Theatre

My Night With Reg

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My Night With Reg – originally written by Kevin Eylot and revived/directed now by Robert Hastie – features a six-man cast over three acts of hard-hitting, yet bittersweet, drama. Set in the 1980s, during a time where AIDS and HIV were a particularly prominent and life-threatening issue for the gay community, the play follows the friendship of Guy (Jonathon Broadbent), John (Julian Ovenden) and Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild): three gay men all entwined and emotionally connected to one another differently, yet all experiencing unique and heartbreaking love triangles with the illusive (and never seen on stage) Reg. It recently transferred to the Apollo Theatre following the success of its sold-out run at the Donmar Warehouse.

Although the story is centred predominantly around the complicated friendships of Guy, John and Daniel, the lighthearted element of this uncompromising, yet hilarious, play comes from unlikely lovers Benny and Bernie (Matt Bardock & Richard Cant) and young bartender-come-painter/decorator Eric (Lewis Reeves). Where the five older men share their life experiences of heartbreak, infidelity and holding secrets, Eric in particular brings an innocence and distraction to the group in both his youth and naivety.

In just under two hours, My Night With Reg breaks modern-day taboo and addresses the devastating impacts and life-changing ways that AIDS and HIV have effected – and still do affect – both the sufferers and those closest to them. The play is an entertaining and compelling watch, but for those with a low attention span and poor blood circulation the absence of an interval could be a little problematic.

Hilariously enough, whilst TfL have been frantically censoring the play’s ‘cheeky’ underground poster campaign, the audiences of the Apollo have been treated to a little more than a bum cheek or two each night, as Julian Ovenden and Lewis Reeves bravely don their birthday suits for a small segment of Act 3.

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Bare bottoms aside, seeing My Night With Reg is a worthy way to spend a night at the theatre – even as you’re nursing two dead legs shuffling out onto Shafetsbury Ave afterwards!

Jess

Another great night with the #LDNTheatreBloggers . Thanks Official Theatre and SeatPlan.

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Wicked

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The prequel to well-known and much-loved classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ has been a firm resident of London’s West End since September 2006, when it flew across the pond following incredible success on Broadway. Having played to packed audiences night after night at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, it shows no sign of stopping anytime soon – and with a powerful score, dazzling set and magical script, it’s easy to see why.

Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, ‘Wicked’ tells the untold story of the Witches of Oz and the wonderful Wizard himself – before Dorothy, her flying house and ruby red slippers. Making clever reference to old favourites, including the Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow, audiences are taken back to the adolescent years of G(a)linda the Good Witch and Elphaba the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’, when they were once the best of friends whilst studying at Shiz University. Coupled with a complicated love triangle, the witches are eventually torn apart by a difference in personal motives. Where one witch craves power and popularity, the other simply wishes to make a difference in a deteriorating Oz – but ‘which witch is which’ will come as a refreshing shock to those who know the classic Ozian tale.

Kerry Ellis’ surprise return to the musical, following Willemijn Verkaik’s untimely departure earlier this year, has been at the centre of West End excitement since it was announced back in July. Ellis is the original British Elphaba and her previous experience in the role and obvious connection with her green counterpart is clearly reflected from the outset in her portrayal of the misunderstood character. Like Elphaba’s strengthening personality throughout the story, she performs the part with a delicacy that gradually cresecendos into some great vocal talent. By ‘No Good Deed’, her vocal range is at its finest, though the build-up to this moment leaves a lot to be desired. Her performance is effortless, but seems to lack passion.

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However, it’s not all about Ellis. Flying in by bubble, Savannah Stevenson is a true diamond (or should one say emerald..) in the role of ‘good’ witch G(a)linda. Stevenson’s compatibility with her character is unrivalled by anyone else performing on stage, delivering witty one-liners and the show’s more comedic elements with comfortable expertise. It is clear from the offset that she loves to perform this role and she thrives as a performer because of it.

Wicked isn’t just a good musical, it’s a great one – like a fine elixir, it’s just getting better and better with age. The show is colourful, energetic and truly entertaining throughout. Whilst little ones will appreciate the magic of it all, adults will relate to the messages behind the story: namely, the importance of friendship and for standing up for what you believe in. Hop down the Yellow Brick Road (otherwise known as the Circle Line) and ‘discoverate’ this show for yourself – make your friends ‘hideoutiously’ green with jealously!

Jess

Find out more about Wicked and buy tickets for the show with Theatre Breaks.  

Photographs under the copyright of ViaJess. Previous Elphaba, Willemijn Verkaik, is featured. 

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

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Mark Hadden’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ hit bookshelves back in 2003 to a tremendous response. In its first year, it won Whitbred’s Book of the Year and sold more than two million copies. A year later, it won an Alex Award and became the joint-winner of the Boeke Prize. In 2012 it was adapted by Simon Stephens and opened at the National Theatre to sell-out audiences. Showing no sign of stopping, the play transferred to the Apollo Theatre in March 2013, where its success continued until an untimely and unavoidable temporary closure in December 2013. Last week, the play re-opened to a celebrity-packed audience at its new home of the Gielgud Theatre – reclaiming the five star reviews that the production is renowned for.

The story follows 15 year-old Christopher Boone (Graham Butler). Both incredibly smart and unintentionally quick-witted, he suffers from Aspergers Syndrome and Autism which makes it hard for him to socialise and bond with others. After discovering his neighbour’s dog, Wellington, dead with a pitchfork in his side at precisely 12:07am one evening, Christopher takes it upon himself to be ‘very, very brave’; investigating the local area and attempting to find the dog’s killer.

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But the story of this production is only the cherry on top of an incredibly well-constructed cake. Though Christopher’s tale catalyses from the death of Wellington, the themes and subject-matter highlighted throughout are the real reason this play continues to bowl over its audience night after night. Not only does it unravel hard-hitting truths about the way in which people so often treat one another, it exposes how the lies that we can become so easily entangled in can often spiral to levels unanticipated; to depths out of our control.

Leading a phenomenal cast, Graham Butler is simply sublime as Christopher. He depicts a character who is both captivating, endearing and, at times, uncomfortable to watch; much like the disability of his counterpart. Not only does he faultlessly deliver his script, he has the task of constructing and interacting with the complex set around him and, specifically in Act 1, leaves the audience nothing short of awestruck before the interval. Other honourable mentions must go to Emily Joyce and and Nicholas Tennant playing Christopher’s parents, Judy and Ed. Their heartbreak and emotional torment truly oozes into the audience, leaving viewers with a real sense of the struggles and difficulties that parents, not just those with a handicapped child, experience.

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But, above all, the lighting and set design of this production sets ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ a world apart from the rest. Academy-award nominated Bunny Christie’s set design is a true spectacle and a perfect representation of the complex and fascinating mind of Christopher Boone. Paule Constable’s lighting design only adds to the visual mastery created by this creative team and, together with ingeniously choreographed stage movements (Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett) this play sets a whole new standard in West End theatre.

With honest emotion, tasteful comedy and unexpected surprises, this play is a complete must-see. I left the Gielgud Theatre emotionally fulfilled and with a new-found understanding of the Pythagoras Theorem – and I’m almost sure no other production in town can achieve that.

Jess x

Many thanks to Official Theatre for granting me the opportunity to review this wonderful production. Go follow them on Twitter for regular stagey updates and brilliant interviews with West End stars.

Photos owned by National Theatre.