London Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards highlight fringe

Mark Strong Crix Circle Theatre Awards 2015

By Ray Bennett

Fringe and repertoire theatres triumphed at the London Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards today as prizes went to productions at the Almeida, Chichester Festival, the Young Vic, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Court and the Bush Theatre.

Mark Strong (pictured above) was named best actor and Ivo van Hope won as best director for “A View From the Bridge’ at the Young Vic. It opens at Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End on Feb. 16 with previews from Feb. 10.

Helen McCroy was named best actress for “Medea” at the National Theatre. The Euripides play in a new version by Ben Power directed by Carrie Cracknell is available via National Theatre Live. Alison Goldfrapp did the music.

“King Charles III” by Mike Bartlett won the award as best new play. It opened at the Almeida theatre and then had a run at Wyndham’s that will end on Jan. 31. Music for the show was by Jocelyn Pook (“Eyes Wide Shut”, “Gangs of New York”).

The Peter Hepple Award for best musical, new or revival, went to the Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of the 1959 Broadway show “Gypsy”. Imelda Staunton stars as Mama Rose with Lara Pulver as Louise and Peter Davison as Herbie for director Jonathan Kent as the production moves to the Savoy Theatre in previews from March 28 and will run from April 15 to July 18.

Other winners were:

Best designer: Tie: Paul Barritt for “Golem”, 1927 at the Young Vic Theatre and Es Devlin for “The Nether” from the Headlong Theatre at the Royal Court followed by a transfer on Feb. 23 to the Duke of York’s Theatre with previews from Jan. 30.

Most promising playwright: Barney Norris for “Visitors” for its Up in Arms regional your and Arcola Theatre, London, production followed by a transfer to the Bush Theatre.

The Jack Tinker Award for most promising newcomer (other than a playwright): Patsy Ferran for her performances in “Blithe Spirit”  with Angela Lansbury at the Gielgud Theatre and “Treasure Island” at the Olivier Theatre at the National.

Comedian Arthur Smith (below) was on hand for the event in the Bernard Delfont room at the Prince of Wales Theatre, Piccadilly Circus, as he has been for years, with comments and gags to ensure proceedings did not become too reverential.

Arthur Smith Crix Circle Theatre Awards 2015


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Theatre news: Spacey as Darrow, Suchet as Lady Bracknell

Kevin Spacey (Henry Drummond) x650

By Ray Bennett

Latest casting news in London’s West End includes Kevin Spacey’s return as Clarence Darrow at The Old Vic, Lara Pulver and Peter Davison with Imelda Staunton in the transfer of “Gypsy” and David Suchet as Lady Bracknell.

Spacey’s last stage appearance before his 10-year run as artistic director at The Old Vic comes to an end will be as the celebrated attorney in the David W. Rintels one-man play “Clarence Darrow”. Directed by Thea Sharrock in the round, it will preview from March 3 and run for six weeks to April 11.

Spacey said, “As my time at the helm of The Old Vic is drawing to a close, it felt the right choice to bring back ‘Clarence Darrow’. I had such a short run with the production last year and so many didn’t get the chance to see it that it felt like a great opportunity to do a longer run.”

The actor, who has two Oscars, a Bafta, an Emmy, an Olivier, a Tony, and a Grammy nomination, noted that he has played Darrow three times – in a 1991 TV movie titled “Darrow” (which is available on DVD from Arrow), as the lawyer Drummond (pictured) in “Inherit the Wind” at The Old Vic in 2009, and the one-man play last year.

He said, “Perhaps it is true what they say, if you do something long enough you just might get good at it. I look forward to sharing Darrow’s remarkable, inspiring life one more time in London as we build toward the excitement of Matthew Warchus taking on the role of artistic director at our beloved Old Vic.”

The musical “High Society” with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Arthur Kopit based on Philip Barry’s play “The Philadelphia Story” opens at The Old Vic on May 14 with previews from April 30, and it will run to Aug. 22.

GYPSY by Sondheim

Lara Pulver (above), who played Irene Adler on TV’s “Sherlock”, will make her West End debut as Louise aka Gypsy Rose Lee in “Gypsy” following her success in the role with Imelda Staunton at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Pulver has extensive stage credits at venues such as the Donmar Warehouse, the National and the Menier Chocolate Factory and her TV credits include “Spooks” (MI-5), “True Blood” and “Da Vinci’s Demons”.

