The latest production on offer at Greenwich Theatre is Bad Nights and Odd Days: a collection of short plays from Caryl Churchill. It features the works AbortiveSeagullsThree More Sleepless Nights, and Not Not Not Not Not Enough Oxygen – the latter added following the anthology’s initial announcement. Read more…

19. The Magician’s Elephant
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is finally back open for business after its COVID-enforced closure, and what a way to make its return. The first show back, following on from their outdoor summer run of The Comedy of Errors, is the RSC’s regular new family musical: an adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant. My first time back in Stratford-upon-Avon since February 2019, and roughly three years since I’d last stepped foot in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – and after seeing some rehearsal footage of this new show, I was excited to see what this had turned into. (Beware – possible hint at a spoiler.) Read more…

18. Hamilton and Me: An Actor’s Journal
Three years on from his award-winning stint as part of the original West End cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Giles Terera has released his account of his time in the show. Hamilton and Me is made up of a collection of journal entries that Terera kept as he prepared to reveal his Aaron Burr to London audiences; it charts his introduction to the Broadway show, the audition process, the rehearsal period, and performances leading up to (& including) opening night. The result is a smart blend of memoir and vital insight into what performers go through to get a show on the road. The fact that it was written at the time this was all taking place, and with no thought then of publishing, means there is an immediacy and honesty to the text that you might not ordinarily expect – Terera’s openness and willingness to share these thoughts with the world is incredibly inspiring. Read more…

3. John Dagleish as Bob Cratchit and Freya Sharp as Martha Cratchit in Cratchit. Copyright Charles Flint Photography 4
Photo credit: Charles Flint Photography

17. Cratchit
Marley was dead to begin with – and what of it? There’s still work to be done, and Bob Cratchit has to bear the brunt of his remaining master’s foul moods whilst remaining industrious. It’s little wonder he can’t always bring himself to smile, and no surprise that a crafty swig from a hip flask is his preferred method of keeping himself warm. This is the focus of Bag of Beard’s play, Cratchit, running at the Park Theatre (in Park90) over the Christmas period. Writer & director Alexander Knott has reimagined the classic Dickens tale and told it from the perspective of Scrooge’s lowly clerk; reaching rock bottom on Christmas Eve, Cratchit finds himself in a precarious position on an icy pond – it is then that he, too, is visited by some otherworldly beings. Why should the spectral visitors be limited to just one rich man, after all? Read more…

16. 2020: A few of my favourite things
I’m not going to have a go at anyone who has posted a list of their favourite things from 2020, or what they consider to be the best; we’re all dealing with the current situation in our own way, and for some people it’s easiest to carry on with as many ‘normal’ things as possible – I can certainly understand that, even if I don’t quite have the energy to follow that route myself. I just wish that others could see that too… It’s not an attack (it certainly doesn’t warrant the “be kind” response, FFS), it’s just part of what critics/reviewers/bloggers/whoever do for a living (if they’re lucky) or as their passion. Read more…

15. Dorian: A Rock Musical
A casualty first of the pandemic and then of the whims of so-called theatre saviour Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dorian: A Rock Musical now has a limited run on Stream.Theatre as a newly filmed digital production. Beginning its life as a reading on Oscar Wilde’s birthday, it then ran as a cabaret-style show on the South Bank, and was finally developed into this musical – it should have been performed at The Other Palace this month, following its first cancellation due to lockdown. Written & directed by Linnie Reedman, with music & lyrics from Joe Evans, Dorian is of course based on The Picture of Dorian Gray, but catapulted into the modern music industry. Read more…

14. Wuthering Heights: 2021-22 UK tour diary
As you’ll have probably guessed, this is pretty much the show I’ve been looking forward to for the past 18 months or so. I first read Wuthering Heights in 2018 and immediately thought it was ripe for adapting by a certain Emma Rice – and my wish must have reached her telepathically, as not too long after that she started work on her stage version of the Emily Brontë novel. With things shut down and a little more time on my hands (though not much, as I was still working), I started on a bit of a creative research project back in May 2020, gathering a selection of materials to read, watch & listen to – in the hope I might perhaps anticipate one or two of Emma’s choices whenever the show made it to the stage. Read more…

