Review: The Toxic Avenger the Musical ★★★★ - This grungy green giant is on message loud and clear

Producer Katy Lipson (Aria Entertainment) has a sure eye – and ear – for a hit musical. Between a summer of new musical theatre at The Other Palace, including Some Lovers, Burt Bacharach’s first for years, and the imminent autumn transfer of a sell-out immersive version of tribal rock musical Hair arriving at London’s Vaults from Manchester’s Hope Mills Theatre, comes this West End transfer of a musical that had a hugely successful first outing at Southwark Playhouse.

It isn’t the first high-camp schlock horror movie to make it from screen to stage, though it may be the weirdest (and loudest). Like soulmate Little Shop of Horrors, it’s based on a movie with a musical score added here by David Bryan (yes, Bon Jovi’s keyboardist David Bryan Rashbaum!). In place of the film’s comic-book biffs and bangs – enough to employ an army of Foley artists and stunt-persons – Joe DiPietro’s adaptation of Lloyd Kaufman’s (with Joe Ritter) bracingly violent screenplay has Benji Sperring’s fast-moving, out and loud, in-yer-face direction; designer takis’ versatile three-tier set, incorporating huge vats, library, beauty salon and much more; a loud and lovely five-piece band led by musical Wunderkind Alex Beetschen – and just five extraordinary triple threats playing a cast of (almost) thousands.

In fictional New Jersey town Tromaville, the dastardly Mayor ruthlessly exploits local resources, dumps waste like there’s no tomorrow and is behind local crime syndicates. Meanwhile puny weakling Melvyn is bullied mercilessly until his tormentors crown their violence by throwing him into a vat of toxic waste, transforming him into the (admittedly hideous) superhero Toxic Avenger – green in colour and credentials – sworn to cleanse Tromaville of waste and bullies, including the Mayor; and soon, beloved of pretty, blind librarian Sarah, who ‘sees’ him not exactly for what he is, as she’s convinced ‘Toxie’ is an exotic French name.

Where the film split Melvin/Toxie between two actors, Mark Anderson curls up as Melvin and more than mans up for Toxie. Natalie Hope achieves a spectacular double as sexually predatory, vampish Mayor, her shocking pink décolletage an offensive weapon (the film has a man in suit!), with lightning changes into Melvin’s Mum in hairnet and housecoat – even actually duetting with herself! Ché Francis’ ‘Black Dude’ and Oscar Conlon-Morrey’s ‘White Dude’ morph miraculously into multiple pairs of thugs, henchmen, cops and hilariously, girlfriends. Emma Salvo just gets to be plucky Sarah, in mismatched pop socks, and constantly mislaying her white cane – she really goes for the gleefully politically incorrect, definitely ‘blind’ rather than ‘visually impaired’. All five and their hard-working swing/understudies, Sophia Lewis and Peter Bindloss, have huge, true voices to carry Bryan’s witty (and mostly audible) lyrics. An intoxicatingly tasty – and tasteless – treat.

By Judi Herman

Photos by Irina Chira

The Toxic Avenger the Musical runs until Sunday 3 December. 7.30pm (Tue-Sat; exc. 3 Oct), 3.30pm (Sat only), 3pm & 6.30pm (Sun only). £19.50-£59.50. Arts Theatre, WC2HL 7JB.

Review: The Homecoming ★★★★ – Judi Herman is drawn in by the vile power of Pinter

Homecoming-John Simm © Marc Brenner I saw the original production of Harold Pinter’s dark, multi-award-winning comedy as a precocious, theatre-mad teenager. I wouldn't have been allowed near it if it had been a film, it would have been x-rated in those days for sure! The homecoming of the title is the return to the flinty bosom of his East End family of Teddy, a college lecturer Stateside with a murky past in this all-male household ruled over by retired butcher Max. Teddy brings home the, er, "bacon" in the alluring shape of Ruth, his wife of five years. The power play between the brothers, their father and above all between Ruth and her in-laws is the meat of the play. I particularly remember Ian Holm, sinister and dangerous as Lenny the pimp; and Vivien Merchant, Pinter’s first wife, who created the role of Ruth, and the way she crossed her legs causing shock waves to ripple through the theatre – and I don't mean because of the static in her nylons…

