Phil Willmott travels through theatreland...
And gives you the lowdown on what's currently hot (and not) in London's West End.
A bewildering bout of Premier League theatre has opened in London over the past few weeks so here’s my run down of which shows deserve your hard earned cash at the moment:
Entertaining Mr Sloane, starring Imelda Staunton and the cute grandson from the Catherine Tate Show, is a joy even if he disappoints. You can read my review in the next print edition of Gay Times (out Feb 25th).
Hollywood and R.S.C star Pete Pothelswaite stars in a riveting production of King Lear, Shakespeare’s epic portrayal of a mad old monarch at war with his scheming family. You’ll get every nuance of what many consider to be the greatest play ever written in a perfectly cast, crystal clear production. It’s long, 3 hours 40 minutes, but you get a twenty minute break ever hour. Unmissable, even if you have to queue for returns.
Avoid another Hollywood big name, Richard Dreyfus, in the limp political thriller Complicit at the Old Vic. This tedious play, mainly consisting of old Americans stomping around shouting about nothing particular, is made even baggier by the cast's inability to accurately remember the script.
Be Near Me, is an intense, disturbing play about a priest in a small Scottish community who’s life and career implodes when he makes a drunken pass at a cute teenage boy. It’s beautifully acted and produced at the Donmar Warehouse, but a bit of a plod. A much younger actor as the priest might have allowed a lot more sparks to fly.
The actors and team responsible for Mrs Affleck at the National Theatre rack up an eerie tension in this reheating of an old play on parental guilt by Norwegian Henrik Ibsen. Here the action’s transported to fifties Brighton. I particularly loved the creepy David Lynch style set although I could only see part of the stage from the seat they allocated me.
The Stone is a neat but pointless play at the Royal Court who’ve inexplicably chosen to open their season on work about contemporary Germany with this sixty minute depiction of 1993! The characters are still haunted by the war – get over it! Do we really need another play about Nazi moral dilemmas? Linda Bassett is fantastic as a confused gran with a dodgy past.
Enjoy isn’t the type of cosy Northern comedy we might expect from author Alan Bennett – one of the stately homos of England, to misquote Quentin Crisp. Instead it’s a long surreal depiction of an elderly working class Leeds couple coping with a council observer, re-location, family skeletons… and a corpse with an erection. Laugh out loud funny, as you’d expect, but very, very weird. Nothing turns out as you’d expect. The cast, including Alison Steadman from Abigail’s Party are brilliant but only take the most freethinking of grannies.
Phil Willmott has directed over fifty productions across the world from Shakespeare & musicals to cutting edge new writing. He is founding Artistic Director of his own multi award winning theatre company The Steam Industry, incorporating The Finborough Theatre (under the Artistic Directorship of Neil NcPherson) and the London's annual Free Theatre Festival at the open-air "Scoop" amphitheatre on the South Bank.http://www.philwillmott.co.uk.