Friday, 26 June 2015

Comedy Club 4 Kids

CHILDREN and stand up are not words you might think go naturally together but comedian Tiernan Douieb says you should as they do.
And he should know for he is the main man behind the legendary Comedy Club 4 Kids – a collective dedicated to bringing the comedic delights of stand up to a younger generation.
“The idea for the club came from comic James Campbell,” says Tiernan. “In 2005 he persuaded a few comedians to do shows for kids at the Edinburgh Festival and it paid off.
“It is brilliant because for the children, they can see proper stand up comedians doing proper stand up comedy just for them in a proper venue.”
The idea is that the shows are suitable for anyone over the age of six and their parents.
“There is a compère and then about three other acts who come and entertain plus we have a selection of kids from our comedy workshops who have a go too,” explains Tiernan.
“It’s run very much like an adult stand up show but without any of the rude bits.
“It’s very silly and bonkers and there is also a lot of audience interaction but it’s never patronising.
“We try and get a big mix of acts. There are some solo artists and some sketch groups plus musical acts and improv acts who create scenes based on audience suggestions.
“Once we had a sketch that was about a sausage who goes to a jungle. It’s brilliant!”
The club is currently in residence at the Udderbelly Festival on the South Bank – a venue Tiernan says is “perfect” for the shows.
“What could be funnier than seeing a group of very silly and hilarious people do their stuff in a purple cow,” he chuckles.
“It’s brilliant and already even before you start, everyone is in a good mood because they are in a cow!”
This season they have a stellar line up of acts including regulars on the circuit such as Sara Pascoe, James Acaster and Morgan & West.
“I’m thrilled about this Udderbelly season,” says Tiernan.
“We’ve been going 10 years this year and it’s the fourth in a row we’ve been at Udderbelly and each one we’ve had bigger and bigger names on the bill which is fantastic.
“This year we’ve got some great names such as Jared Christmas which I’m really looking forward to.
“He’s brilliant and he does double act with beat boxer called Hobbit and they get kids up to do their own theme tune.”
So have any of them slipped in a rude word I ask?
“No, amazingly not!” laughs Tiernan. “I think most comedians who do the shows find it quite liberating not to swear or be rude.
“I think a lot of us are just big kids anyway and love being silly so the shows are the perfect forum to be like that.
“Adults sometimes just want you to make them laugh but kids are happy to be there and don’t heckle maliciously. You can go down the sillier and weirder routes. It’s really lovely.
“Also the parents tell us that they love it too – it’s always very relaxed.”
The shows have been so popular that the club decided to set up comedy workshops. Based at the Menier Chocolate Factory in Southwark they enable young wannabe comics to have a go themselves and hone their skills with help from the professionals.
“We show them how to find the funny in life and their own experiences, and turn this into confidently-delivered stand-up and sketches," says Tiernan.
“We’ve seen some amazing kids come through the ranks - some are frighteningly professional and good - and it has made me fear for my own career on a few occasions,” he laughs.

Comedy Club 4 Kids is on at Udderbelly until July 12. Visit for full listings.


