Northanger Abbey (Orange Tree, Richmond and Tours)
Verdict: Slow-motion mess
Jane Austen died in 1817, shortly before her early novel Northanger Abbey was finally published.
Now she can perhaps be forgiven for dying again, thanks to the slow-motion jumble of Zoe Cooper's stage adaptation, which tours to Bolton, Scarborough and Keswick after its Richmond premiere.
It's probably to be expected that Cooper has given a clever lesbian twist to the story of Austen's heroine Catherine, a young vicar's daughter who is determined to turn her fantasies from gothic melodrama into reality.
And there are the inevitable swipes at patriarchy, which are more or less consistent with Austen's view of the world.
But Cooper could have at least just moved on. Instead, the first 45 minutes of her script (and Tessa Walker's two-and-a-half hour production) are taken up with a caricatured depiction of Cath's tomboy childhood in…Yorkshire (she moved there from Wiltshire, perhaps to accommodate audiences on the northern leg of the tour) .
Rebecca Banatvala portrays Catherine Morland (Cath)
AK Golding portrays Isabella Thorpe (Iz)
Sam Newton plays Henry Tilney (Hen)
The entire cast was on stage together for the performance of Northanger Abbey
When Cath – as we now have to call her – actually makes it to the balls in Bath, mingles with high society and falls in love with gold-digger sapphist Isabella (“Iz”), we finally have some drama to deal with can.
There is also an upsurge in acting that leaves the burlesque aside and moves towards the more sophisticated tricks of Austen's wit.
However, Walker's production fails to immerse us in Cath's gothic fantasies, instead allowing Hannah Sibai's design to present a floor-to-ceiling, shocking pink (in case we didn't catch that it's a “queer” interpretation). ).
Still, all three actors have their moments. Rebecca Banatvala is a spirited Katharina.
Sam Newton plays multiple roles, including Cath's boring fiancé who doubles as the straight Bart.
And there's some of Fiona Shaw's haughtiness in AK Golding's Iz, a commanding high-end lesbian with a cash dividend on her mind.
If they had just focused on that, maybe it would have been more fun. Anyway, it takes another title to acknowledge that they rode through Austen's original by carriage and horses. The designation “Wuthering Abbey” or “Northanger Heights” could also recognize Cath's move to Bronte country.
The Most Precious of All Goods (Marylebone Theater)
Verdict: Healing fable
The Nazi Holocaust obviously does not lend itself to folk tale treatment. We tend to think of these stories as bedtime stories, not as records of unimaginable horror.
And yet Samantha Spiro's reading of Jean-Claude Grumberg's novella, written in the style of a children's fable, is a heartwarming vision of redemption on the occasion of tomorrow's International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Samantha Spiro reads the novella by Jean-Claude Grumberg
Samantha Spiro and cellist Gemma Rosefield
“The Most Precious Of Goods” was translated from French by director Nicolas Kent and performed with cello music by Gemma Rosefield. “The Most Precious Of Goods” is about an old woodcutter's wife who saves a starving baby after it is thrown into the snow by its distraught father. . . of a train on the way to a concentration camp.
The story's message – all you need is love – is a little trite, but the healing and transformative power of folk tales cannot be underestimated.
As I sat in a large wingback chair, Spiro's reading reminded me of Jackanory on children's television many years ago. But she also cultivates the tender moments of history that become the seeds of redemption.
Kent's production is respectful and solemn, and Rosefield's cello adds longing to passages from Bach and Chopin.
Cruel Intentions, The 90s Musical (The Other Palace, London)
Verdict: Strangely irresistible
By Georgina Brown
The vice is nicer, the cruelty is more casual, and there's not a hint of steam in this hilarious jukebox musical version of the 1999 cult film Cruel Intentions, which gleefully denigrates political correctness.
Generation Z will be horrified. Fans won't be disappointed. The original script is literally executed perfectly, albeit this time with a wink rather than tongue in mouth, retaining every ambiguity, including the infamous line: “You can put it anywhere.”
Even our anti-hero Sebastian's powerful butt gets a ride. As is the opening number “Every You, Every Me”; and Bitter Sweet Symphony, which closes everything out.
Since popular numbers from the 90s, including “Wannabe,” “Colorblind” and “Kiss Me,” are also included in various variations (sometimes with crowbars), there’s plenty to sing about. It's a deliciously nostalgic trip down memory lane.
Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky and Daniel Bravo
Craig Watson, Verity Thompson, Jess Buckby, Barney Wilkinson and Nickolia King-N'Da
Cruel Intentions, the musical of the 90s. Verdict: Strangely irresistible
The laugh-out-loud film updated the novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” about corrupt, cynical aristocracy in fin-de-siècle Paris, and set it in an Upper East Side high school where entitled brats have lots of sex; Mostly it's transactional screwing up, but it's also screwing up others.
Staged on a circle of black and white marble tiles with only a gilded chaise longue for sex and choreography as exciting as a dance class routine, it's more impactful than inspiring.
But it's smooth and wonderfully unpretentious, driven by the great songs and powerful voices.
The role of the vengeful vampire who snorts cocaine from her crucifix (played in the film by Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) is superbly taken on by the seductive, showy Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky, who plays every note of “Genie In A.” Bottle” performs.
A good match for her is Daniel Bravo (nice name), her shy stepbrother Sebastian, whom she recruits to put the icing on the cake for the chaste Abbie Budden's Annette (Reese Witherspoon in the film).
She didn't expect them to fall in love. Then Sebastian has to decide what type of man he wants to be. Keyword: I'm losing my religion.
Resistance is hopeless.