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

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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

Slava’s Snowshow will return to London’s Southbank Centre for an unprecedented fifth season

The multi-award winning international sensation Slava’s Snowshow returns to the UK this autumn commencing its 2017 journey at the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff on Tuesday 17th November, with a national press night on Wednesday 18th October. The show tours to Salford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Norwich, Bristol and Southampton before making a return to London’s Southbank Centre for an unprecedented fifth season of festive magic from 18th December – 4th January.

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A combination of theatrical clowning and stunning visual spectacle, Slava’s Snowshow is performed by a world-renowned company of clowns led by Slava Polunin, Artistic Director of the St Petersburg Circus.

Slava’s Snowshow is the internationally acclaimed winner of the Time Out, Olivier and Drama Desk awards for most unique theatrical experience. Now in its 25th  year since its inception, it had its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Festival in 1994, and has since toured all over the country, delighting audiences of all ages and winning an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment during its run at the Old Vic in 1998. The show’s popularity overseas has seen it performed in 80 cities around the globe including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro and Moscow.

Ahead of the opening of UK Slava Polunin visits the UK to launch his new book Alchemy of Snowness. The publication explores Slava’s role as an artist, a creator, a performer, and of his Snowshow, the theatre spectacle that has entertained, enchanted and touched audiences worldwide. The book traces Slava’s artistic journey and exhilarating exploration in his creation of “a show that would bring us back to our childhood dreams; a show which would help spectators be released from the jail of adulthood and rediscover their forgotten childhood”. With 27 stunning illustrations throughout by artist Quint Buchholz punctuating Slava’s poetic storytelling this book is a must-read for anyone intrigued by the creative process and for those longing for a little magic in their lives. The UK launches take place on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 May at 6.30pm: Waterstones, 203-206 Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9HD. 

The show’s triumphant return to the Royal Festival Hall after four highly successful winter seasons will mark the culmination of the latest stage in an extraordinary journey, which has seen it become a key part of the UK cultural landscape.

Slava’s Snowshoe will run at the Royal Festival Hall from Mon 18th December 2017 – Thur 4th January 2018

Casting announced for Terry Johnson’s Insignificance at the Arcola Theatre

The cast have now been announced for the first London revival in over 20 years of Insignificance by two-time Olivier Award winner Terry Johnson. Alice Bailey Johnson (The Libertine, Royal Haymarket; Oh What A Lovely War, UK Tour; Desdemona, Park Theatre), Simon Rouse (Tribes, Crucible Theatre; The Dresser, Duke of York’s Theatre; Hangmen, Wyndham’s Theatre), Tom Mannion (Hamlet Who’s There, Trafalgar Studios; The Autumn Garden, Jermyn Street Theatre; The Patriotic Traitor, Park Theatre) and Oliver Hembrough (Echo’s End, Salisbury Playhouse; Wasted, West Yorkshire Playhouse; A Further Education, Hampstead Theatre) will bring this hilarious and bittersweet comedy to life on stage at the Arcola Theatre.

Insignificance centres on an imagined meeting between Albert Einstein, who is deliberating whether to testify to McCarthy’s House Committee, and Marilyn Monroe, who is being pursued by her jealous husband Joe DiMaggio. Over one night in a hotel room, the characters grapple playfully with the difficulties of knowing the world, each other and themselves.

Director David Mercateli comments, When Insignificance premiered, America had a celebrity president in Ronald Reagan. Now it has a celebrity president once again. It’s a fascinating time to revive this play about four individuals who are also towering icons, at the top of their games. What’s the reality of that for them? And what happens when the fantasies we project on to people become part our reality, part of the world we live in?

Insignificance premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 1982, and was voted one of the top hundred plays in the NT2000 Platform series. It won Terry Johnson the Plays & Players Award for Best Play, and the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright.

Full casting announced for The Exorcist

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

Forty-five years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel terrified an entire generation, The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.

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

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.

