31 March 2008

The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other
by Peter Handke
in a new translation by Meredith Oakes

Susan Brown: Jessie Burton: Pip Carter: Paul Chesterton
: Lisa Dillon: Callum Dixon: Noma Dumezweni: Susan Engel
: Susannah Fielding: Mark Hadfield: Amy Hall: Daniel Hawksford
: Tom Hickey: Richard Hope: Mairead McKinley: Nick Malinowski
: Shereen Martineau: Justine Mitchell: Daniel Poyser: Adrian Schiller
: Amit Shah: Sara Stewart: Giles Terera: Jason Thorpe: Harry Towb
: Simon Wilson: Sarah Woodward

Director: James Macdonald
Set Designer: Hildegard Bechtler

Seen during it's UK premiere run at the Lyttelton E15 on standby (at new increased price!)
Celebs in the audience: Anthony Calf and Paul Gambacini - but not together!

This might have been called "The nigh-on couple of hours we knew very little of each other" as there were a few characters who had direct relationshps but I have not yet read the notes from the programme to discover the full inspiration for this piece.

I am going to start putting the NT links in my blog because they have videos and info that can better explain the production......."Twenty-seven actors, 450 characters and no dialogue: a play without words by the great experimental figure of European theatre, Peter Handke."

You could hardly ask for a more diverse audience and yet the balance was similar to the plays for young people that I saw at the weekend.

From the moment the first few actors hit the stage there was concentrated interaction from the audience. This is the least self-conscience display of mime-craft you are likely to find. Some performances were so subtle that they gained more laughs than the overtly comedic.

I didn't understand the first scattering of petals and perhaps there was no purpose to them other than to give the man purpose. The mirror dress sequence was hilarious and very clever with Jason Thorpe stealing much of the show. The pantomine cat, trailing after Dick Wittington and the two different birds were fleeting moments of joy. I would also like to give a special mention to Tom Hickey and lovely to see Harry Towb on the stage again. There were slow queues and rushed jogs, lovers and hookers, the wounded and broken hearted.

No matter how much Sara Stewart tries to dress down she always has an almost overly polished appearance and a walk that would stop traffic. Susan Brown is the wonderful actress without vanity and I would dearly love to see her work more often. I can't believe she doesn't get the offers and I seem to remember she's a friend of Patsy Pollock so perhaps she just chooses to work out of London and below my radar.

29 March 2008

The Miracle by Lin Coghlan

Ron: Ruby Bentall
Peter 'Chewy' Zapadski: Ian Bonar
Mrs Sheenan: Clare Burt
Lanky Girl: Nicole Charles
Trousers: Gregg Chillin
Zelda: Rebecca Cooper
Mr Rodgers: Sam Crane
Angela Brickman: Claire Foy
PC703: Troy Glasgow
Header Hammond: Jack Gordon
Lanky Girl: Claire Lams
Lorenzo Hammond: Henry Lloyd Hughes
Miss Lowry: Petra Letang
Billy Hammond: Ryan Sampson
Mrs Ginger/Lanky Girl: Kellie Shirley
Barry O'Donnell: Benjamin Smith
Ginger: Paul Thornley

Directed by Paul Miller
Designed by Simon Daw

At the Cottesloe in it's first run E23
Celeb in the audience: Sinead Cussack & children(which is quite sweet since dad was next door in the Lyttelton)

If you really pressed me, I'd say this was the weakest piece of the day but it was still powerful. It felt a little like the last one in the 24 Hour Plays but benefitted from more time to develop.

The young woman who played the amazing motor-mouth in DNA took on the role of Veronica (Ron) who believed she had a religious experience that left her with special powers. Her friend Zelda, played by Rebecca Cooper (and reminded me of the Tarbuck family) had the rather clunky task of narrating the events and I think that was where this play fell away somewhat. Ron felt that she could help a variety of problems and with good intentions she influenced the weaker, more vulnerable members of her community. This eventually fell apart with echos of The Crucible but the progression was not as well formed as the other plays. Perhaps it was just one play too many and I finally understood why most performances on have the two productions in an one evening.

