26 June 2012

Democracy by Michael Frayn

Willy Brandt - Patrick Drury
Hans-Dietrich Genscher - Rupert Vansittart
Ulrich Bauhaus - James Quinn
Horst Ehmke - Richard Hope
Günther Nollau - David Cann
Helmut Schmidt - David Mallinson
Reinhard Wilke - Andrew Bridgmont
Günter Guillaume - Aidan McArdle
Arno Kretschmann - Ed Hughes
Herbert Wehner - William Hoyland

Directed by Paul Miller and designed by Simon Daw.

Seen for free in a sadly, half-empty theatre just after press night at the Old Vic. Roger Lloyd-Pack was in the audience and probably other people of note, so desperate were they to paper the house.

It's with a very heavy heart that I confess this didn't have the pace and vigour of the original production in 2003. Paul Miller would be the perfect choice for a piece like this and his cast are beautifully brought together but on this occasion it struggled to come to life.

The performances were good and passionate, particularly from Mr McArdle and the wit of Mr Frayn's script shimmers through but the endless lines of expositional text seemed to be delivered a little like a section of Mock the Week wherein each contestant grabs turns to take middle stage & pontificate. I can see why this happened because the sparsity of soft furnishing in the set meant that a lot of dialogue was either swallowed or distorted by the time it reached a less than full auditorium. I'd throw up some drapes in the wings as near to the front as possible to absorb some of that, if it was me.

The exchanges between Günter and Arno were charming and the production certainly warmed as it went along.

I can't imagine what went wrong with this and I want to believe it was just a bad night. The drop in ticket sales implies that I'm not the first to leave this auditorium scratching my head. It started in Sheffield to very healthy reviews. I wish it every success as I believe it may transfer to the Novello in due course.

12 June 2012

Noises Off by Michael Frayn

Dotty Otley - Caroline Wildi (understudy to Celia Imrie)
Lloyd Dallas - Robert Glenister
Garry Lejeune - Jamie Glover
Brooke Ashton - Lucy Briggs-Owen
Poppy Norton-Taylor - Alice Bailey Johnson
Frederick Fellowes - Jonathan Coy
Belinda Blair - Janie Dee
Tim Allgood - Paul Ready
Selsdon Mowbray - Karl Johnson

Directed by Lindsay Posner
Designed by Peter McKintosh

See during it's transferred run from the Old Vic to the beautiful Novello Theatre.
Grabbed a last minute freebie from ShowFilmFirst and was given a perfect seat in the dress circle with full and comprehensive view of the delicious idiocy of the stage antics.

The writing in this farcical witnessing of a farce is absolutely beautiful and as tight as a drum but in the wrong hands, could be a sickening disaster.

The cast for tonight's performance were faultless and no doubt buoyed along by the effusive audience who could hardly contain themselves. I am not aware of the nature of Ms Imrie's disposition and whilst I wish her well, I certainly didn't miss her with her role being in the safe hands of Ms Wildi.

One senses that this cast are having much too good a time for something they must regard as work. Like a well-oiled machine, they prat-fall their way through the most idiotic of set-ups in a manner that lead me to wonder if Busby Berkeley could have made a water-based version. (Is there a limit on the number of hyphenated words in one sentence?)

Of course, enormous credit must go to the scene handlers for turning the whole set round so efficiently for the final act.

If you were sitting anywhere near me, I can only apologise if my convulsing alarmed you in any way. When Karl Johnson pointedly said 'every word' I thought I may have to be sedated.

Surely, there will never be a time when a revival of this piece wont be welcome.

30 May 2012

Antigone by Sophacles in a version by Don Taylor

Antigone - Jodie Whittaker
Ismene - Annabel Scholey
Chorus - Paul Bentall, Martin Chamberlain, Jason Cheater
Chorus - Tim Samuels, Paul Dodds, Craige Els, Ross Waiton
Chorus - Alfred Enoch, Michael Grady-Hall, Stavros Demetraki
Creon - Christopher Eccleston
Soldier - Luke Norris
Haemon - Luke Newberry
Teiresias - Jamie Ballard
Boy - Trevor Imani
Messenger - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Eurydice - Zoë Aldrich
Ensemble - Jo Dockery, Emily Glenister

Directed by Polly Findlay
Designed by Soutra Gilmour

Seen on at the start of the run of this revived version at the Olivier on the South Bank.

Upon entering the space, the first thing to note is that Ms Gilmour's set is derived from a post-apocalyptic imagination of what Denys Lasdun's architecture might leave after wars of sibling claims to kingship, seemingly growing from the iconic design of the National Theatre itself. Effectively, there are only two sets, one of which is seen for a few minutes at the very start of Act 1 but busy, expositional declarations and murmurs of courtly dissent punctuate what would otherwise be scene changes. All of the action takes place in a bustling suite of offices which, however much it waivers between being irrelevant and apposite is an inventive representation of Thebes for this tight drama of politics, ethics and relentless ego.

The performances are fabulous. From the agony and righteous anger of Antigone, the fear of Ismene and the cold, assured conviction of Creon to the comedy of the soldier and the fearless passion of Haemon. From the chorus, Craig Els and Ross Wailton seem to deserve special note but merely by virtue of them having more opportunity than other excellent roles to show their talents.

Many of the company have little to say but are connected to the production with great conviction. Even the eponymous lead role seems sparing with it's lines making her speeches the more powerful.

The morning's papers will reveal whether the rapturous applause was from journalist or friends.

In the audience and in many cases supporting family members in the cast and crew were, Ruby Bentall and Janine Duvitski, Michelle Dockery, Debra Findlay, Oliver Cotton, Rory Kinnear, Adrian Lester, Lesley Manville, Trevor Cooper, Danny Lee Wynter and Roy Williams plus many more. Mel Kenyon and Nicholas Hytner were also there. It was Press Night, after all.

The prawn and capsicum salad was perfect for a summer's evening and nicely complimented by a delicious cheese and warm bread. I didn't stay for desert.

23 May 2012

The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon

Willie Clark - Danny DeVito
Ben Silverman - Adam Levy
Al Lewis - Richard Griffiths
Patient - William Maxwell
Voice of the TV Director - Peter Cadden
Eddie - Nick Blakeley
Miss MacKintosh - Rebecca Blackstone
Registered Nurse - Johnnie Fiori

Directed by Thea Sharrock
Designed by Hildegard Bechtler

Seen in the bottomless pit at the Savoy Theatre for virtually nothing.

The Savoy is a beautiful auditorium but they certainly make you pay for such joy by having more stairs to the stalls than any other theatre I can remember and that's after you've run the gauntlet of the approach road being littered with untidily placed tourists.

It's a bawdy riot of a play but written with so much brio and tightly screwed lines it's impossible not to be swept up in the silliness of it.

So much so that the last-to-be-mentioned, unreliable, clumsiest cast member, the audience are helpless in their conspiracy to oil the wheels of the laughter machine in a way that you can't fail to enjoy.

This entire, glorious cast perform with that fragile mixture of freshness and precision.

It's daft but go and see it.

