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Grievance culture is not unproblematic

Julian Ovenden and Gillian Anderson in All About Eve.

How seriously should theatre-goers take a reviewer that keeps using the word problematic?

Not seriously at all, obviously.

A trend that, arguably, represents everything rotten & self-destructive about the industry currently. Imposing self righteous 21st century values on the past also means work is now regularly dismissed: sight unseen.

Who needs creative expression anyway? Balance? Forget it.

It’s like Brexit it goes from bad to worse

In an industry that has only recently begun to grapple with the equality issues that have bedevilled it, progress has been made on representation & visibility.

But where does all this agenda-driven, middle class self-loathing & guilt tripping actually lead? Well, it is initially on display in the current crop or preachy ‘woke’ commentary that is entrenched in mainstream culture. See: Theatre Twitter / Exeunt & an increasing number of The Stage’s reviews.

Berkoff as Harvey Weinstein. Photograph credit: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Berkoff as Harvey Weinstein. Photograph credit: Richard Young/Rex/Shutterstock

Steven Berkoff recently directed himself in Harvey, a one-man show about Weinstein, at the Playground theatre, London. The play attempts to delve into the disgraced movie mogul.

The Guardian went and awarded it 2 stars. This was a workshop run of a new play by an 81 year old man. Press were not invited – they went anyway. Tabloid stuff innit.

Berkoff may not be to everyone’s taste and the timing is undeniably questionable (too soon etc) but he is a man with an international profile & reputation for cutting-edge theatre (East, Salome and Decadence) Berkoff is also one of the foremost actors of his generation. To write him off for having a scrotum & daring to tackle this material is churlish.

Every year a rotating number of individual voices rise above the usual noise on social media but the stupidity remains ritualised. Everyone is offended – everything is problematic. Even Mary Poppins is racistyou know.

Long term, as others are often too scared to point out, though, it’s hardly an unconnected surprise to learn that critics are being culled & informed mainstream coverage is in decline. Who wants to read this stuff? Modern life is already miserable enough as it is.

It’s always a case of fine margins, of course, with The Stage & increasingly The Guardian which are both regularly condemning patriarchy in a campaign that can best be described as annoying.

It is, though, hard to escape the sense that all concerned are going through the motions – effortlessly, sometimes brilliantly – but going through the motions, none the less. Chasing trends rather than setting them.

All About Eve

All About Eve

This week, I visited the Noel Coward to see Ivo Van Hove’s production of All About Eve. The play is based on the classic 1950 film, that sees Bette Davis as an ageing star under siege from a manipulative aspiring actress.

Gillian Anderson & Lily James are great & I found it compelling. Technical wizardry aside, the vital element in the brilliance of All About Eve is that the direction & cast are of a phenomenally high standard. Truly.

Anyway, in a review for Time OutAndrzej Łukowski commented: “Her appearance is the first sense that any women exist in this world, and she’s there to mourn, repent, and care for a suffering man, not to have her own agency.” ‘Written in a very different era, ‘All About Eve’ is not totally unproblematic in its depiction of female ambition and its relationship to female bodies. But it is still pretty potent, and apt, and you can see why it appealed to Van Hove.’

All About Eve is geared toward the #MeToo era; most of the audiences are young, smart females. I used to enjoy reading first night reviews. Now, so often, the recurring themes and language around the same complaints about ‘all male’ creative teams week-after week mean that those writing about theatre have talked themselves into an opinion.

By which I mean give me strength –  let’s not get carried away chaps, it’s just people jumping on an obvious bandwagon.

Stay strong, readers.

All About Eve is at the Noël Coward theatre, London, until 11 May.

Mary Poppins returns to the Prince Edward Theatre Autumn 2019

Charlie Stemp
Zizi Strallen

Zizi Strallen

Disney Theatrical Productions and Cameron Mackintosh today (14 September 2018) have announced the return to the West End of the critically acclaimed and internationally award-winning production of Mary Poppins.  Mary Poppins will return to its original West End home at the Prince Edward Theatre where, after three smash-hit years in London, Disney’s Aladdin will end its run late August 2019.  Starring Zizi Strallen, who returns to play the title role following great acclaim on the recent sell-out international tour, and Charlie Stemp as Bert, who last year gave an award-winning performance as Arthur Kipps in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Half A Sixpence and recently made his Broadway debut in Hello, Dolly!.

