Nicky Sweetland joins the team at London Theatre Bookings and The Theatre Café

London Theatre Bookings and The Theatre Café are delighted to announce that Nicky Sweetland has joined the company as a Sales and Marketing Executive.

The multi-award winning ticket agent – which opened The Theatre Café on Shaftesbury Avenue in 2015 – is hoping the appointment will further increase their online presence. By employing Nicky – who has worked as an entertainment journalist over the last three years for The London Weekly News, The South London Press, The Greenwich Weekender, Broadway World, Theatre.London and BBC Radio Kent – the company plans to implement an extensive schedule of live events in the intimate venue, including Q & As, Café takeovers and performances from some of the biggest stars of the West End.

The first live Q & A hosted by Nicky – with Tony Award Winner Kristin Chenoweth last month – gained over 15,000 live views and with the venue building in popularity with both stage stars and fans alike, the programme of special events is likely to gather a large interest.

Nicky Sweetland and Kristin Chenoweth

Nicky Sweetland commented, “I’m hugely excited to be working for London Theatre Bookings and I’m looking forward to putting the Theatre Café well and truly on the map. With our plans for more live Q & As, and events, The Theatre Café is going to become a destination for stagey aficionados from around the world, so keep an eye on our social media platforms and website for more details.”

Chief Operations Officer, Ryan Woods added, “I am so pleased Nicky has joined us to grow our social and web platforms across London Theatre Bookings and The Theatre Café. Nicky shares our passion and vision for The Theatre Café. January marks three full years the café has been open. We’ve achieved so much but there’s more to come; it’s very exciting! ”

 

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Review: ‘Christian Slater steals the show’ ★★★ Glengarry Glen Ross, Playhouse Theatre

I’m sure anyone who has experienced a career in sales understands that it’s no bed of roses. David Mamet’s classic play-which was first performed in 1983- highlights the struggle of a sales force, in which there is inevitably an ‘I in team’.

Glengarry Glen Ross highlights the plight of a group of real estate agents desperate to top the sales leaderboard, earn their commission and gain a bonus in an aggressive competition to ensure they close the deal and keep their jobs.

Washed up salesman Levene (Stanley Townsend) tries to convince office manager (Kris Marshall) to throw him some more leads, while Aaronow (Don Warrington) is pressured by oily Moss (the sinister Robert Glenister) to break into the office. But it’s the ruthless Roma (played by Hollywood star Christian Slater) who steals the show in this otherwise rather gentle production. His aggressive, yet charismatic portrayal perfectly pitches the juxtaposition having your colleagues as your competition.

The problem is that under the direction of Sam Yates we never really see the full depth of the characters and get to grips with their motivation. It all feels just a bit too superficial and some of the quicker dialogue sequences seem stunted and overly forced, which results in very little build up of suspense in act one.

Act two remedies that to some extent when we are invited into the office and the exchanges become more like realistic workplace banter, but I was left feeling like I wasn’t entirely sure what the point of it all had been.

Glengarry Glen Ross is running at the Playhouse Theatre until 3 February 2018

Ahead of the opening of Rules For Living at Rose Theatre Kingston, Ed Hughes takes our Sugar Rush

Ed Hughes has a string of stage credits to his name, but is perhaps best known for his television work, which includes appearances in Ripper Street, Drifters, The Honourable Woman and Wallander.

Ed will plays Adam in the English Touring Theatre, Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Rose Theatre Kingston’s production of Sam Holcroft’s Rules for Living, but took some time off from rehearsals to take our Sugar Rush Quiz. 

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What are you currently working on?

Rules for Living by Sam Holcroft, directed by the amazing Simon Godwin. A very funny play about a family gathering on Christmas Day where it all starts out well and rapidly deteriorates. I play Adam one of the sons. It’s a great part and the response from the audience has been pretty crazy with the amount of laughter. 

What is the one thing that has helped you to become successful? 

Perseverance and faith. There have been times when I have been out of work for extended periods and the doubts start to creep in, whether I will ever work again? Should I try something else? Just by keeping going, working on what I can control, and having faith that it will turn around it always has done. For every low moment it always balances itself out. Also being a bit stubborn helps at times! 

