My 2017 Theatre Review – Memorable Moments

I’ve already set out my favourite productions of 2017, so this post will look back on the my most memorable moments, whether a performance, a scene, or a personal experience during a show, these are the moments that I’ll remember most from the last 12 months of theatregoing.

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1. David Tennant declaring he was “magnificently f*ckable” as Don Juan in Don Juan in Soho!

A theatre year is always a little more special for me when Mr Tennant is on the stage and earlier this year he took on the lothario Don Juan. It may not have made my favourite productions list, but he had some wonderful dialogue, this being my personal highlight!

2. The continued excitement and joy of the audience at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Next spring Broadway will finally welcome the Harry Potter play to the stage (with me in the audience), but until then the only place to see it remains London and being lucky enough to return to see the show a few times this year (including the final show of the original cast and a trip to see the new one), I continue to love the atmosphere in the Palace Theatre. It’s one of the two happiest theatres in town and you can feel the buzz of excitement from everyone around you. It’s simply magical.

3. Realising about 15 minutes in to Hamilton that I was under its spell

The Palace is one of the two happiest theatres in town and since early December, the other is the Victoria Palace Theatre, now home to the mighty Hamilton. You can read my review and my end of year review for thoughts, but I will always remember the feeling of knowing that not only was the hype justified, but that I was watching something very special indeed.

4. Getting to see another of my favourite actors on stage for the first time

I made two trips to NYC this year, but the first was driven by one aim – to see Josh Charles on stage! I’ve been a fan of his film and TV work for quite a while now and couldn’t miss the chance to see him in The Antipodes at the wonderful Signature Theatre. And the cherry on the cake – getting a chance to speak to him afterwards, plus an autograph and photo. He was one of the most genuine actors I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak to and it made my trip!

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5. A final trip to Groundhog Day and frustration that Broadway didn’t appreciate it more

Poor poor Groundhog Day. If only it had stayed here in London. I know it’ll be back here soon enough, but I’ll always be a little sad that Andy Karl won’t get longer in the role of Phil Connors. He really was wonderful and I’m so pleased I had one last chance to see it earlier this year in NYC.

6. Ian McKellen bringing Gandalf back to life for a few minutes on stage!

In July, Ian McKellen helped raise money for the Park Theatre in London through a week of special performances on a one-man show about his life and career. It was a very special experience, the highlight being the opening: a pitch black theatre, Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score playing and the voice of Gandalf, as if back in the Mines of Moria, coming out of the darkness as McKellen walked on to the stage. Unforgettable!

7. Being on the front row of the first official performance at the new Bridge Theatre!

I’ve been looking forward to this new theatre opening ever since it was announced and being able to be at the first official performance (there were two soft opening performances put on early) of a new London theatre was quite a thrill. The smell of fresh paint and new leather and a whole new building to explore. I look forward to many more visits to come.

8. My front row seat experience for Network and having Bryan Cranston look me straight in the eyes from mere inches away

Network is on my list of favourites of the year and not only did I enjoy the play and its commanding lead actor’s performance, but this was made all the more special, when Mr Cranston ended up sitting behind me during one of the scenes, resulting in him giving a direct performance to those of us sitting around him for a few minutes.

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9. The brilliance of the final scene of Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road at the Trafalgar Studios

I won’t ruin it for those yet to see this lovely show, but the final moments were so clever and fun that it had me smiling long after I’d left the building. It’s a show that I’m so pleased I didn’t miss.

10. The OTT reaction of the Broadway audience to Bette Midler in Hello Dolly

Now, first things first, I enjoyed the show and I thought Bette Midler was fantastic, but what wasn’t quite as enjoyable was the reaction of the audience during the show. I know the NYC custom is to applaud the famous names on their first appearance on the stage (as annoying as I find it), but every time she appeared, everything she said or did, was met with prolonged applause and cheers. Ultimately it distracted me from the show and drove me crazy!

11. Witnessing Ben Platt sob his way through “Words Fail” in Dear Evan Hansen

Hello Dolly may have been a less than satisfying theatre experience, but the same couldn’t be said for Dear Evan Hansen (on both visits). I will never forget watching Ben Platt’s performance and Words Fail in particular, as he managed to sing so beautifully through sobs, as the audience sniffled along with him.

12. The thrill of the unexpected in Robert Icke’s Hamlet, particularly Laertes in that final duel

I’ve talked enough about how much I loved this production, but it was filled with moments that surprised me, despite having seen Hamlet quite a few times now. No moment sums up the freshness of this production more than when I realised that Laertes doesn’t want to have the duel at the end! I have never seen an interpretation where Laertes has had second thoughts and when asking for a new foil is wanting to swap the poisoned one for another. It changed how I saw that character and made the end so much more powerful. Such unexpected thrills at the theatre are what make it such a wonderful experience.

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13. The RSC’s sound effect of the year that made an auditorium gasp

I only made one trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon this year, which was to see the RSC’s latest production of Julius Caesar and the moment I have not been able to forget was the moment a young boy seemingly had his neck broken. Yes, I know nothing is real on stage, but the sound effect used to create the illusion of murder in that moment was quite shocking!

