Sometimes you just have to take your life savings and splurge it ‘wisely’ on something inspiring, such as three hit West End shows in London, within three days. I did, and it re-awakened my passion for theatre. But more importantly, it provided me with memories I shall never forget. Strangers on a Train (Gielgud Theatre), Twelve Angry Men (Garrick Theatre) and The Duck House (Vaudeville Theatre) were each fascinating in their own way. Why should you watch these plays and what are the highlights?
Strangers on a Train
I would like to start with this one for one simple reason: it is the best play I have seen in my entire life. The cast, the set, the story, the music, the Gielgud theatre, the ending… all aspects are brilliant and breathtaking. Laurence Fox and Jack Huston play the leads and especially the latter gave one of the most interesting and spine-chilling performances you will ever see. When you watch an interview with him, you’ll realise that his mannerisms, accent and way of speaking are immensely different from the character Charles Bruno in the play. One could argue ‘that’s what actors do’, but if you pay close attention you will notice that most actors bring their own real gestures and articulation into each character they play. It takes an amazing talent to completely transform yourself for a play or a movie.
Highlights: The revolving set. I figure there must be about twenty people behind the scenes with ninja stealth skills reorganizing the furniture within record time. But the most impressive: the ending in which, let’s put it this way and not spoil anything, ‘something’ happens and you might want to take a step back if you value your life and eyebrows.
5 out of 5 stars.
Twelve Angry Men
What initially got me to buy a ticket for this star-studded drama in the Garrick Theatre was the fact Nick Moran and Robert Vaughn are in it. I admire their work in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and the British TV Series Hustle. Martin Shaw and Jeff Fahey are also among the cast which consists of thirteen actors, if you include the guard. The whole play takes place within the same jury room. It has to be a very intriguing script to make such a story work, and it does! As New York actor David Calvitto told me after the show: “Twelve monkeys could have performed this play well, because the script is so good!”
Nick Moran confirms this by ‘humbly’ informing me Twelve Angry Men is “The best show in London. Best ensemble British piece of acting you’ll see anywhere, certainly anywhere in London! Probably in all of Europe, I think!” Gotta love him!
Highlights: Nick Moran might have been right! The whole play is a highlight to be frank, but I especially enjoyed and appreciated the convincing performances of Martin Shaw, David Calvitto and Martin Turner. If you, as I do, put the emphasize on the acting when watching a play, movie or series, you will be absolutely delighted with this theatre gem. Because every single one of the actors can be proud of their part in this drama on the West End.
4 out of 5 stars.
The Duck House
Getting the chance to have eye contact with the star of one of your favourite films (Ben Miller played ‘Bough’ in Johnny English), and sitting in the front row is enough reason to buy a ticket for this comedy play at the Vaudeville Theatre. But there is so much more! The witty jokes referring to the scandal with the dodgy receipts of several Members of Parliament were hilarious, despite the fact I’m Dutch and hardly know who is who in British politics. I laughed out loud quite a number of times and the rest of the audience clearly had a marvelous time as well. Incidentally, this was the only play in which the audience actually (though unintentionally) got involved with the actors. The people in the first few rows had to ‘duck’ occasionally to avoid the flower baskets and bits of sandwiches that were accidentally thrown onto the viewers. That only increased the amount of laughter, and no spectators were hurt in the process!
Highlights: Debbie Chazen as the slightly menacing illegal Russian housekeeper was the funniest character of the whole play, but Simon Shepard as the politician with kinky inclinations and stiff upper lip deserves an honourable mention as well. Shame there was no actual duck to be seen though!
3 out of 5 stars.