31 January 2008

Happy Now? by Lucinda Coxon

Michael - Stanley Townsend
Kitty - Olivia Williams
Johnny - Jonathan Cullen
Miles - Dominic Rowan
Bea - Emily Joyce
Carl - Stuart McQuarrie
June - Anne Reid

Directed by Thea Sharrock
Designed by Joanthan Fensom

Seen during it's premiere run at the Cottesloe. B 24

I made a terrible mistake with the tickets because we were in the front row and the stage was about 18 inches higher than normal to accomodate a turntable.

I adore Stanely Townsend. I suppose it's his cheeky voice and bear of a body. There is something very relaxed about watching him (and I hated that awful tv series he did last year). He comes onto the stage and made me grin for the duration of his seduction. I kept my hands cupped in case I needed to catch one of his eyes but I do love him.

The cast were fabulous. With the exception of Jonathan Cullen (who I couldn't place) I have enjoyed everyone else on stage before and they seem very much at home there.

A fabulous piece of writing to challenge Polly Stenham. I am going to see the Lucinda and Thea discuss the piece tonight so I may write more later.

29 January 2008

The South Bank Show Awards.

Interviews with the winners are at the ITV site

The full list of winners:
Film: This Is England (Warp Films)
Comedy: Gavin And Stacey (BBC Three)

TV Drama: The Mark Of Cain (Channel 4)

Theatre: Saint Joan (National Theatre)

Pop: Arctic Monkeys for Favourite Worst Nightmare

Literature: Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Classical Music: Traced Overhead: The Musical World Of Thomas Ad├Ęs (at the Barbican)

Visual Arts:Andy Goldsworthy at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Opera: The Turn Of The Screw (English National Opera)

Dance: Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company (at Sadler's Wells)

Arts Council England - decibel Award: Daljit Nagra for Look We Have Coming To Dover!

The Times Breakthrough Award: Jennifer Pike

Outstanding Achievement Award: J.K. Rowling

Critic's Circle Awards

A couple of reports about the Critics Circle Awards which seem worth a mention.

BEST NEW PLAY - A Disappearing Number by Simon McBurney and Complicite
(Award presented to Complicite’s Judith Dimant by The Times’ Benedict Nightingale)

The Peter Hepple Award for BEST MUSICAL - Hairspray
(Award presented to Leanne Jones and choreographer Jerry Mitchell by the Independent’s Paul Taylor)

BEST ACTOR - Charles Dance for Shadowlands
(Award presented to Dance by the Mail on Sunday’s Georgina Brown)

BEST ACTRESS - Anne-Marie Duff for Saint Joan
(Award presented to Duff by the Evening Standard’s Nicholas de Jongh)

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for BEST SHAKESPEAREAN PERFORMANCE - Chiwetel Ejiofor for Othello and Patrick Stewart for Macbeth
(Awards presented to Ejiofor and Stewart by, respectively, the Sunday Times’ John Peter and Time Out’s Jane Edwardes)

BEST DIRECTOR - Rupert Goold for Macbeth
(Award presented to Goold by the Guardian’s Michael Billington)

BEST DESIGNER - Rae Smith and the Handspring Puppet Company for War Horse
(Award presented to Tom Morris, War Horse co-director and associate director at the National Theatre, by the Daily Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish)

MOST PROMISING PLAYWRIGHT - Polly Stenham for That Face
(Award presented to Stenham by Metro’s Claire Allfree)

The Jack Tinker Award for MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER - Leanne Jones for Hairspray
(Award presented to Jones by Ian Shuttleworth of the Financial Times and Theatre Record)

28 January 2008

The Vertical Hour by David Hare

Dennis - Joseph Kloska
Oliver - Anton Lesser
Terri- Wunmi Mosaku
Philip - Tom Riley
Nadia - Indira Varma

Directed by Jeremy Herrin
Designed by Mike Britton

seen during it's UK premiere run at the Royal Court Theatre downstairs.

Actor in the audience:- Danny Lee Wynter returned to his former employers tonight and sat in the very front (and neck punishing) row.

There are some interesting textures to this production and I am going to link both The Guardian and The Times for their thoughtful insights and comparison to the Broadway premiere run. As it happens, the first review I read was from The Telegraph and I thought I'd clicked on the wrong play.

I have adored seeing Bill Nighy on the stage but as Anton Lesser revealed more and more of his character, I could not help thinking this role was much better played by an actor whom we had hitherto not considered a lothario or, forgive me Anton, particularly heart-throb material.

David Hare is a master of articulating a debate close to his heart with objectivity and intense intimate drama. I like to think that Indira Varma's elegant but personable beauty was also better cast than Julianne Moore (who I adore in less aggressive roles).