I want to make a mention of Claire Lams too. She had the only white-girl role in Baby Girl and a very strong character in DNA. She had something of a chorus role in Miracle but slipped easily between all three. Ryan and Ian were also strong in Miracle.

All three of these productions used beautifully produced video images and stills projected over a vast screen at the back and above the stage. Considerable thought had been put into these and given the nature of having to change scenes so quickly, it worked beautifully.

Miracle had the added touch of completely drenching the stage because catalyst for the divine intervention was a flooded river bank.
I am so glad that I saw all of these. A wonderfully enriching day.

DNA by Dennis Kelly

Lea: Ruby Bentall
Brian: Ian Bonar
Mark: Gregg Chillin
Phil: Sam Crane
Jan: Claire Foy
Richard: Troy Glasgow
John Tate: Jack Gordon
Cathy: Claire Lams
A Boy: Ryan Sampson
Danny: Benjamin Smith
Lou - Nicole Charles

Directed by Paul Miller
Designed by Simon Daw

At the Cottesloe in it's first run E23
Celeb in the audience: Sinead Cussack & children(which is quite sweet since dad was next door in the Lyttelton)

From one of the co-writers of Pulling, this is a witting, slightly twisted, fast moving joy of a play and the cast will always remember this moment in their early career.

Now is a good time to mention that the audience were fantastic. There was a real spirit of the entire room staying with these plays from start to finish and the curtain calls were quite frankly, bawdy!

We acertain that a friend has died and whilst he was not murdered, his death was clearly caused by a bit of irresponsible behaviour.

The two most delicious characters are a motor-mouth in the shape of Lea and a quiet, pragmatically cold genius called Phil. The young actors who played these roles were staggering. Phil (Sam Crane) spent the majority of his time eating from what seemed to be an endless supply of snack food from a blue plastic carrier. He was able to maintain speechless action for several minutes at a time while Lea (Ruby Bentall) rattled on, holding both sides of the conversation.

This large circle of friends all feel responsible but all react in a different way. They look to Phil (who some of them don't know at all) for his wise solution at which point he makes his first big speech. His solution is elaborate and delivered with chess board precision. This amazing young actor maintains exactly the same demeanor for an hour which makes him deliciously sinister. Other characters of note are Brian, played by Ian Bonar who I remember from some readings he has done and those huge blue cow eyes. Danny, played by Benjamin Smith is constantly worrying about how this might affect his chances of entering a career in dentistry which forms a very amusing cameo. There is a beautiful young girl, Claire Foy playing Mark's girlfriend Jan who has a delicate touch. Ryan Sampson makes a late but pivotal entry to great effect.

I can't praise this production more highly. The writing is a gift and all these youngsters grasp it and treat it with great precision.

Baby Girl by Roy Williams

Jose: Nicole Charles
Richie: Troy Glasgow
Yvette: Claire Lams
Samantha: Petra Letang
Kelle: Candassaie Liburd
Danielle: Apaiketuya Marchant
Nathan: Winston Sarpong
Josie - Nicole Charles

Directed by Paul Miller
Designed by Simon Daw

At the Cottesloe in it's first run E23
Celeb in the audience: Sinead Cussack

Roy writes such wonderfulpieces for teenagers but the very nature of them can fall apart when the cast is not up to scratch. This cast was amazing with particular mention for Candassaie Liburd.

A 13 year old girl, Kelle tells her 26 year old Mum that she is pregnant. It happened because of peer pressure about being a virgin. The father's brother, Richie is the local stud and has fathered several children before reaching the age of 18 but senses a meaningful relationship developing with Josie but is cautious about progressing it. When he finally takes the plunge, Kelle's Mum has managed to discover the father's identity but confronts Richie in an effort to find his brother thereby exposing the family weakness.

A perfectly simple construction of a complicated situation that is well resolved.

