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It Happened One Night

22 Nov

Sometimes you meet people for a fleeting moment, and yet they touch you in ways that leave you changed and thankful for that single encounter. Such was the case when I met Richard Armitage last night. However, I am getting ahead of myself…

Confession: I am not the biggest Armitage fan on the planet. I respect the man but I am not a keen collector of his work. I found out about RA through my sister whose fine taste in men should have raised alarm bells. I have since regretted her repeated pleas to watch North & South and slowly but surely, I have started devouring every piece of work that he did to atone for my sins. Better late than never, huh?

Now, enough of my questionable Armitage geekdom… It is already 6 am here in London and I am wide awake and my brain is loaded with wonderful memories of Richard Armitage. I am buzzing… I am grinning… I am tingling… And every now and then, I collapse into helpless giggles. I am now a hard-core convert…

I saw him perform as part of the ensemble cast that made up the just concluded “The 24 Hour Plays” held at the Old Vic on November 21. In brief, “The 24 Hour Plays” is the ultimate theatrical challenge where a host of well-known actors, directors and writers join forces to write, rehearse and perform six short plays in just 24 hours, culminating in a unique performance. As this blog post is dedicated to Richard Armitage, and thoughtfully written for the hordes of RA fans out there, I will just give my review of “The Third Wish”.

The Third Wish
Playwright: Stephen Beresford
Director: Charlie Westenra
Asst. Director: Natasha Nixon

Dennis: Richard Armitage
Debbie: Debbie Chazen
Niamh: Niamh Cusack
Miranda: Miranda Raison

The play opens with three women on stage. The setting was a fabulous looking flat in the city and right in the middle of the room was a tree. Debbie, an energetic middle-aged woman, and a bit on the chubby side was regaling her two friends with stories of the tree. Apparently, said tree has special powers. It grants wishes. She goes on to reveal that she made a wish for a bigger flat and that her wish was granted. Her friends were all gobsmacked at her changed fortunes until Debbie tells them to “wait until you see Dennis”, her husband, because he too made a wish.

Cue Dennis’ entrance to the stage. Who else would embody a man’s wish to become the perfect man? Dennis has transformed from a chubby middle-aged man into, you guessed it, The Richard Armitage! The girls asked Dennis what he wished for and he said “I made a wish to be Richard Armitage” and Voila! The audience gave rapturous applause and so they should as we see Dennis, ehr, Richard Armitage, own the stage with his panther-like moves. He was dressed conspicuously and rather appropriately like Spooks’ Lucas North. Topical, diabolical, dangerous. Hot! One can tell that Armitage is enjoying his return to the stage as he parodied his sex god status by prancing on stage, lifting his long lithe legs effortlessly, swirling his lustrous thick jet black hair as if he was the star of a new Pantene male advert! Didn’t know RA can do comedy! He was hilarious! He then goes to Debbie and they start a dance routine that left the audience practically in stitches. I remember reading that he studied dance in LAMDA so this must be all second nature to him.

When the girls asked Debbie why they chose Armitage, Debbie remarked that Armitage is beautiful but down to earth in real life. Ah, it is art imitating life in all its grandiose splendor, I love it! On the other side of the stage however, we see Armitage, ehr Dennis, looking straight at the audience, showing off his physique and probably still not used to his new demigod apperance. He then gives his wife Debbie a lingering kiss and then we see Miranda getting hold of the tree and she too makes her third wish. It was a delight to see Miranda Raison (she played Jo Portman in Spooks), same with Niamh Cusack but most of all to see Richard Armitage grace the Old Vic stage albeit a brief 20 minutes.

But you said you met Richard Armitage, Simone! Yes I did, just gimme a mo to breathe…

After the six plays have been performed, we were instructed to convene outside the Old Vic, next to Stage Door as there is a bus waiting for the actors and members of the audience to take them to the post show party in Asia de Cuba. Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good. My friend and I got on the bus, totally unprepared for life’s sweetest surprise. Richard Armitage was also on the same bus! How adorable is this man, one of the biggest stars on tv, and there he was riding with the lowly masses, sitting next to an absolute pleb (me!) and our thighs rubbing, not that I took any notice. I did not even enjoy a minute of it! I am a big fat liar!