14 May 2012

Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett

Kenneth - Ben Miles
Henry - Sam Troughton
Sandra - Victoria Hamilton
Jamie - George Rainsford
Rosie - Claire Foy

Directed by James Grieve and designed by James Osborne

Grabbed a £10 cheapie at 9am this morning via the Royal Court's wonderful on-line and in person scheme. Had a great seat downstairs 
......in the the Jerwood Downstairs.

I'm happy to say I've chased Mr Bartlett's work wherever I can find it. Can it really be five years since "my child"?

His work has gone from strength to strength, always using his fearless voice to explore the intense fragility of relationships and how the prevailing social climate can shape them.

The way he writes for women as powerfully as he does for men must have had them queuing as far up as the Saatchi Gallery to be cast.

To say that Love, Love, Love is a culmination of all the work he's produced so far would be confining his career to an unnecessary retrospective but it certainly feels like a deeply satisfying distillation.

On paper, the running time seems potentially testing but there is nothing spare in this script. The only moments that drag are the two intervals, during which time sets are dismantled and constructed behind the most sumptuous festooned drapes.

The premise of this piece also allows all but one of these characters to develop beautifully before our eyes. Whilst they are all in some form of conflict with each other, their plights can be identified and empathised with equally.

The performances are all extraordinary.

When Ms Hamilton is dealt some disturbing news, if you are close enough to the stage you can see her at first lose colour as the sickness of the circumstance hits her followed by her cheeks shaking almost imperceptibly before the sob-free tears begin to well. I can only image this wonderful actress has a particularly awful experience to draw upon for this performance.

She is aided by the reassuringly solid performance of Ben Miles, without whose support I doubt she could deliver such a stunning portrayal. With the deployment of a couple of wigs, Mr Miles channels Cliff Richard as he flaunts his young and spirited body performance throughout the piece. He surely must have a crusty portrait in the loft somewhere. His opening scenes with the beautifully dour Mr Troughton are deliciously teasing and his character then travels via almost dependable through to whimsical by the end. I notice the touring version of this production cast a younger pairing but Ben was not just included because of his past, early experience with Mr Bartlett's work. He is the perfect Kenneth.

It is some time since I have seen Ms Foy in a regular stage production but it's very easy to see how she came to be cast in a leading television role so early in her career. There is a fluid beauty to her performance. It's passionate and yet contained which is not always easy to achieve on screen, let alone on a stage.

Mr Rainsford's performance was at first hilarious moving to deeply touching in the final act. As with Claire, it's too long since I last saw him on stage.

I cannot speak more highly of this production. It could even be perfect. I may not be in a position to see as much theatre as I used to but when my choices include pieces like this, I feel sated. However, I do realise that my objectivity resides in a more narrow channel.

I would even go so far as to say the Royal Court's trailer excels itself too.

I may loiter in the slips for one of the post-show talks.

10 May 2012

Misterman by Enda Walsh

Thomas Magill - Cillian Murphy
Mammy - Marcella Riordan
Edel- Alice Sykes

Other voices:
Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, JD Kelleher, Simone Kirby, Mikel Murfi, Morna Regan. Eileen Walsh, Barry Ward

Directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Jamie Vartan.

Seen in the middle of it's run at the Lyttelton Theatre in a last minute cheap seat.

Anyone who has felt themselves to be slightly unhinged by the uncontainable grief of loss will immediately connect with the seemingly random acts bouncing around this huge and, for a solo performer, unforgiving space. Mr Murphy fills it with an eerie energy that leaves the fastidious in us, urgently needing to tidy it up.

Mr Walsh has articulated a deep and painful ravine in the human soul that many, if not all of us have to traverse at one time or another. Hopefully, most of us will be a little more sure footed than Thomas Magill. He presents this open wound, unhealed and unredeemed.

Drawing with deep respect from Beckett, but infusing this piece with space and grandiose mechanics, Enda Walsh
has given a platform to Cillian Murphy that no studio executive has thus far trusted him with. How the poor fella doesn't have pneumonia, I'll never know.

Landmark theatre that lingers for days.

23 April 2012

All New People by Zach Braff

Charlie - Zach Braff Emma - Eve Myles Myron - Paul Hilton Kim - Susannah Fielding Special Thanks To David Bradley, Joseph Millson and Amanda Redman Directed by Peter DuBois and designed by Alexander Dodge. Seen in the last week of the run in good seat care of LastMinute.com at the Duke of York's Theatre

I have a few issues with this piece but since I wish to retain Mr Braff on the lofty perch I so happily made for him in 2004, I will conclude that I was unfortunate to attend on a rare 'bad night' and by bad, I must ask that you, the audience take some of the blame.
I know there's a good text in here. I trust this man to make me laugh and think in a carefully calibrated mind cradle. It was jarred by Ms Myles oddly faux, plumy accent, the likes of which has been used to better effect by Ms Paltrow, and the obnoxious tones adopted by Ms Fielding.

This is a beautiful, tiny, intimate theatre. There's no need to bellow and grandstand. Who can forget Mr Gambon's "Eh Joe" gently and captivatingly intoned here? The beauty of Mr Braff's text surely lies in part within the lovely laconic delivery I was hoping for but how could that happen with the entire cast having to do battle with The Loudest Projector In London?

The scenes projected from said seemingly steam-powered installation were beautifully cast and well metered. I thoroughly enjoy a bit of mixed media in the theatre but freeze-framing on the stage to allow for their interjection seemed too mannered and old fashioned. This sense was not aided by some of my neighbours feeling it was just the right time to check their glaring phones or break out, I kid you not, the meat pies from their noisy wrappers.

The male cast were certainly the most comfortable to watch and I'll always try to catch a live one from Mr Hilton but tonight seemed fragmented, almost as though the ladies didn't see the piece in the same way as the writer, or dare I even say the director. Lovely pop-cultural references seemed to be swallowed and lost on the audience around me so rather than a room full of conspiratorial strangers, I felt lonely and a tiny bit empty. I comforted myself by musing over the themes and set-ups seen here that also occur in Garden State. This boy has issues.

"That's pretty damn random of you, Largeman."

14 April 2012

Big and Small by Botho Strauss, translated by Martin Crimp

Lotte - Cate Blanchett
Old Woman - Lynette Curran
Inge/Karin - Anita Hegh
Woman/Meggy/Tent - Belinda McClory
Guitar Player/Boy - Josh McConville
Paul/Man with Shirts/Doctor - Robert Menzies
Fat Woman - Katrina Milosevic
Turkish Man - Yalın Özüçelik
Wilhelm/Offstage Lead Guitarist - Richard Piper
Alf/Jurgen - Richard Pyros
Girl/Josefina - Sophie Ross
Young Man/Albert/Man in Parka - Chris Ryan
Man/Bernd - Christopher Stollery
Old Man - Martin Vaughan

Directed by Benedict Andrews and designed by Johannes Schütz

My big theatrical cash outlay of the year, booked nearly six months ago in a moment of madness. Seen at The Barbican Theatre on press night, I had a good seat between a man with personal space issues and a lady with numeracy problems who should have known better since she was probably a journalist, judging by her annoying, scratchy pen.

Audience members of note: Martin Crimp, David Hare, Patrick Marber, Richard E Grant, Graham Norton, Tom Mison. I could go on.

I'm going to start by saying it was typically Australian disregard for propriety that allowed no less than four curtain calls, giving the show-offs in the audience a chance to get to their feet for a bit of grandstanding.

