Visit London Blog » judi dench Enjoy the very best of London Tue, 13 Oct 2015 14:49:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 London Theatre News: Richard Armitage, Fathers And Sons, Shakespeare In Love and Matilda Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:00:26 +0000

You can never have enough hobbits, dwarves or dragons on the London stage. That’s what I’ve always said. We’ve already heard that The Hobbit’s Bilbo Baggins, Martin Freeman, is coming to London to play Richard III, and that Benedict Cumberbatch,

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who voices Smaug in the big screen Tolkien adaptation, will play Hamlet in 2015. Now it’s the turn of former Spooks and Robin Hood star Richard Armitage, who shrinks to play dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in the Middle Earth-set movies, to join the fantasy stage invasion.

Armitage is heading to the Old Vic in June to play John Proctor in Arthur Miller’s classic tale of duplicity, maliciousness, tension and suspicion The Crucible. The play about the Salem witch trials will be the third production at the iconic theatre this year to play in-the-round.

In more casting news, Seth Numrich, who won the 2013 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer, and Caoilfhionn Dunne, who he pipped to that award, will both appear in Brian Friel’s Fathers And Sons at the Donmar Warehouse from June.

And we’ve found out who will be following in the Royal footsteps of queen of the West End, Dame Judi Dench, by playing Queen Elizabeth I in the stage adaptation of Shakespeare In Love. That honour falls to London stage regular Anna Carteret, who’s joined in the cast by The Borgias’ David Oakes and former Olivier Award nominee Paul Chahidi.

The romantic comedy follows the Bard, whose 450th birthday was celebrated last week, as he looks to beat a bout of writer’s block by finding a muse in the form of a noblewoman. Their taboo love affair draws together a wealth of characters and inspires the creation of a little play entitled Romeo And Juliet.

One more thing. Matilda The Musical, one of the most popular shows currently playing in London, has extended its run into 2015. That’s a lot more naughtiness for us all to enjoy.

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Evening Standard Theatre Awards: The Winners Tue, 27 Nov 2012 10:54:50 +0000

The famous faces in The Savoy ballroom on Sunday night were enough to make anyone a bit giddy. I was lucky to join stars Judi Dench, Anna Wintour, Bill Nighy, Damian Lewis, Ian McKellen, Colin Firth and Danny Boyle to celebrate the capital’s best theatre, at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2012.

Compere James Corden opened the ceremony with a cheeky song called “For the love of awards”, reminding us that he has a tip-top singing voice as well as plenty of wit. The night had some serious moments too: double award-winner Nicholas Hytner spoke passionately in support of public funding for the arts, and Judi Dench was moved by a special award.


Judi Dench

Everyone’s favourite Bond matriarch was awarded the Moscow Art Theatre Golden Seagull Award, a golden bird-shaped broach that signifies her achievements in bringing London theatre to the world’s attention. “I’ll never take it off,” she declared.

Danny Boyle

After he got the Queen to jump out of a helicopter (or so it seemed) in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, it’s fitting that Danny Boyle’s extraordinary £27 million production should get special recognition. He and his team scooped up the Beyond Theatre Award for pushing the boundaries of theatre with the ceremony, which was arguably the best – and certainly the biggest – performance of the year.

Nicholas Hytner

The director of the National Theatre picked up the Best Director award for setting the little-known Shakespeare play Timon of Athens in modern times. Hytner also won the Lebedev Special Award in recognition of his ten-year leadership of the National Theatre, which has seen him bring War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors to the stage.

One to watch – Matthew Tennyson

Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Hardy won the Outstanding Newcomer Award in their early days, so it’s worth keeping your eye on young actor Matthew Tennyson who won this year’s prize for his role in Making Noise Quietly at the Donmar Warehouse.


The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss, a play about Oscar Wilde was on everyone’s lips at the awards, despite not being nominated. It received glowing praise from National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner, who described Rupert Everett’s performance as one of the best on the London stage for years.


Writer Nick Payne won the award for Best Play for Constellations, becoming the youngest person to the category at just 29. It’s a tender story of love, awkwardness and string theory, using physics as a metaphor for life.

