Monthly Archives: July 2011

War Horse – New London Theatre

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Believe the hype – this is a delight. Moving and visually spectacular, with simple, effective comedy, the recent accolades at the Tony’s must have been well deserved. Time doesn’t appear to have tempered this gem of modern British theatre.

It was difficult to know what to expect coming to War Horse as a rookie. Of course the horse puppets were going to be amazing – we’ve all seen them on the telly and heard them unreservedly praised for donkey’s years (excuse the pun). I also had a sneaking suspicion that an equine may become involved in combat… Yet, for a show with an instantly recognisable image, that sends a huge range of those who have seen it into fits of expressive admiration, very little extra information had seeped its way out to me. Which left me with a great new discovery – it’s nothing but a tale of a friendship between man and beast amongst the dual chaos of World War One and family life, yet all the cliches apply here, namely: “the simple ones are the best”, and “it’s how you tell’em”. Wonderful.

There was huge scope for me to nit-pick here. I’m a history graduate and spent most of my teenage summers working at a stables in the Welsh mountains. I was almost certain that a WWI drama couldn’t help but bring out the hackneyed, over-told stories of the Christmas football match between the Brits and the Germans in 1914,or that the horses just wouldn’t ‘feel’ right. Not to mention that I expected a predictable ending (I’m studying for exams at the moment, which is making me rather cynical) – yet War Horse was impressive on every level. It remained entirely focussed on the central storyline, showcased an entirely convincing set of horses and even managed to incorporate some comedy – partly via a push-along goose on wheels. I kid you not.

Overall, I can’t be controversial and disagree with public opinion on this one. If you haven’t yet, hurry on down to the New London Theatre – and if anyone would like to invite me to see the new production at the Lincoln Centre, I would be more than happy to oblige. Great theatre.

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Baby: Congratulations – it’s a Musical! – Barons Court Theatre to Saturday 9th July

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Far less cliched and predictable than the title suggests, this is a fun production, following the story of three couples facing the biggest step of all – parenthood. You won’t be rushing out to buy the soundtrack, but this is a well acted, basic production of the type that pub theatre suits best.

I enjoy discovering the pub theatres of London. Tucked away in places you’d rarely notice – next to the toilets or up a semi-invisible set of stairs – they populate the basements and upstairs of drinking establishments from Islington to Clapham.

This one is in a typical Barons Court pub, full of jolly-nice-but-dull-seeming men, sipping  wine with girls who had applied a little too much fake tan. At half seven came the exodus of the sightly-scruffier theatre types and my large glass of Chenin Blanc and I headed down to the basement.

Baby follows three very different couples – fortysomething empty nesters, surprised college juniors and the two who have been trying to conceive for years – through the ups and downs of conception and pregnancy. Initially I was prepared to hate this – after a song or two, secretly wishing for a Cabaret-style secret abortion, just to shake things up a bit. However, I was soon seduced as the plot developed around unexpected corners and the quality of the acting (especially that of the 3 female leads – Liz Izen, Lucy-Jane Quinlan and Claire Taylor-Smith) shone through. The book and lyrics (by Sybille Pearson & Richard Maltby Jr.) are amusing and touching – this is undoubtedly sentimental stuff, but there’s enough real people expressing genuine emotions and reservations to take it from sickly to simply sweet.

Sadly I couldn’t get to this until last night and the run ends tomorrow – but it’s definitely worth a watch if you have a couple of spare hours in West London.

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