31 December 2008

Theatre Index for 2008

▼ December (8)
No Man's Land by Harold Pinter
Well by Lisa Kron
The Family Reunion by T S Elliot
National Theatre Christmas Quiz - chaired by Emma ...
The Pride By Alexi Kaye Campbell
Wig Out! by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Gethsemane by David Hare
Rain Man adapted by Dan Gordon
▼ November (2)
The Twenty Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala
6 Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Piran...
▼ October (6)
Love's Labours Lost by William Shakespeare
Faces in the Crowd by Leo Butler
Waste By Harley Granville Barker
Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
Paradise Regained by Mark Ravenhill
Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn
▼ September (19)
Landscape by Harold Pinter
A Slight Ache by Harold Pinter
De Profundis by Oscar Wilde & edited by Merlin Hol...
Now or Later by Christopher Shinn
Round and Round the Garden by Alan Ayckbourn
The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh
a number by caryl churchill
far away by caryl churchill
Ivanov by Chekhov in a translation from Tom Stoppa...
ice cream by caryl churchill
three more sleepless nights by carylchurchill
Top Girls by Caryl Churchill
The Pretender Agenda by Christopher Manoe
light shining in buckinghamshire by Caryl Churchil...
Lipsynch by Robert Lepage
Kicking a Dead Horse by Sam Shepard
Factory Hamlet
Hamlet by Factory and Shakespeare
Hedda, adapted by Lucy Kirwood based on the Ibsen
▼ August (5)
Timon of Athens by William Shakespeare and Thomas ...
Under The Blue Sky by David Eldridge
Her Naked Skin by Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Afterlife by Michael Frayn
...some trace of her - inspired by The Idiot by Fy...
▼ July (6)
The Frontline by Ché Walker
Black Watch by Gregory Burke
The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith
Behind The Image compiled and edited by Michael Bh...
Chronic by DC Jackson (Rough Cuts Season)
The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold
▼ June (10)
2,000 Feet Away by Anthony Weigh
The Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Relocation by Anthony Neilson
The Country by Martin Crimp
The Deep Blue Sea by Terence Rattigan
Oxford Street by Levi David Addai
Contractions by Mike Bartlett
Troilus and Cressida by William Shakespeare
The Revenger's Tragedy by Thomas Middleton
▼ May (11)
Harper Regan by Simon Stephens
Piranha Heights by Philip Ridley
Rosmersholm by Henrik Ibsen (version by Mike Poult...
The Vortex by Noel Coward
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Hello & Goodbye by Athol Fugard
The City by Martin Crimp
Tinderbox by Lucy Kirkwood
The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Gu...
God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza translated by Chris...
Branded by Simon Bent
▼ April (5)
Brief Encounter by Noel Coward and adapted by Emma...
Shoot, Get Treasure, Repeat Double Bill by Mark Ra...
Bliss (Felicite) by Olivier Choiniere & translate...
Birth of a Nation by Mark Ravenhill
Random by Debbie Tucker Green
▼ March (10)
The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other by Peter Ha...
The Miracle by Lin Coghlan
DNA by Dennis Kelly
Baby Girl by Roy Williams
Never So Good by Howard Brenton
The Sea by Edward Bond
Scarborough - Fiona Evans
Artefacts by Mike Bartlett
A Prayer for my Daughter by Thomas Babe
Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw
▼ February (4)
The Lover/The Collection by Harold Pinter
La Cage aux Folles by Jerry Jerman and Harvey Fier...
The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
Ring Round the Moon by Jean Anouith & adapted by C...
▼ January (17)
Happy Now? by Lucinda Coxon
The South Bank Show Awards.
Critic's Circle Awards
The Vertical Hour by David Hare
Off the Endz! By Bola Agbaje
Talking Dirty edited by Clare Lizzimore
The Running Machine by Joe Harbot
Ignition1 in the Rough Cuts season at the Royal C...
Thrown by Mike Bartlett in the Rough Cuts season ...
The Lion's Mouth by Alexandra Wood in the Rough ...
Gambling - By Matt Hartley
The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward
Regeneration by Gbolahan Obisesan
Women of Troy by Euripides translated by Don Taylo...
Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber
Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn
Othello by William Shakespeare

No Man's Land by Harold Pinter

Hirst - Michael Gambon
Spooner - David Bradley
David Walliams - Foster
Nick Dunning - Briggs

Directed by Rupert Goold
Designed by Giles Cadle

Seen in one of the Duke of York's wonderful house seats by some gift of great fortune on a Rescard Standby.
Didn't spot anyone in the audience but sat next to a charming young man and made a fool of myself with a poorly judged joke about Paris and Washington DC. He was very accepting and polite though.

I had gone to some effort to see this, the details of which I shall save you from suffering. If I had gone ahead to book a regular, advance seat it would have been at the expense of a couple of other trips to the theatre or a vital meal so I made a pact with myself that it had to be a cheaper or reduced ticket. After all, I had seen this 15 years ago with Mr Pinter and Mr Hodge in the cast and I'm not yet ready to accept Mr Walliams in a role of this magnitude. In short, I really had set myself up for disappointment but without seeing, how could I judge?

If there is a calculation to be made which would match something as base as cash paid against moments of bliss, this would have shot right off the scale within the first 10 minutes. I'm afraid my first laugh was at hearing the adorable Mr Bradley's total lack of native accent which always makes me smile as I hear it ringing in my ears. Here he uses an exaggerated RP/BBC, similar to Mr Gambon's which seems to only be reserved for Pinter dialect.

Such was Michael's performance that I kept picturing Harold himself as Hirst. Sadly, Mr Walliams could never match up to Douglas Hodge and I just don't find him believable as the attractive young man Foster is meant to be. He's an odd shape and has mean piggy eyes, which seems unnecessarily cruel to pigs. Douglas is in another league. He was the square peg in a perfectly rounded hole for me. Nick Dunning always steps up to the mark but the most enthralling moments were when David and Michael were on stage alone together.

