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"The Play's The Thing" - a theatre thread


Do we have a thread for the theatre yet? If not, we do now.

Something tells me this planned play about the Jimmy Savile affair has the potential to either flop badly or be a huge hit:


The Park is a great theatre, and their track record is very strong for a young theatre. (They’re also my local, 10 minutes walk from my flat which is handy)

Saw their current main-theatre play the other day, which is a retelling of the Geoffrey Howe/Margaret Thatcher relationship (with Steve Nallon playing a spookily accurate Thatcher), which was v good. The Saville play is the same author I think.

So, I’m optimistic it’ll be good. Uncomfortable, but good.


Yes, Dead Sheep is Jonathan Maitland’s first I believe.

Your positive review bodes well for this second effort. There’s definitely a story there to be told, I think, but it will have to be handled very carefully, especially given how little historical distance we have from the subject matter.


Absolutely agree. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be a play about it now. Obviously the play about it now is going to be a lot different from the play written in 15 years with the benefit of hindsight. And I think that it will need to work hard to stay on the right side of parody given the “out there” nature of Jimmy Saville in the first instance.


And the fact that they’ve got an impressionist best known for his comedy playing the lead.


What a career she has had

Angela Lansbury A First-Time Olivier Awards Winner At 89 With ‘Blithe Spirit’

Veteran actress Angela Lansbury is a multi-Tony Award winner, but only just picked up her first Olivier. British theater’s most prestigious prizes were handed out tonight in London with Lansbury winning for Best Actress in a Supporting Role as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit. The play marked her return to the London stage after an absence of nearly 40 years. Upon accepting the award, Lansbury said, “All these years of waiting. I am so infinitely grateful to have this baby in my hands. Here I am creeping up to 90 and feeling like a million dollars because I’m in London in this magnificent hall with all you – my roots, where I began.”

Full list of winners:

A View From The Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre

Nathaniel Parker for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre

Angela Lansbury for Blithe Spirit at Gielgud Theatre

Howard Harrison for City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse

Gareth Owen for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre

La Soirée at La Soirée Spiegeltent

Christopher Oram for Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at Aldwych Theatre

Es Devlin for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre

King Charles III at Almeida Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre

Mark Strong for A View From The Bridge at Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre

Penelope Wilton for Taken At Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket

Wicked at Apollo Victoria Theatre

The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre

City Of Angels at Donmar Warehouse

Sergio Trujillo for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre

Ivo Van Hove for A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic & Wyndham’s Theatre

Ray Davies for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre

George Maguire for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre

Lorna Want for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre

John Dagleish for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre

Katie Brayben for Beautiful –The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre

Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre & Harold Pinter Theatre

Wolf Hall is the only one I have seen but I really loved it. Glad to see it won two awards at least.


Have seen most of the theatre that won (less of the musicals). It was a very very strong year.

The Young Vic A View From The Bridge is one of the most intense productions I’ve ever seen. By the end, you could hear the silence of an entire audience barely breathing with the tension. Mark Strong thoroughly deserved his win too, though James McAvoy’s given him a very close run in the last year. (McAvoy unicyling onto the stage in just his underwear in The Ruling Class was brilliant)

The rest of that category was fairly strong too - My Night With Reg was marvellous (and heart-breaking) and Gillian Anderson in Streetcar was great too (the Young Vic have been absolutely storming it this year) (though the rest of that cast were also very strong, especially Ben Foster).

I’ve seen The Play That Goes Wrong three times now (once in a smaller venue, and twice in the expanded West End version) and every single time it’s reduced me to tears of laughter. Utterly brilliant and an excellent way to spend an evening. So so deserved to win. The pantomime spin-off, Peter Pan Goes Wrong, is a lot of fun too.

King Charles III very deserving winner for the best new play, but I’d’ve given it (just) to The Nether, which is one of the most disturbing bits of theatre I’ve seen in a long while. Very difficult to sit comfortably in your seat for the duration.