Sweeney Todd

Named Best Musical at the awards, this tale of a homicidal barber could convince even those allergic to musical theatre to burst into song. Stephen Sondheim’s score for Sweeney Todd is delicious in its complexity, and leading duo Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton are musical royalty.

Have you seen any of the award-winners? Or have you seen some theatre recently that deserves an award?

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Hay Fever at The Rose Theatre, Kingston Fri, 01 Oct 2010 14:45:56 +0000 Noel Coward’s play Hay Fever was written in just three days; with much of the material taken from his experience of staying with the loopy Manners family. At the time (1924) great actress and singer Marie Tempest refused the leading role of Judith Bliss. But once Coward wrote a few more plays and revues and became the hottest playwright in the West End, Tempest unsurprisingly changed her mind about taking the part.

Ever since, Hay Fever has been coveted by the most fabulous of older actresses, including Edith Evans and Judi Dench. The Rose Theatre is lucky to have not one but two established actresses taking on the role, Celia Imrie (whom I saw) takes the first half of the run, and Nichola McAuliffe the second.

This comic Coward at his very best. However the play’s success also depends on the chemistry and innuendo created on stage by the cast. Hay Fever is a farce set in an English country house in the 1920s. We are introduced to the four eccentric members of the Bliss family and watch the hysterical consequences as each invites a guest to stay for the weekend.

The Rose Theatre has a contemporary feel with a simple stage that allows it to be transformed for each production. Hay Fever’s set was beautifully ornate with a real attention to detail, similar in fact to Coward’s Waiting for Wings that I saw a few weeks ago.

Celia Imrie commands the stage and seems to relish the experience of being Judith Bliss. Hay Fever’s younger roles are taken on by Georgia Maguire and Joshua McGuire (both recent drama school graduates) playing the two bratty Bliss children, chasing each other around the stage and being deliciously unaware of their conceited selfish behaviour. I enjoyed watching the interaction between mother and children, especially how Judith acts with her younger, more beautiful daughter, flitting between pride and jealousy.

This play is right up my street, I enjoyed it so much I was still laughing in the intervals… I even forgot about my dreadful cold. The Bliss family are utterly dysfunctional, but work in their own way. I think there is something here for everyone to identity with. I certainly thought the mad melodramatic ensemble on stage were really quite similar to my own rowdy, Bohemian family!

Hay fever continues until Saturday 23 October.

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An Adventure Into The Woods at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre Wed, 18 Aug 2010 14:30:38 +0000

Into the Woods is perfectly at home in the beautiful surrounds of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The musical is a hodgepodge of fairytales seen through the eyes and ears of a young boy who has run away from home.

The script is fun and never takes itself too seriously.

It’s very clear the actors enjoy performing the linguistic stunts of Steven Sondheim’s acrobatic script as they weave in and out of the multi-tiered platforms that make “the woods”. With its own series of twists and turns the musical sometimes feels as though the dialogue is growing exponentially almost of its own accord.

The runaway boy’s imagination in turn runs away with him and brings the audience along for the ride.

The imagined characters climb up hills, trees, Rapunzel’s golden hair and a giant beanstalk to fulfill their fairytale quests: Jack must sell his beloved cow, Little Red Riding Hood is off to deliver tasty delights to grandma and Cinderella yearns to go to the King’s festival. But, as we’re told by the horrid witch (wonderfully played by Hannah Waddingham), life isn’t that simple and multiple quests in a single wood result in a series of comic mix-ups. Little Red Riding Hood enjoys being eaten by the wolf and the Baker’s wife (played by Jenna Russell) has a spontaneous roll in the undergrowth with Prince Charming (who then proceeds to prance off with, “I was brought up to be charming, not sincere”).

One moment in particular moment proved to be a crowd-pleaser: a life-sized  giant peeping through the real-life trees of Regent’s Park was so beautifully conceived that the audience applauded as the monster appeared. The surprise was only compounded when the giant spoke using  Judi Dench’s distinctive voice.

As the fairytales take place within the mind of the runaway boy, an adult audience is relieved of any knee-jerk reaction to dismiss them as juvenile. Instead, we head straight into the woods with the characters and enjoy the adventure.