As someone who struggles to enjoy New Year's Eve, these two hours will be in my top three until my memory gives out completely.

30 December 2008

Well by Lisa Kron

Ann Kron - Sarah Miles
Lisa Kron - Natalie Casey
Oliver Chris, Jason Rowe, Maggie Service & Zara Tempest-Walers
Voiceover - Emilio Aquino

Directed by Eve Leigh
Designed by Nicky Bunch

See on a half price tkts in a great centre aisle seat at the Apollo, Shaftesbury Avenue. Nobody of note in the audience

Billed as running for 90 minutes but despite the fact that it was a matinee, it ran for much more like 100 minutes, even allowing for the fact that Jason Rowe battled a total corpse for about 3 minutes.

Wow - I wouldn't like to be Ann Kron! A refreshing production which starts off as more of a stand-up routine fantastically well handled by Ms Casey, that morphs into a 'let's work out all my problems and parental blame on a stage' type of thing. Lisa is so cruel to her Mum that the ensemble invited (and paid) to flesh out this tale of mistakes in upbringing decide they cannot continue with the production.

You can pretty much deal with the thought process that Ms Kron went through when writing this but thankfully she soon came to a point where she must have thought 'this is a load of self-regarding wank' and realised she needed a twist to make it palatable. I think her next decision was spot on. Lisa's Mum is dreadful in the telling but wonderful in the actual event. No wonder the ensemble revolt.

Each of these actors held their characters masterfully and I marveled at Sarah Miles energy. The set was interesting and practical and my only annoyance was that the lighting tech seemed to be working at half cock. There is an outside chance it was supposed to be rubbish but I think it was either a substitute techy or a lazy, distracted git.

I did have the feeling that a slightly different space would have suited this piece more. It felt quite strange to see it in an old style establishment and on the theatre avenue. Perhaps the location was the cause of my concern more than the theatre type - I suspect a swap with Sunset Blvd at the Comedy would feel better.

So far, all the press photos I have seen give the impression of a light farce, which it isn't. I won't say it's a masterpiece but it's so good to see someone deal with their issues in a quirky way.

20 December 2008

The Family Reunion by T S Elliot

Cast: Samuel West (Harry) , Penelope Wilton (Agatha) , Anna Carteret (Violet), William Gaunt (Charles), Gemma Jones (Amy), Christopher Benjamin (Dr Warburton), Kevin McMonagle (Downing), Ann Marcuson (Denman), Hattie Morahan (Mary), Paul Shelley (Colonel), Una Stubbs (Ivy), Phil Cole (Winchell)
Directed: Jeremy Herrin
Designed by Bunny Christie
Seat A7 moving to B7 (my fave) didn't spot anyone in the audience. Lazy cut & paste for cast as it's a busy time of year

This is all about the actors having a teasing time with a testing text and not one of them faltered. I was transfixed by Penelope and Sam but Hattie and Gemma were incredible too. Love Christopher Benjamin and William Gaunt. Paul Shelly was wonderful in the ensemble pieces.

19 December 2008

National Theatre Christmas Quiz - chaired by Emma Freud

........and the teams were:-

For Warhorse

Howard Ward
Bryony Hannah
Pieter Lawman
Alan Williams

For August, Osage County
Jeff Perry
Tracy Letts
Sally Murphy
Paul Vincent O'Connor
with help (or was it intervention?) from Rondi Reed

Scoremaster was Adam James from Gethsemane.

We sat in the middle of the third row thanks to Poly's punctual booking and enjoyed a good view only tempered by an annoying know-it-all sitting comfortably with his spectrum disorder a few seats away.

The Guardian took some of the easier questions and published them on-line for Christmas Day.

Given that the audience are only given the opportunity to answer when neither team can get the question right, I feel that a score of 17 was very respectable. Unlike last year when War Horse failed to score, both teams were neck and neck (forgive the further equestrian phrase) and since no tie breaker has ever been needed they both triumphed.

This year the quiz took an unusual form in order to make it a fair course for the Steppenwolf contingent. If it had taken the usual shape, Warhorse would have barely needed to break into a trot.

Wonderful, silly fun and we all love Adam James and his ability to gently pop up in everything at the moment.

11 December 2008

The Pride By Alexi Kaye Campbell

Philip - J.J. Feild
Sylvia - Lyndsey Marshal
Oliver - Bertie Carvel
Man, Peter, Doctor - Tim Steed

Directed by Jamie Lloyd
Designer Soutra Gilmour

Celeb in the audience - Kelly Reilly

Rather unfortunate that the actors' entrance is heralded by their back-lit silhouettes in the doorways which in JJ's case, had a pair of rather charming luminous orange handles at the top. Enough of that. This is a remarkable production.

I came to this with much anticipation to see what Alexi could do and that can sometimes be fatal. I don't know what I expected but this was much more than I could have hoped for. If it doesn't transfer to the West End, I would hope that they would at least reprise it downstairs.

This is a beautiful, tightly constructed muse on the changing views and taboos between 1958 and 2008. The set was wonderfully economical but still retained a richness. The performances where fantastic all round as they got their teeth into long speeches and punchy dialogue.

08 December 2008

Wig Out! by Tarell Alvin McCraney

Eric - Alex Lanipekun
Wilson/Nina - Nathan Stewart-Jarrett,
Rey-Rey - Kevin Harvey,
Loki - Drew Calden
Fay - Holly Quin-Ankrah
Fate - Kate Gillespie
Faith - Jessika Williams
Lucian - Danny Sapani
Venus- Craig Stein
Deity - Leon Lopez
Serena - Billy Carter

Directed by Dominic Cooke
Set and costume design by Ultz

I probably shouldn't really commit my words here because I was tired from a hectic day at work but I didn't enjoy this as much as I had been expecting. I thought it would be more fun, I suppose. It was a bit of a laboured and somewhat unoriginal plot and whilst some of the set pieces were entertaining enough, I didn't feel it was special.