What is your favourite Book?

I have a few but 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I had never been to Colombia when I read it in my twenties and I found it magical and intensely moving. I never dreamed that I would see the world he paints. I then met my wife Andrea Pelaez who is a Colombian choreographer and have been many times, the book has always stayed with me. I have now read it in Spanish which took a while but was even more beautiful.

What are you currently watching on TV? 

Billions. I am a box set junky and on tour you have lots of down time in different towns or between shows so have been ploughing through “Billions”. I have always loved watching Paul Giamatti and Damien Lewis. I prefer shows that make you think not just entertain and this is a cracker.

Would you choose the cinema, theatre or a restaurant for a night out? 

Having a toddler means I haven’t gone anywhere very much. So right now am craving a night out at the cinema to see Blade Runner with my wife. When the tour of Rules for Living finishes this is the plan (if it’s still showing).

What’s your favourite sweet? 

I have a chocolate addiction going on so really anything I can get my hands on at times. If I had to pin it down then a pack of Giant Chocolate Buttons.

What did you want to be when you were a child? 

A cricketer. I played cricket for England U19 young colts so all my time was spent playing sport all over the place from the age of 14-19. But then I decided to go to Drama School at 18 and got into The Guildhall School of Music and Drama so that put an end to the cricket.

What was the naughtiest thing you did when you were a child? 

I grew up in the country near Ipswich so spent a lot of time with friends on farms we used to drive a Citroen 2CV around at the age of 12 and had air guns which was pretty crazy thinking back but a lot of fun at the time.

What is your proudest achievement to date? 

Playing Fred Silvester in the original production of This House at the National Theatre. We opened at the Cottlesloe Theatre (now Dorfman) and it kept growing from there to the Olivier and West End. It was a special play by James Graham and group of people with Jeremy Herrin directing. I felt very proud of the show and all we did.

What’s next?

I direct as well as act, so am directing A Chorus Line at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for their final year musical in January. We are in the design process at the moment and will start doing auditions soon. I always love to juggle multiple projects at the same time and to get the chance to work on a classic musical is a privilege.

 

Rose Theatre Kingston

7 – 18 November

Box office: 020 8174 0090

www.rosetheatrekingston.org

Review: ‘Frightening, fatalistic and yet alarmingly funny’ ★★★ The Exorcist, Phoenix Theatre

I have to say, most of the time I find everyday life frightening enough, so I’ve never been one to seek out terror. Having said that, I’m a big fan of the classic gothic horror The Woman in Black, which is still playing at the Fortune Theatre after 25 years.

Any hope of the new stage adaption of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist being remotely like the gentle Victorian thriller was dashed early on however and I spent much of the evening watching through my fingers as a disturbing commotion unfolded.

Frightening, fatalistic and yet alarmingly funny, The Exorcist is worth the ticket price for Clare Louise Connolly’s unbelievably apt performance as the possessed 12-year old girl Regan. Perfectly sweet and innocent to begin, before the demon really takes charge, Connolly’s transformation into a cursing sexual Satan is quite remarkable. And when she is miming the dulcet tones of Sir Ian McKellen (pre-recorded as the devil), I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself that Gandalf has changed a bit.

The staging effects (with design by Anna Fleischle, illusion by Ben Hart and lighting by Tim Mitchell) are also pretty impressive – with projections including a wall of rats to make your flesh crawl and a clever use of sectional tabs – although the reliance on blinder lights and loud noise is, at times, a little too much.

Having said that, director Sean Mathias has managed to capture the feel of the 1973 film, with enough fright, tongue-in-cheek humour and downright cheesy dialogue.

But some of the acting feels a bit wooden as a result, with a need for a greater build up of suspense and for the actors to not so obviously be waiting for the stage effects to come along. However, I’m sure that will come as they get into the run.

No, The Exorcist is not a high-class dramatic piece of theatre, but it is, nevertheless a highly entertaining night out.

The Exorcist is running at the Phoenix Theatre until 10 March.

