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THEATRE THIS YEAR AND NEXT

As you know – whilst Simon’s passion is casting lines, my passion is watching casts and hearing lines at as many theatres as I can reach.

It has been another wonderful year for theatre and there are several exceptional productions continuing in London which I’d love to recommend to those who are interested. More to come in Oxford too!

This year my three ‘standout’ plays (seeing all 3 in the same week even tested my theatrical stamina!) were

The Jungle – The Playhouse Theatre

Othello – The Globe Theatre

The Lehman Trilogy – The National Theatre

The Jungle was truly great immersive theatre. It was written by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy who had spent some time running a theatre group in the Migrants’ Camp at Calais ( nicknamed the Jungle and later taken down by the French Government). The play had been transferred to the Playhouse theatre from its award winning start at the NT and the whole theatre had been transformed into the Camp. So, we were able to sit at tables in the ‘AfghanCafe’ whilst being ‘served’ and to listen to and watch wonderful actors of all nationalities, playing the migrants of all nationalities with joy, anger, determination and pride. It was a most enlightening and moving experience – well worth visiting if ever it returns.

Of all this year’s plays, I most admired and enjoyed The Lehman Trilogy. Its subject-matter – The Lehman Banking dynasty – didn’t sound too promising – but its cast included Simon Russell-Beale and Ben Miles – so I was very keen. The ‘SRB Factor’ as the National Theatre staff say – meant that the tickets all sold out within 30 minutes of their issue ( 6 months previously!) But I was on the ball and managed to get one then. Worth the effort!
The story of the Jewish immigrant brothers (3) and their journey in America in the 1800’s via Cotton production, marketing, broking, oil, railroads, through to Banking was fascinating. And in the 200 year journey every single character – male, female, old and young was played by one of the three actors – SRB, Ben Miles and Adam Godley. It was brilliantly staged and directed by Sam Mendes and a masterclass in acting. 3.5 hours passed in a flash – REALLY!

…….So successful that it is being transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in the West End from May 2109 – so if you have a chance GET TICKETS!

I have always been rather dismissive of musical theatre but latterly I have to admit that every musical I have seen has left me buzzing and joyful (even the Dark ones!)

There are 2 in particular I can recommend – both are currently on in London and are slightly ‘different’ from the ‘norm’:

Caroline, or Change – The Playhouse Theatre

Company – The Geilgud Theatre

We saw Caroline, or Change by Tony Kushner when at the Hampstead Theatre and now its in the Westend. Its another odd subject – about a Black maid working in a Jewish Household just as the Civil Rights movement in the USA starts up. It is a serious analysis of loyalties, rebellion, religion and is crammed full of soul music sung by the wonderful Sharon D Clarke and klezmer music played by others. it is hilarious AND serious – with singing washing machines and talking radios – never a dull moment.

And …….. Company – by my favourite -Stephan Sondheim – he of Westside Story, Follies ( coming back next year), A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods – all slightly dark and sad yet wonderful.
Company is no exception and stars the Patti LuPone ( who was the very original Fantine in Les Mis) I am not a ‘musical aficionado’ but apparently she is Musical Royalty. So well worth a visit.

The Oxford Playhouse seems to be back on track too – with a more diverse and interesting selection of plays in 2019 including the famous ‘Art’ by Yasmina Reza – with a great cast

Remember – cheap Trainline tickets from Parkway make London theatre so much more accessible and easy – give them ALL a visit!