Duet Review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image: (L) Wendy Morgan as Sarah Bernhardt; (R) Cynthia Straus as Eleanora Duse  The ghost of Sarah Bernhardt appears As she prepares for her performance as Marguerite in The Lady of the Camelias, internationally renowned actress Eleonora Duse is visited in her dressing room by the ghost of Sarah Bernhardt. The cause of this manifestation is a mystery. Duse is in ill health, complaining of a bad cold and clearly suffering with ennui (an unfortunate theatre manager is told that “there will be no performance tonight”), has she unwittingly summoned her fellow acting legend or has Miss Bernhardt returned for her own reasons? We will find out as the evening progresses. That is the set up of Duet, the new show at the Tabard, written by Otho Es

The Appraisal review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Tim Marriott and Angela Bull in The Appraisal A delightfully uncomfortable watch The Appraisal is absolutely brilliant. It's only an hour long - a dialogue between two people: he the senior manager, she a direct report who manages a team of people under him. At the start of the play he has clearly forgotten he is supposed to be sitting down with her to discuss her annual appraisal, as he is practising his golf swing when there is a knock on the door. He has a passing acquaintance with employment law, certainly talks the HR talk - referring to the HSA (the Health and Safety Appendix to the staff handbook) and VAT (Value Added Targets), company watchwords such as Transparency and Integrity and measuring her achievements by the Robust Perfor

Beauty and the Beast – 2024 Strand Panto

Image above: Beauty & the Beast whole company A Peruvian TV actress, an England cricketer and a King's Counsel walked into a playground ... Unbelievably, the Strand on the Green School panto is in its 43rd year. Since 1981 the primary school parents have put on a show, written, produced, directed and performed by them, taking great delight in making total fools of themselves on stage in front of their kids, and handing on the tradition to the next generation of parents when their kids moved on to secondary school. What is so amazing is that these pantos are fantastic. When we moved to Chiswick in 1993 and my daughter joined the nursery at Strand we went to see Mother Goose and were blown away by the professionalism of it: the costumes, the scenery, t

Uncle Vanya review – The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond

Image above: James Lance as Ivan Voynitsky (Vanya) in Sir Trevor Nunn's production at the Orange Tree Theatre A triumph for Sir Trevor Nunn, in a career already choc-full of triumphs Trevor Nunn's fantastic production of Uncle Vanya has also just opened at the Orange Tree theatre in Richmond, to great acclaim. In the programme introduction he explains he has directed all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in his time at the RSC and the National Theatre, and several of Chekhov's plays, but Uncle Vanya  had always eluded him - until now. Set not long before the Russian revolution, at the isolated home of Vanya and his niece Sonya, deep in the Russian countryside, Chekhov's play is surprisingly modern. The visiting doctor, Mikhail Astrov, is passionate

The Lady or the Tiger review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: The Lady or the Tiger; Theatre at the Tabard Review by By Simon Thomsett The Theatre at the Tabard’s latest production is a lively and thoroughly entertaining musical mini-extravaganza. Adapted from a short story from the 19th century author Frank Stockton, The Lady or the Tiger tells the story of a despotic king who rules his “semi-barbaric” land according to his own whims and without mercy. It’s a land where the population is unceremoniously bumped off at the age of 65 (cue some uncomfortable shuffling in the press night audience), where there is no educational problem because, well there is no education, and where a deadly version of bingo has lethal consequences for the losers, one of whom was the unfortunate late queen. Th

After All These Years review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: L to R - Graham Pountney, Judy Buxton, Jeffrey Holland, Carol Ball in After All These Years, Theatre at the Tabard Review by Bridget Osborne Theatre at the Tabard Wednesday 9 - Saturday 24 February After All These Years is a play that will resonate with people who have been married a long time. Who, in the course of a thirty or forty year marriage, has not come to that stick or twist moment - the point where they think: 'Is this it? Is this really all there is? Should I leave and find a more exciting life? Or maybe I should stay put, maybe I would be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Maybe, for all the minor frustrations and irritations, this marriage is good enough.' Image above: Act One -