There are one or two overly showy moments in this piece but they're used to good effect.

Euan Ferguson's words in The Guardian give a pretty good appraisal.

It is long and seemingly rudderless but despite the mesmerising performance from Ms Blanchett, it feels like an organic ensemble piece, pirouetting around a glorious piece of set design that almost reaches Mnsr Lepage's level of ingenuity, simplicity and style.

I loved the proportions of the apartment building column and the simple, space transforming impression given by all those office desks. My geek button went right off at the sight of an Apple Classic sitting right next to a Stylewriter II. I have no idea why those pieces of paper were randomly falling from the fly but their faultless performance and the design honing clearly needed to achieve it was a joy to behold. Mention must also go to the glory and efficiency of Cate's varied wardrobe from the practical to the erotic. Nobody wears a Gaberdine like Ms Blanchett and to finally have it reveal what had previously been a pipe dream was gratifying.

The cast includes an adorably spry Lynette Curran and a tight group of fabulous theatre performers who slide in an out of their costume changes to impress a far larger troupe.

See it if you can and take a coffee back in with you after the half.

31 March 2012

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster

Cariola - Madeline Appiah
Pescara - Harry Attwell
Antonia - Tom Bateman
The Duchess of Malfi - Eve Best
Bosola - Mark Bonnar
Sylvio - Adam Burton
Malateste- Vyelle Croom
Livia - Lucy Eaton
Grisolan - Taylor James
Delio - Tunji Kasim
Ferdinand - Harry Lloyd
Cardinal - Finbar Lynch
Roderigo - Nari Blair Mangat
Julia - Iris Roberts
Castruccio/DoctorAlan Westaway
Son - Freddie Anness-Lorenz/Alexander Aze/Max Furst

Director Jamie Lloyd, Designer Soutra Gilmour
Seen for absolutely free in a reasonable stall seat at the Old Vic towards the start of the run.

I couldn't pass up the chance to see Eve Best in this role when it would cost the price of the journey to the theatre and my inevitable desire for a programme, however Anastasia Hille's icey Duchess opposite the young Matthew Macfadyen's smouldering Anotonia with Nick & Declan's checkerboard staging was always going to take some beating.

One might presume I came to this with uneven expectations, and considering that, I thought this was, in the most part, an exhilarating production. The staging was atmospheric and majestic and I'd love to raid the skip when that flooring is struck.

Eve Best's Duchess had an unexpected warmth and compassion but I found Antonio a little bland. The Cardinal, Ferdinand and Delio were wonderful.

Given the age of this text, it translates to a gloriously evil tale that hold the audience. The staging of the tricky bits was very well handled.

There were many empty seats in the circle so I snuck up there for the second half, escaping fellow freebie seaters who had too little respect for their full-price paying neighbours' comfort and enjoyment.

Here's a nice piece from Mark Lawson about 'breaking a leg'.

28 January 2012

Grief by Mike Leigh

Dorothy - Lesley Manville
Victoria - Ruby Bentall
Edwin - Sam Kelly
Hugh - David Horovitsch
Gertrude - Marion Bailey
Muriel - Wendy Notthingham
Maureen - Dorothy Duffy

Directed by Mike Leigh and designed by Alison Chitty

Seen, as seems to be my tradition with Mike Leigh's plays, at the very last performance in the Cottesloe in a brilliant, last minute seat.

I sit in such awe of Ms Manville that it seems trite to say that this roll seemed written for her. The organic way in which Mr Leigh work inevitably gives the impression that each actor makes their own role but that would be simplifying the process disrespectfully.

These performances are all perfectly pitched with humour and heartbreak in equal measure. I do hope that young Ms Bentall was able to dip in and out of her dour zone as she left the stage or this would not have been a jolly experience for her.

The set was realistic but gratifyingly simple and yet perfectly functional for the narrative. If felt like a home that should have been comfortable but somehow wasn't.

Unlike most actors who burst into song on stage, the lovely serenades between Dorothy and Edwin were beautifully nostalgic, entirely natural and completely lacking in contrivance.

I had a wonderful evening in their company.

27 January 2012

Travelling Light by Nicholas Wright

Maurice Montgomery - Paul Jesson
Tsippa, Moti's aunt - Sue Kelvin
Moti Mendl - Damien Molony
Jacob Bindel, a timber merchant - Antony Sher
Ida, Jacob's wife - Abigail McKern
Aron, Jacob's son - Jonathan Woolf
Itzak, Jacob's son-in-law - Karl Theobald
Anna Mazowiecka - Lauren O'Neil
Josef, foreman at the sawmill - Colin Haigh
Hezzie, a workman - Darren Swift
Mo, a workman - Mark Extance
Rivka, Jacob's daugher - Alexis Zegerman
Nate Dershowitz - Damien Molony
Little Boy - Nell McCann
Ensemble - Tom Peters, Jill Stanford, Geoffrey Towers, Kate Webster

Actors on film
Teacher - Tom Keller
Rabbi - Harry Dickman
Young woman - Julia Korning
Dying man - Michael Grinter
Reb Gershon - Jack Chissick
Reb Korovitz - Jeffry Kaplow
Doctor - Philip COx
Wife - Norma Atallah
Servant - Jill Stanford
Young servant/Granddaughter - Elsie Mortimer
Yeshiva Boys - Tom Allwinton, Roy Baron, Pablo Carciofa, Daniel Kramer, Henry Markham-Hare, Pip Pearce.

Seen at the beginning of it's run in the Lyttelton Theatre via a half price ticket in a surprisingly good seat (row O) despite sitting next to a couple who talked, quizzed, explained crunched and rustled all through it and thought the musical accompaniment to the silent film sequences was a period for uninhibited general debate.They were impervious to the glares from the people in front of them. I'd hate to have watched The Artist in their company.

Well now then. This is a beautiful premise, performed commendably by most of the cast. The tale is a simple one and a little too much of the dialogue targets the lowest common denominator in the audience. Sometimes there is solace in the easily identifiable progress of a piece like this and if it had been any more complicated, I would not have heard it above the din on my neighbours. I was fortunate enough to hear almost all of the filmic witticisms which are varied and many. The explanation for Mr Scher's comedy accent was delicious and completely acceptable. On occasion it strayed dangerously into the area of farce a couple of times which made me a little grumpy but the audience loved it. It was a Friday.

The effort involved in making this very effective set design work is utterly commendable. It's a bugger of a stage to get right and this piece uses the space perfectly. The projection material was wonderfully handled.

I'm not sure it's worked out what it wants to be yet. The audience were loving the comedy and it's fine to make a period piece funny and educational but it was just a bit too trite in places. That said, there wasn't a moment when my thoughts drifted, other than controlling my desire to punch the idiots next to me.

25 January 2012

Constellations by Nick Payne

Marianne - Sally Hawkins
Roland - Rafe Spall

Directed by Michael Longhurst and designed by Tom Scutt.

Seen in the middle of it's premiere run at the Royal Court Upstairs under a sky of balloons. The moon's a balloon, you know.

This gave me the same kind of visceral thrill I got from the first time I saw Caryl Churchill's A Number.

