Yesterday I saw The Drowsy Chaperone Upstairs at The Gatehouse. It's a pastiche of American Jazz Age musicals which has been written to appeal to modern audience by using the device of an on-stage current-day narrator to skip us through 'the boring bits'. It has some lovely tunes, knockabout comedy, a beautiful star, tap dancing - even knife throwing. The cast and musicians are excellent and there's a very inventive use of the set. I loved it. If any of it sounds as though it might appeal to you, I'm pretty sure you'll love it too. It's on until 31st October. Tickets are £12 - £16.
Last week I saw Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park at The Royal Court. Although it deals with the subject of racism, it's essentially a comedy of manners and very funny. I always feel that I can confidently skip any theatre experience that asks me to hand over £25 so I can sit in the dark for two hours on an uncomfortable seat while a bunch of very worthy people tries to convey the message that racism is wrong. I know! I know, I know, I know.
Fortunately the seats at The Royal Court downstairs are very comfortable and the message that Bruce Norris, Dominic Cooke and the cast has to convey is sophisticated and subtle. I went to see the play with a small party of friends, some white, one black, some English, one not - and afterwards we talked about racism. Well, we got drunk and talked about racism. That's not something any of us would ever normally do. If the aim of the play was to provoke discussion as well as to entertain - as I'm sure it must have been - then Bruce Norris certainly achieved his aim. But I would never have wanted to talk about what I had seen if it hadn't been clever, entertaining and funny.
Bruce Norris is/was an actor and is affiliated with the Steppenwolf theatre - and you can see all that in the quality of the dialogue; the economy and timing of the lines (with excellent direction from Dominic Cooke). The cast was brilliant. I really liked Robert Innes Hopkins's set, especially the front porch which was lit so that the ivy (I think) that was growing on it, and the brickwork, looked realistic even though I was sitting in the front row.
Unfortunately Clybourne Park is sold out but you should still be able to get returns and day seats. Call the box office for details. It's on until 2nd October.
Thanks to the West End Whingers for enthusing so much about The Drowsy Chaperone when it was on in the West End that I decided to catch it this time round Upstairs at the Gatehouse, and for insisting that Clybourne Park is one of this year's unmissable shows. (The other was London Assurance, apparently. But I did miss that.)
Edit: Review from the West End Whingers for The Drowsy Chaperone Upstairs at the Gatehouse.