14. Andrew Garfield bringing a tear to my eye, as he bid the audience a final farewell at the last performance of Angels in America in London

I loved this production, as I’ve already mentioned in my annual round-up and it was very special to be in the audience for the last performance (I was in good company as Mr Cumberbatch was there too). It’s a powerful piece of theatre, but watching Andrew Garfield give those final lines as Prior Walter, talking directly to us, was something I’ll never forget: “The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come. Bye now. You are fabulous creatures, each and every one. And I bless you: More Life. The Great Work Begins.”

15. Experiencing the wonderful staging of The Great Comet from a stage seat

I didn’t love The Great Comet as a musical, but I could certainly appreciate the staging and the fun of the interaction with the audience when I watched the show from a banquette seat earlier this year. I wasn’t in a position to be picked on, thank god, but I did enjoy some fresh bread to eat and my own little egg shaker to join in with the percussion during the show, not to mention a close up seat for Josh Groban’s gorgeous singing!

16. My horror at the result of my audience’s vote on letting latecomers in to The Majority at the National Theatre

The Majority was a fun theatre experience, requiring each of us in the audience to engage directly in the journey of the performance through a series of votes on our keypads. The most horrifying for me? The narrow victory of those who voted to let latecomers in to the auditorium once the show had started! Fools!

17. My first ever time leaving a show at the interval

I know some people do this often, but I’ve never left a show early. I usually hold on, in the hope I’ll enjoy the second half more. However, on one trip this year, I just couldn’t face it. Ironically, Travesties was a show most people loved and many will no doubt say it was a travesty that I left, but it just wasn’t funny to me and I was bored. Maybe it caught me on an off day.

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So, what were your most memorable, personal theatre moments this year? I’d love to hear them and look forward to finding out what’s in store next year in theatre land!

Photo credits (besides me!): Don Juan In Soho = Helen Maybanks; The Antipodes = Joan Marcus; Groundhog Day/Hamlet = Manuel Harlan; Ian McKellen = Mark Douet; Network = Jan Versweyveld; Out There on the Fried Meat Ridge Road = Gavin Watson; Dear Evan Hansen = Sara Krulwich/The New York Times; Julius Caesar = the RSC; The Majority = Ellie Kurttz; Angels in America = Jason Bell; 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Theatre Review – My memorable theatre moments the year!

Having already chosen my top ten productions of the year and my favourite performances of the year, for my last 2016 theatre review post I wanted to look back on my most memorable moments at the theatre in the last twelve months. These are the moments that have stayed in my mind, whether a set, scene or personal experience while seeing a show.

The mind-bending set change at the end of Wild (Hampstead Theatre)

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I had heard so many people talk about the staging of Mike Bartlett’s Wild before I arrived at the Hampstead Theatre and that final set change was certainly a sight to be seen! Watching one set change in to another, much starker one was already impressive and then it started to rotate! I admit I was a little distracted from the actual scene itself. Top marks to the set designer and stage management team for this feat.

Watching the cast of Unreachable do all they could to make each other corpse during their final show (Royal Court)

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I’d hoped to see Unreachable twice, but had to miss my earlier trip, meaning my only visit was to the final show. Seeing the final performance seemed to heighten the hilarity, as a number of times the cast, particularly Jonjo O’Neil, were trying to throw their fellow cast members off. It was very very funny and one of the most fun trips I’ve had to the theatre.

My return to the wonderful world of Punchdrunk (Sleep No More, NYC)

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A Punchdrunk show is always an experience to remember and Sleep No More in NYC was no exception. From the first moments of making my way in to the venue in darkness, to exploring the eerie and intricate rooms and levels, where I sampled the sweets in the shop and leafed through the books on the shelves, right through to my own one-on-one experience with one of the cast, I had a great time. I only hope it’s still there on my next trip.

Genuinely feeling as though someone was behind me blowing in my ear at The Encounter (Barbican)

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From immersive theatre to sensory theatre with my trip to Simon McBurney’s one-man show The Encounter. Using special technology (including the head in the photo), he was able to transport us in to the rainforests of Brazil. The moment he had us close our eyes and then created the effect that someone really was behind my right ear, blowing on it, was astonishing. The possibilities for audience interaction in future shows is very exciting indeed if such experiences can now be created.

The magical illusions in Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Palace)

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The most eagerly awaited show on the planet was just as much fun as I’d hoped (and I’m not even a huge Potter fan) and one of the biggest thrills of the theatre year for me was seeing the illusions achieved in this production. I especially loved the entrance to the Ministry of Magic. The cast must be on skates or something  backstage to get from one part of the stage to another so fast! A treat for young and old alike.

Watching Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard from the centre of the front row (London Coliseum)

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Glenn Close as Norma Desmond was a performance I’d been looking forward to since it was announced and on seeing it, I just had to go back for a second time. I’m still amazed that this wasn’t a total sell out, but the fact that a week before, I was able to buy a front row ticket was unbelievable. Having Close stand so close to me and deliver that performance was a real thrill for me in 2016.

 

Saying goodbye to War Horse and Groundhog Day at their final London performances (New London and Old Vic)

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I was lucky enough to be at the final London performances of both War Horse at the New London Theatre and Groundhog Day at the Old Vic in 2016. The first show was closing after over nine years, during which it has delighted and moved so many audiences and it was lovely to hear author Michael Morpurgo’s words of thanks to its cast and crew. On the other hand, we’d barely had Groundhog Day in theatreland before it was off to prepare for Broadway. I loved the show (it’s my favourite of 2016) and being able to say a fond farewell to it, from the front row no less, was a joy.