Review: ‘Will leave you questioning your own mortality’ ★★★ Duet for One, Richmond Theatre

Society often discusses the meaning of the phrase ‘quality of life’ and more deeply the meaning of life itself, but for most, these are merely superficial hypotheses rather than issues meaningfully thought out.

Tom Kempinski’s two hander Duet for One – which is running at Richmond Theatre this week – seeks to investigate these theorems by giving us insight into what it’s like to have an important part of our lives taken away.

The play is set in a psychiatrist’s study (with all of the obligatory accoutrements, including a lavish chaise lounge, thanks to a majestic design by Lez Brotherston) and depicts a series of appointments with a former virtuoso violinist. Stephanie (Belinda Lang) has been a musician since a young age but after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, her glittering career has come to an abrupt end. The exchanges are disquieting and yet at the same time humorous in what feels like a competent and truthful journey of acceptance.

Lang is excellent as the spoiled performer, who initially tries to hide her grief for the loss of her vocation, while Oliver Cotton as Dr Feldmann spends more time reacting rather than acting until the final instalment, but when he launches into a dialogue about the meaning of life, comes into his own and displays some real sensitivity.

It takes a bit of getting going, with Lang’s character pretty unlikable for the most part but it’s worth the wait; act two is a really interesting character study which will leave you questioning your own mortality.

Duet for One runs at Richmond Theatre until 28 October.

Mel Giedroyc to star in Much Ado About Nothing at Rose Theatre Kingston

Mel Giedroyc will star in Rose Theatre Kingston’s centre piece of for their ten-year anniversary. Giedroyc will play Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing next April, reuniting with director Simon Dormandy following Luce at Southwark Playhouse in 2016.

Mel Giedroyc in Luce at Southwark Playhouse

Don Pedro is victorious. Having won a turf war down in the city, the Mafia overlord and his entourage take over the luxury spa hotel Messina in order to hide-out, party and recover deep in the Sicilian hills. As hotel owner Leonato fawns over his clan boss, his beautiful daughter Hero wins the heart of Claudio, the Don’s young protégé. Meanwhile the no-nonsense, customer experience manager Beatrice has unfinished business to attend to with Benedick, Pedro’s commitment-phobic consigliere. But when Hero is disgraced, the party is over, love turns to hatred and new battle lines are drawn.

Beneath its witty surface, Much Ado About Nothing is a powerful exploration of the struggle for love, identity and self-knowledge in a male-dominated world – as relevant today as ever before. Our production will use Shakespeare’s original language in a sharp contemporary setting that not only offers glorious opportunities for physical comedy amid the furnishings of a spa hotel but also provides a social context that enhances the darker themes in Shakespeare’s timeless masterpiece.

Executive Producer of Rose Theatre Kingston, Jerry Gunn said today, “We are delighted to be producing Shakespeare’s most popular comedy Much Ado about Nothing for the first time, and in our tenth anniversary year, with the superb Mel Giedroyc. I’m very excited to see Mel put her stamp on the role, and it is entirely fitting to have such a popular actress and performer playing Beatrice, something our Founding Artistic Director Sir Peter Hall would have been enchanted by.”

Director, Simon Dormandy commented, “A contemporary Sicilian setting offers the perfect social context for the play: an inflexibly patriarchal world, where daughters still marry as their fathers decree; a world brittle with honour and the law of vendetta; a south-Mediterranean world where a wedding is a major community event, and a shrine is still a place where magical things might just happen. Much Ado About Nothing is more than just funny: it is full of joy, a joy that springs as much from the overcoming of darkness by light – of brutal codes of behaviour by wit, imagination and love – as from wonderful jokes and sublime clowning.”

He added, “Not only a household name for her television presenting and comedy work, Mel is an outstandingly subtle, powerful actor, as well as a very funny one and we’re sure, an unforgettable Beatrice.”

