Friday, 27 June 2014

In Lambeth - Southwark Playhouse

AN imaginary conversation about revolution, life and religion between the poet and artist William Blake, his wife Catherine and the author and political activist Thomas Paine is the subject of a play which is about to open at the Southwark Playhouse.
In Lambeth was written in 1989 by Jack Shepherd. It is set 200 years before, in 1789, six years after the end of the American Revolution and right at the start of its French equivalent.
At the time, an anxious British government was suppressing any kind of dissident activity and angry mobs roamed the streets in support of church and state.
It was first performed at the Dulwich Tavern in 1989 before a run at the Donmar Warehouse. Since then it hasn't had a London revival - something director and Elephant & Castle resident Michael Kingsbury, who himself played William Blake in a production 20 years ago in Vienna, was keen to change.
The play opens with Thomas Paine running through the streets of Lambeth pursued by angry government agents. When all seems lost he suddenly remembers that fellow dissident and poet William Blake lives nearby in a cottage in Hercules Road in Lambeth.
So he resolves to seek sanctuary in William's garden but when he climbs over the wall he is astonished to see William and his wife Catherine sitting naked, up a tree, reading from Milton's Paradise Lost and communing with angels.
"Although they did meet in real life, this is an imagined encounter between the three of them which takes place one night," says Michael.
"Thomas was seeking sanctuary because of his connections with the revolutions in America and France and had been branded a traitor. He has been chased down the road and jumps over the wall and skulks in the garden where William is up a tree, playing a flute and is with his wife and both are naked.
"He comes into their inner sanctum, an oasis of calm where they must have appeared like Adam and Eve to him. They are completely relaxed about being discovered in an unclothed state.
"It is quite a comical sight in many ways but Thomas is transfixed because here is a man who is so free and able to express himself without fear and worry and yet Thomas is unable to do the same.
"It's night time so it's fairly demure and they don't stay in the tree for the entire time, nor do they stay naked!" he adds laughing.
After the initial awkwardness the three end up having a discussion about a variety of topics including meditation, revolution, religion, poetry, sense of self and spirituality.
"It's a fascinating and quite brilliant play," says Michael. "Although they broadly agree with each other that society needs changing, William and Thomas come from different angles so it's about the spiritual and inner man of William versus the overtly political psyche of Thomas.
"It's very well written, nuanced and full of dramatic debate, passion and guts but also full of wit, fun and humour," he adds.
"They were both visionaries and a bit eccentric - William was concerned about discovering who the inner man was and was considered a bit of a religious madman as he used to conjure up images of angels.
"Catherine was his rock and has to try and keep his feet on the ground so to speak and keep things together. Then you have Thomas who is an incredibly brilliant writer and political activist.
"So it's interesting to see them debate and discuss the issues that mattered very much to them and to society at that time.
"I was always interested in Thomas as a character and the influence he had on the world stage.
"He was a writer and campaigner for the rights of man and had a profound influence on the American and French revolutions. His writing is some of the most important of the last 200 years."
For Michael, the themes discussed in the play have parallels with what's going on around the world at the moment.
"It is most definitely a play of our time," he says. "It's incredibly relevant because of the themes of inequality, rebellion, corruption, revolution and freedom of speech which are being debated and discussed right now.
"What Thomas, William and Catherine were saying and discussing in the play, they were popular topics of conversation then and they still are today.
"When you look at what's going on the in the Middle East with the Arab Spring not to mention what's going on Iraq, Ukraine and Nigeria, the persecution, corruption, rebellion and the fact there is still an issue about freedom of speech and expression, this play has as much to say as it ever did.
"These are still issues people face even after 200 years."
And Michael says he is particularly pleased to be staging the play in the area in which it was set.
"The Southwark Playhouse is a theatre I love and there is something exciting about about bringing it to local audiences particularly as there are so many references to this part of South London with Elephant & Castle, Lambeth Road and Walworth.
"It's also great for me because I know this area so well. I have lived in South London practically all my life. I lived in an estate near the Hercules Road as well as Brixton, Kennington and Streatham and now in Elephant & Castle.
"It's an area undergoing its own change with all the regeneration that is happening. Some of it will be positive and some not so - there is a danger the new homes will be unaffordable to local people.
"So again, this issue about inequality is still relevant."
But for now his main focus is about how he's going to recreate the tree scene in the theatre.
"I’m not quite sure how we are going to do it - getting a big tree onto the stage might be tricky - but I've got a few ideas tucked up my sleeve!" he chuckles.

In Lambeth is on at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway from Thursday, July 10 until Saturday, August 2.
Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 20 7407 0234

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Queer'Say at Canada Water Culture Space

A POETRY reading with a difference will take place at the Canada Water Culture Space next week.
Organised by comedian and radio presenter Rosie Wilby, Queer'Say features three spoken word artists who will perform on stage before being taking part in a Q&A.
The idea for the event came about as a result of an hour-long radio programme Rosie hosts on Resonance FM, a community radio station which broadcasts in South London from its base in Borough.
"We always have some really interesting guests on the Out In South London show I host including musicians who come and sing live, poets and artists," says Rosie.
"I'd noticed spoken word is a really big scene in London at the moment and featuring them on the radio works really well.
"However we only broadcast for an hour a week so I wanted to do something to showcase what they are up to and have it as an extra element to the show.
"I also thought a live event would enable us to reach out and engage more directly with our audience as well as others who may not have heard the show and thought having a Q&A as an added extra would help us do that.
"I got a bit of funding from the Arts Council and put on a show at the Bedford Pub in Balham and now we are doing the first of two performances at the Canada Water Culture Space."
The first one on Friday, July 4 will feature Jasmine Ann Cooray, Cat Brogan and Lambeth-based Nick Field. The second will be in October.
"It's very exciting because they are great acts and will be really interesting to see, hear and chat to," adds Rosie.
"Nick Field is very visual and so it will be great for the audience to see him and what he does as well as be part of a recording and see how it is all put together.
"After each act has done their bit, I take them to the other side of the stage, we have a chat - I try and make it feel as though it's in my sitting room - and then there is a Q&A with the audience," she adds.
The show will be recorded live and then be edited before it goes out on the radio. Those who want to hear the whole thing can also listen on the Out In South London website.
"It has the potential to become a regular event which I'm really excited about," says Rosie.

Queersay takes place at the Canada Water Culture Space on Friday, July 4 at 7.30pm.
Tickets cost £10, £8 concessions.

