The 1st 5 minutes. Writer, Producer and Director Nick Hennegan spends 5 minutes telling you about how to take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022. — Comment here if you have any questions – or send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bohemianbritain/message
This week Nick Hennegan celebrates the annual Dylan Thomas Day, with a reading from the man himself and Thomas inspired music from Cerys Matthews. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bohemianbritain/message
Nick Hennegan is writing in Wales, bumping into a Craft Beer House in Aberystwyth and sharing holiday stories with Dylan Thomas! ‘Literary London’ on Resonance 104.4fm. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bohemianbritain/message
On the Bard’s Birthday, Nick Hennegan presents a tapestry of Shakespeare happenings, from famous speeches by John Gielgud and Sir Laurence Olivier, to modern music from the ‘Shakespeare In Love‘ movie and Hennegan’s own ‘Hamlet – Horatio’s Tale’, by Robb Williams. On Resonance 104.4fm and BohemianBritain.com — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bohemianbritain/message
Scandaltown, Lyric Hammersmith, London.
Wine Glass (Champagne?) Rating…. 🍷🍷🍷🍷 (4 out of 5)
Aren’t these interesting times! Post lockdown, it feels like life is returning to normal. A bit like it might have been in the Restoration! Back then, the restoration of the Monarchy and a change of policy meant theatre was allowed to return once more. And now, after the lockdown, theatre is returning again.
Scandaltown is a brave and brilliant move to try and create a satire with our culture-war-infected British politics that pretty effectively sends up itself. It takes even more guts to do it in the style of a Restoration comedy, full of crossdressing, courtly language and creaking corsets.
I’ve not seen Mike Bartlett’s Cock. Apparently his Cock is in the West End. (Sorry. But it HAD to be said, didn’t it!) But I’d quite like to see his Cock after this experience! (Again… Matron!)
The plot is deliberately and brilliantly nonsensical: Phoebe Virtue (a great performance from the delightfully mannered Cecilia Appiah) is, as her name suggests, a pure-hearted member of Gen Z who is concerned for her twin brother Jack (Matthew Broome). He turns against fellow millennials and their “tyranny of virtue” to become something of a Byronic rake and heads to That London. The capital, just emerging from “a plague”, is a hedonistic, cynical place.
So she goes there, disguised as a man, to spy on him and save him from the mire of sex, drugs, and right-wing attitudes into which she fears he’s sunk.
Meanwhile, Lady Climber (a brilliantly funny Rachael Stirling) is trying to launch a political career in a world where getting cancelled is the surest way to land a telly breakfast show! Their stories collide at the Netflix masked ball, where identities are muddled and queer confusion abounds. It’s a bit like a panto but with more sex and politics. Alongside controversialist Lady Climber there’s Dennis Hedge, a working-class entrepreneur made good, caricatured Tory MP Matt Eton, and a smug TV exec, Rosalind Double-Budget (“DOO-blay BOO-zhay,” she corrects), whose virginal son wants to be the new Ken Loach. The rest of the younger guard are represented by a PR consultant with an axe to grind, an anti-capitalist waitress and a gay flatmate whose name, Freddie Peripheral, sets up a long-running gag.
Bartlett provides ample opportunity for baby boomers to smugly laugh at the foibles of their Gen Z kids, with swipes at eco-hypocrisy and moral puritanism. And he brilliantly takes aim at the ugliness of a government that horribly mismanaged the pandemic while treating the public like easily-distracted toddlers.
Scandaltown is a lot of fun and Bartlett has a knack for verse. He turns out Restoration-inspired insults like ‘quivering millennial quim’ for his characters to chuck at each other. There’s something really smart too about the way that the Regency obsession with virginity works with today’s quest for moral purity. Virtuous young Phoebe trembles in horror at the thought of buying something on Amazon! And it’s full of other nice gags too. Lady Climber is so posh she has a butler to swipe on Tindr for her.