I can't stop thinking about this play. Yes, as always Hare gave great meat to his feelings on the crime of war but I enjoyed picking over the vegetables too. His political batonage seemed merely some text upon which to develop the relationship and character arcs. There were a couple of clunky moments but I'm uneasy with perfection!

In case you're wondering, Nadia says something like - In combat medicine, there's this moment after a disaster or a shooting, called the vertical hour, when you can actually be of some use.

Another line had my shoulders vibrating for several seconds! I will need to read the text to remind myself of which line that might have been.

25 January 2008

Off the Endz! By Bola Agbaje

Boy - Jacob Anderson
Sharon - Zawe Ashton
Boy - Tito Fagbenle
Jerome - Daniel Green
Keisha - Chi Kolo
Kojo - Nathaniel Martello-WHite
David - Ashley Walters

Directed by Dominic Cooke during the Royal Court Upstairs Rough Cuts season

Very sharp bit of writing, well produced (for a reading).

We follow the lives of Kojo and David. Both from the same estate but with a different take on life and what the future means to them. David is in and out of prison blaming anyone but himself. Kojo works it out and succeeds in forming a life with a job and a girlfriend that works with a bit of hard graft......until David messes it up.

24 January 2008

Talking Dirty edited by Clare Lizzimore

Man - John Marquez
Mother/Proprietor - Susan McGoun
Martha Warren? - Nina Sosanya
Caroline - Charity Wakefield

Rehearsed reading directed by Clare Lizzimore who assembled & edited these soundbytes together
during the Rough Cuts season at the Royal Court

Hmmm - well, I didn't like The Girlfriend Experience by Alecky Blythe in last Summer's Rough Cuts. It's not that I don't like using soundbyte's like that because I really loved Gambling by Matt Hartley last week.

As with The Girlfriend Experience, Talking Dirty was a collection of lines gleaned from interviews and in this case it was with cleaning woman. At least the performances were easier to watch in this one - in fact the cast were wonderful given how dull the subject matter was. It didn't really say anything that made me want to listen. The only thing that made me concentrate was my respect for the actors. Word must have got around because this was the only one I've been to that had several empty seats.

Ah well - I guess I would rather have seen the dull one first but at least it was short. Half the audience were grumpy on entry because they didn't want us to stay in our seats while they moved a few props onto the floor so we all had to troop out and downstairs again. Stupid, affected and quite possibly and unnecessary fire risk

This time, they didn't ask us for feedback.

The Running Machine by Joe Harbot

Hannah - Claudie Blakley
Ben - Tom Brooke
Mrs Wynters - Amelia Bullmore
Michael - Paul Copley
Receptionist - Lorna Gayle
Paul Brown - Richard O'Callaghan
Mr Barnes - Matthew Pidgeon
Mr Cooke - Barnaby Power
Alan - Reece Shearsmith
Bill - Al Weaver
Mr Warren - Peter Wight

Rehearsed reading directed and narrated by Jeremy Herrin during the Rough Cuts season at the Royal Court

Really well written piece about a quango office brought to it's knees by a mis-handled EEC directive. Funny and brilliantly performed with one exception!

23 January 2008

Ignition1 in the Rough Cuts season at the Royal Court Upstairs

in association with Tristan Bates Theatre, three pieces written within seven days and specifically for the actors taking part.
Written by D C Moore

Woman - Christine Entwisle
Man - Paul Ritter

directed by DC Moore

This hit the ground running and was tight and funny from start to finish.
Woman with a cheery disposition recounts the minutiae of the minutes leading up to her discovery of a murdered homeless man. Her performance is interjected with a similar account from the man who eventually turns out to be her friend and he meets her in the park where she discovered the body. This is obviously more about the journey than the destination and is wonderfully put together with great performances

Written by Polly Stenham

Clare - Clare Higgins
Bill - Bill Patterson

Directed by Dominic Cooke

Clare works in advertising and takes a Big Issue seller home with her. She has several lines of coke and talks non-stop with the odd mono-syllabic interjection from Bill, in his attempt to get her to pay for a Big Issue so he can get back out there.
It transpires that Clare regards Bill as a good luck charm but only when he's wearing his red hat. An interesting exchange questioning which of our characters is the more hopeless and lost than the other. Great performances but not as intensely engaging stuff as the DC Moore.

Written by Michael Bhim

Joe - Cary Crankson
Dane - Clifford Samuel
Shane - Nathaniel Martello-White

Directed by Richard Wilson

Three fellas in a car prepare to harm Dane's girlfriend for her infidelity. All three guys have a different agenda and only one of them really wants to do any harm. It seemed to be the shorter piece but it was still dynamic.

