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Kiss Me, Kate ★★★★ Barbican Centre | Jun 4 - Sep 14, 2024

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Wunderbar! This splendid production of Cole Porter's classic hits all the right notes. The story is simple enough. A company of actors is trying to put on Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew while its two previously divorced stars engage in their own battle of love lost and love won. The most challenging thing here is how do you manage both Porter's musical comedy, and Shakespeare's play, so that they don't offend our contemporary sensibilities about gender roles, and director Bartlett Sher and company manage to do this all quite cleverly. The 1948 story and the original are mildly tweaked, while the jokes still work and the music is, of course, unforgettable. As Fred Graham/Petruchio, Adrian Dunbar displays some excellent comic timing, and for his first major singing role does a fine job in his solo number, "Where Is The Life That Late I Led." As for Stephanie J. Block in the role of Lilli Vanessi/Katherine, one can't say enough. She brings a voice

Three Men in a Boat ★★★★ The Mill at Sonning | Jun 6 - Jul 13, 2024

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Jerome K. Jerome's classic tale of friends undertaking a boat trip on the Thames from Kingston to Oxford is a gentle evocation of the Edwardian era. This is a world of innocent snobbery and foolish affectation that is kindheartedly mocked, while simultaneously being affectionately depicted. It can all seem a little dated, but if one can get into the spirit of things, this is a pleasant escape into a time and place which may have only existed for an elite even during its period. However, the portrait of three friends teasing each other and bickering about their individual foibles rings totally true, and the narrative of their summer sojourn, which stands in stark contrast to the trauma drama and brutally dark humour that accords with contemporary taste, has a definite appeal. This production with its cleverly versatile set by Sean Cavanagh and outstanding performances from James Bradshaw, Sean Rigby and George Watkins proves to be a lovely respite from present realities. All three

Memsaab's Tasting Menu ★★★★ Colonel Saab | 2024

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On Colonel Saab's menu it says "At Home With Colonel Saab." It is certainly true that these culinary creations by Chef Sohan Bhandari celebrate traditional Indian food, but everything on the menu has been elevated with a haute cuisine touch. On this occasion, we decided to try the updated Memsaab's Tasting Menu which consists of five courses and a palate cleanser before the curry course. To begin, my companion and I chose a selection of three types of poppadum with two interesting chutneys. We enjoyed these with lassis, the traditional Indian yogurt drink. The mango lassi had the right balance between sweetness and flavour, and my partner declared that the rosewater flavoured lassi was "perfect." The first menu course was a vegetarian South Indian tomato and lentil rasam served with mini idli and puffed pastry bites. The rasam was a rich and satisfying way to begin, and it had a lovely spiciness which gradually built. As always, the presentation was simply

Summer Exhibition 2024 ★★★★ Royal Academy of Arts | Jun 18 - Aug 18, 2024

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With all the rain this year, how does one know if it's finally summer in London? The only reliable harbinger of the season's return, the Royal Academy of Arts' Summer Exhibition, is back in its 256th iteration. With its eclectic variety of offerings, this largest open exhibition in the world never disappoints, and again this year, there is something for everyone. From abstracts like PRA Rebecca Salter's Untitled JF2 (#504) to the wonderful detail of Melissa Scott-Miller's Self-Portrait Drawing Space In An Islington Back Garden (#641) the breadth and variety of the show is quite stunning. The always popular animal prints are represented in the Large Weston Room, and Graeme Miller's cats on scooters definitely trigger a smile (#360 & #365). As usual, the show has a fair amount of humour and RA Chris Orr's Cargo (#662) and Laura Critchlow's Bored of the Patriarchy (Judith and Holofernes) (#958) offer wry takes on current social issues. For more chal

The Sorcerer ★★★★★ Wilton's Music Hall | June 11 - 15, 2024

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The Sorcerer is the third of Gilbert and Sullivan's collaborations, and while no longer among the most popular of their works, it sets the precedent for many of their musical hallmarks. This latest production by the Charles Court Opera sets the highest standard for revival of the comic piece, wonderfully capturing Gilbert's satirical whimsy and Sullivan's challenging musical tropes. Based on Gilbert's story, An Elixir of Love , the tried-and-true plot deals with the series of mismatches that occur when the well-meaning Alexis, who believes that love and marriage are a panacea for all ills, employs a sorcerer and a love potion to overturn such barriers to happiness as age and class. The cast's broad acting perfectly matches the silliness of the tale, and they seem to be enjoying themselves as much as we are. John Savournin's direction is pitch-perfect to the tone of the fun, and Merry Holden's choreography is simply a delight. It seems almost unfair to singl