CHATTTING to Howlin' Pelle Almqvist of rock band The Hives is a bit of an experience. The 37-year-old certainly has a way with words - he's funny and engaging but at times he can be surreal and off the wall.
It shouldn't have come as a surprise of course. The band, who hail from Sweden, are well-known for their non-conformist attitude. Anyone who's ever been to one of their gigs will have witnessed their energetic performances and on-stage antics, how they mix with the crowd and in Pelle's case, climb on and over the set and have at times a nonsensical banter with the crowd.
Nonetheless it's quite an entertaining chat I have with him ahead of the band's appearance at the Calling Festival which returns this weekend on Clapham Common.
This year former Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds will top the bill with support from Ryan Adams, Echo And The Bunnymen, Wolf Alice and Modest Mouse.
In amongst this lot will be Pelle and his band which he formed back in his home town of Fagersta in Sweden with his brother Nicholaus in 1993.
After a few personnel changes over the years the line up now consists of Pelle and Nicholaus and Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr Matt Destruction and Chris Dangerous.
The band's sound has been influenced by a variety of musical genres including heavy metal and punk.
"My first influence was ACDC," says Pelle. "It was the first music I listened to for myself. It wasn't what was on around at home and it wasn't from my parents - it was just what I listened to.
"Then when I was about 11 or 12 I moved on to punk rock, mostly American stuff like the Dead Kennedys.
"We have been influenced by all sorts of music since then. You can hear Depeche Mode as well as heavy metal in our music so it’s difficult to categorise our sound."
In the 20 years since they formed they have garnered quite a following, this despite having only released five albums.
Their mainstream success came with the release of the 2000 album Veni Vidi Vicious, featuring their most well-known anthem Hate to Say I Told You So.
Since then they have won a multitude of awards and have also been acclaimed by music critics as one of the best live rock bands - something that Pelle is keen to endorse.
"I've heard we are really great," he quips. "I'd like to think we are, though I have never seen The Hives as an audience member.
"I am sure we will be great in Clapham," he adds. "Whenever we are asked to play these gigs we usually do and we are really looking forward to being on the stage and playing for everyone at this one. It's going to be great.
"We have a long standing relationship with London and have done festivals in Hyde Park before and that's always been really fun.
"So it's a big pleasure to do festivals - there is always lovely scenery and with this one I’m looking forward to seeing Ryan Adams, Modern Mouse and Noel Gallagher - it will be huge for us."
Pelle promises it will "be huge" for the audience as well with performances of the band's "classic songs" as well as some from an as yet untitled and not yet recorded new album.
"There is usually a long gap between our albums because everyone loves us and we have to do tours," he says light-heartedly.
"We are not sleeping but busy touring the world and receiving adoration and praise from people around the world.
"We are also working on the next album and it is going to be better than ever."
One thing not in doubt will be the traditional black and white attire the band normally performs in.
"Our outfits are always different but they are always the same two colours," he says. "Originally it was harder to go with colours like purple and pink so we settled on black and white - besides it looks really good in black and white photos.
"It's like a kind of uniform and serves a purpose. It's worked well for us so far."
Sadly for fans it transpires during our chat that the Calling Festival is likely to be the band's only date in London this year. But Pelle is optimistic it won't be long before they are back on English soil.
"It will be short and sweet but I hope we can come back soon," he says. "So you must come along and hear us play - we are apparently the best live rock band...!"

The Hives play the Calling Festival, Clapham Common on Saturday, July 4. Visit for tickets.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

REVIEW - The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre


IN the late 17th and early 18th centuries divorce was almost unobtainable. Yet it is this that formed the basis of George Farquhar’s final play, the fabulous carnal comedy The Beaux' Stratagem.
A new version of the Irish dramatist's play is now on at the National Theatre and it is a real treat.
It follows the exploits of a couple of cads - Aimwell and Archer - who go about the country trying to cadge money, a good time and rich wives.
Fleeing London with not a bean to their name, they arrive at a Lichfield inn where both men shamelessly set about trying to woo the women while recouping some of their fortune.
To do so they pretend to be an aristocrat and his manservant and along the way encounter a glorious variety of characters including a crooked landlord, a fearsome highwayman, a fervent French Count, a maid on the make, a drunken husband, a furious butler, a natural healer and a strange, turbulent priest.
However in trying to make their fortune they meet their match in the beautiful Dorinda - who positively revels in her unmarried freedom and the equally beautiful Mrs Sullen, unhappily married to the aptly named Mr Sullen.
The play is remarkable because it looks at the frustrations within a marriage from a woman's point of view - in this case poor Mrs Sullen who has found herself hitched to such a boorish man, who we first see practically comatose from drink at the inn.
The production scores on all levels in particular the fantastic set which changes swiftly from a stately home to a rural inn.
The cast too is top notch and features some great performances. Pippa Bennett-Warner is delightful as Dorinda and Susannah Fielding is fabulous as Mrs Sullen while Pearce Quigley puts in an hilarious performance as Sullen’s servant, Scrub.
But it is the brilliant double act of Samuel Barnett as Aimwell and Geoffrey Steatfeild as Archer that makes this production stand out. Oozing swagger and charm, they prowl the stage, constantly on the make, eyes darting and ready to pounce at a moments notice. It is blissfully funny to watch.