Mel Giedroyc plays Beatrice. Her theatre credits include Luce (Southwark Playhouse), Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour (UK tour), The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Playhouse Theatre), Eurobeat (Novello Theatre) and New Boy (Trafalgar Studios). Television credits include The Sound of Music Live, Miranda, Sadie J, Sorry, I’ve Got No Head and The Vicar of Dibley. Presenting work includes Letterbox, The Great British Bake Off, Let It Shine, Horrible Histories, Eurovision Song Contest, Relatively Clever, Mel and Sue Show, The Gift, Now You See It, Collectaholics, Late Lunch and Light Lunch. Radio credits include The 4 O’Clock Show, Count Arthur Strong Series and The Mel & Sue Thing. Giedroyc has also appeared in many comedy television shows including Would I Lie To You?, Big Fat Quiz of The Year, 8 Out of Ten Cats and Richard Ayoade’s Travel Man.

Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing will run at Rose Theatre Kingston from 18 April until 6 May.

Review: ‘A nippy night out’ ★★★ Venus in Fur, Theatre Royal Haymarket

With more and more revelations surfacing about sexual exploitation in the world of showbusiness, the new production of David Ives’ Venus in Fur at the Theatre Royal Haymarket couldn’t be more relevant.

Starring Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer alongside David Oakes (Pride and Prejudice, Shakespeare in Love), the two-hander perfectly depicts the desperation felt by actors who may succumb to the casting couch in order to get on in the industry.  But the clever twist in David Ives’ play (directed by Patrick Marber) is the shift of power during a seemingly typical process.

The play centres on an actress, who although late for an audition, convinces the director to allow her to perform and what follows is an intricate game of cat and mouse, which is surprisingly funny.

Dormer is wonderful as the somewhat boorish Vanda; seamlessly moving from a wise cracking New Yorker to the well spoken English rose, to which we are more accustomed. In fact, the transition is so seamless that I found my ears were struggling to auto tune to the vast difference in accent, which occurred sometimes mid sentence.

Oakes on the other hand provides us with a much more sedate role, grounding the performance and allowing for flow to the dialogue, although at times the sexual chemistry between the pair is so electric, it derails the pace of the action altogether.

At just 90 mins straight through, it’s a nippy night out, but one that’s well worth the trip.

Venus in Fur is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 9 December.

Photo by Tristram Kenton

Mischief Theatre will return to the West End with Mischief Movie Night this Christmas

Mischief Theatre, the award-winning company behind The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, today announce their return to the West End with Mischief Movie Night, the improvised movie live on stage, which will play for a strictly limited season at the Arts Theatre from 13 December 2017.

Returning to their comedy roots, Mischief Theatre will bring the audiences’ genre, location and title suggestions to life complete with rewinds, fast forwards, directors’ cuts and a live score. The cast includes Josh Elliot as Not Sure, Dave Hearn as Uncertain, Harry Kershaw as No Idea, Henry Lewis as Don’t Know Yet, Ellie Morris as Couldn’t Tell You, Charlie Russell as TBC, Jonathan Sayer as Who Knows and Henry Shields as Guess Who. They will be joined onstage by musicians Chris Ash and Richard Baker.

Mischief Theatre was founded in 2008 by a group of graduates of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) and began as an improvised comedy group. Mischief Theatre performs across the UK and internationally with improvised and original scripted work. This Christmas Mischief Theatre will have three shows running in the West End. Their Olivier and Tony award- winning production of The Play That Goes Wrong is currently at the Duchess Theatre and running on Broadway; it will also complete a UK tour from January 2018. Their other production The Comedy About A Bank Robbery is currently at the Criterion Theatre. The company is led by Artistic Director Henry Lewis and Company Director Jonathan Sayer.

http://mischieftheatre.co.uk/shows/mischief-movie-night

Watch trailer for The Exorcist with Ian McKellen as the voice of the Demon

Ian McKellen will feature in the West End premiere of The Exorcist as the voice of the Demon.

From 20 October at the Phoenix Theatre, the stage adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s iconic best-selling novel will be unleashed onto the London stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted by John Pielmeier.

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop!”