Gemma Chan makes the role of Ruth her own in Jamie Lloyd’s spare and scabrously funny production. She has extraordinarily precise body language, at once apparently passive, exposed, vulnerable even, and yet enigmatic – you wonder what is running through her mind as she takes a lone night stroll outside her husband’s family home. You wait uncomfortably for a reaction when she meets these unlovable foul-mouthed Londoners (Max habitually refers to all women, including his late wife, as bitches and worse), enduring their bullying and menacing in apparently dignified silence. Then there is that pivotal see-saw moment where the power shifts. It is suddenly obvious that Ruth has the measure of John Simm’s predatory Lenny. In her hands, the glass of water Pinter gives her as a bargaining chip turns not into wine, but a dangerous, potential aphrodisiac.

Homecoming © Marc Brenner

Although there are scenes when director Jamie Lloyd (who worked with Pinter himself on productions of his plays) brilliantly fields the whole dysfunctional family, it’s the tussles in those duologues, precisely calibrated by both actors and director, that are the guilty pleasures for me. Every family member is on the take, using and abusing each other is second nature and the language is shocking and brutal, but it’s the way this family communicates and it’s almost as if the care they take to choose their epithets is the way they show they care.

John Simm and Ron Cook open the play with cross-generational sparring that sets the tone and they create a magnificently vile father and son relationship. Cook is all ineffectual, bullying bluster and Simm is immediately silky and menacing – a terrific exponent of Pinter. Gary Kemp’s Teddy is a fine study in disintegration from lofty academic to his old place low in the pecking order in this disreputable band of brothers. Keith Allen’s Sam, a chauffeur by trade, intimates why he might be a bachelor, though this can never be articulated in this testosterone-fuelled household, where youngest brother Joey is a failing boxer (effectively ineffectual in John Macmillan’s almost touching performance). This starry ensemble cast works together wonderfully to create Pinter’s claustrophobic world on Soutra Gilmour’s clever set – a sparsely furnished room dominated by Dad’s ancient armchair. Lighting designer Richard Howell transforms the realism into what looks a terrifying 3D projection that traps the characters in a blood red frame, to sound designer George Dennis’ perfect, brash soundtrack.

Pinter would have been proud of his amanuensis!

By Judi Herman

'The Homecoming' runs until 13 February 2016, 7.30pm & 2.30pm, £29.50-£69.50, at Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, SW1A 2DY; 0844 871 7632.

Jewish sculptor Simone Krok found inspiration in Old Testament and Kaballah for exhibition based on Paradise Lost

Simone Krok - Paradise Lost, press 2015: The Sequence of Many Levels of Deception Acclaimed sculptor Simone Krok’s latest exhibition, Paradise Lost, is named after John Milton’s 17th-century epic poem and explores the crucial themes of Milton’s work: creation, the fall of man, the loss of innocence and of free will. Milton’s work was heavily influenced by the Old Testament and the story of Adam and Eve, and Krok also takes inspiration from the Old Testament, as well as other religious traditions. Many of the pieces in Paradise Lost are inspired by the Jewish spiritual practice of Kabbalah.

As a Jewish South African, much of Krok’s work has been influenced by the parallel injustices she witnessed in her early life, with the apartheid in her home country and the concentration camps she saw when she travelled to Eastern Europe. In this exhibition, Krok aims to explore why the human race ‘lose the innocence we were born with as children and why it is that we so frequently use our freedom of choice to enter into the destructive path of greed, power, violence and manmade suffering that is all too common in our modern world.’ Paradise Lost closes this Thursday, so be sure to catch it if you can.

By Alice Weleminsky-Smith

Paradise Lost runs until Thursday 18 June. Gallery 223, 137-139 Lower Marsh St, London SE1 7AE.