Experiencing the enthusiasm of New York audiences for Shakespeare during the RSC’s King and Country tour (BAM, NYC)

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This year also saw my first trip to NYC since 2012 and it was filled with a great deal of wonderful theatre. However, one of the things that truly stood out was during my time at the BAM Harvey Theatre in Brooklyn, where the RSC was showcasing its King and Country cycle. Having seen it in both Stratford-Upon-Avon and London, I was surprised to experience the plays in a new environment. Antony Sher has talked about how the New York audiences were more enthusiastic and I agree with him. There was a new kind of excitement in the venue and lines received an audience response they hadn’t in the UK, which in turn had an effect on the actors. From chatting to other audience members, many had read the plays before coming and had a genuine enthusiasm for the plays. It was wonderful to be a part of it.

Being given a reminder of how precious time and life is by Gavin Plimsole (Greenwich Theatre)

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One of the new theatres I visited during 2016 was the Greenwich Theatre and I was rather moved by its show The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole. As we journey through the last part of Gavin’s life, depicted by marbles dropping through a chute after a certain number of heartbeats, the audience was reminded of how precious life is and how we should not take it for granted. At the end of the show, we each opened a box. Mine had a marble in it for me to keep. I have kept it in my handbag ever since. Sometimes it is the smallest shows that make the biggest impression.

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There were so many special moments for me in theatres this year, but those are the ten that have stayed with me the most as I sit here and reflect on the last twelve months. Next I’ll be looking ahead to the productions I’m most excited about in 2017, which I hope to post very soon. If you have some moments that have stood out for you, let me know about them in the comments!

 

 

Tips for First Time Visitors to the Palace Theatre or London for Harry Potter & the Cursed Child

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Prior to Benedict Cumberbatch opening Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre in London, I wrote a blog post providing what I hoped would be useful tips for the many fans travelling to London to see the show and visit the theatre, possibly for the first time, and a friend recently suggested that perhaps I should do the same for those coming from far and wide for Harry Potter & The Cursed Child.

So, below I’ve tried to include a few tips for directions, transport, places to eat, things to do nearby, tips for getting tickets and for when you arrive at the Palace for the show, as well as some Harry Potter-related suggestions (although I imagine most fans will have already planned those themselves)! I’ve also included links to maps and other useful information.

1. Getting There

The Palace Theatre is luckily in the heart of London’s West End and therefore there are plenty of ways to get to the show once you arrive in London. The nearest tube stations are:

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  • Leicester Square – Northern Line; Piccadilly Line (about 5 minutes away)
  • Tottenham Court Road – Central Line (about 5 minutes away)
  • Piccadilly Circus – Piccadilly Line; Bakerloo Line (about 10 minutes away)
  • Covent Garden – Piccadilly Line (about 7 minutes away)

The nearest train station is Charing Cross station. There’s a great map on LondonTown.com here: londontown-map and also others if you search “Palace Theatre” at: http://www.londontown.com/

A great resource is the Transport For London (TFL) website, on which you can plan routes and check on any tube closures / travel problems: https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey/

I also recommend downloading the CityMapper app to your phone, as it’s the most reliable route planning app for London. I use it every time I need to go somewhere new.

2. Still looking for tickets?

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If you haven’t been able to buy tickets, then don’t despair, as there are still ways of seeing the show during your time in London. Here are a few suggestions, plus visit the official website for more information: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/ticket-information/

  • Friday Forty – the least effort option is the weekly online lottery. Click on the enter button at 1 p.m. every Friday to be entered in to the ballot for £40 tickets for shows in the following week.
  • Weekly Premium Seat Release – a limited number of premium seats at £95 (or £190 for both parts) are apparently released weekly on the website, so keep an eye on it if you can afford the higher prices.
  • Popping by the box office / checking the website – If you are flexible as to when you go, then it’s worth calling or popping by the box office and checking if there are any odd seats available. I know someone who asked if there was anything at all for July and picked up a stray seat. This will clearly be easier for solo theatregoers or those willing to sit separately. Tickets also occasionally pop up on the website, so keep an eye on it and you may pick up last minute tickets that way.
  • Returns – the Palace has 1,400 seats so the chances of returns are good. Picking up a return will involve a queue, so take a flask of hot tea, a blanket, a stool and head for the theatre. I know people who’ve queued in the early morning for any returns released as soon as the box office opens. Others are also queuing during the day, where there is more chance to pick up returns the nearer it gets to the start of the show as people arrive with spares. The brilliant Theatre Forum now has a thread about the returns queue, which can help you keep up to date with people’s experiences: http://theatreboard.co.uk/thread/1408/harry-potter-cursed-returns-thread

3. Box office collection

If you need to collect your tickets, the box office is on the Shaftesbury Avenue side of the buildingg. I’d recommend collecting them earlier in the day if you can, as that will save you having to queue at the box office when you arrive for the show (as you’ll likely have to then join the queue to enter the theatre too)! Make sure you take some ID and the card you used to pay for the tickets when you go to collect them.

4. Arriving for the show – Get there with plenty of time before it starts (especially if you want to buy merchandise)

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I’m sure you’ll have seen that the theatre is recommending everyone arrive an hour before it starts. I’ll start by saying don’t panic if you think you’ll arrive with less time than that! We arrived there at about 6:50 p.m. and that in fact worked out better, as those who had already started queuing before the doors opened had largely already gone inside, meaning the queue was much smaller and was already moving. Once the Palace Theatre opens, the queue to enter moves very quickly, so I don’t see the point of queuing for ages before then.