The temporary configuration of the auditorium worked well but I had thought the stalls might be more fun than they actually were. The circle is your best bet and in a similar way to the current layout at the Old Vic, the seats that are usually cheap at the side of the circle are actually very good.

06 December 2008

Gethsemane by David Hare

Lori Drysdale - Nicola Walker
Mike Drysdale - Daniel Ryan
Frank Pegg - Pip Carter
Otto Fallon - Stanley Townsend
Meredith Guest - Tamsin Greig
Suzette Guest - Jessica Raine
Monique Toussant - Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Geoff Benzine - Adam James
Alec Beasley - Anthony Calf

Directed by Howard Davies
Designed by Bob Crowley

This had me from the moment Nicola Walker said she was in the group without a book (referring to all the groups of people who live their lives according to what is written in a book). Echos of Now Or Later in a UK style but with a broader sweep to fill more than two hours.

This has far more to say than The Vertical Hour and it tells it a lightening pace. Wonderful performances from everyone. It seemed ages before Anthony Calf made his entrance (and your bum's getting a bit big now, Anthony - get back on that bike).

Loved the simplicity of the set, loved my seat and just loved the whole thing. Pip Carter was wonderful but it seems crazy to single one person out. I guess I meant that Pip's performance in a fairly small role, was of note. I was sad that Stanley didn't use his native accent but it slipped in a couple of times. He is so charismatic. Tamsin was fabulous and wore some killer wardrobe.

04 December 2008

Rain Man adapted by Dan Gordon

Charlie Babbitt - Josh Harnett
Raymond Babbitt - Adam Godley
Susan - Mary Stockley
Dr Bruener - Colin Stinton
Lucy/Waitress/Iris - Tilly Blackwood
Mr Mooney/Cop/Dr Marsden - Charles Dish

Directed by Terry Johnson
Designed by Jonathan Fensom
Brilliant half-price TKTS in the house row aisle!

Interesting adaptation. The opening scenes went on for far too long and I had a dread that the whole thing would follow the same course. However, not to take anything away from the lovely Mr Harnett, the whole thing took a turn for the better and tighter when Adam Godley entered. All the performances were adequate, Colin is always good, Josh was really fine and Adam was exceptional.

The set just scraped into the stylishly practical bracket but no more than that. I'm glad I saw this against my earlier better judgement.

I found it more difficult that usual to find a production photo. Lots of press and party stuff but nothing from the show so I have included my picture of the safety curtain.

30 November 2008

The Twenty Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala

Love Me Till My Heart Stops by Joel Horwood

Tony - Tony Booth
Henry - Henry Goodman
Sally - Sally Phillips
Ralf - Ralf Little

Directed by Clare Lizzimore (AD was Abigail Graham)

We're onto a winner when we start with one of my favourite Talking Heads tracks! Tony is Henry's father. Henry and his wife, Sally are living in his house but they want to move to somewhere smaller and less like a childhood home. Ralf is the estate agent. Lots of silly wordplay here. Sally and Henry's relationship has lost the love and Henry falls easily into the arms of Ralf for a bit of human comfort. It turns out that Ralf was also there for Sally but who was there for Tony?

Fairly amusing but not enough impact to start the evening off at full tilt.

The Border by Stephen Jeffreys

Ferko - Tim PIggot Smith
Gaxsi - Ilan Goodman
Zala - Jenny Seagrove
Anita - Jenny Agutter
Inngard - Michelle Ryan

Directed by Jonathan Munby (AD was Dan Herd)

I was secretly hoping for one of those hard hitting opening monologues from Mr Jeffreys but I would imagine he thought that might be a big ask for the cast. Instead we see two Austro/Hungary border guards watching the minute hand take it's last sweep before Europe unites against ..........erm the non-European oppressors.(?)

Zala & Anita approach the border with their papers, unaware that within the hour the border will be dismantled. For sport, Ferko and Gaxsi go through the motions and while searching the car they discover Inngard. Zala and Anita are sister and they claim that Inngard is their cousin. Inngard looks distressed and is clutching a Russian doll. Ferko asks to see what is in the doll and the final cavity reveals a small piece of paper. After a little more discussion the women are allowed to get back in their car as the border guards choose not have seen them. The border is hacked down and we finally understand that the piece of paper said the word 'help'.

Elephant Hotel by Moira Buffini

Colin - Hamish Clark
Jacqueline - Jessica Hynes
Serena - Marina Laird
Veronica - Lia Williams

Directed by Josie Rourke (ADs were Joe Hancock & Tara Wilkinson

Jacqueline and Veronica are two odd obsessive characters that run this hotel in Wales. They have not had any visitor for a long time. Colin and Serena have been on a romantic hike in the area. Serena is not impressed with the prospect of spending a night in a tent so they look for a hotel. They are told the Elephant Hotel is full except for two single rooms.

My memory is a bit hazy after that but I do know that I was impressed by a very long speech from Jessica Hynes and the fact that they managed to squeeze four acts into 20 minutes.


Ruby by Tanita Gupta

Ruby - Jenny Jules
Arun - Sanjeev Bhaskar
Jack - Josh Hartnett
Sam - Jason Isaacs

Directed by Tamara Harvey (AD was Rachel Briscoe)

I have seen Tanita's work as readings through Tamara's company and this seemed a little familiar. We are in a speed dating venue where Ruby fabricates three very different personalities to accommodate our three very different men. Fairly amusing interjections here.

