Love Story at the Union Theatre/Joanna Riding Live In The Delfont Room
SO the sun rose on the second bumper day of theatre and I was excited. I was off to the Union Theatre to see their production of Howard Goodall’s Love Story before heading over to the Delfont Rooms at the Prince of Wales Theatre to see one of my favourite actresses, Joanna Riding in her cabaret, as part of the Live in the Delfont Room Cabaret Season.
So, I primped, preened and got myself ready, threw on my delicious new pale blue winter coat and my god, it looked marvellous.
Just because visiting two theatres in one day wasn’t quite enough, I popped into the Young Vic bar to have a meeting. I’ve said before that theatre bars can make a visit really GREAT if they’re good. Good bars are something that West-End theatres really lack, they’re all just very functional with no atmosphere, whereas the best theatre bars I know have great personalities and welcome you in for drinks and get-togethers regardless of whether you’re watching a show there or not. The best ones around (in my humble opinion, and tbf I do spend quite a lot of time in a) bars and b) theatres) are Soho Theatre, Southwark Playhouse and The Young Vic. The latter is always buzzing with a hub of activity and serves GOOD GRUB too.
Talking of good theatre bars, the Union Theatre isn’t half bad either. With a little cafe out the front which is open all day and a tiny ramshackle bar out the back filled with old pianos, rickety wooden chairs, fairy lights and old props hung everywhere, the minute you walk in you begin to feel the MAGIC of the theatre. GORGEOUS.
One of the things I just love about the Union is how ingenious they are with their space. Every single show I’ve seen there totally reimagines the space and as an audience member, I’ve sat in pretty much every part of the theatre. Their current staging of Love Story sets it in a sort of mini-thrust, with cast members making their entrances and exits all around the audience.
Goodall’s take on the classic 70’s movie is engagingly sentimental without being saccharine and under the direction of Sasha Regan triumphs as a lovely little chamber musical that really brings a genuine tear to the eye. Opening with a sombre funeral scene, the ensemble are dotted around the theatre holding black umbrellas, before we flash back in time to the beginning of the big Love Story itself. Boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, boy and girl fall passionately in love and sing songs about pasta before girl tragically dies of cancer. HAPPILY EVER AFTER IT AIN’T.
Victoria Serra as Jenny is utterly charming, both gutsy and girly at the same time. Her solo, I Will Play Nocturnes, performed at the piano just utterly broke my heart. The ensemble is strong, though perhaps a little underused- at times it seemed as though some of them were no more than glorified ASMs, but the intimacy of the space ensured that we really heard all their stellar voices shining through.
In short a beautifully simple staging of a gorgeous little show with some heart-achingly tender performances. NICE ONE UNION!
A couple of gins later and a quick gallivant over the river to the Prince of Wales, it was time to indulge in a spot of late night cabaret. I was thrilled to see this when I picked my tickets up from the box office:
The Delfont Room is tucked away in the Prince of Wales (currently housing Book of Mormon) and when we stepped in, it had been transformed into a charming little cabaret venue, complete with little tables around which clusters of chairs were grouped. And obviously, as with all good cabaret venues, the bar stayed open throughout. Settled in with a drink, our conversation was suddenly interrupted by a frumpy Northern lady in a bobble hat and duffel coat storming through the audience and onto the stage, singing about how she was in love with a Spear Carrier in the Shakespeare play she’d seen.
BUT DO NOT BE FOOL! It was Joanna Riding all along! After that hysterical opening, she treated us to a smorgasboard of anecdotes from her life and (ENVIABLE) career and a delicious blend of musical numbers, each one pointing to a different highlight of her amazingly varied career. With humour, honesty and warmth she took us through Over the Rainbow, via Doris Day ending act one with a beautiful medley incorporating some of her favourite roles she’s played- I was able to pick out numbers from Me and My Girl and Guys and Dolls nestling in amongst them.
Act two was equally as fantastic, the highlight of which was Anna-Jane Casey and Cassidy Janson, two fantastically funny powerhouses of the modern British musical theatre scene, joining Ms Riding onstage to belt out some numbers from The Witches of Eastwick. GOOSEBUMPS.
As well as Ms Riding, the Live at the Delfont Rooms season also featured Daniel Boys and Danielle Hope and the whole shebang was organised by my dear old pal Joel Marvin, who’s making his mark as a hot young producer in town. The season is sadly finished for this year, but having been SUCH A SUCCESS it’s been nominated for a Broadway World award! Joel’s shows are always worth catching, the line-up is always completely first class and many of the concerts he stages have all their proceeds going to very worthy causes. The next one that’s on the horizon is a A Merry Christmas Cabaret in December (following the success of Jingle Belles in 2012 and Jingle Balls in 2011). Give him a follow on twitter at @Charity_gigs for more info!
So with songs ringing in my heart and heart and a sneaky ginintin in my hand it was on the train home. How lucky we are to live in a city of such rich and varied theatre.
Love Story runs at the Union Theatre until 25th October 2014.
For more information and tickets, visit the website here.