Sunday, 17 February 2013

What' Awards 2013

To me, the Awards always seem a less-sophisticated version of the Oliviers, but some might say a more fun version of them. The only theatre awards voted for by the theatre-going public were this year ‘presented’ by One Man, Two Guvnors star Rufus Hound, The Great British Bake Off presenter Mel Giedroyc and the understandably-flustered Terri Paddock, all three of whom seemed to think that the awards were aimed at an adult audience. The guest performers included Tim Minchin, Melanie C, the casts of The Bodyguard and Top Hat, but unfortunately anyone watching on the live stream (most of us) didn’t get to see any of them but instead were treated to unrevealing interviews with the winners, most of which had just walked away from the stage being insulted by the hosts.

Aside from these problems, the WOS Awards are interesting as they reveal what and who is most popular with the voting public. So, when Sheridan Smith and Stephen Fry received the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor awards respectively, it was perhaps no surprise. What was a surprise though was Rupert Everett being voted Best Actor for his role as Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s The Judas Kiss. This is not because he didn’t deserve it, in fact critics have said that this is probably the performance of his career, but he certainly had tough competition. I saw David Haig’s King George III, David Suchet’s James Tyrone and Mark Rylance’s Olivia and they were all some of the best performances I’ve seen in the theatre.
The real winner, once again, is subsidised and regional theatre. The Old Vic’s Hedda Gabler, Menier Chocolate Factory’s Abigail’s Party, Shakespeare’s Globe’s Richard III/ Twelfth Night, National Theatre’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Royal Court’s Constellations and Chichester Festival Theatre’s Sweeney Todd all won major awards tonight and all deservedly so. In particular, Jonathan Kent’s production of Sweeney Todd swept five awards which reflected its critical acclaim last summer and the fan base of Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

In terms of omissions, I was surprised Laurie Metcalf didn’t get a mention for her performance in Long Day’s Journey into Night and Simon Russell Beale in the National’s Timon of Athens – both of which I imagine will triumph in the Olivier nominations this March. Furthermore, considering two of the West End’s long runners (Blood Brothers and Chicago) closed last year, it would have been nice to see them celebrated in some way although congratulations go to Les Miserables for winning two awards tonight. And also to Danny Boyle for his amazing Olympics Opening Ceremony although I still don’t quite see why it was legible for one.

Something we did learn tonight was that The Ladykillers might be making an announcement soon, which I suspect will be that it’s returning to the West End, as rumoured last year.

Well, here’s to the next 12 months in the theatre. I’m merely guessing that the 2014 awards will be dominated by The Book of Mormon, Once, Sheridan Smith (once again) and David Walliams, and the Michael Grandage Company.

You can see the full list of winners by clicking here.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Ladykillers

Curve, Leicester
5th February, 2013 (also seen on 3rd November, 2012 at the Theatre Royal, Nottingham)

Graham Lineham’s stage adaptation of the 1955 Ealing comedy classic is now on tour after a successful West End run at the Gielgud. It tales the plan of five criminals who rent a room in Mrs. Wilberforce’s King’s Cross house to carry out a cash robbery, although their disguise as avant-garde musicians soon falls apart with farcical consequences. Although the story is simple, it is remarkably theatrical, clever and most of all thoroughly entertaining.

The characters are admittedly cartoons, so if you’re expecting Chekhov then you might be disappointed; however this play – just like the film –is billed as an entertainment. Paul Brown’s Professor Marcus excels as the so-called mastermind who tries to keep his clang of criminals and ultimately flawed plan together, as does William Troughton as the young, pill-popping Harry Robinson and Chris McCalphy as the slow One-Round who takes a shine to Mrs. Wilberforce. Clive Mantle, Cliff Parisi (Sean Williamson last year) and Marcus Taylor also impress at creating realistic caricatures – if such a thing can exist. Michele Dotrice is extremely watchable and does a terrific job at aging up without overplaying the role – I particularly enjoyed the line ‘we’re old, we’re up at 4.30’.

And it wasn’t until I read the programme that I realised what a clever play about England this is. It’s quite easy to recognise that it’s set in a time of great change in post-WWII London, but interpreting the characters as a representation of ‘new’ England invading Mrs. Wilberforce and her rickety, subsided house (representing an archetypal view of England) is quite genius.

Lineham’s script is brilliant: he includes moments of observational, surreal and slapstick humour as well as ably adapting the plot. Admittedly, I feel that it doesn’t quite reach the comic heights of Noises Off and it is perhaps an unconventional farce as these are not just any ordinary people in an extraordinary situation however it is more than satisfying and does conform to characteristics of farce in the sense that none of them want to be there (certainly in act two). Moreover, by giving the play a happy denouement, you feel all is well again and that the crumbling image of England has survived. Sean Foley ensures that the slapstick sequences are swift and actually funny and he has allowed for several fitting coups-de-théâtre, including a shaking house, impressive robbery re-enactment and several moustached old ladies!

As you walk into the theatre, the façade of the house sets you up for the story’s setting and the projection of The Ladykillers logo is fitting as it perhaps makes the play self-aware which is apt for an entertainment as well as it alluding back to its history in cinema. Michael Taylor’s design is probably the most absorbing and detailed of a play at the moment and Scott Penrose’s special effects are easily applaud-inducing when chairs and tables move and picture frames fall off walls (at least they certainly were on a Saturday matinee like when I saw it last year but not on a Tuesday evening interestingly). Special mention also goes to Ben and Max Ringham’s sinister music and sound design, which is instantly likeable as it becomes a motif to move the story along.

I do not hesitate to recommend this show as I’ve seen it with two other people of different generations and think it is one of the funniest and most visually impressive pieces of theatre in the UK at the moment. A return to the West End has been rumoured and a most welcome one it would be.

The Ladykillers is currently touring the UK.