Favourite Plays and Musicals (UK Theatre) of the first half of 2015

I am a little behind with my reports because some private life issues and work things – and not working Hardware (!!!) – prevented me from writing. But I promise you: there I will be a lot coming in the next days – if nothing unforeseen happens that is.

But as the first half of this year has passed now,  here is my favourite UK theatre list 2015 part one:

It has been a strong year so far and I have also already seen more musicals than usual. And  it is already difficult for me to create a Top 10 – and that’s only the first half of this year! In no particular order:

City of Angels (Donmar Warehouse), The Ruling Class (Trafalgar Studios), The Fever (The Mayfair Hotel), My Night With Reg (Apollo Theatre), Assassins (Menier Chocolate Factory), Oppenheimer (Swan Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon/  Vaudeville Theatre), Farinelli and the King (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), The Vote (Donmar Warehouse), Golem (Trafalgar Studios), Man and Superman (National Theatre)

The Beaux’ Stratagem (National Theatre), Sweeney Todd (Eno) and High Society (Old Vic) just missed the Top 10.

I am quite sure, Oppenheimer – I preferred the Stratford staging to the London one – and Man and Superman will make it into my final Top 5 of this year. Those two productions were both absolutely outstanding and have challenged me intellectually, touched my feelings and were also a lot of fun. And both had great ensemble casts with outstanding leads. John Heffernan and Ralph Fiennes will certainly both be in my Top 5 of the best actors of this year. And James McAvoy belongs into the Top 5 until now! So – the challenge is open! Still – I have high expectations of some of the actors who’s turn will be next. Loads of my favourite actors are treading the boards this year.

Least Favourites Top 5 – in that order:

Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (National Theatre), The Elephant Man (Theatre Royal Haymarket), Closer (Donmar Warehouse), The Changeling (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), How to Hold Your Breath (Royal Court Theatre)

Great actors cannot completely save a bad or boring play. But only in one case I regret seeing the play. Light Shining was just not good and so boring I cannot forgive myself I did not leave in the interval or that I booked it in the first place. Precious time of my life wasted – thank god it was a cheap ticket! The Elephant Man was certainly not worth the money, but I am still glad I saw it, if only for Bradley Cooper. Closer was the biggest disappointment. I blame the director. The Changeling was just not my play – and maybe I had a bad day too. How to Hold was not really working as the script was not good enough, but Maxine Peake was wonderful and only for her alone I liked it a bit more than the other 4 plays in that list.

Looking forward to watching these plays during my next visit in London:

Three Days in the Country (National Theatre), Bakkhai (Almeida Theatre), Richard II (Globe Theatre) and Hamlet (Barbican Theatre) – and I am looking forward to seeing John Simm, Mark Gatiss, Ben Whishaw, Bertie Carvel, Charles Edwards, Ciaran Hinds and Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Favourite (Theatre) Actors List

A list in alphabetical order of actors I would certainly  like to see again (and again) on stage, buying a ticket just because they are in, no matter what it is (to be continued…)

…Last Edit: January 2019

Allam, Roger, seen in: Uncle Vanya, The Tempest, Seminar, The Moderate Soprano, Limehouse; next in: Rutherford and Son

Atkins, Eileen, seen in: All That Fall, Ellen Terry;  The Height of the Storm

Barnett, Samuel, seen in: Richard III, Twelfth Night, The Beaux’ Stratagem; Allelujah!

Best, Eve, seen in: Much Ado About Nothing, The Duchess of Malfi, Love in Idleness

Buchan, Andrew, seen in: Richard II

Buring, MyAnna, seen in: Strangers on a Train, The Wasp, The Vote

Campbell Moore, Stephen, seen in: All My Sons, Clybourne Park, Berenice, Chimerica, Photograph 51; Consent

Carvel, Bertie, seen in: Matilda the Musical, Damned by Despair, Bakkhai, The Hairy Ape; Ink

Chancellor, Anna, seen in: Private Lives, The Wolf from the Door, The Seagull

Craig, Rosalie, seen in: Macbeth, The Light Princess, Miss Julie/ Black Comedy, City of Angels, Sweeney Todd, The Vote, As You Like It, The Threepenny Opera, Becoming – Part I; The Ferryman; Company

Cumberbatch, Benedict, seen in: Frankenstein, Hamlet

Dench, Judi, seen in Peter and Alice, The Vote, The Winter’s Tale

Donnelly, Killian, seen in Billy Elliott, Memphis, Kinky Boots

Duff, Anne-Marie, seen in Berenice, Strange Interlude, Husbands and Sons, Oil, Common; Heisenberg; Macbeth; next in: Sweet Charity