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

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…

Peter Bowles, star of stage, film and television, will play Father Lankester Merrin – the Exorcist of the title. Peter’s West End theatre credits include Hay Fever with Judi Dench at Theatre Royal Haymarket, Archie Rice in John Osborne’s The Entertainer (Shaftesbury) and several leading roles in classic plays for Sir Peter Hall. He is probably best remembered for playing the role of Richard DeVere in the hit BBC comedy series To The Manor Born as well as leading roles in The Irish RMThe BounderRumpole of the Bailey and Only When I Laugh. Peter can currently be seen on ITV’s Victoria as the Duke of Wellington.

Jenny Seagrove, one of the UK’s most respected actresses, will be playing the role of Chris, the mother of Regan, who suffers emotional turmoil in the search to find help for her daughter’s ever increasing strange behaviour. Her prolific theatre career has seen her play the lead in almost every West End playhouse, with recent credits including Alan Ayckbourn’s How The Other Half Loves at the Haymarket, Brief EncounterVolcano, Tennessee Williams’ Night Of The Iguana, David Rabe’s Hurlyburly and The Country Girl with Martin Shaw. Jenny recently appeared as Louisa Gould in the film Another Mother’s Son but perhaps is best known to TV viewers as QC Jo Mills in ITV’s BAFTA award winning Judge John Deed.

Adam Garcia plays Father Damien Karras. Adam is a two-time Olivier Award nominee, was last seen in the West End in the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s The Winter’s Tale (Garrick) and recently starred in the world premiere of Kevin Elyot’s last play Twilight Song (Park Theatre, London). Musical stage credits include Kiss Me Kate, directed by Trevor Nunn (Chichester/Old Vic); Fiyero in the original London cast of Wicked with Idina Menzel (Apollo Victoria), Chip in On The Town (London Coliseum) and Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever (London Palladium). Adam gained international recognition for leading roles in films including Coyote Ugly and Riding in Cars with Boys with Drew Barrymore, and he appears in Kenneth Branagh’s forthcoming film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express.

Director Sean Mathias has worked at the National Theatre and many times in the West End and on Broadway, as well as extensively internationally. In 2009/2010 Sean’s production of Waiting For Godot played two seasons at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and toured the UK and internationally. In 2013 Godot played Broadway along with his production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land, the latter transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre in October 2016 starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and won Best Revival at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards that year.

The Exorcist is designed by Olivier Award-winning Designer Anna Fleischle (Hangmen), Lighting Design by Philip Gladwell (Five Guys Named Moe), Composition and Sound Design by Adam Cork (London Road), Projection Design by Jon Driscoll and Gemma Carrington(Brief Encounter) and Illusion Design is by Ben Hart (Impossible).

The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018.

60th anniversary production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party starring Toby Jones, Zoë Wanamaker & Stephen Mangan to be staged

A new production of Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre, 60 years since the play’s debut.

Stanley Webber (Toby Jones) is the only lodger at Meg (Zoë Wanamaker) and Petey Boles’ sleepy seaside boarding house. The unsettling arrival of enigmatic strangers Goldberg (Stephen Mangan) and McCann disrupts the humdrum lives of the inhabitants and their friend Lulu, and mundanity soon becomes menace when a seemingly innocent birthday party turns into a disturbing nightmare. Truth and alliances hastily shift in Pinter’s brilliantly mysterious dark-comic masterpiece about the absurd terrors of the everyday.

Following critically-acclaimed productions of Betrayal, and Old Times, Ian Rickson returns to direct a new production of Harold Pinter’s landmark play, The Birthday Party. Starring in this comedy of menace are trio of Olivier Award winners, Golden Globe Award-nominated Toby Jones (The Girl, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Infamous), Tony Award-nominated Stephen Mangan (The Norman ConquestsJeeves and Wooster, Episodes) and Tony Award-nominated Zoë Wanamaker CBE (ElectraPassion PlayMy Family). This will be the seventh Harold Pinter play that Sonia Friedman has produced, three of which have been directed by Ian Rickson, who also directed Pinter himself in his last performance as an actor in Krapp’s Last Tape. It is also the ninth production directed by Ian Rickson that Sonia Friedman has produced.

