Archive | June, 2017

john Bucchino and friends

30 Jun

AT THE St James Studio 2013
John Bucchino is a charismatic and hugely talented multi award winning Broadway composer who writes songs about relationships.Some sentimental – some cynical – many of them heart breaking. The nearest thing we have these days to my particular hero, Lorenz Hart.
Bucchino’s songs have been recorded by Art Garfunkel, Liza Minnelli, Patti Lu Pone, Barbara Cook, Michael Feinstein – the list goes on. I know Michael Feinstein will not object to being quoted here. His songs are ‘continuing the evolution of classic American popular song’ You just have to read the titles of the songs to get that feeling of anticipation, knowing there is going to be something heartfelt – a universal emotional high. “That Smile”, “I miss you when you’re here”, “Contact High”, “Don’t ever stop saying I love you”, “I’ve learned to let things go”. The experiences of each song are so different but so acutely observed and recognisable to anyone who has ever been in love.
Last year I missed his performance when he appeared at the St James Studio to rapturous applause in his sell out concert – this year I was determined to be there to see his work performed by 10 established first class singers.
There are some highlights for me Jonny Barr sings ‘If I ever say I’m over you’ a song that drags the tears out of your heart. “One white dress” sung by Sophia Ragavelas – about a tomboy who is getting married and her reaction to her wedding dress is pure ecstasy. Matthew Barrow sings an up tempo number “Painting my kitchen” (many coats of colours). Danish singer causes gasps of admiration the minute he appears because of his handsome appearance – which is matched by the beauty of his singing voice.
John himself sings the most amusing song about his vengeance on an ex lover “On my bedside table”
A privilege to spend a Sunday afternoon with this enchanting man!
Performers include John Barr, Amelia Cormack, Sophia Ragavelas, Matthew Barrow, Ashley Robinson, Christian Lund, Phoebe Coupe, Linnea Stenbeck, Suzanna Kempner, Belinda Wollaston & Hila Plitman.

James Bonney MP

22 Jun


By Ian Buckley
AT THE White Bear Theatre, Kennington.
Described in the blurb as a Swashbuckling moderate, James Bonney is a labour politician who doesn’t know his left from his right – he obviously swept into parliament during the Blair era. He is baffled by Malcolm R ose (Ciaran Lonsdale) an ardent supporter of Socialism who is living with his dearly beloved daughter Kate( Ellan West)– a girl who loves her rich and popular Daddy as much as she loves her Socialist boyfriend – and Yoga. It must have been a shock to him in the same way as Jeremy Corbyn was to the Blairites in the labour party.
To complicate things further, James Has a loving and trusting wife Christine (Karen McCaffrey) who even cleans his office for him – I think it’s his office, the scenery is discombobulating as I will explain in a minute. But he is also having a torrid affair with Jennifer, his secretary, played by Louise Tyler. He gets an email which accuses him of the misdoing. and James is worried that if a scandal gets in the Red Tops he will not get his expected seat in the cabinet. The bearer of the bad news is his Agent George Jenner who is of course in love with Christine. So there are complications within complications.
The reason for my discombobulation is that Buckley has decided to write this play in very short scenes – as if it was a television script. In that way, it is very confusing mainly because Oscar Selfridge the set designer has invented a highly complicated arrangement of doors and screens which the actors operate themselves, so the only convincing performances they can give is that of scene shifters. as we are too distracted by them moving stuff around to concentrate on the dialogue. I’m sorry but this was a totally daft idea and the director, Georgia Leanne Harris, should have had the sense to prevent it happening
In Act two, the scenes are longer and there is lots of fun – a dramatic scene between Kate and Malcolm, and a madcap venture from Christine in revenge for her desertion . Yes, there are laughs in Act Two and it’s worth coming back after the interval. Like so many comedies, there is a lot of setting up to do in Act one. So please can we lose the scenery and allow us to watch the play and enjoy the dialogue and the performances.
If it was just Act two I would give it four stars. I think it has the makings of a very funny play.

