Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Husband and I

Pentameters Theatre Presents

My Husband & I

Devised and Directed by Bernard Lawrence and Ceres Squire

Produced by Léonie Scott-Matthews



Toby Eddington as King Charles II ('The Merry Monarch') with  Eva Gray as Queen Catherine of Braganza

Oliver Fabian as Prince Albert with Gabriella Gadsby as Queen Victoria

Bernard Lawrence as King Henry VIII with Ceres Squire as Queen Catherine Parr


A peep-through-the-keyhole of a room in Windsor Castle at various times in history

inspired by the plays of Houseman, Shaw and Baring,

with historical costumes by Rebata

Press Night 28th April 8pm

26th April- 13th May

Tuesday- Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm

Tickets £12, £10 concessions

Box Office: 020 7435 3648

Pentameters Theatre (above the Horseshoe Pub) 28 Heath St, Hampstead,  NW3 6TE

One minute from Hampstead tube station, entrance in Oriel place


Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Divine Sister" is vintage Busch satire about religion, culture, social mores - a critical delight

“The Divine Sister” is vintage Busch satire about religion, culture, social mores – a critical delight

By Lucy Komisar

Charles Busch’s very funny campy satire of Catholic nuns hits all the bases, extending to a stereotypical Jewish philanthropist, a “Da Vinci Code” style mystery with a German faux-nun and a brown-robbed monk, and even a detour back to thirties movies about diligent good-guy reporters.

Julie Halson as Sister Acacius, Charles Busch as Mother Superior, Jennifer Van Dyck as Mrs. Levinson, photo David Rodgers.

You know when you see most Busch oeuvres that they will be over the top. (“The Allergist’s Wife” was an exception.) So suspend belief here, don’t’ look for high art, and you will enjoy every minute. Thanks in equal measure to director Carl Andress who knows how to play with fantasy.

A school run by Mother Superior (perfectly channeled by Busch) is in financial troubles. Who else to turn to but Margaret Levinson (the excellent Jennifer Van Dyck), a philanthropic Philadelphia Jew? But she is an atheist! She thinks God is a fairy tale. Van Dyck is rigidly “upper,” snatched from the new Wall Street Journal society pages which would appreciate her love of designer clothes. On safari in Crete, she wore a Bill Blass jacket. When there are remarks about her being born in a stetl, she retorts that her father was presented at the British court.

Alison Frasesr as Sister Walburga and Jonathan Walker as Brother Venerius, photo David Rodgers.

In the background are goings-on involving Sister Walburga (Alison Fraser, wonderfully stereotypical) and Brother Venerius (Jonathan Walker), another mysterious German. (Aren’t they always?)

And there is also the young postulate Agnes (wide-eyed Amy Rutberg) who lays on hands and makes medical miracles and also belts out a pretty good soprano. She has visions inspired by the urine on a pair of underpants she has obtained, and her hands bleed from stigmata, though that turns out to be the juice of crushed cherries.

Into this weird collection comes Jeremy (Walker, who steps out of the era) a former reporter now working for a film company that wants to sign young miracle-making Agnes.

Jonathan Walker as Jeremy and Charles Busch as Mother Superior, photo David Rodgers.

But the plot thickens. It seems that Sister Acacius (the tough Jule Halston), a Brooklyn-accented nun, and Jeremy were once reporters together. Mother Superior will deal with that.

I loved this wonderful over-the-top camp, with lines like, “We are living in a time of great social change. We have to stop it!” Of course, the Messiah was a woman, and the ensemble cast presides elegantly over such tongue-in-cheek revelations.

This play joins the cannon of Charles Busch’s hysterically funny satires. Definitely worth a trip to Soho.

“The Divine Sister.” Written by Charles Busch; directed by Carl Andress. Soho Playhouse 15 Vandam Street, New York, NY. 212-352-3101. Opened Sept 22, 2010; closes May 1, 2011.


Friday, April 15, 2011





With public funding being reduced and different priorities in the University, the University proposes to close the Ramshorn at the end of July.  We are not alone in this – they will be pulling out of all Cultural Activities – closing Music and the Collins Gallery as well (the Collins a bit later). Everyone still in post will be losing their jobs – that includes Sylvia. The Proposal comes from the Director of Marketing / Professional Services (the area we are in).