I was amused by an interaction between Kelle and her mother Samantha which revolved around Wentworth Miller. An interesting choice of actor to include but all the more funny because I was going to meet a friend of a friend who was a big fan of his. I notice that the original text cited a different actor.

Please have a look at the little film on the NT website

27 March 2008

Never So Good by Howard Brenton

Young Harry Crookshank : Ben Addis
Smithson : Jonathan Battersby
Anthony Eden : Anthony Calf
Young Harold Macmillan : Pip Carter
Nellie Macmillan : Anna Carteret
Dorothy Macmillan : Anna Chancellor
Selwyn Lloyd : Peter Forbes
Dwight D. Eisenhower : Clive Francis
Ronald Knox : Tim Frances
Bob Boothby : Robert Glenister
Neville Chamberlain : Terrence Hardiman
Ensemble : Sarah Head
Harold Macmillan : Jeremy Irons
Ensemble : Sioned Jones
Ensemble : Anne Kavanagh
Sgt. Robinson : Nicholas Lumley
Winston Churchill : Ian McNeice
Ensemble : Charlotte Melia
Ensemble : Roger Ringrose
Ensemble : Janet Spencer-Turner
Older Harry Crookshank : Terence Wilton
Ensemble : Claire Winsper
Ensemble : Rupert Young

Directed by Howard Davies
Designed by Vikki Mortimer

See during it's debut run at the Lyttelton Theatre on the day after press night, with post-show discussion including Howard Brenton & Jeremy Irons K11(which was better than anticiapted)
Notables in the theatre: Roger Allam, Mark Kermode and that NNR fella who always has to look at his notes while talking and pretending to not look at his notes - name dismissed from memory

Like JF Kennedy, Macmillan lived his life in constant pain acquired from his heroics in The Great War. We needed to know how dramatic this was. We needed to know about his dalliance with another boy when he was at Eton but for some reason the first 30 minutes of this play seemed to drift a little. Then Anna Chancellor lit up the stage and proceedings stepped up from then on.

In the way that only Howard Brenton can manage we have a tender portrayal of a clever man. Every scene displays his loyalty, integrity and pragmatism whilst showing the heart of the man.

I found the audience around me rather embarrassing and didn't know why they laughed at some lines. There was wit there but I found it in different places. I loathed the musical interludes, not for their content but for they way they were handled and was further angered when I heard some woman say they were the only good bits.

It's my own problem, I know but it turned my stomach when Jeremy Irons kissed Anna but I was salved when she had a go with lovely Robert Glenister. Sadly, he only has one vaguely meaty scene. They needed to cast an actor of his calibre but I felt he was underused. He wore a fat suit that helped him to adopt a stance that reminded me of my father. Anthony Calf was glorious and I could watch him forever. He probably gave the strongest performance. I couldn't really hear Mr Irons half the time and I think the arena was too big for him but young Pip Carter was a real stage actor.

There was a huge bang at the end of the second act and fortunately, I had been resting my eyes at the time because I felt a surge of warmth on my face as you do when you approach a bonfire.

18 March 2008

The Sea by Edward Bond

Willy Carson - Harry Lloyd
Evens - David Burke
Hatch - David Haig
Louise Rafi - Eileen Atkins
Jessica Tilehouse - Marcia Warren
Hollarcut - Russell Tovey
Thompson - Jem Wall
Carter - John Branwell
Myfanwy Price - Selina Griffiths
Jilly - Emma Noakes
Rachel - Sarah Annis
Vicar - William Chubb
Rose Jones - Mariah Gale
Davis - Philippa Urquhart

Directed by Jonathan Ken
Designed by Paul Brown

At the Haymarket Theatre Royal - J7

more later

10 March 2008

Scarborough - Fiona Evans

Lauren - Holly Atkins
Daz - Jack O'Connell
Aiden - Daniel Mays
Beth - Rebecca Ryan

Directed by Deborah Bruce
Designed by Jo Newberry

Bagged two different perches for each half. First one was on the pillar right next to the bedside table and then on the sideboard by the door.
Actor in the audience: BIFA nominated, Stephen Graham and can I also add Actor in the Bar but not a member of this cast: Benedict Cumberbatch?