I would however say that you should give yourself enough time before the show starts to buy any refreshments and to queue for the merchandise. The merchandise kiosk is located in the entrance of the theatre and due to the lack of space and to ensure everyone is served quickly, there is a queue for the kiosk. It’s very orderly as Palace Theatre staff direct you and don’t let anyone push in, so you’ll find yourself queuing for about 15 minutes down the stairs inside the theatre foyer. I’d recommend buying anything from the kiosk either before the show starts or at the end, as the interval may not give you enough time and you don’t want to be rushing. I would say, don’t read the programme or souvenir brochure until after Part 2 if you want to be absolutely spoiler-free (the lovely theatre staff will say the same too).

There are refreshments available to buy at the theatre, but I took a bottle of water with me and I’d recommend buying some water, just in case you start coughing during the show, as it’ll be better for you and those around you! If you want to buy drinks in the interval, order them before the show starts to save you having to queue at the bar later on. Also don’t forget that large bags aren’t allowed in to the theatre (no larger than 41cm x 31cm x 16cm), so don’t arrive with your suitcase.

5. Seating Plan

I’m sure by now you all know where you are sitting, but if you need a reminder have a look at the seating plan on the play’s website here: seating-plan-v2

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The lovely Palace Theatre!

 

6. Food & Drink

Being in the middle of central London means that there are places to eat and drink nearby that should suit all budgets. If you only want something quick, the usual suspects of McDonalds and Pret are practically opposite the theatre entrance. If you have more time, then you could walk the 5 minutes in to the heart of ChinaTown for Chinese food, which again doesn’t have to cost you too much at all. The Foyles bookshop around the corner (at 107 Charing Cross Road) also has a great café on the 5th floor which is another option (plus you can also wander around this brilliant bookshop too).

The Cursed Child website has also helpfully compiled suggestions for a range of cuisines at nearby restaurants, which you can find here: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/restaurants/

7. Stage Door

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For those keen to try and get an autograph from the actors after the play, then there is a stage door. It’s located on the corner of the theatre (the Greek Street / Shaftesbury Avenue side of the theatre). As you leave the theatre, go past the box office and you’ll soon spot the people waiting around the side door around the corner (see image above courtesy of http://www.aboutmaria.com). If you are in London for a few days, it may be worth trying for autographs on a day you haven’t seen the show. That way you aren’t rushing to leave the building and can time your arrival to just before the show finishes, giving you a better chance of being near the front of the crowd.

8. Things To Do nearby the theatre

I’m sure you all have lots of ideas for things to do during your time in London and there’s so many options (I live here and still haven’t done it all). Here are a few suggestions for nearby the Palace Theatre:

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  • Forbidden Planet – about a 5 minute walk from the theatre (179 Shaftesbury Avenue) is the home of sci-fi, fantasy, TV and film merchandise in London. Here, you can buy everything from books and comics to Funko Pops!
  • Covent Garden – There’s plenty to see in Covent Garden, whether you want to visit the Apple store, browse the market stalls or watch the street entertainers and soon its Christmas decorations will be up too. I also recommend exploring Seven Dials, which has lots of independent shops and places to eat.
  • Picturehouse Central Cinema & Café – about 10 minutes from the Palace (at the corner of Great Windmill Street and Shaftesbury Avenue) is the lovely Picturehouse Central cinema. Not only is it a great cinema, but it also has a fabulous café on the ground floor, with lots of seats. https://www.picturehouses.com/cinema/Picturehouse_Central

9. Other Harry Potter activities to do in London (because why not when you are here)!

 

If you are travelling to London to see the play, whether from elsewhere in the UK or abroad, you are clearly already a passionate Harry Potter fan, so this last section of tips may be old news to you. That being said, just in case, here are some other Harry Potter-related suggestions of things to do and see here!

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  • House of MinaLima – Just around the corner from the Palace Theatre (at 26, Greek Street) is the wonderful House of MinaLima; an exhibition and shop of the graphic art of the Harry Potter films, and other works, by the MinaLima studio. You can see props of books and letters used in the films, see the artwork of The Daily Prophet up close and even take prints home (or an exercise book in the style of those of the Hogwart’s students). It’s free to enter and open every day and will soon be adding a display from the new film Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them. http://store.minalima.com/house-of-minalima/
  • Warner Bros. Studios – I’m sure this is already on every visiting Harry Potter fan’s list. Located in Watford, the Warner Bros. Studios give you the opportunity to delve in to the film world of the series. See props, costumes and models and sample the Butterbeer too! See the website for more details: https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/
  • Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross station – a fun thing to do which doesn’t take too much time, is to visit King’s Cross station and get your photo taken pushing the luggage trolley through the wall! There is also a merchandise shop next to it for all your Harry Potter goodies. https://www.kingscross.co.uk/harry-potters-platform-9-34
  • Location spotting! – There are plenty of locations from the Harry Potter films to be found in London, from Leadenhall Market as Diagon Alley, to Hermione Granger’s  street in Hampstead. There is a great list of suggestions located at the Londonist website here: http://londonist.com/2016/06/harry-potters-London

So, hopefully this post has been useful and can be a resource before and during your trip. If I think of anything useful or there are any developments (such as tube strikes), I’ll update this post. In the meantime, feel free to read my spoiler-free review of the show.