It's so tight, witty and poignant. These two incredible actors perform with such inclusive comfort and I could watch it again quite easily, knowing that I would see a different show each time.

06 January 2012

13 by Mike Bartlett

Sarah - Genevieve O'Reilly
Amir - Davood Chadami
Ruth - Geraldine James
Martin/Paul - Nick Blakeley
Shannon - Katie Brayben
Rachel - Kirsty Bushell
Stephen - Danny Webb
Holly - Lara Rossi
Edith - Helen Ryan
Zia - Shane Zaza
Rob - Matthew Barker
Mark - Adam James
John - Trystan Gravelle
Ruby - Grace Cooper Milton
Dennis - Nick SIdi
Liam/Terry - John Webber
Carol - Sioned Jones
Alice - Natasha Broomfield
Sally - Esther McAuley
Esther - Barbara Kirby
Fiona - Zara Tempest Walters
Sir Christopher - Martin Chamberlain
Other parts played by members of the Company.

Directed by Thea Sharrock and designed by Tom Scutt.

Seen in the middle of it's opening run at the Olivier. Bought a side-ish seat under the wonderful GILT scheme & scuttled along the entire length of the otherwise empty row to a centre aisle seat.

I do enjoy Mr Bartlett but I prefer his more claustrophobic pieces, or should I say I enjoy his work when space is at a premium.

Don't get me wrong, I reserve a special part of my brain especially to thrill at the full use of the drum revolve in this stage and in that respect I wasn't disappointed but the material just seemed too big and rambling. I wanted something drum-tight and this seemed to have some frayed edges.

It's cinematic, has something clever and has some lovely performances. Adam James steals every scene he's in. I have a special soft spot for the work of Kirsty Bushell and can't quite work out why we don't see more of her.

03 January 2012

Haunted Child by Joe Penhall

Julie - Sophie Okonedo
Thomas - Jack Boulter
Douglas - Ben Daniels

Director - Jeremy Herrin
Designer - Bunnie Christie

Seen one month into it's premiere run at the Royal Court downstairs during the wonderful winter bargain period

It has been over six months since I made an entry here and almost as long since I have been to the theatre, such is the sorry state of my lifestyle these days. I could not let another Penhall come and go without making an effort to sneak into it.

I had a moment at the start when I feared this might be a little self-conscious but then the writing I know and love kicked in and it was heartbreaking and funny, moving along at a comfortable pace and resolving beautifully. It's not without flaws and slightly questionable logic from the Julie character but I liked the journey.

I enjoyed the set but admit to not quite understanding the uplighting through the floorboards. I thought the little boy was very good, considering he is a little boy.

Since it's a while since I've been to this building which I used to visit once a week, I sensed a change. I was in the circle and the front of house staff were having to marshall inconsiderate patron. One person was chastised for not turning their iPad off, even though the lights had not yet gone down but the Kindle user next-door-but-one was left unshamed. At one point, someone shouted repeatedly at another to turn their iPhone off. It may have made for a performance without noise or light pollution but the atmosphere in the circle took a while to relax.

The bar was open but not serving food so soon after the New Year.....whatever......I guess they couldn't get fresh supplies. The Front of House staff were exceptionally lovely, as ever although I scarcely recognised any of them. The bookstall was reassuringly stuffed and cordially attended.

This may not be the last post of the week.

11 June 2011

Emperor and Galilean by Henrik Ibsen translated by Ben Power

The Pagan Cantor - Jeremy Avis
Gregory - Jamie Ballard
Sintula - Matthew Barker
Ephesian Sailor - Tam Dean Burn
Eutherius - Simon Coombs
Ursulus - Richard Durden
Jovian - Daniel Flynn
Peter - John Heffernan
The Christian Cantor - Michael Henry
Fromentius - Chris Jared
Agathon - James McArdle
Maximus - Ian McDiarmid
Ammian - Simon Merrells
Publia - Carole Nimmons
Helena - Genevieve O’Reilly
Medon / Oribasis - Prasanna Puwanarajah
Myrrha / Macrina - Lara Rossi
Julian - Andrew Scott
Constantius - Nabil Shaban
Gallus - Laurence Spellman
Maurus/Hilarion - Alexander Vlahos
Sallust - Jack Whitam
Varro - Oliver Wilson
Persian Stranger - Sargon Yelda

Director - Jonathan Kent
Designer - Paul Brown

Seen whilst still in preview in a glorious standby seat within the beautiful auditorium of the Olivier.

If ever there was a production that would be hard to envisage being staged anywhere else it is this one. The drum and revolve were used to such incredible effect and put me in mind of the old productions of the 80's.

This is a long production but the first two hours before the interval flew by in a way I can't recall since Tony Hopkins gave his Lear here.

The performances were engaging from the very beginning and the sets were awesome.
If I had one criticism, and this may have been addressed by now, I would kill the invasive, monotonous drone of the insects in Athens. Perhaps the balance could be adjusted but it was beyond ambience. It really started to painfully grate.

09 June 2011

Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odets

Frenchy - Sebastian Armesto
Belle Stark - Keeley Hawes
Ben Stark - Joseph Millson
Cleo Singer - Jessica Raine
Willy Wax - Tim Steed
Phil Cooper - Peter Sullivan
Mr Prince - Nicholas Woodeson
Ensemble - Lisa Caruccio Came, Dan Crow, Morgan Deare, Rendah Heywood, Leighton Pugh

Director - Angus Jackson
Designer - Anthony Ward

Seen on the last night of it's run at the Lyttelton after a wonderfully entertaining platform event.

Stunning, stockingless, ruthless in her youth, Cleo Singer arrives in Ben Stark’s dental practice and turns his married, humdrum world upside down. She promises passion, escape, if only he knew how. But Stark is not alone in his frustrated dreams and in those stifling, shared offices there’s rivalry over a woman discovering life, a woman who’s hungry for expression and for love. And she’s no pushover, she’s looking for the real deal.

Why don’t you suddenly ride away, an airplane, a boat! Take a rocket to the moon! Explode!

Written in 1938 by Clifford Odets, the American master of dazzling, acerbic New York repartee, Rocket to the Moon puts opportunity in the way of a quietly desperate man and waits.

None of you can give me what I’m looking for: a whole full world, with all the trimmings!

Passionate, amusing and luxurious performances from everyone involved. The cast were beautifully weighted against each other and chosen with great care and thought.

The set design was perhaps unnecessarily ambitious but a pleasure, nonetheless.

06 June 2011

Chicken Soup with Barley by Arnold Wesker

Ada Kahn - Jenna Augen
Hymie Kossof - Steve Furst
Bessie Blatt - Rebecca Gethings
Dave Simmonds - Joel Gillman
Prince Silver - Ilan Goodman
Monty Blatt - Harry Peacock
Ronnie Kahn - Tom Rosenthal
Sarah Kahn - Samantha Spiro
Harry Kahn - Danny Webb
Cissie Khan - Alexis Zegerman
Young Ronnie Khan - Charlie Cancea/Sonnt Ryan

Directed by Dominic Cooke, Designed by Ultz

Seen on a Monday night cheapie during previews of this revival at The Royal Court. Notables in the audience: Penny Smith, Mark Lawson, Joe Penhall

I love and respect Mr Cooke and he's coaxed some tour-de-force work from his cast and designer, Ultz but ultimately I am not convinced this script that was so passionately pertinent in it's time, can actually stand up, unedited in this day and age.