Two Very Different Ladies by Amelia Bullmore

De - Dervla Kirwan
H - Hugh Bonneville
D - Doreen Mantle

DIrected by Anna Mackmin (AD was Lottie Wakeham)

We were already aware that by total fluke, no less that three members of the cast had brought a fez with them as a prop. All of them were used in this play. We start with D asking to see the 'item in the window' of H's shop and a debate follows. She goes back to the window to see it in the light. De enters the shop and asks to see the 'item in the window'. It turns out there is another fez and whist a fez has a pretty uncomplicated blueprint, it turns out that no two are the same. We see the difference etc. There is an amusing passage whereby, in the absence of a mirror, both women show each other what the fez's look like on and admire them in varying combinations. They are not, however completely satisfied and ask to see more stock. There is more debate about the shop being a front for contraband etc since it only seems to have two fez in stock. Finally, H produces a third one and more debate follows.

A very interesting exercise in the exchange of words and perspectives.

The Elephant in the Room by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran

Cynthia - Julia Davis
Hamish - Mark Gatiss
Iain - Julian Glover
Patrick - David Harewood
Mother - Doreen Mantle

Directed by Matt Wilde (AD Dan Barnard)

In case you are wondering where Doreen Mantle could get her stamina from to perform in two plays, she spends all of this one lying on the sofa.

Iain is showing Cynthia and Hamish around their home with a view to buying it. There are plenty of humourous and topical exchanges including Iain introducing himself and "Iain with two 'I's" to which Cynthia bristles that is as unnecessary as her saying she is "Cynthia with two legs". It doesn't work so well on the page! It turns out that mother is dead but must stay in the house. The taxidermy/mummification was done on the cheap so there is a smell. The house has been reduced from three quarters of a million pounds to just fifty thousand pounds. What's the catch? A tardy inspection of the upstairs reveals that there is - you guessed it.....(the clue is in the title of the play)

David Harewood brings the house down entering the room as the very camp boyfriend dressed in very little. What he IS wearing is ridiculous and wonderful.

Very entertaining.

Staged at the Old VIc, the evening was introduced by Kevin Spacey and a very flawed attempt at hosting it was made by James Cordon and Johnny Vaughan.

I would like to think that perhaps an anonymous donation was made by somebody if the writers were able to include 'elephant' in their play somewhere. Last year McCain Oven Chips made such a contribution which carried on to the party. I also wondered whether Foxtons had any similar input as well since two of the plays were about buying houses.

It seems daft to mention celebrities on a night like this but extra to the performers and contributors, I saw Iain Softley and Danny Lee Wynter (who was there last year too and who I also saw in the RC bar last week). Sometime after midnight, Sean Lock came to the party with a cigarette in his mouth which I thought was odd.......More on the details of the evening later.....

05 November 2008

6 Characters in Search of an Author by Luigi Pirandello

DENISE GOUGH - The Step-Daughter
JOHN MACKAY - The Executive
JAKE HARDERS - The Cameraman

Directed by Rupert Goold and designed by Miriam Beuther at the Gielgud Theatre on a half-price ticket in the third row of the stalls.
I came back to this entry to embed a trailer and was dismayed to find I never got around to making any notes.

31 October 2008

Love's Labours Lost by William Shakespeare

TOM DAVEY - Longaville
JOE DIXON - Armado
MARIAH GALE - Princess of France
JIM HOOPER - Sir Nathaniel
RODERICK SMITH - [walking understudy]
RIANN STEELE - Jaquenetta

Set Designer FRANCIS O'CONNOR......... In The Courtyard, Stratford second row, centre stalls with Mr Tennant Snr in the audience.

I had a perilous journey through weekend homebound traffic that left me with 8 minutes to spare and no time to freshen from a day working and a three hour drive. This production evaporates any of those concerns. It is ridiculous fun from start to finish. The stage is wonderfully simple and yet adequate, incredibly pretty and fittingly romantic.
Here is a joyously balanced ensemble with no grandstanding or upstaging.
A silly story coming from nowhere and not really going anywhere too important but the chance for such wit in the words that plot hardly matters. Every character's return to the stage is welcomed with relish and I am convinced that some of our best loved comedy sketch shows may have been inspired by this format. This is an Elizabethan Catherine Tate or Little Britain.

I have seen so many productions from the time Oliver Ford Davis spent at the National with David Hare's sharp political trilogy and many others. In this production he is wonderful and clearly relishes the fun of the role with his downtrodden and serious visage.

We were fortunate enough to attend on of only two nights, so far when Mr Tennant successfully lodged his hat in the branch of the tree. I would recommend the application of magnets for future performances, if his aim is tolerably good.
The conversation from this co-operative of actors in the 'Post Show Talk' spoke of passion, integration, and job satisfaction that many a high powered company could envy.
The evening was rounded off in the pub next door with many of the cast joining the heaving crowds for Halloween fancy dress.
You can't put a price on a time like this.

30 October 2008

Faces in the Crowd by Leo Butler

Cast Amanda Drew, Con O'Neill

Director Clare Lizzimore
Designers Rae Smith, William Fricker

At the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs (that's the Royal Court, of course)

After booking for this play I received an email warning of nudity. No matter how engrossing and engaging the play is, you cannot help but think of the actors' feelings when a script calls for this. It would have been wrong and weird to leave it out but the direction and set design made this as close as you could get to a non-issue.

The set is built like a fish tank. The audience all look in from above onto a floorplan layout of an apartment. There are metal strips on the floor for the walls and to help the actors, there are frames with handles to use as doors.

It's an intense few hours in the life of a separated couple who get together after 10 years apart in order to secure a baby before the wife's biological clock takes control. These actors have to go through the full range of emotions and carry it off without fault.
Having watched plays from the slips downstairs, I am used to having my eyeline obscured by the architecture but it's a bold decision to impose that on all of the audience. Mirrors are placed in such a way that you rarely miss any of the action but my pet hate of leaning forward on the rail does improve the experience, however if you do need to look over the edge, you only see a birds-eye view so the mirrors are actually more effective.

Wonderful play, well produced and directed. The actors were sensational and the post show talk was joyous and informatice.

