Ryan Molloy live at the Electric Carousel – 29th August 2015

30 Aug

Ryan Molloy’s long-awaited first public appearance after starring as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys on Broadway took him to the Electric Carousel, an intimate concert venue in Central London. Advertised as “The New Jersey Songbook” the evening turned out to be a diverse journey through the music history of Jersey – from Frank Sinatra to Ben E. King to The Isley Brothers right to the hits of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons Ryan treated his audience to a collection of some of the finest songs that were ever written.

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The special thing about Ryan is his ability to give every song a completely unique touch. You may have heard all of them a thousand times by various artists but you will always discover something new when you listen to Ryan’s take on them. And while there is no question that Ryan Molloy has one of the best voices in the business he also knows how to entertain and engage his fans making all of them feel part of the evening.

RyanMolloyLive1A

As expected Frankie Valli / Four Seasons’ hits like “Can’t take my eyes of you” and “Beggin'” proved to be favorites amongst the audience along with a mini reunion for which Ryan was joined on stage by former Jersey Boys Matthew Wycliffe, Eugene McCoy and Chris Gardner singing “Who loves you”, “Oh what a night” and a Jersey Boys Medley.

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But it was the tender “Stand by me” (Ben E. King) and the powerful “This old heart of mine” (The Isley Brothers) that stood out for me. Here Ryan really showed that he is not just “the guy who sings Frankie Valli”.

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Those songs might be what he is best known for but over the years Ryan has proven that he can sing anything from Frankie Valli to modern-day Rock, Pop and Funk. And this concert at the Electric Carousel proved that he is just as comfortable singing a whole collection of classic hits that have their origin in Jersey.

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I could keep on praising the undeniable talent of Ryan Molloy for hours but instead I am going to let music speak. Below are some videos from last nights’ concert. Watch, listen and enjoy.

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Check out ryanmolloy.com for all the latest info about upcoming appearances and get in touch with Ryan on Facebook and Twitter @molloyofficial .





Bakkhai at the Almeida Theatre – 22nd August 2015

25 Aug

Written by Athenian playwright Euripides Bakkhai is a Greek tragedy and deals with the two sides of man’s nature. In the play the rational side is represented by Pentheus, the king of Thebes while Dionysus represents the instinctive side.

Ben Whishaw shines in this production that goes by the traditional Greek practice of having three main actors play multiple roles. His Dionysus enters the stage and addresses the audience: “How do I look? Convincingly human?” From that moment on Ben Whishaw puts the audience under a spell with his brooding aura. He has an almost androgynous appearance – a delicate grace that is mesmerising to watch. At times he seems to be possessed, storming across the stage in rage. The next moment his expression resembles that of a cheeky little boy. It’s that contrast between innocence and pure fury that makes his performance so gripping to watch.

Bakkhai Whishaw

Bertie Carvel is just as convincing playing Pentheus. Dressed in a business suit he imposes political arrogance. His interaction with Ben Whishaw’s Dionysus is passionate and drives the play forward. Audience members who have seen Bertie Carvel in Matilda might experience a slight déjà vu towards the end of the play. Some might say he looks too comfortable dressed up in women’s clothing but personally I think this just adds to Pentheus self-assurance. He is absolutely sure about himself, his values, decisions and ideas and not even women’s clothing can change that.

Bakkhai Carvell

Kevin Harvey joins Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel but does not get the opportunity to stand out. The pure stage presence of Whishaw and Carvel alone is enough to command the audience’s attention and Harvey’s roles are simply too small to make a proper impact.

Bakkhai is one of the greatest Greek tragedies and being performed in a traditional way this production also features an all-female, all-singing chorus. And while their harmonies are impressive the action grinds to a halt whenever the chorus appears. As beautiful as the singing is it becomes tiresome after a while. One single sentence from Ben Whishaw’s Dionysus spoken with terrifying assurance and command leaves more impact than a five-minute chorus interlude.

Bakkhai Chorus

This production without a doubt centres around its two “stars” who unleash a tour de force on stage. Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel are what makes this production truly interesting to watch. These are two of the best stage actors of our generation at work and it is a joy to see them in such an intimate venue bringing Bakkhai to life.

Bakkhai

Bakkhai runs at the Almeida Theatre until 19th September. For more info and to book tickets click here.

Three Days in the Country – understudy run at the National Theatre

15 Aug

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the understudy run of Turgenev’s Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre. Originally called A Month in the Country the play used to have a running time of about four hours and risked losing the audience’s attention half way through. After being renamed and cut to about half its original length Turgenev’s play is now a diverting journey into the 19th century Russian countryside.