Visit or or call the box office on 020 8692 4446.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Watch This Space - National Theatre

FREE events in and around London are welcome news to any family on a budget especially during the summer and the school holidays.
So thank goodness then for the National Theatre's Watch This Space festival which is back for its 16th year.
This time though the festival is packing its bags and heading out on tour, taking with it some of the best free outdoor entertainment around South London - and coming to a park or open space near you.
The programme, which runs from June 27 until August 31, will feature something for everyone from theatre to circus, music to magic.
Taking it on the road has been a "pragmatic" decision according to festival producer Angus MacKechnie.
"We have the temporary Shed stage outside the National where the festival has traditionally taken place so we were constrained in terms of space by that," says Angus.
"But as we are also undergoing a redevelopment more generally with NT Futures, which has resulted in some other departments moving out temporarily while the work is being done, it gave us a chance to branch out a bit further with the festival too.
"Also as an organisation we are normally very much about asking people to come and visit us. With this festival we are reversing it and we are taking our shows to people."
The festival hub will be at St John’s Church on Waterloo Roundabout, with dancers, musicians, aerialists, jugglers and acrobats performing in and around the churchyard.
Having it at the church may seem a curious choice but a search on Google for open spaces and a chat with the vicar persuaded Angus of its suitability.
"I was looking on Google for open spaces in the area and saw the gardens around the church," he says.
"I went to visit and met the vicar. We were talking about what we both do and I said I found my work uplifting for the soul and he said very much the same thing applied to him. We both do what we do in the community to make people feel better.
"Strangely it's very quiet in the gardens despite the noise from the roads and the trains that go past so it's going to be a lovely environment to see a show.
"It didn't take much convincing in the end though as I liked the idea that our roguish street artists find their way into the church," he adds.
The programme will include lively lunchtime music on the lawn, quick evening shows before the commute and days of fun for families, as well as special guest appearances during the church’s Sunday Service.
"We have the sword swallowing Miss Behave, manic violin virtuoso Sid Bowfin and Bash Street Theatre's The Strongman which was inspired by Charlie Chaplin's The Circus," says Angus.
"There will also be different church music for people to enjoy including the Brass Volcanoes - it's very eclectic!"
As well as the Church and its environs, the festival will also pop up with shows in unexpected places across Lambeth and Southwark including many existing local festivals - from Brockwell Park and Brixton Market to Peckham Square and the Aylesbury Estate.
"The big bit of the festival is that we are going out across Southwark and Lambeth to 25 different venues in the boroughs throughout the two months of the event," says Angus.
"I am trying to find new places in the community where we can bring our shows to a new audience.
"We straddle the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth and so it makes sense to go out in to these communities and discover what we can do there.
"Initially I was looking just for one venue but there are loads out there. I also like the idea of guerilla theatre and the fact you can pop up in a place, do a show and then disappear.
"Lots of things are already happening in these areas but there are some where nothing is happening so we are going in!"
Much of the programme is geared towards family friendly events though Angus is keen to stress there will be something for everyone.
"We do have lots for kids but I'm keen the arts are for everyone so there will be dancing, acrobatics, circus and theatre."
Amongst the other highlights include the Mobile Sewing Company which combines a women's sewing bee and an 80s rave on bicycles and Etta Ermini Dance Theatre's Picnic, where a young couple's picnic is disrupted by the quirks and pitfalls of their relationship.
There will also be Micro Shakespeare created by Laitrum Teatre, miniature interactive puppetry where Spanish anarchy meets the Bard and Crazy In Love!, an acrobatic comedy about the highs and lows of falling in and out of love.
"It's about confounding expectations," says Angus. "This year I think we have a very exciting array of different shows on offer - it's going to be very fantastic," he adds.
Most importantly though the festival is free.
"This is a crucial factor for us," says Angus. "But it is also makes the festival inclusive and we hope that we catch people who might not otherwise have been able to see a show and get them hooked on seeing live performance."

Watch This Space Festival on the road takes place between June 27 and August 31. Visit for full listings, times and dates.

The Summer Book - the Unicorn theatre


THE relationship between a grandmother and her young granddaughter is the subject of Tove Jansson's The Summer Book.
The beautifully crafted story has been translated into a fantastic stage production now on at The Unicorn Theatre in Tooley Street.
It stars Sara Kestelman as the Grandmother and Sammy Foster and Amy Snudden who alternate the role of Sophia the granddaughter.
It is set on a remote island in Finland where six-year-old Sophia and her grandmother spend the summer months together.
At first their relationship is somewhat tense and frosty as they both adapt to each other, their surroundings, characters and find out more about how each other ticks.
But gradually a deep and profund love emerges between the pair as they explore the island together, get to know each other, help each other and see things from each others point of view.
There is also a confidence that emerges between the two as they grow more at ease with each other and in Sophia's case, her surroundings - from dipping her toe in the water to eventually diving off the cliffs and to exploring the island on her own.
It is very much a story of love, understanding, life and loss as well as adventure and an exploration of life and the dialogue between the pair brings out all of these emotions.
It is also an incredibly beautiful and gentle piece and incredibly emotional.
On the night I saw it Sara Kestelman was joined by Sammy Foster as Sophia and the bond between the pair was fantastic.
Mention must also be made of the ingenious set on the thrust stage. A bed sits at the back of the stage which slopes forward towards the audience and which has been created to look like grassland on a cliff top and allows Sophia to give the impression she is diving, swimming, dipping her toe in the water or even getting stuck in a ravine.
It is billed as being suitable for those aged six and over but it will have resonance with anyone who has had a deep bond with their own grandparent. Just beautiful.

The Summer Book is on at the Unicorn Theatre, Tooley Street until June 29. Tickets cost £16 for adults, £13 concessions and £10 for under 21s. Call the box office on 020 7645 0560 or visit  