It's much too laboured and long. That's not a statement on the pace which was well metered. It just needs some carving to bring it in much closer to the 2hour including interval. The debate is held in a present that is tired and dusty in our contemporary minds. The effort from the cast cannot be faulted but their material needs to be more taught.

28 May 2011

A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee

Agnes - Penelope Wilton
Tobias - Tim Pigott-Smith
Claire - Imelda Staunton
Edna - Diana Hardcastle
Harry - Ian McElhinney
Julia - Lucy Cohu

Directed by James Macdonald and designed by Laura Hopkins

Seen mid-run during it's revival at the Almeida in Islington in what I shall now declare is one of the best two seats in the house.

Such is the downward trend in my theatre-going, I had completely forgotten how easy it is to park for free in that part of Islington on a Saturday afternoon. So I struggled with buses and the shoppers of Upper Street unnecessarily but for a great reward.

This is a rambling Albee but it exposes so much truth in the glorious mouthpiece of Agnes, so perfectly portrayed by the radiant Ms Wilton. Her considered conversations with Tobias are beautifully balanced with the hilariously understated antics of Claire.

I'm sure all the proper reviews have declared every detail this production as a triumph. That such a wordy, long piece can hold the audience in the silence never heard from the wandering minds of fidgets, is enough accolade to commend it.

As the lights went down on for the start of the final act, I felt reassured that the denouement would unravel satisfactorily but this comfort afforded me the chance to be completely intoxicated by the choice of Agnes' dressing gown. The action begins when the light is still low in the sky as it struggles through the side window and this gown might have had it's own individual LEDs lifting the folds and form of Ms Wilton as she glides around the stage. I'm only sad there isn't a better picture of it readily available.

14 April 2011

April 14: A Night of New Stories

Ten Four Theatre gave their inaugural production to a packed arch tonight with a series of monologues inspired by today's date.

The first of eight pieces to open the evening could be either terrifying or exhilarating. To ensure the latter, a director would dream of being able to cast someone like Tom Mison and he would hope to be given the kind of writing with which he can at once hit the ground running whilst working the audience around his fingers like putty. Everything was right about "True Love" by Ziella Bryars. Directed by Kate Shearman to within a centimetre of each pause, there was as much comedy the breaths so deftly delivered by Mr Mison, as there was in the heartbreaking text. A tale of love, betrayal, revenge and deep longing.

Sophia Branson Boursot's "Cat Woman", directed by Laura Keefe might have had a tough task to follow that opening piece but Hannah James' quirky and charming delivery kept the momentum going with a tale of unexpectedly acquired companionship and the conspiracy of lottery numbers.

Charlotte Coy's performance in Maev Mac Coille's "A Door" was positively seductive as she recounts the moment when she fell hopelessly in love with her partner. This piece had wit, a touch of absurdity and a beautiful resolve.

For the final piece before the interval, Tom Mison takes the role of the writer/director of "The Bounded" and leaves the performance to Tim Wyatt whose credentials were sadly left off the programme notes for the night. He presents his monologue from within a cupboard which is very nearly tall enough for him to stand up straight in. Nearly that is, but not quite and therein lies the immediate visual cue that this was going to be deliciously silly. So it continued, with clues, a series of silly anecdotes and occasional apparently random outbursts which all pulled nicely together to reveal an April Fool's joke which did not go to plan. Another cleverly constructed piece from Mr Mison.

After an interval, Jolyon Coy was directed by Charlotte Coy (she of the iridescent performance in "A Door") in "The Lasker Award" by Fred Quillemby. This was an achingly funny introduction to addiction control with which Mr Coy kept us in stitches.

If you were to hold a gun to my head and ask if there were any weaker points to this wonderful evening, I would have to say that Lisa Ommanney's "Angel" must carry that mantel. It is a well written piece and Faye Merrall's direction of Tom Moores was perfectly fine but this piece was bravely sombre in the middle of the other taught comedic pieces and it is only for that reason, I would say it was less engaging.

"PERFECT + DAY - STRESS" by Tom Glover was performed by Sam Bern to a degree that once again had me clutching various organs for fear they'd pop out of me with all the laughter. It was just another tale of an obsessive compulsive numerologist. It had to be a pitch perfect performance for it to work at all and under the directorship of Christopher Brandon, it was just that.

Mr Brandon wrote the last piece, "John" in which Jolyon Coy directed James Rigby in another heartbreaking performance. A story of bullying and revenge, some of this piece does rely perhaps a little too much upon the audience being theatrically savvy but happily, on 14th April 2011 in Southwark, the target assembly was entirely present.

Everyone involved in putting this evening together should be exhausted and very proud.

04 April 2011

Wastwater by Simon Stephens

Harry - Tom Sturridge
Frieda - Linda Bassett
Mark - Paul Ready
Lisa - Jo McInnes
Sian - Amanda Hale
Jonathan - Angus Wright
Dalisay - Jasmine Chen, Candice Chen

Directed by Katie Micthell and designed by Lizzie Clachan

Seen at the Royal Court for £10 in a brilliant Monday seat booked that morning, at the start of the run.

A complicated, contemporary ramble through the seemingly dispassionate minds of three pairs of gently connected souls.

Tom Sturridge must surely be a worthy successor to Ben Whishaw in Ms Mitchell's affections and his pairing with Linda Bassett was like watching flour and cool water slowly merge to make a smooth paste.

Katie Mitchell has such a wonderful talent for casting. These two connect assuredness and barely disguised uneasiness like a child's wooden jigsaw.

The final act is the really uncomfortable one because it involves a child but it also gives us the resolution that we knew would come but had been resisting.

A fabulous piece of writing, beautifully performed and directed.

There's an interview here and a podcast here but poke around the Royal Court link for more information, reviews and a video teaser.

14 February 2011

Our Private Life by Pedro Miguel Rozo
Translated by Simon Scardifield

Sergio - Eugene O'Hare
Carlos - Colin Morgan
The Mother - Ishia Bennison
Tania - Clare Cathcart
The Psychiatrist - Adrian Schiller
The Father - Anthony O'Donnell
Joaquin - Joshua Williams

Directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Lizzie Clachan

Seen at the Royal Court Upstairs in it's third performance of the run.

This had better look sharp and settle in before press night although most performances seem to be sold out already. It's a bit of a mess and I fear the fault may be across the language divide.

I had the strong sense that there could be something very good in here but it felt messy and the punch points seemed misplaced. The idea of thoughts being as loud as dialogue in a family who don't communicate properly is a wonderful line of discussion but it wasn't exploited other than for a few lame laughs. This was exacerbated some over-excited members of the audience exploding false guffaws at the start but even they weren't able to sustain them once they'd got over seeing Merlin in the flesh (who seems to have forgotten what to do on a stage).

It doesn't stop there. The mother was poorly cast in particular. She gave an energetic performance but having a brash, 'Jewish Mother' in a family who reference their Catholic upbringing more than once seemed like a strange choice however Joshua William's portrayal of the boy hails another performer's career to watch out for.

