A diary of theatrical addiction

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I’m the first to admit it: I have a theatre addiction. But it is at least an addiction that I work at and make work for me (in every sense, including financially) to give my life shape and meaning. At its best, it fills the existential hole that we all have to face. (Sometimes, of course, it opens up a chasm, too; just see me after a run of bad shows!)

I’m going to take stock here at least once a week — on the week that’s just gone, and the week to come. By the end of tonight, I’ll have seen ten shows this week — it would have been eleven, but I decided to take this afternoon off! Not all of them, I hasten to add, are for reviewing purposes; sometimes I play ‘catch up’, sometimes I see things purely for pleasure (yes, imagine that — a critic who actually enjoys the theatre enough to go for his own entertainment!)

My count this week has included two cabarets (one of an engaging – and cute! – new New York singer-songwriter called Rob Rokicki, pictured left, who I’d never heard of before I was invited to hear him at the Bridewell, but has been developing a number of fresh-sounding musicals off-Broadway; the other of Broadway veteran Charles Strouse tonight at the Pheasantry, joined by Bonnie Langford) and four musicals (the brand-new The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 13¾ at Leicester’s Curve, reviewed by me for The Stage here; the current touring production of Calamity Jane at Wimbledon Theatre; the pie-shop Sweeney Todd, transposed from Tooting to Shaftesbury Avenue; and a return trip to the Union’s production of Loserville on its last night).

I also saw four plays: Matthew Parker’s terrific fringe UK premiere of the late Snoo Wilson’s lovesong-of-the-electric-bearLovesong of the Electric Bear (pictured left), that re-tells Alan Turing’s story in a surreal way, at Islington’s Hope Theatre that I’d never been to before; the UK premiere of two American plays, Buyer and Cellar at the Menier Chocolate Factory that I’d first seen in New York in its original Off-Broadway run and is reviewed by me for The Stage here, and The Royale at the Bush; and a new production of Strindberg’s The Father at Trafalgar Studios 2).

That’s a fairly eclectic bunch of shows. I also wished I’d been able to squeeze in the premiere of Robert Holman’s Breakfast of Eels that opened at the Print Room on Friday, and the 20th anniversary production of Trainspotting that was brought from last year’s Edinburgh Fringe to the King’s Head, where it also opened on Friday. I also wish I’d gone to the last night of Once last night, as my friend Bill Rosenfield did — he paid £32.50 to watch it from a standing position at the back of the upper circle, which strikes me as a steep fee (in every sense), but at least he was there!

I, too, splashed out when I was in New York over Christmas to see the last performance of a favourite show Pippin, but was glad to have been there; it coincidentally was the same day as Once closed on Broadway, too, but I opted to be at Pippin. And last night I opted to be at Loserville’s last night at the Union, just as I’d been at Loserville’s last night at the Garrick a few years ago. It was a pleasure to see this bright, energised production again, especially as the first time I saw it at the Union there was a long delay to the start of the performance owing to a problem with the lighting deck, which then malfunctioned for much of the first act.

You can’t, as I always say, see everything — though clearly I try!

This coming week, I’m going to see a more sedate six shows, including two Donmar repeats: I’m going back to the West End transfer of My Night with Reg on Friday afternoon to see the understudy performance, at the invitation of one of the cast; and back to the Donmar on Saturday afternoon for Closer so that my husband can see this terrific production of a terrific play for the first time, and I can enjoy it without the pressure of having to review it afterwards!

But I’m also looking forward to two trips to the National — one to see the premiere of Sam Holcroft’s Rules for Living on Tuesday; and then on Friday to see Nick Hytner’s public send-off in a a platform performanceNicholasHytner, followed by a private backstage party I’ve also been invited to. I’m also going to the Barbican Centre’s annual press launch of its next year’s season on Wednesday, followed by staying to catch Ivo van Hove’s Antigone with Juliette Binoche that I missed the opening of earlier this month when I was in New York. And I’m also seeing two musicals this week: a rare London revival for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida at the Finborough on Thursday, and back to the Union on Saturday for the revival of another more recent British musical Spend Spend Spend.

Hope you, too, have a great week ahead!