29 May 2006

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The extensive cast will be added soon but suffice it to say that the Proctors were played by Iain Glenn and Helen Schlesinger.

Directed by Dominic Cooke
Designed beatufully

Wow. This is the third production I have seen of this play and this one made more sense than the others. It was raw and uncomplicated, humerous and passionate without the hand-wringing.

I sat next to a complete oaf who spoke without whisper to his long suffering companion about the great revelation that had occured to him - hey whaddaya know, it's JUST like the McCarthy thing. This was only after the interval, Before the interval I was entertained by his snores and the rythmic shaking of his wide open legs. I digress.

Despite all this, it was an incredible production. The boards outside said it was 'Glenn best performance of his career' and before entering I just grinned at the damning endictment on his body of work. By the curtain call I could only concur. He used a voice I have never heard from him and it was unholy. You can only imagine how much of a chord that struck with me. He rightfully got a standing ovation.

The set must not go without note. Wonderfully sparse and achingly practical. It's one aim was to serve the play and not the designer's ego.

I should have taken the opportunity to see Smaller in it's last week but I feel I made my deal with the devil and won.

27 May 2006

Product by Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill - James
Jessica Brooks - Olivia

Directed by Lucy Morrisson
Designed by Mat Ort

at the Royal Court Upstairs straight after Dying City. Only showing for three nights as part of the 50 Year Anniversary

Well, I may be ignorant but the 'designing' consisted of pushing back the sofa from Dying City and putting a couple of chairs and a coffee table in it's place - oh and some scripts and filmy paperwork.

That said - it was a hoot. Mark is a one man self promotion tool so one felt that he was reading from a cartoon version of his own diary. He is a mesmerising guy to watch but one wonders how another actor would have handled it. Thoroughly enjoyable - oh, it's an ego maniac pitching a sick, bad taste movie to a Hollywood starlet. The movie is about a post 9/11 love affair between an active supporter of Al Kaeda and the surviving partner of a twin tower casualty. Yep - that bad taste and that funny!

26 May 2006

Dying City by Christopher Shinn

Sian Brooke - Kelly
Andrew Scott - Peter/Craig

Directed by James McDonald
Designed by Peter Mumford

at the Royal Court Upstairs in it's UK first run

A disintegrating relationship unravels via conversations with a twin brother and flash backs. Both performances were empassioned but Sian Brooke was beautifully underplaying her role.

A good premise for a play and it progressed nicely. The set was a little clunky in so far as it was impossible for Andrew to exit one side as Peter and return silently as Craig from the other because we heard his hurried disrobing journey. Suspension of belief needs to be aided not thwarted. Heartbreaking and powerful.

24 May 2006

Phaedra by Frank McGuiness after Racine

Ben Meyjes - Hippolytus
Sean Campion - theramenes
Linda Bassett - Oenon
Claire Higgins - Phaedra
Janet Whiteside - Panope
Marcella Plunkett - Aricia
Lucy-Anne Holmes - Ismene
Michael Feast - Theseus

Directed and designed by Tom Cairns

At the Donmar Warehouse

I am almost willing my next theatrical experience to be a bad one because I keep on staring in wonderment and can only conclude that I have no rational discernment. Once again, tonight I was enraputred.

Ben Meyjes was mezmerising and Claire Higgins lived up to my reason for bothering with the production. I had the last seat in the stall which was way off to the side but it was so comfy and so intimate that I would even consider asking for B41 again.

I adored Linda Bassett and shall watch for Marcella Plunkett in future.

22 May 2006

Exonerated by Jessica Blank
& Erik Jensen

Barbara Barnes - Sandra/Sue
Todd Boyce - Gary Gauger
Geff Francis - David Keaton
Aiden Gillen - Kerry Max Cook
William Jay Marshall - Delbert Tibbs
Mike McShane - Jess Tafero
Cecelia Noble - Georgia/Darla
Abdul Salis - Robert Earl Hayes
Kerry Shale - Walter Rhodes
Susannah York - Sunny Jacobs

Directed by Bob Babalan

At the Riverside Studio 2

A touching recitation in the style of "My Name is Rachel Corrie" sharing diaries and testimonials of various people who spent time on Death Row for crimes they did not commit. The Sunny Jacobs story is particularly poignant because her husband was not exonerated before his time to die and in the event there was a huge malfunction in the style of The Green Mile that made his criminal death the most horrific murder.