Several young actors were in the audience but I could only put a name to Harry Treadaway.

21 January 2008

Thrown by Mike Bartlett in the Rough Cuts season at the Royal

Jules/Steph - Sally Hawkins
David - Burn Gorman
TV License Man/Injured Man/Policeman/Philip - Robert Glenister

Directed by Mike Bartlett and I must also list the truly wonderful musicians who were Rhiannon Armstrong, Nick Gill, David O'Brien and Nicole Robson.

Simply staged during the Rough Cuts season at the Royal Court Upstairs
Dominic Cooke and Sacha Wares were in the audience and so they should be!

If this production ever forms itself into a fully formed production my notes here will be massive spoilers. In words worthy of Paul Prior himself, it doesn't become what the audience are led to believe it set out to be. Mike Bartlett has turned the harsh reality of Alzheimer's on it's head and Burn's performance as the sufferer was marvelous. We see him getting ready for a date and being accused of various things he doesn't remember. We see concerned friends and family (who he believes to be complicated internet identity thieves and police etc) at the end of their tether but it's not until the last five minutes of this 30 minute piece that we learn this apparently victimised young man is actually in his seventies. We know that sufferers often view themselves as their younger selves which is why they confuse their children with their siblings etc but this very carefully written play puts that right on a plate and serves up a chilling punch of exactly what that reality might be.

I mentioned Burn's performance because he orchestrates the entire piece. Sally and Robert feed his scenes with whatever he needs but they do a wonderful job. The last time I saw Sally was indeed with Robert in The Winterlling(unless you count her trying to kiss Rupert Penry Jones on telly) and I really wish I could see more of her. She has a way with her that I'll bet Mike Bartlett also sees in Lia Williams. Wonderful tough fragility. How do they do it? Robert took on several different characters effortlessly and convincingly. Is it damning to describe him as a thoroughly reliable actor. He had a grey-to-almost-white bit of a beardy effort which I found rather attractive but brought gravitas and compassion to his roles.

The Lion's Mouth by Alexandra Wood in the Rough Cuts season

Mum - Belinda Sinclair
Dad - Ron Cook
Ben - Adam Gillen
Annie - Antonia Campbell Hughes
Point(Tatooist) - Tom Fisher
Mike(Student) - Shane Zaza
Pipe Cleaner vendor - Katie Males
Ben's friends - Gemma Lawrence, Bunmi Mojekwu

Directed by Sacha Wares and designed by Miriam Beuther because this was a 'semi-staged performance' apparently.

Seen upstairs in the Royal Court during their Rough Cuts season

Quote: Buses have stopped. Florists have run out of flowers. Body bags are filling up. Inside, a family struggle to cope with their rising panic.


I struggled to get all those cast names down but Google and the imdb put faces to some of the younger names and let's all watch out for Adam Gillen. I knew Antonia from her wonderful scenes in Lead Balloon and she brought the same wonderful lack of energy to this piece. Perfect casting. I think this was a comment on the end of the world but I could be wrong.

Everyone is living in fear of impeding disaster but some worry more than others. No matter because the end result is the same. Very interesting that the females are far less neurotic about it than the males.

Currently running at 50 minutes or so meaning we had over an hour to wait in the bar for the next piece. Did catch RIchard Eyer in the downstairs audience. Who would have thought he'd go for a cheap Monday night ticket? Times must be hard!

18 January 2008

Gambling - By Matt Hartley

Tom - Tom Brooke
Sean - Sean Campion
Liz - Liz Crowther
Chris - Christine Entwisle

Rehearsed Reading directed by Raz Shaw for the Rough Cuts season in the Royal Court Upstairs.

Dominic was in the audience again and so was Samuel West and Alan Coran's daughter.....argh and that woman who did The Play's the Thing with Sonia and Neil.

Well, in marked contrast to Tuesday's reading, I had no difficulty in remembering the character names but we were given even less paperwork this time than on Tuesday. In fact we were handed a betting slip with a hard fact about compulsive gambling. As you can see, despite the lack of cast list, a quick glance at the website furnished me with both cast and characters.

We took our seats the the strains of a wonderful beat and the performers will already on stage, Chris moving, trance-like. By the time we had settled, the entire cast were dancing in their own space but in a strangely connected way. Even at this early stage you could see the individual personality type without yet knowing what they all had in common. This was so much more than a reading. Chris had a long monologue right at the start and had one sheet of paper in her hand for that but only one other chunk of text was read from a script (by Tom) and the rest was totally off book, as it were. The aforementioned entry from Chris was gloriously interrupted by the rest of the cast spouting their anxieties and justifications. Our cheeky Irishman had a wonderful line that went something like: It's like when you're watching the match and then it's half-time and you think 'Woah!' where did THAT go? The first time he said it we loved his energy but when he repeated it at various intervals the audience were highly amused.