Tickets for Mary Poppins will go on sale in January 2019.  Further details will be announced in due course, including full booking information.  Meanwhile, Patrons can register for news and priority booking information at marypoppinsonstage.co.uk

The magical story of the world’s favourite Nanny arriving on Cherry Tree Lane has been triumphantly and spectacularly brought to the stage with dazzling choreography, incredible effects and unforgettable songs. The stage version of Mary Poppins is brilliantly adapted from the wonderful stories by PL Travers and the beloved Walt Disney film.

Cameron Mackintosh said:  “I’m thrilled to be bringing the internationally acclaimed new staging of Pamela Travers’ magical stories back to London in the autumn of 2019, with Disney, featuring the dazzling talents of Zizi Strallen and Charlie Stemp as Mary and Bert. The original production, over 14 years ago, only played London and Broadway and subsequently was revised and continues to be staged around the world with phenomenal success.  The recent UK tour, starring Zizi as Mary, broke box office records everywhere it played. It has been particularly gratifying that the stage musical with its brilliant script by Julian Fellowes and wonderful new score by Stiles and Drewe, complementing the Sherman Brothers’ classic songs, has taken on its own magical life separate from the film, appealing to audiences of all ages and nationalities. Its story of the importance of family is at the heart of the show and the reason why this iconic British nanny remains irresistibly timeless and popular the world over.”

Thomas Schumacher said: “It is of course a great joy to collaborate again with our long-time partner, Cameron Mackintosh, on this glorious production and I’m thrilled that the show will return to take up residency at the beautifully restored Prince Edward Theatre, one of London’s greatest. Mary Poppins may have played over one hundred cities on four continents but at last, Mary will return to the West End.  In every iteration of this beloved tale, Mary appears at 17 Cherry Tree Lane because the Banks family needs her; needs her unconditional love, her enchantment and her belief. Has there ever been a time when we have all needed Mary more?”

The multi award-winning creative team for Mary Poppins, which originally opened in the West End fourteen years ago, is led by director Richard Eyre, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne, co-choreography by Stephen Mear, set and costume designs by Bob Crowley, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Paul Gatehouse and orchestrations byWilliam David Brohn.

The stage production is co-created by Cameron Mackintosh and has a book by Academy Award®-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes.  The score by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman includes the classic songsJolly Holiday, Step in Time, Feed the Birds and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious with new songs and additional music and lyrics by the Olivier award-winning British team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The producer for Disney Theatrical Productions isThomas Schumacher.

Zizi Strallen is currently playing Fran in Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the Piccadilly Theatre.  Her previous theatre credits includeFollies at the National Theatre, Mary Poppins on tour in the UK, Ireland and in Dubai, Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man and Cinderellaat Sadler’s Wells and on tour, Cats and Scrooge at the London Palladium, Hairspray and Chicago at Leicester Curve, Merrily We Roll Along at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre and The Music Man for Chichester Festival Theatre.

Award-winning Charlie Stemp most recently played Barnaby Tucker in the Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! opposite Bette Midler and Bernadette Peters. He previously played the title role in last year’s Palladium pantomime Dick Whittington, following his critically acclaimed performance as Arthur Kipps in Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre, a role he first performed at Chichester Festival Theatre.  His further theatre credits include Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre and the international tour of Mamma Mia!.

The stage production of Mary Poppins originally opened in the West End in December 2004, running for three years and over 1,250 performances. During this time it won two Olivier Awards, an Evening Standard Award and the Variety Club Award for Best Musical.  The Tony Award®-winning Broadway production ran for over six years.  The show has subsequently toured the UK and Ireland, the US, Australia, New Zealand and played in Holland, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Dubai, Japan and Germany where the production continues its successful run in Hamburg. Mary Poppins has been seen by over 11 million people worldwide.

LINKS

facebook.com/marypoppins
twitter.com/marypoppins

instagram.com/marypoppinsmusical

Website: marypoppinsonstage.co.uk