Posts Tagged ‘James Corden’

And so another year draws to a close, and it’s time to look back on another theatrical year. Here are the TheatrePunk awards!

So, in no particular order, here are the top ten. These represent the most fun I have had in a theatre this year. They may not be the best things to be staged in Britain this year, but they are the shows that gave me the most pleasure. The shows that I recommended to friends, sometimes saw twice, or the ones that really gave me something to think about. In summary, they are my favourites of the year…

Matilda (RSC)

Just an absolute joy from beginning to end. Intelligent, moving, funny and with a soundtrack that sticks with you and for two hours turns you into a child again. It was one of the best musicals I’ve seen in years, and I’m absolutely delighted that, having already had its sell-out run extended, it appears to be settling down for a long West End residency.

Frankenstein (National Theatre)

Probably the theatrical event of the year, and I’m sure it’s a show that will be appearing in many ‘best of the year’ pieces. Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller were incredible in Danny Boyle’s return to the UK theatre scene. I saw this with Jonny Lee Miller as Frankenstein’s monster and Benedict Cumberbatch as the doctor. They both shone, and perhaps because of that, the piece marked another triumph for the NT Live screenings, which allowed people to watch the cast in their alternate roles.

Journey’s End (Touring Consortium)

As a fan of anything related to the First World War, I was really looking forward to seeing this show. I certainly didn’t expect it to be as brilliant as it was. It was just spectacular. A masterclass in acting superbly staged and sensitively tackled. It was one of those shows that played on my mind for a long time afterwards, and remains one of the best adaptations I have ever seen.

Operation Greenfield (Little Bulb Theatre)

One of the few shows I saw twice this year. I was simply too good to only see once. Little Bulb have been quietly bubbling away for a while now, creating fun fringe pieces which challenge audiences and demonstrate the supreme talents of the small company. All actor-musicians.  The music in this piece is the thing you will take away with you more than anything. ‘Summer Flowers’ was a classic, ‘I am the True Vine’ was another, but ‘Zachariah in the Temple’, Operation Greenfield’s final triumph is the song that left you wanting to leap for joy.

Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer (Weeping Spoon)

If this were a list from ten to one, then there is a very good chance that Alvin Sputnik would top that list. It is, to put it simply, my play of the year. I can’ do justice to it’s brilliance in a paragraph, so I’ll sum up. It is a one man show about a man who dives to the bottom of the sea in pursuit of the soul of Elena, his wife. The story was perfectly executed using a circular screen in centre stage, a wonderful moustache, and one of the best puppets I’ve ever seen. Alvin Sputnik was a white glove and a white foam ball. It was theatre at its very finest and something every theatre fan should see.

Translunar Paradise (Theatre Ad Infinitum)

Sometimes I am so grateful for twitter, as without the buzz I saw on there I would never have spotted this little gem. Theatre Ad Infinitum have created a beautiful little show which certainly gets my ‘Best Show at the Fringe’ award this year. A simple story about an elderly man mourning his wife, it used masks and an accordion so effectively that every single person in the audience was crying by the end. I believe the show is now on tour so is definitely worth a trip – though bring tissues. Many tissues.

One Man Two Guvnors (National Theatre)

It’s about to transfer to Broadway following an extended run at the National and a transfer to the West End, which demonstrates just how popular this show has been. James Corden shines in this traditional farce, and demonstrates that he’s not just ‘Smithy’. Richard Bean’s script is tight, with jokes packed into every single moment. The dialogue is funny, but the physical comedy and slapstick is even funnier. Using traditional Commedia set ups gives the whole thing a structure and clarity that is rarely seen in comedy. Certainly worth the hype it has received.

Othello (Crucible Theatre)

This is my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays, which means I’m hyper-critical and very difficult to please when it comes to new productions of it. As the first paragraph of my review demonstrates, I hold a grudge. So I was delighted to find that the Crucible’s adaptation of Othello was brilliant. It was performed in a traditional style, allowing Shakespeare’s language to do the majority of the work. Dominic West was the best Iago I have seen, revelling in the maliciousness of the character without ever becoming repellent, a difficult task indeed!

Dunsinane (RSC)

I think this was too quickly dismissed by many. In my view, this represents one of the best scripts I’ve read this year. The writing was really sharp, with relevant points and a pace that made the whole thing trip along quite nicely, despite the strong subject matter. Jonny Phillips was also brilliant in the role of Siward – every time I see him he’s great, which makes me think that anything he’s in next year is probably worth a look.

Wastwater (Royal Court)

As a fan of new writing (though looking over this list, you wouldn’t know it) I am a massive fan of Simon Stephens. This trilogy of tales were all really strong, in my opinion, and provided a lot of food for thought  about relevant issues and social situations. I loved the scenes in the hotel room, and the way in which what was being left unsaid was much more important than what was being presented. It was a really strong piece, and the script has given me many joyous hours of reading and rereading.