When the medical profession fails to provide answers to young Regan’s strange symptoms her desperate mother Chris turns to a local priest for help. But before Father Damien can tackle what’s before him, he must overcome his own shaken beliefs, as this fight is for more than just one girl’s soul…

“I’m telling you that ‘thing’ upstairs isn’t my daughter…”

As previously announced, Jenny Seagrove will play Chris MacNeil opposite Peter Bowles as Father Lankester Merrin, Adam Garcia as Father Damien Karras, Todd Boyce as Doctor Strong, Elliot Harper as Father Joe, Isla Lindsay as Sharon, Mitchell Mullen as Doctor Klein, Tristram Wymark as Burke and Clare Louise Connolly as Regan.

Widely considered the scariest movie of all time, the film adaptation of The Exorcist sparked unprecedented worldwide controversy when it was released in cinemas in 1973. Winner of two Academy Awards, William Friedkin’s masterpiece saw audiences petrified to the point of passing out and went on to become one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

Multi award-winning Ian McKellen has had a 55 year long career on stage and on screen. For the Royal Shakespeare Company he has played Romeo, Macbeth, Iago and King Lear and at the National Theatre, has appeared in productions of Coriolanus, Richard III, Uncle Vanya and The Seagull. He gained his first Oscar nomination for Gods and Monsters and his second for Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is Magneto to Patrick Stewart’s Xavier in the X-Men movies,Richard III and most recently Mr Holmes. He is currently starring in King Lear in Chichester and was last seen on stage in London with Patrick Stewart in No Man’s Land.

The Exorcist starts performances at the Phoenix Theatre on 20 October

Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle to star in new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights at Wilton’s Music Hall

Matthew Kelly and Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights.

The original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the gloriously Christmassy surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.

Joining Kelly and Gabrielle as part of the stellar cast will be Mark Extance, Safiyya Ingar, Tom Kanji, Samuel Simmonds, Rosalind Steele and Alistair Toovey.

Matthew Kelly is an Olivier-award winning actor best known for television and stage acting and presenting family favourites Stars In Their Eyes and Game For a Laugh. Having appeared in several West End productions; Of Mice and Men, Waiting For Godot, Funny Peculiar and Sign of the Times to name a few, Matthew has most recently been appearing in Desire Under The Elms at the Sheffield Crucible. Three-time Olivier-nominated Josefina Gabrielle has appeared in countless West End shows, including Stepping Out, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Sweet Charity and Merrily We Roll Along. Her television credits include Miranda, Doctors, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and Heartbeat.

The original great British children’s literary classic, which has inspired authors from C S Lewis to J K Rowling, The Box Of Delights was reinvented as an award-winning BBC television show in the 1980s and became an instant cult classic, creating a fanbase of thousands around the world. This brand-new stage show, written by beloved children’s author Piers Torday whose work includes the bestselling Last Wild trilogy and new novel There May Be A Castle, tells the story of young orphan Kay Harker, the boy who must save Christmas. On the train home for the holidays he encounters an old magician, Cole Hawlings, who tasks Kay with protecting his Box of Delights, a wondrous device with time travelling powers. And so begins a tale of adventure that transports Kay through time and space, as he must protect the Box against Cole’s nemesis, the evil sorcerer Abner Brown.

Matthew Kelly says I couldn’t be more delighted to be returning to Wilton’s, a magical venue and the perfect setting for the Christmas classic The Box of Delights. How they will achieve the effects of snow, flood, talking animals, miniaturised children and flying cars in this exciting time-travel adventure I have no idea. If anybody can do it, Justin Audibert directing and Tom Piper designing can and that’s why I’m on board. Hurrah.’

Josefina Gabrielle says ‘I’m so excited to be joining the cast of The Box of Delights. And I can’t wait to see what this incredible creative team has in store for us in bringing this wonderful story to life at the very special Wilton’s Music Hall this Christmas.’

Packed with Christmas spirit, festive fun and magic, this classic family show is brought to life by an acclaimed creative team including Director Justin Audibert (Royal Shakespeare Company; National Theatre) and Olivier award-winning Designer Tom Piper and takes place in the wonderful Wilton’s Music Hall, a venue so Christmassy the smell of mulled wine positively oozes from the walls…

The Box of Delights will be at Wilton’s Music Hall from 01 December 2017 to 06 January 2018