Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: The fabulous freedom of freelance

It’s been another fun-filled week, but I have to say the heat and humidity in London has played a part in how I have scheduled it.

The beauty of being freelance is that I don’t have to be chained to a desk in an office for most of the week. It takes discipline, but for me, it’s the best way to work.

I’m a bit of a free spirit and if I’m in the right mood, I can write reams and reams of entertaining and eloquent copy. If my brain is having one of its flighty days however (which is usually when I’m overtired or stressed) writing even the most simple sentence feels like I’m giving birth.

This means I have to allow myself breaks and as a lover of the outdoors, I often move my ‘office’ around, depending on how I feel.

After a near fainting on the train into central London on one of the hottest days this week (I had to do the whole head between my legs thing and it was very embarrassing), I decided to take my office to Greenwich Park. I had some appointments in Greenwich later in the day and so spent five hours mooching around in the sun in between writing.

It’s a great bit of London and offers the city, some greenery and the waterside, which, as someone who has lived by the sea for many years, always makes me feel calm.

Anyway, I watched a couple of show’s this week. The first was Woyzeck at the Old Vic Theatre, starring Star Wars’ John Boyega. A strange play, that was, like lots of the stuff at the Old Vic, a bit too worthy. I had hoped after interviewing writer Jack Thorne that it would be a bit more insightful to the plight of vulnerable working class people who join the forces, but it was very much written from a middle class perspective.

I also watched a new play called Miss Meena and the Masala Queens, a show about a drag club in Birmingham. This too was bitterly disappointing and had none of the glamour of the real world of drag.

I wasn’t disappointed by the third show I watched however, when I popped along to see Wicked for the 27th time, with standby Elphaba Alice Fearn on gloriously good form. Alice is being given the role fulltime from July and I think she has the potential to be the best ‘Green Girl’ the West End has ever seen.

With deadlines in Dorset and my sister visiting from Australia, I will have fewer theatrical exploits next week, but I am journeying down to the Exeter Northcott Theatre to see Death of a Salesman for the first time and I’ve got a couple of interviews on the cards.

I’m also back to rehearsals for Spamalot after a couple of weeks off and I’m looking forward to setting the first few scenes.

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Review: “Powerful, yet perplexing” ★★★ Woyzeck, The Old Vic Theatre

In tackling George Büchner’s famously unfinished play, Jack Thorne set himself a difficult task. The playwright is no stranger to taking on tricky adaptations however, having recently scored huge success by collaborating with J.K. Rowling to bring Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to the London Stage, winning an Olivier Award for his efforts.

For his reworked version of Woyzeck, Thorne has chosen to set the disturbing tale in 1980s Berlin amidst the claustrophobic confines of the Cold War and with John Boyega taking on the titular role, the play becomes an interesting insight into the world of a vulnerable young man striving for betterment.

Sarah Greene and John Boyega in Woyzeck at the Old Vic

Boyega, who rose to fame after playing lovable Stormtrooper Finn in one of the most recent Star Wars films, is a good fit as the troubled young squaddie, whose childhood demons return to haunt him. Struggling to provide financial support for his partner Marie (played with great fervour by Sarah Greene), Woyzeck’s insecurities and traumatic upbringing eventually lead to a demise in his mental state.

It’s bizarre stuff and you might miss some of the hints as to what is to come within the nightmarish alternate existences. In framing the action with enormous moving chunks of wall insulation, Tom Scutt’s dynamic set adds further misperception to the seemingly ordered universe but it becomes an accomplice to Boyega by the end of act one, when the audience is left in no doubt that this tormented soul will further decline into a state of madness.

It’s a powerful performance by Boyega, despite Joe Murphy directing a display of so many stereotypical traits including foaming at the mouth and sudden outbursts of rage. The subtleties of his paranoia are well executed however, and you can’t help but fall in love with the doe-eyed dote and hope his impending demise will be halted

The undertones of the classist system within the British Army are also well presented, with the excellent Steffan Rhodri and his plummy accent making it clear who has the upper hand, while his nymphomaniac wife (Nancy Carroll) glories in her freedom and wealth, with no care for those living in poverty.