I hope you all have a wonderful time!

Theatre Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! (Spoiler-free)

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The end of last week had been highly anticipated by my group of friends, as 11 months after buying our tickets, we were going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! Having managed to stay spoiler-free, we were all excited to see what direction these hugely popular characters would take almost 20 years after we last saw them. As a newcomer to the Potter phenomenon (having only just read the books and watched all the films this summer), this world created by  J.K Rowling was very fresh in my mind as I arrived at the Palace Theatre, ticket in hand.

I’m conscious that many others don’t wish to have the secrets told before they experience the show for themselves and so this review will avoid spoilers. If you want those, read the play script!

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the production and was relieved it, to a large extent, lived up to the hype. First and foremost, the acting is on the whole very strong indeed. I’m already an admirer of Jamie Parker (Harry Potter) and Noma Dumezweni (Hermione) due to their previous stage roles and they were both excellent as usual. Noma brings a strength and confidence that is perfect for Hermione, especially in the career we find her in at this stage of her life. Together with Paul Thornley as Ron, they are a great pairing and carry the spirit of Ron and Hermione to the stage. Ron is one of my favourite characters from both the books and films and Thornley is brilliant at conveying his ability to lighten the mood with a witty line. Crucially too, he and Noma have great chemistry.

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Jamie Parker as Harry Potter (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Completing the iconic trio, Jamie Parker is a superb Harry Potter. It’s not an easy role as in my view he isn’t an easy character (I admit, I find him a little irritating in the books), but Parker’s portrayal of Harry almost 20 years on, struggling to relate to his son and to be a good father is very believable. You see how everything he went through in his early life continues to affect him, but it’s also lovely to see him grow and heal as the story unfolds. Some of my favourite moments centre on Parker, particularly a lovely scene in Part 2 in which he turns to a portrait of Dumbledore for guidance.

I was also surprised by how much I liked Draco Malfoy, which is in large part down to Alex Price’s excellent performance. I found Draco fascinating, especially in later books, as the sense of his conflicted emotions between which side he really wanted to be on, came to the forefront. Here we see a man still haunted by his family’s past, who is determined to be the best father he can be to his only child. I also loved the tension between him and Harry.

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The Malfoys: Alex Price as Draco & Anthony Boyle as Scorpius

As for the younger cast members, we saw one of the understudies for Albus Potter, Tom Mackley. He may not be the lead actor in this role, but he was very good indeed; a lot like Harry as a child, in that he is a rather frustrating character at times, who is reminded by his friend Scorpius that he doesn’t have nearly as bad a life as he thinks! A lot of his most emotional scenes are with Parker and the two had a lovely on-stage relationship as father and son, which made you invest in them and hope they would find a way to see how much the other loves them.

The acting highlight for me though has to be Anthony Boyle as Scorpius Malfoy. He is simply brilliant in the role and the result is that he is by far and away my favourite character in the production (as was the case too for my four friends). Unsurprisingly, being Draco Malfoy’s son hasn’t made his life very easy and the friendship that forms and strengthens between Scorpius and Albus is genuinely lovely. I’m a sucker for stories about the power of friendship and so I found this element of the play particularly moving. Boyle brings so much to the role. He is clumsy, awkward, geeky, funny (his comic timing and mannerisms reminded my friend of a young Rowan Atkinson) and he grows so much from the nervous, introvert Albus meets on the Hogwart’s Express. I’m certainly already looking forward to following Boyle’s career following what is his West End debut.

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

The production’s effects and illusions, across both parts, by Jamie Harrison are fantastic, with certain moments still a mystery to me as to how they do it. The cast must do a lot of running backstage that’s for sure! For anyone worried that the magic of the wizarding world wouldn’t come across on stage, where effects have to be practical, fear not. There’s plenty of magic to marvel at on display. My highlight – the trick with the phone box entrance to the Ministry. It’s brilliant! There has clearly been a great deal of work involved in convincingly bringing a world where spells and magic are commonplace to life and it was much more impressive than I expected.

Christine Jones’s set is inventive, transforming from a busy train, to the staircases of Hogwart’s and even an underwater lake and the costumes too by Katrina Lindsay are a treat (special mention to Jamie Parker’s cloak – I want one!). Combined with some suitably atmospheric music by Martin Lowe and choreography by Steven Hoggett (the opening of Part 2 being a particular highlight), the overall experience is a joy to watch.

As for the story? Jack Thorne, John Tiffany and J.K Rowling have created a great new chapter in the Harry Potter universe and overall I enjoyed it, although the main goal that Albus and Scorpius are trying to achieve was one I didn’t initially see the point of (it’s hard to write much without spoilers). However, I liked how the past stories of books one to seven are interwoven wonderfully with this new beginning, as well as providing glimpses of the past that make you smile and the inclusion of a few much-loved (and in some cases, feared) familiar faces adds to the magical atmosphere.

If you don’t yet have a ticket, it’s certainly worth the effort to try and secure one (see below for some tips). If you are lucky enough to have tickets, then I’m sure you’ll have a truly wonderful time back in the world that J.K Rowling brought to life. You’ll laugh, you may occasionally be a tiny bit scared and you’ll also likely  even shed a tear or two too. Now I just have the challenge of getting tickets to go and watch it all over again!

