Category Archives: What’s worth watching

What’s worth watching: autumn/winter 2017

Oh heck, is it September already? Okay, let’s get a move on, because autumn and winter tends to be my busiest season for plays that catch my eye. As always, a reminder that this should be treated as a cross-section of what’s worth seeing rather than a definitive and exhaustive list. There are always some excellent plays going on that don’t make it to this list simply because I don’t know enough about them. Check my recommendations policy if you want a longer explanation for how this works.

Right, let’s get straight to it.

Safe choices:

Four plays make it to safe choice this time. A lot of them are plays that I saw before and loved, but plays can also make it to this list on the strength of the script or the performer if I’ve heard enough. Whatever the reason, these are plays that I’m confident you will like if you like the sound of the description of the play, and is also expected to have wide appeal. They are:

Taking Steps

https://newimages.bwwstatic.com/upload11/1646897/tn-500_9takingsteps,writtenanddirectedbyalanayckbourn,inrepatthestephenjosephtheatre,scarborough,from13julyto5oct,fromleft,russelldixon(roland),antonyeden(tristram),laurencepears(mark).jpgThis was previously recommended in my spring/summer recommendations, but this is a play on a long run stretching into autumn, so in it goes again. To repeat this quickly, Taking Steps is unusual for an Ayckbourn play in that it’s one of the few plays of his that really only works when staged in The Round – this one being three storeys of a house all playing on the same level on the stage – so if you only see one production of this play, see this one. Just don’t expect this to be a light-hearted undemanding Ayckbourn farce, because that does exist. It runs until 5th October on various dates at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

The Wipers Times

https://www.bestoftheatre.co.uk/images/shows/production/resized/580x390/6084-1490695551-dan-tetsell-and-james-dutton-the-wipers-times-photograph-by-alastair-muir.jpgIn general I don’t pay much attention to touring shows that have already had a decent West End run, because they get more than enough attention without my help, but I had to include this play about the satirical magazine said to be the forerunner to Private Eye. At least, that’s what Ian Hislop thinks, having penned the play with co-writer Nick Newman. With World War One possibly the lowest point in British history for freedom of the press, especially on the front line of the trenches, this sort of rag couldn’t have been popular with all the top brass in the military. Or it could have been argued as morale booster for men badly needing camaraderie to get through the war. It seems that argument won, as the magazine lasted until the end of the war with two final issues called “The Better Times”. Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: Edinburgh Fringe 2017

fringe-chris-scott

Skip to: Bite Size, Call Mr. Robeson, The Jurassic Parks, Police Cops in Space, Replay, Izzy’s Manifestoes, The Friday Night Effect, Gratiano, The House, Mars Actually, No Miracles Here, The Empress and Me, Labels, Your Ever Loving, Give Me Your Love, The Writers’ Room, You, Me and Everything Else, Boris and Sergey, Imaginary Porno Charades, The Dark Room, Doktor James’s Academy of Evil, Knightmare Live, Morgan and West, Murder’ She Didn’t Write, Notflix, The City, The Divide

Edinburgh fringe has already started, and I still haven’t written up these recommendations. Let’s get started then. Here’s a list of things coming up at Edinburgh which I can recommend seeing for various reasons. You can find the full rules for how I choose what to endorse in my Recommendations Policy, but the main thing to remember is that is a cross-sections of good plays, not an exhaustive list. In particular, for Edinburgh I have a rule that recommendations are only given to groups I’ve seen before. I’ve heard a lot of good things about other groups, but if I was to include them the list would get unmanageably long.

No major changes since previous fringes to report this time, so let’s get straight to it. All plays run the entire length of the fringe unless otherwise noted. Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: Buxton Fringe 2017

Fringe Sunday

Aaargh. I’m on my train to the Buxton Fringe launch and I still haven’t done my Buxton recommendations. Better hurry up. Apologies if you’re waiting for a review, that will have to come after this.