Into The Woods offers a charming evening of light entertainment in arguably the most beautiful outdoor theatre in England. It runs at 2hours 45mins so be sure to take advantage of the barbeque before dusk… or take along some magic beans.

Into The Woods runs until 11 September. Book tickets here

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Thursday Theatre News: Judi Dench, Ben Barnes, Gemma Arterton, Shakespeare and Five Guys Named Moe Thu, 24 Jun 2010 17:30:11 +0000 Lots of starry names for this week’s London theatre update.

In new show news, Five Guys Named Moe returns to London this autumn, opening at the Theatre Royal Stratford East from September. The award-winning jazz musical is heading back to the venue where it first opened 20 years ago!

And the most toe-tingling news for me this week is the RSC’s announcement that they’re heading back to the Roundhouse later in the year. Bringing back memories of the curious Shakespeare marathon that was The Histories, this time the company are presenting a repertoire of eight plays in 10 weeks, including Romeo And Juliet, Antony And Cleopatra, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and King Lear. RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd says:

“London audiences will be able to see our ensemble in full flight – 44 actors pushing each other to set the bar of their achievements higher. When they touch down at the Roundhouse in our specially built auditorium in November it will mark a significant highpoint, two years into their journey together.”

Brilliant news. (Read Boyd’s quote in full)

Finally, theatreland giveth and taketh away: the incredible All My Sons has extended to October (hurrah!), but the wonderful Oliver! is closing (boo!) in January 2011. Book now if you don’t want to miss out on seeing this fantastic London musical!

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Launch of The British Military Tournament 2010 Mon, 14 Jun 2010 14:00:47 +0000

I was invited to the launch of the much anticipated The British Military Tournament 2010 at London’s Wellington Barracks this morning, and as you would expect it was all performed with military precision!

In a country famed for its pomp and circumstance, it’s surprising there hasn’t been a large-scale military tattoo since the much-loved Royal Tournament was scrapped in 1999.

After being serenaded by the resident military band, I was told this new tournament will bridge that gap.

But it will also go further, taking some of the best acts from the Royal Tournament and incorporating them in an entertaining and insightful story of the British Army’s history. During the two-hour performances at Earls Court, 500 soldiers will perform in the original military uniform of each period including the English Civil War and the Boer War.

There’ll be a live cavalry charge guaranteed to thrill kids and their parents. The show also includes a revival of the most famous act in the Royal Tournament, the field gun run, using exact copies of the original guns.

Celebrities Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry and Dame Judi Dench will also make a contribution to the two performances each day during the weekend of 4 and 5 December 2010.

All funds will go to the ABF Soldier’s Charity (formerly The Army Benevolent Fund).

Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, so… Attention… Quick… March…!

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Your Views: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Rose Theatre, Kingston Tue, 16 Feb 2010 12:36:32 +0000

Last night I joined Peter Hall, Jeremy Paxman, Samuel West* and Melvyn Bragg (among other celebs and lots of happy civilians) in the audience at A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Rose Theatre in Kingston.

This was the opening night of a much-anticipated show, directed by Peter Hall, and starring Judi Dench as Titania, Queen of the Fairies. A winning partnership, Hall and Dench first did this show some 38 years ago.

Played on a dark, black stage with few props, this is a traditional-dress production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with lots of stars in the cast. Diana Rigg’s daughter (Rachael Stirling) plays Helena, one of the lovers, alongside sexy Ben Mansfield from Primeval. Oliver Chris gets lots of laughs as Bottom, and wears the most gorgeous, realistic donkey head we’ve ever seen in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

We asked one of the many families in the audience for their views:

Susan, mum:
I thought it was beautiful. The costumes were wonderful. I’ve never seen it done in traditional dress, and I loved it. I’ve seen it with hippies, or modern, or whatnot, but not in period like this. It’s excellent.

Joe, 12:
I really liked Oliver Chris, the guy from Green Wing, as Bottom. He was really funny.

Hannah, 15:
It was excellent. I really liked all of it, the mechanicals especially. Oberon and Puck were great too.

Peter, dad:
It was fantastic, just as Shakespeare should be done: bare stage, a few props, just the words. You could hear every word, the speaking and acting was fantastic. I’m not sure Judi Dench added much: she just wafted in, spoke beautifully, and wafted out, but it didn’t matter.