If this were a top fifteen, the next five would be…

The Wild Bride (Kneehigh Theatre)

The Heart of Robin Hood (RSC)

Richard III (Old Vic)

Our Private Life (Royal Court)

Frisky and Mannish: Pop Centre Plus (Frisky and Mannish)

The Theatre Punk Special Awards 2011

Best Tearjerker

Honourable mentions must go to Alvin Sputnik, and Love Letters Straight from the Heart, but the winner for this has to be Translunar Paradise by Theatre Ad Infinitum. A play so sad that I ran out of tissues, because I was sharing them with the two people sitting next to me. The term ‘not a dry eye in the house’ is used too often these days. Translunar Paradise demonstrates that sometimes that’s really true. Every single person in that audience was crying.

Annoyed that I paid the ticket price award

13 at the National. Annoying because I had an inkling it wasn’t going to be brilliant, but I like Mike Bartlett and keep ignoring the times he disappoints me. I’d like to think it won’t happen again, but…

Numb Bum Award

Richard III at the Old Vic. Kevin Spacey was spectacular, the show was brilliant. But did it really need to be three and a half hours long?!

Daily Mail baiting award

Marat/Sade at the RSC. Over the din of the anal rape you could still hear Quentin Letts grinding his teeth in fury.

Up and Comers award

Curious Directive. Your Last Breath at the fringe showed real promise , and a style that was reminiscent of Complicite. Definitely a company to watch next year.

 Worst of the Year

This is the one everyone really wants to know, right? Well my award goes to Woyzeck on the Highveld by Handspring Puppet Company. Just dreadful from beginning to end. Badly written, poorly structured, and perhaps the most surprising of all, the puppetry was fairly slapdash. Simply had no redeemable features.

Happy Christmas fellow Theatre Punks, and we’ll see you in the new year!

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26/07/11

I am always wary of seeing a show late on in the run – the reviews become unavoidable and I find myself going into the theatre with a preconceived idea about whether I’m going to enjoy this. So it was with trepidation that I booked a later ticket to see One Man Two Guvnors at the Lyttleton.

Written by Carlo Goldoni in 1746, Richard Bean has updated the classic farce and set it in 1960’s Brighton, combining commedia dell’arte with traditional British slapstick humour. Any attempts to describe the storyline of this would be futile, but the general jist is that our harlequin, Francis Henshall, takes on two jobs in a bid to get enough money for a hot meal – One, Rachel Crabbe, is disguised as her dead twin, Roscoe and the other, public school twit Stanley Stubbins, is on the run from the police after killing the aforementioned Roscoe.

That’s about as easy as it gets in terms of plot – the story twists and turns at such breakneck speed that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up – but it all becomes irrelevant when faced with such chaos on stage.

James Corden as Henshall is a delight, and makes the slapstick and physical humour seem easy. There is something about his acting style that makes you immediately warm to him: his charisma is infectious, and within moments of his appearance on stage, we are on his side. There are moments of glorious fun as he attempts to control the chaos around him, while all the time trying to simply get a good meal. Corden’s comic timing is impeccable, and his physicality only adds to his fantastic performance.

 Timing is not his only asset here though, as we see him improvise and banter with the audience at various intervals, perhaps most notably in this performance when he brings up two bearded men from the audience to assist him, and the moment where he asked the audience in desperation “does anyone have a sandwich?” ; if only because the latter threw a spanner in the works when a polite audience member actually offered him a homous sandwich.

Corden is supported by a fantastic cast, all of whom meet the demands of this script with aplomb. Personal favourites were Oliver Chris as Stanley – an arrogant public school twit who has some cracking lines and a dead ringer for Hugh Laurie’s character ‘Percy’ in Blackadder. Daniel Rigby is also gloriously over the top as Alan Dangle, who wants to be an actor and has figured out a way to live his life that is appropriate to that dream.

The classic of commedia dell’arte, the climactic banquet served to different offstage dinner parties while the harlequin snaffles his own grub from their menus is treated about as traditionally as you can imagine, and Hytner has done a spectacular job here – even improving the original version. Alfie the octogenarian waiter is a new character, and is magnificently played by Tom Edden.  Corden rushes back and forth in a whirlwind of food and wine, while Alfie, the alarmingly decrepit butler is put upon in a variety of ways, being slammed into doors, thrown down the stairs, and very nearly killed by a cork.

I realise as I am writing this that it is less of a review and more of a description of the best bits – I don’t think there can be any higher praise than that. I was so full of joy and glee at watching these that any thought of criticism left my mind immediately. Instead, I was sucked into this silly situation and laughed uproariously at every twist and turn.

While the second act does not shine as brightly as the first, as Kenneth Tynan said of the Broadway premiere of Gypsy, the show tails off into mere brilliance. There is more than a whiff of Noises Off here, and I am certain that this show will also have the endurance of Frayn’s 1980’s farce. I’m delighted that this is transferring to the West End, and urge you to see it – there is something here for everyone to enjoy and, despite being based on an Italian style, this show made me feel very proud to be British.

Favourite line
Alan:                “I am your nemesis!”
Roscoe:            “Francis, what’s a nemesis?”
Francis:            “Not sure, guv, definitely foreign, I think it’s a Citroen.”

Running Time – 2hours 50 minutes (if you’re on a time limit – allow a bit more in case of extreme ad-libbing!)

Programmes: £3, Ice cream: £3 – don’t normally have an ice cream but by gum this stuff was lovely! Highly recommend the mango sorbet.