Play

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.

Keeler

ImageThe iconic black chair that most people, aware of the Profumo scandal, envision when they hear the name Christine Keeler, starts and finishes this play in a rather conflicting, yet cleverly insightful, manner. Unlike most, my knowledge on this historic political event was regretfully minimal. Unfortunately, I came away knowing little more else about Keeler’s story, other than what I had already read in the synopsis on Charing Cross Theatre’s web link.

And it’s not through the performers want of trying – in fact, the cast are mostly faultless throughout. Sarah Armstrong provides a thoroughly convincing Keeler, portraying an unerring example of a young lady struggling with maturity and the handling of her unarguable beauty. The role undoubtedly stretches young actresses like Armstrong – requiring promiscuity, lasciviousness and plenty of nudity – all of which she handles with complete mastery, yet, on the other hand, she unfortunately struggles with executing the more  serious and salient parts of her character in later scenes of the play. Michael Good as John Profumo also deserves an honourable mention for his portrayal of an undisputedly difficult character, even despite largely featuring in scenes that formulate particularly uncomfortable viewing. Perhaps the most well-executed actor (and in this case, producer as well) though, is Paul Nicholas; well known for his roles in musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Cats, it is hard to believe he can deliver such a convincing performance as Stephen Ward – a role completely different to what people have known him for before.

Regardless of obvious potential in those cast, sadly Gill Adam’s scripting is unexciting and, at times, even dull (namely, a particularly long-winded and wordy court scene in act two). Where Keeler herself has called it ‘brilliant’ for ‘telling it like it was’, it is unlikely that most spectators will (or do) feel the same enthusiasm for a storyline that would arguably be better seen on screen rather than stage – or perhaps even not at all. The absence of any lasting impression causes one to favour the latter. Unfortunately for Adams, the monotonous set design and simple lighting techniques do little to aid this problem, although the accompanying soundtrack is enjoyably welcomed and certainly apt for the era. Use of black and white projections to notify the audience of scene location are cleverly conveyed and nicely compiled – without them, the story would be completely impossible to follow owing to the unadventurous set-design. The costuming involved in the production, however, is splendidly realistic – in particular, the magnificence of the Show Girl’s outfits – and, accompanying that, the small amount of choreography involved in the Gentleman’s Club segments is flawlessly performed and with good synchronicity.

All in all, this play provides a good evening of entertainment, but leaves a lot to be desired. Reviews have been categorically negative about this production and, sadly, I can see why. On reflection, the performance is entertaining but mildly interesting at best.  Perhaps a play devoted completely to Keeler’s view of events is a little ambitious considering the potential to develop the, arguably, more interesting characters involved in this historic scandal. It is for that reason why I, and undoubtedly many others, have incredibly higher hopes and expectations for Lloyd-Webber’s rival production ‘Stephen Ward’ opening next month.

J x

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’

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The classic fairytale of a Princess lulled into a century-long coma after pricking her finger on a cursed spindle is hardly new to most people – we have the brilliant work of Walt Disney to thank for that. The Birmingham Royal Ballet group retain this brilliance – turning the understated story of Princess Aurora (Natasha Oughtred) into an magical production suitable for the whole family, and just in time for the lead up to Christmas. 

Peter Wright’s production showcases the best of Marius Petipa’s stunning choreography, with superb complementation from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia orchestra playing the great Tchaikovsky’s genius musical composition (conducted on this occasion by Gavin Sutherland). The relationship between dance and music is profound, yet effortlessly delivered – with powerful pulses accompanying the evil Fairy Carabosse’s (Callie Roberts) solos, and gentle, elegant tempos partnering her opposition The Lilac Fairy (Yvette Knight). Sleeping Beauty represents how good will always overcome evil, and this production has stayed committed to that message.

Natasha Oughtred as Aurora is everything that little girls, dreaming of becoming ballerinas, aspire to. Both physically and beautifully perfect for the role, she flawlessly performs the tale of the Princess’ fateful life with the elegance and poise that her character deserves. Of the three main female roles – Princess Aurora, The Fairy Carabosse and The Lilac Fairy – Oughtred shines the most, with a particularly astounding solo during Aurora’s coming-of-age ceremony, in which she balances on point, on one leg, with nothing more than minor support from the Princess’ four ‘suitors’ (Yasou Atsuji, Jamie Bond, Jonathan Payn and Benjamin Soerel). This small but impressionable routine single-handedly proves the physical and mental strength required for the art of ballet, leaving the audience with a tremendous new-found respect for the discipline. Cesar Morales as Prince Florimund – the ‘Prince Charming’ and hero of the story – also performs his role with perfect execution and allure, and anything less than this would utterly ruin the appeal and charisma of his character. 

The Sleeping Beauty is one of many great examples of why ballet really is more than just tutus and men in tights. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s portrayal of Aurora’s tale is classically beautiful on it’s own, but the magnificent set (brilliantly designed by Phillip Prowse), lighting (recreated by Peter Teigen) and dazzling costumes are collectively truly outstanding – a particularly enchanting scene being in the ‘forest’ of Act Two, where woodland-stenciled backdrops and clever spot-lighting bring the magical meeting of Prince and Princess to life.  

Yes, the production is long considering the absence of dialogue; but with a Prologue, three Acts, two full-length intervals and a three minute break, it is easily manageable – even for the youngest members of the audience. Under David Bintley’s experienced guidance, it is easy to see why the Birmingham Royal Ballet is as popular choice as ever for theatre-goers. Plymouth’s Theatre Royal will now have to wait until March 2014 for the company’s next visit (performing The Prince of Pagodas), but when that time comes I have no doubt that it will receive the same enthusiast turn-out as The Sleeping Beauty has.

J x