13. Remembering the Oscars
Following the success of Remembering Fred and Remembering the Movies, Aljaž Škorjanec & Janette Manrara are now taking on the Academy Awards in their new show, Remembering the Oscars. Though the live stage show has been postponed until 2022, the pair were keen to break new ground and keep their creativity flowing – to that end, they’ve worked with director & choreographer Gareth Walker to put together a digital preview, distilling the two-hour production down to a 60-minute highlights package (filmed over two days at Bournemouth International Centre). For anyone keen on getting the full inside track, there is a behind-the-scenes documentary and an interview conducted by Richard Arnold. Read more…

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12. Romeo & Juliet 2021
“The searchers of the town, suspecting that we both were in a house where the infectious pestilence did reign, sealed up the doors and would not let us forth.” No matter where you look, quarantine and self-isolation rears its ugly head. I suppose that, thanks to the intermittent outbreaks of plague in Elizabethan England, it’s unsurprising that elements of it have seeped into Shakespeare’s work – even in the seemingly small way of delaying a message. Given the juxtaposition of the run to Valentine’s Day (and the fame of the play itself), I doubt that this is why Romeo & Juliet was chosen by Metcalfe Gordon Productions Ltd to ‘stage’, but it’s a nice nod to our current situation – and also ties in with the occasional use of face masks on screen. Read more…

11. A Christmas Carol (Goblin Theatre)
Once you reach late November & early December, you don’t have to look far to find several adaptations of a certain Charles Dickens novella – the key is finding an original take on the story. That is certainly the case with Goblin Theatre’s version of A Christmas Carol; performed in the Baroque surroundings of the Painted Hall (part of the Old Royal Naval College), Ebeneezer Scrooge distractedly takes several wrong turns and ends up in Greenwich – the guest of honour at a ghostly carol service. Though that may disappoint sticklers who picture the action in & around the City of London, Greenwich was an area close to Dickens’ heart – he visited often, and it also featured in several of his other works over the years. Read more…

10. The Temporal Society
Admit it – over the past year or so you’ve found yourself wishing that time travel existed, so you could either escape the pandemic (going backwards or forwards in time) or try to prevent it from even happening (probably best not to meddle in something as significant as that, tbh). Well now you’re in luck, as CtrlAltRepeat bring you The Temporal Society: a real-time lecture from 1894 on the subject of time travel! Join scientist Arabella Bellefonte and engineer Martha Scott as they unveil their brand new Chronocular machine and demonstrate its potential to tinker with events – just make sure you’re anchored to your own time, as you wouldn’t want to get lost in time… Read more…

9. Stereophonics: Just Enough Education to Perform – 20th anniversary (Shepherd’s Bush Empire)
Stereophonics’ third album, Just Enough Education to Perform, was released on 11 April 2001 – and in August of the same year it found its way into my beginner’s CD collection. Therefore, when the announcement came that the band would be doing some relatively intimate shows in which they’d play the full album (an increasingly popular concept in recent years) followed by a mix of new & classic songs, I knew it was vital for me to be there. As luck would have it, the London date landed on a free day and would take me back to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire; I fell in love with this venue when I went to Roger Taylor’s Outsider tour show back in October, for its history and also the excellent view of the stage from the seats on level one. The only slightly stressful aspect is the seating being unreserved (unless you happen to be on the band’s guestlist), so I ended up queuing for about 45 minutes before the doors opened just to be on the safe side – thankfully it paid off. Read more…

8. The Witchfinder’s Sister
You’ve probably heard of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins: whether through the 1968 Vincent Price film, the song by heavy metal band Saxon, or as a former ranking officer of the Witchfinder Army in Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens. But have you heard of his sister, Alice? Admittedly, details of the Hopkins family tree are slightly hazy, so this is where Beth Underdown comes in – her debut novel The Witchfinder’s Sister gives a voice to a possible sister of Matthew Hopkins, and interrogates the practice of witch-hunts in the 1640s. This has now been adapted for the stage by Vickie Donoghue, and is currently in the middle of a run at Queens Theatre Hornchurch. Read more…