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to run at the Palace Theatre. Tickets are largely sold out, but there are still ways to pick up a ticket if you are truly dedicated. Here are a few suggestions, plus visit the official website for more information: https://www.harrypottertheplay.com/ticket-information/

  • Friday Forty – the least effort option is the weekly online lottery. Click on the enter button at 1 p.m. every Friday to be entered in to the ballot for £40 tickets for shows in the following week.
  • Weekly Premium Seat Release – a limited number of premium seats at £95 (or £190 for both parts) are apparently released weekly on the website, so keep an eye on it if you can afford the higher prices.
  • Popping by the box office – If you are flexible as to when you go, then it’s worth calling or popping by the box office and checking if there are any odd seats available. I know someone who asked if there was anything at all for July and picked up a stray seat. This will clearly be easier for solo theatregoers or those willing to sit separately.
  • Returns – the Palace has 1,400 seats so the chances of returns are good. Picking up a return will involve a queue, so take a flask of hot tea, a blanket, a stool and head for the theatre. I know people who’ve queued in the early morning for any returns released as soon as the box office opens. Others are also queuing during the day, where there is more chance to pick up returns the nearer it gets to the start of the show as people arrive with spares.

 

 

 

 

Ticket Release Reminder – Harry Potter & The Cursed Child

harrypottercc.jpg

Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past few months, you will be aware that the next chapter in the story of Harry Potter is currently delighting audiences in London’s West End (I’ll see what I think when I go in September).

However, if you weren’t able to nab yourself some of the 170,000 tickets that went on sale last time, then this post is a reminder that a further 250,0000 tickets are released tomorrow!

Here’s what you need to know before tomorrow morning! Good luck Muggles!

  • Tickets are being released for performances from 27 May-10 December 2017
  • Tickets go on sale via the official website at 11 a.m. (BST) tomorrow (4th August)
  • The website will be operating an online queuing system, which will open at 10 a.m. Just head to the website from 10 a.m. to be placed in the queue (at random, so if makes no difference if you join at 10:01 or 10:58 a.m.). You can of course still join the queue after 11 a.m.
  • At 11 a.m., tickets will go on sale and you’ll await your turn (watching the little wizard walk along the queue status bar if it’s like last time)!
  • Once you are in, if it’s like last time, there will be symbols showing the availability of each date. If you are flexible, I’d scroll down to those with the best availability, as you are then more likely to secure seats than fighting over earlier dates with fewer seats to go around.
  • No need to think about where to sit. Just decide on your price band in advance. To speed up the process, the system will automatically allocate you the best available for your chosen date.
  • Booking is limited to 6 per transaction (that’s 6 sets of tickets to see both parts 1 and 2).
  • If online is not an option for you, call +44 0330 333 4410.

In case it’s useful, here is a link to the theatre’s ticket infographic chart – Infographic Chart

There used to be price banding chart when deciding what seats you want to go for – it seems to have disappeared, so perhaps it’s changed a little, but in June it was roughly that the cheapest two bands were only available in the balcony, with the circle and stalls being the higher bands.

I hope that’s useful! Let me know how you get on!

Theatre To See in 2016!

2016 has arrived, so it’s the time of year for theatregoers when we start planning all the shows we need to book for the new year, while pondering what rumours are circulating as to productions that may arrive during the next twelve months. This post has been a great way of organising my own theatregoing, as I see what I’ve yet to book while compiling this list of recommendations! 2015 was an excellent year for me for theatre (read my review of the year here) and I certainly hope 2016 proves to be even better.

So, here are the productions I’m most looking forward to in 2016. I am planning a New York trip in April, but as I’m not yet sure what I will be seeing this list is purely a UK selection and admittedly mainly London-based (although I plan to get to regional theatre more again this year).

16 to see in 2016

1. Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close (London Colesium – 1st April – 7th May)

2311The forthcoming production of Sunset Boulevard is my most anticipated show of 2016 so far. It’s a musical I’ve never seen, I’ve never been to the London Coliseum before (this year I’m determined to visit more theatres) and it means I’ll get to see Glenn Close, an actress I greatly admire, on stage. Returning to a role she played back in 1994 on Broadway, tickets for this production’s five week run have been incredibly popular since going on sale last year, but there are still some available.

2. Richard II (with Mr Tennant returns) (Barbican – 7th – 22nd January)

David-Tennant_2705271b.jpgAlthough I’ve already seen this production during its last run in 2013, as a huge fan of Mr Tennant, especially for Shakespeare (something he seems to effortlessly make modern and accessible to all), I had to include this return of Richard II to the Barbican as part of the King & Country cycle. I am rather sad that Oliver Rix is not returning as Aumerle (who I thought was truly superb last time), but Samuel Marks will no doubt do a fantastic job in his place. Tickets are sold out for the individual performances, but returns are worth looking for.

3. The Encounter by Complicite (Barbican – 12th February – 6th March)

hqdefault.jpgAnother production coming to the Barbican which has been on my radar for some time is the latest work involving theatre company Complicite. Directed and performed by Simon McBurney this solo show will transport the audience to the Amazonian rainforest, through sound design to weave McBurney’s story with that of Loren McIntyre, a photographer who became lost in the Amazon in 1969. This wouldn’t normally be my type of theatre, but anything involving Complicite (whose A Disappearing Number and Master and Margarita in 2010 and 2012 respectively I loved) will get my attention. I’m sure this will be a unique experience.