The set was clever and simply served the plot although my OCD was bothered by the messy way the tablecloth was skewed across the table for the duration. Had there been an interval, I would have straightened it myself. A traditional stage was used but at right angles to the normal configuration in order to give more width. This meant fewer, longer rows of seats and annoyingly there was no centre aisle.

08 February 2011

A Flea in Your Ear by Georges Feydeau
in a translation by John Mortimer

Olympe -Di Botcher
Romain Tournel- Jonathan Cake
Dr Finache - Oliver Cotton
Raymonde Chandebise - Lisa Dillon
Camille Chandebise - Freddie Fox
Lucienne Homenides de Histangua - Fiona Glascott
Victor Emmanuel Chandebise/Poche - Tom Hollander
Augustin Feraillon - Lloyd Hutchinson
Etienne Plucheux - Tim McMullan
Carlos Homenides de Histangua - John Marquez
Baptisin - William Maxwell -
Eugenie - Rebecca Night
Antoinette Plucheux - Maggie Service
Herr Schwarz - Walter van Dyk

Guests at the Hotel Coq D'Or - Greg Baldock, Peter Cadden, Emma Campbell-Jones, William Findley, Kirsten Hazel Smith

Directed by Richard Eyre and set designed by Rob Howell.

Seen during it's run at the Old Vic in a wonderful half-price seat

I don't rush to see a farce but I have unfaltering faith in Richard Eyre, adore this theatre and have never been let down by the notable members of this cast.

It hits the ground running with lot of silly exchanges, some a tad too shrill for my liking but the entire piece is deftly set up in a matter of minutes.

A production like this can fall on it's face at the first hurdle but the faith that brought me here was well placed. The timing and sheer joy of the cast make this romp along in an relaxing way.

At first, I was distracted but Mr Hollander's 'enhanced' bottom but it soon became clear that a sweet gluteus maximus can only take so much bashing without padding. Tom's energy was exhausting as he dashed in and out of his various costumes finishing off with a delightfully pratish moment at the curtain call. I am not sure how he manages with two performances and I doubt I would rush to see this in the evening of a matinee day. That said, he is probably flying on adrenaline.
I just enjoyed the freshness of his performance this time.

Ms Dillon was divine once again but the male cast were the most pleasurable to observe. Oliver Cotton maintains his grandeur in the face of ridiculous circumstances and subtly holds the fulcrum of the farce together. Freddie Fox's cleft palette was no doubt a difficult thing to perfect without seeming too ridiculous even for this but in the most part, he was superb albeit annoying. The only actor who I felt was physically miscast gave a faultless performance.

The set for the hotel was gloriously ridiculous and a complete shock after the austere drawing room of the Chandebise's house. That it was swung into place in so few minutes and still settling as the curtain went back up was one of the most joyful moments of the night.

If you know what you're in for, understand the craft of these things and are not looking for deep, intellectual post-show debate, toss your cares aside and laugh your way around this.

07 February 2011

The Heretic by Richard Bean

Dr Diane Cassell - Juliet Stephenson
Pheobe - Lydia Wilson
Ben Shooter - Johnny Flynn
Geoff Tordoff - Adrian Hood
Professor Kevin Maloney - James Fleet
Catherine Tickell - Leah Whitaker

Directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Peter McKintosh.

Seen on a last minute Monday cheapie at the Royal Court Downstairs.
Celebrity in the audience...that woman with the eyes....don't worry, it'll come to me.

Fabulous characters and a very funny script. There were a couple of problems but they'll sort themselves out by press night.

Gorgeous bit of new writing performed by a very tight cast, the newer members of which are certainly people to keep an eye on in future. Sing to me, Johnny.

04 January 2011

Get Santa by Anthony Neilson

Teddy - Bill Buckhurst
Holly - Imogen Doel
Bumblehole - Tom Godwin
Gran - Amanda Hadingue
Barbara - Gabriel Quigley
Santa - David Sterne
Bernard - Robert Stocks
Puppeteer - Chan Martinez

On the big stage at the Royal Court with music by Nick Powell and the designer was Mirium Buether. They were giving seats away for this and probably with good reason. Celebrities in the audience were Stephen Tomkinson and Dawn Steele.

Written for children 7 year-old and older, Get Santa! follows a ten-year old girl, Holly, in her quest to find the perfect family, meeting a host of weird and wonderful characters along the way.

First of all, I should say that I probably chose my seat unwisely. This would have been much better from the front of the dress circle where the Wild At Heart stars were lucky enough to be seated. The design was a joyful thing from the very start as the stage opens like a great bit present. There were some simple special effects that were carried off well and the puppeteer did a good job. I particularly liked his outfit camouflaging all but his face with the frenetic wallpaper. The structure of the story was sweet and simple enough for any seven year old audience to engage with but not be bored by.

For the first time I can ever remember, I was unable to return after the interval. In fact, I raced out of my seat as soon as the curtain went down. I had prepared myself for children chatting and kicking me in the back, making rhythmic noises to sooth themselves through their boredom. I had not prepared myself, given my love for this space, for the almost inaudible screeching from certain areas of the cast. I know I wasn't the target audience and that they were pantomiming it up but it was more than I could tolerate. I am sure many children found it a refreshing change from Cinderella and as far as I could tell, there was no awful audience participation but it grated like a rusty knife through my eardrums.

21 December 2010

Theatre Quiz at the National, Lyttelton

Theatre Quiz: Tate, Gatiss, Russell and Chris vs. Puwanarajah, Lanipekun, Timms and Williams
Emma Freud takes charge of two rival National Theatre companies as they do battle over theatrical knowledge in the annual quiz, assisted by scorer Miranda Hart.

The Teams

The Amazing Ayckbourns

Catherine Tate (Team Captain)

Mark Gatiss

Jenna Russell

Oliver Chris


The Stunning Shakespeares

Prasanna Puwanarajah (Team Captain)

Alex Lanipekun

Joseph Timms

Finty Williams

Running time: 45mins

This was, as ever pure, undiluted fun. Despite the scarcity of my theatre visits this year, I was heartened that I'd clearly managed to be more on top of the scene than I'd given myself credit. Ms Hart was delightful and the teams were gorgeous and entertaining.

30 October 2010

Design For Living by Noël Coward

Otto - Tom Burke
Grace Torrence - Nancy Crane
Matthew - Edward Dede
Gilda - Lisa Dillon
Photographer - Matthew Gammie
Mr Birkbeck/Henry Carver - John Hollingworth
Miss Hodge - Maggie McCarthy
Leo - Andrew Scott
Helen Carver - Maya Wasowicz
Ernest Friedman - Angus Wright

Director - Anthony Page
Designer - Lez Brotherston

Seen mid-run at the Old Vic.

Bloomin' hilarious & I got in for free!

Once you get past the silly hoity toity stuff, it's so contemporary. The set was incredible and when the drapes revealed the New York skyline the audience gave a round of applause....in a matinee!

In fact, the audience were really good and the cast were sexy.

25 October 2010

Tribes by Nina Raine

Billy - Jacob Casselden
Beth - Kika Markham
Sylvia - Michelle Terry
Christopher - Stanley Townsend
Daniel - Harry Treadaway
Ruth -Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Directed By Roger Michell
Designed by Mark Thomson (no doubt while he wasn't busy carving up the BBC)

Seen towards the end of it's premiere run at the Royal Court in a wonderful seat.