The story revolves around Natalya and her ward Vera who both fall in love with the handsome new tutor. Add Natalya’s husband Arkady, her watchful unrequited lover Rakitin, Vera’s old and always terrified suitor Bolshintsov and Katya who is head over heels in love the the tutor too even though she is engaged to be married and you have more than just a simple love triangle. It’s a slightly chaotic but always gripping and entertaining comedy.

Lynn Farleigh as Anna, John Light as Arkady, Amanda Drew as Natalya, Mark Gatiss as Shpigelsky, Cherrelle Skeete as Katya.

At this performance the role of Belyaev, the slightly self-possessed tutor, was played by Mateo Oxley. Even though it is not the most prominent and wordy part in the play Mateo managed to stand out whenever he was on stage. He brought witt and a boyish charm to the role that made it easy to understand why women of all ages would fall for the young tutor.

Mateo Oxley

Mateo Oxley

Paige Carter was a wonderfully feisty Vera who made the transition from teenager to wife to be in just three days look believable.

A special mention has to go to Mark Extance who took on the part of the bitter and completely unromantic country doctor Shpigelsky usually played by Mark Gatiss. His marriage proposal to the governess alone was pure comedy gold.

One more special menton for John Light who joined in as Arkady in act two and made me consider watching the play again with the complete first cast just so I could see his full take on Natalya’s stocky husband.

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The set of this production is minimalistic yet effective. There is a huge Russian painting as backdrop, a few walls and doors and some furniture. The sides of the stage are left bare leaving a clear view of the ropes of the fly tower. It’s a refreshingly bare setting for a play full of characters who love to self-dramatise.

Watching this understudy run once again made me realise what a huge amount of talent can be found on London’s stages. You would never have guessed some of the people on stage were playing their parts for the very first time. I was especially impressed by Mateo Oxley. I have followed his career ever since I saw him in The Drowned Man and it’s wondeful to see how he has developed. Keep an eye out for this talented young man. I predict we will see more of him in the years to come.

Three Days in the Country continues at the National Theatre until 21st October. For more info go to http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/three-days-in-the-country

Follow Mateo Oxley on Twitter @Mateo_Oxley or find him on Facebook.

A day in the life of Chowsie – The Diva Dog

12 Aug

Ever wondered what it’s like backstage when you’re a West End star? What about if you’re a West End star who is also a dog?!

The secret star of Gypsy

The secret star of Gypsy

Gypsy’s Nessie (who plays ‘Chowsie’) has given exclusive backstage access to her life treading the boards at the Savoy Theatre.
Chauffeur driven Rolls Royce? Check. Valet service? Check. Olivier & BAFTA winning actress looking out for your every need? TRIPLE CHECK.

A theatrical dog’s life really isn’t all that bad!

Find Gypsy on Twitter @GypsyMusicalLDN and Facebook.
To book tickets visit http://gypsythemusical.uk/

Jersey Boys at the Piccadilly Theatre – 8th August 2015

11 Aug

Some might remember the last time I watched Jersey Boys in the West End. It was 14 months ago and I left the theatre rather disappointed. The show I had been supporting for six years was lacking something and I just didn’t enjoy it anymore. I decided to take a break back then and I stuck to it (apart from one visit to the Broadway production last September).

But on Saturday I found myself taking my seat in the Piccadilly Theatre for the first time since that not so enjoyable performance in May 2014. Normally I don’t review a show again and again but I feel like I have to make it up to the show because it is such a vital part of my theatre going past in the West End and I don’t want my last words about it in this blog to be “It is no fun anymore”.

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So, just like last time Sandy Moffat was on for Frankie Valli. I admit I was worried because I just didn’t like his performance the first time I saw him. But it really needs to be said: Sandy has grown so much over the past months. His Frankie is well-defined and his vocals are good. He looks at ease on stage and handles the big numbers in the show well. He is not the most charismatic or unique Frankie but he fits in perfectly with the rest of the cast and delivers a great performance.

Ben Wheeler’s Tommy De Vito (understudying Jon Boydon) is just as outstanding and wonderful to watch as ever. He has been with the show from the very start and it is a joy to see how much effort he is putting into his performance. As a repeat visitor you will find little nuances that are one hundred percent unique for Ben’s Tommy. As a first time visitor you will see a perfectly balanced portrayal and one hundred percent commitment to the role.