Powerful, yet perplexing, this Woyzeck isn’t a classic, but is nevertheless, a thought-provoking comment on the forgotten factions of modern society.

Woyzeck is at the Old Vic Theatre until 24 June

Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: It’s been Show busy!

This column is a little later than usual, purely down to my busyness, or showbusyness as I like to call it. Over the last week I have seen seven shows, conducted five interviews and also met my first deadline for the Greenwich Weekender.

I’ve also done two restaurant reviews and hobnobbed with the stars at the Chelsea Flower Show as well as recording my weekly segment for BBC Radio Kent.

My feet have barely touched the ground and with three deadlines in Dorset looming my writing head has become a little frazzled.

It’s been fantastic but with a house move also getting ever closer, I have begun to panic about getting everything done.

Luckily there’s always a helpful person around to advise you on how best to manage your workload. I’ve had at least eight people ask if I’ve thought about writing a list and I’ve had to stifle my sarcasm about the wonderfully in-depth counsel!

Anyway, the shows I’ve seen lately have been a mixed bag. I watched the tour of The Play That Goes Wrong (excellent), The Addams Family (sensational), Richard III (a bit slow), The Color Purple in concert (amazing), Samantha Barks Live, with special guest Kerry Ellis (great), Judy! (fantastic) and a show I’m not going to mention, because it was so bad, I had to leave at the interval for fear of a hysterical attack.

I watch a lot of amateur shows, so I’m used to things occasionally being rough around the edges, but this ‘professional’ production was so poor, I felt it best not to pass comment on it at all.

The Celebrity count has been very high this week too, because I went to Chelsea Flower Show on Press day.

Sadly, I was on my own so I couldn’t engage in the hilarious celebrity touching game and there were few famous faces I hadn’t seen before. I guess I’ve got so used to seeing celebs now, that it would take the likes of Madonna, Kylie or RuPaul to really get me excited.

Joan Collins looked amazing among the roses in the main Pavilion however and Kelly Brook seemed very friendly as she supped on bubbly. It was nice to see Peter Kay again wandering around in the sunshine and I was a bit in awe of Paralympic Gold Medalist Ellie Simmonds.

I always find it funny that if you walk with confidence, people assume you’re someone worth looking at and take a second glance to check whether you’re famous or not, so yes, I did pretend to be someone, with my head held high. It’s the simplest little games, which amuse me!

Next week, a work experience minion is joining me in the form of my teenage daughter, so my London trip will be filled with food and drink stops. I’m seeing Wicked again (well, 26 times just isn’t enough!) and Woyzeck at the Old Vic, starring John Boyega. I’m then off to see Miss Meena and the Masala Queens at Greenwich Theatre, which looks fabulous.

You can read all of reviews and interview on my website thesweetlondonlife.com and follow me on Twitter for all of the latest news @NickySweetland

Photo Flash: Take a look at Star Wars’ John Boyega in rehearsals for Woyzeck

The multi-award winning Jack Thorne breathes new life into Woyzeck , directed by Joe Murphy.One of the most influential plays ever written, Thorne creates for our time what Büchner intended for his: an unforgettable howl of rage.

It’s 1980s Berlin. The Cold War rages and the world sits at a crossroads between Capitalism and Communism. On the border between East and West, a young soldier and the love of his life are desperately trying to build a better future for their child. But the cost of escaping poverty is high, and its tragic consequences unfold in this searing tale of the people society leaves behind.

Casting includes John Boyega (Woyzeck), Ben Batt (Andrews), Nancy Carroll (Maggie), Darrell D’Silva (Doctor Martens), Sarah Greene (Marie) and Steffan Rhodri (Captain).

You can watch a trailer here  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQW2TZdYb8

Woyzeck begins previews at the Old Vic Theatre from 15 May 

Photos by Manuel Harlan