This was a hundred different kinds of awesome but for a more articulate appraisal I see nothing more fruitful than pointing in this direction. I don't wish to appear lazy but this says a lot of what I would say and more.
Unless I missed it, they fail to mention that Harry Treadaway seemed to be wearing the same underpants he sported in Over There. They are no more sexy now than they were then.

19 October 2010

Krapp's Last Tape by Samuel Beckett

Krapp - Michael Gambon
Directed by Michael Colgan

A production from The Gate Theatre seen during a short run at The Duchess. Seat was a freebie in row K. As I was entering, I saw Stephen Dillane leaving from the earlier performance.

You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium. You could also hear the man next to me breathing heavily, the woman on the other side of me sobbing, a man in the centre stalls snoring, someone back-stage clanging doors and the man who had to take a break for a pee was in danger of upstaging Mr Gambon.

That would, of course have been impossible. He was wonderful. The script isn't as I had remembered it but who knows, my previous experience may have played fast and loose with it. There were more 'spools' as I recall.

It's not for everyone but if there is no phonebook available for Mr Gambon to read, a Beckett monologue is a fair substitute.

12 September 2010

Notes Still In Draft Form

Other commitments leave this blog in a bad state.
I still have to post on the following productions:

Earthquakes in London
Danton's Death
Through The Glass Darkly
Hens by Alia Bano
Rough Cuts
Ingredient X

08 September 2010

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

HANNAH BINGHAM- Ensemble/Florence (Dance Captian)
SOPHIE JUGÉ - Ensemble/Mrs Taylor (Dance Captain)
REUBEN KAYE - Mr Lewis/Mr Farraday
DUDLEY ROGERS - Stevens Senior/Man on pier
GEMMA SALTER - Ensemble/Sarah
KATIA SARTINI - Ensemble/Ruth
PAUL TATE(Unwell tonight)- Meredith/Mr Spencer
LEEJAY TOWNSEND - Dupont/Policeman
ALAN VICARY - Lord Darlington
REBECCA WHITBREAD - Ensemble/Dorothy


Music, Book & Lyrics by Alex Loveless
Directed by Chris Loveless
Movement Director Omar F. Okai
Instrumental Arrangements & Ensemble Vocal Arrangements by Rowland Lee
Musical Director/Dance Music & Vocal Arrangements by Richard Bates
DAVID SHIELDS - Set & Costume Design
Seen at the lovely little Union Theatre after a delay due to a cast member being ill.

The idea of setting this piece to music confused me at first but it is of course, the perfect candidate.
It really requires a lavish production which it cannot enjoy in this sweet theatre but all the stops were pulled out and in the end the material sells the whole thing.

Some songs are the kind you might have heard audiences singing as they left the Cambridge Theatre. Others were weaker and just plot serving whilst several were lost in some of the heavy-handed musical accompaniment.

There were some beautiful performances here which could certainly be retained for a bigger production. All in all, this was a wonderfully refreshing surprise.

31 July 2010

After The Dance by Terence Rattigan

Joan Scott-Fowler - Nancy Carroll
Helen Banner - Faye Castelow
Julia Browne - Pandora Colin
Dr George Banner - Giles Cooper
David Scott-Fowler - Benedict Cumberbatch
Miss Potter - Jenny Galloway
Partygoer - Daniel Gosling
Peter Scott-Fowler - John Heffernan
Moya Lexington - Juliet Howland
Williams - Nicholas Lumley
Cyril Carter - Lachlan Nieboer
John Reid - Adrian Scarborough
Partygoer - Leo Staar
Partygoer - Hannah Stokely
Lawrence Walters - Giles Taylor
Arthur Power - Richard Teverson
Partygoer - Natalie Thomas
Partygoer - Charlotte Thornton

Director - Thea Sharrock
Designer - Hildegard Bechtler
Music -Adrian Johnston

Glimpsed through the gap between the big headed men in the cheap seats at the Lyttelton, mid-run.

Despite being in considerable pain and having had to hobble from a distant parking space in a potential curtain-up missing panic, I completely adored this wonderful production.

With the exception of Adrian Scarborough's wonderfully considered John Reid, the rest of the characters are either detestable or pathetic but in the hands of this glorious cast, they are entirely engaging throughout the three hours of the performance. Everyone felt as though they'd been wearing their character for months and despite the almost farcical arc of the story-line, I was involved and captured for the duration.

Am I cruel to have gained such enjoyment from an incredibly pretty young blonde in front of me needing almost every scene to be explained to her?

I haven't seen a curtain call with such sustained red eyes (from Mr Cumberbatch) since The Seagull with Carey Mulligan.

21 June 2010

Welcome to Thebes by Moira Buffini

Eurydice - Nikki Amuka-Bird
Megeara - Madeline Appiah
Pargeia - Rakie Ayola
Junior Lieutenant Scud - Omar Brown
Ensemble - Jessie Burton
Talthybia - Jacqueline Defferary
Ensemble - Daniel Fine
Ensemble - Karlina Grace
Junior Lieutenant Scud - Rene Gray
Theseus - David Harewood
Ismene - Tracy Ifeachor
Ensemble - Irma Inniss
Prince Tydeus - Chuk Iwuji
Girl - Alexia Khadime
Phaeax - Ferdinand Kingsley
Aglaea - Aicha Kossoko
Ensemble - Cornelius Macarthy
Haemon - Simon Manyonda
Tiresias - Bruce Myers
Euphrosyne - Pamela Nomvete
Ensemble - Clare Perkins
Ensemble - Victor Power
Polykleitos - Daniel Poyser
Thalia - Joy Richardson
Antigone - Vinette Robinson
Ensemble - Zara Tempest Walters
Sergeant Miletus - Michael Wildman

Directed by Richard Eyre & Designed by Tim Hatley

Seen on the night before the press came in the Olivier with Kwame-Kwei Amah was in the audience.

Wonderful seat at the side. Wonderful because I would not have like to have paid a great deal more than we did. It was much too loose and wobbly. The performances were great but it needed a shake-out and a brutal hand. It was self-conscious and a little bit too smug. It couldn't decide if it wanted to be contemporary or a classic. The execution of the helicopter arrival and departure was worth the entry price alone. The sound control was precision perfect and the use of the fans were completely over the top but very gratifying.

18 June 2010

The Man by James Graham

Ben - James Graham
Inland Revenue - Michelle Luther

Directed by Kate Wasserberg & designed by Fly Davis.

Seen at the Finborough on the penultimate day of it's run

Incredible performance of a wonderful piece of writing. Subject matter much too close to home.

29 May 2010

The Last Stand to Reason by The Pajama Men

Written and performed by Shenoah Allen & Mark Chavez plus their tireless musician, Kevin Hume at the Soho Theatre. I think I saw James Serafinowicz as I was leaving. Does that count as an 'audience notable'?

My first impression was that this show wasn't as tight as Versus Vs Versus but that may have been contingent upon the absence of the impact from seeing them for the first time and the hard-to-warm-up audience.

