The Magical World of wonder.land!

Last week I was lucky enough to see the first preview of a new show playing at the National Theatre in London, called wonder.land. As you might have guessed, it’s based on Alice in Wonderland, and was created by Damon Albarn (Blur/Gorillaz) and Moira Buffini. The story-line has been shaken up a bit, given a 21st century make-over that allows Generation Z to really relate to this tale of wonder.

When we first meet Alice, she is a typical school girl who has moved to a new school and is having trouble settling in and making friends. There’s troubles at home and her only escape for her problems is an online game she can play on her phone called wonder.land. In this game she can create an avatar of herself, and she can make friends with other people as they go on a quest to follow the White Rabbit.

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Alice with her avatar

It’s a very tech heavy show, but in a fantastic way. You really believe that you are in the game with her!
The classic characters are still there, we are introduced to the world by the Cheshire Cat – a slightly creepy digital face that hovers everywhere! Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum are represented by some fellow friends in the world. And we eventually meet the evil Queen of Hearts in the form of the Head Mistress.

950-0523This is a really fun show, the songs are fantastic and the all singing all dancing cast were outstanding.

I highly recommend this show, it’s showing at the National Theatre until March tickets available here

Here’s a little glimpse via BBC Breakfast..

 

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Photograph 51

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On Monday night I had the great fortune of seeing Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51, at the Noel Coward Theatre in London.

It tells a story of Rosalind Franklin, a British scientist working at Kings College in post-war London.
The story revolves around the discovery of what we now know as the DNA strand between Franklin and a bunch of male scientists. In the beginning the divide between the sexes is prominent, Franklin arrives at Kings College being referred to as ‘Miss Franklin’ as opposed to ‘Doctor Franklin’. She also discovers that the role she moved back to England for as head of her own research project has now been down-graded to assistant to Maurice Wilkins. – I wont give the whole plot away but it definitely highlights the sexist attitudes towards women in the day, and especially in the field of science where it was most uncommon to see a woman in a lab… let alone running one!

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Directed by Michael Grandage, the way this play has been constructed really engages the audience. The subject matter and the scientific background it is all based on could easily be dry viewing, but surprisingly there was a lot of humour and drama that at points had me on the edge of my seat.

Kidman’s performance literally had me captured from the moment she stood on the stage. She has a way of transforming herself into the character so well that you forget who you are looking at.. even if you recognise her face. I am struggling to find the words to describe how good she was.. I genuinely think it was one of the best performances I have seen on the stage.. and I’ve seen a lot!

If you have the opportunity.. GO!

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Wicked!

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I grew up obsessed with the Wizard of Oz… literally obsessed. I would watch that movie just about every single day. My parents had taped it off the TV for me, in the late 1980’s onto a Beta tape. So along with all the songs and the plot line, I still remember all the ads that were shown during that broadcast, which gives me a somewhat unique experience. For example, I remember once Dorothy and Toto have begun their journey down the yellow brick road and they start to skip and sing ‘We’re off to see the wizard’ in my head, the screen cuts to a commercial break and I see an ad for the brand new Toyota Corolla..

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So with this childhood obsession in mind, I finally got around to seeing the West End production of Wicked! It’s a musical that follows the backstory to the two witches featured in The Wizard of Oz, based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel, ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’. We see how Elphaba (who was born with green skin) and Glinda (everybody’s favourite darling) manage to form a strong friendship and how ultimately Elphaba earns the reputation of the ‘Wicked Witch of the West’.

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I had some doubts going into the show, how could a show based on a tale I love so much, ever live up to the original? I had heard mixed reviews, some people absolutely love it and others detested it. I found it thoroughly entertaining! I thought the performances were outstanding, it was some of the best singing I have heard in a while, and the costumes were marvelous, especially those from the Emerald City. I did think however, there were a few too many ballads included in the soundtrack. I think if anything it has the potential to be a little bit more upbeat, but they still managed to get some good laughs in!

If you haven’t already seen it (it feels like everyone on earth had except me) I would recommend it. It’s great for a bit of an escape into the land of Oz, where you can forget your daily woes and get wrapped up in the wicked fantasy of it all!

