Welcome to today’s edition of ShentonSTAGE Daily.
There’s nothing like being in at the birth of something big — it’s why, although first previews are sometimes a big risk, they are also a joy, to find yourself amongst those seeing the first public showing ever of a new work of art.
On Saturday, I was that person, witnessing the arrival of a brand-new and all-British original musical THE BIG LITTLE THINGS at @sohoplace.
Though I will wait until the September 14 press night to formally review it,
I can confidently say after seeing the first preview that this is an utterly enthralling and moving joy of a show that is both thrillingly scored and beautifully performed.
It also, excitingly, continues a policy positively embraced by this venue, to represent diverse stories and to tell them in casts featuring diverse people. And for once we’re not just talking about racial diversity, but also physical diversity; this is based on the true story of a man left paralysed in a swimming accident on holiday in Portugal at the age of 19, that features not one but two actors in wheelchairs. Previously at this address, a production of MEDEA with Ben Daniels and Sophie Okonedo also featured an actor in a wheelchair; a production of AS YOU LIKE IT featured a deaf actor, and included use of simultaneous sign language. And MARVELLOUS — the opening show there — featured an actor with Asperger’s Syndrome.
So this is a theatre not just putting diverse stories on stage, but also not just accommodating but promoting diverse actors. This is a 21st century theatre for 21st century audiences and actors alike. But there is still some work to do. It was disappointing that, leaving the theatre by the staff operated lift afterwards, I was injured by the doors shutting on me before I was out, as I was the last one to leave. I reported it to the theatre’s manager and owner, and both took it very seriously.
The show also marks a particular triumph for producer Michael Harrison, one of London’s most prolific producers. Saturday also saw the end of the London runs of his productions of THE WIZARD OF OZ (at the London Palladium, transferred from Leicester’s Curve) and OKLAHOMA! (transferred from the Young Vic with co-producers Sonia Friedman and the original Broadway producer Eva Price).
“FUCK THE CRITICS AND THEIR PRECIOUS BULLSHIT”…
On Saturday, the West End revival of Martin McDonagh’s THE PILLOWMAN shut at the Duke of York’s. Director Matthew Dunster tweeted:
As TIME OUT critic Andrzej Lukowski replied:
And actor Lucy Briers makes the interesting point:
The production in fact quoted a prominent blogger as its primary quote, placed above the front of house canopy that declared it “undoubtedly one of the best plays of the year.”
Perhaps that’s not the same kind of precious bullshit?
HOWS AHEAD IN LONDON, SELECTED REGIONAL THEATRES AND ON BROADWAY
My regularly updated feature on shows in London, selected regional theatres and on Broadway is here: https://shentonstage.com/theatre-openings-from-w-c-september-4-2023/
See you here on Friday
I will be here on Friday. If you can’t wait that long, I may also be found on Twitter (for the moment) here: https://twitter.com/ShentonStage/, as well as Threads and Instagram with the same handle (@ShentonStage).