The Beaux' Stratagem is on at the National Theatre until Sunday, September 20. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

Friday, 19 June 2015

INTERVIEW - Rory Kinnear

ONE hundred years ago playwright Franz Kafka wrote his novel The Trial. Although published in 1925 after his death it is one of his best known works telling a scary and nightmarish story of secrecy and ordinary terror.
Since publication, it has been adapted for both stage and screen including the Orson Welles film in 1962.
It is now being reprised in a new version adapted by Nick Gill and staged at the Young Vic.
It stars Rory Kinnear, arguably one of the finest actors of his generation who makes his debut at the Waterloo theatre.
He plays the central character, Josef K, who is arrested on the morning of his 30th birthday after being visited at home by unidentified state agents and accused of an unspecified crime.
Josef is bewildered by spiralling layers of bureaucracy and the more sinister motives which lurk beneath them. He begins a dark descent into a waking nightmare of bizarre humiliations and compulsive procedures.
“We are into about the second or third week,” Rory tells me in a snatched lunch break during rehearsals at the Copperfield Rehearsal Rooms in Southwark. “We are just tip toeing around it all.
“It's a fascinating story. Josef is arrested but isn't told what he’s been arrested for. In the end he gets dragged down a labyrinth world of legalese and into a cul de sac of the law he never really knew existed.”
It sounds scary stuff – almost Big Brother-ish but the Kennington-based actor says people will be able to identify with aspects of Josef’s predicament.
“It’s not just about the law and society but about a crisis in a man and who goes through a series of hellish hoops and still doesn’t find an answer to what’s going on,” says Rory.
“The crunch of it is to find out what keeps Josef rooted and what his crisis is.
“He’s someone who has failed to make human connections. He’s quite successful in his job but part of what may chime with modern audiences is a sense of dislocation and that he’s unable to find the human connections that arise and that he shies away from. It’s his crisis that he can’t adapt himself as a functioning member of society.
"There is quite a lot of talk about depression which I think many would relate to.
“But such is the visual imagery that in lots of ways it’s bright, entertaining and amusing,” he adds light-heartedly.
“There is plenty for the audience to take in and be entertained by. Some of it is absurd – it definitely has an absurdest comic edge."
It turns out that the 37-year-old has been involved with the production since October when the Young Vic asked him to do a series of workshops to see if they could make it into a production.
“Initially it was serendipity,” he says when I ask him what drew him to the role. “I was going to do a show but it fell through. The next day I watched the Orson Welles version of the film. Then soon after the Young Vic offered me this. It was fate.”
Fate aside there were plenty of other reasons why Rory was keen to take on the role.
“Quite a lot of people read the book when they are in the 18 to 20 mark in their life and I was one of them,” he says warmly.
“It was published posthumously and the order of chapters was guessed at rather than set down in stone.
“There are lots of things I think he would have edited out had he had a tougher editor than himself,” he chuckles.
“But it is rich and potent, very earthy and grounded with incredible imagery. That’s why so many writers and film makers are drawn to it.
“I’ve read both of Nick Gill’s plays and he’s got a great distinctive voice so that was another pull. Plus the part is pretty meaty – I’m never off stage, something I’ve not done before. So there is a bit of me that is masochistic about that,” he laughs.
Meaty roles have featured heavily in Rory’s career to date – most recently his award-winning performances of Iago and Hamlet for the National Theatre and his portrayal of Lord Lucan in ITV’s drama Lucan.
Plus he's also known to many as MI6's Bill Tanner in the James Bond films Quantum of Solace and Skyfall - and if playing Josef wasn't challenging enough he's currently filming a third in the franchise - Spectre, due out in November.
I ask what his motivation is for tackling such characters.
“I tend to feel everyone does has a justification for what they do whether they are goodies or baddies,” he says.
“Iago’s slight against his status and perceived cuckolding by Othello was his justification and with Lucan his life had reached such a point of collapse he felt the only way out of it was to murder his wife.
“As an actor you have to find the reasons why they behave as they do. At a distance after you finish playing them you can see where they went wrong. But you have to find a justification.
“There is a challenge but it’s nice to play complex characters and form a back story to these people. There is a certain level of damage and it’s the same with Josef.
“There is a great level of emotional collapse with him whereas I’m a really sunny and sanguine chap. That’s the fun thing about acting, to play people you are not and try and dig around to find out why other people exist, act or behave as they do.”
So back to The Trial, which has already had its run extended, and it's clear he’s raring to go.
“I go to a lot of shows at the Young Vic so I’m hugely excited to be able to perform here at last,” he says.
“It’s a great theatre and has had a fantastic run of success. I’ve been on the board for the last few years... there might be a coincidence there,” he jokes.
“The main house is like walking into an entirely different theatre each time. The production teams and their ability to make visions come to life is second to none.
“Also I do get itchy if I have not done a play for a while and this is longest time I’ve gone without doing a play.”
And it’s a mere hop, skip and a jump from his home in Kennington which he shares with his partner and their two young children.
“Being able to do a play and not be away from home is a real joy,” he says. “I do TV series called Penny Dreadful in Ireland and that takes up six months of the year so it’s nice to be here for a while.
“We moved to Kennington three years ago – and I’m not moving again!
“It’s a great place and we really love it - plus it has the added bonus of being a 15 minute commute from work - what could be better!”

