Posts Tagged ‘Dante or Die’

Over 150 shows were candidates for my four award-less awards, with Best New Play the difficult category this year, so lets start with that.

BEST NEW PLAY – LOVE – National Theatre

Over a third of the sixty-five candidates were worthy of consideration, which makes 2016 both prolific and high quality in terms of new plays. Hampstead had a particularly good year with Rabbit Hole, Lawrence After Arabia, Labyrinth and the epic iHo all in contention. The Almeida gave us three, with Boy leading the trio that included They Drink It In The Congo and Oil because of its importance and impact. The Globe’s two Kneehigh shows – 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips on the main stage & The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – both delighted. Two more Florian Zeller plays, The Mother and The Truth, followed The Father and proved he’s a real talent to watch. The visit of Isango again, this time with play with songs A Man of Good Hope was a treat.

The Arcola gave us Kenny Morgan, which showed us the inspiration for Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, the Donmar a fascinating One Night in Miami, the Orange Tree hosted the superbly written The Rolling Stone and Dante or Die’s site-specific Handle With Care had an epic sweep in its self storage unit setting. Two comedies shone above all others – James Graham’s Monster Raving Loony and Mischief Theatre’s The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, the only West End non-subsidised contender! The Royal Court provided the visceral Yen and The Children, my runner-up, another fine play by Lucy Kirkwood whose Chimerica was my 2013 winner. Of the National’s three, The Flick and Sunset at the Villa Thalia came earlier in the year, but it was LOVE at the end which made me sad and angry but blew me away with more emotional power than any other. Important theatre which I desperately hope many more people will see.

BEST REVIVAL / ADAPTATION of a play – The Young Vic’s YERMA & the National’s LES BLANCS

I’ve added ‘adaptation’ as a few steered a long way from their source, and Les Blancs could be considered a new play, but it’s just new to us.

Though I saw forty-four in this category, less than a quarter made the short-list. The best Shakespeare revival was undoubtedly A Winter’s Tale at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. As well as Les Blancs, the National staged excellent revivals of The Deep Blue Sea and Amadeus, the Donmar chipped in with the thoroughly entertaining comedy Welcome Home, Captain Fox and in Kingston The Rose revived Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, probably the best use ever of this difficult space. Beyond that I was struggling, except to choose between the two winners, which I found I couldn’t and shouldn’t do.


Has a shortlist ever been so short? Only twenty contenders but only three in contention. The Toxic Avenger at Southwark Playhouse was great fun and the NYMT’s Brass visiting Hackney Empire hugely impressive, but it was achieving the seemingly impossible by turning Groundhog Day into a hugely successful musical than won the day, though it was sad to see it head stateside, presumably in pursuit of greater commercial gain, after such a short run. I know it will be back, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about a British theatrical institution and a whole load of British talent being used as a Broadway try-out. 

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL – HALF A SIXPENCE – Chichester Festival Theatre / Novello Theatre

Fifty percent more revivals (twenty-nine) than new musicals is a lower proportion than usual, but a winner has never been clearer. 

The Menier gave us a transatlantic transfer of a great Into the Woods and what may prove to be the definitive She Loves Me, but both the Union and Walthamstow’s Rose & Crown provided twice as many quality revivals, with the latter successfully climbing higher peaks with more challenging shows for a small space – Bernstein’s Wonderful Town, Out of This World, Babes in Arms and Howard Goodall’s The Kissing Dance. The Union’s contributions included The Fix and Children of Eden and a trio of cheeky, fun nights with Bad Girls, Moby Dick and Soho Cinders. The Southerland-Tarento partnership provided a brilliant revival of Ragtime and the welcome European premiere, and superb production of, Rogers & Hammerstein’s Allegro (which was also too old for me to categorise as ‘New’). A little gem came and went ever so quickly when the Finborough revived Alan Price’s lovely Andy Capp in it’s Sun-Tue slot on the set of another play. BRING IT BACK! Despite all this fringe and off west end quality, it was the Chichester transfer of an old warhorse with a new book, new songs, thrilling staging, stunning choreography, gorgeous design and terrific ensemble which propelled itself to the top of this category.

That’s it for another year, then. Homelessness, childlessness, timelessness, colonialism and love amongst the working class. There’s a theme there somewhere…..


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I became an instant fan of site-specific, immersive theatre company Dante Or Die when I saw their show I Do in the Hilton Docklands (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/i-do) a couple of years ago. A short while into this second, smaller, more intimate show I realised why they stand out from the others – it’s the quality of the storytelling.

The location this time is Urban Locker at Old Street, one of a fast growing number of self-storage units our 21st century lifestyles demand. I’ve never been inside one, a maze of differently sized lockers and rooms, so that was an experience in itself. It’s an inspired idea and a brilliant way of telling the story of 28 years of Zoe’s life, from the departure of her brother on his world travels to moving in with her boyfriend, marriage and motherhood to divorce, through all the things we accumulate through our lives.

It works on a lot of levels. The intimacy means you engage with Zoe’s story from the first scene, so much so that you become personally possessive about her stuff in the clever final scene. There’s also a great sense of times changing, through clothes, music, objects and even behaviour. Everyone can identify in some way with something here, some closer or with more than others, but all in some way, and that’s what makes it such a poignant and moving piece.

It’s the same creative team as I Do – Daphna Attias, Terry O’Donovan and Chloe Moss – with just seven actors, six walk-in lockers, three stage managers and an awful lot of stuff! A very original idea, fine writing by Chloe Moss, fascinating space and excellent performances. I really engaged with this show emotionally, with feelings of nostalgia (though realising The Traveling Wilburys Handle With Care was 28 years old came as a bit of a shock!), empathy, warmth, sadness and happiness and I warmly recommend you see it in its final week.

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This is one of the best site-specific shows I’ve ever seen. It takes you ‘behind the scenes’ to the final hours before a wedding just where modern weddings tend to be – in a 4* hotel.

In six groups, you go to six bedrooms, each group in a different sequence. They belong to the groom, the bride & her bridesmaids, the best man, the bride’s mum, her grandparents with the final one the bridal suite for that night. In each a scene is played out with the actors ignoring your presence in the room to the point of bumping into you, or in my case falling on top of me!

People come and go, including a surreal maid listening to her iPod obsessed about leaving comments cards. Secrets, regrets, back stories all emerge and you get to know the characters intimately – at one point we were all in a bathroom watching the best man rehearse his speech in the mirror! I won’t say any more as it will surely return.

At the end all six groups are in the corridor and you see the comings and goings that have been taking place outside the rooms whilst you were in them. It’s cleverly written by Chloe Moss, faultlessly performed by a crack cast and it’s a logistical marvel, but its also very funny and occasionally deeply moving. You really do feel as if you’re peering into people’s lives.

Dante or Die and their directors Daphna Attias (who directs this) and Terry O’Donovan (the best man) are new to me but I’m locking on to them with my theatrical radar. Good to see the Almeida co-producing something like this too. More please!

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