Simone Krok - Paradise Lost, press 2015:  portrait of the artist Simone Krok poses by The Sequence of Many Levels of Deception (also pictured above)


Simone Krok - Paradise Lost, press 2015: (L-R) Bronze, Co-exist, Gold, Jacob's Ladder; (L-R) Bronze, Co-exist, Gold, Jacob's Ladder


Simone Krok - Paradise Lost, press 2015:

Interview: Ela Weissberger - One of the stars of the original Terezin production of Brundibár

-268d85038c4b79b9 As a brand new Mahogany Opera Group production of Hans Krása's Brundibár, the 1938 short children's opera famously performed in World War II concentration camp Terezin (German Theresienstadt), comes to the Southbank Centre's Imagine Children's Festival this February,  Ela Weissberger (pictured), who created the role of the Cat spoke to Judi Herman before she left her New York home to address the Scottish Parliament for Holocaust Memorial Day.

When did you arrive in Terezin? "I came 12 February 1942. I was one of the first children in Terezin and I stayed there three and a half years, till the end."

Did you come to Terezin with your parents? "I came with my mother because when it was Kristallnacht my father offered money to whoever would kill Hitler and they put him on a black list and the next day they came to pick him up – we never saw him again. My mother was 31 years old."

How did you get cast in Brundibár? "I was singing in a children's chorus in a synagogue in Prague, so singing for me was very wonderful. And friends of my uncle always said that I should sing, as my child's voice was beautiful for them. I didn't think so, but for them it was! When I came to Terezin, and to the children's home there [as men, women and children were quartered in different barracks], the youngest composer in Terezin was Gideon Klein. He also played the piano and played for 55 performances when I was in Brundibár. He played the piano and was also the one that was writing for us Hebrew songs. So we started singing in the children's room and the Nazis let us. We were allowed to sing and play and because of that there were some poems that were written in Terezin. Brundibár and the poems and our children's paintings with Friedl Dicker-Brandeis [the Austrian artist and educator who was killed in Auschwitz, 9 October 1944], is the only legacy of the Terezin children.

"I was chosen when Rudi Freudenfeld smuggled in the piano score of Brundibár. He was the son of the director of the Jewish orphanage in Prague. So Hans Krasa was able to redo the music for us and one day they said that if somebody knows about talented children in music we should try out for parts in Brundibár. So when it came my turn, Rafael Schaechter, who took the music in Terezin and was famous for playing Verdi's Requiem there – he knew me when I was eight years old – so when I came to try out for Brundibár, he said, 'You will be the cat'.

"My mother was a real music lover, and my father, and they went to the opera and all that before the war so she was so happy that I got the part of the cat. I came to my mother and said, 'You know, ma, I will be the cat in the opera', And my mother was wondering, 'what cat in the opera? I don't think there's an opera with a cat', so she didn't believe me! But I loved it. You know I think I was born a little show-off!"

A Terezin production of Hans Krasa's Brundibár

What costume did you wear? "I had my sister's ski pants, my mother's black sweater, and I wasn't allowed to wear shoes because the cat had to be very quiet. Also Frantisek Zelenka [the production designer] was from the National Theatre of Prague and his fantasy was something unbelievable. Somehow they didn't cut the back of my hair, but split it and made it almost like ears for me. And then he had a little box left over of black shoe polish and with that he made me my whiskers and he covered my feet a little because they were so white. He didn't understand when I told him I was having such a hard time wiping it off because we didn't have soap. Only once a month we were able to take a hot shower and this was for just five minutes with two people under the shower at once."

Everybody in the camp loved to come and watch Brundibár and understood the message – that the evil organ grinder Brundibár was a thinly disguised Hitler. Did you play to rapt audiences and give people some feeling of fighting back, of defiance? "In Terezin the people in the audience were singing with us. They used to clap and stamp their feet and we used to repeat it a couple of times with them, the Victory Song [the number in which the children and animals celebrate their victory over Brundibár]. In the Czech Republic audiences still do that. Here in America, only when I am in Los Angeles with the opera, first we are two people and when we start to clap, then others start to clap with us!"

Ela Weissberger wrote a book about her time in Terezin called The Cat with the Yellow Star, which was first published ini March 2006, but has been re-published in a new edition this month. "You know I still have my original Jewish star," she says.

By Judi Herman

The Mahogany Opera Group's production of Brundibár runs Saturday 18 - Sunday 19 April. 7pm (Sat), 3pm (Sun). £10, £8 children. Watford Palace Theatre, 20 Clarendon Rd, WD17 1JZ; 019 2323 5455.

