FringeReview UK

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FringeReview UK 2017

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream’s ideal for open air summer nights: The Brighton Shakespeare Company produces the most joyous, certainly sweetest Dream I can remember. It’s fresh, certainly but also enormously warm-hearted. You feel the ‘silver bow new-bent in heaven’ has unloosed a shower of happiness.


Antony and Cleopatra

This is above all Josette Simon’s play as Cleopatra, with Antony Byrne nobly matching her by the hilt of something at least. Even at a late stage, Shakespeare dissolves all our previous assumptions. This production allows us to see them plain. It’s worth the illumination.


Common

D C Moore’s Common set in 1809 twists language in a collision of cultures as landed land-grabbers of Enclosure expel the last gleaners from common land. Comedy radiates from Anne-Marie Duff’s downright siren Mary. A sexier Mother Courage crossed with Churchill’s protean fairy Skriker, she’s plausible without magic. Common will continue to gnarl and root beyond its run. It’ll be well worth seeing how it ages.


Cranford

A good evening out and if you’re in the area, more than recommendable. The overall production and costumes, abetted with strong pace, a good use of Coleman’s narratives and finally finally top-flight amateur performances by Jennifer Annetts, Aisling and Thomas Edie, and Charlotte Eastes, makes this a recommendable production, the most ambitious I’ve seen from these players.


Fiddler on the Roof

Evans allows this musical theatre to breathe on his own big-hearted terms whilst allowing the bones to show, as it does with a breath-taking diminuendo that seems to raise and settle the dust of emigration as we watch. For sheer penetration, heart and balance it’s as definitive as we’re likely to see for many years.


Follies

It took a visit into past and pastiche to propel Sondheim’s language into a modernity no-one foresaw. This is the finest realisation of this Janus-faced masterpiece, ringing with towering performances: Staunton, Bennett, Dee, Quast and Forbes simply at the head. This must be the definitive production.


Gaslight

A first-rate revival of perhaps the classic stage thriller. Young and Blackledge bring fine characterful energy to their roles, as does Anderson, but the evening belongs to the range Tointon brings to her psycho-Cindarella role, and the gravelly improbable Prince Charming ‘old enough to be your grandfather’ Keith Allen. Banks’ pace never slackens: everyone’s given enough rope at the end to manage anything.


Jane Eyre

It’s what you’d not expect that thrusts this version before anything else you’ll imagine before hurrying back to the novel. An extraordinary exhausting ultimately incandescent in all senses version of this classic.


Julius Caesar

Andrew Jackson’s backgrounding of current events in his production is shrewd: by suggesting film-sets with subtle obliquity he backs us into the glare of a Trump stadium, those overarching lights playing on all of us. It’s a superb conception, in some respects outstanding; in one, definitive.


Mr Foote’s Other Leg

Slapstick comedy is difficult to bring off, even more fiendish to write. Tomlinson’s cast turn in here a performance as fine as anything I’ve seen in Lewes. Most of all, Kelly’s superb play in their hands lowers not a tap in one of Franklin’s thermometers to any professional production.


Nell Gwynn

Swale’s unique: she writes a play of feline-scratching wit that’s a feelgood hommage, where intellectual pyrotechnics never feel out of place. We’ve recently enjoyed The Libertine’s brilliantly-lit darkness revived too, and revived Nell Gwynn is the antipode to Jeffreys’ profound masterpiece. Just as clever, as fiendishly witty, Swale’s orange-girl raillery refuses the other’s command to dislike. It ends too, in a startling reality, and tenders a shock.


Queen Anne

It’s perhaps no coincidence both Queen Anne and the Almeida’s Mary Stuart should be revived simultaneously. You have to go back to Schiller to find such a historic power struggle between two women on stage. This small miracle of historic compression and power-play reaches a dramatic conclusion worthy of someone fatter than the maligned Anne. Her voice is her journey, worthy of attendance.


She Stoops to Conquer

Felicity Clements has paced this production with alacrity and probing clarity. She also brings out, with a superb ensemble, the truth of Goldsmith’s characters, several like Marlow and Lumpkin emerging as minted as their fortunes. You’ll not see a more joyous, clear or truthful production of this perennial for years.


Summer’s Last Will and Testament

It might be Summer’s Last Will and Testament, but whether Summer’s or Will Summers Henry VIII’s fool, is a riddling not only Nashe but the superb Edward’s Boys from King Edward VI School Stratford determine on our guessing. An extraordinary production. It’s good to know these Edward’s Boys are preserved on DVD.


The Buddy Holly Story

The Buddy Holly Story is a superb show, the fast-track to know Buddy Holly’s world with storyline and songs that influenced and were influenced in turn. Alex Fobbester’s Buddy Holly inhabits his role with verve and heart-stopping sensitivity. There’s room to craft an even more compelling story, but as a show its generosity good-humoured inclusiveness proves irresistible.


The Cardinal

This is a stunning rediscovery, brought by director Justin Audibert and Troupe. Boasting a first-rate cast this superbly-wrought production measures its consummate leannness to the verse. We need more Shirley and this production should enjoy a longer run next time. It’s is a must-see even for those not normally interested in the period. Its plots and words still wound the air.


The Lottery of Love

Dorothea Myer-Bennett is simply outstanding in her unravelment from uffishness as the heroine Sylvia, to a self-discovering naked passion prepared to offer anything. That’s the essence of a playwright too-little seen who’s provoked the most blissful comedic production this spring affords. Outstanding in nearly every way, it’s another gem from Richmond’s Orange Tree.


The Mikado

This Mikado not only redefines but rescues the operetta from an edgy oblivion, where we could never lose the melodies, yet increasingly hesitate to stage the work. It’s back.


The Stepmother

Again and again you regret what indifference did to Githa Sowerby. It silenced one of most original early 20th century dramatists. It also retarded our dramatic development. To have plays like this running in the 1920s might have blown the genteel three-acter into emotional maturity.


The Tempest

You won’t forget the spectacle. But it’s the lonely spectators of their own powers that’ll beat on your mind. Gregory Doran’s RSC production realizes that more fully than ever before. Simon Russell Beale’s riven letting-go of a man’s potency relinquished along with his moral son sounds deeper plummets still.


Thoroughly Modern Millie

Plews and Wicks have created a musical powerhouse literally all-singing and dancing, of the highest West End standards. The quintet – and they blend magnetically together – of Clifton, Barrett, Rush, Glover and McDuff have stamped character and stomped bliss on this musical.


Wonderland

The ingredients are there: it’s a magical idea, and just needs a quieter rationale and – to make it a great show - a few more memorable numbers. But if you care for musicals, see it for an outstanding clutch of performers and a dream of something perennial.