09 October 2008

Waste By Harley Granville Barker

Gilbert Wedgecroft - Bruce Alexander
Walter Kent - Max Bennett
Amy O'Connell - Nancy Carroll
Russell Blackborough - Richard Cordery
Justin O'Connell - Patrick Drury
Lord Charles Cantilupe - Peter Eyre
Henry Trebell - Will Keen
Countess Mortimer/Bertha - Helen Lindsay
Frances Trebell - Phoebe Nicholls
Cyril Horsham - Hugh Ross
Lucy Davenport - Jeany Spark
Butler/Vivan Saumarez - Giles Taylor
George Farrant - Michael Thomas
Lady Julia Farrant - Jessica Turner.

Directed by Samuel West
Designed by Peter McKintosh

At the Almeida in row D but next to someone who didn't know how to work their headphones so hissing and whistling throughout.
I think I saw Marie Helvin in the bar but I could have been wrong.

It's easier to talk about the low points of this. The youngsters were very weak in the opening scene but they settled down (esp Ms Spark) as we moved on. I have to say it seemed to me that Phoebe Nicholls took a while to find her place, bellowing as though she was trying to find the back of the Olivier Circle.

Will Keen was as wonderful as ever and made it look so easy.l
...and Peter Eyre's voice is from another world and he had a wonderful role that he could really work with.
Richard is an old Uni friend of a dear chum of mine and I was rather sad to see he didn't mention The Boys Next Door in his cv because I loved that piece all those years ago.

Glorious set and they managed to put a tiny revolve in there to give two setting each to either side of the interval.......unlike Rosmersholm, it all worked beautifully by making something looks so simple and yet sumptuous.

Fabulous piece of writing but sadly prompted the pleased-with-themselves in the audience to laugh a little too loudly when a line clunked with contemporary resonance. It raced along despite it's three hour running time. Sam's made yet another wonderful job.

03 October 2008

Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare

Robin - Otto Farrant or Harry Manton
Peter Simple - Nathan Amzi
Sir Hugh Evans - Gareth Armstrong
Abraham Slender- William Belchambers
Sir John Falstaff - Christopher Benjamin
Doctor Caius - Philip Bird
William Page - Sam Darling
Meg Page - Serena Evans
Robert Shallow - Peter Gale
George Page - Michael Garner
Nym/Robert - Gregory Gudgeon
Frank Ford - Andrew Havill
Fenton - Edward Macliam
Anne Page - Ellie Piercy
John Rugby - Timothy Speyer
Host - Jonty Stephens
Mistrace Quickly - Sue Wallace
Pistol/John- Paul Woodson
Alice Ford - Sarah Woodward

directed by Christopher Luscombe
Designed by Janet Bird

seen at the end of the season at Shakespeare's Globe

It was cold, it was sunny and then not sunny. It was drizzle but I was leaning on a pillar which sheltered me just under the eaves. Great fun and a wonderful levity from the whole cast. So glad I dashed to see one of the last shows because the final one would have been in the pouring rain. Special mention must go to the two wives. It's silly and it's pointless but it's jolly good fun on a dull afternoon.

02 October 2008

Paradise Regained by Mark Ravenhill

.........an epilogue to Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat

Matt - Zubin Varla
Tom - Tom Riley
Adam - Patrick Knowles

DIrected by Mark Ravenhill and using the set designed for Now or Later.

I sat next to Zubin's parents and we were surrounded by a mass of students that were having the MOST vacuous conversations about their gap years and it frightened me that people who were clearly in their later teens and had been in full education, had no comprehension political geography beyond having 'heard that Thailand is really, really, really, really nice'. I despair.

Enough of that. When Mark gets it right, it's wonderful. As an epilogue to a mixed bunch of pieces, this is pitch perfect.
No matter that an old hormonally challenged woman gets to see not one, but two lovely young actors with few clothes on than can be comfortable in the present climate.

Matt has a lovely apartment. He's a made man but then who is this that enters in such a state? He is clearly familiar to Matt but unexpected. Tom is Matt's lover of 15 years ago. He was killed in the first Gulf War and is presented to us covered in muck and blood which I have to say I thought was brown and red paint until the dialogue informed me. He longs form Matt to hold him and to kiss him. Matt has moved on. His moral stance has changed beyond recognition and he has become very successful. Tom leaves the stage to take a shower and Matt's current boyfriend returns from a swim. He is clearly using Matt for everything he can get and Matt needs him because nothing can really replace Tom.........well the success and affluence can but Adam does not fulfill his emotional needs. it's a rather piteous piece but it's brevity gives it such a lasting impact.

Wonderful performances from all involved.

01 October 2008

Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn

For the cast you should see here. and if I'd given an in depth assessment of the production that link would be more helpful.The Reviews Roundup are available now.

Suffice it to say that Kevin was in the house again, we had brilliant seats thanks to What's On Stage and the writing seems to be timeless in the hands of a perfectly cast group of actors.

It's impossible to know how I would have felt if I'd seen this one first but 'Garden' seemed more balanced and felt as though it set up Norman's efforts with Sarah a little better. I shall have to watch ye olde Thames TV tapes again.

I don't even have to mention the wonderful 70's propping to make this sound wonderful but it is certainly worth a mention. I still have a waste paper bin in the range that matches the biscuit tin.......and here is the evidence

30 September 2008

Landscape by Harold Pinter

Beth - Clare Higgins
Duff - Simon Russell-Beale

Directed by Iqbal Khan and designed by Ciaran Bagnall

I think Lesley Manville was in the audience........and I saw Poppy Miller sometime in the last couple of weeks. Was it here?

I could enjoy these two reading the phone directory but I have to admit I am not sure what all this was about......the detached nature of a familiar relationship? I'll have to read up on it and come back later. Mesmerizing, whatever it was about !!!!

A Slight Ache by Harold Pinter

Flora - Clare Higgins
Edward - Simon Russell-Beale
Matchseller - Jamie Beamish

Directed by Iqbal Khan and designed by Ciaran Bagnall

I think Lesley Manville was in the audience........