Peter Davison, who had the title role in “Doctor Who” from 1981 to 1984 and played Tristan Farnon in the long-running BBC-TV series “All Creatures Great and Small”, will join the production as long-suffering manager Herbie.

Jonathan Kent directs the musical fable with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, choreography by Stephen Mear, designs by Anthony Ward, musical direction and orchestration by Nicholas Skilbeck, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.

First produced on Broadway in 1959, “Gypsy” was last staged in London 40 years ago. Previews begin at the Savoy Theatre on March 28 with first night on April 15 and it will run to July 18.

David Suchet, who has been nominated for four Olivier Awards and is known best as TV’s “Poirot”, will play Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest at the Vaudeville Theatre. Previews begin on June 24 with first night on July 1 and it will run to Nov. 7. Adrian Noble will direct a cast that will include Emily Barber, Michael Benz, Philip Cumbus, Imogen Doel, Michele Dotrice and Richard O’Callaghan.

David Suchet as Lady Bracknell (photo credit Hugo Glendinning)

David Suchet as Lady Bracknell (photo credit Hugo Glendinning)


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Martin Shaw hasn’t always been a TV copper

Martin Shaw as George Gently x650

By Ray Bennett

Martin Shaw, who turns 70 today, is known best for playing TV coppers in “The Professionals” and “Inspector George Gently” but he also has had a long stage career in roles from Stanley Kowalski to Lord Goring to Elvis Presley, and he loves to fly.

The Birmingham-born actor is regarded as a prickly interview subject but when we chatted in 2011 for a story in Cue Entertainment, we got along fine, possibly because we’re about the same age. Continue reading

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‘Boyhood’, ‘Under the Skin’ top London critics’ awards

w: Miranda Richardson, Stanley Tucci Crix 2015

By Ray Bennett

The London Critics’ Circle Film Awards on Sunday shared the plaudits among several films including “Boyhood”, which won three prizes, and “Under the Skin”, which won two. Continue reading

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FILM REVIEW: Damien Chazelle’s ‘Whiplash’

Whiplash  x650

By Ray Bennett

“Whiplash” is a cracking little picture that draws on the philosophical notion that you can achieve anything so long as you’re willing to sacrifice everything else, including blood.

A sort of “Full Metal Drumkit”, in which percussion is the goal rather than munition, it resembles the first half of the Stanley Kubrick movie in which a drill sergeant metes out pain and and suffering. Continue reading

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Miranda Richardson to receive Critics’ Circle’s top prize

Miranda Richardson x650

Delighted that the wonderful Miranda Richardson will be honoured at the Critics’ Circle Film Awards on Sunday. Sat next to her at a Fox dinner at the Toronto International Film Festival two or three years ago and she is delightful company as well as a great actress. Look forward to seeing her again.

Here’s the Circle’s announcement: Continue reading

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Peter Cook’s pact with the devil for Dudley Moore

Cook and Moore

By Ray Bennett

There’s a general view that comic genius Peter Cook, who died 20 years ago today, was a bitter and unhappy man who resented the film success of his former partner Dudley Moore. That’s not how he appeared to me when I spent time with him in Hollywood in 1981. Continue reading

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Elvis: The man who fell to earth and changed the world

w- Allan Rich at Graceland circa 1995 Cliff

By Ray Bennett

Little more than 10 years after the end of World War II, Great Britain was a cold, grey place in 1956 when Elvis Presley, who would have been 80 today, dropped from the sky. He changed everything. Continue reading

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My picks for the best in film in 2014

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL - 2014 FILM STILL - Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight

By Ray Bennett

My Top 10 Films of 2014

Grand Budapest Hotel, Under the Skin, Birdman, Into the Woods, The Imitation Game, Big Eyes, Nightcrawler, Only Lovers Left Alive, The Theory of Everything, Pride. Continue reading

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Recalling … the man who blew up the Eiffel Tower


By Ray Bennett

Linwood G. Dunn blew up the Eiffel Tower for $64, bombed Moscow and shot up ships and planes in both world wars, and got away with it.

Dunn, whose birthday was 110 years ago today, was one of Hollywood’s greatest special effects pioneers on films from “Mighty Joe Young” (1949) to “West Side Story” (1961) to “It’s a Mad Mad Mad World” (1963), which he said was the most challenging and rewarding, and TV shows including “Star Trek”. Continue reading

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