Look Behind You review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Matt Tester, Olivia Jackson & Daniel Wain in Look Behind You at the Tabard; photograph Marc Brenner Review by By Simon Thomsett The Theatre at the Tabard has just opened with its new show, Look Behind You, and it is one ambitious undertaking.  A cast of 11 (backstage must be interesting) take us through a gruelling pantomime season at the fictional Britannia Theatre presenting a traditional, if slightly ropey version of Dick Whittington. Interspersed with the onstage antics, backstage intrigue provides a plot or two and some insight into the unique “band of brothers” mentality that such a season inevitably generates. The show originates from 1999 but has been extensively updated (by well over 60% according to a programme

The Secret Garden review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Daisy Rae as Mary Lennox, Theatre at The Tabard; photographs by Charles Flint A story about loneliness and loss, and overcoming adversity - which is upbeat, and funny I was curious to see how a story which relies on switching between two dramatically different locations - one an austere and rather forbidding grand house, and the other a wildly overgrown garden - would work in such a small space as the theatre at the Tabard. Designer Hazel Owen and lighting designer Nat Green have come up with a creative solution which elevates the production beyond what you would expect from a pub theatre, setting the scene for an excellent production. Set in the days of the British Raj, Mary Lennox (Daisy Rae, making her professional stage debut) arrives from In

Cinderella review – Lyric theatre, Hammersmith

Image above: Cinderella at the Lyric, Hammersmith, the company; photograph Manuel Harlan The biggest ball in west London As Christmas hurtles ever closer, the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre brings us its 15th annual pantomime. This year’s production is a ‘brand new take’ on Cinderella from the pen of award-winning comedian, actor and composer Vikki Stone. Tilly La Belle Yengo makes for a sympathetic Cinderella, here updated as a sassy “boss-lady” selling diminutive clothes for rodents in Shepherd’s Bush Market (definitely a niche that no-one else has spotted!). Most of the laugh-out-loud moments come when Emmanuel Akwafo takes the stage as the inevitable Dame, Lady Jelly Bottom, a terrifying yet exhilarating combination of Margaret Thatcher and

She Stoops to Conquer review – Orange Tree theatre, Richmond

Image above: Whole cast, She Stoops to Conquer; Orange Tree Theatre; photograph Marc Brenner 250th anniversary production of the classic comedy by Oliver Goldsmith I was a little surprised to see She Stoops to Conquer on the bill at The Orange Tree in Richmond.  The comedy, by Oliver Goldsmith, was first performed 250 years ago and it is not so often performed now, as it can be hard to make the humour of such a different time relatable to a modern audience. The only time I had ever seen it before was a production at my sister's school, when it most definitely did not lift off the page. I also associate The Orange Tree with new work. The last play I saw there was set during the student riots in Hong Kong three years ago. The Orange Tree does champion

The Elephant in the Room review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Kristin Milward as Judith, Fraser Anthony (standing), Josie Ayers as Rosemary, Baptiste Semin, Craig Crosbie as Johnny (seated, hidden) and Stephen Omer as David, in The Elephant in the Room at the Tabard theatre Review by By Simon Thomsett Whilst travelling in India, 19-year-old Ashley Davenport encounters Yama, the King of Death and begins to question his place in the world. Disillusioned with his fellow British tourists, disdainfully dismissed as “the shouting people” and overcome with ennui, he decides to give up and retire from this life, and with a “Bye bye world and good riddance,” checks himself in to a retirement home. Thus begins Peter Hamilton’s new play just opened at the theatre at the Tabard. Fraser Anthony as Davenport embodi

The Interview review – Park Theatre

Image above: Yolanda Kettle as Princess Diana and Tibu Fortes as Martin Bashir in The Interview; Pamela Raith Photography A new play by Jonathan Maitland ⭐⭐⭐⭐ What's the point of doing a play about a TV interview? Wouldn't you just watch the TV interview? That's kind of the point of The Interview, the new play by Chiswick resident Jonathan Maitland which opened at The Park theatre in Finsbury Park on 27 October and runs until 25 November. The interview between Martin Bashir and Princess Diana in which she famously declared 'there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded' is no longer available to watch. What is arguably the most important interview the BBC has ever done, and the most significant TV interview of the 20th cent