Very funny and twisted........I seem to be lost in the absurd at the moment.......


De Profundis by Oscar Wilde & edited by Merlin Holland

Wilde- Corin Redgrave

Directed by Richard Nelson.

Completely heartbreaking.

At the curtain call it felt as though I was watching Corin for the last time. He seemed very emotional.

29 September 2008

Now or Later by Christopher Shinn

Marc - Adam James
Matt - Domhnall Gleeson
John - Eddie Redmayne
Jessica - Nancy Crane
Tracy - Pamela Nomveete
John Sr - Matthew Marsh

Directed by Dominic Cooke and designed by Hildegard Bechtler
In it's UK premiere run Downstairs at the Royal Court...though I saw it upstairs in the middle of the circle, if you see what I mean!
Lovely in the audience: Dan Stevens.

Despite my efforts to avoid reviews before seeing this, I couldn't help notice that the run had been extended so the ticket buying public must have responded well. It's good to know there are enough people prepared to trundle out of town to the edge of Chelsea and pay the full but ridiculously low price to see 75 minutes of tight drama. They are all justly rewarded.

I think I saw Dying City Upstairs and that production seemed to benefit from a little claustrophobia, though it imposed a design problem that impaired a necessary suspension of belief. Now or Later needs a great big sterile, functional hotel room and the simplicity of the set works perfectly. I think there was one fluff with an entrance from Tracy but I need to check the text to see if that might have been intended.

Enough comment on detail, this was a delicious piece of drama! There is an admirable skill in creating such taught dialogue which covers so many issues almost simultaneously. All the performances were so exquisitely judged that the constant barrage of information and opinion seemed to flow like warm chocolate into the brain.

It is of some mild amusement to me that a tight production like this should have spawned a somewhat shakey little website. Bless !

27 September 2008

Round and Round the Garden by Alan Ayckbourn

Ruth - Amelia Bullmore
Annie - Jessica Hynes
Norman - Stephen Mangan
Tom - Ben Miles
Reg - Paul Ritter
Sarah - AmandaRoot

Directed by Matthew Warchus
Designed by Bob Howell

Seen in preview at the Old Vic on a half price ticket but even that was small consolation for the dreadful seat I had in the front row of the temporary balcony. I slipped downstairs at the interval and I was not alone. They really need to sort that out as it was punishing.
Lovely in the audience: Kevin Spacey - does he count at this venue? This might have been where I saw Poppy Miller

Brilliant, hilarious, joyous, silly, farcical. Job done!

Might say some more later.

The Walworth Farce by Enda Walsh

Dinny - Denis Conway
Sean - Tadhg Murphy
Blake - Garrett Lombard
Hayley - Mercy Ojelade

Directed by Mikel Murfi
Designed by Sabine Dargent.

Seen on a lovely standby in my favourite row at the Cottesloe

This was as funny as any afternoon with an Irish play can be. Not as tight as The Seafarer but a really interesting and heartbreaking premise on which to hang a comedy drama. At a time when we may have seen a few too many plays within a play, this worked well. I loved the two singles beds made from a double cut down the middle.

There were wonderful performances from the young cast. I remember Tadhg Murphy in Dublin by Lamplight and it made my sadly think of Tom Jordan Murphy.

I don't think the blacking up at the end worked as well as it was supposed to but in a funny way, it could have been just as effective if we only saw him find the boot polish and rub it in before going out - rather than turning around to us. I'm not sure the matinee audience were as totally with it as they might have been. I could easily imagine what a riot the Press Night must have been.

26 September 2008

a number by caryl churchill

Father - Kenneth Cranham
Son - Lee Ross

Directed by Joe Penhall who was in the audience as was Wallace Shawn.

Hmmm - the fourth time I have seen this production and I've heard it on the radio a couple of times. I'm sorry to say that much as I enjoy Ken, I feel that he needed more preparation. This is tricky banter and Lee was completely on top of it but could only shine when he wasn't reliant on Ken's focus.
I'm a big fan of Joe Penhall too but I have to question the need for introductions in each scene. The original production was almost as sparse as a rehearsed reading and there was no confusion then. In fact, I think it benefited from that moment on hesitation from the audience. Lee have very clear and easily identifiable persona so sorry Joe, I know the other readings did it but there are not rules and if if there were, you wouldn't normally stall before breaking them.

Lee was good and it was fun to see it live again. It will always be a superb piece.

far away by caryl churchill

Tod - Benedict Cumberbatch
Harper - Deborah Findlay
Joan - Hattie Morohan

Directed by Martin Crimp downstairs at the Royal Court again.

One of Caryl's wonderfully odd one.......in fact absurd is probably the word but seeing Benedict talk of animals dominating the country I couldn't help make the obvious connection to Rhinoceros. Wonderfully performed and directed by all. Very funny and entertaining. I wonder which demographic groups Caryl would have satirised in this decade?

23 September 2008

Ivanov by Chekhov in a translation from Tom Stoppard

Pyotr- John Atterbury
Gavrila - Jonathan Battersby
Natalia - Emma Beattie
Ivanov - Kenneth Branagh
Babakina - Lucy Briers
Avdotya - Linda Broughton
Borkin - Lorcan Cranitch
Anasim - Ian Drysdale
Lipa - Giovanna Falcone
Lvov - Tom Hiddleston
Nikander - James Howard
Zinaida - Sylvestra Le Touzel
Anna Petrovna - Gina Mckee
Lebedev - Kevin R McNally
Yacob - Malcolm Ridley
Sasha - Andrea Riseborough
Shabelsky - Malcolm Sinclair
Kosykh - James Tucker

directed by Michael Grandage
designed by Christopher Oram

At the Wyndham's Theatre during the premiere run of this new translation. H17
There must have been a few actors in the audience but all I noticed was Andrew Marr

This is one of those productions which I think will be best served if I just post links to the reviews that concur with my feelings......and there will be many, I'm sure.