20th Century Boy

SUE Jenkins is a busy lady. Not only is she an actress with an impressive CV of roles on both stage and screen but she is also a director, mum of three, and co-founder with her daughter Emily of The Actors' Lab Ltd, a Drama Academy in Manchester. But it is her starring role in a touring production of 20th Century Boy, a musical based on the life and times of T Rex frontman and glam rock legend Marc Bolan, which is currently focusing her attention.
It is mid way through its national tour, and is making a scheduled stop at the New Wimbledon Theatre next week.
We chat as she is tucking into a home made chicken and leek pie during a short and well-earned break between shows.
"I really miss home cooked food when I'm away on tour so I hope you don't mind if I eat while we chat?" she asks warmly.
"I love homemade food like this so if it's offered I take it - and this is delicious," she adds laughing.
Food aside Sue is on terrific form and if she's tired from all the travelling and six days a week on stage you would never guess from her ebullience.
She is perhaps best known as Jackie, the put upon wife of layabout and anti hero Jimmy Corkhill in Channel 4's former flagship soap, Brookside - or Brookie to its fans.
She starred in the show for 10 years from 1991 to 2001 before moving on to roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale as well in as various theatre productions.
But she had a prolific career as a classical actress before Brookside and it's clear as we chat she is loving every minute of being back on the stage.
"It's hard work," she says. "But I love it. It's a fantastic show which has been wonderfully written, has great choreography and I'm very proud to be part of it.
"We have an amazing cast and crew and the audiences so far have been wonderful and very warm in their response to it."
The musical charts the life of Marc and his band T Rex, exposing some of the myths and taking the audience on a journey through his fascinating life before his untimely death in 1977.
Sue plays Marc's mum Phyllis who helps his son Rolan find out more about his famous dad.
"It's all told through the eyes of Marc's son Rolan," explains Sue. "Marc was killed when Rolan was two and he and his mum went and live in America.
"The show begins when as a young man, he comes back to England, meets Phyllis for only the second time in his life, and asks for help to find out more about his dad."
And she says it has been a journey of discovery as much for her as for the audience.
"There was so much I didn't know before I took on the part," she adds. "For exampled when Marc died his money disappeared and so David Bowie paid for Rolan to be educated.
"Even die hard fans have come up to us afterwards saying there were elements of his life they had no idea about.
"We tell it warts and all but it's a beautiful and very emotional story. He always had a close bond with his mum so there are some incredibly poignant moments," she adds. "There is a lot of depth to it."
Not surprisingly Marc's music is a key aspect and the show features 25 of his hits.
"They are played and sung live - they are not shoehorned in but integral to the story," says Sue.
"Everyone gets to sing - even me!" she chuckles. "I sing twice in fact - once on my own and then again with three others.
"It's been great to hear all those gorgeous songs again though. You forget what an extraordinarily talented man he was - he sold more records than Elvis! He was a poet and so ahead of his time and this really shows it.
"Warren who plays Marc has the most incredible voice and presence on stage and he totally transforms himself into the character, it's quite uncanny and so much more than just an impression.
"Even those who don't know Marc's music will love it," she adds. "There's so much energy you can't help but enjoy it!"
And she admits it's a bit of a departure from Jackie Corkhill.
"I'm so synonymous for playing a particular character that a lot of people don't know I had an acting life before it!" she says.
"I always wanted to be an actress - right from when I was a little girl and when I started, I worked solidly in theatre for the first 12 years of my career so it's lovely to be back on stage and playing such an interesting character."
And she says she is particularly pleased the show is coming to Wimbledon - not only because it's in the same week as the tennis championship but also because of Marc's connections with the area.
Although Marc was raised in Stoke Newington, he moved with his family to Summerstown, Wimbledon where he grew up, and went to Hillcroft School in Beechcroft Road, Tooting, now known as Ernest Bevin College.
"It's where he grew up so it's right we should be here and in such a beautiful theatre," says Sue. "I think there will be a real buzz about the place especially with the tennis on.
"It's going to be very exciting!"

20th Century Boy is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, from Monday, June 23 until Saturday, June 28. Tickets from £12.90. Call the box office on 0844 871 7646 or visit

Hot Dub Time Machine

THERE can't be many people who haven't wondered what it would be like to travel through time.
So for those of you who would like to, help is at hand thanks to Tom Loud and his time travelling dance party, Hot Dub Time Machine.
The Australian-born DJ's show is about to hit South London with a bang and will feature Tom as your musical guide taking in a veritable feast of songs from the last seventy years or so.
Part greatest hits dance party, part club night, part visual show and part surreal experience Hot Dub Time Machine is essentially a journey through the history of pop.
You can moonwalk, mashed potato and macarena your way along to some of the best in groovy tunes starting in the 1950s and ending in 2014 - all in one evening.
So expect a bit of everything with Stevie Wonder mixed with acid house, ska, Beyonce, plus some Led Zeppelin and the Beatles thrown in and you get the picture.
The whole experience will arrive at the London Wonderground on July 3 for a two week residency and for fans of music and dancing it is not to be missed.
Tom, an avid clubber, came up with the idea a few years ago when he realised he was "too old" to be staying out all night raving.
"I was always heavily into clubbing but now I'm in my mid 30s with a wife and kid, and although I still enjoy partying I don't want to be staying up clubbing til 5am - I'm too old!" he laughs.
"I also didn't want to be listening to acid all night. I realised there was a gap in the market for a two to three hour dance party with a load of cool and varied musical styles and which didn't take itself too seriously."
And so Hot Dub Time Machine was born and has since enjoyed a series of successful sell out events at venues around the world.
"I love the feeling of community you get," says Tom. "There's always an awesome atmosphere with everyone having a good time, there's lots of singing and dancing and much jollity!
"It's great fun and people just let their hair down and have a good old boogie."
All the songs are presented in strict chronological order but with thousands if not millions of tunes to choose from, how does Tom get the final list?
"There is always a real mix of styles and genres and that's very important," he says. "It's very interesting because you get a different cross section of people at each show.
"You have to gauge the crowd so generally I like to walk around beforehand, have a chat to people and get a sense of who's there and what they are likely to be into so I can tailor the evening.
"I do always go with a bit of a list because it's always good to be prepared but I also want to make sure that people have the best time.
"I make sure I include plenty of recognisable songs and ones that people love but I do like to sneak a few curve balls in there," he admits.
"There will also be a few that maybe people had forgotten about or weren't familiar with or didn't know how awesome it was.
"There is so much great music out there and good music is consistently being made so it's about finding the gems, sticking them on the decks and getting on with it.
"So, you should expect to hear the likes of Elvis alongside Kool And The Gang, the Beatles plus all the 80s cheese, Bon Jovi and then the 90s hip hop, acid and techno stuff with Beyonce and the White Stripes. The list goes on!"
But it's not just about the music. Tom and his wife LuLu make sure the experience is complete by incorporating videos to go with each song.
Some are the original video the bands made but some are what Tom describes as a "mash up" of images all of which are projected onto a big screen.
"My wife is in charge of the screen," he says. "It is technically awesome and it makes it a real immersive experience."
And he says he's looking forward to bringing the gig to London.
"London is the perfect place to bring Hot Dub Time Machine and I love the Wonderground's spiegeltent.
"It's a really special venue and somewhere where you can really rock out and have a good night so it's going to be awesome."

Hot Dub Time Machine is on at the London Wonderground between July 3 and July 19. Tickets from £12.50. Visit the box office at or call 0844 545 8282.

