“Now is she in the very lists of love”

Venus and Adonis, Line 595

William Shakespeare

This post was sponsored by TheatreTickets.uk. All opinions, however, are my own.

Late November is the time I start writing lists; lists of food to buy, carols to learn, cards and presents to give, and (yay) presents I want. With this is mind, I thought I’d bring my festive list-making to Mingled Yarns, starting with…

THEATRE TO SEE AT CHRISTMAS THAT ISN’T ACTUALLY CHRISTMASSY

So. You’re in London for December and you want to see some theatre, but you don’t want to go full-on pantomime-Nutcracker-Snowman just yet, but you still have to find something all your family/friends can go to and not leave feeling totally depressed. Whatever the state of the world might be (don’t get me started), it is almost Advent after all. Look no further for the ultimate list of non-christmassy-yet-not-totally-depressing-and-serious-theatre-on-at-the-moment (title needs work I admit):

  1. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This is just a stunner of a show. I saw it about three years ago, and I would willingly go back again, and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it, blogregardless of age. The book itself (by Mark Haddon) is a murder-mystery-cum-family-drama-cum-coming-of-age novel, beautifully told through the eyes of autistic fifteen-year-old Christopher. The play is all of this and more, its digitally illuminated set adding an unforgettable extra element. And there’s a real live puppy. A dog isn’t just for Christmas, but they are extra adorable on a cold winter’s night. If you want a piece of really good theatre, which just so happens to be incredibly heart-warming, this is the thing to see.

Gielgud Theatre.

  1. The Lion King

If you aren’t awed by the opening scene of this musical, we will never understand each other. blog-5It is just factually one of the best musical openings ever in theatre. Full stop. I’ve seen The Lion King three times, and never got bored of ‘The Circle of Life’ being belted out at full blast, whilst actors in the most gorgeous costumes became elephants, gazelles, giraffes, flamingos, and – of course – lions, before my eyes. Like Curious Incident, this is spectacle theatre, but with a simply moving core story of love and loss. And, of course, there’s the cracking song list: ‘Hakuna Matata’, ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’, ‘He Lives in You’, ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’… BRB just going off to have a private Disney singalong.

Lyceum Theatre.

  1. Les Miserables

Okay, okay, I assume you’re either thinking a) this musical is incredibly mainstream and overrated go away, or b) is a musical about a failed French revolution which includes prostitution, suicide, child-blog-3death and the word ‘miserable’ in its title really the thing to see at Christmas? If you’re an a) you might as well skip to the next suggestion, because I’m not ashamed to be mainstream, where Les Mis is concerned. I will never stop loving this musical. If b) YES. With the political shitstorm going on at the moment, everyone needs a bit of classic Les Mis ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ inspiration over the Christmas break. The finale will give you the same kind of happy-sad-crying-feeling as the end of Love Actually.

Queens Theatre.

  1. The Play That Goes Wrong

Peter Pan Goes Wrong too festive for you?blog-4 Go to see Mischief Theatre’s original, so successful that it’s even transferring to Broadway next year. You can see my full review here, but a quick summary:
hilarious family-friendly farce which gets you involved from the moment you step inside the theatre. The characters-within-characters are fully recognisable to anyone who’s dipped their toe into amdram at any point in their life. My mum and brothers went to see this on my recommendation and absolutely loved it. Now’s the time to see it, so you can look ahead-of-the-crowd to any American friends you might have – and it’s the perfect piece of non-festive fun.

Duchess Theatre

  1. Jersey Boys

The last musical on the list, and one with its own blockbuster movie attached. blog-2But the live show is always better than the film, trust. Before seeing Jersey Boys, I had no idea how much incredible music Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were responsible for (hint: it’s a lot). The story itself, of how the band formed and broke up over the years, is relatively interesting, and the way that each of the Four Seasons gets to tell their own part of the story is clever, but it’s ultimately the music that makes the show. One of the best jukebox musicals out there.

Piccadilly Theatre

  1. Nice Fish

Confession: I haven’t actually seen this yet.blog-2 I have tickets booked, however, and I feel like the combination comedy, Mark Rylance and fish costumes (if you turn up in one you can get free tickets!) is sure to be a good one. The reviews haven’t necessarily been overwhelming, but Rylance is bae so you’ll almost definitely see some great acting whatever the writing’s like.

Harold Pinter Theatre

 

You can find tickets to all these amazing shows on TheatreTickets.uk, who sponsored this post. Hopefully coming up soon, lists of the ultimate Christmassy shows to see, and my fav festive books, treats, music, TV shows and films… Not that I’m over-excited or anything…

elf

“O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”

Henry V, Act 1, Scene 1

William Shakespeare

As I said in yesterday’s post, I’ve very fortunately been able to see loads of plays recently, so I thought I’d write about them all in one update, so you don’t have to keep checking back 😉 I’m too kind to you, I know! So this post is about some musicals (‘Kiss Me Kate’ at the Old Vic Theatre and the much-praised film of ‘Les Miserables’), some Shakespeare (‘Twelfth Night’ at the Apollo Theatre) and a straight play (‘The Dark Earth and the Light Sky’ at the Almeida Theatre), all of which turned out to be very different to my expectations – don’t worry, mostly in a positive way  🙂

So, let’s start with Les Miz, the recent film directed by Tom Hooper, starring so many celebs it’s basically pointless me listing them all – Google it 😉 Now, I’m going to admit I Imagedidn’t go into this with a particularly open mind – Les Miserables is my favourite musical of. all. time. I’ve seen the stage show twice and have listened to the CD (cast recording of the original 1985 London prduction, naturally) so many times I know all the songs backwards, frontwards and inside-out. To say I was sceptical about the film, therefore, is an understatement. In my opinion, the soundtrack is the best in any musical, and I was ridiculously worried about a load of actors butchering it in their mission to give ‘real’ emotion.

