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Bridge Theatre: A Very Very Very Questionable Year

Bridge Theatre

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr’s year-old theatre is testing my patience. The mission statement of the two Nicks was to focus primarily on new plays.

I suppose they did do that.

One thing’s for sure, though – the 900-seat, £12.5m Bridge Theatre, has the best toilets in London. No subsidy either. 100% commercial theatre, folks, and disappointingly, when I glanced a programme, within the core staff: no education department. Poor show, guys.

There’s something a bit unnerving about anyone who isn’t London’s literati giving a damn about Bridge Theatre. The warning signs were there as early as the third production Nightfall (Barney Norris) and who can forget the terminal Young Marx (Richard Bean). Let’s not dwell on the shoddy reunion with long-term collaborator Alan Bennett (Allelujah!) either. I walked out of all three bored rigid.

The fact that Hytner has still never directed a play by a woman is an obvious concern, which, I think you’ll agree, is fairly impressive. The two Nicks have to start commissioning and involving women writers. Their worrying all-male, all-white line-up will never bring in a diverse audience.

But, hey, why bother with quality control when you can sell tickets to an Evening with Nigella Lawson for £45.00 a pop and shed-loads of Madelines during the intervals.

The Bridge’s latest misfireMartin McDonagh’s objectively rubbish new play A Very Very Very Dark Matter. It might be a contender for the worst play of the year. Why? The plot. Or almost complete lack of it, to be more accurate. No matter how many illustrious writers pen something for that stage and, despite them being an Oscar winner – I still haven’t been able to find one. A Very Very Very Dark Matter never takes off; avoid it at all costs.

A Very Dark Matter, Jim Broadbent

A Very Dark Matter, Jim Broadbent

McDonagh has taken a historical figure and made him a racist idiot– imagining the life he lived at the height of his fame – in this case by portraying Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen (Jim Broadbent) being offensive to a Congolese pygmy woman (Eula’Mae Ackles) in a secret dwelling upstairs in his attic.

As maddeningly incoherent as it sounds.

What did stun me, though, was the sudden realisation that I’d seen it before. It’s a star-fucking Horrible Histories, obviously, but not just the basic grotesque spin on historical events – whether portraying Charles Dickens as a foul-mouthed misery or Christian Andersen as a cockney racist.

The difference, of course, is that Horrible Histories often delivers a powerful message with a charm, subtlety, humour, a proper story and a great script. Matthew Dunster’s production does it with a mallet over the head. The 90-minute evening is full of the F and C words and an attempt to make us laugh at genuinely offensive language, stereotypes about ‘gyppos’ and in-jokes about German directors. How wrong. How sadly, awfully, dangerously wrong.

Either Nick Hytner and Nick Starr have taken their eyes off the ball or else they are working towards better things. However, what they are missing, as yet, is a real sense of vision, inclusion and diversity. Just because it is a commercial enterprise doesn’t mean these things are not compatible.

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

Sure, the toilets are nice and Hytner’s promenade production of Julius Caesar was smart and gripping. But with the new season containing a victory-lap of monologue My Name Is Lucy Barton and Hytner directing an immersive production of William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I’ll pass thanks.

And you can keep your signature Madeleines… For now.

Casting update for Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter

A Very Very Very Dark Matter
The Company of A Very Very Very Dark Matter. Photo Credit. Eleanor Howarth

The Company of A Very Very Very Dark Matter. Photo Credit. Eleanor Howarth

Rehearsals begin yesterday for the world premiere of Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter at the Bridge Theatre.  The cast comprises Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles, Alistair Benson, Elizabeth Berrington, Paul Bradley, Noah Brignull, Jim Broadbent, Phil Daniels, Regan Garcia, Leo Hart, Graeme Hawley, Audrey Hayhurst, Kundai Kanyama, Lee Knight, Jamie McKie, Ryan Pope, James Roberts, Alice Selwyn, Austin Taylor, Amelia Walter and Annabelle Westenholz-Smith including nine children who will alternate a variety of roles.

The London Theatre Company’s production, directed by Matthew Dunster, designed by Anna Fleischle with lighting by Philip Gladwell, music compositions by James Maloney, sound by George Dennis, special effects by Paul Wanklin and video effects by Finn Ross, will preview at the Bridge Theatre from 12 October with opening night on 24 October 2018 at 7pm.  This 12-week run will conclude on 6 January 2019.

In a townhouse in Copenhagen works Hans Christian Andersen, a teller of exquisite and fantastic children’s tales beloved by millions.  But the true source of his stories dwells in his attic upstairs, her existence a dark secret kept from the outside world.  As dangerous, twisted and funny as his National Theatre and Broadway hit The Pillowman, Martin McDonagh’s new play travels deep into the abysses of the imagination.