the kite runner

22 Jun


Adapted by Matthew Spangler
From the novel by Khaled Hosseini
Life in Kabul before the revolution was serene and secure. There were religious problems between the Sunni and the Shi-ite, but these did not concern the two boys who played happily together and practised their expertise at kilt flying. Every year there was a celebration of kite flying and the one who won the competition was the champion of the year. Amir was keen to win to please Baba, his father, a seriously rich merchant, handsome, courageous and a kind of hero to his son. The other boy and the kite runner was Amir’s friend Hassan, and son of Ali, Baba’s dearly beloved servant.
Amir loved and feared his father but Baba was ashamed of him, because he wasn’t strong and brave – all he wanted to do was write stories. He only got encouragement from Rahim Khan who appreciated the boy’s talent.
Hassan saves Amir from danger and suffers for it leading to a lifetime of guilt for Amir. As the years go by, the revolution happens, the soviets invade Kabul and Baba and Amir escape to Pakistan and eventually to San Francisco where they start a whole new life with Amir’s new wife Soraya. It is here that Amir learns that the Taliban has arrived in Kabul and have banned kite flying. This and a letter from Rahim Khan saying he should come back to Kabul, makes up his mind to return.
David Ahmad has taken over the leading role of Amir and acts as narrator of the family history so is onstage throughout the evening. During the length of the show he manages to extract every ounce of honest feeling and Andrei Costin performs perfectly the humility and courage of his friend Hassan.
Probably one of the most handsome man in the business is Emilio Doorgasingh who plays Amir’s glamorous father. If ever Omar Sharif needed a double, here he is. Karl Seth plays he kindly Rahim Kahn along with other roles. Lisa Zahra plays the beautiful Soraya and shows off her dancing skills accompanied by Hanif Khan who creates a haunting atmosphere as he underscores the entire play with his expertise on the drums. It is worth getting to the play early hear his overture which he plays a half hour before the beginning of the show.
The setting is memorable as it comprises a stark background of tree stumps which changes easily into sky scrapers for the American scenes and for more lavish settings there are two vast decorated fans that unfurl and cover the whole of the stage.
Of all the shows in the West End, The Kite Runner is the most thrilling, spellbinding, and heart-breaking. I saw a hard man leaving the theatre with tears pouring down his cheeks – and he was not the only one. We love these characters so much and we want things to go well for them. Their whole lives are laid before us and the characterisations are so perfect that we fall in love with every one of them – well maybe not the psychopath Assef, played by Bhavin Bhatt with real menace and yet without melodrama. (He and his cohorts play jolly Afghanistan refugees in San Francisco in a different section of the play.)
It is perfectly directed by Giles Croft, and the exceptionally beautiful design is by Barney George. Everything works well together.
Here is a show that should run forever. As well as the main themes of Guilt, Atonement and familial relationships, there is so much to learn about Eastern cultures, the people’s attitudes to each other and shows how intolerance can lead to tragedy.

12 Jun

the battered husband

the red death and fall of the house of Usher

10 Jun


Adapted from the stories of Edgar Allan Poe

At the Brockley Jack Theatre


The Red Death involves Prince Prospero who, like his Shakespearean namesake gathers a group of people and locks them away from plague ridden civilisation persuading them that he is saving them from dying in a horrible, messy way as victims of the Red Death.  They all think they are having a lovely time dancing and being entertained, not knowing what Prospero’s evil plan is going to be. There is some interesting choreography by the director Omar F Okai but this is not an easy play to stage. There is no real drama until the very end so Simon James Collier in his adaptation keeps us interested with stories of the scandals of his guests, some with titles some with money – all wanting what is best for themselves. We get a glimpse of his mind when young man – Lord Usher tells of his interest in Christianity.

The second play about the House of Usher has much more dramatic content. Winthrop (James McClelland) is a young man who arrives at the House of Usher and meets the master of the house Roderick Usher (Zachary Elliott-Hatton). Winthrop is looking for Madeline (Nell Hardy) the girl who left him at the altar.  He has been searching for her and has tracked her down to this house. Roderick has imprisoned her in an upstairs room and the young suiter is constantly goaded by ghosts of previous members of the family all of whom have died young due to a curse put on the house of Usher. Madeline is destined to be one of them but he tries to take her away and save her from the curse.  This story was adapted by Adam Bechamel and directed by Maud Madlyn.

There is a very young cast who double up in both plays and they all work effectively, having absorbed well the atmosphere of melodrama, especially as the guests of Prospero and the lovely wafting ghosts who accompany Winthrop wherever he goes. Prince Prospero is played by the very elegant Cristinel Hogas who also plays one of the Usher ghosts.

This double bill is great fun and the lighting and sound effects are wonderfully creepy.


4 Jun


By Silent Opera supported by the ENO

At the Vaults  Waterloo Station

Daisy Evans, Stephen Higgins and Max Pappenheim have constructed a reimagining of Janacek’s classic opera ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ creating a metaphor of life in the current day Streets of London.

Forester is a man who loves his beer – he is out on the town when he sees a teenage red- haired beggar and is fascinated by her. This is Vixen, a homeless girl with a Vixen tattoo on her chest who survives by the generosity of people on the streets of London.  Forester takes her home and feeds her, but his family is consumed with jealousy and she is assaulted sexually by members of his family. Vixen runs away, taking Forester’s wallet.

She uses the money to build herself a shanty. She meets Fox who manages to overcome her fear of love and they marry.

Forester who is obsessed by the memory of her tries to seek her out and hires a detective to find her and bring her home. He finds her and all ends in tragedy.

Is it possible to have immersive opera? And yes o course it is. It has been provided in the Vaults underneath Waterloo Station. The action takes place with two principal singers Ivan Lyudlow as Forester and Rosie Lomas as Vixen plus five singer/musicians  and all are scattered among the audience.  The audience is moved several times – from the bar, through the auditorium into the Forester’s kitchen and the final part is in the theatre.

But the real adventure of this production is the production of earphones which are handed out to each member of the audience so that they get an exact representation of the words and music as the whole congregation including the actors are moving around the building. The earphones are comfortable and one forgets about them as soon as the production begins – they also help to drown out the sound of the trains rumbling above.

The singing is of course wonderful and the cast give it their all, bringing out the drama of the situation. I did feel however that the singers were all perfect in their rendition of both the words and the notes and were powerful enough to fill the building with sound, without the need of earphones.  A bit of a gimmick in fact. But it did all add to the fun.  A great adventure that should not be missed.