There have been two versions of the Proposal to date – the second one arrived Tuesday morning.  Both papers contain misconceptions (lies), by way of supporting the claim that the Ramshorn was not needed. The second paper places more emphasis on the University's strategy, saying there is no place for us in that, and that the money spent on Cultural Activities should be spent on core activities.  There is a suggestion that the University 'will work with Strathclyde Theatre Group (which is an independent entity) to ascertain whether the Group can become self-sustaining.'

The Proposal is in a very brief period of consultation (ending on 21 April) and will go to Court for the meeting of 6 May. Sylvia Jamieson is responding to the paper assuch as the only member of staff here still in post.


Please sign our online petition, and encourage everyone you know to do so as well.


However, it would still help if everyone possible wrote in to the Convenor of Court to say why the Ramshorn and STG are important. Since part of their argument is that STG has nothing to do with the University, it would really help if Strathclyde students and ex-students wrote in. Please send copies of your letters to Sylvia. If you want to write to the papers as well, please do!

Fraser Livingston

Convenor of Court

University of Strathclyde

16 Richmond Street

Glasgow G1 1XQ


The other thing you can do, since we are in a pre-election period, is to contact your MPs, MEPs, Councillors and candidates for posts asking for their support. If there are hustings, go to them and raise the issue. Glasgow is supposed to be a City if Culture, but the University is going directly against this vision. It has always had, as a strand of its mission, the desire to enhance what is available to the citizens of Glasgow. It no longer seems to care about this. It does say there will be a Cultural Affairs Strategy set up, but is the best way to achieve a programme/ broaden access to culture and arts, to remove the culture/arts infrastructure and its supporting professional expertise?


To find your local Glasgow councilor:

To find your Westminster MP:


To find your MSP:

To join the Facebook Save the Ramshorn Campaign:


Candidates in the upcoming election: you will be receiving their handouts through your letterboxes – that will give you all their contact details.

The current paper states that because the University is at the heart of such a culturally rich city, and there are 'many clubs and societies operating at an amateur or semi-professional level in the city' there is no need to provide cultural activities in the way that has been done. Nothing in the paper shows any understanding of the unique nature of STG.

Please write to the Newspapers as well – the more people write, the longer the story will stay in the public eye.













Monday 23 to Saturday 28 May 2011

Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

Marti Pellow, the hugely successful singer, songwriter and front man of Wet Wet Wet, makes a hotly-anticipated return to the UK stage in a major new tour of the hit Broadway musical, JEKYLL AND HYDE.


The show comes to Stoke's Regent Theatre from Monday 23 to Saturday 28 May 2011.


Marti's career began when he formed the band Wet Wet Wet with his school friends, which went on to become one of the most successful and highly acclaimed bands in British pop history. The band enjoyed consistent chart topping multi-platinum albums and have been nominated and won major industry awards including the Ivor Novello's and The Brits. Their 1994 single "Love Is All Around", featured on the soundtrack to the romantic comedy of the 90s, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and continues to be one of the top five highest selling singles and most played songs of all time in the UK.


As well as a critically-acclaimed solo career, Marti has gone on to star in the West End, on Broadway and on National Tour in the smash-hit stage musicals Chicago and The Witches of Eastwick. He also co-starred with Josh Groban in the TV and film special Chess in Concert and most recently gained huge personal accolades from his performance on BBC Radio 2's Elvis Forever concert.


Glamorous, sexy and deliciously wicked in equal measures,Jekyll and Hyde is based on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic gothic novella. Pellow stars as the brilliant but obsessive scientist whose sadistic alter ego wreaks havoc across Victorian London in a dark tale of love, redemption and the seductive power of evil.


For tickets call the Box Office on 0844 871 7649 or book online at For Group Bookings call 0844 871 7619. Fees apply. 

Celebrating RSC 50th Anniversary

Royal Mail are promoting their latest range of stamps, which celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company. 

The release includes six first class stamps of fantastic scenes from some of Shakespeare's most famous plays – The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, alongside a well-known quote from each play.

In addition, the stamp launch features a mini sheet of exclusive artwork depicting the most famous RSC theatres, such as the Swan Theatre and the Courtyard Theatre.

Full Set


Henry VI

King Lear

Romeo & Juliet

The Tempest

Mid Somers Night Dreaming

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

review "Benefactors"

“Benefactors” is Michael Frayn’s wry look at good intentions gone bad

By Lucy Komisar

“Benefactors” begins in 1968, during an era when England was building controversial housing projects. It was written in 1984 by Michael Frayn, who two decades later authored “Democracy,” the powerful recreation of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s early 70s dealings with East Germany. In both cases, in overlapping eras, the personal becomes political, and there is a strong ideological message that expresses Frayn’s general concern about democracy, writ small and writ large.