Johnetta Eula’Mae Ackles, a recent graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, will make her professional stage debut in A Very Very Very Dark Matter

Elizabeth Berrington was last on stage in Rasheeda Speaking at the Trafalgar Studios. Her previous theatre credits include Who Cares and The Low Road for the Royal Court, Holes at the Arcola Theatre, Absent Friends at the Comedy Theatre and Abigail’s Party for Hampstead Theatre.  Her television credits include Patrick Melrose, Stella,Waterloo Road, Vanity Fair, Borderline, Death in Paradise, Little Boy Blue and the forthcoming Good Omens.  Her film credits include Naked, Secrets and Lies, Vera DrakeMr. Turner and Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges.

Jim Broadbent (Hans Christian Andersen) is a BAFTA and Academy award-winning actor. He has previously appeared in Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman at the National Theatre where he was also seen in Improbable Theatre’s Theatre of Blood.  Broadbent has worked extensively for the Donmar Warehouse, the Old Vic, the Royal Court and the Royal Shakespeare Company and has most recently been seen on stage in A Christmas Carol at The Noël Coward Theatre.  His many film credits include Iris, for which he won an Academy Award, The Lady in the Van, Paddington, Brooklyn, Iron Lady, Le Weekend, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Moulin Rouge.  His more recent television credits include King Lear, Game of Thrones, War and Peace, London Spy and The Go-Between as well as his BAFTA winning role in Longford.

Phil Daniels recently toured the UK playing the title roles in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.  His further theatre credits include King Lear for Chichester Festival Theatre, This House at the National Theatre and Garrick Theatre,  Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre and Antony and Cleopatra and Knight of The Burning Pestle for Shakespeare’s Globe. On television his many credits include EndeavourZapped, Poirot, Mooonfleet, EastEnders, Outlaws, Rocks and Chips, Gimme Gimme GimmeMisfits, The Long Firm, Time Gentlemen Please, Holding On and Sex, Chips and Rock n Roll.  On film his credits include Access All Areas, The Hatton Garden Job, Vinyl, Chicken Run, Bad Behaviour, Scum and Quadrophenia.

Martin McDonagh is an award-winning writer and director.  His plays are The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, The Lonesome West, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, The Cripple of Inishmaan, The Pillowman, A Behanding in Spokane and Hangmen.  As a writer and director for film, his credits are Seven Psychopaths, In Bruges,Six Shooter and most recently, the Academy Award, BAFTA and Golden Globe winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Matthew Dunster directed McDonagh’s Hangmen at the Royal Court which also transferred to New York. His other directing credits include The Seagull and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Love’s Sacrifice for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Liberian Girl at the Royal Court, Love the Sinner for the National Theatre, Doctor Faustus, Imogen, The Frontline and Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare’s Globe, Mametz for the National Theatre of Wales, Before the Party for the Almeida Theatre and Saturday Night and Sunday MorningMacbeth and Mogadishu for the Royal Exchange Theatre.  As a writer his plays include Children’s Children which premiered at the Almeida Theatre and You Can See the Hills which premiered at the Royal Exchange Theatre as well as an adaptation of 1984.

 Listings Information

Address:                                   Bridge Theatre, 3 Potters Fields Park, London, SE1 2SG

Box Office:                               0333 320 0051 or [email protected]

Tickets are priced from £15 to £65 with a limited number of premium seats available.   A special allocation of £15 seats are held for Young Bridge, a free scheme for those under 26.

Access:                                    0333 320 0051 or [email protected]

Website:                                   www.bridgetheatre.co.uk

Twitter:                                    @_bridgetheatre

Instagram:                               _bridgetheatre

Facebook:                                facebook.com/bridgetheatrelondon

Claude-Michel Schönberg in conversation with Edward Seckerson at The Bridge Theatre

Edward Seckerson
Edward Seckerson

Edward Seckerson

This December, the Tony-Award winning composer and lyricist Claude-Michel Schönberg comes to London for an intimate one-off ‘in conversation’ event with Edward Seckerson at The Bridge Theatre

The composer Claude-Michel Schönberg who with lyricist Alain Boublil created two of the greatest international successes in the history of musical theatre – Les Miserables and Miss Saigon – sits down with writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson to discuss his journey from songwriter/record producer and singer – he had a number one hit in France with his song Le Premiere Pas– to the stages of the West End and Broadway.