Fashion Victim - The Musical!

THE Devil Wears Prada meets Dynasty down at the local H&M. That is how writer Toby Rose describes his latest show Fashion Victim - The Musical! which has just opened at the Cinema Museum in Walworth.
The show follows the fortunes of Mimi Steel, a girl on the make in the world of London fashion and who will do whatever it takes to get to the top of the tree.
And when she meets Cedric Chevalier, a Parisian Londoner who easily falls victim to her charms she sees a chance to do just that.
However, his friend, the brilliantly named Jake Spangle, and stylist to the stars realises Mimi may not be all she seems and that she may have alterior motives.....
"It is a real roller coaster ride through the world of fashion in contemporary London that is all set around a young girl on the make and who uses her womanly wiles to get ahead," says Toby cheerfully.
"People will definitely recognise some of the characters because they are all of a type - the fashion industry is full of people known for their diva and devious ways," he adds.
"It's a parody of those types especially those voraciously ambitious people who are seduced by the glamour of the fashion world.
"But it's also a lot of fun, has a lot of dancing and singing and plenty of humour and is the closest you will get to in a theatre setting of what it's like at a fashion industry catwalk show."
It's being staged at the Cinema Museum which Toby says was the perfect place because the space allowed him to create a catwalk runway as an integral part of the stage.
"I'm really excited we managed to get this amazing building," he says. "It's unusual and interesting in its own right, with gorgeous high ceilings.
"I'm not sure what Charlie Chaplin would have thought about his old workhouse being used in this way, but it's it's perfect for this show.
"We wanted somewhere where we could create an impression of a groovy fun fashion show that was taking place around the audience and this has allowed us to do just that."
It's the second show Toby has written and has been inspired by his time as the Standard's Paris correspondent and at NBC reporting on all the fashion shows.
"I know the industry pretty well and thought as a backdrop for a farcical fun story it was perfect," he says.
He wrote the story and the lyrics and collaborated with Michael Webborn on the music. It is directed by Robert McWhir, artistic director at Clapham's Landor Theatre, which Toby is thrilled about.
"The Landor is the gold standard of musical theatre in South London," he says warmly. "Robert is brilliant and the best and the safest pair of hands I could have wished for."
And he's not ruled out a sequal.
"This was quite easy to write," he laughs. "I had great fun writing it and I've already written another show so who knows...!"

Fashion Victim - The Musical! takes place at the Cinema Museum in Dugard Way off Renfrew Road until Sunday, July 6. Tickets cost from £10. Visit

Review - Hotel at the Shed


A FIRECRACKER of a play about betrayal and integrity and what happens when lies build up has exploded quite literally on to the National Theatre's Shed stage.
Written by Polly Stenham, Hotel is set in an exclusive resort where a family has touched down on holiday. It should be the perfect desert island escape. It's secluded and isolated and just what any family would need to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
But far from looking forward to two weeks away, this is a family which is on the brink of falling apart and it soon becomes crystal clear that something dreadful has happened.
Vivienne we learn was a high ranking government minister in charge of foreign aid. Her husband, Robert, bored and perhaps a bit jealous of her high profile career finds himself meeting someone with whom he starts an online relationship.
The press have found out about his indiscretion and it's now all over the papers, Vivienne has had to resign and in a bid to save his marriage and dodge the paparazzi, Robert has whisked the family off on holiday.
Their two children have been brought along for the ride and are far from thrilled, although it turns out there are more secrets yet to come out.
But things are not all they seem and far from being an idylic two weeks in the sun to patch things up, the family ends up in mortal danger.
The secluded and isolated nature of the hotel makes it the perfect place for one of the housekeepers to exact her revenge on the British government through Vivienne and her family for a dodgy trade deal which has left many of the people in the country impoverished.
It is intense, violent and explosive and there are more than a few moments towards the end when the audience jumps in surprise, shock and astonishment. There are also a few harrowing scenes of violence.
But it is an incredible and thrilling piece of theatre, brilliantly written and with an excellent cast.
Polly Stenham will be talking about the play at a National Theatre Platform event tomorrow (Wednesday June 25) at 6pm. Tickets cost £4.

Hotel is on at the Shed until Saturday, August 2. Tickets from £12. Call the box office on 020 7452 3000 or visit

Monday, 9 June 2014

Review Scooby Doo


ONE of cartoon's best loved dogs, Scooby Doo, was at the New Wimbledon Theatre during half term last week in the show Scooby Doo! The Mystery Of The Pyramid.
The oversized dog, made famous with the world's favourite mystery solving gang of Shaggy, Daphne, Fred and Velma, provided plenty of laughs in the show which included classic Scooby jokes as well as songs and dances.
The Mystery Inc gang were transported to the pyramids of Egypt in their Mystery Machine for their latest adventure which included a hunt for treasure whilst outwitting three funny but creepy mummies.
They are met by Otto, an Egyptologist and friend of Velma's and his three mysterious minions. Otto is trying to solve the mystery of Pharaoh Hatchepsout’s pyramid and he asks the gang to help.
But as with the original cartoons they have to outwit the baddies to find out the truth - can they avoid being turned to stone by the terrifying Pharaoh? Can they steer clear of the mysterious mummies? And will ‘those meddling kids’ save the day?
The 90-minute show was full of fun and judging by the whoops and cheers of the younger members of the audience was a real crowd pleaser.
The songs were catchy and included the signature theme song and there were plenty of spectacular effects and some hilarious physical comedy.
The only thing missing was a bucketful of scooby snacks!

The nationwide tour runs until the end of August. Visit for full listings and tour dates.