The Trial is on at the Young Vic, The Cut from Friday until August 22. Visit or call the box office on 020 7922 2922 for tickets.

REVIEW - The Red Lion, National Theatre


WHAT goes on in the players' dressing room stays in the dressing room. That's the mantra of Kidd, a swaggering, ambitious bully-boy manager of a non-league football club.
He is one of the characters in Patrick Marber's new play The Red Lion which takes a swipe at the beautiful game, showing that it might not be so beautiful behind the scenes.
The play has just opened at the National's Dorfman stage and is a stunner.
It features just three people - Kidd, the manager, played by Daniel Mays, Yates (Peter Wight), the old timer "legend" of the club who now comes in to clean the kit and rising young star Jordan (Calvin Demba) who has a hidden past.
Beautifully observed it is set in a distinctly shabby and down at heel changing room of the unnamed non league team which has as its mascot a red lion.
It’s clear it is a world away from those of the premiere league clubs, those who Kidd would love to be part of. Money is tight and good players are few and far between.
Despite this, Kidd has dragged the club up from the bottom of the pile so that it is now winning matches again and as a result he likes to think of himself as the club’s saviour.
But Yates too cares deeply about the club having devoted his life to it.
So when Jordan comes into their lives he is pounced on by both men – Yates to mentor him and Kidd to make money out of.
However, Jordan refuses to play dirty. He has a secret of his own, and plays Kidd and Yates off against each other with devastating effect.
It is an incredible production, brilliantly staged and the cast of three are fantastic.
In particular, Daniel Mays puts in a blistering performance as Kidd. He is both aggressive and vulnerable, signing Jordan matters to him - not just for the club but so he can salvage some self esteem given his marriage is heading down the tubes.
Although the story is fairly predictable - the ending is inevitable and tragic for all concerned - it is gripping, sending you on a rollercoaster of emotions as well as being a fascinating insight into what goes on behind the scenes. 
The Red Lion roars.

The Red Lion is on at the Lyttelton, National Theatre, until Wednesday, September 30. Tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015


NATHALIE Armin always wanted to be an actress. Despite a fleeting desire when she was a child to be a fashion designer, acting was all she ever really wanted to do although she admits it wasn’t her parents’ first choice of career for her.
“My dad was very disappointed,” she chuckles at the memory. “I think they hoped I would grow out of it, but it didn’t happen.
“I remember auditioning like Billy Elliot, travelling to London on a coach to Central School Of Speech And Drama – fortunately I got in!”
It turned out to be a good choice of career because Nathalie has enjoyed a steady stream of work on both stage and screen since graduating including roles in TV shows Doctors, Spooks, Holby City and most recently the Bafta award-winning The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies.
She is currently exploring the world of addiction in Stephen Adly Guirgis’ explosive and high octane drama The Motherf**ker With The Hat.
The production, in which she plays recovering addict Victoria, has just opened on the Lyttelton stage at the National.
It is something of a hat trick for the Crystal Palace-based actress as it’s the third play in a row she has done on that particular stage this year following hot on the heels of the hugely successful Dara and Behind The Beautiful Forevers.
“I absolutely love the Lyttelton – it’s my favourite,” she enthuses. “I’ve been so lucky because it’s the third play I’ve done here and Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of my favourite playwrights so I’m really excited.
“It is so different from the previous two I was in. This one has a very small cast whereas the others were huge ensemble pieces. Also, this is more about feelings and failings rather than huge global issues of faith and capitalism."
Nathalie describes the play, which received six Tony nominations when it premiered in Broadway in 2011, as “poetic, profane, and very funny”.
Set in New York it centres on two couples, Jackie and Veronica and Ralph and Victoria and has as its themes, love, fidelity and addiction.
Jackie is the central character and at the start of the play we find him out of jail and clean thanks to his sponsor Ralph. Jackie feels as though things are looking up, not least because of his relationship with Veronica who he’s loved since he was a teenager. It seems nothing can come between them – until he finds a hat.
“It’s an amazing play,” says Nathalie. “It’s about a group of people who are all recovering addicts living extreme lives and failing and succeeding in love as they collide and separate.
“It’s an incredible musing on love and failed love - any kind of love - and falling short of your and other peoples’ expectations.
“My character Victoria is angry – the reasons for that will be apparent when you see the play, but she too is a recovering addict.
“It feels as though she has made bad choices in her life, including falling in love with Ralph, and she ends up feeling as though she’s missed out in some way.”
To get into the part, Nathalie says she had to read up on addiction and self destructive behaviour.
“I have no experience of addiction and have thankfully never been to Alcoholics Anonymous but I think most people will relate to aspects of the emotions and feelings the characters have,” she says.
“I think we all do things that make us feel pain or humiliation at some point in our lives. I think my way in was to look at what is it that I do that makes me feel not so great.
“It’s a very demanding part to play, very intense, but it's been fascinating and great fun.
"Letting rip is always really good - especially after Dara and The Beautiful Forevers where I played very contained characters!
“But all the people in this story are dynamite and pushed to various degrees. It’s ferocious, full of drama and terribly explosive and very funny.
“It is also beautifully and brilliantly written, although it’s profane and there is a lot of swearing in it so you need to be prepared for that, and it’ll get you right in the stomach.
"I hope the audience will be gripped.”
But what about the hat I ask? She laughs and says simply: “It is found in someone’s apartment and sets off a chain of events.... it’s the catalyst so I can’t give too much away – so you’ll have to come and see the show and find out!”