Daniel Jenkins as David, Vivienne Benesch as Jane, Deanne Lorette as Sheila and Stephen Barker Turner as Colin, photo Richard Termine.

Daniel Jenkins as David, Vivienne Benesch as Jane, Deanne Lorette as Sheila and Stephen Barker Turner as Colin, photo Richard Termine.

As a slice of British social history this play is interesting, though it also seems dated, in spite of the very professional efforts of the actors and Keen Company director Carl Forsman.

The characters appear to inhabit a long-running soap opera.

The action takes place around the kitchen table of David (Daniel Jenkins) and Jane Kitzinger (Vivienne Benesch). David, an architect, is in charge of a slum clearance project to build some council flats – public housing. He is idealistic about creating worthy spaces and insists, “I am not going to build towers.” However, the requirements of a government subsidy will require some high-rises.

People in government want to help the poor. Of course towers are not what anyone wants. But construction and other exigencies move the well-intentioned bureaucrats to increasingly ignore the best interests of the people they are supposed to be benefiting.

Stephen Barker Turner as Colin and Deanne Lorette as Sheila, photo Richard Termine.

Then there’s the couple across the way, Colin Molyneux (Stephen Barker Turner), a hack journalist, and Sheila (Deanne Lorette), his wife, a nurse. He is nasty and overbearing to her; she is timid and insecure. She seems down-trodden.

David and Jane try to help by making their house a refuge for Sheila and her kids. Colin responds by leaving his wife and organizing a movement to stop the redevelopment scheme.

Colin mines irony by calling the Basuto Road slum area “Basutoland,” which has an African sound and mimics the “white man’s burden” attitude toward the poor.

By 1984, we learn what good intentions have wrought with the project and the Molyneuxs.

This is a small play compared to “Democracy” (2003) and to “Copenhagen,” Frayn’s other major political drama, which opened in London in 1998. But it’s worth seeing for people interested in the trajectory of his work.

“Benefactors.” Written by Michael Frayn; directed by Carl Forsman. Keen Company at Clurman Theatre, 410 West 42 Street, New York, NY. 212-239-6200. Opened April 5, 2011; closes April 30, 2011.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

review of "Kin"

“Kin” weaves a network of family and friends that leads to sorrow and sometimes joy

By Lucy Komisar

Personal and family connections are fraught with psychological peril, disappointment, sometimes joy. It’s the stuff of many, even most, plays, films, novels. Bathsheba Doran weaves those strands into a complex web and network that connects and sometimes sustains lovers, friends, parents and children.

It is a slim but appealing fabric, made richer by Sam Gold’s smooth, light touch.

There are many kinds of “kin,” read “relationships.” Anna (sympathetically portrayed by Kristen Bush), an adjunct at Columbia University, listens to her lover, an English professor (Matthew Rauch) tell her why it’s over. “Did we ever love each other?” he asks. “No,” she replies. So, forget that.

Kristen Bush as Anna and Laura Heisler as Helena, photo Joan Marcus.

Helena (the excellent Laura Heisler) a somewhat weird and unsuccessful would-be actress, finds it offensive that her friend Anna would go out with a critic met via the Internet: “That’s someone who is trying to kill me.”

Linda (the fine Suzanne Bertish), traumatized by a past event, refuses to go out of her cottage in Ireland, and has no one to talk to but her brother Max (Bill Buell) and, on long phone conversations, her son Sean (well acted by Patch Darragh) who has gone to America.  She is despondent and drinks. It turns out that Sean’s former girlfriend (Molly Ward) also had a drinking problem.

Life gets darker and darker. Anna’s father Adam (the very good Cotter Smith), an Air Force intelligence colonel, lives in Texas and is unhappy about his distant daughter. On the way to visit her in New York, he stops in Washington at the apartment of a former lover (Kit Flanagan), who is seriously ill. She says, “Don’t show up at 4 am asking for my help and yell at me. I am not a wife.”

Patch Darrah as Sean and Kristen Bush as Anna, photo Joan Marcus.

Later, Anna confronts Adam with the diary of her late mother in which she complains that her husband was cold and distant.

