Having just seen Sean Foley’s ghastly sledgehammer approach to Molière’s The Miser at Garrick Theatre, it was particularly pleasing to see Patrick Marber’s Don Juan in Soho at Wyndham’s. Marber’s witty and vulgar modern take on Molière’s heartless seducer is excellently acted by the charismatic David Tennant. “Please don’t be charmed, he’s not a loveable rogue,” pleads Don Juan’s servant (Adrian Scarborough, exemplary). All in vain: the audience loves Tennant and is charmed.
Christopher Wheeldon both directs and choreographs George and Ira Gershwin’s An American in Paris at Dominion Theatre. The musical is dance-led. Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, who created the roles on Broadway, are primarily classical dancers: he with New York Ballet, and she with the Royal Ballet. Fairchild has star quality: he can dance, act and sing, and he has bags of easy grace. The score is full of well-known classics, including I’ve Got Rhythm, ’S Wonderful and rarities such as Fidgety Feet. A high spot is the big showbiz number I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, with the chorus boys in top hat, tails and canes and the chorus girls with ostrich feathers. Designer Bob Crowley provides gorgeous colour and marvellous sets. It’s perfect family entertainment.
At Menier Chocolate Factory, Trevor Nunn directs an enjoyable revival of Terence Rattigan’s Love in Idleness. It’s not been seen since its premiere in 1943. A young boy, evacuated to Canada at the beginning of World War II, returns as a 17-year-old (Edward Bluemel) full of socialist ideas, to find that his widowed mother (Eve Best, delightful) is “living in sin” with a rich industrialist (Anthony Head). He immediately starts behaving as if he were Hamlet and forces his mother to make a choice between him and her lover.
At London’s Arts Theatre, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman tell the story of The Wipers Times, the brainchild of Captain Fred Roberts and Lt Jack Pearson, who printed a satirical newspaper from the trenches during World War I. It was hugely popular as a morale-booster precisely because it was so subversive. The Brass Hats were not amused. The production, like the newspaper, is a mixture of comic sketches, gags, poems and spoof advertisements: satire is blended with fact.
Ryan Craig’s Filthy Business at Hampstead Theatre follows the misfortunes of a Jewish family from the 1960s to the 1980s. The indomitable matriarch, who does terrible things to save the family business from bankruptcy, is a great role for Sara Kestelman. But the script needs editing and re-working; there are far too many characters and subplots.
At the Royal Court, Simon McBurney and James Yeatman’s multimedia adaptation of Robert Evans’s racy autobiography, The Kid Stays in the Picture, traces his rise and fall as a Hollywood mogul. The candid, shameless, self-promoting Evans comes vividly to life on the page; on stage, he plays a supporting role to the technology.
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