The Motherf**ker with the Hat is on at the Lyttelton at the National Theatre until Thursday, August 20. tickets from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

Friday, 12 June 2015


IN amongst the post punk and new romantic movement of the 80s one woman stood out in more ways than one.
With her skyscraper beehive hairdo, glamorous look, catchy pop tunes and fully choreographed 12 piece band The Wilsations, Mari Wilson was a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from the rest of the decade that fashion and taste forgot.
Dubbed the Neasden Queen of Soul, it wasn’t long before she had notched up a succession of hit singles of which the biggest and most well known was Just What I’ve Always Wanted.
But just when things were getting interesting, she ditched her band and the beehive, left pop behind and changed direction with a move to jazz and more intimate shows.
However, pop music was in her blood and in 2000 she was chosen to play Dusty Springfield in the hugely successful UK tour of “Dusty – The Musical”.
Stints in musical theatre followed as did a succession of albums and then in 2014 she launched her show Mari Sings Dusty.
Now she’s back again with her Ready Steady Girls Tour which comes to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Thursday and features songs that influenced her as she was growing up.
They include interpretations of iconic classics by Dusty Springfield, Petula Clarke, Cilla Black and Sandi Shaw and Mari says it represents a rather personal and emotional journey through life.
“I played Dusty in a musical in 2000 and it was amazing,” she tells me. “Dusty is iconic and I grew up listening to her so I didn’t want it to be a tribute act or an impersonation, rather my interpretations of her songs.
“I loved doing it but one of the problems I found was that there were a lot of ballads and trying to find songs I wanted to sing was difficult. When you do a gig you need light and shade.
“So a friend of mine said why not do songs from all the girls and I realised it was a really good idea – so here I am!”
By looking through the back catalogues of all these “fabulous” women, Mari said she had much more choice in terms of tempo and style.
It has also led to her recording some of the songs for an as yet untitled album which she hopes to release in September.
“It’s been fabulous,” she says. “By having all these different songs to choose from it’s become a better show and will be a better album and I’m really pleased with it.
“These songs are timeless but some are quite challenging – for example we do a version of White Horses which is very different and an up tempo version of Can I Get A Witness. Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa is unrecognisable – it’s a bit of a Marmite moment,” she laughs.
“Some of them are just very different simply because I don’t have a full band with me but we do have beats and loops and some are very poppy. Some are quite demanding vocally but they are all incredible.
“I do have favourites,” she adds. “I love Burt Bacharach’s The Look Of Love as it’s like a standard and I’ve made it very sensual. Then there’s Island Of Dreams which Dusty sang with the Springfields. They are all classics though and I love them all.”
Although Mari has never collaborated with any of the ladies whose songs she will be singing, she does admit she would like to have done.
“It would have been amazing to do so when they were younger,” she says. “Dusty was the one in particular.
“I would also love to have worked with Amy Winehouse. She was amazing. I loved her singing and think she was a genius. Fame is a terrible thing yet everyone seems to want it.
“I was never that famous and only had about three years when it was quite intense.”
But it was that intensity that led Mari to quit pop for a while.
“I walked away from the whole pop thing in 1986,” she says. “I was surrounded by people asking me to do different things. One wanted me to be like Cilla and be on TV but I only wanted to be a great singer.”
She also got rid of the hairdo which she had cultivated since before she was well known.
“Oh my goodness it was expensive!” she laughs. “The maintenance was huge and it stank as well! I was sponsored by the hair spray company Bristows at one point but in the end I got tired of it and had to let it go.”
Thankfully she didn’t quit pop for long and given she always wanted to be on stage it was no surprise to see her return.
“When I was a kid my older brother and sister and I used to put on shows for my parents,” she remembers. “We had a space in the corner of the living room and my brother would be Al Jolson and my sister and I would sing our party piece Sugar In The Morning.
“My mum had a beautiful voice too and could have been an actress or a singer – in fact we could have been the Von Traps of Neasden,” she laughs.
“There was a lot of music in the house as I was growing up which was fantastic and being a singer was the only thing I wanted to do.”
And now she’s preparing to take to the stage at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a venue she says she loves.
“I’m really excited about the gig because I’ve never done a full set there before,” she says. “It’s a great venue, lovely and intimate with a fantastic atmosphere and I know the audience will be up for it. It’s going to be great.”
And she promises that as well as the songs from “the girls” she will be singing the one that made her famous – Just What I Always Wanted – though sadly without the Wilsations and the hair.
“People do still want to hear it,” she says warmly. “It’s a great song and it brings back great memories so it will definitely be on the set list!”