Love or failed love and loneliness inhabit all these relationships. So is there hope for any of these people, in particular the younger ones and the new couple, Anna and Sean, we are supposed to care about? Not very likely on the face of it. She is an academic writing a book about Keats punctuation called “The Grammar of Love.” When it’s published, she flies around to world to deliver papers at conferences. He is a personal trainer without any intellectual bent that can be noticed. I whispered to my companion, “I give it a few years at most.” What do they talk about?

Two different worlds, even in jokes. When Adam visits Sean’s mother in Ireland, she says, “Tell me something classified.” He says, “The government was responsible for 9/11.” She: “Really?” He: “No.”

The cast, photo Joan Marcus.

The play moves between vignettes in ethereal fashion, helped by Paul Steinberg’s sets that are just boxes and frames with backdrops and flute music between the scenes. When the characters all meet in Ireland, the mist makes one wonder if it means the future is a mirage.

I can’t say I believed Doran’s vision, but I found it charming, even compelling, nonetheless.

“Kin.” Written by Bathsheba Doran; directed by Sam Gold. Playwrights Horizons, 216 West 42 Street, New York, NY. 212-279-4200;  Opened March 21, 2011; closes April 17, 2011.


review Driving Miss Daisy

“Driving Miss Daisy” is tour de force for Redgrave and Jones

By Lucy Komisar

Alfred Uhry’s charming, moving play is part of his Atlanta trilogy about Southern Jews in the middle decades of the last century. Through the conflict and then growing warmth between an elderly middle-class white woman and a middle-aged working-class black man, one gets a sense of how human contact can break or at least crack the barriers of color and class. The production is a tour de force for Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones.

The play opened off-Broadway in 1987 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

Daisy Werthan (Redgrave), 72, is a widowed former school teacher when the play starts in 1948. She is proud of her poor beginnings and commitment to education, imbued with Jewish identity — annoyed at Jews who celebrate Christmas. Werthan is brilliantly portrayed by Redgrave who seems to age before our eyes in the several decades in which the events take place. Her face becomes more lined, her posture more stooped, but as her body deteriorates, her spirit never lags.

Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Daisy, James Earl Jones as Hoke, photo Annabel Clark.

That is partly due to Hoke Coleburn (Jones), the black man hired by her son Boolie (the very good Boyd Gaines), owner of a printing plant, to drive her after she smashes her Packard into a neighbor’s garage because she put it in the wrong gear.

Hoke is a “yassuh” guy who walks heavily and uncertainly and is almost stereotypical in the way he addresses Boolie. Jones is extraordinary in the role, sometimes bloviating a bit to cover up his insecurity. But though she may not know it, he becomes a necessary part of Daisy’s life.

Director David Esbjornson stages the play with no unnecessary sentimentality.

Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Daisy, Boyd Gaines as Boolie, photo Carol Rosegg.

Hoke and Boolie must contend with Daisy, a stubborn and single-minded woman whose tight face seems to say she will brook no opposition. She has definite ideas of what is right. For example, she disapproves of her son’s wife whose “idea of heaven is socializing with Episcopalians.”

Daisy insists that she is fair minded, but an innate race and class prejudice shows through when she accuses Hoke of stealing a can of salmon. It turned out there had been nothing for him to eat the day before, but when he arrives for work and she raises the issue, he pulls out of his pocket a brown paper bag with the can he had just bought to return.

Her accusation may have been part of the rigid sense of rules that are part of her world.

James Earl Jones as Hoke, Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Daisy, photo Carol Rosegg.

But she is naïve about the wider world. When she discovers after five years that Hoke can’t read, she can’t believe it. Ever the teacher, she begins to instruct him.

In 1958, someone bombs the temple she attends. She is astonished and wonders who it could be. Hoke tells her, “You know as well as me, it’s always the same ones.”

She thinks herself liberal about race, but that extends only so far. In 1963, when she has an extra ticket to a Martin Luther King banquet, she does not invite Hoke.

He is the more sensitive of the two. Jones glows as he reveals an increasing sense of self and also a concern and growing affection for Daisy, who never seems to loosen up. But Uhry describes elegantly what can happen when people thrown together by force of circumstance discover the human propensity for companionship.

