Amadeus – February 2018

Experience: 6/10

By Peter Shaffer

Directed by Michael Longhurst

Venue: Olivier Theatre

Date: Thursday 1st February 2018

This was something of a disappointment. Given the high standard of some of his previous performances, we were looking forward to seeing Lucien Msamati as Salieri, as well as revisiting this excellent play in a different production. The reviews had been very good, although we hadn’t read any of the details, so it was only as we took our seats that the potential problems became apparent. Still, we kept our minds as open as possible and restrained our expectations: even so, I found myself revising my rating of the experience down and down again. Steve enjoyed it more than I did – he would have given it 7/10 – but we were largely in agreement with the overall standard. So was the paying public, it would seem, as this matinee was only just over half full, leaving large swathes of empty seats in the circle, rear stalls and sides.

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Gabriel – May 2017

Experience: 6/10

By Moira Buffini

Directed by Kate McGregor

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: 19th May 2017

It’s a good job Steve and I had already seen other plays by Moira Buffini which we enjoyed – if we had seen this one first we might not have booked for some of the others. Her inexperience shows in this, the first of her plays, through the underwritten characters, weak story and rather tepid ending. Some strong performances helped, as did some good humour, but the second half still dragged. Even making allowances for the fact that I was very tired after a hard week’s playgoing, I wouldn’t willingly watch this piece again. Steve got more out of this performance than I did, but not enough to raise the overall rating.

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Queen Anne – January 2016

Experience: 8/10

By Helen Edmundson

Directed by Natalie Abrahami

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Wednesday 13th January 2016

We enjoyed seeing this again, and while the performance had certainly come on a bit since November, I felt that overall it was just as good as last time, although Steve would have rated it at 9/10. Natascha McElhone showed a great deal more confidence as Lady Sarah Churchill, and the dialogue may have been even crisper, though as this was the captioned performance, and our seats put us almost in a direct line with the screen, I can’t be sure. One very noticeable change was that the auditorium was packed tonight – almost every seat was filled. The two next to us on the aisle were vacant – more on that story later – but otherwise it was close to a sell-out.

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Stella – February 2015

Experience: 6/10

By Siobhán Nicholas

Directed by the company and Polly Irvin

Company: Take The Space

Venue: Minerva Theatre

Date: Thursday 19th February 2015

We’d seen this company’s Hanging Hooke several years ago, and were keen to view this new play. By the same writer, it also involved Chris Barnes from the earlier piece, Siobhán Nicholas herself and Sian Webber. They played characters in both the present and past, and although this meant a fair bit of jumping around, the story gradually began to emerge.

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Oppenheimer – January 2015

Experience: 8/10

By Tom Morton-Smith

Directed by Angus Jackson

Venue: Swan Theatre

Date: Tuesday 20th January 2015

Wow. We didn’t have high expectations for this play, despite it being in the Swan and starring John Heffernan (one of our favourite actors) as Oppenheimer himself. We were prepared for it to be a bit dry, a bit too technical, perhaps even – dare I say it? – a bit boring, but the whole thing was an amazing piece of theatre, with music, jokes and lots of interesting information as well as lively debates. And yes, the horrific effects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were brought out in a very effective and moving way. Given that this was a preview, I’d expect the performances to come on even more, and now that we know who is who in the story, our second viewing should bring out much more detail. Time will tell.

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The Christmas Truce – January 2015

Experience: 9/10

By Phil Porter

Directed by Erica Whyman

Venue: RST

Date: Thursday 15th January 2015

We enjoyed this production so much when we saw it before Christmas last year that we decided to fit in another viewing, so here we are. Again we sat in the centre front stalls, the same seats as for the understudy run, so no complaints about our view. One young lad did a ‘wiggle’ dance to celebrate his success at the coconut shy, but otherwise the standard was pretty poor – Chris had to use his foot on one occasion or we’d have still been sitting there now waiting for the start!

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The Trials Of Galileo – January 2015

Experience: 7/10

Written and directed by Nic Jones

Icarus Theatre Collective

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Tuesday 13th January 2015

This is the sort of play we would normally expect to see in the Mill Studio next door. While the main house wasn’t completely full, there was a good turnout, and it’s nice to see something like this being given a chance in front of a larger audience.

The stage was open and relatively bare. In the centre stood a table which was covered with a dark red cloth. A green runner went front to back, there was a seat behind and some books or papers on the table, although I couldn’t see much detail from our front row seats. Back left was a smaller table with various items which were also indistinguishable in the pre-show gloom – I guessed more books, a flask and some glasses, which turned out to be correct – and front right was a small telescope on a stand. I say small, perhaps four feet long? Various sheets of paper were scattered around, front left and right and in a few other places. When we looked at the ones near us we could see astronomical observations, such as the famous moons of Jupiter sketch with four crosses for the moons. As my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I spotted a stool back right. That seemed to be the lot.

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