Mari Wilson will be at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Thursday June 18. Call the box office on 0207 820 1222 for tickets.

REVIEW - High Society, Old Vic


WATCHING Maria Friedman's production of High Society is like being at one big fantastic and "swell" party.
It is full of champagne, great music, convivial characters, joie de vivre, fun and frivolity and if you don't leave with a spring in your step you must be very hard to please.
Written by Cole Porter and now on at the Old Vic, it is staged in the round which adds to the party atmosphere with a piano that rises from the floor on which musician Joe Stilgoe tinkles the ivories while the cast drink and dance around.
And while there is a definite feel good factor it is a story full of snobbishness and class - where everyone knows their place.
It features the extremely wealthy Lord family, and their servants, on the eve of daughter and Long Island socialite, Tracy Lord's nuptuals to working class man made good, the rather stiff and boring George Kittredge.
All is going swimmingly until Tracy's ex-husband, Dexter Haven (Rupert Young), appears at the house to try and persuade her to ditch boring George and get re-married to him.
Things for Tracy are complicated further when tabloid hack Mike Connor, brilliantly played by Jamie Parker, arrives to cover the nuptials, and finds he too takes a shine to the bride-to-be.
With three men vying for her affection Tracy has a big decision to make but plenty of music, song, dance and champagne, plus a naked swim in the family pool, help her realise that dullard George just isn't really her type.
Not only that when the hangover hits, she realises that despite her petulance at chucking Dexter in the first place, he really is the one for her.
It is a fantastic show - the direction, staging, singing and acting are top notch and with a stellar cast headed up by the fantastic Kate Fleetwood as Tracy, it really does have the wow factor.

High Society is on at the Old Vic, The Cut, until August 22. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 0844 871 7628.