I was surprised to see him there and I had to compose myself, so I will not come off as a blabbering idiot. Congratulations were in order so I offered him my professional and unbiased critique of the show and he seemed genuinely pleased. It was so lovely of him to ask me how I was. I think I responded with something somewhat articulate. We then shook hands and he had a nice strong grip. Let me tell you right now, that yes, this man is possibly the most strikingly gorgeous man I have ever had the pleasure to meet! He was warm and attentive. Please feel free to insert any wonderful adjective to describe him and it will most likely apply. I guarantee it.

The bus ride took all of 15 minutes but there is no shortage of Armitage charm for the rest of the night. After our brief chat, I kept to myself and left him in peace. I mean, restraining orders are real and all and I have resolved to maintain my dignity. My friend was under no such constraints! She was smarting from the fact that I have not had my picture taken with Richard. Thank heavens for the collusive nature of friendship! She very impressively arranged a photo op with the man himself:

He was so gracious the whole night and up till now, in the glaring light of day, I still marvel at how beautiful he is as an actor and as a human being. Mr. Richard Armitage, you have made me utterly happy with your generosity and kindness and hope you find success and joy in all your endeavors. Bow.

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Theatre trotting in December

1 Dec

December. The homestretch. Holiday season. Good excuse to see more theatre.

I saw most of the productions I booked last month but one. I’m actually quite thrilled about this month because I am seeing 3 musicals, one of which I probably wouldnt have paid much attention but because of the raving reviews it has received I thought, go on then, book it for I might just like it too. So without much ado, here’s my theatre itinerary for December.

3 – Blood Brothers, Phoenix Theatre

If it was just up to me, if I didnt listen to anybody else, didnt bother reading reviews or anything, I probably would never have given this musical a chance. I’ve been living in London for over 8 years now and have been passing by the Phoenix Theatre with it’s marquee lights and billboards but it has never really drawn me in. Since hearing “Tell Me It’s Not True”, via Michael Ball, and the raves regarding Melanie C’s stirring performance since she took over as Mrs Johnstone, I was left with no choice. It’s amazing how most of the critics were won over, so although I prefer straight plays, I still like my musicals and am hoping to be converted. Tell me it’s true!

10 – Rope, Almeida

A play by Patrick Hamilton adapted into film by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. With a cast led by Blake Ritson and Alex Waldmann.

14- Legally Blonde

I quite enjoyed the film with Reese Witherspoon although I wouldnt give two rats patootie with the sequel but a musical version? Seriously? It was during one of my outings with the West End Whingers that this idea was broached and we thought it will be a good evening out nevertheless. I have never seen Sheridan Smith on stage but I love most of her tv work. So yes, let’s all hope that Legally Blonde the Musical will be a hoot!

18- Sweet Charity, Menier Chocolate Factory

I like Neil Simon’s work. Barefoot in the Park, They’re Playing Our Song, The Goodbye Girl, just to name a few. I really wanted to see this with the Whingers but could not do it on a Sunday, well, just about any given Sunday really. It will be my first time to see Tamzin Outhwaite but really thrilled to see Josefina Gabrielle again. Sweet!

21- The Misanthrope, Comedy Theatre

No, I am not a fan of Miss Keira Knightley, I thought I’ll get that out of the way first. I have always felt that she still needs to take some more acting lessons after having seen a lot of other actresses like Romola Garai, Hayley Atwell, Michelle Dockery and Carey Mulligan who has got better acting chops than Miss K. But I will be kind and say that she did impress me in Pride and Prejudice and Atonement. So although I booked this mainly because it’s a play by Moliere, and led by veteran thespians in Damian Lewis, Tara Fitzgerald and Dominic Rowan, I really would like to see her do well in this and maybe see more of her on stage if she does pull it off.