However, saying all of that, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, particularly Eddie Redmayne’s rendition of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’ which was incredibly emotional and very well sung, and the finale, which was also very stirring. The cast were actually much better than I expected, especially Anne Hathaway. Hugh Jackman, as the protagonist Jean Valjean, was excellent, barring one of the hardest songs to sing and, unfortunately, one of the most emotional songs in the musical, ‘Bring Him Home‘. I felt he just didn’t perform the song vocally in the best possible way. Nevertheless, the rest of his singing was pretty good. Disappointingly, Russell Crowe as one of my absolute favourite characters, Javert, was just awful; yeah, his voice is fine, but he gave absolutely no range of emotion. It was simply all in the same solemn quiet dynamic for the entirety of Javert’s moral conflict and his complex relationship with Valjean, which is key to the plot. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so annoyed if I didn’t love Javert’s songs so much: ‘Stars‘, ‘Confrontation’and his part in ‘One Day More’ – they’re all amazing and Roger Allam sang them all so well in the original production that I felt seriously let down by Crowe’s lacklustre peformance and his failure to show any emotion at aImagell.

My ony other real criticism was of Helena Bonham Carter as Mme. Thenardier – the Thenardiers are supposed to be the comic turn of the otherwise entirely tragic tale, and yet Bonham Carter just didn’t seem totally dedicated to the singing part of the role. She was completely overshadowed by Sacha Baron Cohen, (who was surprisingly good as her husband, the corrupt innkeeper), and didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities for comedy there were in that role, slurring her words whilst singing which meant at times it was a struggle to hear exactly what she was muttering about.

Saying this, overall it was  good film, even though big numbers like ‘One Day More’ simply work better live on stage. Jackman, Redmayne, Hathaway, Samatha Barks, Amanda Seyfried and all the revolutionaries, including Aaron Tviet were pretty damn good both singing and acting, but I stand by my view that the stage production is just more exciting and stirring. Still, a film worth watching – just listen to the original soundtrack first 😉

Moving onto a much cheerier musical, the one I posted about yesterday: ‘Kiss Me Kate’ directed by ImageTrevor Nunn and starring Hannah Waddingham and Alex Bourne. Now, this is much more frivolous and fun than Les Miz; the singing and dancing is infectious, especially in massive tap and jazz numbers like ‘Too Darn Hot’and ‘Another Op’nin Another Show’. Both of the protagonists were very strong singers, and songs like ‘I Hate Men’ produced a lot of laughter among the audience. Sections were a little slow, and although the numbers were great fun, they weren’t particularly memorable afterwards. However, a truly fun night out, and worth seeing – especially since it’s a musical of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ – WOO SHAKESPEARE 😀

 

Speaking of Shakespeare…. after looking forward to it for aaaaggggess, I finally got to see the all-male ‘Twelfth Night’ starring Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry on Thursday – YAY 🙂 Although I think the production would have worked even better at the Globe, Image(they kept the audience lights on, but it didn’t quite have the same effect as being outside in the groundling pit), since it took a little while for the audience to warm up, it was still brilliant, particularly Rylance, who managed to be completely credible, yet hilarious as Olivia. His stuttering and flounderings, which he is well-known for, made the lines more realistic – actually, all the men-dressed-as-women, including Paul Chahidi as Maria and Johnny Flynn as Viola/Cesario, were crazily believable, and the way they glided across the stage was amazing. I got super excited by the fact that Sebastian was played by Samuel Barnett, who originated the role of Posner in ‘The History Boys’ – erghmygoddd, because Jamie Parker played Henry V at the Globe this summer too, and he was in the History Boys as well and  it’s just too toooo exciting!!! Just me? Yeah, thought so 😉

As Malvolio, I felt Fry was good, but not aything special. Whereas during the productiImageon that the Red Rose Chain did a couple of years ago, Malvolio’s sections were the bits most eagerly looked forward to by the audience, in this version he was not the starring role. Nevertheless, there was no weak link among the cast, and the comedic scenes between Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek were superbly done, although, actually Maria was surpsingly one of the funniest characters. Basically, a great production.

Last on the list is ‘The Dark Earth and the Light Sky’, a play written by Nick Dear about Edward Thomas, the famous British poet, and his relationships with his wife, their friend Eleanor Farjeon and with the American poet Robert Frost, with whom Thomas spent many hours talking about writing and poetry and walking in the English countrysideImage. The play is intense, and there are constant leaps in time back and forth, as well as direct adresses to the audience, which make the play quite different from many of the things I’ve seen. Hattie Morahan is excellent as Helen, Thomas’ wife, who is in turns both sympathetic and annoying, and Pip Collins is briliant as the aloof, introverted, selfish protagonist. An understated, yet powerful play.

So, there you go. Four productions, four great nights out 🙂 Thanks for reading, and if you’ve seen any of the things I’ve written about, or anything new, please comment with recommendations and opinions. Have fun in the snow!