Anyway, Buxton Fringe 2017 is here. The most unpredictable for a long time, due to the loss of a key venue that formed a focal point for the whole fringe. For months, there were questions over whether a new venue would take its place. And when we found out the answer, the were there were questions over what this would mean for the fringe. But the development no-one saw coming was the arrival of an entirely new managed venue. Suddenly, all bets were off.

So, before I dive into recommendations, let us begin with this and look at what this could mean for the festival. Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: spring/summer 2017

This is a bit later than normal owing to all the Brighton Fringe coverage I’m in the thick of writing, but there’s also a new season of stuff coming up in the north-east. Annoyingly, I can’t be sure this is the full list because Live and Northern Stage don’t announce their new programmes until later this month, so there’s a chance they might have a gem up their sleeves that I don’t yet know about. If they do, I will add this to the list as soon as I know about it.

Yes, I know it’s June so some people might say “How can this include spring”, but I’m using the atronomical definition where spring runs until the summer solstice on June 21st, so ner.

Remember, a cross section, not an exhaustive list. A cross section, not an exhaustive list. A cross section, not an exhaustive list. That’s the only rule I need highlight, rest of the rules are here. So, what is there to look forward to? Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: Brighton Fringe 2017

Brighton Pier

And here it comes. Festival fringe season is almost upon us. The Vault Festival is a decent stop-gap in February, but for me, nothing beats the thrill of a festival where anyone can take part and, in theory at least, anyone can be the highlight of the whole festival. As always, the more I know about these festivals, the longer the list gets, so expect this to come in stages.

Last year I started off in quite a bit of detail about how Brighton Fringe was changing. The arrival of Sweet Venues and an unprecedented 20% expansion in entries suddenly made this fringe a much bigger event. This year, there’s been more modest changes, and more of the same: a further 7% increase in registrations, and Sweet Venues stays broadly in the same venues, taking on a new one for the sole use of a stage version of Trainspotting. The only disappointing news as that Republic, a venue similar to Spiegeltent, is not coming back this year – it seems this city ain’t big enough for two Spiegeltents.

Anyway, let’s get on. Full rules of how I make recommendations here. Most important one to repeat yet again: I only know about a fraction of the stuff going on in Brighton. So treat this as a cross-section of the good stuff out there, not an exhaustive list.

Right, so what have I got for you? Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: winter/spring 2017

I’m not quite done with 2016. I’ve got three final shows performed very close to Christmas that need reviews (two of which you can work out from the last article, the other which you can work out with a bit of sleuthdom), but 2017 is already underway and I’ve a whole new list of recommendations to go through. It’s a long one this time. My lists might be getting longer because I’m getting to know more good theatre companies, but there’s also quite a bit of good stuff coming from the usual suspects.

To save me repeating myself every time, I’ve written up a Recommendations Policy to explain how this works. Please bear in mind that I make the rules up as I go along and what I said yesterday might be wildly out of date next week. If you can’t be bothered to read through that, the only thing you need to remember is that this is a cross-section of the good stuff out there, not an exhaustive list.

So what can I recommend for you? Continue reading

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What’s worth watching: autumn/winter 2016

Autumn equinox has just gone, putting an end a period over the first three weeks of September where people violently argue over whether it’s already autumn (as per the meteorological definition) or still summer (as per the astronomical definition). So now that you’ve all finished arguing over that, let’s go into this list of recommendations.

You know the score by now: I’ve searched the listing of the north-east theatres and looked for stuff that grabbed my attention, but this is a cross-section of stuff out there worth watching, and not an exhaustive list. For future reference, if I have seen you before and reviewed you favourably, you are encouraged to send me press releases for new projects if you’d like to be included here – I will probably pick up on what you’re doing anyway, but sometimes things escape my attention and a press release is a good backup. If I have not seen you before, it is unlikely you’ll get on to this list – invite me to review you and I might get you on the list in future seasons. Continue reading

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