The Birthday Party will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 9th January to 14th April 2018 

Joe Pasquale to star in new stage version of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em

Joe Pasquale will star as the loveable but accident-prone Frank Spencer in the first ever stage production of the classic 1970s TV comedy, Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em.  Sarah Earnshaw will play his long-suffering wife Betty and Susie Blake his disapproving mother-in-law, Mrs Fisher. The stage adaptation has been written by Guy Unsworth, based on the original TV series by Raymond Allen.  Guy Unsworth will also be directing, with design by Simon Higlett.

The UK Tour of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em will open at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon on Wednesday 21 February 2018.

Comedian Joe Pasquale has delighted audiences with his live stand-up tours for over 20 years and made his theatrical debut in 1999 in Larry Shue’s The Nerd, followed by the touring productions of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Mel Brooks’s The ProducersThe Wizard of Oz and, more recently, the West End and touring productions of Spamalot, as King Arthur.  In addition, Joe was crowned ‘King of the Jungle’ in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!  in 2004, and hosted the long-running television series The Price is Right for ITV.

Sarah Earnshaw will be starring as Jennifer Lore in the UK Tour of Nativity – The Musical this autumn, and other theatre credits include Travels With My Aunt (Chichester Festival), The Lady of the Lake in Spamalot (West End and UK Tour) and the original London cast of Wicked.

Susie Blake regularly appeared in the TV series and comedy specials of Victoria Wood, Russ Abbot and Stanley Baxter, and is perhaps particularly loved as the Continuity Announcer in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV.  More recently, she played regular Bev Unwin in Coronation Street from 2003 – 2006 and then made a comeback in 2015, and regular Hillary Nicholson in Mrs Brown’s Boys.  Her films include Fierce Creatures and Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!.  Her theatre credits include Grumpy Old Women Live 2 & 3When We Are Married (West End), Pygmalion(Chichester Festival Theatre), Madame Morrible in Wicked (West End) and Belinda Blair in Noises Off (National Theatre).

The UK Tour will be produced by Limelight Productions.

Website: www.somemothersdoaveem.com

Photos by  Michael Wharley

Christian Slater set to return to the West End Stage

Hollywood star Christian Slater will return to the London stage next month in David Mamet’s masterpiece, Glengarry Glen Ross.

He will be joined by  Kris Marshall (Death in Paradise, Love Actually, My Family), Stanley Townsend (Girl from the North Country, The Nether) and Don Warrington (Death in Paradise, Rising Damp) as the ‘deal chasing’ cut-throat sales team.

This trailblazing modern classic, directed by Sam Yates, runs at the Playhouse Theatre from 26 October to 3 February 2018 for a strictly limited 14-week season. The play has won every major dramatic award on both sides of the Atlantic, making it an extraordinary theatrical success story. Its sensational world premiere at the National Theatre in 1983, earned it the Olivier Award for Best Play, whilst its 1984 Broadway premiere garnered multiple Tony Award nominations and just a year later, it won the Pulitzer Award for Drama. In 1992 the play was adapted by Mamet into an Academy Award nominated film featuring an all-star cast including Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey and Jonathan Pryce.

At a time of fierce debate about the American Dream and what it represents, Glengarry Glen Ross is a lacerating satire for modern society, highlighting how economic austerity can affect the morality and greed of individuals under financial pressure.

Lies. Greed. Corruption. It’s business as usual.

Set in an office of cut-throat Chicago salesmen. Pitched in a high-stakes competition against each other, four increasingly desperate employees will do anything, legal or otherwise, to sell the most real estate. As time and luck start to run out, the mantra is simple: close the deal and you’ve won a Cadillac; blow the lead and you’re f****d.

Christian Slater (Ricky Roma) is an internationally acclaimed actor who recently won a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice award for his role in Mr Robot, for which he is also a producer.

He was last on the London stage in Swimming with Sharks at the Vaudeville Theatre and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Gielgud/Garrick Theatre. His other stage credits include Spamalot at the Hollywood Bowl and The Glass Menagerie, opposite Jessica Lange, on Broadway.

Glengarry Glen Ross will be at the Playhouse Theatre from  26 OCTOBER 2017 – 3 FEBRUARY 2018