Watch a trailer of the show here:

Review: Mark Hayhurst's debut Taken at Midnight plays a timely reminder

Taken at Midnight © Alastair Muir, Jan  2015

Jews have long lived with the idea that the Holocaust is incomprehensible in large numbers and that examination of individual stories provides greater understanding of the whole. Now there's a trend for understanding what happened in Germany through stories of individuals who supported or opposed the events at the time; think of Zone of Influence by Martin Amis, for example, a love story set in the German officers' quarters at an extermination camp. Taken at Midnight is the story of lawyer Hans Litten, one of many political prisoners bundled into "protective custody" as the Nazis consolidated their power after the Reichstag fire. Litten’s "crime" was to have called Hitler as a witness in the trial of four stormtroopers accused of murder and to have exposed the denied link between the Nazi party and SA (Sturmabteilung/Brownshirts) violence.

The dramatic device in Mark Hayhurst’s play is to see all the events through the five-year campaign of Litten’s mother Irmgard (Penelope Wilton) to get him released. Played out on an austere grey set by Robert Jones that echoes brutalist Nazi architecture, with stark lightning by Tim Mitchell and nerve-scraping music by Matthew Scott to match, we see how a mother's love and persistence attempts to save her son.

The play intercuts between Litten’s various prison camps and Irmgard’s increasingly frustrated attempts to find out what’s happening to her son. Exposition in the early scenes means the drama is slow to get going but it soon hits its stride, especially in the set pieces between Irmgard and the cool and oily Gestapo officer Conrad (John Light), where Wilton’s ability to deliver the reasonable voice of the silent majority in the face of implacable bureaucracy strikes hardest.

There's also a moving scene in Dachau between Irmgard and Hans (a redoubtable Martin Hutson) leading up to the climax of the play.Leaving the devasting court room critique of Hitler almost to the very end brings home the bravery of all those who opposed his will in any way, having seen what befell just one man and his two cell-mates, Carl von Ossietzsky and Erich Muehsam (Mike Grady and Pip Donaghy adding gallows humour).

Jonathan Church directs a fine cast with poised restraint. Everyone is chillingly reticent and this serves to highlight the contrast between words and actions, notably those of Conrad who fobs off all enquiries and the ineffectual British Lord Allen (David Yelland) visiting to enquire after the treatment of political prisoners.

We do lose track of Hans's father (Allan Corduner), a baptised Jew and holder of the Iron Cross First Class who supported Irmgard admirably but seems subsequently to have left his Christian wife, perhaps for her own sake, though that is not explicit. But it’s not the fate of the Jews that matters here, even though Litten is counted as Jewish by the Nazis.

While we learn little more about the banality of evil from this play, it's a timely reminder of the honest intentions of the many Germans who opposed Hitler in 1930 and who subsequently deserve to be named as victims of the Holocaust. And it’s a timely warning to us to heed those sounding today’s warning sirens.

By Judi Herman

Taken at Midnight runs until Saturday 14 March. 7.30pm (also 3pm Wed/Sat). £15-£59.50. Theatre Royal Haymarket, SW1Y 4HT; 020 7930 8800.

Salon success! Find out how Howard Jacobson and more dazzled at the first ever JR reception

Howard Johnson and Janet Suzman at JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

Howard Johnson and Janet Suzman at JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

We enjoyed our first Jewish Renaissance salon on Sunday 18 January as much as we hope all of you did. This exclusive event for our subscribers was held at Lord and Lady Lipworth's house in St John's Wood and featured Howard Jacobson in conversation with Janet Suzman (pictured above), with a performance by virtuoso violinist Irmina Trynkos.

The music was fabulous, the conversation, which veered from why there is no British Sienfeld, to Howard's typically eccentric interpretation of the Ten Commandments, was pithy and frequently hilarious, and the canapés were addictive. It was a fantastically positive start to our newly energised magazine and our fundraising drive.

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part and helped, and to all of you who came and supported us. See our pictures below for a hint at how it went (more can be found on the JR Facebook page).

Our next salon features a full concert with the wonderful Irmina Trynkos, who'll be playing from a repertoire including Brahms, Waghalter, Gershwin and Bloch. This will be on Tuesday 10 March, 7pm at Lauderdale House, Waterlow Park, N6 5HG. Tickets cost £35 (£25 for subscribers) and can be purchased by clicking here.