Edwards, Charles, seen in: Much Ado About Nothing, This House, Strange Interlude, Blithe Spirit, Richard II, Waste; Copenhagen

Fraser, Hadley, seen in: Les Miserables, Pajama Games, Coriolanus, City of Angels, The Vote, The Winter’s Tale, Harlequinade, Long Days Journey into the Night, ST. Joan; Young Frankenstein; next in: The Deep Blue See

Gatiss, Mark, seen in: 55 Days, The Recruiting Officer, Coriolanus, The Vote, Three Days in the Country, The Boys In The Band

Glen, Iain, seen in: Uncle Vanya, Longing

Hawkins, Sally, seen in: Constellations

Head, Anthony, seen in Six Degrees of Separation, 24 Plays, 24 Hour Musicals, Ticking, Love in Idleness

Heffernan, John, seen in: She Stoops to Conquer, The Physicists, Love and Information, The Hothouse, Edward II, Oppenheimer, Macbeth; Saint George and the Dragon;  Pinter 7

James, Joshua, seen in: No Quarter, Love and Information, The Tempest, Fathers and Sons, Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Platonov, The Seagull, The Life of Galileo

Karimloo, Ramin, seen in Love Never Dies, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables

Lewis, Damian, seen in The Misanthrope, American Buffalo,  The Goat or Who is Sylvia

Macfadyan, Matthew, seen in Private Lives, Jeeves and Wooster

Manville, Lesley, seen in: Six Degrees of Separation, 24 Hour Plays, Ghosts, Long Days Journey into the Night

Menzies, Tobias, seen in: The Recruiting Officer, The Fever, Uncle Vanya

McArdle, James, seen in Platonov, Ivanov, Ivanov, Angels in America Part I and II; next in Peter Gynt

McAvoy, James, seen in: Three Days of Rain, Macbeth, The Ruling Class; next in Cyrano???

McCrory, Helen, seen in The Late Middle Classes, Last of the Housemanns, Medea, The Deep Blue Sea

Miles, Ben, seeen in: Love Love Love, Bring Up The Bodies, Wolf Hall, Sunset At The Villa Thalia; The Lehman Trilogy

Millson, Joseph, seen in: The Priory, Love Never Dies, Rocket to the Moon, Macbeth, Mr. Foote’s Other Leg , Apologia;  next in Mary Poppins

Morrissey, David, seen in:  In a Dark Dark House, Macbeth, Hangmen; Julius Caesar

Murphy, Cillian, seen in: Misterman, Ballyturk

Parker, Jamie, seen in: Assassins, High Society, Guys and Dolls, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Raison, Miranda, seen in: 24 Hour Plays, Henry VIII, The Physicists, Strangers on a Train, Hello/Goodbye, The Winter’s Tale, Harlequinade

Riley, Tom, seen in: My City, Dry Powder

Rylance, Mark, seen in: Richard III, Twelfth Night, Farinelli and the King, Othello

Scott, Andrew, seen in: Pinter Shorts, Birdland, The Dazzle,  Hamlet, Seawall; next in: Present Laughter

Sewell, Rufus, seen in: Old Times, Closer, Art

Sheen, Michael, seen in: Hamlet

Simm, John, seen in: Speaking in Tongues, Hamlet, Betrayal, The Hothouse, Three Days in the Country, The Homecoming, Pinter at the Pinter 6: Party Time and Celebrationnext in: Macbeth

Staunton, Imelda, seen in: Sweeney Todd, Good People, Gypsy, Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf, Follies

Stephens, Toby, seen in: A Doll’s House, Danton’s Death, The Real Thing, Private Lives, Oslo

Stevens, Dan, seen in: Arcadia, 24 Hour Plays

Stirling, Rachael, seen in: The Priory, An Ideal Husband, The Recruiting Officer, The Winter’s Tale; Labour of Love

Streatfeild, Geoffrey, seen in My Night With Reg, The Beaux’ Stratagem, Ivanov, Wild Honey

Strong, Mark, seen in: A View from the Bridge, The Barn

Tennant, David, seen in: Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, Don Juan of Soho

Terry, Michelle, seen in: Privacy, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It; Becoming – Part I, Hamlet, As You Like It,  Macbeth

West, Dominic, seen in: Othello, My Fair Lady, Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Whishaw, Ben, seen in: Peter and Alice, Mojo, Bakkhai, Against, Julius Caesar