There are some great performances, choreography and set, but it sags a bit after the interval and perhaps Rachel O’Riordan’s production is, if anything, a bit too ‘professional’; a bit too clean… it never descends into the level of boisterous mayhem this kind of satire perhaps really needs.
But it’s a great night out. And full chops to the Lyric Hammersmith in London for arranging free tickets for local residents and workers. That’s a huge statement worthy of Scandaltown in these cost-of-living-crisis times.
It’s a bit of radio history and I’ve not heard this since 1989 until this week! I presented the very last show on the ‘old’ BRMB Radio, one of the original ‘Big 5’ independent commercial local radio stations in the UK, broadcasting on both am and fm. This was the last show before the frequencies split. It caused trouble at the local prison, as the inmates were not allowed fm radios. They would write to me with requests for loved ones on a late night Saturday show called ‘Romantica’ I’d started a year or so earlier and listen to it on am radios which they were allowed to have!
Thanks to Aircheck Downloads for finding this. And the Brummie radio listeners who pointed this out to me. I think this would have been a copy of an old ‘snoop’ tape. It was a cassette machine in the studio and the recorder switched on as soon as we opened the mic. So the bosses could listen to what we were saying at their leisure!
After BRMB, I went on to work at BBC Radio WM before leaving radio to do something more secure. Theatre! I wrote my first play, Henry V – Lion of England in 1992. Jasper Carrott’s then management, Starward, took us to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which gave me the idea for Maverick Theatre. Although, as you may know, I didn’t completely give up on radio. My weekly show, Literary London on Resonance 104.4fm continues and was voted the Number 2 Bohemian Podcast to follow in the world! Which is why, tongue in cheek, I renamed this site Bohemian Britain.
After the UK Government loosened the ownership rules over the years, commercial businesses moved in and through various groupings, then buying and selling of stations, BRMB is now known as Free Radio. Xtra-am is now known as Gold. Oh, and Old Brian in Hall Green is still one of my best mates!
The original Fringe space – and the first home of the Soho Theatre – that allowed some famous writers, directors and actors to cut their teeth, celebrates its 50th anniversary – by reopening after being abandoned for years! Nick Hennegan went to find out what’s happening for Resonance 104.4fm and BohemianBritain.com — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/bohemianbritain/message
It’s a big, bombastic, futuristic and vibrant Messina is this latest ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ from the R.S.C. There is a merry war ‘twixt Beatrice and Benedick and here it’s often very merry. The locals and returning soldiers have a beautiful sci-if, EuroAfrican flavour and, as is usually the case at the R.S.C, stunning costumes, set, music and choreography. It’s a talented team, directed by Roy Alexander Weiss.
It’s not perfect though. Occasionally some of the (already light) narrative lacks focus and there are occasional problems with diction, which you don’t expect from a company with such a huge creative talent pool. But there are some outstanding performances. Akita Henry is a mesmerising, mischievous Beatrice and more than a match for Luke Wilson’s more measured Benedick.
Overall though it feels magnificently playful and modern and I could watch the stylised movement and choreography all day! And I will be able to soon. And so will you! The reason I only watched the first half of Much Ado is that I’ve been in Stratford on Avon for a workshop – ‘Digitising Theatre.’ I was lucky enough to be selected by the Arts Council of England and Screenskills to attend this event, designed to provoke creative thoughts about filming, capturing and adapting theatre productions digitally. It’s given me some new skills (yep, even at my age!) and some new ideas on what I might do with MY Shakespeare adaptations and variations and other works. And the filming in the RST of Much Ado was our ‘case study’! So I shall see the second half of Much Ado About Nothing when it is aired on BBC 4 later this year. And rather than watch the second half, I used the time instead to sit in the Dirty Duck Pub in Stratford to write this (with a pint, of course). It’s great that you’ll be able to see the show for free, thanks to our B.B.C. And you should. It’s another triumph for our R.S.C!
Wine Glass Rating…. 🍷🍷🍷🍷 (4 out of 5)