4. People, Places & Things (Wyndham’s Theatre – 15th March – 4th June )

40e2193f-8439-49f5-b0f3-fbe90f755702-2060x1236.jpgAfter missing this highly regarded production during its initial run at the National Theatre, I’m thrilled it has a second lease of life in the West End. A new collaboration between the National and Headlong following Earthquakes in London and The Effect, the play introduces us to Emma, currently in rehab, but who thinks it’s the rest of the world that has the problem. I’ve heard nothing but positive comments about this play and the performance of its lead Denise Gough, so I’m looking forward to seeing this at the Wyndham’s.

5. No Man’s Land (Venue TBC – September)

NM6.jpgThis play was on my list for 2015, in the hope it might arrive by the end of the year. That didn’t happen, but in their New Year’s Eve video message, the dynamic duo of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen announced that this production (which played with Waiting For Godot in New York in 2013) would be in London this September. They are both such wonderful actors, but there is something very special seeing them together. If I enjoy this half as much as Waiting For Godot in 2009, I’ll be very happy indeed.

6. Uncle Vanya (Almeida Theatre – 5th February – 26th March)

unclevanyatopThere is so much about this production which makes it a top choice for 2016. For a start, the ensemble cast contains some brilliant talent including Vanessa Kirby (most recently of the Young Vic’s Streetcar) and Tobias Menzies (whose one man performance in The Fever last year was superb). On top of that is the involvement of Robert Icke, whose production of Oresteia last year topped virtually every theatre list of 2015 (including mine). As with that play, this will be a new interpretation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya by Icke, which he will also direct. Expectation as to what he will come up with next is incredibly high, so I hope this delivers.

7. After Miss Julie (Theatre Royal Bath – 24th – 28th May, followed by a tour)

2F77458900000578-3365133-image-m-3_1450399607098.jpgI’ve only seen one previous production of this August Strindberg play, which was the Young Vic’s 2012 version starring Natalie Dormer and it was one I have not forgotten, due to the power of the story and the emotionally charged atmosphere in which it takes place. As that production was also based on the adaptation by Patrick Marber to be used here, I’m thrilled to be able to see it again, with Helen George in the main role. Known to most through Call The Midwife, this role will give her room to show a very different side and I’m looking forward to seeing this in Bath or during the subsequent tour.

8. Nell Gwynn (Apollo Theatre – 4th February – 30th April)

cw-9336-medium.jpgAnother production I was sorry to miss last year was Nell Gwynn at the Globe. Although there has been a change of lead actress (with Gemma Arterton replacing Gugu Mbatha-Raw), I’m very much looking forward to a show which many people I know said was a highlight of their theatre year and learning more about the woman who went on to become Britain’s most celebrated actress (and mistress to King Charles II).

9. The Master Builder with Ralph Fiennes (Old Vic – 23rd January – 19th March)

18564_show_landscape_large_01.jpgThe first 2016 production for the Old Vic looks to be very promising, seeing Ralph Fiennes in the lead role of this Ibsen play. After seeing his brilliant performance in Man & Superman last year, I can’t wait to see Mr. Fiennes on stage again and in this new adaptation by David Hare (most recently having enjoyed success both in London and New York with Skylight), it should be very memorable.

10. The Nap (Sheffield Crucible – 10th – 26th March)

100112.jpg.pngAfter the success of One Man, Two Guvnors, this is the new comedy from Richard Bean. If that wasn’t enough to get excited about, it’s directed by actor Richard Wilson and stars rising British Hollywood star Jack O’Connell as a young, Sheffield-born snooker player. As this is running in the home of snooker at the Crucible I imagine this will add to the atmosphere of this production and is a fantastic part of Sheffield Theatres wonderful 2016 season.

11. Herons by Simon Stephens (Lyric Hammersmith – 15th January – 13th February)

Herons_Lyric-Hammersmith.jpgAs it’s been 15 years since this play by Simon Stephens was last in London, I have yet to see it and although I find his work a bit of a mixed bag of enjoyment (last year’s Carmen Disruption was not for me), he’s a playwright whose plays I will always book a ticket to see. Described as an unflinching and incendiary play, I imagine this will not be an easy one to watch, but I hope it will be as powerful as some of his other plays that I have loved.

12. Elegy (Donmar Warehouse – 21st April – 18th June)

Elegy-background-new-2.jpgThis is the only show I have booked for the new Donmar season and the reason is I’m very much looking forward to seeing the next play by Nick Payne, whose constellations has done so well on both sides of the Atlantic in recent years. Set in a near-future where advances in science mean it’s possible to “augment and extend life”, I’m expecting this to be a thought-provoking production.

13. Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre – currently booking 27th May – 1st October)

Show_Aladdin.jpgAlthough I do tend to see more plays than musicals, I’ve been looking forward to the arrival from Broadway of Disney’s Aladdin, which had been on my list of things to see in NYC. A Disney musical done well is always good fun and Aladdin already has the advantage of having a strong set of songs from start to finish.