Backstairs Billy review – Duke of York’s theatre

Image above: Penelope Wilton and Luke Evans in 'Backstairs Billy'; Photograph MGC Penelope Wilton and Luke Evans in a new comedy by Marcelo Dos Santos Backstairs Billy is the new comedy at the Duke of York's theatre in the West End, with Penelope Wilton in the role as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Luke Evans as 'Backstairs Billy'. It is a fictional confection based loosely on the true story of the Queen Mother and her relationship with William Tallon, her 'Page of the Back Stairs'. He started work with the royal family as a junior assistant at the age of 15, trained as a footman, went to work at Clarence House and remained her servant for over forty years until her death in 2002. They are an odd couple to say the least, although in Marcelo Dos

Delinquent Dad review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: John Gorick as Robert, the 'Delinquent Dad' of the title Theatre at the Tabard's latest in-house production Apparently 42% marriages in the UK end in divorce, mostly citing ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Many couples decide to call it a day once their children have grown up and left home, so the scenario of Delinquent Dad, in which a sixty something man finds himself couch surfing with his son and his girlfriend, having been thrown out by his wife, may strike an uncomfortable chord with some amongst Chiswick audiences. The play opens with the young couple Matt and Cara preparing for Matt’s parents to come for dinner, where Cara will be meeting them for the first time. As it turns out it’s just Robert, the father, clutching a hol

Flowers for Mrs Harris review – Riverside Studios

Image above: Flowers for Mrs Harris, Riverside Studios; L to R Charlotte Kennedy, Pippa Winslow, Abigail Williams, Jenna Russell, Harry Singh, Kelly Price, Issy Khogali, Nathaniel Campbell Review by Simon Thomsett If you are able readily to accept that a flawlessly generous and kind widow, struggling to get by as a cleaner in '50’s London, can find meaning in life in the form of a Christian Dior dress, even to the point of being ready to sell the last tangible memento of her late husband to acquire said item, then Flowers for Mrs Harris, the new show at Riverside Studios may be for you. Having been dazzled by a client’s dress, Mrs Harris sets out to acquire one of her own, whatever it takes. Reasoning that it would be “something to come home to”

Persuasion review – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Persuasion; Theatre at the Tabard By Simon Thomsett As the Chiswick Book Festival comes to an end the Theatre at the Tabard keeps the spirit alive with a run of Dot Productions’ staging of Jane Austen’s Persuasion which has just opened.  The adaptation by Dawn Bush nips along at pace and somehow in 90 minutes of playing time gets through the main events of the story with an enthusiastic cast of just five, three of whom swop roles throughout. At the centre of the story is Anne Elliot, living reluctantly in Bath ("It’s always wet") and apparently given up on love, not exactly helped by her excessively vain father who, when he can tear himself away from the mirror taunts her: ‘you’ll never catch a husband…’ Enter Captain Wentw

About Bill review – Theatre at the Tabard

Kim Ismay in About Bill, as Gloria - 48 years old and foolish, Bill's landlady By Simon Thomsett The expression “tour de force” is sometimes overused but in the case of the Tabard’s new show, About Bill, it is exactly the right epithet.  Kim Ismay’s solo performance as a series of women all involved in some personal way with the titular Bill is outstanding. Over the course of a snappy 80 minutes, Ismay embodies various characters from the Bill’s life with enormous conviction and huge heart, it’s a remarkable achievement. From the start, as a chorus girl, a “star-spangled gipsy goddess” who is struggling to make her showbiz career work and is desperate for her new baby to be a girl, she pulls us in. It is left to her sister, Aunty Dot

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder (Udderbelly) ⭐⭐ Making sense of this proved well beyond my investigative abilities. I wasn’t alone. Having scarpered after an hour I chatted to some twenty something escapees who felt the same. Part of the problem is that the singing diction is poor but drowned out anyway by loud music and poor acoustics. That’s a big problem when singing is 90% of proceedings. The plot - I think - is about two podcasters trying to solve the murder of a famous crime novelist in Hull. I had huge hopes for this as the producers have a great creative track record. To be fair, some of the audience seemed to enjoy it. The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris the 3rd, King of Bulgaria (Pleasance) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The remarkabl

