Theatre Review: The Rubenstein Kiss At Southwark Playhouse

Photo: Scott Rylander

A timely revival of James Phillips’ 2006 fictionalised account of the family life of the Rosenbergs, the New York couple executed for espionage in 1953. At a time when deep political division, distrust and fear are on our screens on a daily basis, this exploration of love and betrayal within one household seems fitting.

Set in both the 1950s and 70s, the play interweaves the lives of an ordinary husband and wife, accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, with that of their grown-up children, who must deal with the fall-out of the tragic destruction of what was once a loving family.

Photo: Scott Rylander

Ruby Bentall is a wonderful Esther Rubenstein, giving her a combination of homeliness and strength, as both doting wife and unrepentant idealist. Dario Coates as her son Matthew captures the emotionally damaged soul you would expect to result from such traumatic childhood experiences — a reminder of how persecution persists through generations.

Photo: Scott Rylander

The play is long, offers no judgement, and at times the cast struggle to maintain their New York accents. The action takes place around the dining room table of a dingy apartment, giving an intimate and at times claustrophobic feel to the drama. A recurring flickering light and electrical buzz are an ominous reminder of the ultimate grizzly fate of the protagonists.

The Rubenstein Kiss, Southwark Theatre, 77-85 Newington Causeway, SE1 6BD. Tickets £18-22, until 13 April 2019.


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People’s Vote March: Hundreds Of Thousands To Descend On London This Weekend

The last People’s Vote March, in October 2018, claimed to have 700,000 protestors. Image: Shutterstock

Hundreds of thousands of protestors are expected to descend on London this Saturday (23 March) — demanding a ‘People’s Vote’ on Brexit.

The Put It To The People march gathers from 12pm at Park Lane. At 1pm, it processes towards Parliament Square in Westminster, where talks and protests will continue.

Say the organisers, Britain for Europe:

On 23 March, just six days before the government hopes to take Britain out of the EU, hundreds of thousands of people will march on Parliament offering a solution to a crisis that threatens their living standards, businesses and jobs. We demand a People’s Vote, and come 23 March, it could be a case of now or never.

Scenes in Westminster recently

The Guardian has reported that around 200 coach-loads of protestors will arrive in the capital over the weekend, bearing people from as far and wide as the Scottish Highlands and Penzance.

London’s last People’s Vote March, in October 2018, claimed to have 700,000 protestors — although other estimates clock in at almost half that. The Facebook page currently shows 16k people as ‘attending’ and 28k ‘interested’.

The march was initially a last roll of the dice for a People’s Vote, ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU on 29 March. It’s now likely the UK will still be in the EU for at least some months afterwards.

A motion for a second referendum was voted down 334 to 85 in the Commons last week.

More information on the march is available on the People’s Vote website. No need to reserve a place.

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Saucy! Fortnum And Mason Is Selling Limited Edition Heinz Ketchup And Beans

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The limited edition packaging feature Fortnum’s famous clock

“I think Mr Heinz, we’ll take the lot.”

So began a beautiful — perhaps unlikely — friendship between one of the world’s poshest department stores and Chicago-established convenience food company, Heinz.

Fortnum and Mason has been peddling Heinz products since ordering its first batch of condiments in 1886. Now, to coincide with Heinz’s 150th anniversary, a limited edition range of Fortnum-themed baked beans, tomato ketchup and cream of tomato soup, has been released — available to buy at the Piccadilly flagship.

Heinz products have been on sale at Fortnum and Mason since 1886

Labels feature the clock from the façade of said Piccadilly flagship — and, wow, that Eau de Nil colouring really matches nicely with the familiar hue of Heinz’s baked beans label.

Before you worry about being able to afford one of these saucy trinkets: prices range from £1.50-£1.95, which although not a bargain, is thriftier than dinner at the nearby Ritz.

The limited edition cans and bottles are on sale at Fortnum and Mason — alongside other Heinz-themed merch — until 28 March. Fortnum also has a special Heinz window display, marking what is one of the greatest Anglo-American pacts of all time.

Fortnums proclaims its love for Heinz in a special window display

Fortum and Mason was the inaugural UK stockist of Heinz products, and in 1901, became the first store in the country to sell Heinz baked beans — a product that would go on to be made en masse in the UK, and poured out onto slices of toast, to create an inexplicably satisfying national comfort dish.

Fortnum and Mason is also credited with the invention of the scotch egg, and can therefore claim to have fed innumerable single, lonely men in its time.

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Greenwich’s Stunning Painted Hall Just Reopened

Behold, the restored beauty. Copyright James Brittain.

London’s ‘Sistine Chapel’ reopens

The Vatican may have the Sistine Chapel and Venice may have the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, but London has the Old Royal Naval College. The masterpiece in the Painted Hall in Greenwich deserves to be classed among the great painted ceilings of the world.

It’s been restored to its former glory in a conservation project that has lasted over two years and cost £8.5 million. We got up close when the conservation was happening and can confirm it was a huge undertaking.

It’s just as good looking in the other direction. Copyright James Brittain.

Restored to its former glory

This hall was magnificent before and it’s even more vibrant now. Visitors can lie back on cushioned seats and admire this Baroque masterpiece, filled with symbols of Britain’s prosperity and naval power. The ceiling took artist James Thornhill 19 years to paint originally and was designed to leave visitors in awe. It’s lost none of its power nearly 300 years later.

It would be easy to spend hours admiring all the details on the ships and characters, trying to decipher the many stories within the ceiling and wall paintings.

A close up of the far end. Copyright James Brittain.

What’s new in the Painted Hall?

So what’s changed? This recent refurbishment by Hugh Broughton Architects means that visitors now enter through a fancier route via a gift shop and cafe. Audio and video guides are available, and kids get a special trail and items to play with, and a chance to dress-up.