INTERVIEW - Lorna Luft

LORNA Luft made her showbiz debut aged 11, singing Santa Claus Is Coming To Town on her mother Judy Garland’s TV show in 1963.
Now, 50 years later she’s starring in a touring production of The Songbook Of Judy Garland, a musical trip down memory lane, celebrating the life and music of the legend that was and is her mother.
The show will marry live performances of Judy’s songs including The Trolley Song, The Man That Got Away, Get Happy, I Got Rhythm and the iconic Over The Rainbow with some never before seen film clips and interviews.
It is coming to the New Wimbledon Theatre on June 16 for a week-long run and Lorna tells me she’s extremely excited at the prospect.
In fact during our chat the 61-year-old speaks very fondly of the town, a place she has visited many times and says it’s “like coming home”.
“I can’t wait to see all my family and friends when the show arrives in Wimbledon,” she says.
“It’s a beautiful theatre and I consider Wimbledon to be very special.”
But it’s the show Lorna really wants to talk about, describing it as a musical celebration of her mother’s life.
“It’s like a work in progress because we are still cutting things and adding things,” she says.
“But the audience can expect to be truly entertained and to be taken back in time with some movie clips and songs that they grew up.”
It boasts a star studded cast with Lorna joined on stage by the likes of Ray Quinn, Louise Dearman, Rachel Stanley and Darren Bennett as well as dancers The Boyfriends, named after Judy’s original dancers of the same name.
It is billed as the only show authorised by the late star’s estate and has been choreographed by Lorna’s long time friend, Arlene Phillips.
In fact the whole project came about after a chat Lorna had with Arlene.
"The idea was that of [producer] David [King] and Arlene," says Lorna. "Arlene and I have been friends for 40 years and we’d never worked on anything together before so it was a great opportunity and I jumped at it.
"She is such a positive force and is so smart - it’s been a joy and we’ve had a lot of fun.”
But with such an incredible back catalogue to draw on I ask if it was difficult to choose which of her late mother’s songs to feature.
“Oh absolutely!” she laughs. “The amount of material we had to go through to put in the show was incredible so it was a huge task!
“We chose songs that we loved and that we knew the audience loved and identified with. There are also some video and movie clips too which have never been seen before and which are fascinating.
“For example, there is a clip out of Easter Parade that was cut from the movie – it was a song that MGM felt was too modern but it was the first time Judy ever wore a tux and a fedora which ended up being her famous look.
“I think it will be nostalgic for the audience but they will see the real Judy shine through.”
While she remains secretive about her own personal favourite song – you’ll have to see the show to find out which it is – Lorna does admit that most hold special meanings for her and the rest of the cast.
“It’s emotional for the audience and at times I know people will be in tears,” she says. “Ray [Quinn] said he didn’t know how I was doing it because he was in tears but this is my comfort zone.
“I don’t think it’s tragic and sad. It’s sad she’s not here but look what she left us. Some people only get still photos of their parents but I have movies, books and TV shows as well – I’m very fortunate.
“And I’m very proud of the show,” she adds. “What we see on screen is her artistry, her amazing sense of humour and how funny she was. That’s the real person we see.”
Born in Santa Monica in 1952, Lorna was the first child of Judy Garland and her third husband Sidney Luft.
Her half sister Liza Minnelli, from Judy’s second marriage to director Vincente Minnelli, was six years older. Her young brother Joey arrived three years later.
And to Lorna, being born into and being part of Hollywood royalty was perfectly normal as was having celebrities of the day such as the likes of Frank Sinatra, who incidentally is Lorna’s godfather, and Sammy Davis Junior come around for dinner.
She concedes this isn’t the norm for most people but stresses it was normality for her.
“She was a working mum so we moved around a lot staying in different hotels as she was out on the road a lot,” says Lorna.
“She worked with the greatest directors and actors and was friendly with JFK and it wasn’t unusual to have these people in our lives - that's just the way it was. To us they weren’t famous, just friends of my mother’s.
“However, she was fiercely private about her home life and children and would never have had a camera in her house in some kind of reality show.
“But as a woman juggling work and kids in the 50s and 60s she was way ahead of her time. Back then it was usually the mums who were at home making dinner and cleaning the house and the husbands working. Nowadays we don’t give it a second thought.
“But she had a family to support with three kids and her own mother too. It wasn’t that she had to do it – she wanted to do what she did. She loved singing and performing and making movies – and we believed every single character she played because of her honesty.”
And Lorna says it was no surprise that she herself went into “the family business” and ended up as a highly successful stage, film and TV actress and singer in her own right.
“I didn’t do anything that was that unusual. My mother was the best she could be and was an inspiration to me as a human being - not just because of the love of music she instilled in me but because of her openness and complete demand that no on be treated differently.
"She was incredibly smart, kind and made us understand that people will be different all over the world and we have to be tolerant.
"That’s the legacy she left us and people who come and see the show will see that.”
So would Judy approve of the show I ask? Lorna laughs loudly.
“She would be directing it!” she says. “She would have been an amazing director. She knew what she wanted and was incredible and had her own mind.
“But she is definitely part of the cast and in the show she gets the last bow.”

The Songbook of Judy Garland is on at the New Wimbledon Theatre between June 16 and 20. Visit or call the box office on 0844 871 7646 for tickets.