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Jazz Emu (Pleasance) ⭐⭐⭐ An un-categorisable mash up of musical parody, Terry Gilliam style animation, brilliantly filmed spoof pop video inserts and much more besides. A bit of Tim Minchin here,  a dash of Flight of the Conchords there. Very cult-y, very clever, very slick. Will appeal greatly if you are a) under 40 and b) out of your box on industrial strength spliff. He’s playing the Clapham Grand later this year. Worth a look if you’re feeling adventurous.

Edinburgh Festival reviews

No Love Songs (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐ In which a young couple with no distinguishing features and a newborn child hit a crisis when he goes off on tour with his band. He sings at her,  she sings at him, and sometimes they sing pleasant but anodyne pop stuff together, in rather sweet harmony. She then gets postnatal depression, a symptom of which is the urge to say nothing memorable or original during the 80 minute running time. One for the Millennials. Corny, predictable, cliched. There’s so much endeavour, sincerity  and heart here, however, I can (almost) forgive it everything. Heaven (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Edinburgh Festival reviews

The Grand Old Opera House Hotel (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which two cleaners at a very beige luxury hotel which was once an opera house fall in love without actually meeting. The building is - of course - haunted by the music and characters of its past. Combines farce, classic 70s sitcom and lots of opera, but delivered in a way even the most opera-sceptic punter will enjoy. Clever, moving, magical. Does what all fabulous theatre should:  it takes you places. Literally and metaphorically. Jack Docherty in David Bowie and Me: Parallel Lives (Gilded Balloon) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which the 6

Edinburgh Festival reviews

Adults (Traverse) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which a repressed, married teacher of English Literature and father of two finally summons up the courage to visit a male prostitute but it all goes horribly wrong when the lady on the front desk, as it were, turns out to be a former pupil of his. Very well written three hander about the lies we tell ourselves and our loved ones. Alan Ayckbourn-ish (in a good way) but far more bleak and sex-centred with a bright pink dildo playing a starring role. Not one for the in-laws. Steve Richards presents: Rock  ‘n’ Roll Politics (Symposium Hall) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ In which an ex B

Edinburgh Festival – Lena review

LENA (Assembly, George Square) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Those of you with children at Chiswick’s Arts Ed should look away now: this excellent play with music about  tragic 70s child star Lena Zavaroni will have you reconsidering their career choices. Erin Armstrong is superb in the title role as the singing child prodigy who found huge fame on the ITV talent show  Opportunity Knocks before mental illness blighted her life. Writer Tim Whitnall hits all the right notes in all the right order. A  deeply moving piece of popular entertainment.  If the Riverside Studios survive they’d be mad not to put this on. Our thanks to 'Jonny from Chiswick' aka Our Man at the Edinburgh Fringe. Our Man at the Edinburgh Festival will be there all week. See

Our Man at the Edinburgh Fringe

Top joke of the festival The TV channel Dave sponsors the Top Ten Best jokes at the Edinburgh Festival. The Dave Funniest Joke of the Festival fringe award this year goes to Lorna Rose Treen for her zookeeper joke: "I started dating a zookeeper, but it turned out he was a cheetah." Since so much of what happens at the Edinburgh Fringe finds its way to London theatres, you may be interested in what Our Man at the Edinburgh Fringe thought of the two productions he saw on Monday: Dark Noon - 'a brutal reimagining of the history of America is told by seven South African actors' and That's Politainment! - Rosie Holt's satirical show lampooning the likes of Nadine Dorries, Matt Hancock and Jacob Rees Mogg. Dark Noon (Edinburgh International Conferen