Unlike Rachel Corrie, there is no set for this and it is essentially a rehearsed reading. This affords them the luxury of having a few higher profile celebrities pitch up and pitch in which is something of a crowd pleaser. I missed some really good people early on but the performances were still very, very good today.

20 May 2006

Citizenship by Mark Ravenhill

Claire Louise Cordwell - Amy
Sid Mitchell - Tom
Matt Smith - Gary
Robert Boulter - Ray
Farzana Due Elahe - Kerry
Andrea Riseborough - Chantal/Tarot Reader's Daughter
Naomi Bentley - Alicia
Richard Dempsey - De Clerk
Matti Houghton - Melissa
Joy Richardson - Tarot Reader
Alex Tregear - Baby
Javone Prince - Martin

Directed by Anna Mackmin
Designed by Jonathan Fensom

at the Cottesloe

This is the piece I was looking forward to the most so the fact that Chatroom was so good turned out to be a bonus. Citizenship was everything I could expect from Mr Ravenhill. Another case of History Boys feeling but more so than Chatroom because there was also the gay teacher and the boy trying to discover his sexuality. There were not too many young people in the audience (though Mike Leigh was there ) but I feel this would really speak to GCE students.

A real privalidge to see all of these..............

Chatroom by Enda Walsh

Matt Smith - William
Javone Prince - Jack
Matti Houghton - Eva
Andrea Riseborough - Emily
Andrew Garfield - Jim
Naomi Bentley - Laura

Directed by Anna Mackmin
Designed by Jonathan Fensom

In the Cottesloe at National on one of the few occassions when all three plays were performed in one evening.

........and this month's prop will be:- the plastic mould chair

Chatroom was the first of three short productions for young people staged at the Cottesloe tonight and it hit thre ground running.

We witness verbal representations of internet chatrooms local to Chiswick (which is a little odd given it's the World Wide Web but it is essential to serve the process of the story). This is so clever because within a few short sentances we seem to be fully acquainted with the indivudual characters and their personality strengths and traits. Performances are so good and the writing is intelligent and respectful of it's audience. A Bennet in the making.

Gorgeous in every way and I have to make special mention of Matt Smith and Andrea Riseborough. Ones To Watch.

Burn by Deborah Gearing

Robert Boulter - Aaron
Alex Tregear - Sal
Andrew Garfield - Birdman (Joey)
Andrea Riseborough - Linda
Joy Richardson - Jan
Claire-Louise Cordwell - Mel
Matti Houghton - Marie
Farzana Dua Elahe - Sita
Matt Smith - Tom
Sid Mitchell - Niall
Naomi Bently - Rachel
Javone Prince - Colin
Richard Dempsey - Matt

Directed by Anna Mackmin
Designed by Jonathan Fensom

Of the three productions I would say I enjoyed this the least. If I had been unlucky with a return ticket I would have gone to one of the evening that only had two plays omitting this one. It was not as tight and well planned. The performances were good, really good but the writing let them down. It reminded me of something Roy Williams might have done but not as good.

This is a good a place as any to remark on the efficiency of the complete set changes. They had 20 minutes in each case to completely change the stage. Admittedly it was all quite simple stuff but Burn was set on a rubbish tip.

18 May 2006

I remember the Royal Court
devised by Patrick Marber


Dermot Crowley
Elyse Dodgson
Joe Hills-Gibbins
Stephen Jeffreys
Lisa Makin
Lesley Manville
Lucy Prebble
Indhu Rubasingham
Alan Williams
Richard Wilson

Directed by Patrick Marber

at the Royal Court Downstairs for three nights performed after the final three shows of Motortown.