29 –Red, Donmar Warehouse

A play about the artist Mark Rothko, starring Alfred Molina.

There goes my list, it’s not a lot but with this weather geting a lot colder as we speak, I seem to prefer staying indoors right after work nowadays so 6 productions this month is just about right. So, what about you?

Theatre trotting in November

1 Nov

I know, I know, this blog has been uber neglected in the last couple of months and I have no excuses apart from I have been really busy work wise, and then I was away on holiday for the most part of last month and the lack of Simon Russell Beale in any of my theatre outings is definitely affecting my desire to review anything I have seen. I will however review certain productions in retrospect, especially the ones I really enjoyed like Rigoletto and Inherit the Wind.

So my favourite month has come and what has it got in store for me? I had to give up The Habit of Art which fellow theatre trotter, A Younger Theatre kindly agreed to see anyway so the ticket didnt go to waste, and based on his initial reaction, it is a must see. I will likely see it sometime next year as tickets have now sold out until the January run.

9 – Mrs. Klein, Almeida

I booked this mainly for Clare Higgins, whom I have come to admire since I saw her play Ma Costa in The Golden Compass. And then of course I saw her a couple of times at the National in Major Barbara, A Slight Ache/Landscape and recently, All’s Well that Ends Well.

12 –Nation, Olivier, National Theatre

I have never read a Terry Pratchett novel, who knows maybe after seeing this I will?

19 – The Priory, Royal Court

My sister Shi who lives in California LOVES Rupert Penry-Jones, alongside other British actors which I will not name here or she will be accused as a player. I told her that she is living in the wrong country but did she listen? No…. Anyway, I know for a fact that she will hate me for seeing this play without her. Oh, did I say I have front row seats? Hihihi

28 – Pride and Prejudice, Richmond Theatre

I love anything Jane Austen. I just cant help it! Anyway, until Austentatious makes it to the West End, I will devour any piece of Jane Austen that is out there. Haven’t been to the Richmond Theatre either so that should be something to look forward to.

30 – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Novello

Another West End Whingers outing of this Tennessee Williams’ classic. And an all-Black cast. Wow!

If you happen to be theatre trotting on the same plays and dates, please dont be a stranger and say hello.

Theatre trotting in October

29 Sep

Would you believe it but I actually saw ALL six productions that I booked in September? Not to mention the Michael Ball concert I saw at the Royal Albert Hall. I suppose I liked the good mix of shows and also because it didn’t leave me too exhausted to miss any of them. I even saw one of the productions twice! (Clue, it’s a musical!) I can’t believe time has flown and we’re nearly towards the end of the year!

October also looks promising- a couple of plays, a musical, even two operas! It will also be a little bit special as a friend who is visiting from Seattle will join me in two of my theatre outings. So without much ado, this is what I will feast my senses on next month:

1 – All’s Well that Ends Well, Olivier, National Theatre

I already saw this way back in May and absolutely enjoyed it. The Evening Standard had a 2 for 1 deal for just £10 and it’s also the same evening that they are doing the NT Live Performance so I couldn’t resist! I’m also dragging my pal Sue along with me. But we have to be there on time though as audience have to be seated by 18:45.

3 – Othello, Trafalgar Studios

I organised a Shakespeare outing at the Globe in August to see Romeo and Juliet, in my humble opinion the play was just about right, it was far better than Troilus and Cressida though. I was tasked to organise another outing this time to see Lenny Henry’s take on Othello which has already done a UK tour and current stop is London.

5 – Annie Get Your Gun, Young Vic

Not a West End Whingers outing of this Irving Berlin musical starring Jane Horrocks.

8- Turandot, London Coliseum

The first time I saw Turandot, which was in 2006, I was mesmerized. I was also in love and I thought it cannot get any better than this. I have seen a few more opera since but so far, nothing has beaten this Puccini favourite where the music soars, it feels as if you were being flung into the heavens. I’ve loved most productions the ENO has produced and I am sure I will love this version too.

