Uk News Billy Elliot, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Identical and All of Us: Theatre reviews United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! Billy Elliot, Curve, Leicester★★★★Billy Elliot (Photo: Marc Brenner)More than 20 years since the miner’s son from 80s County Durham first swapped his boxing gloves for ballet shoes, Billy still shines.We met him in the 2000 film directed by Stephen Daldry, who also helmed Lee Hall and Elton John’s hit musical five years later.Now the show is back in its first full-scale new staging, directed by Nikolai Foster. It’s rugged and sinewy, its blazing fury an emotional touchpaper in our current political moment of strikes, food banks and soaring levels of poverty.The dance is integral to the narrative. The production’s choreographer, Lucy Hind, doesn’t present us with numbers so much as a relentless fight for survival set to music. If a seam of sentimentality runs through the piece, Foster taps into it without allowing it to soften the story’s impact.Michael Taylor’s set, drawing on the landscape of Easington Colliery, pungently establishes a sense of place – and of a community under threat from Margaret Thatcher’s pit closures.All chain-link and steel gantries, it imprisons 11-year-old Billy (Jaden Shentall-Lee at the performance I saw), whose acrobatic explosions of either joy or frustration send him ricocheting around its confines with such ferocious force that we almost expect to see sparks.His family home is represented by a towering mineshaft. There’s stark beauty here, just as there is grace in Billy’s first faltering steps as he skives off boxing training and discovers instead his passion for dance under the world-weary, rough-tongued teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Sally Ann Triplett).Toughness and fragility, both of working-class livelihoods and Billy’s dreams, are what gives the show its tension. When they collide, it’s thrilling – such as when angry picket lines and taunting Met Police intersect with Billy and his otherwise all-girl dance class, practising pirouettes and pliés.Yet there’s intimacy, too. Sucking on a ciggie, Triplett is deliciously tart, her tenderness masked by brusque impatience. She’s the flip side of Billy’s gentle, loving, deceased Mam (Jessica Daley), who appears in ghostly form for wistful duets.Joe Caffrey, as his wounded Dad, and Luke Baker, as his conflicted elder brother, Tony, poignantly convey men who are just as lost and vulnerable as young Billy. Rachel Izen, as Grandma, gets a shattering song of wasted life and howling regret.And, sparkling like a sequin in the coal dust, there’s glorious defiance from Billy’s gay, frock-loving friend, Michael (I saw Prem Masani).But it’s when Billy breaks loose that the show flies. In a dream-ballet number, he takes his adult self’s hand – ripping away from family and home and daring to imagine a different future. It’s exhilarating, yet full of anguish.This is a black diamond of a show: hard-edged and brilliant.To 20 August, curveonline.co.ukSam MarloweThe Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Gillian Lynne Theatre, London★★★The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Photo: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg) It feels a little curious, in the middle of summer, to be watching a wintry tale that comes complete with an appearance from Father Christmas. But this brooding adaptation of CS Lewis’s much-loved, quasi-religious fantasy adventure casts its chilly spell in spite of the odd timing.Michael Fentiman’s staging is based on a production by Sally Cookson first seen at Leeds Playhouse five years ago. It features beguiling puppetry from Toby Olié and Max Humphries, and a dark sense of ritual, drawing heavily for its creeping horror on the novel’s wartime setting.It’s an erratic enchantment: the portentousness occasionally turns sluggish. But there’s enough magic to send children rummaging through wardrobes in search of that elusive portal to snowbound Narnia.In Tom Paris’s design, glowing, concentric rings surround a clock face: hours of Narnia time pass in a heartbeat back in our own dimension.The four Pevensie children – sensitive Lucy (Delainey Hayles), clever Susan (Robyn Sinclair), kind, anxious Peter (Ammar Duffus) and scared, stroppy Edmund (Shaka Kalokoh) – arrive as evacuees by train, a stirring, whirling spectacle of flying miniature model railway carriages and bustling uniformed military.At the home of Johnson Willis’s wizard-like, enigmatic Professor Kirk, a mangy puppet cat leads Lucy to the wardrobe, yowling suggestively.The terror of conflict follows the youngsters there: Samantha Womack’s White Witch arrives gliding on a gun carriage pulled by sniggering henchmen in spiked helmets; and the animal resistance who mobilise against her tyranny wear khaki alongside their fur and feathers.Womack is imperiously nasty and seductively glamorous, and there’s a moment of glorious, awestruck dread when she levitates high over the stage in triumph, her gown billowing. As her nemesis Aslan, Chris Jared cuts a romantic, muscular figure with his mane of flowing hair. The huge lion puppet that accompanies him is equally handsome – but their combined impact is reduced by a lack of convincing physical connection between them.Benji Bower and Barnaby Race’s minor-key, folksy score, performed by actor-musicians, adds atmospheric layers, but fatally stalls the action when it bloats into needless full-blown musical numbers.