A few chairs on the stage and these wonderful people recite cleverly choreoraphed anecdotes about the theatre. I wish I could remember some of the really wonderful things I heard tonight. It was electric. Not a sell-out, sadly. If I'd seen Motortown that night I would have stayed. This is the night I spoke to Daniel Mays and he told me that Matthew had been in the house earlier.

17 May 2006

The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and William Rowley

Tom Hiddleston - Alsemero
Jotham Annan - Jasperino
Olivia Williams - Beatrice Joanna
Will Keen - De Flores
David Collings - Vermandero
Jennifer Kidd - Diaphanta
Jim Hooper - Alibius
Tobias Beer - Lollio
Phil Cheadle - Antonio
Philp McGinley - Pedro/Franciscus
Laurence Spellman - Atonzo de Piracquo
Clifford Samuel - Tomazo de Piracquo
Jodie Mcnee - Isabella, Alibius' wife

Directed by Declan Donnellan
Designed by Nick Omerod
Movement by Jane Gibson

At the Barbican with Declan fully indulged in changing the seating configuration!

This performance was preceeded by a talk in the Garden Room with Declan. He is a wonderful man. I hung on his every word and he signed my book.

The downside of this being 'talk night' was that the auditorium was crammed with 'A' Level students who got somewhat over excited. I managed to move to a more sedate part of the theatre after the interval. It was also much nearer.

I loved the set as usual. Gloriously functional and nothing fussy but so graphic. The entire stage area had been gutted so that the wings were just areas without light. The space was enormous even though the seated area was considerably reduced.

The central performances were so good. I think Will Keen stole the show. The mad story was shown in what seemed like an easy contrast but it is often omitted because of the difficulties in including it.

A good night....

10 May 2006

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

Martha - Kathleen Turner
George - Bill Irwin
Honey - Mireille Enos
Nick - David Harbour

Directed by Anthony Page
Designed by John Lee Beatty

at the Apollo during the last week of it's run

I struggled to get a seat and had to reluctantly settle for the second row which would normally have been too close.

Happily in this theatre it was tolerable and the performances were so vital that I had not room to think about discomfort.

Bill Irwin was absolutely outstanding. I was full of admiriation for Kathleen Turner. She was totally without ego as she bounced her body around the stage. It was a magnificent performance from everyone. The set was great - it was a wonderful night out.

09 May 2006

A Tribute to Look Back in Anger
by John Osborne and others

Including contributions from:-

Ted Beaumont
Anne-Marie Duff
Paul Higgs
Joe Hill Gibbins
Damian Lewis
Helen McCrory
Emily McLaughlin
Steven Mc Nicoll
Anthony Page
Tony Palmer
Corin Redgrave
Ian Rickson
David Tennant
Ben Walden

a magnificent collaboration by all cconcerned with the Royal Court for one night only

This was a singular experience. The evening started with a recitation from David Hare of his Hay on Wye lecture/tribute to John Osborne from 2002. Ian Rickson introduced the main event and we were treated to scenes from the work and re-enactments of the conversations between the then Creative Director, George Devine, John Osborne and the man who was the first to direct the piece, Tony Richardson.

There was some lovely anecdotal stuff from Ben Walden who was John's step-son by his final marriage.

The audience was special. the production was special and the final couple of hours in the bar were alright too!

07 May 2006

Motortown by Simon Stephens

Lee - Tom Fisher
Danny - Daniel Mays
Marley - Daniela Denby-Ashe
Tom - Steve Hansell
Paul - Richard Graham
Jade - Ony Uhiara
Justin - Nisk Sidi
Helen - Fenella Woolgar

Directed by Ramin Gray

at the Royal Court

as per Lyn Gardner at The Guardian

To Danny it is not Iraq but England that is the foreign country. "I don't blame the war. The war was all right. I miss it. It's just you come back to this," he says.
The 'this' is a girl who doesn't love him, and who has got herself another boyfriend. It is an England where the "war on terror" has become a war waged using the tactics of the terrorists. It is also a place of dubious moralities, small-time arms dealers and middle class swingers and anti-war protesters.
Nobody is coming up smelling of roses, and this England has all the stinking attractions of a dog turd. Perhaps it is no surprise that Danny is going to turn his disappointment and inarticulate rage into an inarticulate revenge.