12- ENRON, Royal Court Theatre

Okay, I adore Samuel West since Persuasion and this will be the first time I will see him perform on stage. I went to see Harley Granville Barker’s Waste at the Almeida last year which he directed and the man was a genius! It was one of the best plays I saw last year. I do like to see more of his work as much as possible and with all the accolades ENRON is getting, it’s now West End bound at the Noel Coward Theatre after this run, I am already assured of a fabulous evening.

20- Rigoletto, London Coliseum

It’s my very first Guiseppe Verdi of a much loved classic. My friend Carmi who will be in town is going to join me. I think this will be a first for her, so better make a good impression!

25- Inherit the Wind, Old Vic

I LOVE Kevin Spacey. That’s the only reason you need to see any production and after glowing reviews from fellow theatre trotters the West End Whingers and JohnnyFox, I am so psyched to see this play. Equally thrilled is my friend Carmi who is also a huge Spacey fan. Did you know he is also on Twitter? Follow @KevinSpacey.

Right, your turn!

Theatre trotting in September

1 Sep

Out of the 10 productions I planned to watch last month, I ended up just seeing seven of them, including the controversial Too Close to the Sun when I saw it on it’s final performance, but missed Blood Wedding (lukewarm reviews), Jerusalem (exhausted) and Helen (exhausted again). The last I heard was that there are plans to bring Jerusalem to the West End, so we’ll see about that.

Here’s what I am seeing this September:

5- Hello Dolly!, Open Air Theatre

LOVED everything about this production so much when I saw it last month, but Samantha Spiro was struggling with her vocals a bit, I thought she was probably just having an off night and will get better in future performances. Snapped up tickets for myself and my friend Debbie who’s also a big fan of musicals.

7- Judgment Day, Almeida

As I watch almost every production at the Almeida, this is one of their first productions for the new season. Not to mention Joseph Milson is part of the cast too.

10- Mother Courage and Her Children, Olivier, National Theatre

First time to watch Fiona Shaw. My first Bertolt Brecht play. The last time I was at the National was in June when I saw Phedre, so I can’t wait to be back there.

17- Talent, Menier Chocolate Factory

Not a West End Whingers outing of this Victoria Wood musical.

22- An Inspector Calls, Novello

Have heard a lot about this J. B. Priestley classic thriller that had a successful run at the National Theatre years back. And since I wasnt that enthused about Time and the Conways, I thought this might just change my heart.

25- Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare’s Globe

Having missed the RSC’s production of this last year and the quest to watch as much Shakespeare plays as possible, explains it all.

See you at the theatre!

Theatre trotting in August

30 Jul

Apologies again for what seems to have been another dry season here without any theatre reviews since my chance meeting with SRB. What I’ve always found that gets me going again is when I talk about the theatre outings I have planned for the month so I’d like to share where you’ll find me at the theatre for the month of August.

3- Hello Dolly!, Open Air Theatre

This is one of my favorite musicals which had Barbra Streisand play Dolly Levi so it will be great to catch it on stage. I am looking forward to be going to the Open Air Theatre for the first time. I am seeing this with gal pal Abigail, and hopefully if it doesnt rain, John is seeing it as well. Can’t wait to sing Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Ribbons Down My Hair, It Only Takes a Moment, So Long Dearie and especially Before the Parade Passes By, which has been sort of my torch song for years now.

6- The Cherry Orchard, Old Vic

It’s my 3rd time around and it will be the last time I’ll see SRB perform onstage this year. A girl in love has got to do what a girl in love has got to do!

7- Romeo and Juliet, Globe Theatre

Confession. I have not read nor seen any stage performance or film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. But thanks to Shakespeare in Love, yup, the Miramax film that beat Saving Private Ryan for the 1999 Academy Best Picture, as it sort of introduced me to one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays. It’s a theatre outing with my congregation friends as well, and I hope that our restricted view seats will not put a damper on the evening not to mention that the reviews were also not good.