In a rare public encounter –  illustrated with recordings and live performances from West End stars John Owen Jones (Les Miserables) and Eva Noblezada (Miss Saigon)  – he talks about how his “Rock Opera” La Révolution Française set him on the path to Victor Hugo and Les Miserables and how a single photograph from the archives of the Vietnam War prompted a dramatic new take on Puccini’s Madam Butterfly. He talks about the elusive process which triggers the melodies, his love of opera and ballet, his continuing quest to breathe new life into perhaps his greatest score, Martin Guerre.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUT TICKETS FOR THE EVENT

More about the artists

Composer, librettist, and record producer Claude-Michel Schönberg is one half of a hit songwriting team, with lyricist Alain Boublil, that is responsible for the Les Misérables and Miss Saigon. The duo first teamed up in 1973 to write Boublil‘s first musical, La Revolution Française, in which Schönberg played the part of King Louis XVI. The following year, Schönberg recorded an album of original material entitled Le Premier Pas. He teamed up with Boublil again in 1978 to work on the score of Les Misérables, which opened in Paris two years later. The original cast recording won two gold discs by 1981 and the Broadway production that followed garnered two Tony Awards (1987 Best Score, Best Book). Schönberg and Boublil followed up with another wildly successful musical, Miss Saigon, which opened in London in the fall of 1989 and internationally shortly thereafter. The duo’s next musical, Martin Guerre, opened in London in the mid-’90s. Schönberg also produced an opera album with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra and Julia Migenes-Johnson, and participated in all of the castings for Les Misérables.

Fane Productions operates as a unique one-stop shop for top talent from across the global entertainment industry. We manage and agent clients depending on their needs; produce, general manage and promote tours and programme venues, most notably Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zédel. We specialise in music, musical theatre and spoken word, but we don’t stop there, with poets, public figures and dancers included among our clients. 2018 highlights include the world premiere of two time Tony award-winner Kathleen Turner’s one woman show at The Other Palace and a very special UK tour with legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, whilst Sir Michael Parkinson, Kerry Ellis and Gareth Malone all head out on tour.

John Owen-Jones is a record-breaking West End and Broadway actor and singer. He is best known for his critically acclaimed and award-winning performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. In the UK, John has performed extensively in theatre, appeared on television and radio, and performed in concert around the world. John remains the youngest actor in West End history to have played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables (a role he also played on Broadway) and has performed as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera nearly 2000 times – more than any actor in the show’s entire West End run. John has appeared in special finales for theLes Miserables and Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary performances at the 02 Arena and Royal Albert Hall. He is in the unique position of being the only actor to have the opportunity to reinvent Valjean and The Phantom – in brand new Cameron Mackintosh productions that toured the UK and now tour the world to great acclaim. In an online poll, John was voted the “Best Ever Valjean” and “Best Ever Performer inLes Miserables by fans of the show worldwide; his performance as Valjean can be heard on the Les Miserables Live! Album. He recently played Jean Valjean in Les Miserables at Dubai Opera, Dubai. John has released four solo albums. ‘Hallelujah’ EP (2006) ‘John Owen-Jones’ (2009),

‘Unmasked’ (2011) ‘Rise’ (2015) and ‘Bring Him Home’ (2017).

Eva Noblezada was discovered during a performance at the National High School Musical Theater Awards (The Jimmy Awards) and, at age 17, was chosen to star as Kim, making her professional and West End debut in Miss Saigon (Winner- WhatsonStage Award for ‘Best Actress in A Musical’). She then went on to reprise the role on Broadway in 2017 which earnt her a Tony Nomination for ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ and was the youngest nominee that year. Other West End: Eponine in Les Misérables (Queens Theatre).

Nicholas Hytner & Nick Starr welcomed the first ever audience to the newly built Bridge Theatre

Tonight (Saturday 14 October 2017Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr welcomed the first ever audience to the newly built Bridge Theatre situated on the river by Tower Bridge and City Hall.  In advance of official previews beginning next week (18 October 2017), tonight an audience of Bridge and Young Bridge members were invited to try out the building for the first time.

As well as seeing Young Marx, the opening production at the Bridge – a new play by Richard Bean and Clive Coleman, directed by Nicholas Hytner – the audience of over nine hundred people experienced the theatre’s in-house bar, café and up to date facilities.

The flagship theatre of the London Theatre Company, the Bridge is London’s first theatre of scale to be added to London’s commercial theatre stock in eighty years.

London Theatre Company commissioned the new theatre from architect Steve Tompkins and his colleague Roger Watts from Haworth Tompkins.  The Bridge auditorium is a collaboration between Haworth TompkinsLTC and Tait Stage Technologies.