By Rebecca Taylor

Photos © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

JR Salon, Jan 2015 © Charlotte Mayhew

Review: Jerry Herman's Grand Tour is a breathless, though tuneful chase across war-torn Europe

The Grand Tour – Zoë Doano (Marianne), Alastair Brookshaw (Jacobowsky), Nic Kyle (The Colonel) - Jan 2015 © Annabel Vere There’s usually a good reason why largely forgotten material from the oeuvre of a master such as Jerry Herman remains forgotten. The Grand Tour had the shortest run of all Herman’s shows and has not even achieved some form of cult status among the cognoscenti, despite US actor Joel Grey starring as the original Jackobowsky.

Thom Southerland’s imaginative staging of The Grand Tour in the tiny space of Finborough Theatre is a minor creative miracle and makes you wonder what made it less than a success in the first place (in the same season as hits such as Sweeney Todd, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and They’re Playing our Song). Perhaps the New York audience wasn’t ready for a chamber musical with production values that didn’t overwhelm the simplicity of the story.

And that’s just what we have here, in the tale of Jacobowsky, a Polish Jew and eternal optimist who's been keeping one step ahead of the Nazis all the way to Paris, and Polish nobleman Colonel Stjerbinsky, who's almost comical in his knee-jerk anti-semitism, and who has papers he must get to London as they play a vital part in the fight against the Nazis. Jacobowsky has a car but can’t drive and the Colonel knows how to drive but has no car. They reluctantly agree to join forces, along with Colonel’s girlfriend, Marianne. The Colonel's initial dislike for Jacobowsky is reinforced as Jacobowsky befriends and then falls in love with Marianne. But is it possible that through their joint experiences in evading the Nazis and learning to survive, the two men might get over their differences and even come to admire each other?

The Grand Tour – Alastair Brookshaw (Jacobowsky) – Jan 2015 © Annabel Vere

Herman's source material was Jacobowsky and the Colonel, an original, semi-autobiographical play by Czech writer Franz Werfel, who collaborated with screenwriter S N Behrman to bring it to the stage in 1944. Like the main character in his play, Werfel, a prominent Jewish intellectual and playwright, was chased all over Europe by the Nazis before successfully escaping to America. Later Danny Kaye played the mercurial Jacobowsky in a film of the same name.

Phil Lindley’s fold out backdrop and fold up floor make maximum use of the limited space to create hotels, countryside, rivers, railway carriages, a café, circus, a Jewish wedding and a Nunnery! And Cressida Carre marshals the 11-strong cast with intricacy and panache to people all these spaces.

What also works this time round is the use of just two pianos, under the musical direction of Joanna Cichonska, to provide the right tone for this small-space chamber musical, allowing the words to dominate. Jerry Herman can’t write an un-tuneful song, even if they are not always memorable, and all 11 numbers here do at least move the plot along rather than hold it up.

The show gets off to a spellbinding start as Alastair Brookshaw’s beautifully understated and thoughtful Jacobowsky opens not with a song but with a whisper. And then he takes his audience into the spine-tingling opening number, 'I'll Be Here Tomorrow', detailing his family's painful path across Europe, settling in one city after another, not just escaping persecution, but making a new life every time. Here Brookshaw has this heartbreaking quality in his voice, but he also displays delicious comic flair, for example in 'Mrs S L Jacobowsky', dreaming of marriage to Catholic Marianne: "I'll go to mass and I'll respect her wishes / And she'll start using separate dishes".

Nic Kyle’s Colonel thaws appropriately in an almost caricature part and gets to sing (beautifully) the best ballad in the piece, the haunting 'Marianne'. Zoe Doano makes a charming Marianne and the rest of the ensemble splendidly fill the many other parts, especially in the requiste first act finale, 'One Extraordinary Thing'.

Southerland’s direction brings out the tension between the European acting style and the US musical style to great effect. It does not always paper over some clunky plotlines and the music just occasionally underwhelms, but this Grand Tour is worth seeing in its own right and not just by collectors of musical ephemera.

By Judi Herman.

The Grand Tour runs until Saturday 21 February. 7.30pm (also 3pm Sat-Sun). £16-£28. Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Rd, SW10 9ED; 020 7244 7439.

