A Trio of Bloody Great Theatre
Over the last two weeks I’ve had the absolute pleasure of slapping my eyes on some TOP NOTCH theatre. All three shows were tip-top and couldn’t have been more different in style, tone and subject matter.
First up was a trip down to the Old Vic to catch Daniel Kitson’s Tree. Kitson is one of the best stand up comics out there, but this offering from his pen is chuffing great too. Starring just him and fellow (also fantastic) stand up Tim Key, the duo’s comic timing, sparkling repartee and first class storytelling is dwarfed only by the whacking great tree in the middle of the set.
The Old Vic is laid out as a theatre in the round, with the Tree of the title playing the third character in the play, and it’s GREAT to see them take a chance and stage something like this. Tree is like a big hearty lungful of fresh air amidst their usual programming (which is excellent, but just so not like this). A jittery lawyer (Key) arrives an hour early for a date, and finds himself chatting and swapping life stories with a bearded, boiler-suited chap (Kitson)who just happens to live in the tree him and his date are meeting underneath. What follows is a joyous back and forth banterFEST (sorry, I hate the word banter as much as you, but that is quite literally what it is). I laughed my bloody socks off, gasped at the twist in the final moments of the play and came away thinking about life commitments, untrustworthy narrators (hiiiiii English degree) and amazed at how funny two blokes and a tree can be.
Second theatrical jaunt of the week was at one of my most adored venues of all time, the lovely Soho Theatre. I teamed up with my brother and a bunch of pals who had all been in Edinburgh with us during the festival last year to see our favourite show of last EdFringe, Mr Swallow: The Musical which is currently playing a run at Soho until the 7th March.
Nick Mohammed, another chronically talented stand up bod, brings his maniacal Mancunian creation, Mr Swallow, in his first musical role. Mr Swallow plays the title role in a cheap and cheerful production of Dracula- The Musical, but lo and behold, as the curtain rises, the show isn’t ready. As as result, the audience are treated to a final dress rehearsal of the show, peppered throughout with Mr Swallow’s interjections, ad-libs, new characters (the female Scouse ticket inspector is a particular highlight) and direction.
It’s a fucking SCREAM.
He’s so northern, screechy and wonderfully oblivious to the utter artistic carnage around him, and yet one can’t help but utterly adore him, despite feeling desperately sorry for his long-suffering cast-mates. Here’s a clip of the cast in action. Sorry about them just BOSSING this being funny malarky.
Last but BY NO MEANS LEAST was a lesson in fucking class at the Menier Chocolate Factory for Assassins.
The cast has just changed, so I was there for Michael Xavier and Anna Francolini’s first performance and eeh by gum did they knock it out of the park. This dark, abstract musical by Sir Stephen of Sondheim is just amazing. Weird, fragmented, episodic, nightmarish, darkly comic-it’s an absolute treat. The whole cast are just great, it’s one of the strongest ensemble shows I’ve seen in ages. It looks swell as well, the decomposing fairground with clowns heads and rusty dodgem cars dotted about, all adding to the nightmare quality of the show. I guess it’s really about the psyche of these individuals, what drives them to decide to shoot a president, and how the actions of one angry, bitter person can affect an entire nation. It’s sold out now for the rest of the run but I mean if you can beg, borrow or steal a ticket SNAP IT UP IMMEDIATELY!
Have you guys seen anything good recently?