14. The Deep Blue Sea (National Theatre, Lyttleton – TBC, June 2016)

tumblr_inline_nutq4yD38Y1rdh6ct_500.jpgTerence Rattigan remains one of my favourite playwrights and I very much enjoyed the last production of The Deep Blue Sea that I saw in Chichester in 2011. Very little is known yet about this forthcoming production at the National, which will be directed by Carrie Cracknell (whose A Doll’s House at the Young Vic was superb), but I’m certainly hopeful for some wonderful casting. Watch this space.

15. Harry Potter & The Cursed Child (Palace – begins May)

Harry-Potter-Cursed-Child.jpgI admit I’m not a Harry Potter fanatic and booked a ticket for this play more out of curiosity than anything else. It’s already had record-breaking ticket sales and is booking until mid-2017, so there is certainly a lot of expectation surrounding the next instalment in J.K Rowling’s universe, set 19 years after the last book. I am very excited though about the recently announced casting, as Jamie Parker has been one of my favourites for a few years and Noma Dumesweni is a brilliant actress. This is already set to be the most discussed and anticipated show of the year.

16. Pink Mist (Bush Theatre – 21st January – 13th February)

Pink-Mist-at-Bristol-Old-Vic_-Photo-by-Mark-Douet-I80A5019-2000x1333After receiving superb reviews last year at the Bristol Old Vic, it’s wonderful that Owen Sheers play, looking at the mental scars of war is coming to London. Inspired by interviews with retired servicemen, Pink Mist centres on three young men, deployed to Afghanistan, but whose greatest challenge is then returning to their old lives and loved ones after all they have experienced. I expect this to be an incredibly emotional and profound piece of theatre, which in the current world  will have an even bigger impact on audiences.

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Rumours….!

As with any year, there are certain rumours swirling in the theatre air about possible productions arriving in 2016 and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the ones below over the next few months.

1. Finding Neverland (TBC)

1275-b444e46ec9eae9dba52deacc5e5cc4e3.jpgI thoroughly enjoyed the film Finding Neverland and have been hoping this musical adaptation would make its way to London at some point. Nothing has been formally announced yet, although Gary Barlow has said it will be in London this year, so this looks very likely indeed. Those who I know have already seen it in New York were very positive about it and with music and lyrics written by the incredibly talented Mr. Barlow, I’m hopeful this will be a very enjoyable night at the theatre.

2. Colin Morgan in The Pillowman

97978.jpgMartin McDonagh’s latest play, Hangmen, is currently enjoying great success during its West End transfer and so it would be the perfect time to bring one of his earlier plays back to the stage. Rumours last year suggested The Pillowman may indeed make a return, with Colin Morgan linked to the production. I have only ever seen the grainy National Theatre recording of their 2003 production in their archive, but it’s a testament to the power of the piece that it’s still stayed with me. It’s certainly a disturbing and dark play, but I would certainly like the chance to see it live.

3. The Young Chekhov season from Chichester to the National?

Anna-Chancellor-and-Samue-010.jpgThis triptych of plays was one of the theatre events I was most sorry to miss last year and therefore I’m hoping the rumours of a transfer to the National Theatre prove to be true. In his new adaptations for the Chichester Festival Theatre, David Hare chose to stage two lesser known Chekhov plays (Platonov and Ivanov) in a season with The Seagull. It had a wonderful ensemble including Anna Chanellor, Sam West and Olivia Vinall and the reviews were all excellent. All my fingers are crossed for a second life for these productions in 2016.

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Catch Them Before They Close….!

1. The Dazzle (FOUND 111) – until 30th January

Although there are now only day seats and returns available, it’s certainly worth making the effort to try and nab a ticket for this new play, housed at the top of a warehouse-style building on Charing Cross Road. A story which imagines what the lives of two famous New York hoarders and recluses must have been like, Richard Greenberg’s play is powerful and emotional and contains two superb performances by two of Britain’s best young talents (Andrew Scott and David Dawson). Read my full review here.

2. Hangmen (Wyndham’s Theatre) – until 5th March

As I’ve already mentioned above, this Martin McDonagh play has been widely praised by both critics and theatregoers since it first opened at the Royal Court. After seeing it on its transfer to the West End, it easily made my top ten of 2015. With a brilliant script, wonderful sets and superb acting (particularly Johnny Flynn’s performance), this should be one on everyone’s list for early 2016. Read my full review here.

3. War Horse (New London) – until 12th March

It seems incredible that War Horse is closing in London. It’s become such a fixture since its premiere at the National Theatre in 2007 and move to the New London in 2009, that I expected it to be there forever. Sadly however the show will close on 12th March, before embarking on a UK tour in 2017. There’s certainly something very special about seeing Joey live. He may be a puppet, but the skill of the operators and the beauty of the story means that that is irrelevant. If you haven’t got round to going or want to see it again, make sure you book while you can. I already have my ticket for the last performance.

4. Billy Elliot (Victoria Palace) – until 9th April

Another long-standing show closing in early 2016 is Billy Elliot, which has played at the Victoria Palace Theatre for over ten years. After such a successful film, it’s wonderful that the musical adaptation has been received with such warmth over the years. If you’ve yet to experience the story of a young boy’s love of dance, you have until early April to book your ticket. It is eight years since I last saw the show, so I’ll definitely be visiting one last time before then.

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So, hopefully there will be something within my recommendations to appeal to you (or maybe even more than one). I’d love to pick up some more tips for myself, so do leave a comment about what you are excited about seeing in 2016. Happy theatregoing everyone!