We did go to see City of Angels - I thought it was decent enough, but wasn’t really my thing … didn’t quite get the level of hype it got.

This evening, I am dragging some of the London MW crew to the Royal Court to see Enda Walsh’s interpretation of The Twits.

I have high hopes…

What Are You Watching? Infinite Season

I would have loved to have seen Streetcar. I’m a big Tennessee Williams fan and I adore Gillian Anderson. I saw some doubting the casting of Ben Foster beforehand but he is a greatly under appreciated actor and I am glad to know that he gave a strong performance.

King Charles III looked very interesting and as a fan of the movie adaptation I thought McAvoy in The Ruling Class seemed like a wonderful match and was glad to see it getting a revival.

Hope you folks have a good time at The Twits! I haven’t been to a Roald Dahl adaptation since I was a kid but I have great memories of seeing The BFG and George’s Marvelous Medicine on stage.


I’d recommend Matilda to anyone in London, resident or visiting - it’s a great night out.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks great and is good, but was much less impressed by.

Streetcar was also a stunning production - the direction was also very strong (it used a constantly rotating stage to remarkable effect).

The Old and Young Vics have both done a major Tennessee Williams and a major Arthur Miller in the last year or so, and the Young Vic has beaten Spacey’s crew hands down every time. It’s one of my favourite theatres at the moment, because everything they turn their hands to just comes out so well.


I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing anything at the Young Vic. Hopefully I’ll be able to correct that before too long. I have been enjoying the Young Vic/Guardian short films. Especially the Gillian Anderson directed, Andrew O’Hagan scripted short about Blanche prior to the events of Streetcar.

The production of George’s Marvelous Medicine I saw as a child starred the late Eric Cullen so obviously it is hard to look back on that without sadness, but I certainly had a lot of fun at the theatre that day.


Ooh, there’s good stuff coming up at the Young Vic this year!

I’ve got tickets for:

Rory Kinnear in Kafka’s The Trial (Nick Gill text)
Caryl Churchill’s cloning play A Number (with a real life father and son playing the main characters)
The one I’m REALLY looking forward to - Ivo van Hove returning to direct a new Simon Stephens play - Song from Far Away
Romala Garai in Measure for Measure
and then Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin doing a post-Medea version of Macbeth, which also promises to be good.

I’m all tingly thinking about some of those!

Also seeing a new Simon Stephens this week - Carmen Disruption at the Almeida.

Oh … and have just booked to see the new play at the Park on Thursday afternoon, which looks like it might be interesting too - The Glass Protege.


I’m a bit of a theatre junkie.


No need to apologise for that. I would be delighted to hear what you think of them.


All of those sound like they have huge potential. I’d love to see Romala Garai on stage, she is quite excellent. I very much wanted to see her in The Village Bike a few years back but I wasn’t able to manage it.


I haven’t seen anything since the Headlong 1984 at the Citizens Theatre. I’ll need to look at what is on in Glasgow and Edinburgh and see if there is anything that stands out.


So, loved The Twits. Enda Walsh has done a smart interpretation, building in most of the truly gruesome bits from the book and the skeleton of the plot, into a bigger story that adds in extra human characters for the Twits to be awful to. It’s a credit to him that the whole things still feels very Dahl-y.

Grotesque, gruesome, funny and ultimately triumphant. I love Dahl’s sense of the world for kids … yes it’s dark, but there’s always that sense of simple decency hidden in amongst it that wins out in the end.

The Twits themselves were gloriously, stupendously awful, and the cast had a huge amount of fun with it. A few kids in the audience got upset when Mrs Twit started describing all the ways that children are awful, which is exactly the effect you want Dahl to have. Walsh made one subtle but stupendously brilliant twist to them though (at least I think he did … I’ll need to go back and check the book). While keeping them just as grubby and awful as they’ve always been, he simultaneously made them rich upper class - the kind of people who’re so rich that things like personal hygiene don’t really matter to. It gives them a sense of entitlement in their manipulation and destruction of other people’s lives for fun that puts a slightly different spin on it for the adult part to the audience.

