Culture, London, Theatre, Theatre, West-End

Great Britain at Theatre Royal Haymarket/Sunny Afternoon at the Harold Pinter

Last week I found myself suddenly with a heaving diary full of shows to see. OH WHAT A HORRIBLE POSITION TO BE IN! So, I managed to schedule in a couple of bumper theatre days, tackling two shows in one fell swoop. As an Edfringe veteran this concept didn’t worry me in the least- once in Edinburgh I think I saw eight shows in one day.

So, number 1 theatre day saw me firstly jaunt over to the lovely Theatre Royal Haymarket to catch the West End transfer of Great Britain from the National Theatre. This new play by Richard Bean (of One Man Two Guv’nors fame) and directed by Nicholas Hytner is a topical little treat. All set in the offices of a (very loosely disguised) fictional newspaper, the plot revolves around a phone hacking scandal as Paige Britain, the ambitious young news editor, hacks into the voicemails of adulterous cricketers, models suffering from eating disorders, scandalous politicians and abducted children.

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When the play first opened at the National earlier this year, Billie Piper took up the reins to play Britain, but here in the West End transfer, Lucy Punch gives the role balls and guts, showing the candy-coated nastiness of the character. Aaron Neil also puts in a sterling turn as the bungling police chief commissioner.

It’s a raucous, vulgar, fast-moving piece which provides the audience much hearty and uncomfortable laughter. It’s a show about power struggles, blackmail, kiss and tells, sleeping one’s way to the top and the interaction between police, politicians and press. Snappy scenes of pacy, punchy dialogue are interspersed with big projections of headlines, news reports- even featuring a Cassetteboy style youtube video. How very on trend, given the lad’s recent hit featuring dear old Shiny Face himself…

Satirical, providing much food for thought, funny with a very chilling edge. Well worth a watch if you can wiggle down the the Haymarket.

AND THEN FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

After a few gins to chew over Great Britain, it was but a mere hop, skip and a jump into the Harold Pinter to see Sunny Afternoon, the new bio-musical based on The Kinks. This is the tale of four working class kids from Muswell Hill and their rags to riches rise to the top of the charts. Incorporated along the way are onstage fights between band members, drink, drugs, manipulative record labels, being banned from the USA, power struggles and the troubles of the tortured artist.

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Despite all that, if I’m 100% honest, the book is a little bland and gets a bit saggy towards the end BUTTTT the music is bloody brilliant. The four lead chaps playing Ray, Dave, Mick and Pete are all fantastic actor-musos, blasting out classic Kinks numbers left right and centre- You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night being particular highlights.

The cast in general is exceptionally strong, but George Maguire stands out as Dave Davies, making him petulant and lovable all at the same time. Excellent chandelier swinging mon brave.

Looking around the theatre, it looked like we were the youngest there with lots of white-haired punters revelling in  the show. It was SO CUTE to see how they got so excited as each hit song started up, many of them actually couldn’t resist joining in a lot of the time and by the end, the entire theatre was up out of their seats dancing and interacting with the cast.

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Whilst jukebox shows really aren’t my most favourite thing in the world (I can never make peace with the ‘shoehorning’ that goes one), this one is one of the best of the bunch. Toe-tapping, good fun and with a genuinely great soundtrack, Sunny Afternoon deserves a very decent bums-on-seats run.

So with the first of the bumper theatre days done, I drifted back home and dreamt of tabloids and phone hacking all to the sounds of Dedicated Follower of Fashion. Kooky.

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Great Britain runs at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 10th January 2015.
For tickets and more information, visit the website here.

Sunny Afternoon runs at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 31st January 2015
For tickets and more information, visit the website here.

 

 

 

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