Balham Comedy Festival

COMEDY legends including Robert Newman, Susan Calman, Mark Steel, Marcus Brigstocke, Milton Jones and Stephen K Amos are among the line up at this year's Balham Comedy Festival.
Following the success of its eight night run last year, this year's event once more feature the very best in established names and up and coming talent over eight nights and nine days at the Bedford pub in Bedford Road.
So far more than 25 acts have been announced to appear at the festival which runs between Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 19 with organisers promising more to come.
The individual performances in The Bedford's Round Room, Ballroom and Tavistock Room will be complemented by several star turns from The Best of Banana Cabaret on July 11.
The evening will be hosted by John Moloney, festival co-founder and star of BBC's Grumpy Old Men and the forthcoming BBC Radio 4 series The Gospel According to John and will feature a line up including Zoe Lyons, Steve Williams and Rudi Lickwood.
John said: "Last year's festival built on the success of the previous years and this time it's even better.
"When Dave Vickers and I were planning it in February we had a wish list of who we wanted to invite and our wishes have by and large come true.
"We have some great names - some who people will know very well and some not so. The beauty of it is that whoever you come and see you will have a great time because they are all seasoned comics and are very, very funny.
"I'm particularly excited about Kevin Day who is the comic's comic. It will be his first stand up for about 10 years and it's going to be fantastic. He's so well respected in the industry and is a real craftsman so it's a real treat to have him in the line up
"But we have some people like Marcus Brigstocke who have been every year so there is a lot of loyalty to the festival.
"I also love the fact it's become a kind of drop in so comics come along and do a turn and hang out with the rest of the audience to see the rest of the set."
As well as the stand up, free comedy workshops for both adults and children will take place once again this year and will be led by John Moloney, Adam Bloom and Dave Fulton.
John said: "I'm really excited about the comedy workshops because they are so fascinating and great fun.
"We encourage the parents to stick around and see what happens when the kids sit in a circle and talk about funny stuff - it's hilarious to watch and they had a great time last year."

Tickets start at £10. Visit for full listings

Interview Alison Wheeler, The South

TRYING to juggle family and career successfully is the bane of most parents' lives but Alison Wheeler seems to have cracked it.When she's not enjoying all the "fabulous" green open spaces South London has to offer with her two kids, the Clapham-based singer songwriter can be found sitting in a café in her favourite haunts of Clapham or Brixton Village, writing songs or at the Bedford pub in Balham taking part in its open mic nights.
And when she's not doing all that she's one of the lead singers of nine-piece band The South.
We chat as she takes a breather from all of the above and it's clear she's having a great time with the band which is currently in the midst of a nationwide tour that includes a date at Under The Bridge in Putney.
By way of a bit of history, The South rose like a phoenix out of the ashes of The Beautiful South in 2008 which in turn had morphed out of The Housemartins.
Incredibly it has been eight years since The Beautiful South disbanded. After nearly 20 years producing 10 hit albums, five greatest hits compilations, 34 chart singles, 15 million record sales worldwide and performing in front of millions of fans, founder Paul Heaton decided it was time to move on.
However, not everyone in the band was ready to leave the party, not least Alison who had worked hard to carve a career in the music industry.
"I was a complete music and am dram junky when I was growing up and although my parents were concerned about my career choice I really argued my corner." she says.
By her own admission she "lost her way" at university while doing a Law and Japanese degree but re-engaged with music after graduating joining cover bands and temping at record companies before meeting Dave Hemingway who invited her to join The Beautiful South.
So in 2008, just two years after breaking up, Alison joined forces with Dave and three of the original members plus four new faces to form The South.
"I joined The Beautiful South in 2002 and had a lovely five years touring the world and did three albums with them," she says.
"I wasn't ready to stop but it had been going 15 years by that time and they had done it all. Paul wanted to call time. He thought it was best to have a clean break so people could do their own thing.
"Rather than keep us hanging on, I think he felt it was better to just to call it a day and walk away. He went solo and we all went our separate ways.
"I was really sad because it was a gift to join a successful household name."
For the next two years Alison "bimbled" about at home with her family and worked on other musical projects before Dave called and suggested reforming.
"We definitely had unfinished business but didn't want to mislead people because it's not the same band," she says. "Paul isn't with us anymore and there are nine of us on stage so we decided we needed a new name."
New name aside, the band has remained true to its musical roots, evidence of which can be seen in its album Sweet Refrains, released in 2012, which shows they haven't veered too far from the pop melodies laced with the unmistakable twists of caustic wit that made their predecessor so famous.
"There is no mistaking the sound and we're really proud of it," says Alison. "Although we didn't want to do something totally different we wanted to move forward and I think we've done that.
"So the album incorporates strong cheerful melodies with all the spiky and satirical elements of the lyrics with their nuances, love affairs and break ups that made Paul's songs so memorable.
"It was a slower process and took a while to get the album together because we all brought stuff to the table," she says. "When there are nine of you it can be quite a lengthy process but it's been great because we've all been involved.
"My favourite song is actually the title track which was written by Damon [Butcher]. He's a true musician and nauseatingly talented. You can tell a pianist has written it because of the composition. It's also quite a long piece - about five or six minutes - and like a mini Bohemian Rhapsody because of all the different bits to it."
As well as the album the band is bringing their music to venues up and down the country as part of the biggest tour they've done to date.
The schedule sounds very civilised with mainly weekend performances which suits Alison as it allows her to return home to her children during the week.
"We are having the best time and it's so nice to be back on the road," she says warmly. "It's the biggest tour we've done with 67 dates but the reception we've had has been amazing and we are loving it.
"We've been asked back by loads of the venues which is really special.
"Most of the gigs are at weekends as well which means I can get back to being a busy mum at home during the week and at weekends I'm pretending to be a pop star again! It's great!" she laughs.
"The fans have such a good party when we are performing so the atmosphere is fantastic.
"We sing the old hits of course as well as some of the new tracks so there is something for everyone but the fans know all the back catalogue - it's brilliant!"

The South will play Under The Bridge in Putney on Friday, June 6. Visit or call the box office 0844 249 1000 for tickets.

REview - Meow Meow


GOING to a Meow Meow concert is a curious affair. It's not so much a concert as a surreal evening of music, comedy, sequins and cabaret all mashed together to create a glorious fusion of fun and frivolity.
The legendary songstress is currently in residence at the London Wonderground spiegeltent with her Feline Intimate show.
She comes out on to the stage to raptuous applause and then stands arms outstretched waiting for flowers to be thrown in her directon.
When none appear she goes off in a huff and comes back moments later muttering and with her own blooms which she hands round to the audience. She returns to the stage, does her entrance once more and awaits the bouquets.
It's all hilarious and the rest of the 90 minute show continues in much the same vein.
All the songs, which range from classic jazz and cabaret numbers through to a bit of Radiohead and even a couple she wrote herself, are punctuated with plenty of audience participation or comments and stories from Ms Meow or even more hilariously when she has to take off her sparkly dress to hand back to the promoters.
The night ends not on the stage with a rousing number which she belts out with her fabulous voice - no, it's a bit of crowd surfing in which she allows the audience to manhandle her up and down both sections of the Spiegeltent while she sings a song - and coming dangerously close at one stage to slipping out of her gorgeous yellow dress.
It's organised chaos but it works so well and she has the audience in the palm of her hand throughout.
And if you strip out the mock diva moments and added extras you will hear the most beautiful voice. Fantastic!