The monkeys (or were they monkey-actors?) were also ace; they turned out to be Welsh, including doing a fairly lovely rendition of Calon Lan halfway through and another - perfectly apt - hymn to close the whole show with.

The audience had a fair proportion of kids in, which was brilliant - I think adults should at best be tolerated by children when venturing into Dahl’s stories, rather than the other way round - including one kid a few rows in front of us with the absolute best, loudest, most infectious giggle. Every time he laughed, the rest of the audience had to join in.

Slightly nerve-wracking moment when it looked like the pushing of the fourth wall might extend into full-on audience participation, but we survived.

Oh, and the set was (as is often the case at the Royal Court) phenomenally well done!

If in London, and you get the chance, definitely recommended. Lots of fairly young kids in the audience last night and I think safe to say the vibe at the end was pretty positive all over.


The rest of this week’s theatre:

The Glass Protege, at the Park. Looked like it’d be interesting, but turned out to be very disappointing. 1949: a young English actor is talent-spotted in repertory theatre in Oxford and brought to Hollywood to be the next big star. He falls in love with his (male) co-star - and the full force of the studio and media press comes down to bear.

The idea is strong but sadly, apart from the chiselled cheek bones of one of the leads, there was very little else strong about it. Cliched, clumsily directed, very pedestrian script and some very wooden acting from the support cast made it a massively missed opportunity.

Carmen Disruption on the other hand was a completely different experience. Written by one of my favourite playwrights, Simon Stephens, and performed at another of my favourite theatres, the Almeida, it was baffling and puzzling in all the good ways. It’s based around the story of the opera Carmen, but set in a modern (unnamed) European city. Individual stories play out in parallel to each other, with some bouncing in and out of other people’s stories, and a single event at the end that crosses all of them. It’s one of those plays that’s less about the plot and more about the impression it leaves you with. Gorgeous set (including a very realistic near-dead bull lying front and centre of a crumbling decadent opera house) and a very strong cast (including Noma Dumezweni, who has a voice I could listen to for hours and hours; and Jack Farthing, as a skinny, preening, cock-sure rent-boy, the modern day reincarnation of Carmen). The whole thing was a bit like wallowing sensuously in a mud bath after taking a decent dose of psychedelics.

I saw Judi Dench on stage a couple of years ago, playing opposite Ben Whishaw in Peter and Alice, and thought it’d probably be one of the last times she performed on stage. Delighted that it wasn’t, as she’s part of Kenneth Branagh’s new season of plays announced this week, so have tickets to see her and Branagh in The Winter’s Tale later this year, which I’m very much looking forward to.

(Though not quite as much, to be honest, as I am to Richard Madden playing Romeo later on in the same Branagh-directed season)


Carmen Disruption sounds like something I would enjoy a lot. Curious about this set too! I know a lot of people are very much of the opinion that caring about the set is a bit gauche but I love a good set, me.

Richard Madden fan then? Nice to see a local boy do well.


Really? The set, and how it functions, is a major part of theatre as far as I’m concerned; done well, it’s one of the things that marks theatre out as its own thing. Who thinks that’s awkward?

The Almeida, the Royal Court and the National in particular all frequently do amazing things with their set design. Used well, the stage of the Olivier in the National is a work of art in its own right (and often allows an average play to be something more than that - Treasure Island was like that earlier this year. Play was average; set design and use was outstanding)

And yeah … what’s not to like about Richard Madden? :wink:


I have just encountered a lot of people who seem to be of the opinion that caring about set design is quite unsophisticated. Purity of the performance and all that. I am of the same opinion as yourself though, it is a crucial part of what makes theatre work. Obviously many plays function with minimalist sets but that is itself a set choice (even if sometimes one that is often due to necessity). Despite being one of the most acclaimed directors of the last 15 years or so I have heard a lot of slagging of Rupert Goold for over reliance on elaborate sets and theatrical tricks. But I love theatrical tricks personally.

I admire the work of set designers and builders immensely.