Visit London Blog » Milly Kenny-Ryder Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:17:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre Fri, 30 Sep 2011 17:00:41 +0000

New musicals are cropping up all over the West End. Rock of Ages is similar in structure to We Will Rock You – a vague narrative created around a list of hit songs. It’s certainly a fun night out – in fact, I’m not sure I can remember laughing so much at the theatre.

Set on the famous Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, a typical love story emerges amidst the grungy rock scene. The 80s nurtured some of the greatest and most successful rock artists of all time and their legendary music is brought back to life by this energetic and passionate cast. It stars Justin Lee Collins and X-Factor winner Shayne Ward.

Everyone was given fake lighters on entry to be held aloft during the ballads. Visually the team have gone all out, it is hard to know where to look – the auditorium transformed with the elaborate set, outrageous costumes, and fabulous glitter and confetti showers.

During the crazy Don’t Stop Believing finale I decided that this is the perfect show for a hen or stag night – you are guaranteed to walk out smiling.

Rock of Ages at the Shaftesbury Theatre until 11 February 2012. Book tickets

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The Passenger at the London Coliseum Wed, 28 Sep 2011 09:00:58 +0000

The Passenger is a bleak story, but through the medium of opera it resonated with the ENO audience last Wednesday to the extent that by the end many were on their feet applauding, touched by the melancholy account. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel Pasazerka by Auschwitz survivor Zofia Posmysz, it is brought to the stage by librettist Alexander Medvedev and composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg.

Set in the early 1960s and focussing on the effects of the Holocaust, it is, unsurprisingly, a heavy night. Johan Engels’ set is marvellous, a symbolic white ship that beneath the decks reveals a dark and dusty camp, home of the tortured prisoners. This visual juxtaposition is intensely shocking and makes the narrative even more appalling.

The opera documents an encounter between two women – one is a former Auschwitz guard, the other a former prisoner. We watch the story unfurl in the camp, while in the present (15years later) they unexpectedly meet again on a boat to Brazil, provoking feelings of guilt, terror, sadness and revenge.

Weinberg’s music is challenging and unexpected, and demonstrates a mix of influences. Expansive and complex, I was amazed by the fluency of the orchestra and conductor Sir Richard Armstrong. I was most moved by the folk tunes in the second half, especially the a cappella Russian song by Katya (Julia Sporsen). Vocally the cast are tremendous, and particular mention must go to leading ladies Michelle Breedt (Liese) and Giselle Allen (Marta) who both sing superbly.

Weinberg’s The Passenger is a modern masterpiece and the ENO delivers a staggering experience. I hope this opera gets the recognition it deserves, the massive effort and dedication is clear in every aspect of this production.

The Passenger at the London Coliseum until 25 Oct 2011. Book tickets

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The Elixir of Love at London Coliseum Mon, 26 Sep 2011 16:15:39 +0000  

I absolutely loved this production of Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love at the ENO.

Legendary director Jonathan Miller rarely disappoints and here he exceeds all expectations, reviving his popular production of this comic classic. Set in the 1950’s, inspired by the era of Marilyn Monroe, it feels as if Donizetti  precisely intended this setting and time, the modernity chimes with the fun and flirty storyline and score.

Sarah Tynan has the charm and attitude to make the perfect pin-up girl Adina. With a peroxide blonde hairdo and a cheeky pink uniform she shakes her hips and isn’t afraid to flirt naughtily on stage. Her soprano voice is bright and clear, and she controls it well during the fiddly arias, running up and down the virtuosic passages with elasticity. She is surrounded on stage by a cast of talented men, Ben Johnson is brilliant as the lovesick Nemorino; with a gorgeous bel canto tenor voice he suits Donizetti’s music well. Andrew Shore is hilarious as the fraudulent doctor, witty and full of life, his acting and singing are commendable.

The Elixir of Love, until 8 Oct  2011. Book tickets

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A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson at the Arts Theatre London Wed, 21 Sep 2011 09:36:48 +0000 I already knew a bit about Dr (Dictionary) Johnson, but I had no idea of the cult following his work engenders. When I went along to the Arts Theatre last week I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the audience, who all seemed very familiar with this genius’s work and words.

The new play, A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson, plays on his witty remarks and many memorable quotes. Only 90 minutes long, it’s adapted by Russell Barr, Ian Redford and Max Stafford-Clark from Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. We are introduced to Dr Johnson and invited to look in on his life.

With very few props, the play is a compilation of Johnson moments and is very wordy; at times I craved a little more action. The acting is beautiful throughout, with a particularly stunning rendition of Johnson by Ian Redford, delivering the lines with great aplomb and possessing a manic energy that feels appropriate for this fascinating character.

Due to illness, Russell Barr has had to pull out but a very competent Luke Griffin joins the cast, taking on the role of James Boswell and a staggering seven other parts. Trudie Styler has a cameo part towards the end of the show as Johnson’s great love interest, Mrs Hester Thrale, adding another dimension to the play, interacting well with the men, making the final moments more dynamic.