11- Blood Wedding, Southwark Playhouse

It will be my first Federico Garcia Lorca play so I am quite thrilled, not to mention that it’ll be my first time at the Southwark Playhouse as well.

13- Ghosts, Arcola Theatre

My Ibsen conquest continues! And I haven’t been to the Arcola since last summer as well, it’ll be like coming back home.

14- A Streetcar Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse

Tennessee Williams. Rachel Weisz as Blanche Dubois.

17- Jerusalem, Royal Court

Fellow theatre trotters and pals West End Whingers have been talking about how great this play is and the Royal Court just extended its run until 22 August. Chuffed that I managed to get a ticket!

20- Helen, Globe Theatre

Booked this alongside Troilus & Cressida in keeping with the Globe Theatre’s Greek theme, hope this one will turn out better though.

27- Arcadia, Duke of York’s

Touted as one of Tom Stoppard’s best plays I just couldn’t resist.

What about you, what are you seeing at the theatre in August?

Theatre trotting in March

1 Mar

First off, I want to say that I did well last month for I did not skip any of the six productions I have booked, so pat me in the back please! Our party almost missed Zorro on the 02/02 because of the heavy snow that London and most of the UK experienced but as they cancelled the show, we were entitled to rebook. Thanks to SEE tickets who were very understanding and helpful. Speaking of Zorro, the bad news came out last month that Zorro is definitely closing and this is due to recasting issues. The last I heard and this is straight from their website is that Zorro will embark on nine confirmed future international productions including France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Japan, Korea and Russia. The mark of Zorro lives indeed!

So what am I seeing in March then?

2- La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse Theatre

I wasn’t really planning on seeing this but after having read several enthusiastic reviews and really good word-of-mouth vibe about the performances and how it’s such a feel good production, I was left with little choice. As I am seeing it tomorrow night and have never been to the Playhouse, I am trying to navigate my way to get there.

6- Zorro, Garrick Theatre
Playing until March 14

I have a ticket to see Mrs Affleck at the Cottesloe but as most of those I know who have already seen the production loathed it, a couple of them walking out in the interval even, I thought, well what’s the point? Okay, I would lose my hard earned £10 but it’s better than a wasted Friday evening when I know I could be having more fun in seeing Zorro for the 3rd and last time! I missed Matt Rawle in my second viewing so I am hoping that he is back for this.

13- Duet for One, Almeida

Seeing this play was decided after watching the National’s Every Good Boy Deserves Favour with fellow theatre trotter Lynne back in January. Now almost at the end of its run and with tickets sold out I am pleased we did book tickets as it has received very good reviews here and here. Now that’s another Friday evening to look forward to!

17- War Horse, Olivier, National Theatre

This is really more like a box ticking exercise to say that yes, its that Michael Morpurgo recreation and I have seen it. When I first started going to the National in 2008, and missed War Horse the year before, I was advised that if it should have another staging that I make a point in booking it. I have also been warned about it but if it fails to capture my imagination, and as I am catching a matinee performance, all is not lost as I have another play to see afterwards. But I want it to be good!

17- Dido, Queen of Carthage, Cottesloe, National Theatre

Would saying I am curious about Christopher Marlowe’s work suffice for my booking this?

So with back to back plays, it’s really going to be a day out at the National, missing SRB like crazy, but also looking forward to meet Abigail!

20- On the Waterfront, Haymarket Theatre Royal

Making sure that I must have seen Stephen Berkoff in at least a film of two, I checked out his CV in IMDb and found that he was in Revolution with Al Pacino but I so hated that film and I barely remember him in it. But yes, he was also in Octopussy, Rambo II, and Beverly Hills Cop among others, so okay I do know the man. Anyway, his involvement with On the Waterfront is enough to get excited but it took a few good word of mouth for this production that behooved me to finally book it. Not having seen the Elia Kazan film with a younger Marlon Brando, I still have the time to do so before sinking my teeth into it!

27- Dimetos, Donmar Warehouse

Jonathan Pryce. The Donmar. Enough said.

So what are you seeing in the theatre this month?