The Christmas and January avalanche of online offerings is now slowing to more of a trickle, as theatres and entertainment venues look optimistically towards a possible spring or summer reopening.
But there’s still a lot out there, if you care to look, particularly from those great stalwarts of previous lockdowns, Original Theatre and stream.theatre. There are even some special half term theatre offerings and workshops for kids.
New this week
The Color Purple, Leicester Curve Theatre
Leicester Curve Theatre has a lot to live up to. It had a massive success with its streaming version of Sunset Boulevard, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on a rather grim 1950s film noir. Which probably makes its new streaming show one of the most anticipated productions of the month.
On the face of it, it’s chosen an even grimmer subject; a concert version of The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s 1980s novel about a young girl in the American South. If you’ve read it, you’ll know that the book takes in adult themes like incest and rape, so it seems odd to think of it being adapted into a musical.
But The Curve has form with The Color Purple. When the theatre first staged it in 2019, it won several regional awards. At the time, the Guardian gave it a four star review, calling it “an exuberant celebration of community and female empowerment”, adding that it had a standing ovation from its first-night audience.
If you want to judge for yourself, the production runs from today, 16 February, to 7 March. Tickets £20 per household. Bear in mind, though that the adult themes present in the book are still there, if somewhat glossed over.
Image above: Leicester Curve Theatre
Original Theatre presents a series of four theatrical monologues starring Jon Culshaw, Matthew Kelly, Jemma Redgrave and Adrian Scarborough. They’re written by Peter Barnes, known for his series of monologues on the BBC back in the 80s.
I particularly like the sound of A True Born Englishman, starring Adrian Scarborough. Billed as a “world premiere”, it appears to be been planned as part of the original Beeb series, but was later dropped. It tells the story of a footman at Buckingham Palace who decides, after 30 years, to spill his secrets…
Duration: around 20 minutes per monologue. Tickets £7.50 per monologue (or you can opt to buy a package).
18 February-31 July
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
This new family-friendly musical, filmed at Southwark Playhouse, explores the world of a sorcerer and his rebellious daughter, as she discovers the explosive possibilities of her newfound magical powers. Suitable for ages 8+
£15 + booking fee
26 February – 14 March.
Two hours running time; performances both matinee and evening.
Daddy Long Legs
Based on a 1912 novel, later developed into a Hollywood film with Fred Astaire, this musical, presented by stream theatre, tells the story of an orphan whose education as a writer is paid for by a mysterious benefactor. As part of the deal, she’s required to write to him once a month and nicknames him “Daddy Long Legs”. I haven’t seen any reviews of this particular production, filmed live at the Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, in 2018. But the American musical version of Daddy Long Legs was highly praised during a recent lengthy off-Broadway run (see here for details).
8-14 March. Tickets £18 (including booking fee)
Stream.theatre has many other dramas and musicals. On the musical side, productions range from English shows like West End Musical Drive In to a Russian musical version of Anna Karenina and a Korean musical version of the King Arthur myth, Xcalibur. See stream.theatre/home.
Image above: promotional image for The Sorcerer’s apprentice at Southwark Playhouse
A Splinter of Ice
The other new production I have my eye on is Original Theatre’s A Splinter of Ice. It’s a political drama, set as the thaw to the Cold War sets in in the late 1980s. On paper, its pedigree looks excellent. Starring Oliver Ford Davies, it’s penned by Ben Brown, whose award winning West End play Three Days in May inspired the Oscar-winning film, Darkest Hour. Unlike many of OT’s other productions, this one will be filmed onstage at Cheltenham Everyman, with the idea of transforming it into a live touring production later in the year.
This is how the website describes it: Moscow 1987, as the cold war begins to thaw and Britain’s greatest living novelist Graham Greene meets with his old MI6 boss, Kim Philby, Britain’s greatest spy… and traitor.
Under the watchful eye of Rufa, Kim’s Russian wife, the two men set about catching up on old times. With a new world order breaking around them how much did the writer of The Third Man know about Philby’s secret life as a spy? Did the Red Spy Philby betray his friend as well as his country?
..and who is listening-in in the next-door room?
15 April – 31 July
The Habit of Art
Penned by Alan Bennett, whose back catalogue includes The History Boys, The Madness of King George and Talking Heads. A play-within-a-play, it features Matthew Kelly (Of Mice and Men, Toast, Pride and Prejudice) and David Yelland (The Crown, Chariots of Fire) and focuses on a meeting between poet WH Auden and composer Benjamin Britten. Directed by Philip Franks.
This is a high quality three camera recording of Original Theatre’s stage production, filmed just before lockdown.
Tickets £10. Running time 115 minutes. Suitable for ages 15+.
Image above: Watermans theatre
Half Term Theatre for Kids
Watermans is presenting a series of half-term events including Myths and Adventures of Ancient Greece.
Free. Available online until 15 April
See a trailer here.
There’s also a Magic and Myths workshop, in which children will be taught magic tricks by award-winning magician, Kevin Spencer.
Plus there’s a half-term, on-demand production of Dust for ages 4-9, recorded live at the Half Moon Theatre, about the friendship that springs up between a young girl, Titch, and flamboyant hoarder Nelly. Tickets £5 per household.
Children’s Half Term Theatre Festival
The Big Imaginations website appears to offer an absolute treasure trove of entertainment for your little ones, in the form of a special half term theatre festival from a network of 22 arts venues and organisations across the UK (including another offering of Dust)
They include the likes of Curious Investigators for ages 3-7, Dust (again) for ages 4-9, When We Started Singing for ages 5+, The Land of Nod for ages 0-5, When Trolls Try to Eat Your Goldfish for ages 5+ and Drag Queen Story Time for ages 3+
Unicorn Theatre is offering some of its children’s productions until March on its YouTube channel. They include Roald Dahl’s The Twitts, Philip Pullman’s Grimm Tales, Anansi the Spider and Huddle, a tale of a penguin family.
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