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Edd Post is still in the show playing Bob Gaudio and he does so with a cheeky charm and great vocals. His Bob Gaudio goes from insecure young boy to “Bobby Businessman” in a convincing way – it’s a very slick and professional performance. And despite having been with the show for years Edd’s portrayal feels fresh and full of life.

Gary Watson has joined the cast as Nick Massi in March. I have seen Gary in a few productions over the years (from Saturday Night Fever to A Chorus Line and Fings aint what they used t’be) and he always struck me as a great singer, actor and dancer. In Jersey Boys the acting part is what it is most about and I was curious to see how a rather boyish looking Nick would work in the show. First of all, I am not easily pleased when it comes to Nick. So far only two actors have managed to convince me with their portrayal (Philip Bulcock and Mark Isherwood). Gary’s performance is solid and I can’t fault his portrayal as a whole. I’m not sure I like his intonation though. His voice seemed unnaturally deep and his Nick speaks with a strange slur that doesn’t do anything for me (apart from making me think Nick might have more than just a taste for alcohol). He leaves every single one of his sentence open which means some of Nick’s very on point one liners don’t come across as well as they should. But all in all I think Gary is a good addition to the cast. I have heard people praise his performance which is great – it doesn’t matter I’m not one hundred percent sure about his portrayal if the paying public enjoys seeing his take on the part.

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I’m not going to mention every single member of the current cast but I have to name a few more. Simon Adkins has returned to the show as Bob Crewe. There really are no words for how much I’ve missed him in Jersey Boys. In my eyes Simon is the ultimate Bob Crewe. No other performer has ever come close to his portrayal. In short: I am over the moon to have him back in the show.

Mark Isherwood’s Joey Pesci (understudying Matt Thorpe) is a pure delight to watch. He might not be the perfect fit for Joey but the fact he pulls of such a great performance nevertheless just shows what a great actor he is.

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Last not least: Matthew Hunt’s Gyp de Carlo (understudying Matthew Cutts). At first I thought he might be too young but I was definitely wrong. He oozes authority on that stage and just makes it work. He delivers a very impressive performance and is definitely my favourite new face in Jersey.

The rest of the cast does a good job. The show is in great shape which makes me happy. I will never be a dedicated return visitor again – those days are behind me now. But it’s good to know that I can pay my former second home a visit now and then and be sure I will have fun and leave the theatre with a smile on my face.

Jersey Boys continues at the Piccadilly Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://jerseyboyslondon.com/

RED – A new work by Mischief

1 Aug

Dancing has always been one of my favourite things to watch. I’m not into classical ballet but I adore contemporary dance. Over the past one and a half years I have been paying more attention to dance companies in the UK (there are so many – I had no idea before I started looking properly) and now and then one sticks out. One of those companies is Mischief who are currently developing a new dance piece called RED.

RED explores the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood and Dante’s Inferno and is being directed and choreographed by David Lloyd.

“Told through the character of the M.C. the story follows a relationship between RED and the wolf, passionate and intense. Through the change of season the two become consumed by the nature around them drawing the male to become animalistic, controlling, manipulative and the women to become victim, fragile, lost. RED descends into madness as the male transition from boy to wolf devouring her every move. In one last attempt to save her life RED battles the wolf for her territory, axing the wolf to death. BUT did the wolf actually exist or is RED playing both roles?” (taken from Mischief’s sharing website)

Company members for RED are Darragh Butterworth as WOLF, Vinicius Salles as THE M.C / DEVIL and Miranda Mac Letten as RED.

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES "MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost." (Canto 1 - INFERNO - THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES
“MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
(Canto 1 – INFERNO – THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

Mischief has been sharing the development of RED via live stream over the past weeks. Please do yourself a favour and take a look at the recorded sharing of the past two weeks here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mischief-company-sharing

Right from the start I noticed that this is a show with a proper and clear storyline. Lets be honest, dance pieces have  the tendency to not be very accessible unless you are a) familiar with the material or b) experienced in the world of dance theatre. RED is very much still in development and everything that has been shared is just a rough first look at what will be the finished show. But everything I’ve seen so far has proven that RED is going to be an exciting new dance piece – it’s funny and scary and it will move you to the core.

"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"  "All the better to hear you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"  "All the better to see you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"  "All the better to grab you with!"  "Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!"  "All the better to eat you with!"   (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - Little Red Riding Hood)

“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“All the better to grab you with!”
“Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!”
“All the better to eat you with!”
(Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Little Red Riding Hood)

RED is driven by a gripping plot told through dancing and acting. The three dancers are beyond talented and really bring the characters to life. I’ve been particularly impressed by the often raw physicality of the choreography. Combine this with a clever set and great music and you’ve got a mesmerising show.