Meow Meow is performing Feline Intimate at the London Wonderground until June 8
Tickets cost £15.50. Visit or call 0844 545 8282

Balham Folk Festival

HE may have started out as a keyboard player with rock gods Iron Maiden but these days Tony Moore is focusing his attention on a very different style of music - folk.However, this should not be a surprise because since those heavy metal days of the late 1970s, the Clapham-based singer songwriter, radio presenter and music promotor has certainly been around the musical block.
As well as Iron Maiden, with whom he started his musical career in 1977, his CV boasts a varied array of work including as keyboard player with pop band Cutting Crew in the 1990s, founding the now defunct live music venue Kashmir Klub and more recently in 2003 he took over the management of music nights at the Bedford pub in Balham.
It is here that he has created a live music venue with an emphasis on showcasing emerging talent as well as established acts.
Indeed over the last 10 years or so the Bedford has built an envious reputation for nurturing and supporting the likes of Paolo Nutini, Ed Sheeran, Newton Faulkner and James Morrison in the early stages of their career.
But last week Tony was back to doing what he loves best, playing music - not to a packed crowd in a club or pub but busking at rush hour on the pavements of Balham.
The session was to promote the London FolkFest, an annual four day event at the Bedford Pub in Bedford Road Tony organises which celebrates the very best in folk, acoustic, roots and organic music.
It is the fourth year the festival has run and Tony is delighted with the way its grown to become a must-see event in South London's music calendar.
"I love playing music - music engages with people in a really special way - and I thought busking outside the pub would be a good way to help promote this year's festival," he says.
"I love the way you can interact with random people in random places with busking. It was great fun, we handed out a lot of flyers and the best bit was that it didn't rain!" he adds laughing.
This year he says the festival boasts a stellar line up of more than 50 acts many of whom are performers and musicians local to South London.
Those headlining the event will include Jon Gomm, Danny And The Champions Of The World, The Dunwells, Beth Rowley, Crowns, Emily Barker and Natalie Shay.
"We've got fantastic mix this year which I'm really excited about," says Tony. "I love the fact we can attract a whole range of artists from the young up and coming and relative newcomers to more established ones.
"There is also a real diversity in terms of the music which will be performed and which shows how varied folk is as a genre.
"Some of it's really acoustic but in others you will be able to see how it's influenced pop, country, hip hop, dance and rap music so to see it all meshed together over four days will be brilliant.
"It's going to be amazing, particularly as the Bedford is a unique space with four stages. It's very intimate only accommodating about 400 people but I think there will be something for every taste.
"It will be a true family festival," Tony adds. "Everyone gets a wrist band, you can move freely between the four rooms and of course the pub will be open for food and drink.
"I've also tried to make it as affordable as possible which I think is really important."
As well as all the fabulous music, this year as in the two previous, there will be a range of Folkfest Insight Seminars to help and support those who are new to the industry and who are serious about carving out a career within it, something that Tony is keen to promote.
"There are so many people who want a career as a musician but there isn't really anywhere for them to go to get the practical information they need to succeed," he says.
"Things like where to get a decent manager, the writing process, how to release and then promote your music, getting a record deal and all the financial stuff, it's all really important. They don't teach you that at school."
They will also feature an anonymous demo drop in which artists can submit tapes of their work anonymously for critical analysis.
"It is a lot of hard work to make it these days," says Tony. "Like any job, if you want to make a success of it it involves a lot of hard graft but it can be done and I hope these seminars prove useful to those who come along."
Most of all though, he hopes that the festival sparks an interest in both those who love folk music and those who have yet to discover its delights.
"Folk music has become more popular and mainstream over the years but I'm not surprised," he says. "You can see its roots in lots of other different styles of music and by the emergence of artists like Mumford And Sons, Laura Marling and Ben Howard who are really exciting.
"There will be a great atmosphere and I hope people who have never been to see folk music live will come along and take a look."

The London FolkFest takes place between June 5 and 8 at the Bedford, Bedford Hill, Balham. Visit for full listings.

Meltdown Festival - Interview with James Lavelle

TWENTY one years ago when he was just 18, James Lavelle set up his iconic music label Mo' Wax. That same year, Southbank Centre hosted what was to be its first Meltdown Festival.Now the two have come together with James curating the annual festival which takes over the 21-acre site between June 13 and 22.
We speak as he is putting the finishing touches to the event which he says is a "huge honour" to curate.
"It's pretty mind blowing to be honest!" he laughs. "I'd been talking to the Southbank Centre for a few years. They were always curious about what I was doing and we kept in touch over the years.
"Then they asked if I wanted to do an event and I said I'd like to do a mini Meltdown. They said it was a good idea but a week later I was invited to meet Jude [Kelly, artistic director] and she asked if I'd like to do the whole thing. So here I am!" he laughs.
James is perhaps an obvious choice to curate the festival which each year invites a different cultural figure to act as director of the event, take over the site and pick the performers of their choosing to create a once in a lifetime experience.
Influenced by US hip hop, acid and the street culture of the 90s, James set up Mo' Wax which has proved him to be a unique musical and artistic innovator, experimenting, shaping, rethinking and changing the cultural landscape.
This ethos chimes well with the aims and aspirations not only of the festival but also of the Southbank Centre itself.
At the heart of James' Meltdown is the desire to work with young people and mobilise the next generation to become makers, not consumers, of culture.
"There's a pressure to do a good job," he admits. "Not just for myself and my own expectations, but because I have a responsibility to inspire the next generation of young artists in the same way that I was inspired as a teenager and I'm following a lot of amazing people who have done it before me."
These include some of music's biggest names - David Bowie, Patti Smith, Jarvis Cocker, Massive Attack and last year, Yoko Ono.
Kicking off proceedings on June 13 will be UNKLE featuring Philip Sheppard and Urban Archaeology: 21 Years of Mo' Wax.
The following 10 days will see a line up which in true Meltdown style is vibrant, eclectic and varied and made up of a collaboration from the worlds of music, film, art and everything in between to include DJ Harvey, Neneh Cherry, Chrissie Hynde and Under The Skin, a screening and soundtrack with Mica Levi.
"There is a lot going on," laughs James. "I had a wish list which was my starting point for the stuff I wanted to include but it's evolved and changed since I was offered the chance to do it.
"My aim is to bring together my influences from the past, the present and my work as an artist and transform the space in a way that's never been done before, both artistically and musically.
"It's a great line up - it's all a highlight really and it's all the things I'm passionate about. I'm particularly excited about seeing Goldie and Under The Skin and getting my own show together. But I'm also excited about the young artists who will be part of the festival."
And he says there will be more added to the list between now and next week including a few surprises.
"It's a real mix so I hope it will appeal to a wide range of people."
To put on such a mammoth event has taken him by surprise though and he admits it's been more work than he anticipated.
Nonetheless it's an experience he says he would love to repeat.
"It's an immense amount of work, some of it quite complicated, so it's been manic and hyper.
"There isn't a lot of money, there is no sponsor and it's been quite difficult pulling everything together as a result.
"Also there are a lot of things I would have loved to do not just music related but art and installations and so on that I just haven't been able to. So it's been a learning curve.
"I think I'm the first person for a while who the Southbank has had based in London so they've been talking to me the whole way through. I've been on site practically all the time!" he says cheerfully.
"It's been full on but it's been incredible, very emotional and a great experience but I'm knackered and now I want to be able to sit back and enjoy it," he laughs.
"I'm not complaining though. I'm standing at the Southbank centre every day for God knows how long and being able to be part of one of the most important places in the country and the world. It's amazing.
"It's also a wonderful part of the summer and has an amazing energy. For people to come and spend time and enjoy such a cultural experience that will appeal to lots of different people - it's fantastic. It's something eclectic and joyous and there are amazing people involved - including the Southbank people who are just lovely. I hope what they and I can bring will inspire people."
And for a man who is always on the go, but who has done more in his lifetime than most, I ask what his plans are after the event and into the future.
He laughs and then pauses before saying: "I never slow down and am always juggling about 50 million things at a time but there are still millions of things I've not done that I want to do," he says.
"I've a 16-year-old daughter and I'm bewildered about that and learning to deal with that side of life, I want to headline festivals and make more music. The list is endless.... I'm still searching for the Holy Grail!"