Chinese Boxing – Theatre at the Tabard

A one man play written and performed by Mark Kitto about the Boxer Rebellion Mark Kitto is bringing his one man show Chinese Boxing to Theatre at the Tabard on Friday 28 July. One man, three characters: Sir Claude Macdonald, former British Minister to Peking in 1900 during the famous Boxer Uprising, here in Chiswick to deliver a lecture to a fictional Chiswick branch of the Royal Asiatic Society in 1912. Then Rong Lu, a Qing general  in the Empress’ court. Finally a sergeant of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, one of the troops sent to relieve the siege. Why would you want to go and see a production about the Boxer Rebellion (1899 - 1901)? Firstly it is a fascinating period of history. The conflict was born out of escalating tensions against the 'foreign devils' who

Unreachable – Theatre at the Tabard

Image above: Heaven's Gate; IMDb A play about a totally dysfunctional film set Anthony Neilson's play Unreachable was performed in London in 2016 at the Royal Court with Matt Smith in the lead role (yes Dr Who / House of the Dragon Matt Smith). Neilson is known as an experimental playwright and Matt Smith chose to do it because he thought it sounded "weird and cool" but said also (jokingly?) that it might possibly be "career suicide". It wasn't. They play was very well reviewed, but he was taking a risk, as it was based on improvisation, which he said was "unnerving", and the topic and the characters were, well, weird. Six young actors who go by the name of OldDog Theatre Company will be performing Unreachable for Theatre at the Tab

Maybe Dick – Theatre at the Tabard review

Image above: John Hewer in Maybe Dick Maybe Dick at the Tabard Review by Simon Thomsett The Theatre at the Tabard kicked off its new summer season of one-nighters on Sunday with Hambledon Productions’ jolly romp, Maybe Dick, a spirited and occasionally very silly one-man race through the classic story of man versus whale. Written and performed by John Hewer on a simple but inventive set, the show is essentially a series of jokes, skits, impersonations (a sustained scene with Hewer as Ronnie Corbett is accomplished and strangely nostalgic) and occasional dramatic interludes. Hewer somehow manages to play all the parts and maintain some narrative coherence along with a stream of jokes and the odd musical interlude the most impressi

Del Segno – Theatre at the Tabard review

Image above: Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard Del Segno, Theatre at the Tabard Review by Simon Thomsett Joseph Morley is a professional pianist turned Musical Director with many years on the clock in the music business.  He has turned some of that experience into a new play, Dal Segno, a glimpse behind the scenes in the life of a live band, currently showing at the Theatre at the Tabard. Unsurprisingly, given the author’s background, there is a strong sense of authenticity here, particularly in the carefully drawn and subtly played older characters such as Vincent Shiels’ Brian, and Terence Frisch’s Ron, both of whom inhabit the seedy band room setting as if they had been hanging around rooms such as this for ever. I

A Critical Stage – Theatre at the Tabard review

Image above: Barbara Wilshere and David Acton in A Critical Stage at the Tabard; photograph Charles Flint New play by Chiswick resident Gareth Armstrong Review by Simon Thomsett James Agate was a key figure in English theatre during the middle part of the twentieth century, primarily as an influential and respected critic, most notably for the Sunday Times in an era when such a position conferred status on the holder. His printed opinions mattered and had significance for the success or failure of the shows he reviewed. A Critical Stage is a new play centred on Agate, set during the war and currently playing at the Theatre at the Tabard. Written and directed by Gareth Armstrong, the play is a finely drawn character study of A

Next Door’s Baby – Theatre at the Tabard review

Image above: Next Door's Baby ensemble with Sam Woodhams (Priest) and Shaylyn Gibson (Miriam, with baby) Next Door's Baby - "Theatre at the Tabard has another hit on its hands" Review by Simon Thomsett The new show at the Tabard takes us back to 1950’s Dublin in a revival of Matthew Strachan and Bernie Gaughan’s gripping and emotional play with music, Next Door’s Baby. Neighbouring households, the O’Briens and the Hennessys decide to enter their newest arrivals in a Bonny Baby competition run by the local paper. In the meantime, long held family secrets are gradually uncovered, some of which will have profound consequences. In an outstanding cast, Jackie Pulford as the O’Brien matriarch grabs the show from the start with