7. The Picture of Dorian Gray
“I have never searched for happiness. Who wants happiness? I have searched for pleasure.” Censored prior to its debut in a literary magazine and banned upon its publication as a novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray has (for many) been reduced down to references to a portrait in the attic when someone looks impossibly fresh-faced & youthful – forgetting the dark price the subject would have had to pay. Partly inspired by the legend of Faust, Oscar Wilde also saw the book as an autobiography, of sorts: “Basil Hallward is what I think I am: Lord Henry what the world thinks me: Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages perhaps.” Since its publication in 1891, the book has spawned a variety of adaptations in multiple forms. Read more…

6. Cabaret
The Kit Kat Club is the place to go if you want to leave your troubles behind; based on the past five years (at least), I’d say that’s an idea which appeals to pretty much everyone in the UK right now. It’s lucky, then, that Rebecca Frecknall’s production of Kander & Ebb’s musical Cabaret has taken over London’s Playhouse Theatre and completely transformed it into the notorious Weimar venue – this is a theatrical experience like no other. Even the lengthy queue to gain entry feels like part of the event, as you are slowly ushered through one of the doors and down into the bowels of the theatre. The show spills out of the auditorium and inhabits every nook & cranny in the most jaw-dropping fashion, with the pre-show revels then following you as you make your way to your seat. Read more…

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

5. This Wooden O: Romeo & Juliet (2021)
The traditional view of Romeo & Juliet is that of a tragic love story, but is that all it ever has to be? Not if you’re Ola Ince. Her brand new production of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, having been delayed by COVID in 2020, has finally opened at the Globe Theatre – instead of going all-out on the romance, this version focuses on the context of the hasty marriage and the way society & family life can adversely affect younger generations. Read more…

4. Why should you see The Magician’s Elephant?
The RSC recently opened its rehearsal room doors to give a sneak peek at its brand new musical, The Magician’s Elephant. Adapted from the Kate DiCamillo novel of the same name, it is directed by Sarah Tipple, and features music & lyrics from Marc Teitler and book & lyrics from Nancy Harris. The show is about to open at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, but why should you add it to your list of autumn treats? Read more…

3. The Show Must Go Online: Groundlings’ Choice Awards 2021
To celebrate their first birthday, The Show Must Go Online held the inaugural Groundlings’ Choice Awards last night. It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since that kiss in The Two Gentlemen of Verona – and most of us were probably convinced that things would go back to some semblance of normality before the team had even got halfway through the First Folio, let alone have time to do spin-off Pop Shakespeare shows in between the main Shakespeare productions and come back for more once the canon was done & dusted in November 2020. It certainly went on longer than I was able to keep up with my write-ups; the government has been unconcerned about office workers catching and/or spreading COVID since about June 2020, so I’ve had to balance long bus commutes with everything else from September onwards. Read more…

2. Scaramouche Jones
Shane Richie follows in the footsteps of Pete Postlethwaite, taking on Justin Butcher’s one-man play Scaramouche Jones or the Seven White Masks for Ginger Quiff Media & Stream.Theatre. It follows productions such as Rose and Little Wars, and will soon be joined by Eurobeat: The Pride of Europe and A Killer Party. A year into the UK’s response to coronavirus, and digital theatre is going from strength to strength. Read more…

1. Romeo & Juliet (National Theatre 2021)
The summer of 2020 was originally due to bring lovestruck Verona to London’s theatres but, following closures across the world over the past year, it appears that 2021 will do just fine. Rather than postpone their stage run, the National Theatre took the decision to make their adaptation of Romeo & Juliet (starring Josh O’Connor & Jessie Buckley) for the screen instead, setting aside 17 days to film in and around the building, mid-pandemic. Unlike the recent digital production (Romeo & Juliet 2021), which was also created during the height of the pandemic, this one reaps the benefits of everyone in the cast being together in the same building rather than filming their parts separately; it immediately feels real & present – it’s full of energy. Read more…

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Photo credit: Rob Youngson

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