One the back wall there were pages from those conference flip chart things. There were 20 odd points listed with a character name by them and that was about all the prompting the cast had. Tom did one of his slugs out of order but it was not really a progressive arc (unless I missed that) so it didn't matter. There were some wonderful combative exchanges and one really clever but simple section where two cast members (Liz & Sean)just repeated (in THEIR character) whatever Chris said. Virtually the entire piece was set to music and the cast mimed various gambling activities (most often slot machines) which were choreographed to great effect.

All this intensity only lasted for 30 minutes but they were so well used. A triumph in concept and performance. I think the structure might benefit from a little more work but it's something very exciting in the making.

16 January 2008

The Astonished Heart by Noel Coward

Christian Faber - Alex Jennings
Barbara Faber - Kate Duchene
Leonora Vail - Nancy Carroll
Tim Verney - Jonah Russell
Susan Birch - Frances Jeater
Sir Reginald French.Ernest - Mark Elstob

Directed by Lucy Pitman-Wallace for a rehearsed reading/platform performance at the Lyttleton Theatre

I didn't spot anyone special in the audience but there was enough inappropriate laughter to make me wonder whether some of the Present Laughter cast were hanging around

I am used to seeing a group of people sitting on plastic chairs to do a rehearsed reading but this is the National Theatre and they already had a Coward set in place so the chairs and sofas were draped and comfy. There were doors and steps and it was a very different experience. The writing is unquestionably taught and Alex Jennings was entrancing in the role.

The cast was made up from part Present Laughter, part Women of Troy but to the best of my knowledge neither Mark Elstob or Nancy Carroll are currently in a production. I should also point out that Women Of Troy's Michael Gould was doing the rehearsed reading at the Royal Court at 7pm this same night and his WoT co-star Anastasia Hille's loyalty was to him (and Paul Hilton) rather than Kate and Jonah.

Back to the NT and this reading was so gorgeous you could almost smell the process. There was something very exciting and fresh about it. There was a tiny bit of odd behaviour in the audience including some of them thinking the piece had finished at a very dramatic moment which made the next emotional scene a little awkward to slide into. It really confused and seemed to almost anger or unnerve Kate. I must say I was amused by a couple of scenes where Alex was kissing Nancy passionately while searching his script for the next lines. So exciting and to think I will miss next week's in favour of Polly Stenham and Clare Higgins at the RC. Such bitter sweet choices I have to make.

15 January 2008

Regeneration by Gbolahan Obisesan

Katrina - Lindsey Coulson
Toni - Ashley Madekwe
Nicholas - Justin Salinger
Dad - Wil Johnson
...we had no programme and I've forgotten the character names.....
Toni's friend - Riz Ahmed
Rag - Toby Wharton
Tag - Sid Mitchell

Rehearsed Reading
Directed by Debbie Tucker Green

First night of Rough Cuts season in the Royal Court Upstairs.

Got my usual seat and I seemed to be one of the few mere mortals in the audience. Too many to mention but worth saying RC faves were Dominic Cooke (of course), Roy Williams and Richard Wilson

Really entertaining piece with non-stop, overlapping dialogue. Katrina is pregnant with Nicholas's child and already has a daughter, Antonia from a deserted black father. 'Toni' refuses to call her Mum and sees her father behind his back. Nicholas is a lazy drug dealer who fancies his chances with Toni. Toni has a buddy she stack shelves with and he has a soft spot for her.

A couple of young kids will try anything to get the cash to pay for drugs from Nicholas.

This is really funny and really poignant. I liked the direction and the actors were utterly superb with no lightweights at all. I wish I could remember the young lads names. It was something like Rough and Tumble but they were funnier and more pertinent than that. It might come to me.

05 January 2008

Women of Troy by Euripides translated by Don Taylor

Hescuba - Kate Duchene
Cassandra - Sinead Matthews
Adromache - Anastasia Hille
Talthybius - Michael Gould
Sinon - Johnah Russell
Menelaus - Stephen Kennedy
Helen - Susie Trayling
Chrysander - Mark Holgate

Hippe - Rachel Clarke
Illeana - Pandora Colin
Macaria - Laura Elphinstone
Thalia - Beth Fitzgerald
Rhea - Helena Lymbery
Polycaste - Penelope McGhie
Rhoda - Charlotte Roach

Directed by Katie Mitchell
Designed by Bunny Christie

In this production's premiere run at the Lyttleton - F 9

This felt like a Katie Mitchell collaboration project with so many of the wonderful elements from Waves but without the fascinating camera work. The Lyttleton is my least favourite space at the National but once it a while it is just perfect for the job in hand and this is one such instance. The entire space was used so well and whilst I had really hoped for the camera close-up tricks, there was probably so much else going on the stage, it would have complicated things. Had they been forced to stage this in the Cottesloe, it would have worked though.