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.The grotesque face-off at the Stone Table, with Aslan sacrificing himself to Womack and her army of demons, is properly nightmarish, a phantasmagoria set to an ominous thunder of drums. It’s a thrilling climax in a show that, at its best, makes a shivery family treat.To 8 January 2023, lionwitchonstage.comSam MarloweIdentical, Nottingham Playhouse★★★Identical (Photo Pamela Raith)This new family musical dishes up a double helping of charm. A tale of twin girls who swap lives and identities, it’s based on a 1949 children’s novel by German author Erich Kästner, though its plot is more familiar from two Disney film adaptations, both titled The Parent Trap (Lindsay Lohan made her screen debut in the 1998 remake).Where the movies were Americanised, this show, with a book by Stuart Paterson and bouncy songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, restores Kästner’s setting, hopscotching between 50s Vienna and Munich.The ambitious production has its sights set on the West End: it’s directed, with bravura flourish and a shamelessly heavy finger on every available emotional button, by Trevor Nunn. It’s beguiling, but so meandering and tension-free that eventually its relentless niceness begins to grate.Three pairs of real-life young twins alternate in the lead roles; Eden and Emme Patrick made an endearing opening night duo. Separated as babies when their parents, Johan (James Darch) and Lisalotte (Emily Tierney) divorced, Lisa and Lottie – hitherto unaware of each other’s existence – coincidentally collide at summer camp, aged 11. They hatch a plan: musical, studious Lottie, who’s been raised by Mum, heads to Dad’s arty, palatial Viennese pad, while confident, rebellious Lisa, accustomed to boho luxury with Johan, tackles domestic chores and camping trips with Lisalotte.Hope of a reunited family glimmers: but first the girls must get rid of Johan’s girlfriend, an intimidatingly glamorous ballet dancer (Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson).It’s all as holey – and almost as cheesy – as a slice of Swiss Emmental: even if we accept the girls are so freakishly alike that no one spots the difference, why have their parents so cruelly kept them apart, and why has neither sister ever asked more questions about her mysteriously absent parent?Without a convincing psychological grounding, or a stronger sense of damage done and emotional lessons learnt, the story feels like so much sentimental fluff.Efforts to add depth are half-hearted and garbled: an incongruous, overblown nightmare sequence in which an operatic Lewis-Dodson appears as a fairy-tale witch; and a superfluous romantic subplot involving a kindly doctor and Johan’s housekeeper.The delivery is smooth – too smooth, in fact, with hyperreal designs by Robert Jones and Douglas O’Connell that blend sets and video so seamlessly that the effect is almost like a screensaver. We’re whisked from the bucolic lakeside camp to elegant city streets, a gilt and velvet theatre and a mountain trail complete with hearty lederhosen-clad hikers.Stiles’s score includes sumptuous waltzes, lachrymose ballads, and – most affectingly – touching duets for Lottie and Lisa. It’s impossible not to warm to a show this sweet-natured; but if it’s sunny, it’s also slight.In Nottingham to 14 August, nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk, then at the Lowry, Salford, from 19 August to 3 September, thelowry.comSam MarloweAll of Us, Dorfman, London★★All of Us (Photo: Helen Murray)Writing harshly about this new play is, essentially, the theatrical equivalent of clubbing baby seals. It’s full of characters for whose plights we feel deep sympathy and righteous fury, but as a piece of drama it is worryingly weak: repetitive, simplistic and wildly overlong. As the running time for this demon hybrid of a never-ending left-wing op-ed and a Hallmark card tips over the three-hour mark, serious questions as to how a script in this state of unreadiness made it onto the stage of the National Theatre become ever more urgent.The writer is Francesca Martinez, that fine stand-up comedian who has cerebral palsy, a condition she calls “being wobbly”. Martinez, a highly agreeable performer, takes the central role of Jess, a therapist by profession, and the drama bifurcates swiftly into sections focusing upon Jess’s work and private life. She is determined not to cast herself as a “victim” because of her condition, but when her all-important PIP (personal independence benefit) payment is cut, Jess feels the sting deeply. As does her friend Poppy (Francesca Mills, best known as the companionable Earthy Mangold in the television reboot of Worzel Gummidge), a wheelchair user with dwarfism, whose loss of benefits means that she now has to be put to bed each night at 9pm wearing a nappy.We ache for these predicaments and lament the fact that we live in a society whose welfare state safety net is now so terrifyingly full of holes. But how we long for a little energy and dramatic momentum as the scenes drag on, saying the same thing over and over; director Ian Rickson really should have done better here.When Oliver Hargreaves, the Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions (a wonderfully oleaginous Michael Gould) is introduced in the second half, we are all but invited to hiss and boo panto-style. Jess, Poppy and chums attend a public meeting Hargreaves is hosting and tell their heartfelt stories and then various baddies with predictable views on the workshy and immigrants say their pieces.Thereafter, for reasons that lack all plausibility both on-stage and off, Jess and co are able to walk into Hargreaves’s office and meetings unannounced and… It’s probably best to focus on what positives we can extrapolate from this all-round mess. Mills is a mischievously sparky performer, whose butter-wouldn’t-melt expression allows her to get away with saying some scurrilous things and Martinez is never less than watchable. Gould proffers the mealy-mouthed excuse of the terminally mediocre, “I’m sorry you feel that way”, with aplomb. Yet it’s safe to say that all of us are longing for this to end.To 24 September, 020 3989 5455, nationaltheatre.org.ukFiona Mountford
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