James Lavelle's Meltdown is on at the Southbank Centre between June 13 and 22. Visit for full listings.

Omeros - last performance tonight!

THE Caribbean comes to the intimate candlelit Jacobean Sam Wanamaker Theatre on Bankside courtesy of a stage adaptation of Derek Walcott’s epic poem Omeros.On for just a limited period of four performances, Walcott's piece is inspired by Homer's Illiad and focuses on a village community in his native St Lucia.
It is not a retelling of Homer's great work but an original piece of beautiful story-telling.
This production, put on by The Globe and Lakeside Theatre is performed by just two actors, Jade Anouka and Joseph Marcell, who between them take on all the characters who make up the piece.
The narrative jumps around a bit between the characters but essentially there are three strands to the story that criss cross throughout.
Firstly that of fishermen Achille and Hector who are rivals in the love for the beautiful Helen. The second is that of retired English officer Major Plunkett and his wife Maud for whom Helen is housemaid. The final strand is Walcott's autobiographical narrative.
Other characters who feature in and around these plots include Philoctete who has a festering wound which is cured by a woman in the No Pain Cafe using an old African remedy and a blind man known as Seven Seas.
Given the tiny stage there are next to no props - only a chair, a scarf, a cane and a crate are used - but the actors are skilled enough to bring the story to life without the need for anything else.
They are ably supported by Tayo Akinbode, who from the cosy confines of the upper gallery at the back of the stage, plays a variety of instruments which contribute to the atmosphere of the piece - as well as providing the sounds to conjure up images of the sea, the crashing waves, the rain, the cobbles, the dancing and the insects.
It is an incredible production - warm, funny, poignant and beautifully acted - and evocative in the candlelit setting. A must see.

Omeros is on at the Sam Wanamker Theatre, Bankside until Monday, June 9. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 020 7401 9919.

Sydenham Arts Festival

AN annual arts festival is looking for volunteers to help stage the event.Now in its sixth year, the annual two-week Sydenham Arts Festival promises to be bigger and better than before and boasts something for all the family.
More than 80 arts and culture events, many of them free, will be held in venues across Sydenham and Forest Hill between July 5 and July 20.
The fortnight will include dance, music, poetry, film, comedy, a family fun day and numerous workshops and will culminate in a free Arts in the Park music concert featuring Woolwich-based singer songwriter Glenn Tilbrook and his band the Fluffers.
Among the festival's other highlights is a free community musical in four parts marking the centenary of World War 1.
Till The Boys Come Home will feature more than 200 performers from community groups, schools, and other local arts organisations who will tell the stories of Sydenham's Great War including the 408 workers of the South Suburban Gas Company, 58 of whom fought and died during the conflict.
Amongst the cast will be Lewisham mayor Sir Steve Bullock who will play Alderman Robert Jackson, the borough's mayor in 1914 and who was trapped in Germany at the outbreak of the war.
Each part will take place at different venues in Sydenham and can be seen on their own or as part of the four performances.
As well as the gas workers the pieces will feature a music hall concert from 1914, the drive for recruits and the impact on the wives and girlfriends left behind and those who worked in the munitions factories.
Sir Steve said: “The anniversary of the First World War is a very significant one which the borough will be marking in different ways and the community theatre production is a great way to do this and also one which will involve a wide range of local residents, groups and schools.
"I think the historical background [of Till the Boys Come Home] is going to give us some real insights into the impact that the First World War on the lives of people in this part of London."
Festival director Jonathan Kaufman said: 'It's really exciting that this year's festival will be the biggest and best yet, but as our costs have escalated we're making an urgent appeal to the community to support us by becoming Friends of Sydenham Arts Festival.
"By donating to our funds, Friends can claim free tickets to some of our most prestigious events, and be listed on our website as Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum givers.
"We're especially keen to hear from business owners who would to like to sponsor some of our big events - and we can offer great placement on our website."

Visit for full listings, how to volunteer and to become a Friend of the event.

