Posts Tagged ‘Nadia Albina’

This is the third new play by the prolific James Graham in four months, the other two (Ink & Labour of Love) still running in the West End, perhaps soon to become a trio with this. He’s cornered the market with recent history plays and what I love most about his work is that he recalls history you’ve lived through, illuminates and educates, but never forgets to entertain.

This has stylistic similarities with his underrated Monster Raving Loony, where he used British comedy shows to tell the story of that indispensable political party led by Screaming Lord Sutch. Here, the focus is on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire cheating scandal through the history of quiz shows, with examinations of the psychology of, and motivation for, participation and that very British obsession with fairness and equality along the way. It’s got the same playfulness (an audience quiz, with prizes, voting and even participation) and sense of fun, enhancing the storytelling and guaranteeing the entertainment.

We move from the creation of ITV, it’s earlier game shows and the pitch for this one to the entry and preparation by a network of very determined and thorough individuals to the show itself and the court case which followed, which itself became a bit of an entertainment in a life-imitates-art sort of way. It was fascinating on so many levels and always entertaining. Robert Jones’ terrific set takes you right into the TV studio, but also becomes the court and other locations. Lights, music, live projection and recorded video all add to the authenticity.

Gavin Spokes and Stephanie Street are excellent as the Ingram’s, the couple at the centre of the storm that became an (untelevised) courtroom drama and international media circus. Nine other actors play over forty roles between them, from three to seven each. Keir Charles gets to be Chris Tarrant, Des O’Connor, Jim Bowen, Leslie Crowther and Bruce Forsyth in quick succession; five terrific turns! We even get a Corrie cameo to illustrate a question, with Sarah Woodward and Nadia Albina bringing the house down as Hilda Ogden & Elsie Tanner respectively. The audience voted on their guilt twice and the verdict changed from one to the other, as it had in the vast majority of previous shows (but not me!)

Daniel Evans’ production zips along, captivates and entertains, but you also get an intriguing story within a frame of recent social history, this time popular culture. The return trip to Chichester was twice as long as the play, but it was well worth it.

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I’m not really sure what I think of this show and I’m not really sure what to write about it. The words that spring to mind are brave, exhausting, pointless, original, and improvisation. See what I mean?

Eight actors (though ten are listed in the programme) in work-out cloths mingle with the audience, eight of whom are asked to write their name (the actor, not the audience member!) on a card and put it in a hat from which one is selected and read out by another audience member. This is the protagonist, the actor who will tonight attempt said acts with the help / hindrance of their colleagues, the fixed sequence of which is written on flip-chart paper at both sides of the stage. An ‘assault course’ including attempting to get into a suitcase and eating a lemon happens three times, the third time with added teamwork. The other acts include cloths removal / swapping fights, hands in an ice bucket and a scene from Romeo & Juliet.

It’s a very uneven 70 minute ride – intriguing, occasionally funny, sometimes tedious, more than a touch self-indulgent and a bit pointless. I’m not sure how much is improvised, but some clearly is. Nadia Albina was the protagonist the night I went, braver than most to undertake such an exhausting experience with a disability to contend with. The problem with having a protagonist though is that seven actors spend most of the evening in chairs watching, a bit of a waste of talent.

This was the 5th in the ‘secret theatre’ series presented at the Lyric Hammersmith, with the same actors in a diverse range of shows. Though the idea was original, as this show is, I wasn’t prepared to invest precious evenings playing pot luck so I missed them all. On this showing, I think I might have been right.

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I hadn’t planned to spend the evening at the very theatre where the afternoon’s show – Oh, what a lovely war! – had been created 47 years ago, but the co-incidence is wonderful as it show’s the Theatre Royal Stratford is still the powerhouse it was then.

Even though it does best fit the genre ‘jukebox musical’  it would be grossly unfair to use that label because its spirit is so far from the ‘showbiz’ of those that precede it. Here you’ll find energy, passion and heart with just the right amount of chaos and anarchy worthy of the man whose songs it celebrates. I absolutely loved it!

A simple story links the songs; set in 1979, a young man is trying to fix an outing to Drury’s Hammersmith concert for his dying dad and his best mate. They don’t make it, but along the way we get a slice of early Thatcher Britain, spend time with a family coping with cancer and a budding love story. The tale is being told in a pub in the present day as a tribute and benefit to the dad. It’s a bit slight and the politics are a bit crude (though somewhat timely, post-spending cuts!) but it’s told with great passion & a big heart with an infectious, blissful chaos.

A co-production with disabled-led company Graeae, the integrated cast is simply superb. Stephen Lloyd is a charming Vinnie, you can’t help but love Stephen Collins angry deaf Colin, Karen Spicer makes such a good job of mum you’re convinced she really has turned up to play herself and Nadia Albina is so full of life as Janine it’s infectious. Garry Robson plays dad from his wheelchair and John Kelly sings lead from his. The talented Daniel McGowan gets to play two parts, guitar and two saxophones simultaneously! The band under Robert Hyman bang out the songs as if their life depended on it (great drumming from Mat Fraser, playwright Paul Sirett on guitar and Nixon Rosembert on bass), but you can still get every word of Dury’s unique (and often filthy!) lyrics. Audio describer Wayne Norman and signer Jude Mahon double up as dancers!

The spirit of Ian Dury is well and truly alive in Stratford and if he made you smile, laugh and cry like he did me, get there quick and you’ll have a ball.

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