How much does it cost to visit Greenwich’s Painted Hall?

This new visitor experience comes at a cost and it’s a bit of a wince moment; it’ll set you back up to £12 for an adult ticket, though children do go free. We’re in two minds on this new admission charge. On the one hand we used to love ducking into the Painted Hall for a quick free gawp at the splendour whenever we found ourselves in Greenwich. On the other hand, conservation like this isn’t cheap (we’ll say it again: £8.5million) and the results are worth your cash.

It’s no painted ceiling but the entrance hall plus cafe is a nice addition. Copyright James Brittain.

There is a compromise though; the first Wednesday of each month offers a ‘pay as you wish’ entrance fee, so technically, you could be particularly miserly and only part with a penny — though we wouldn’t advocate that. Plus, what we colloquially refer to as ‘Windsor Castle ticketing’ — whereby the ticket lasts for an entire year from the day of purchase — is in operation, though unlike Windsor Castle, we imagine many visitors will be tempted to revisit the Painted Hall during that year.

Wherever you stand on the ticket prices, there’s no denying that the Painted Hall is a stunning masterpiece, which every Londoner should visit at least once, if not several times. It’s back, it’s beautiful, and we’re glad it’s open to the public again.

The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College re-opens to the public on 23 March 2019. Tickets are £11 when booked online, £12 for walk-ups — all tickets last for a year from date of purchase.

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Let Us Go! Frozen The Musical Announced For London

Caissie Levy as Elsa in Frozen on Broadway. Image: Saint

This’ll send a shiver down the spine of Disney fans: the Broadway musical of Frozen is heading to London.

Based on the hit 2013 Disney animation, Frozen has played in New York City, since spring 2018. The American cast — including Caissie Levy as Elsa and Patti Murin as her sister Anna — will continue to perform in the States, while a new cast (as yet to be announced) forms for Frozen’s London run in 2020.

Patti Murin (Anna) and Caissie Levy (Elsa) with Jacob Smith in Frozen on Broadway. Image: Deen van Meer

New songs

The stage version of Frozen isn’t a mere carbon copy of the original film; the BBC reports that while the likes of Let It Go and Do You Want To Build A Snowman feature (I mean, imagine if they didn’t), new material was enlisted for the stage show from husband and wife songwriters, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. And they insist that ‘none of it is padding’.

Lukewarm reviews

That’s not the view of some critics. The Broadway show received lukewarm reviews from some big publications — The Guardian gave it three stars, saying “it rarely feels like more than the movie and sometimes it feels like less.” Variety said of it, “to the extent that a plot exists at all, it’s a soggy one.”

We doubt that’ll hold away over the miniature armies of Annas and Elsas that are bound to turn up.

Where? When? And how do I get tickets?

Woah, there! Frozen won’t appear in London until autumn 2020, when it’ll herald the reopening of the £45m-renovated Drury Lane Theatre. Tickets aren’t on sale yet. So for now, you’ll just have to Let It Go.

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Puppy Love! First Ever London Dog Week Coming To The Capital

Crazy about canines? You’d be barking mad to miss London Dog Week (LDW).

The eight day celebration of man’s best friend kicks off this Sunday (24 March) with plenty plenty to delight all breeds of dog lover.

Activities range from the sublime (a party exclusively for sausage dogs and their humans), to the downright  ridiculous (the chance to get a makeover inspired by your pooch). And you don’t necessarily have to be a pet-owner to get stuck in: prepare to become the most popular person in your office by joining the Cuddle Club, which’ll turn up to your workspace with a whole squad of dogs for some good old-fashioned animal therapy.

Fashion conscious furbabies can strut their stuff on the catdogwalk, at M Restaurant’s Fashion Brunch on 30 March. And high brow hounds get to have their say on Brexit during a boozy* brunch discussion next Sunday. If you’re after something a bit more outdoors-y, take your four-legged friend on a sightseeing tour with PitPat Pound and raise money for StreetVet. Full-on fitness freaks can opt for a high intensity dog walk with BeyondLimits.

*All mimosas are strictly for human consumption.

London Dog Week runs Sunday 24-Sunday 31 March at various venues across the capital. See the full line-up, and find out more about hosting your own LDW event here.

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Soak Up The History Of Londinium At Billingsgate Roman House And Baths

This is a sponsored article on behalf of the City of London Corporation.

The Calderium and furnace

Underfloor heating, riverside views and private baths — all in Zone 1. The well-heeled residents of Londinium certainly boasted some luxurious lodgings, if Billingsgate Roman House and Baths is anything to go by.

With ruins dating back to the second century AD, this fascinating archaeological site has survived nearly two millennia of buildings, bombings and fires. And now, you can visit it. Enter a seemingly ordinary office building, meet your City Guide, and begin your descent beneath Lower Thames Street, where the remains of this grand Roman gaff have been preserved in situ.

The Tepidarium

While the City is home to a wealth of Roman history, including the Roman amphitheatre and London Mithraeum, the bathhouse is the only surviving domestic building from the Roman era in the capital that can still be accessed. It was unearthed in 1848, when work began on a new coal exchange for London. But Victorian industrialists weren’t the first to have stumbled upon its ruins, as evidenced by the discovery of a mid-5th century Saxon brooch dropped on the roof tiles, likely by some long forgotten scavenger.

Now it’s your turn to have a nose around. Get an incredible glimpse at ancient life on a 45 minute guided tour at Billingsgate Roman House and Baths. Tours run every Saturday from 6 April until November, setting off at 11am, 12noon, and 1pm, and cost just £9 per person plus booking fee. Book your trip to ancient London here.

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