A great deal of the credit for this must go to Tom Stoppard for making such an hilarious and accessible text and Michael Grandage knows how to use this kind of work to it's best advantage. I felt much the same as I did after The Chalk Garden. A perfect combination of every element that makes a production remarkable. We all want to laugh when we are entertained. Even in the piteous moments of a drama, it can be best and most pointedly conveyed by humour and Tom Stoppard knows exactly how and when to use this. The meticulous selection of the cast, the set design and the general pacing of this piece is down to Michael Grandage's care and expertise. This is the kind of production where an A list actor would take a walk-on part. Gina McKee has so little time on stage and so few lines but the two thirds of the plot hangs around her race and health so ever second with her counts.

After the curtain raises to a brooding Ken the pace and mood of the production is instantly set by Lorcan and his antics. He has the audience rolling around within seconds of opening his mouth. Kevin matches this performance with a delicate degree of tenderness added to his energetic humour. Poor Tom Hiddleston is perfect in the role but thereby is excluded from any of the merriment. You have to admire Andrea for her stamina. She had one of the main roles in the reading I saw earlier tonight and then skips around the stage for a couple more hours here. I find her 'posh' southern English accent reminds me too much of her Margaret Thatcher sound and with all the will in the world, I don't find her to be the beauty I imagined in this role but she has the perfect level of vivacity for this character.

I could waffle on for hours but I am going to seek out the reviews and finally read what the clever people had to say....

....I'll add these as I go. The Guardian takes it's time to sum things up quite nicely. A couple of rather pedantry comments but generally makes the points I'd like to remember. They also published a piece on Ken.

Charles Spencer has some worthy things to say but it would seem that this production is so richly complete in all departments that the critics have all been forced to come up with similar copy but finally, I am going to include The Independent review from Paul Taylor.

ice cream by caryl churchill

Hank - Daniel Cerqueira,
Hank's Mum - Nancy Crane
Drunk Woman - Sarah Goldberg,
Shrink - Kate Harper,
South American Woman at airport - Pauline Melville,
Lance's collegue - Nathan Osgood,
Narrator/Man in Devon - George Potts
Fellow Guest - Kyle Soller
Vera - Miranda Richardson,
Jaq - Andrea Riseborough,
Professor - Kerry Shale,
Phil - Ben Whishaw
Lance - Shawn Wallace

Directed by Shawn Wallace for this reading in the Jerwood Downstairs at the Royal Court.

Very popular production that once again warranted opening the circle for this reading.

Alexi Kaye Cambell and once again Eddie Redmayne grabbed a seat. Caryl was up in the circle too.

Brilliant, funny, confrontational and absurd. Ms Churchill in a nutshell. This is a short play but it packs more into just over an hour than some plays achieve in more than two. As we found out seat, the full impact of exactly how many people would be squashed onto the stage hit us simply by looking at the number of chairs provided up there but that was tempered by the sight of a paltry six chairs in the action area! As we reached somewhere near the middle we had been introduced to no more than six of these and I began to feel concern that the others would not get their turn! A silly notion, of course but the main bulk of the cast spent most of the piece quietly reading their script and resisting the urge to collapse into giggles as their fellow actors delivered these wonderfully sharp and often startling lines to a gleeful audience.

Shawn and Miranda worked perfectly together. Ben and Andrea were wonderful siblings and everybody else who wandered into their plot were able to give the perfect supplement to their performance.

I would be happy to witness a Caryl Churchill readings season EVERY year......and I have a couple more to go..... I am sad that I won't be able to attend the Blue Heart because I really enjoyed Daniel Cerqueira's short but impactful performance tonight.

19 September 2008

three more sleepless nights by carylchurchill

Pete - Tom Brooke
Frank - Ron Cook
Narrater - Marsha Henry
Dawn - Emma Lowndes
Margaret - Lesley Sharp

Directed by debbie tucker green

This was hilarious and so well performed. I don't know how long they rehearsed this but Ron and Lesley had to be accurate within a nano-second and they were. Tom and Emma had perfect and seemingly effortless command of the still and quiet moments. I think Caryl came to see this one and Danny Lee Wynter seemed to be there again..............

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill

Isabella Bird - Anna Calder-Marshall
Janine - Natalie Cassidy
Louise - Jan Chappell
Marlene - Monica Dolan
Dulle Griet - Noma Dumezweni
Rosanne Kidd - Tricia Kelly
Shoana - Petra Letang
Nell - Natasha Little
Pope Joan - Anna Maxwell Martin
Kit - Azuka Oforka
Lady Nijo - Helene Patarot
Angie - Michelle Terry
Joyce - Nicola Walker
Patient Griselda - Jodie Whittaker
Winn - Susannah Wise

I forgot to put the link in my last 'Readings' post so here it is !

Once again an incredible afternoon. This was so popular that they opened up the circle and even the upper circle. Some tickets had been allocated twice and it was the kind of chaos that made it fun.

Act one had all the historical characters getting pissed with Marlene and acts two and three showed Marlene, her sister and her daughter who was played wonderfully by Michelle Terry.

Monica Dolan's performance was pitch perfect and she was not put off by the weakest member of the cast who shall remain nameless. In fact, there WAS only one weak member but she was very, very weak and it really pulled down an incredibly inventive piece of writing. Noma was so perfectly understated as the erm......two dimensional character at this table of huge personalities. It was hilarious. I loved Nicola Walker's country accent & spotted socks and the fact that she got a bit tangled up when she came on stage - JUST like Ruth. Jodie was angelic Anna Calder Marshall was intoxicating and Anna Maxwell Martin was that wonderful combo of sweet and tough.

I was not expecting much from Natalie Cassidy but she did a brilliant job and was as good a match for the rest of the cast........more than I can say for some of the soapers I saw earlier in the week.

Better keep an eye on the clock - I have to get back to the theatre for 9:30!