Driving Miss Daisy.” Written by Alfred Uhry; directed by David Esbjornson. John Golden Theatre 252 West 45th Street, New York, NY. (212) 239-6262. Opened October 25, 2010; closes April 9, 2011.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

review The Whipping Man

“The Whipping Man” a potboiler about slavery and a Jewish family in 1860s Richmond

By Lucy Komisar

This is an unlikely melodramatic potboiler about American slavery and a Jewish family in Richmond, Va., that turned its slaves into believers. It’s an unlikely premise in spite of historical documentation, but you no sooner get to the point of accepting one unlikely premise, than playwright Matthew Lopez throws you another. The play is full of action and mystery, secrets and surprises, but is somehow unsatisfying.

The essential story is that the slave-holding DeLeon family was Jewish and they converted their slaves to the religion. We must take it on faith that this happened.

Jay Wilkison as Caleb, and André Braugher as Simon, photo Joan Marcus.

It’s 1865 and General Lee has surrendered at Appomattox. Caleb (Jay Wilkison) is a confederate soldier who drags himself back to the family mansion – now blackened and ruined by fire — with a bullet in his leg. His horse has died on arrival. First mystery: why didn’t he get medical care when he was wounded?

The loyal black servant Simon (the very strong André Braugher) is soon joined by the bitter John (played with depth of feeling by André Holland).  The power relations change. Simon, who is quite generous under the circumstances, says to Caleb, “All these things you’re telling me to do you need to be asking.”

André Holland as John, photo Joan Marcus.

Simon saves Caleb’s life by cutting off his gangrenous leg. It’s a rather gruesome moment. John helps hold the patient down. And slowly, the play’s ironies are revealed.

John is methodically looting deserted houses, carrying back chairs and china, a couple of eggs, whiskey (useful for the leg amputation). Lopez portrays him as quite an unusual slave: he ran an underground book distribution that father DeLeon stopped. Now he just wants to go to New York. (An early black intellectual?) Holland is wry and comical in his cynicism.

Simon is waiting for the return of his wife and daughter who departed in the midst of the conflict while he was in hiding. Dressed in the servant’s uniform striped shirt and vest, he wants to stay and continue to work for the family. He doesn’t see much economic alternative.

ay Wilkison as Caleb, André Braugher as Simon, André Holland as John, photo Joan Marcus.

As a black Jew, Simon presides over Sabbath blessings, lighting candles and saying a prayer over the meal. Now it’s April, and Simon wants to make a Passover dinner, which of course celebrates the Israelites flight to freedom from Egyptian slavery. As he can’t read, he says the words from memory.

John gripes about the celebration of freeing Jewish slaves in the context of the blacks’ experience. But Simon transposes Father Abraham to Abraham Lincoln, who has just been shot. He is described as “the American Moses” who “led us from bondage but was not able to enter the promised land.”

So John agrees, “Let’s celebrate the freeing of the slaves,” and as befits an underground book distributor, but really, straining credulity, “Maybe I’ll write a book like Frederick Douglas.”

When he inquires, “Were we Jews or slaves, children of Israel or heathen?” Simon replies, “We were treated better than other slaves.” And Caleb says his father had slaves whipped only when necessary. Whew!

André Holland as John, Jay Wilkison as Caleb, photo Joan Marcus.

It turns out John is bitter because, though the boys were raised almost as brothers, when DeLeon took him to “the whipping man” (early outsourcing) for some infraction, Caleb took the whip and got in some licks of his own. But Caleb like his father and other Southern whites had conflicted relations with blacks, and that involves a secret which makes him concerned about Simon’s family.

The staging by Doug Hughes is excellent. The set by Jean Lee Beatty is beautifully naturalistic and eerie. Braugher as Simon is painfully moving, and Holland displays the right level of anger and emotion as John. Jay Wilkison doesn’t have much presence as Caleb. The real problem with the play is that it is hokey, a made-for-TV movie, piling one dramatic action on top of another in a way that presents only a caricature of the social and psychological conflicts and relations of the time.

The Whipping Man.” Written by Matthew Lopez; directed by Doug Hughes. Manhattan Theatre Club Stage 1 at City Center, 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY. 212-581-1212; Opened Feb 1, 2011; closes Apr 10, 2011.


Friday, April 01, 2011

UK Theatre now on IPad2

It's official, the latest newsletter from UK Theatre Network is now available on the shiny new Ipad2. I tested it at the weekend and it looks great. Just click on the weekly link in your email and select 'ePub' then open in IBooks. Enjoy.

UK Theatre now on Ipad2

It's official, the latest newsletter from UK Theatre Network is now available on the shiny new Ipad2. I tested it at the weekend and it looks great. Just click on the weekly link in your email and select 'ePub' then open in IBooks. Enjoy