REVIEW As You Like It, Globe Theatre


SHAKESPEARE'S As You Like It is one of his most clever and sublime comedies and features some of his best loved characters.
Done well it is a joy and this can certainly be said of Blanche McIntyre’s glorious production now on at the Globe.
It is often described as a pastoral romance full of cross dressing, brilliant conversation, satire, love and forgiveness.
Most of the action takes place in the Forest Of Arden where Rosalind, the daughter of an unjustly exiled duke, escapes to after her usurping uncle banishes her from court.
It is a cruel blow as she’s just caught sight of the Orlando, a courtier who has also been wronged having been deprived of his birthright by his brother.
However, Rosalind disguises herself as a boy and together with her cousin Celia goes looking for her father and his friends in the forest.
As luck would have it she bumps into Orlando again. He confesses his love for her via a series of love notes posted on the trees but she cannot reveal her true self to him as she’s in her boyish garb. Instead she counsels him in the art of love.
It is a fantastically written play and this current production shows it off spectacularly.
Michelle Terry is fabulous as Rosalind – showing a feistiness that is delightful. Her reaction of "phwoar” at the sight of Orlando’s (Simon Harrison) rather impressive six pack is hilarious.
She is ably supported by a stellar cast including James Garnon who puts in a memorable performance as the rather miserable Jaques and Daniel Crossley as a truly funny Touchstone thanks to the speed of his delivery.
As is the norm with the Globe the actors make full use of the audience and it is a joy to be and feel fully involved with this funny and brilliantly staged production.

As You Like It is on at Shakespeare's Globe, Bankside until September 5. Tickets cost from £5. Visit or call the box office on 020 7401 9919.

Thursday, 11 June 2015


HE’S only recently graduated from RADA but Tom Varey is “riding the crest of a wave” thanks to starring roles in TV shows The Village and No Offence.
But the Forest Hill-based actor is now taking on a very different character in that of boxer Ollie Olsen in Tennessee Williams’ play One Arm which has its UK premiere at the Southwark Playhouse.
The 24-year-old says it’s a dream role and has resulted in at least two items being ticked off his career bucket list.
I love Tennessee Williams’ work,” he enthuses. “His writing is incredible and this is just a fantastic story.
I’ve always wanted to do a Tennessee Williams play and also perform at the Southwark Playhouse so to do both at the same time is amazing!”
One Arm was originally conceived as a short story which Williams wrote in 1942. He later adapted it as a screenplay but it was considered too provocative for Hollywood in the 1960s because of its overt references to homosexuality and so was never staged – until now.
In a chat during rehearsals Tom tells me it is a dark tale about how Ollie’s career, and ultimately his life, ends after a devastating car accident.
Ollie believes his once-invincible body to be irreparably broken and so embarks on a journey which sees his life go on a downward spiral of self destruction.
Ollie is a very complex character and the play follows his journey from the night he wins the boxing championship to the night of the car crash in which he loses an arm to what happens afterwards,” says Tom.
We see him change a great deal over the course of the play. Before the accident he was quite a sweet naive boy but then when he loses his arm, he turns quite nasty, violent and aggressive - he feels his life is ruined.
You have a sense that he’s a vulnerable kid who has had his career taken away from him and he tries to find work but no one wants him.
So during the play the audience follows Ollie and his journey across America from New York to New Orleans and his different encounters with men,” adds Tom.
It’s also a commentary on what was going on at the time with the repression of gay men. Williams was in New Orleans when he wrote this and it gives a bit of insight into his own life.
In the end Ollie ends up on death row so it’s a bit bleak, almost like a Greek tragedy as fate is set out before him.”
Despite this, Tom says he can’t wait to bring it to UK audiences though he does admit to a few nerves.
For an actor Ollie is a gift role because every scene is full of drama, humour, intense sadness, emotion and tension,” he says.
Losing the arm was tricky but you’ll have to come to see it to see how we manage that!
It’s such a great story though and so beautifully written that I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done in the UK before so it’s very exciting to be part of something so special.
I graduated last year so to get a role this size and in London is a massive dream. Southwark Playhouse is such a cool place and does a lot of good work so I’m feeling nervous, plus it’s also the UK premiere and I will be the one introducing Ollie for the first time but it’s massively exciting."

One Arm is at the Southwark Playhouse, Newington Causeway from June 10 to July 4. Tickets cost £18. Visit or call the box office on 020 7407 0234.