I wasn’t sure about having the old Titania either, but she was lovely, and she speaks beautifully. It was a fantastic show.

Have you seen this new A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at the Rose Theatre until 20 March

[*UPDATE:  as pointed out in the comments below, it was Timothy West, not his son Sam I saw in the crowd. Sam was obviously otherwise engaged, on stage, in Enron.]

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Visit London Asks: What Are You Looking Forward to in London in 2010? Mon, 04 Jan 2010 12:16:40 +0000 Vincent Van Gogh, Self Portrait as an Artist, 1888, Van Gogh Museum, AmsterdamHappy New Year! We’re more than excited about the coming 12 months in London. Just look at all the fantastic things coming up in 2010:

Aside from the much-publicised The Real Van Gogh at the Royal Academy, there are lots of treats for art lovers in London this year. There’s a new Henry Moore exhibition in February, portraits by Irving Penn at the National Portrait Gallery, and a Chris Ofili exhibition at Tate Britain.

If you like your art global, you can check out Italian masters and African sculptures at the British Museum, or see contemporary Indian art at the Saatchi Gallery.

London’s dance calendar is typically international for 2010 too: from the Flamenco Festival to Havana Rakatan, to Riverdance: The Farewell Tour and the Imperial Ice Stars, there’s something for everyone.

Crafty types will love the Quilts exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum; if you like Hollywood glamour, look out for the V&A’s Grace Kelly: Style Icon show later in the year.

Theatre fans have a lot of excitement to look forward to this year. There’s:

Head to The O2 for some of London’s most exciting music concerts in 2010; Bon Jovi, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston and Leona Lewis are all playing the mammoth arena this year.

And who isn’t straining at the leash to get into ABBAWorld at Earls Court when it opens on 27 January?!

Check out our London Events Calendar for more exciting London events for 2010. And don’t forget to let us know what you’re most looking forward to in London in 2010 in the comments below!

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Thursday Theatre News: Star-studded Shakespeare, Award Winners and a New Billy Thu, 26 Nov 2009 10:06:13 +0000 The wonderful Judi DenchGreat news this week as my favourite Shakespeare comedy (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is coming to the Rose Theatre next year, featuring one of my favourite actresses (Judi Dench), set in one of my favourite periods of history: the court of Elizabeth I.

But that’s not all. The fantastic Rachael Stirling (she’s Diana Rigg’s daughter, y’know) is playing Helena – the most fun a girl can have in a Shakespeare show without the responsibility and cross-dressing silliness of a Rosalind. Add to that the sexy Ben Mansfield as her love interest Demetrius (he was great at the Open Air Theatre this summer), and Oliver Chris from the Green Wing and Nathan Barley as Bottom, and, well, it’s all pretty exciting.  I’m also looking forward to seeing the ace Msimisi Dlamini (Philostrate) again after enjoying his performance in the Arcola’s Spanish Tragedy this season. And it’s all directed by Peter Hall. *And* tickets start at just £5. What a treat.

In other casting news, I’m happy to learn Mark Rylance and Mackenzie Crook are going to reprise their performances in the West End version of Jerusalem, particularly as the show won some top prizes at the Evening Standard Awards this week. Many of the other original Royal Court cast members are also coming back for the West End move. Even better news: if, like me, you haven’t got around to booking tickets yet, Jerusalem is offering 20 best-price seats at £10 each, available from the box office from 10am on the day of the performance. Bear in mind you’ve got to show up in person.

Speaking in Tongues has been in the news this week as Ian Hart allegedly lost his temper with an audience member. If you were there, tell us about it… If this has made you even more eager to see the show (which also stars the brilliant John Simm and Kerry Fox), book now: you’ve only got until 12 December…

Finally, news about a show which is a long way from posting closing notices: Billy Elliot. Not only have they extended booking until December 2010, but there’s also a new Billy to boot! Dean-Charles Chapman, 12, is no stranger to the show: he played Small Boy in the original cast when Billy Elliot opened in 2005; and has been playing Michael (Billy’s best friend) since the start of the year. Incredibly, he’s been training for Billy for two years. Break a leg, D-C!

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