A Dish of Tea with Dr Johnson plays at the Arts Theatre until 24 Sep 2011

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Journey’s End at Duke of York’s Theatre Mon, 01 Aug 2011 17:16:46 +0000

This month the Duke of York’s Theatre plays host to R.C. Sheriff’s Journey’s End, returning to the West End for only 55 performances before embarking on a national tour.

It’s a devastating story, based on the author’s own experiences of life in the trenches. A brave young group of officers face the tragedy and terror of the Great War with courage and humour.

The play is brilliantly executed thanks to the powerful vision of director David Grindley; he draws on the smallest subtleties and nuances in the script to create an intense piece of drama. It helps that the all male cast are faultless, presenting themselves with such conviction that it is painfully moving from start to finish.

Graham Butler is exquisite as the young hero worshipper, Raleigh. He is the newest and youngest addition to the company arriving with an insatiable energy. His commanding officer Captain Stanhope is quite the opposite, despite only being three years older, he is bitter and hardened by his time at war. James Norton gives a mesmerising performance as the bullying Stanhope.

Designer Jonathan Fensom has created a simple but effective set that really draws you into the action. Only using half the height of the stage, it is a claustrophobic dirty trench, equipped with only the meagre necessities. Despite being written in the 1920s, Sheriff’s account of the First World War experience remains a profound, touching and undated memoir.

Journey’s End at the Duke of York’s theatre until 3 Sep 2011. Book tickets

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The Beggar’s Opera at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Mon, 04 Jul 2011 11:22:06 +0000

Written in 1728, John Gay’s satirical drama, The Beggar’s Opera was the first known ballad opera, poking fun at the very popular extravagant Italian opera of the time.  It is a silly story, but one filled with vivid characters and popular folk tunes. Acclaimed director Lucy Bailey brings this raucous tale to the seasonal Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for a limited run.

To one side of the stage a small band, the City Waites, provide the music using authentic instruments. Led by a lively Roddy Skeaping on violin and bass viol, the band is fantastic – rich in tone and characte,r adding depth to the narrative. The stage is appropriately decorated with beds and wooden carts, a clever and adaptable design from William Dudley.

The large cast are full of oomph, despite the wearying heat, and act and sing with a youthful energy. Jasper Britton is a suitably stern Mr Peachum, and Janet Fullerlove is hilarious as his wife; she seems to revel in Gay’s wickedly naughty script.

I loved watching the frantic catfights between Lucy (Beverly Rudd) and Polly (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) who certainly got the most laughs on the night. With a buoyant attitude and a belter of a voice, Rudd conquers the expansive Regent’s Park stage. Spencer-Longhurst, bright faced and wide eyed as the innocent but crafty little Polly, acts with great assurance and in addition has a bright soprano voice that soars in this theatre.

This is a charming production, Regent’s Park is the loveliest of settings, and The Beggar’s Opera is a witty, sometimes neglected work, the perfect summer’s evening out.

The Beggar’s Opera until 23 July 2011. Book tickets

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Two Boys at The ENO Tue, 28 Jun 2011 12:47:44 +0000

The English National Opera (ENO) are currently staging Two Boys, a new opera from talented young musician and composer Nico Muhley with librettist Craig Lucas.

The story is loosely inspired by actual events.  We watch Inspector Anne Strawson as she struggles to find 13 year old Jake’s killer.

There is one obvious lead – a teenage boy caught on CCTV leaving the murder scene, and yet as the narrative unfurls it seems there is more to this crime than the obvious facts. To discover the truth, Detective Strawson must delve into a menacing cyberworld of internet sites and chatrooms.

Two Boys kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The clever storytelling, with tiny clues revealed throughout, left me desperately trying to solve the murder mystery myself; it was completely engaging and captivating.

Muhley’s score is enchanting – spooky and beautiful, imaginative and aggressive, and I found it heartbreakingly moving. Vocally, I enjoyed the chorus moments best: massive, grand, multi-layered writing that conveys the overwhelming reach of the internet.

Bartlett Sher’s staging is beautifully realised through Michael Yeargan’s designs, a set that really adds to the production. The large chorus stand illuminated eerily at the back while other characters are elevated in darkly lit towers across the front of the stage – it is oddly magical and otherworldly.

Nico Muhley’s new creation is an operatic masterpiece that will stun audiences.

Two Boys at The ENO until 8 July 2011

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Chris Kenny Exhibition at England and Co Gallery Fri, 17 Jun 2011 16:31:01 +0000

A few days ago, friends, family and art enthusiasts gathered at England & Co Gallery on Westbourne Grove for the private view of my father Chris Kenny’s most recent work. It is always intriguing to watch an artist’s work evolve, and this show illustrates Kenny’s progression perhaps more than ever before.