Interview: Kerry Shale talks about taking classic romcom When Harry Met Sally to the live stage

kerry_new_2 On Tuesday 2 December, JW3 brings Rob Reiner's effortless romcom When Harry Met Sally to the live on stage as part of the Jewish Comedy Festival. Canadian-born actor Kerry Shale plays Harry and tells Judi Herman all about playing the famous role.

"I guess I've seen it four or five times! But I'm watching the DVD in case there's anything in the script that needs clarification." Kerry Shale is giving me the low down on his preparation for playing the eponymous Harry in the staged reading of the iconic film script. "We're not updating it. The original was pretty much written for Billy Crystal and he came up with some of his own lines because he's such a genius comedian, such as: 'I'll have what she's having'. Nora Ephron gives him credit for it in the introduction to the printed script."

I venture that it must be like taking a jump at the Grand National running up to that line – everyone is waiting for it. "Yeah exactly! There's a lot of really famous lines in the film. But I'm going to treat it a bit like I did when I played the Woody Allen part in Play It Again Sam years ago on stage. Allen wrote that for himself, so I basically used the Woody Allen accent and played the character like Woody Allen, but filtered through me. So I think I"ll be playing Harry like Billy Crystal filtered through Kerry Shale, certainly not a slavish recreation but there's certain ways to time some of these lines, and there's only one way to deliver them."

Is it a particularly Jewish sort of story? "It wouldn't have been such a huge breakaway hit if it had only spoken to Jews and Jewish sensibilities. And I think they very cleverly disguise Harry's Jewishness, so you and I and most Jewish people would recognise that he was Jewish but I don't think your average filmgoer recognised that." Shale tells me how he said to the production team that "it's the story of a Jewish boy who meets a non Jewish girl. They said 'What do you mean?' They were completely flummoxed by that, it had never occurred to them. Harry doesn't mention being Jewish, the Jewish holidays – they eat at Katz's, but then so does everyone in New York! Sally on the other hand is very clearly not Jewish. In the introduction Nora Ephron, who is obviously Jewish, says that Sally was based on her. She takes all her stuff on the side, she always has her mayo on the side. I think it may have been the casting of Meg Ryan that set the seal on that, probably they wrote her Jewish too but by casting Meg Ryan she became non-Jewish."

I venture that I think her casting makes it stronger, which brings us on to the casting of the script reading. His Sally is the hugely versatile, funny woman Morwenna Banks, also currently high-profile on TV as the voice of Peppa Pig's mother. Shale explains that the line up of six also includes Debbie Chazen – recently seen with Shale at JW3 in the revival of the highly successful Listen, We're Family – and Michael Mears, a good friend of Shale's in real life, who both play Sally and Harry's best friends, respectively. "And we've got a wonderful pianist called Duncan Wisbey who's going to be narrating, reading all the stage directions and also be playing numbers like 'It had to be you' sitting at the grand piano so you'll get a little bit of Harry Konick Junior."

The delightful and imaginative addition of video clips of various real-life couples talking about how they met will make the evening truly original, among them the parents of Jewish Renaissance Editor Rebecca Taylor. Shale says: "It'll make it very much at home at JW3 and will make it a very special evening for the people involved. And the audience will recognise even more how universal the story is that deals with these themes of finding a good life partner."

We agree that it seems to be creating a sort of JW3 tradition, building on the way Listen, We're Family celebrated real life stories on stage, transmuting real life into something very special. "It's what they intended to do originally in the film," reveals Shale, "but they could not quite find the right people to give the right feel and so they ended up getting actors who gave very naturalistic performances, but delivered lines written by Nora Ephron. This evening is different because it is a celebration of When Harry Met Sally, so a lot of people will know a lot of the lines, but they won't know the lines of the couples who will be delivering their own stories!"

The icing on the (wedding) cake is that the whole evening is directed by Bill Dare, whose credits include TV's legendary Spitting Image. It really does sound unmissable!

By Judi Herman

When Harry Met Sally – The Live Read Through will be on Tuesday 2 December. 8pm. £12. JW3, 341-351 Finchley Rd, NW3 6ET; 020 7433 8989.