running until 5 February
The Vault Festival has returned to its subterranean home under Waterloo station for a fifth year, once again fillings its buzzing spaces with a varied programme. My first taste of this year’s festival was Hip by Kriya Arts, a fascinating hour taking a peek into a stranger’s life, which reveals as much about the creator of the show as its subject.
As with previous Kriya Arts shows, this is an ‘extra live’ performance, meaning – in a similar way to a relaxed performance – the audience are free to make noise, move around and even take photos. We’re also encouraged to get actively involved in the shaping of the show, choosing which elements to explore and reading extracts of letters or diaries. It makes the whole feel of the show more relaxed and instantly draws the audience together in a united experience; as well as a more accessible kind of theatre, this also suits the show’s subject matter as we are invited into the living room of a squat, making our way into the building after an introduction outside The Vaults front entrance.
The semi-autobiographical show is created and performed by Jolie Booth and charts the timeline of her life alongside that of Anne Clarke, the previous inhabitant of her flat. Along the way, we discover similarities between the two women’s lives, but also the differences: the choices that each woman made and the consequences these had in their relationships, health and happiness. Booth is an engaging host, her honesty and openness creating a warm rapport between performer and audience and removing any of the fear of interactive theatre or audience participation. It’s also a fascinating insight into 1970s bohemian Brighton: Booth has researched her subject extensively and, by speaking to Anne Clarke’s family and friends, has built a touching history of a woman she never knew but feels close to. It’s a story of great sadness but also joy and humour and I found myself surprisingly engrossed by this woman’s fate.
At the heart of the show is the reminder that, behind every abandoned house or boxed-up belongings, is a whole life of adventures, joys and heartbreaks. While I do believe it’s important that theatre explores and tackles the big, punchy issues of the day, it’s also a delight to discover Hip: a show that evokes the complexities and influence of each individual in a tender and captivating piece of performance.
A tip: unless you’ve got a bad back, sit on the cushions at the front of the space for the best experience of the show.
Click here for more information.
running until 4 February
Michael Wade, Robert Moloney and Keith Stevenson (c) Gavin Watson
“Hillbilly comedy” Out On Fried Meat Ridge Road has gained such success at LA’s Pacific Resident Theater that it has spawned two sequels, but it’s perhaps a risk to bring it to London without an audience’s local knowledge of state stereotypes and American references. Yet for every mention of Mountain Dew or prog rock bands, there is a dose of warmth and farce that give this show universal appeal.
running until 31 December
Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens’s musical take on Dickens’s festive classic first premiered in 1994, and was performed annually in Madison Square Gardens until 2003. It’s a popular choice in London this year: while a concert version took place in the West End’s Lyceum Theatre on Monday, the Lost Theatre on Wandsworth Road have also chosen it as their family Christmas show.
Richard Lounds as Marley and Piers Garnham as Scrooge
Menken is best known for his work with Disney – Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast to name but a few – so it’s no surprise that the score is a highlight of this almost sung-through piece. The rousing opening number sets the warm, Christmassy London scene, and is the first sign that this production is at its strongest when the whole company perform together with gusto. There are some gorgeous voices amongst the cast, including that of nine-year-old Ella Tidbury who performs with assurance beyond her years. In particular, Joe Brown (Scrooge aged 18) and Natalie Morgan (Emily) show off beautiful vocals that blend well in their brief duet. Continue reading
It’s that time of year when we all start counting up the highlights of the year. On a global scale, this year has had rather more downs than ups, but luckily the theatre was there to transport us to other worlds. Here, in no particular order, are my favourites from the last 12 months.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Part 1)
I had to start with this. The theatrical event of the year, it felt like we were waiting for years before we finally got to see the result, but oh boy, was it worth the wait. Putting aside the cash-cow of having two separate plays (no-one is buying the “we just couldn’t fit it all into one play” argument…), this was a feat of theatre magic. From the utter nostalgic joy of reuniting with these much-loved characters, to the brilliant comedy by newcomers Anthony Boyle and Sam Clemmett, to the wondrous effects created by the illusions team – it was an all-round success and, put simply, just so much fun.
Groundhog Day, Old Vic
After the runaway success of Matilda the Musical, Tim Minchin returned with another new musical created with Matthew Warchus, new artistic director of the Old Vic. The result was a slick, sizzling and impressive production that was carried with huge energy by Andy Karl, and showed off a creative team at the top of their game. With a limited run, it’s only a shame that this new hit didn’t stick around in London for longer. With a Broadway transfer on the cards, let’s hope it comes back to town soon. Continue reading
There’s a week to go until Santa pays us all a visit – unless you’ve ended up on the naughty list – so if you’re panicking about what to buy the theatre-lover in your life, I’ve got a few ideas for you. And it’s definitely not a big hint about what I might want to receive on Christmas Day. Obviously not.
Tickets and tokens
The obvious starting point for any frequent theatregoer – it’s an expensive pastime, so help them out with a gift of tickets. But where to start?
If you’re looking for a big, sparkling musical, you can’t go wrong with the newest hit in town: in the gorgeous setting of the Savoy Theatre, Dreamgirls has finally had its UK premiere and by all accounts it’s a hot hit. For comedy, you can’t go wrong (although they do frequently…) with The Play That Goes Wrong, which cranks up the comedy until you’re crying with laughter. And if you need something to please all the family, check out the National’s Peter Pan – contemporary and cool, wistful and nostalgic all in one.
If you’re struggling to pick one, Theatre Tokens are a great way to give the gift of theatre without the pressure of choosing. Continue reading