Anyone familiar with Stephens' previous work may be in for a bit of a shock. In his excavations of working class life, Stephens has often displayed a tender touch. Motortown is like being run over by a 10-tonne truck that doesn't bother to stop to check that you are still breathing.

It is in no way a pleasant experience, but is, I think, an essential one. And it is not without a desperate, brutal tenderness, particularly in the relationship between the life-damaged Danny and his genetically damaged elder brother, Lee.

It is only with his brother that Danny gropes towards a kind of communication. There are imperfections: although the play is recklessly brave, its aim is sometimes that of the scatter gun, and in suggesting that Danny was a psychopath long before he went to Iraq, or perhaps even joined the army, Stephens undercuts the connection between personal violence and violence perpetrated in the name of the state.

But although it will probably get up a lot of liberal noses, this is a searingly honest play written and played particularly by Daniel Mays as Danny, with a deadly coiled energy. It owes a debt to Edward Bond as well as B├╝chner, and Ramin Gray's stark production - played under bright lights, on a stripped-out stagea is thrustingly contemporary even as it pays homage to Brecht.

I could have done without the dancing furniture, but not the astonishing moments when blood is mopped from the stage in a ritual that feels both like absolution and a terrible punishment.

Me? I loved it....I loved the sparsity of the set, the 'Stomp' style chair thumping and the gentle humanity shown between the actors.

06 May 2006

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare

Aedile - Andrew VIncent
Junius Brutus - John Dougall
Cominius - Joseph Marcell
Caius Martius Coriolanus - Jonathan Cake
Titus Lartius - Ciaran McIntyre
Menenius Agrippa - Robin Soans
Sicnius Velutus - Frank McCusker
Valeria - Akiya Henry
Virgilia - Jane Murphy
Volumnia - Margot Leicester
Adrian - Howard Ward
Tullus Aufidius - Mo Sesay
Nicanor - Garry Collins
Senator - Andrew Vincent

Directed by Dominic Dromgoole
Designed by - Mike Britton

The first night of the first season under the artistic direction of Dominic Dromgoole on a balmy summer's evening

I did find this rather hard going. There were some great performances but I made the mistake of starting off in a position where the accoustics made it nearly impossible to hear over the sound of drunken girls clunking their beer cans. It was better when I had the chance to move.

Jonathan Cake is much too pleased with himself and I find him rather repulsive but not in a Jeremy Irons way...... Some of the lesser roles were fantastic. It's a long piece to stand through but a wonderful atmosphere and I might see it again a little further into the production when Mr Pleased has hopefully calmed down a bit.

03 May 2006

Blackbird by David Harrower

Una - Jodhi May
Ray - Roger Allam
Child - Jessica Lucy/Maggie Walker

Directed by Peter Stein
Designed by Ferdinand Wogerbauer

The Alberry during the last fortnight of it's run

Harrower by name, harrower by nature!

This is a really intense piece about the long-term side effects of child abuse. Jodhi May found a voice that I have need seen her produce before and it was exhausting. I saw a matinee and I cannot imagine how she could have the emotional strength to bring such energy to the evening performance. Roger Allam was slightly more passive but he a wonderful performance in this difficult role.

Sixteen years after the event, the victim of abuse (at 12 yrs old) confronts the perpetrator and they explore the events that led to the incident and the effects on their lives. Not a pleasant subject but handled with superb objectivity. Lovely touches from the director with what I presume were various members of the theatre and production staff popping their heads around corners etc and interesting use of sound too.

I was also very impressed by the final hasty scene change. Must have looked like a nightmare on the page but it was dealt with very efficiently.

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