Punchdrunk, The Drowned Man, Paddington

Punchdrunk is causing quite a stir. The latest production from this sensational immersive theatre company is called The Drowned Man and is taking place in a disused Paddington warehouse.

Don’t wear your work suit to this performance, you will feel truly out of place amongst the drama hungry punters and will be horrendously hot and uncomfortable after three hours of roaming around. Conveniently for commuters, this show is literally seconds away from Paddington tube station. Ticketholders are instructed to arrive at a certain timeslot – and ticket prices depend on this factor.

I won’t give too much away… the story unfolds in a random fashion, through bursts of activity that you will witness at different times in different places. A large cast of characters interact with the transformed building, and move fluidly over the floors… intrigued audience members rush closely behind, desperate to grasp a clue to piece together the story. You are given a short synopsis of characters at the start but this gives little insight.

Dressed in identical masks the audience are, as a unit, separated from the Punchdrunk actors. There may be some audience participation but on the whole the visitors are left to their own devices to make their own decisions and own discoveries. It is scary, and amazingly detailed, you really are entering another world, a world where a cabaret show, sandy landscape, filmset and woody forest all exist under one roof.

Performances are booking until 30 December. Start times are Tuesday-Thursday 10pm, Friday/Saturday 8pm and 12 midnight, Sunday 8pm with six arrival times for each performance in 10 minute intervals. Show lasts up to three hours. Tickets: from £47.50 / £19.50. For more information and to book see the National Theatre website.

Barber of Seville, ENO

Even after reading the synopsis twice the ridiculous narrative of Rossini’s famous Barber of Seville makes little sense. But let’s be honest people flock to see this opera for the magnificent music not for the story.

Having said that, the ENO’s revival is terribly funny and uses the nuances of the complicated tale to include hilariously entertaining episodes. Although the  production is not in modern dress, the modernised English lyrics are extremely clever and fit in perfectly with the comical operetta style.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary year, Jonathan Miller’s classic staging of Rossini’s masterpiece is back at the Coliseum, in my opinion better than ever. The petite cast work brilliantly together to present a seamless performance of music and drama, and revival director Peter Relton has managed to give a new lease of life to Miller’s original version.

The show starts slowly but soon gathers momentum. I was captivated throughout, my attention completely controlled by the characters on stage. Benedict Nelson is a witty and charismatic Figaro, and his voice is elegant and charming. My guest adored David Soar’s depiction of Don Basilio and we both loved Andrew Shore’s magnificently energetic and clever performance as Doctor Bartolo. However it is the leading lady who steals the show. Lucy Crowe sparkles as the coloratura diva, Rosina. Her voice soars and pierces the top stratospheric notes with staggering ease and impressive dexterity. Along with her natural acting ability and good looks, she is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Surprisingly for the first time I found the ENO orchestra a little sluggish under the command of Jaime Martin, a conductor I didn’t recognise. They did pick up the passion once the familiar arias swung into action. Visually the production is a joy, though we would have appreciated perhaps one more scene change. Costumes may be cumbersome for the cast but are worth the effort as they look gorgeous under the lights.

I am always interested in the ENO’s new compositions, but there is only so much tragedy us opera reviewers can cope with… in my opinion it is much more fun skipping home still singing the marvellous tunes of Rossini’s great comic masterpiece.

Continues until Sunday 17 March, book here.

Let it Be, Prince of Wales Theatre

Let is Be is not a musical – if you are after a narrative explanation of the Beatles’ life as a band it is best to seek out BackBeat. This production is an all-music journey, two hours of the most popular and famous hits. Interestingly only since Michael Jackson died (he owned the rights to a majority of Beatles tracks) have producers been able to use this famous band’s songs in productions. They seem to now be taking full advantage.

There are two bands who share performing duties across the week. I watched Michael Gagliano as John Lennon (guitar and vocals), Ian B. Garcia as Paul McCartney (bass guitar and vocals), John Brosnan as George Harrison (guitar and vocals) and Phil Martin as Ringo Starr (drums). All four men try hard to be convincing as their Liverpudian alter-egos (cue accents and gesturing) and they all have notable talent, but this show doesn’t show that off to the full.

I find that there is little to comment on… the lack of story and acting means it is like watching a good cover band. Indeed in some ways this group of musicians appear more versatile than the original fab four. The cast have character, and the frequent costume and wig changes help… but branding Let it Be as a show doesn’t make sense. I expected more, but once I accepted the lack of drama I began to relax and enjoy the music more.

Occasionally there is a fifth, extra, plain dressed musician lurking in the background providing the orchestral vibe on a keyboard. He a) doesn’t get much credit and b) looks a bit draft when obviously everyone knows there were only four Beatles. It is not well planned and distracts the viewer from believing the band’s reincarnation.

I enjoyed the song choices, most of my favourites and the cast worked hard to encourage the audience to rise to their feet and join in the choruses. Towards the end I even began to have fun.

For Beatles fanatics this is a must see, and it is perfectly adequate as a fun musical night out, but perhaps more of a show for tourists, there is just not enough in ‘Let it Be’ to keep Londoners entertained.

Continues until 19 January, book here.