Dance theatre rarely gets the same amount of support as musical theatre. And as much as I like my musicals (and I know most of the people reading this do too) I really urge everyone to keep an eye out for all the exciting dance pieces that are being performed at venues across the UK.

'A gentleman is simply a patient wolf' Lana Turner

‘A gentleman is simply a patient wolf’
Lana Turner

As for RED – take a look at the recorded sharing and if you like what you see please show your support. You can find Mischief on Facebook and Twitter @Companymischief . Do get in touch and share your thoughts on RED. The Mischief guys are really nice people and would love to hear from you.

And please spread the word and keep an eye out for all the exciting things to come. It’s not every day you get the chance to see a brilliant dance piece being developed right before your eyes.

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Jesus Christ Superstar – UK Tour (Leeds)

29 Jul

I’m not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber shows in general. It’s not that I properly dislike them, they just rarely appeal to me. There is one exception though. I adore the score of Jesus Christ Superstar. And if done well I think the show is a truly magnificent piece of musical theatre.

Jesus Christ Superstar is currently on tour in the UK led by Glenn Carter as Jesus. He has portrayed the role in the West End and on Broadway and also features on the Jesus Christ Superstar video (I’m guessing there is a DVD version but I actually do own it in good old VHS format). I can’t fault his singing and acting in this production. He does well with what he’s been given by the director. He is not the best Jesus I have seen but I was pleasantly surprised by his portrayal. There is no denying that he doesn’t fit the role age wise though.

Tim Rodgers is a strong Judas and the highlight of this production in my eyes. He has a great voice and manages to bring across just the right mix of anger, passion and despair.

Rachel Adedeji was off on the night I saw the show and I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember the name of the understudy – the one time I don’t buy a programme this happens, that will teach me. If anyone can help me out I would be grateful because whoever was on for Mary Magdalene was quite simply wonderful: Beautiful clear singing voice and great stage presence, a joy to watch.

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The rest of the cast does a good job – special mention for Cavin Cornwall as Caiaphas and Alistar Lee as Annas whose performances are particularly memorable in this production.

When it comes to the score you can’t really go wrong with Jesus Christ Superstar. The staging and direction however is a different matter. My favourite production so far was a modern staging of the show in St. Gallen / Switzerland a good 13 years ago (think Caiaphas in a black suit and Judas dressed all black with a tight shirt and biker boots). This production is a traditional take on the show which is absolutely fine. What – in my opinion – is not fine is the fact that the crucifixion is stretched to unbearable length. You get to witness every nail in the hands and feet in what feels like slow motion all with Jesus screaming and moaning in agony. For me this was painful to watch and completely unnecessary for the narrative. This combined with the fact that the end of the show and the finale have been set up as a kind of resurrection scene are major flaws of this production if you ask me. It’s too much sensationalism followed by too much kitsch.

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But despite some let downs I enjoyed the show. It’s great to hear the score live and here you get a talented cast who really manages to do the songs justice.

Jesus Christ Superstar continues to tour the UK until 5th December. For more info and to boo tickets go to http://www.kenwright.com/index.php?id=1433

Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre – 11th July 2015

28 Jul

Have you ever sat in an auditorium watching a show realising you are witnessing a performance that will go down in theatre history? It’s very rare but when it happens it makes for a truly sensational experience full of wonder, astonishment and joy.

If you want to know what the above feels like all you have to do is go and watch Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre. The show opened in Chichester to rave reviews and continues to wow audiences night after night ever since it transferred to London.

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Leading the cast is Imelda Stanton as Rose. This may sound very cliché but there really are not enough superlatives to describe her performance. Imelda Stanton does not play Rose, she becomes Rose. And she does so with an amazing intensity. The moment she appears in the auditorium making her way to the stage Imelda Stanton is THERE. She truly acts and sings her heart out – with Imelda Stanton you don’t get 99%, it’s 100% from start to finish. Her Rose is feisty and calm, loud and quiet, sad and happy, angry and funny – it’s a full on rollercoaster of emotions mixed with great singing and the most tremendous stage presence you can think of.

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Lara Pulver shines as Louise and makes this production all the more memorable. Louise’s transition throughout the show is stunning to watch and Lara Pulver’s portrayal is charming and truthful.

Peter Davidson is a convincing Herbie even though he sometimes struggles to keep up with the acting force that is Imelda Stanton. A special mention for Dan Burton’s wonderful Tulsa. His „All I need is the girl“ is yet another highlight in this show. Not only is he a brilliant dancer, he also shows off great acting skills and a marvellous singing voice. A true triple threat.