Wilson, Ruth, seen in: Through a Glass Darkly, Anna Christie, The El Train, Hedda Gabler

Worrall, Madeleine, seen in Jane Eyre Part I and II, Jane Eyre, Peter Pan

And I have to add German actors:

Becker, Constanze, seen in Medea, Zwei Uhr Nachts (2 a.m.), Wir lieben und wissen nichts (We love and know nothing), Macbeth, Save Places, Penthesilea, Totentanz (The Dance of Death), Eine Familie (August: Osage County), Evening at the Talkhouse, Oedipus, Macbeth

Schulze, Marc Oliver, seen in Die Möwe (The Seagull), Nora (A Doll’s House), Medea, Zwei Uhr Nachts (2 a.m.), Wir lieben und wissen nichts (We Love and Know Nothing), Die Wiedervereinigung der beiden Koreas, Save Places, Oedipus

Also on my list is Danish actor Mikkelsen, Lars, seen in Tribardernes Nat (The Night of the Tribades) in Copenhagen and I have seen Swedish actors Endre, Lena, and Persbrandt, Mikael in the play Dödsdansen (Dance of Death)in Stockholm – both were absolutely amazing! Also Persbrandt as Macbeth, Den inbillade sjuke (The Imaginery Invalid).   My latest addition to the list is Swedish actor Karlsson, Jonas whom I have seen in September 2017 as Richard III at Stockholm’s Dramaten. He made a lasting impression on me  and he has just got an award for his performance . I cannot wait to see him on stage again soon.

Maybe added in the future, I liked to see them on stage, maybe very much, but not sure yet if I would like to see them in everything:

Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Matt Smith, Shaun Evans, Richard Armitage, Simon Russell Beale, Edward Bennett, Nick Fletcher, Helen Mirren, Tom Hiddleston, Adrian Lester, David Dawson, Zoe Wanamaker, Freddie Fox.

I’m not completely happy with this list as I am sure I forgot a lot of people, but it’s not fixed anyway. Just to get an idea about my taste and what actors I had the pleasure to watch on stage already.

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Simon Stephens: Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

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Carmen Disruption- why did I book it:

I love the Almeida Theatre and I wanted to give Simon Stephens another chance (didn’t like Birdland, but rather liked Port and love his Adaption of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

The Cast:

The Singer: Sharon Small, Carmen: Jack Farthing,, Don José: Noma Dumezweni, Escamillo: John Light, Micaëla: Katie West, Chorus: Viktoria Vizin

What’s it about:

The 4 main characters of Bizet’s  Carmen (Carmen, Don Jose, Escamillo, Micaela), a Singer and the singing Singer (Chorus) as characters of modern isolated life, somehow connected.

**Spoiler: Sharon Small told me, her character has a feverdream in her hotelsuite, the characters exist only in her imagination – probably. I had a similar idea, as some of the ramblings of the characters reminded me of Tobias Menzies’ character rambling in The Fever which I saw in February.

What I like about it:

Gives you food for thought, you have to follow carfully the monologues to put the characters and relationships together. It’s rather challenging. It helps –  and is partly a joy  – to stick the pieces together when you know the opera Carmen by Bizet. Some characters of the opera found great representations in the characters of the play.

Some poetic moments are very powerful and the actors are 1st class, especially Carmen, James Farthing – I spottet Rupert Goold congratulate him to his performance after in front of the bar. And the opera singer is just wonderful.

The music: two cellists and Viktoria Vizin performing short extracts of the opera , partly in a modern interpretation.

My highlights:

  • The entrance through the backstage area.
  • The set design – especially the constantly breathing bull that’s lying in the center of the stage.
  • The singing by VV, I wish there has been more of it

What I don’t like about it:

It’s all about monologues! Why? I don’t want to be told all the stories, I want to watch them happen. Dialogues make a play much more lively and dramatic. At some moments I thought, wow Stephens you finally got it and then it was messed up again and I was slightly bored, disappointing! And it is much too long, but I’ve seen the first preview, so there will surely be cuts.

What I didn’t really get:

The characterization of Don Jose – it’s no problem for me it’s a female character in the play, but I didn’t find the character of the opera in him. Most of the time I even didn’t understand who she is talking of/about.

The Opera and the Play:

The characters are inspired by the characters of the opera, but they are not connected as in the opera and their motivations and drive in the play are much different. They are connected by the new characters the Singer and the Chorus. And the music plays its part, modified and only in little pieces like in a collage.  The opera by Bizet is inspiration and helps to hold the play together. Unfortunately it’s not made use of consequently.