Rose Theatre, Orpheus and Eurydice

THE ruins of the Rose Theatre is the setting for a new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's epic opera Orpheus and Eurydice.
The piece is being directed by Pamela Schermann who says the Park Street theatre is the perfect space to stage the show.
"I directed Taming of the Shrew at the Rose last year and loved the space," she says. "It's massive, dark, incredibly atmospheric and quite eerie and with some of the foundations under the water it is the perfect place to create the underworld that features in the piece.
"When I pitched it to the Rose they agreed there couldn't be a better place to do it so here we are!"
The opera is based on the myth of Orpheus who goes to the Underworld to save his wife Eurydice. He manages to persuade the furies, softened by his music, to let Eurydice return with him, but there is one condition - Orpheus must walk in front of her and not look back until they both have reached the earth again.
The production will use the whole site as its stage by performing the first act on the platform in very close proximity to the audience, and parts of the second act within the site, which will be lit with candles and stage lights to create the underworld in which Orpheus has to descend.
"It's been every bit as good as I thought it would be," says Pamela. "It's very exciting. It's an incredible place and the audience is in for a really unique theatrical experience.
"Some of it will be performed in the watery ruins and there will be musicians too although they will be hidden from view until the end."
As well as the professional opera singers who will perform the soloist parts of Orpheus, Eurydice and Amor, and the eight-strong opera choir, the production is also showcasing the talents of a group of local residents who answered a call by the company to audition to take part in it.
"We asked members of the local community in Southwark to take part in this production by inviting them to free workshops on acting and singing, and performing in the opera alongside professional singers," says Pamela.
"We wanted to show that opera is not just for a big opera house but can and should be accessible to everyone and anyone from any background.
"From the workshops we now have 12 people who do the shows on a rotating basis. It's been a fascinating process to see them grow and develop in their singing and confidence. They've really embraced it and it's also been a great experience for the professional singers too.
"It's a beautiful piece, a great story, and I hope people will take a chance to come and see it in all its glory."

Orpheus and Eurydice is on at the Rose Theatre, Park Street, from now until June 28. Tickets £16. Call the box office on 0207 261 9565 or email for tickets.

Cyrano of Brixton at the Brockley Jack

THE life of 17th century French dramatist Cyrano de Bergerac has in the past been turned into films, operatic and stage productions but now he has been given a makeover with a difference thanks to a South London playwright.
Kevin Lee has taken the story, updated it and set it in Brixton. As well as re-writing the story to give it a totally contemporary feel he has given it a new name - Cyrano of Brixton - and will open it tonight at the Jack Studio Theatre in Brockley.
For the 29-year-old it has been nine months of hard work to bring it to the stage but he says he is really excited about the result and "raring to go".
"It's a brilliant story and has been made famous by people like French actor Gerard Depardieu and Steve Martin in the film Roxanne," he says.
"I wanted to update it though and set it in South London - and because I've lived in the area my whole life it made sense to set it here.
"It's never been told in this way before. The essence of the original story is still there but I've completely re-written it in a way that I'd tell it to a bunch of teenagers.
"Now we have the cast and crew in place we are raring to go!"
Cyrano was a brilliant poet and dramatist who was highly regarded in society. In fictional works about his life though he has been mocked for having a big nose. He is also shown falling in love with the beautiful Roxanne but realising she would never love him, tries to set her up with one of his friends.
"It's a beautiful love story and that's what I wanted to concentrate on in my adaptation," says Kevin.
"However, to bring it up to date I decided that he should be part of a street gang and whereas in the original they go to war with Spain, here there is a reference to rivalry with the gang's counterpart in North London.
"The gang part of it is secondary though because I wanted to bring out the themes of love, beauty and what it is to be really beautiful - not just outwardly but the beauty within.
"The last thing kids want to hear is about knife crime so I hope that message of love comes through.
"I also hope it reaches out to a new audience - I've made it accessible to teenagers - as well as those people who are familiar with the original. It's very exciting."
For Kevin to bring the piece to his local theatre is a dream and not something he ever imagined he would do when he was growing up. Indeed it was only when he went to the theatre for the first time six years ago that he even considered writing as a career.
"I came to theatre quite late," he admits. "I grew up in Sydenham although I now live in Dulwich and I was never into acting or directing when I was at school and when I left I did a variety of jobs.
"However, six years ago I was persuaded to go to the theatre by some friends and I saw Sheridan Smith and James Cordon in a production of Tinderbox at the Bush Theatre in west London. It is such a small intimate venue and the excitement of being there was incredible.
"Everything went wrong during the production but it was amazing and totally blew me away!
"After that I went to see as much as I could and three years ago I started writing plays, one of which was staged at the Soho Theatre which was an unbelievable honour."
Writing courses followed and Kevin says he spent most of his free time writing and re-writing while his friends were out clubbing.
"It has been hard work because every spare moment has been me trying to improve so I had to ditch my social life for a while!" he laughs.
"But I felt like I had something to say and write about and even though it was hard I just had to keep going.
"I want to try and make something of myself though and hopefully be a full time playwright before too long. I'd also love to work with young people to get them more interested in theatre.
"The experience of writing this play has exceeded my expectations - and I've had great support from Kate Bannister and Karl Swinyard at the Jack who really liked it and thought it had a lot of potential which was fantastic."
And as for the future, Kevin is still writing, has two new plays he wants to get staged and is thinking about his next script.
"If it does well at the Jack I'd like to take Cyrano on tour if I can. But most of all keep writing!" he says.
Watch this space.

Cyrano of Brixton is on at the Jack Studio Theatre, Brockley Road until Saturday, June 14. Tickets cost £14. Call the box office on 0333 666 3366 or visit

Antony & Cleopatra at the Globe


THE old adage of "the show must go on" was in full force on press night for the Globe's production of Antony and Cleopatra.
Clive Wood, who plays Antony was still recovering from a virus that had caused him to miss several previews and James Hayes, who plays three of the supporting roles, had slipped and injured himself before the evening so won't be appearing for a few weeks. Instead his part was read by Christopher Saul. And Eve Best as Cleopatra appeared to be wearing an ankle support.
These unfortunate incidents for those concerned didn't seem to affect the production at all - in fact it was entertaining, well acted and beautifully staged.
The play itself features some of William Shakespeare's most beautiful and evocative poetry and although it was hard to imagine the sunshine and the stifling heat of Egypt and Rome the language certainly shone through.
At its heart it is a story of a love, passion and lust between Antony and his Cleopatra which transcends everything and everyone.
Eve Best, one of this country's finest actresses, is Cleopatra and brings a mix of both vulnerability and playfulness to the role, flirting with the audience and planting a kiss on one man in the crowd.
She is bewitching and switches mood with ease, brilliantly portraying the mercurial character of Cleopatra.
She is paired with Clive Wood as Antony, a big burly man who inspires an incredible loyalty among his men even though his focus is more on Cleopatra. Indeed he is best when he shows the inner conflict he endures at being torn between his love for Cleopatra and his duty as head of the army.
However, for me there was not enough chemistry between the two. Although there were moments of tender love and emotion, it was not consistent and the sense that they were completely overcome with love for each other and couldn't keep their hands off each other was not strong enough.
That said it was an enjoyable production and there were some stand out performances, notably Phil Daniels as Antony's closest friend Enobarbus, and Jolyon Coy as the steely, and cold Octavius Caesar.

Antony and Cleopatra is on at the Globe, Bankside until August 24. Tickets from £5. Call the box office on 020 7401 9919.