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The rest of the cast are without exception outstanding. There is no weak link and it is a joy to watch such a talented group of people perform together.

Combine a fantastic cast with a great score, well done choreography and a beautiful set and you have a remarkable show that will stay in your head for weeks to come.

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If there ever was a must see musical in the West End – this is it! Or in other words: It really is Rose’s turn.

Gypsy is playing at the Savoy Theatre until 28th November. For more info and to book tickets visit: http://www.gypsythemusical.uk/

A personal message

17 Jul

I was planning to post several reviews this week catching up with all the shows I saw on my last trip to London and Leeds. However, on Monday I received a message that put a stop to those plans. At the end of last week a friend of mine sadly passed away unexpectedly.

Brian was a kind and funny man. He travelled all the way from Colorado to watch The Drowned Man in London again and again (my trips from Germany were nothing compared to his efforts to see the show!). I only saw him a couple of weeks ago on my last trip to New York. It seems unreal that I will never wait in the queue with him again pre Sleep No more, never have a post show drink in the Manderley with him again, never meet up for brunch at The Heath on a Sunday again.
He was such a vital part of the Punchdrunk community sharing his experiences in (sometimes insanely detailed) show write ups. Everyone who spoke to Brian about The Drowned Man or Sleep No More would notice how his eyes lit up when he talked about his favourite characters and performers. He once said Punchdrunk completely changed his outlook on life.

You can find Brian’s show reports in his blog: http://shuttersopen.tumblr.com/. Read them even if you have no connection to the shows. Brian’s passion and enthusiasm for the things he loved most is infectious.

I’ve decided to talk about this on here because a donation page has been set up in Brian’s memory. Every pound goes directly to Punchdrunk and so helps to support future projects that hopefully will have just as much of an impact on others as The Drowned Man and Sleep No More had on Brian.

Please take a look, give if you can or just think of Brian for a minute and share. We want the memory of Brian to live on through his love for Punchdrunk.

http://rememberingbrian.tumblr.com/

The Elephant Man at Theatre Royal Haymarket, July 9th 2015

13 Jul

If one gets the chance to see Bradley Cooper on stage in what is supposed to be the performance of a lifetime (which is what some people have been telling me) one does not say no to such an opportunity.

The Elephant Man tells the story of John Merrick who lived towards the end of the Victorian era and was abandoned by his mother because she was horrified by his disfigurement. Like probably many others I had heard of John Merrick through the well-known David Lynch movie.

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Unlike in the movie there are no prosthetics, false hunchback or any kind of make-up used in this play to portray the truly unusual appearance of John Merrick. Bradley Cooper becomes the Elephant Man simply by movement and voice. In what I found to be the most impressive scene in the play he transforms himself into John Merrick by twisting his face and body in what must be an almost unbearable pose.

And it’s Bradley Cooper that makes this play worth watching. His performance is touching and unshowy and relies on subtleties. Together with Alessando Nivola as Frederick Treves he carries the play that is let down by a rather weak book and some mediocre supporting performances.

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Bradley Cooper does a marvelous job in introducing John Merrick’s personality – his interest in people, his desire to be loved and his witty sense of humour. It’s this look into John Merrick’s mind that I enjoyed the most. Seeing the actual man behind the Elephant Man who wants but will never be able to be like everyone else and who discovers everything Frederick Treves introduces him to with an almost childlike curiosity.

I was disappointed by Patricia Clarkson’s performance as Mrs. Kendall, the high society actress who befriends Merrick. Instead of being tough and amusing I found her to be stiff and strangely otherworldly.

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Personally I think this play would have worked better as a 90 minutes piece without interval. Stretching it to one hour and 40 minutes with an interval causes some uncomfortable pauses and kills the dramatic pace. Also it appears the philosophy behind the story is more important than the actual narrative in this production. And while Merrick’s thoughts, feelings and motives are without a doubt interesting a better feel for the plot would have supported the subsequent theorising.

The Elephant Man is not a flawless production but it gives Bradley Cooper the chance to prove that he is more than a handsome Hollywood actor. His portrayal of John Merrick is one of the most convincing and thought through performances I have seen on a West End stage. And that alone is worth the ticket price (I do admit I am glad I did not pay the extraordinary premium price though).

The Elephant Man is playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until August 8th 2015. The run is mostly sold out but limited view tickets are available through the box office for some performances. Go to http://www.trh.co.uk/ for more info.

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