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The Elephant Man

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Last night I had the privilege of seeing The Elephant Man, starring Bradley Cooper.
I had read some great reviews about it, and from all accounts it seemed that Mr. Cooper’s acting chops were good enough to survive the West End stage… so I thought I would find out for myself.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Cooper’s, but I have to say in this play he is simply brilliant. For those not familiar, The Elephant Man is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, a London man who was born with such deformities he was put in a travelling freak show. A movie by the same name was made in 1980, involving massive prosthesis and make-up to make the actor look deformed. This play however, doesn’t use any make-up, extra costuming or masks… it is simply Cooper adjusting his posture and facial expressions for the entire performance. This is done so well… in the first act we see Dr. Treves (played by Alessandro Nivola) pointing out features on enlarged pictures of the real Joseph Merrick, while at the same time Cooper adjusts his body accordingly.

THE ELEPHANT MAN - Booth Theatre - 2014 PRESS ART - Bradley Cooper (John Merrick) and Alessandro Nivola (Frederick Treves) - Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

THE ELEPHANT MAN – Booth Theatre – 2014 PRESS ART – Bradley Cooper (John Merrick) and Alessandro Nivola (Frederick Treves) – Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The play also stars Patricia Clarkson who plays Mrs. Kendal, an actress and the only outsider who is not initially terrified of Merrick’s appearance. Through this friendship you see The Elephant Man become ‘humanised’ for want of a better word, and this is where Cooper draws you in. He expresses his vulnerability and you begin to relate to him, and feel sorry for him. It is actually a rather emotionally charged play, there were plenty of sniffles throughout the crowd, but also a lot of laughs, as Merrick has quite a witty tongue on him!

The only downside of the night was where we were seated.. The Haymarket is a very large theatre and our seats were up in the Gallery.. .which is a long way up!! It felt like we were IN the roof. Which at times was a little hard to take as it was packed up there as well, so not a lot of air flow and with bench seating, we were almost leaning down on the stage. Luckily, we were able to move during interval to a lower level on the side, where were able to actually see the actors’ faces! We did only pay £15 for these tickets though, so I really shouldn’t complain!

Our view of the stage

Our view of the stage

 

The show is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until August 8th. If you are in London and you haven’t been, try and get there you won’t be disappointed!

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An Audience with The Queen

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Last night I was very fortunate to have experienced the marvelous production The Audience, starring Kristin Scott Thomas.

The Audience is a very intelligent play, written by Peter Morgan. It revolves around Queen Elizabeth II’s weekly meetings with the Prime Minister, in the Private Audience Room at Buckingham Palace. The story weaves in and out of the decades, showcasing all twelve Prime Ministers who have served Her Royal Highness. The switch between decades is made seamless by her three assistants or perhaps ladies in waiting. At the end of the scene we see three ladies dressed in black surround her while she sits at her desk, and a mere 20 seconds later, the Queen emerges fully changed, hair colour and all!

Kristin Scott-Thomas is simply brilliant in this role, which was first played by Dame Helen Mirren back in 2013. (she is now reprising the role on Broadway in New York) She portrays the Queen with a very real sense of vulnerability, strength and good humour! I have to admit, humour was not something I was expecting from this production, but I actually laughed so hard… it has been written in a very cleverly way, incorporating each prime minister’s attributes into a witty joke on the Queen’s behalf. You can gain a real sense of her relationship with each, some more favourable than others.

In terms of the prime ministers, I will admit my knowledge of British politics is limited and therefore some of the jokes went over my head, but the ministers I did recognise; Churchill, Thatcher, Blair, Brown & Cameron were uncanny in appearance and mannerisms. The dialogue between HRH and PM was written in such a way that by them just having a casual conversation about their weekends, you were able to pick up on the era they were living in. It wasn’t too politics heavy that you became bored within five seconds, rather it was a different insight into each’s personality, and their behaviour towards the Queen told much of the story by itself.

A nice quirk at interval was having two members of the Royal Guard standing in front of the curtain for the full 20 minutes. Every few minutes changing positions and then swapping posts, it really helped to set the scene and remind us who’s life we were watching intently.

My view of the stage

My view of the stage

The Apollo Theatre is another of London’s many beautiful theatres. Full of ornate mouldings along the balconies. The roof is a convex shape, covered in stars and clouds, very etherial themes. You may remember back in 2013 the roof here collapsed during a performance of The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night. The roof is now fully restored, you wouldn’t even know it had happened!

If you find yourself in London in the next few months I highly recommend it. It is only running for a limited season, so get in quick!