Handbagged

Handbagged is the West End comedy by the British playwright Moira Buffini. A playful examination of the relationship between Elizabeth II and Margaret Thatcher, it is a widely acclaimed fresh, exciting and intelligent piece of theatre, which moves from comedy slapstick to moments of almost unbearable pathos.

The God of Carnage

The God of Carnage premiered at the Gielgud Theatre, London, in March 2008 and won the Tony Award and Laurence Olivier Award for Best Comedy in 2009. Christopher Hampton’s translation has been praised as a triumph.

The God of Carnage relates an evening in the lives of two couples, who meet to discuss a playground incident between their sons. The four of them agree to discuss the incident civilly, but, as the evening wears on, the cracks show and the polite veneer breaks down. The French entente cordiale collapses and all hell breaks loose.

Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage is a bitter domestic comedy, in which two couples are reduced to squabbling infants.

Gypsy

Gypsy is a 1959 musical loosely based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with “the ultimate show business mother.” It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life.

The show contains many songs that have become popular standards, including “Everything’s Coming up Roses”, “Together (Wherever We Go)”, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”, “Let Me Entertain You” and “All I Need Is the Girl”. The show has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers, and was famously revived in the West End to critical acclaim in 2015 in a production featuring Imelda Staunton as ‘Rose’.

The Vortex

This is the play that turned Noel Coward into a star.

Written by the 24-year-old Coward, with a lead role, Nicky, penned for himself, its scandalous storyline of London Society’s promiscuity shocked many. Nicky, a young musician, returns from a spell savouring the decadence of Paris, with a fiancé in tow and some dubious new habits. In his absence, his socialite mother, Florence, has amused herself with the latest in a succession of lovers half her age. Whilst the partying and sparkling wit continues, it leads inevitably to an emotional showdown between mother and son.

It made Coward not only an overnight sensation but delivered a huge commercial success. It is now recognised as a masterpiece, marrying all of Coward’s trademark wit and trenchant one-liners with a powerful emotional vortex.

Temple Review – by Peter McGarry

Conflict lies at the heart of all drama and it comes in many forms.

This remarkable play looks at conflict in the context of conscience and how it decides or dictates a person’s decisions and deeds.

It fictionalises what could have taken place behind the scenes of a real event – the 2011  occupation by austerity protestors which actually caused the closure of St Paul’s Cathedral. But this is not so much about that flag-waving gesture as the mental turmoil inflicted on the clergy hierarchy indoors. As such it’s a daring and courageous piece of theatre for a local company to tackle.

The skill of this fine Loft production is its ability to examine what could be seen as a word-heavy script by maximising its potency as powerful theatre coupled with flashes of delightful humour.

There are no pat answers to the problems facing the Dean, the Bishop and the Canon Chancellor. Sue Moore’s subtle direction and a splendid set of actors enable us to understand their frustrations. Although the protest issue is not even concerned with religion, the unanswerable question revolves around which side deserves the true moral right of resolution.

The agony of the dilemma is revealed in another stunning performance by Phil Reynolds whose Dean readily admits his own lack of leadership flair but holds fast to his self-belief. Battering at his sensibility are Michael Barker’s strongly rebellious Canon Chancellor and Jeremy Heynes’s fluffy, old-school Bishop.

These characters are vividly brought to life, along with others inextricably caught in the crossfire and delivered in style by Kate Willis and Cathryn Bowler.

On the fringe of the clergy clashes, there is delicious work from Elizabeth Morris whose portrayal of an eager-to-please PA prompts memories of the great Joyce Grenfell.  And Richard Moore’s stately Chapter House set design stamps its authority with lasting effect.

We might never know what actually went on behind those closed clergy doors. But this interpretation offers very digestible food for thought.

Peter McGarry