Tag Archives: theatre

➤ Gary Kemp steps onstage to join London’s theatre critics

Robert Sheehan ,Ruth Negga, Playboy of the Western World, Old Vic, theatre, Critics at the Cri

The Playboy of the Western World: Robert Sheehan makes his stage debut as Synge’s anti-hero Christy Mahon, seen here with Ruth Negga as the vindictive Pegeen Mike. (Photography Manuel Harlan)

❚ THIS THURSDAY LUNCHTIME songwriter Gary Kemp becomes a theatre critic in a live a panel discussion taking place onstage at the Criterion Theatre on Piccadilly Circus in London. Critics at the Cri is a live monthly review, featuring Britain’s leading critical voices who will debate three recent theatre openings in and around London. As a joint initiative by the Criterion and What’s On Stage, each discussion takes place on the first Thursday of the month at 1.15pm, lasting for 45 minutes. The session aims to open up the conversation for the audience to engage with the guest critics.

Gary Kemp, Criterion Theatre , Critics at the Cri, London theatre,

Gary Kemp: popstar, songwriter and acclaimed autobiographer

On October 6, the opening panel includes theatre critics Michael Coveney and Patrick Marmion, BBC Culture Show theatre presenter Clemency Burton-Hill and special guest Gary Kemp, reviewing three very different openings: Mike Leigh’s latest play Grief at the National Theatre, the Broadway transfer Rock of Ages the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre, and J M Synge’s Irish modern classic from 1907, The Playboy of the Western World at the Old Vic Theatre. Tickets cost £7.50 in person from the Criterion box office but Kemp fans will find that Spandau Ballet’s website has a special offer. Critics at the Cri Two is scheduled for Thursday Nov 3 at 1.15pm.

❏ Update: On Tuesday Gary Kemp collected a BMI Multi Million Award for his hit True with Spandau Ballet in 1983. This makes the song one of the most played songs on US radio and TV, which is rare for a recording from the 1980s.


➢ The Playboy of the Western World at the Old Vic
— Michael Coveney at What’s On Stage

➢ Playboy — Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail

➢ Rock of Ages the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre
— Michael Coveney at What’s On Stage

➢ Grief at the National Theatre
— Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail

➢ Grief — Michael Coveney at What’s On Stage

Rock of Ages the Musical,Shaftesbury Theatre,Critics at the Cri,

The London cast of Rock of Ages: the musical is set in 1987 on the Sunset Strip, where a small-town girl meets a big-city rocker in LA’s most famous rock club


2011 ➤ England’s dotty Simpson who inspired the Pythons

playwright, N F Simpson, obituary, One Way Pendulum , Resounding Tinkle ,theatre,

Playwright N F Simpson: a very English absurdist. Photographed © by Luca Sage

❚ N F SIMPSON, THE DRAMATIST, died this week aged 92. The Observer critic Kenneth Tynan dubbed Simpson “the most gifted comic writer the English stage has discovered since the war” after seeing the double bill of A Resounding Tinkle and The Hole  in 1958. And after One Way Pendulum (1959), he suspected Simpson of possessing “the subtlest mind ever devoted by an Englishman to the writing of farce”…

➢ The Daily Telegraph obituary continues…

… His focus on the surreal was influenced by The Goon Show and in turn influenced Monty Python and Peter Cook… Simpson was one of the four principal writers to establish the English Stage Company’s influential regime at the Royal Court Theatre in the late 1950s. The others in that first batch were John Osborne, John Arden and Ann Jellicoe. But in a movement whose central work was Osborne’s Look Back In Anger, Simpson was spiritually an outsider.

➢ Michael Coveney says in today’s Guardian obituary:

The playwright NF Simpson, was generally identified with the Theatre of the Absurd movement alongside Eugène Ionesco, Arthur Adamov, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter. But Simpson was peculiarly and singularly English in his absurdism. He turned suburban characters into weird chatterboxes and language into highly imaginative chop logic, and mixed a comic brew that derived more recognisably from the worlds of Lewis Carroll, W S Gilbert and the Goons, without the puerile edge that came along with Monty Python…

➢ Michael Billington calls Simpson a blissfully funny and deeply English dramatist — in The Guardian today

The plays of N F ‘Wally’ Simpson, were hilariously subversive, yet masked a deeply philosophical mind … He was often compared with Eugène Ionesco. But I always thought he belonged to a deeply English tradition of word-spinning, logic-twisting absurdity. Simpson’s real ancestors were Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and the Goons. His legatees were Peter Cook, the Monty Python gang and the Goodies…

One Way Pendulum ,N F Simpson , Woodfall Films, John Cleese ,Jonathan Miller ,Dick Lester,
➢ VIEW A CLIP from One Way Pendulum as Jonathan Miller conducts his choir of weighing machines

❏ This short clip from the 1964 Woodfall film of One Way Pendulum only hints at the Simpson universe. John Cleese saw the film in a cinema in Weston Supermare and called it a true classic of surrealist comedy. It is directed by Peter Yates with Jonathan Miller as the dotty Kirby, the son of a dotty father (Eric Sykes) in a dottily obsessive suburban household. Kirby retunes a choir of Speak-Your-Weight machines and trains them to sing the Hallelujah Chorus. All except one obey his bidding.

Simpson’s vision directly inspired a whole generation of comedy in the UK from Dick Lester’s Beatles movies (1964-5) to the Monty Python TV series (1969-74) and beyond. It was One Way Pendulum that took Simpson from the Royal Court theatre into the West End and in 1988 Jonathan Miller revived it at the Old Vic. Simpson’s final play, If So, Then Yes, was staged only last year.

➢ Reality is an Illusion Caused by Lack of N F Simpson was a documentary broadcast in April 2007 on Radio 4

If So Then Yes, N F Simpson,Jermyn Street theatre,David Quantick❏ David Quantick appraised playwright N F ‘Wally’ Simpson as one of the foremost absurdists of the 20th century. The documentary featured material recorded at a workshop for a new play, If So, Then Yes, his first full-length piece in 30 years. It charts a day in the life of octogenarian writer Geoffrey Wythenshaw, who sits down to dictate his autobiography from the comfort of a retirement home for the upper crust. After its Royal Court reading it then played at the Jermyn Street theatre during September 2010.