Skylight, Wyndhams Theatre

Leicester Square is even busier than usual. Every night Wyndham’s Theatre is full. For just eleven weeks David Hare’s play Skylight is being staged, showcasing the talents of Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan and giving us the rare chance to see them acting in the flesh.

The stark realist play premiered in 1995 at the National Theatre before moving to Wyndham’s for a short run starring Stella Gonet and Bill Nighy. This time round the piece is directed by Stephen Daldry; Bill Nighy is back but plays against fresh faced filmstar Carey Mulligan and Matthew Beard. This revival is beautifully acted and staged, and despite moving over just twelve hours the content is utterly gripping, I felt completely engrossed and involved in the drama throughout.

We are transported to a chilly, cheap flat in Kensal Rise, where Kyra Hollis lives. Whilst making bolognaise on stage (the smell of sizzling onions rises to even the highest seats in theatre) she is separately visited by her ex-lover, Tom Sargeant and his son Edward. Kyra seems worn down by her emotionally exhausting lifestyle. She struggles with lingering feelings of love and anger towards Tom and his privileged and unaware lifestyle. Meanwhile he criticises her piety and the unnecessary hardships she inflicts on herself. We understand that Kyra ran away when things became difficult and he had to deal with his wife’s painful death alone. The conversation flits between distant happy memories together and full blown arguments about the equality in the world, heightened by their different situations. The set remains the same throughout which gives a constant backdrop to their ever-changing dramatic dialogue. All three actors present believable and nuanced characters, and work beautifully together onstage.

Skylight is a thought-provoking study on the human condition, the urges and angst we feel and the impact of important decisions. After all this it shows that whatever happens we must carry on with the regular routine of everyday life.

Continues until 23 August, more information here.

Pollen Street Social, West End

Jason Atherton seems to be in-charge of the London restaurant scene at the moment, last month he opened his third restaurant of the year, and the reviews are just getting better and better. I visited his original London eatery Pollen Street Social recently to understand why his food is so sought after.

The set lunch menu has to be one of the best value michelin-star choices on offer in London (two courses for £26, or three courses for £29.50). They don’t skimp on extras either, we enjoyed the pre-starter nibbles and the palette cleanser enormously.

On a Friday lunchtime the large west end dining room was full to the brim: jolly business lunches, family catchups and romantic couples surrounded us.

Pumpkin and Parmesan velouté was a comforting and intriguing starter served with chunks of pickled apples and pears (tangy and surprising), and brioche crumbs (seriously moreish). The meaty mosiac game terrine was a less creative recipe though the plate looked beautiful, decorated with elderberries and cobnuts.

Our mains were exquisite. I must admit I was sceptical about the chocolate and orange roast partridge but it exceeded all my expectations, one of the best main courses I have had in a while. The Red-legged partridge was cooked to perfection, amazingly tender white meat with a delightful crisp edge. Celeriac, kale and game chips (more like crisps) complete the dish. My only complaint, it arrived luke warm. My guest loved the braised Lake District lamb neck with “haggis, neeps & tatties” – a modern take on a classic British dish. It was a large portion but he seemed to have no trouble polishing it off.

We decided to try just one option from the dessert menu, opting to share passion fruit sorbet with vanilla sable, meringue and coriander foam. Taste wise it had a strong fruity flavour but was the least exciting of the courses. We were more impressed by the super thin shards of sweet meringue.

Pollen Street used to be a dingy, dark, damp alleyway but never again will it be seen that way. Jason Atherton turns every site he touches to gold and from now on Pollen Street will be forever glorified by his fine cuisine.

More information and book here:

Once, Phoenix Theatre

Once is a different kind of musical, a tender and believable love story, with a heartbreaking and surprising conclusion. For those recently out of a relationship I wouldn’t recommend buying a ticket, unless you have your mummy nearby to give you a big hug afterwards.

This new show, based on the Academy award-winning film, was a hit on Broadway, but sadly hasn’t received as electric response here in the UK… overshadowed by jollier bestsellers – Mormon and Matilda seem to be stealing all the keen audiences. However I think, as a less dramatic but enjoyable alternative, Once is a good choice. A select team of talented musicians play and sing their way through the score and all of the characters are patiently on stage for the majority of the show.

A heartbroken Irish musician is adopted by a bored but inquisitive Czech girl who makes it her mission to broadcast his music-making to the world. They subsequently fall in love, but less conventionally don’t kiss or act on their new found fondness for each other as they are both loyal to previous lovers. It is frustrating and strange to watch as an onlooker. The music is light, folky and filled with melancholy… quite repetitive at times but pleasant nonetheless. I was very impressed with the 5 star acting, dancing, singing and playing that the strong cast exhibit, especially the lead roles, who seemed genuinely quite upset themselves by the final heart-wrenching moments of the musical.

Once is a heartfelt and honest piece of theatre, simple yet effective. I must admit my attention did occasionally wander, especially as I couldn’t help but fidget in the stuffy theatre, but on the whole it is a lovely piece with a message that will stay with you long after you have left the theatre.

ps. The luxury ice-creams (especially Eton Mess flavour) are well worth forking out for in the interval.

More information and book online here.