The Tailor-Made Man ★★★★ Stage Door Theatre | May 9 - Jul 31, 2024

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Billy Haines was a major movie star in the silent era who managed to continue his success into the age of the talkies, but his film career came to an abrupt end when he clashed with MGM's co-founder, Louis B. Mayer. Haines' refusal to deny his homosexuality and to give up his partner and marry actress, Pola Negri, led Mayer to fire him and to suppress his films. As with any biographical work the playwright's challenge is to get beyond chronology and to find the essence of an individual, exploring how their way of being in the world speaks to an audience. Claudio Macor only partially succeeds in this task. The emphasis on exposition, which has actors stepping out of character to provide the narrative, is awkward and distracts from involvement with the people being portrayed. Macor casts Haines' story as a gay man struggling to lead an authentic life in the face of institutional homophobia, but that political lens on his life isn't really as interesting as the complex

Marie Curie ★★★ Charing Cross Theatre | Jun 1 - Jul 28, 2024

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A Polish immigrant who comes to a new country and makes her way to the top echelon of the male-dominated world of science. A discoverer of two elements and a double Nobel Prize winner. There are many dramatic elements to Marie Skłodowska-Curie's story, plus there is the morally complex question of how scientific discoveries may not only bring benefits, but can also have serious downsides. Curie's discovery of radium with its positive potential, and now obvious dangers, recalls some of the thorny ethical issues considered in the recent science-centred film Oppenheimer . However, while this musical touches on several interesting themes, none of them seem fully developed. This may be simply a limitation of the genre, and perhaps, a musical is not the most effective way of presenting Marie Curie's thought-provoking story. A song celebrating the 'Radium Paradise' actually comes across as considerably more ironic than intended. That said, this evening certainly does have

No Love Songs ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse, Elephant | June 4 - 15, 2024

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Contrary to the suggestion of the title, this show proves to be a very tender love story which deals with the trauma of postnatal depression. Lana and Jessie meet in typical romcom fashion as their eyes lock across a crowded room. However, what follows as they encounter the challenges of parenthood proves to be a harrowing journey. Dealing simultaneously with her emotional rollercoaster after the birth of their son and the demands of his career in music threatens the relationship that started out so full of love and optimism. We are told that postnatal depression is a condition that affects one in five women, and its devastating effects are exposed here with remarkable sensitivity and sincerity. At various points, Lana cites the comfort of journaling as one of the methods for dealing with her condition, and Laura Wilde and Johnny McKnight's book rings with an authenticity that has to come from such a chronicle. Early in the piece, Lana also points out that we all have songs which w

Suite in Three Keys ★★★★★ Orange Tree Theatre | May 24 - Jul 6, 2024

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The trilogy that was Noël Coward's last theatrical work enjoys a well-deserved revival in this impressive production directed by Tom Littler. Three stories, set in the same suite in a luxury hotel in Switzerland, explore some complex and problematic relationships with the wit and insight that is the hallmark of Coward's oeuvre. All three stories explore tense interpersonal entanglements and how pretence and hypocrisy play out in social situations. In each case, the shams are exposed and the truth comes out, but things are never quite as simple as that. In Shadows of the Evening a man's wife and his current mistress conspire to keep the news of his impending death from him, but the piece becomes a thoughtful meditation on how much reality any of us can live with when faced with the inevitability of mortality. In Come into the Garden, Maud , perhaps the weakest of the three, a social-climbing wife seeks to disguise her husband's perceived commonness from her newly cultiv

Discover Degas & Miss La La ★★★★ The National Gallery | Jun 6 - Sep 1, 2024 (Free Entry)

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The celebration of The National Gallery's bicentennial continues with this third show in the Discovery series. Degas' depiction of the circus performer, Miss La La, was acquired by The National Gallery in 1925. Displayed at the fourth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris the oil painting attracted little attention there, remaining in Degas' studio for the next 25 years. This exceptional exhibition focuses not only on the work, but also on its subject. Divided into three sections, the first gallery of the show explores the personal and professional life of Anna Albertine Olga Brown, the mixed-race acrobat, who in her time was possibly more celebrated than Degas himself. The second gallery concentrates on the Cirque Fernando where Miss La La was a star act, and it prepares the viewer for the imaginative display of Degas' masterpiece. When we enter the final gallery, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando  (1879) commands the viewer's attention, and we raise our eyes in awe at

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