The audience:

The makers, e.g. the playwright himself, Simon Stephens, a lot of guests of the makers and the cast, e.g. the performer of the German “Singer” (Sharon Small’s and the Opera singers parts were one in that version), the British actor Matthew Horne and a German Soap Actor. And a lot of the pretentious middle aged Almeida audience, the word “cunt” was gasped and tutted at a lot.

Stage-door experience:

I had the chance to get all the actors’ and Simon Stephens autographs and had a little chat with Jack Farthing, Sharon Small and Simon Stephens.

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Would I like to see it again?

It would be interesting to see the final version, but probably not, it’s rather challenging, not much comfort zone, didn’t like it enough to give it a second go.

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2nd Theatre-Trip to London in 2015: The Ruling Class

This is already my second theatre trip to London this year. I have already been to London in February and I have seen City of Angels (twice) and Closer at the Donmar Warehouse, The Ruling Class at the Trafalger Studios, Andrea Chénier at the Royal Opera House, Hello/Goodbye and The Wasp at the Hampstead Theatre, The Fever -an Almeida Theatre production played at a Suite of the Mayfair Hotel, My Night with Reg at the Apollo Theatre, The Merchant of Venice at the Almeida Theatre, Memphis at the Shaftsbury Theatre, Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory, The Changeling and Farinelli and the King at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, How to Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court Theatre, and Bull at the Young Vic Theatre. I also travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon for one night to watch Oppenheimer twice – the Understudy  and the usual run – at the Swan Theatre.

My trip in April is much shorter: The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios for a 2nd visit, Carmen Disruption at the Almeida Theatre, Sweeney Todd at the English National Opera, The Olivier Awards red carped and piazza. And two day seatings I am not totally sure of what it will be.

Why this trip in the first place: I want to see Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd and James McAvoy for a second time in The Ruling Class.

The Ruling Class- why did I book it: to see James McAvoy – obviously! And it’s part of the Jamie Lloyd Season at Trafalgar Studios – I especially like his work with quirky plays and musicals. So this is a must!

What’s it about:

The Upper Class being mad and getting away with it. Sometimes Monty-Python-Esque, very weird and full of black humour. A lot of short Musical numbers.

1st and 2nd watching:

1st time was full of surprises, couldn’t remember some of the details, where I remembered it was also still funny the second time. James McAvoy has now completely settled into his part – he fell a lot into his Scottish accent when I first watched it – perfect now. You could see it flow. Everyone feeling comfortable on stage. The musical numbers were perfect, and so was the very physical scenes, there were some little mistakes the first time.

JMA reacting spontaneously to the responding audience. 1st time something like: “You’re a great crowd, bless you.” This time a mobile phone went off – him asking: “Is this a mobile phone?! No, we must not take photos of God!”

There was more on both evenings, but my memory leaves me.

My highlights:

  • James McAvoy in underpants on the monocycle
  • James McAvoy dancing and singing
  • Forbes Masson with all his wigs – hilariously funny, especially together in the scenes with James McAvoy

The critic in me says:

A slightly dated play, which doesn’t feel dated in this quirky, creative production. James McAvoy is a fantastic lead who deserved more than just the Olivier Award nomination. The rest of the cast is also excellent. The play is very funny and has a very dark side, the political content partly still works for these days.

..and the fangirl:

James McAvoy – he looks really fit in this – he is taking of his shirt for a while and he is in underpants on the monocyle: you see a lot!

The other castmembers:

As already mentioned, Forbes Masson in all his several roles as men or women, Anthony O’Donnell as butler, he got the most laughs and applause together with JMA, Ron Cook as the uncle – he is always great, Joshua McGuire as the cousin, can’t help it, it’s always a pleasure to see “tiny Mozart” on stage.

The audience:

Mainly a lot of James McAvoy fans, most of them first time theatre goers. But the bad behaviour was fortunately limited. A lot of leaners when it was not necessary and turned on mobiles, some were trying to take photos, comments concerning JMA during the performance – thankfully made calmly.

Stage-door experience:

Not this time, I had my luggage with me and had to rush to my pad after.

Why would I like to see it again:

James McAvoy is a brilliant actor who can make you laugh and cry, all in a second. And he can just send a shiver down your spine. There is never too much watching him.  The direction by Jamie Lloyd and the cast are absolutely excellent and the play is entertaining enough for another go. Shame the run finished last Saturday.

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