After yesterday's humour, I could not have found a bigger contrast and it made me question my memory of the events between the Greeks and the Trojans. Wonderful performances from Kate, Sinead, Anastasia and all the fellas. Staged as though all the women of Troy had been interrupted during the most exotic ball having the ladies in the most delicious evening dresses. Something of a mono-chrome set worked well the heighten the claustrophobia of their incarceration as they await their fate. Gorgeous but not much fun.

I've just realised that I cannot remember the last time I went to the theatre on my own at the last minute and didn't shimmy myself into a seat better suited to my needs than the one of the face of the ticket. Nobody gets hurt and I am much happier.

04 January 2008

Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber

Mugsy - Stephen Wight
Sweeney - Ross Boatman
Stephen - Malcolm Sinclair
Frankie - Jay Simpson
Carl - Samuel Barnett
Ash - Roger Lloyd Pack

Directed by Samuel West
Designed by Tom Piper

Seen during it's transfer run in the very mean seated Trafalgar Studio 1 - G6 (mental note, try not to sit further back than E in this theatre)

I made several aborted attempts to see this at the Menier Chocolate Factory but once I'd played a little bit of theatre-seat-excuse-me I managed to get comfy in the bigger auditorium at the Trafalgar.

A masterpiece of writing. I found Stephen Wight was a bit too big but everyone else was wonderful and how can you go wrong with writing like this? Roger had a cold, I think but he was wonderfully controlled. Loved the set too.

Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn

Jane - Jane Horrocks
Sidney - David Bamber
Ronald - David Horovitch
Marion - Jenny Seagrove
Eva - Lia Williams
Geoffrey - John Gordon Sinclair

Directed by Alan Strachan
Designer - Michael Pavelka

At the Garrick complete with the very special underground train noises and judders - J4.....sort of

Oh happy day. Heard great things about this and since it is a comedy I thought it was safe to see it in a matinee. I got a half-pricey earlier in the morning but by the time I got to my seat it was almost full downstairs.

Jane Horrocks spared us her usual shrillness most probably aided by using a different regional accent. The performances of David Horovitch and Lia Williams really stood out beyond the rest because they didn't overdo their parts but it was great fun and done in three acts with two intervals, which was nice! The second act was so much the better for Lia being the central character trying to commit suicide in the middle of the mayhem. What larks!

01 January 2008

Othello by William Shakespeare

Roderigo - Edward Bennett
Othello - Chiwetel Ejiofor
Emillia - Michelle Fairley
Duke of Venice/ Lodovico - Michael Hadley
Cassio - Tom Hiddleston
Montano - Michael Jenn
Bianca - Martina Laird
Brabantio and Gratiano - James Laurenson
Iago - Ewan McGregor
1st Senator, 2nd Cyprus Gentleman - David Mara
Desdemona - Kelly Reilly
1st Officer, Messenger, 1st Cyprus Gentleman - Alastair Sims

Directed by Michael Grandage
Designed by Christopher Oram
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Composer and Sound Designer: Adam Cork

Seen during it's run at the Donmar - D10

Despite my efforts to avoid reviews, several people thought it was alright to tell me that Chiwe was the star and whilst I would have assumed that since he had the title role, I had to grit my teeth and just put it down to seeing it so late after Press Night. People who don't go to the theatre can't resist pretending that they have some understanding and in doing so, reveal that they have none.

So, with my expectations of Chiwe high and last experience with Ewan low I entered the evening with mixed feelings. I don't know if it was a New Year's Day fluke but every single member of the cast was absolutely staggering. I could go through each individual and detail of the manner in which they excelled. Othello is, after all a reversed rendition of Much Ado but with knives. Few of the roles are incidental and there are two very powerful females. Kelly still does the OTT head shaking thing which is such a shame when she is such a deliciously creamy confection but hopefully she will read tonight's notes with a red face and conviction. Young Mr Hiddleston was something of a revelation with a wonderful texture to his voice.........and I detect something of the Claire Higgins in Michelle Fairley. Some of these people are fresh in their career and yet they bring a great punch to this production.

Further details and pictures here.

The speediest 195 minutes I've had in a long time.