Burke and Hare, Jermyn Street Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

A story of two men who murder people in order to sell their corpses to doctors in 1820s Edinburgh shouldn’t work as a dark character comedy with music. But largely work it does and this three-hander, though somewhat structurally clumsy, is a good alternative to more typical Christmas theatre.

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About Leo, Jermyn Street Theatre

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by Lara Alier

As I was walking to the theatre, down the St. James Street with my H&M boots, I was overwhelmed by a deep feeling of inadequacy. I was surrounded by tailoring shops, light brown leather shoes and the financial times. It was quite uncomfortable. When I finally made it, it felt better than entering a falafel shop after a night out. The intimate atmosphere of this welcoming theatre was the perfect place to slow-cook a good play.

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Mad as Hell, Jermyn Street Theatre

by guest critic Kudzanayi Chiwawa

This is the story of little known Eletha Barrett (Vanessa Donovan), a Jamaican woman who was married to film star Peter Finch (Stephen Hogan), for his final twelve years. It begins shortly after Jamaica’s independence, and highlights the personal and public struggle of the interracial couple against the backdrop of 60’s and 70’s politics.

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See What I Wanna See, Jermyn Street Theatre

Displaying The cast of See What I Wanna See at Jermyn Street Theatre. C Photography by Jamie Scott-Smith.jpg“The truth is rarely pure and never simple,” says Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Earnest. Indeed. We often encounter conflicts or situations where opposing viewpoints create very different stories. Michael John LaChiusa adapts three Japanese short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, including “The Grove” on which Akira Kurosawa based his western hit Rashomon, intertwining them to create a production showing that, well, we often see what we want to see and that “truth” is a flighty creature that can never be pinned down and shown objectively. See What We Wanna See, a chamber musical produced by Aria Entertainment at Jermyn Street Theatre, is a delicate, intimate performance with a strong cast. However, LaChiusa’s trilogy with loosely connected themes has little else that links them and feels like an evening of short plays rather than a cohesive, full-length musical.

As the prelude to each act, “Kesa and Morito” shows a medieval Japanese couple recently discovered having an affair. They are seeing each other for the last time. Both have plans for their final encounter and blackouts preclude discovery of their fate. “R Shomon” follows as the bulk of the first half, a thriller set in 1950’s New York. Four characters tell totally conflicting witness statements to an unseen policeman. Who is telling the truth about the death of The Husband? How is this piece connected to the opening where Kesa shares her story in a single song? The audience never finds out. The ending to this mini-musical is deliciously ambiguous with some complex musicality in the songs, but the connection to the “Kesa and Morito” prologue is tenuous at best.

The second half is the same structure. Morito shares his side of the story for the duration of a single song, then “Gloryday” is the rest of the act. This is a more compelling story than “R Shomon” and could be a longer, standalone production. A disaffected priest creates a hoax miracle that takes post-9/11 New York City by storm, making some pointed criticism of Jesus and his followers by comparing them to the vulnerable that fall for his trick. The end has a poignant twist and reiterates the show’s focus on the fluidity of truth within deceit and crime. Whilst these are good stories and maintain audience interest, there is no linking transition or any comment on the three other than presenting them together. This emphasizes the timelessness of the theme, but takes no particular point of view on it. LaChiusa’s message is consequently unclear.

The cast of five is fantastic; in a small theatre with a four-piece band are quiet enough that the actors don’t need mics so detail isn’t lost through amplification. There is no week link; they all have the chance to play at least one substantial role with the others showcasing their range. Jonathan Butterell as the priest that loses his faith in the second act’s “Gloryday” is particularly touching. Mark Goldthorp as the reserved 1950s taxi company boss in the first half’s “R Shomon” is quietly enigmatic and counters the brashness of Marc Elliott’s Thief and Cassie Compton’s resentful Wife. The priest’s Aunt Monica as given by Sarah Ingram is light relief but still possessing emotional depth.

LaChiusa’s music is reminiscent of a gentler, simpler Sondheim with influences spanning different eras and cultures. Simon Anthony Wells’ design similarly captures the different worlds in the production. Despite compelling individual stories, great performances and some lovely songs, the audience is left questioning what they are meant to take from the production and unsatisfied by the lack of a deeper connection between the three component tales. It’s still definitely worth seeing the London premiere of this unique, cosy production by Aria Entertainment, a producer vital to musical theatre for staging new and rarely staged work.


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Ivy & Joan, for everything theatre

“Ivy sits in the staff canteen at the hotel where she lived and ran a cocktail bar for 40 years. She whiles away the time before a bus will take her to a new life in her friend Inky’s spare room after losing her job, pontificating to Vic, who is there to ensure she boards that bus and leaves for good.

“Joan sits at her kitchen table with husband Eric, reminiscing over their recent holiday to Venice. Eric is annoyed at her constant mispronunciations whilst Joan romanticises their experiences. They are both waiting for taxis. Eric’s will take him to a new job near his mother’s and Joan’s will take her back to a psychiatric facility where she is receiving treatment for an unstated mental illness.

The production consists of two separate one acts featuring the same performers, Lynne Miller and Jack Klaff. Both are seasoned performers and excellent to watch…Both plays certainly address important issues but could have been investigated more in-depth if they were full-length and featured more of the male perspective…

“Both Ivy and Joan are victims of their age and gender…

“There is little action in either play. The writing style is akin to Chekhov or Bennett. There are some lovely moments of witty bantering, but these are few. Despite outstanding performances, the playlets feel underdeveloped.”

Intention: ☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆

Star Rating: ☆☆

Read the entire review on everything theatre: http://everything-theatre.co.uk/2015/01/ivy-joan-jermyn-street-theatre-review.html