Chris Kenny started his creative career very much as a painter, with a symbolic interest in chairs and trees, and patterns and symmetry in natural things. His work began to move into more museological territory and soon he was carefully constructing boxes of precisely selected and arranged things. Seemingly random artifacts to which Kenny attached labels according to his imaginative associations.

Stunning clean white boxes house swarms of cut out faces from photographs, or phrases from books, or segments of maps – things plucked from their familiar environment and made into something new.  Every time you look at Kenny’s work you can discover something new, visual or intellectual. And that’s the point, you can take away from it what you like, a new perspective, a funny anecdote, a quote full of wisdom, or just the pleasure of looking at something so still and beautiful.

Interestingly, Kenny begins to hark back to his painting days with a group of new works, of cut bright paper, out of which a statement is cut. They are still carefully considered but have a more painterly quality, a striking balance of colour and design. Declarations read “Hazard” or “Are You Awake?” – they are stylish, and strikingly refreshing.

With Kenny’s unique pieces increasingly being shipped off to be exhibited internationally, this is a rare opportunity to see his newest collection in its full glory. A display that will simultaneously sooth and scream at you.

Chris Kenny at England & Co Gallery until 9 July 2011

Read more about Chris Kenny’s exhibition on Milly’s blog, Thoroughly Modern Milly.

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Butley at The Duchess Theatre Tue, 14 Jun 2011 09:16:26 +0000
English actor Dominic West is best known for his role in HBO series The Wire, in which he played detective Jimmy McNulty from 2002 to 2008. He’s now returend to the London stage to play the title role in Simon Gray’s hilarious play Butley. Celebrities, actors and critics turned up to support the play on press night last week.

The play takes place on a single day. University professor Ben Butley is having a tough time, his personal and professional lives are collapsing simultaneously. He is suffering the final breakdown of his marriage, while his friendship with best friend Joey is also on the rocks. At work he is accused of poaching a student from another lecturer, and is hassled constantly by his melodramatic colleagues. Butley deals with his woes by annoying his friends as much as possible.

I thoroughly enjoyed Lindsay Posner’s production of this humorous piece. Effective direction enables the actors to make the most of Gray’s hilarious script. The action is set in a campus office, dusty books balancing precariously on the bookselves, with Ben’s desk and surrounding floor littered with the day’s debris – a visual depiction of the turmoil wrecking Ben’s life.

Dominic West gives a witty and intelligent portrayal of the play’s selfish protagonist. Butley is a charismatic and clever man, but is also sulky and solitary in a juvenile way that reminded me of Hugh Laurie as Dr House (another British actor in a successful American show). Butley seems overly interested in his gay friend’s relationship, so much so that it suggests he may be bi-sexual, though this remains ambiguous. He is totally preoccupied with rhyming verse and regularly pesters those around him with relentlessly silly rhetoric. It is wonderful to watch West tackle this fast paced dialogue with such ease and panache.

Simon Gray wrote Butley 40 years ago and yet I felt this well-adjusted and amusing production was as undated and fresh as ever.

Butley at the Duchess Theatre until 27 August 2011. Book tickets

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Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at London Coliseum Wed, 25 May 2011 09:34:41 +0000 The English National Opera‘s new production of Britten‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is certainly not conventional.

Director Christopher Alden has scrapped the dreamy forest in favour of a 1960’s school yard setting – a tad morbid and bizarre. Some of the characters are teachers (Oberon and Tytania) and some are pupils (Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena). The lover’s tiffs from Shakespeare’s original turn to adolescent arguments and teenage romances.

Charles Edward‘s set is strikingly beautiful and imaginative – giant brickwork walls of an urban British boys school, complete with high windows and several floors, it is staggeringly realistic. For me the design was the highlight of the production.

Visually this opera is quite unbelievable. The vast set and at times the sheer quantity of young boys on stage is enough to make you gasp. No-one can deny it is a daring production but I couldn’t help wondering how necessary all this drama is? It is not beneficial to our understanding, confused the already complicated narrative, and made little sense to me.

The large cast dealt with this odd interpretation as best they could. I have never seen so many young children in one opera – at one point when all the boys lined up across the stage I counted nearly 40!

The vocal star of the show was most definitely counter tenor Iestyn Davies as Oberon. He sings this tricky part wonderfully with pitch perfect accuracy and gorgeous tone. I could have listened to him all night. The chorus excelled producing a rich sound and bringing the best out of Britten’s stunning music.

The orchestra worked persistently on Britten’s tricky music, and I thought their rendition evoked all the magic of the Britten’s otherworldly score. Leo Hussain performed well too, conducting with a sensitive understanding of the music. Much of this opera’s music is quiet and hesitant – musical directions that are exhausting to conduct, especially for a three hour production. However, this didn’t seem to trouble Hussain at all and he seemed completely at ease throughout.

A very strange, and yet mesmerising production of Britten’s dazzling opera, go and see it if you like your opera a bit on the wild side.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the London Coliseum until 30 June. Book tickets

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