17 September 2008

The Pretender Agenda by Christopher Manoe

Kate - Emily Aston
Mel - Lucy Benjamin
Gina - Sue Devaney
Robert - Scott Hinds
Piers - Ben Jones
James - Vincenzo Pellegrino
Stuart - Lee Ryan

Directed by the writer, Chrstopher Mano and designed by Tim McQuillen-Wright
seated someone in the middle of row E

The opportunity of a free ticket to this reminded me that I had often meant to check out this venue. For something tucked under the arches, I was surprised that this enormous barn/corridor of an auditorium lacked in atmosphere but we were only about 10 per cent full so it's unfair to judge. The bar was cosy and the staff were really lovely.

I don't think I'd like to meet Mr Manoe. I suspect he is rather pleased with himself and possibly with good reason, but not for his scripting talents. I get the feeling he is an entrepreneur who thought it might be easy to write something. Some of what he does came off but was dreadfully let down by weak cast members. It was a difficult thing to stage because dramatic scenes in kitchens and bedrooms were virtually performed in the wings while the more pedantry stuff was in the middle of the stage. Lee Ryan seemed to think he was on some kind of Jim'll Fix It star turn and his constant staring at the audience and other actors who were supposed to be in different rooms was downright unprofessional and very distracting.
Emily Aston seemed to think she was in a completely different play to everyone else with her pantomime gurning and I couldn't settle with Sue Devaney's performance though I am not sure why. The rest of the cast made a lovely effort to hold the thing together and it did make for an amusing evening.

Given the choice, I would rather have been at the Ivanov press night!

light shining in buckinghamshire by Caryl Churchill

The cast for this reading comprised of Naomi Bentley, Tom Brooke, Monica Dolan, Paul Rhys, Tom Riley, Zubin Varla.

It was directed by Mark Ravenhill and the musical arrangements were by Colin Sell.

Sigh - this was amazing. A fantastic bit of writing performed so brilliantly. Every afternoon should be like this. There were no weak points at all. I would have preferred it if Paul Rhys had not held his script up in a way that obscured his gentle face but other than that, everyone gave a stand out and beautifully original performance.

I started to marry actors with characters but I should know better with Caryl's work! They were changing around and keeping us on our toes. I have seen an excerpt of this piece but never in the whole. I loved it and would jump at the chance to see a full production. There is so much to plunder from this point in history but the talent is to bring it to the viewer in a fresh and original way. This was it. Loved seeing those lovely big blue eyes of Tom Brooke again, adored Naomi Bentley's rapture and giggles. Tom Riley was deliciously relaxed and made the job look so easy. Paul was intense and it was fun to see Zubin stretching his musical muscles again. They all sang together with wonderful harmonies which is another thing I like about Caryl's older work and Colin Sell put that together beautifully. Could this really have just been a reading? Roll on Friday!!

Noteables in the audience: Danny Lee Wynter, Eddie Redmayne, Mel Kenyon

14 September 2008

Lipsynch by Robert Lepage

Frederike Bedard - Marie & others
Carlos Belda - Sebastian & others)
Rebecca Blankenship - Ada Webber and others
Lise Castonguary - Michelle & others
John Cobb - Jackson and others
Nuria Garcia - Lupe and others
Sarah Kemp - Sarah and others
Rick Miller - Jeremy and others
Hans Piesbergen - Thomas and others

Directed by Robert Lepage and designed by Jean Hazel seen in the last London performance of it's consecutive format at the Barbican. We had wonderful seats......for the most part.

Oliver Mace (Tim McInerny) was there - amongst others........oow - Oliver Dimsdale......Fiona Shaw........erm gawd brain powering down. I read that Richard Eyre & Simon Callow were there too but that may have been the day before.

I know the first reaction is to groan at the thought of a nine hour production (almost 2 hours of which are intervals) but I know I am not going to be able to find the words to describe what I have experienced today

Without going into production details, just experiential........just imagine you're favourite tv drama series........you've bought the boxed set and it's so amazing that you can't put it down and you have to watch every episode consecutively, just stopping for snacks and the loo........... THEN imagine that all the actors have agreed to perform the whole thing live for you. I can honestly say I didn't want ANY of the intervals. I just wanted it to go on and on. I couldn't wait for the next installment even though I know Mnsr Lepage's work well enough to know how all the loose ends would tie up.

I would say only 5 percent of the audience actually stayed in their seats at the end and they did four curtain calls to a screaming crowd.

I'm torn because I want to read other people's thoughts but I want to find the time to carefully write my own before that. I shall return

07 September 2008

Kicking a Dead Horse by Sam Shepard

Hobart Struther - Stephen Rea
Young Woman - Joanne Crawford

Directed by Sam Shepard
Designed by Brian Vahey

in it's English premiere at the Almeida D 25
Actor in the audience escapes me - wonderful, Irish, plenty of white hair.

Like so many women of my age, Sam Shepard is an object of desire. He is rugged, intelligent and intoxicatingly private. What could be more tantalising?

That said, I can't make my mind up about this Beckett style piece. The performance was a real tour-de-force with Hobart's constant battle with his own demon. The restriction of the subject was well investigated. The horse was a fine a prop as one could reasonably hope. So why was I not totally engaged for the entire short duration? I was sitting off to the side as part of an attempted economy drive but the seat was still wonderful. Did I feel detached, I wonder? I kept thinking about how much more engaging the much longer production of Happy Days had been in the Lyttleton with Fiona Shaw. Perhaps it's as simple as that. Winnie was in a dire circumstance but happy with her lot. Hobart's plight is frankly less precarious but he is miserable and defeatist. You can easily love Winnie but you tend to lose lack sympathy with Hobart even though his mid-life dilemma is a very real concern. Perhaps that was Sam's intention. A companion piece to Happy Days. It certainly had a satisfy, albeit predictable resolution. Maybe I should read some reviews and perhaps find some of Sam's thoughts.

Lovely trip to the theatre on a Sunday afternoon though!