It's undeniably clever stuff, well crafted and presented. In a piece this long, not all of it's going to work at a consistently good level but I would never hesitate to see them again. Mark looks and performs as though Shenoah just drew him during a long period of procrastination, then got someone to animate him. I meant that as positively. He does things with his voice that most people would need sophisticated equipment to replicate.

A quick scoot around for reviews of the current show has been relatively fruitless. I was in a packed audience on the last night of a very short run. I'd hate to see them in a less intimate venue but surely they can support a longer run?

10 May 2010

The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard

Billy - Tom Austen
Debbie- Louise Calf
Max - Barnaby Kay
Annie - Hattie Morahan
Henry - Toby Stephens
Charlotte - Fenella Woolgar
Brodie -Jordan Young

The production is directed by Anna Mackmin, with designs by Lez Brotherston.

Seen during it's revival at The Old Vic.

A timeless piece of acute observation and honesty, beautifully constructed and punctuated with what are now the creme of nostalgic tracks.

The performances are wonderful and the shift in chemistry seamless and almost comforting. It's a terrible shame that the press photos don't include Ms Woolgar. It was such a joy to see her so relaxed in a contemporary role.

Telegraph, Times, Independent and Guardian.

03 May 2010

The Roman Bath by Stanislav Stratiev
Version by Justin Butcher

Ifan Meredith - Ivan Antonov
Bo Poraj - Vasilev MA
Rhona Croker - Martha
Lloyd Woolf - Lifeguard
Christopher Hogben - Deaf Mute/TV Assistant/Committee Member 2
Jonathan Rhodes - Banev/TV Director
David Schaal - Party Rep/Workman 2
Wendy Wason - Miss DiMatteo/TV Presenter
Richard Atwill - Column/Workman 1/Committee Member 1
Directed by Russell Bolam
Designed by Jean Chan

Seen on Press Night at the Arcola Theatre. Alan Corduner popped into the bar at the interval but I don't think he was in the audience.

I enjoy farce and slapstick when it's well written and performed - Boeing, Boeing is a good case in point.

This is a bit of a mess. It gets of to an awfully tortured start with a tv news crew. It has a worthy theme to explore but the characters are two mannered and audience aware. I'm sure the actors where doing the director's bidding but it dimishes the respect all concerned should have for the audience. This could have made as much impact and been far funnier if the everyone had performed with more commitment to being present in it. Bo Poraj seems to keep himself within the piece but even he started to despair towards the end. Lloyd Woolf's lifeguard was both well written and even though it was the most ridiculous character, his performance was the most consistently credible.

My notes on the night read something like: This needs some serious tightening up and then a load of waffle I can't read except a note about someone in the audience that looked like Joe Cornish in profile but was disappointing face to face. Proud to be an air-head.

Independent, Guardian and Time Out.

02 May 2010

Hurts, Given and Received
by Howard Barker

September - Jane Bertish
Sadavee 1 & 2 - Issy Brazier-Jones
Feltray - Suzy Cooper
Detriment/Stays - Alan Cox
Chorus - Libby Edwards
Bulow/Rib - Nigel Hastings
Chorus - Mark Lewis
Always/Umber - Peter Marinker
Alzarin - Richard Maxted
Glove - Penelope McGhie
Bach - Tom Riley
Chorus - Matt Schmolle

Directed by Gerrard McArthur
Set Designed byTomas Leipzig

A production from The Wrestling School and seen at The Riverside Studios during their Howard Barker Season. Notables in the audience were Tom Mison, Christina Cole and Jemima Rooper.

This play is probably the strongest and best formed of the three but for a tiny little theatre, the staging of the two main productions were fabulous.

Tom Riley's performance was so beautifully paced and energetic. I forgot how much as ease he puts me even when the text is challenging. The play is are like a ballet of words. This guy's prose moves around with a structure Twyla Tharp would have been proud of. Completely enjoyable afternoon/evening.

I forgot to mention the drool. Now, I was used to having this effect on men when I was younger but it seemed to me that Tom spent a full 20 minutes drooling. He also seemed to be pretty much dead on our eye-line and I could hardly look at him. It glistened in the spotlight and he almost gobbed on one of his fellow cast. What IS it with boys and their drooling games?Seriously, Tom is on stage with so much patter all the time, I have no idea how he manages to summon up that much gunk each night with no evidence of a crafty bottle to hydrate him. The things they teach you at drama school, eh?

He's certainly one of those young actors whose professional diary I like to keep in my locker, shall we say but the supporting cast were beautifully complimentary.

For me to justify revisiting a production is a rare treat but I can honestly say, with objectivity and no silly bias, that as I left the auditorium on Sunday, I deeply regretted not having snagged one of those freebie Time-Out tickets. This production invaded my thoughts all week.

4 Star review and analysis plus notes from them wily Whingers.

Slowly by Howard Barker

Bell - Vanessa Ackerman
Calf - Suzy Cooper
Paper - Megan Hall
Sign - Penelope McGhie

Directed by Hanna Berrigan
Set Designed byTomas Leipzig

From The Wrestling School at the Riverside Theatre.

A production from The Wrestling School and seen at The Riverside Studios during their Howard Barker Season.

Weighty performances from this outstanding cast. The stark but powerful design of the set and wardrobe burned into the desperate situation in which these woman found themselves. Not easy or light but admirable, for sure.

Wonder and Worship in the Dying Ward
by Howard Barker

Narrator - Alan Cox
Atto - Nigel Hastings
Momper - Mirandar Cook
Windus - Jane Bertish
Slump - Deborah Penny
Portslade - Peter Marinker
Basin - Michael Sheldon
Cling - Richard Maxted
Loos- Stephen Omer
Onsee - Kristin Milward
Childlike - Chris Moran

The Proprieter
Architect - Vanessa-Faye Stanley

The Visitors
Ostend - Carolyn Backhouse
Doobee - Ross Armstrong

This was a rehearsed reading from The Wrestling School to start off a day of Barker productions. It took the form of a very physical reading. It was hard and chilling to watch but beautifully staged and performed.

29 April 2010

Posh by Laura Wade

Jeremy - Simon Shepherd
Alistair Ryle - Leo Bill
Rachel - Fiona Button
Toby Maitland - Jolyon Coy
Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt - David Dawson
George Balfour - Richard Goulding
Harry Villiers - Harry Hadden-Paton
Ed Montgomery - Kit Harington
Dimitri Mitropoulos - Henry Lloyd-Hughes
Charlie - Charlotte Lucas
Guy Bellingfield - Joshua Mcguire
James Leighton-Masters - Tom Mison
Miles Richards - James Norton
Chris - Daniel Ryan

Directed by Lyndsey Turner & Designed by Anthony Ward.

Seen in the Jerwood Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre. Anthony Horowitz, Toby Jones, Nick Hytner, Rupert Friend and Keira Knightley in the audience.

I saw this in it's raw state a couple of years ago during the Rough Cuts season. It had a wonderful cast and romped along in a manner that could have caused me to wonder about a full expansion being too loose but the material is rich and rattles along at a wonderful speed. It could have been a smug dig and I have to say I do question some of the character names but a quick glance at the double-barrelled actors names puts paid to any concern I should have there. Mr Shepherd is annoyingly smug and self-important but I guess that's the intention. Daniel Ryan was heartbreaking.

Read the reviews here.