My understanding is that the original format was just the first half with Lauren and Daz, performed in an hotel room in Edinburgh. I can't help wondering how they got around certain by-laws if they actually charged people to come and see it but that is of no matter. Really good play and brave work by all the actors involved. This is where they should have staged My Child IMO but we only had 50 people in the audience so I guess the cash wouldn't have worked out.

A special experience but I wonder if I would bother to see this if it was staged in a more regular format.

It was wonderful to see the same idea approached from each gender's point of view and the actors were using virtually identical lines but expressing them in such different ways. There were complete black-outs to denote new acts and during the first half, the black out played Imogen Heap's Hide & Seek almost in it's entirety. It was wonderful to listen to that in the complete darkness but knowing the room was full of 50 odd people!

08 March 2008

Artefacts by Mike Bartlett

Kelly - Lizzy Watts
Susan - Karen Ascoe
Ibrahim - Peter Polycarpou
Faisa - Mouna Albakry
Raya - Amy Hamdoon

Directed by James Grieve and designed by Lucy Osborne

seen during it's premiere run at The Bush. Unreserved seating gave us wonderful seating.

A really powerful play with a great role for the energetic young Lizzy Watts. A play for our time on what seems to be Mike's usual theme of broken and extended families and the interaction between all parties involved. This time, a single mother finally tells her daughter that her father is from Iraq. It transpires that her father has a wife and another daughter in Iraq and is the curator of the national museum. It's really a sounding board for another view on the state of this decimated country.

Interesting to see Peter Polycarpou in a role where he isn't singing. You can read more here.

The delay in the start time gave us a great chance to read all the testimonials from people wanting to save the Arts Council grant.

06 March 2008

A Prayer for my Daughter by Thomas Babe

Kelly - Matthew - Marsh
Jack - Corey Johnson
Jimmy - Colin Morgan
Sean - Sean Chapman

Directed by Dominic Hill
Designed by Giles Cadle

Seen during it's run at the Young Vic. Started off in the middle of the second row but it was too close and too cramped so I moved the more spacious 10th row. Loved seeing it from two different perspectives and loved seeing Peter McDonald in the audience

Some very diverse performances here and a totally cohesive cast. I'm not absolutely sure that this play arrives successfully at it's final destination or whether the journey there is a well formed as it should be but the dialogue is great and certainly good enough to hold the attention.

It was a piece of luck that I moved back to a row with some discernible legroom because, lovely though Mr Morgan might be, I'm not sure I would have wanted to be quite that close when he was proving his lack of substance concealment. He couldn't conceal his weapon and he would put Harry Potter and Alfie Allen to shame for his sustain alone. There were a load of students who were all asked to sit over one side and to their sorrow, he never turned around for them and I don't blame him.

I've enjoyed seeing Matthew Marsh twice lately and I shall watch out for him in future. He has a slight tick thing he does but he really can carry a fully motored speech.

The staging was like Landscape With Weapon where the action take place between two banks of audience. I hated that for LWW because it was such a bright, reflective stage that I was constantly aware of the other people. It makes it very hard to lose yourself in the performance when you can see your fellow punters. In tonight's play, the problem wasn't so bad because it was a dim set in a very dim theatre. As we entered, regular visitors were asked to sit over the far side and the near side was reserved for students and freebies. I felt that much of the action was played in favour of the far side (my side) so I may have had a totally different take on the piece if I had seen it on another night in a different seat.

Another bonus is that the evening went like clockwork. Left home in my car after Connie Time and parked in my secret freebie space behind Leicester Square. Jenny Seagrove parked right in front of me with her little lap-dog on her way to Absurd Person Singular. Nipped over to the half price booth and got my ticket for £13 and since it's unreserved seating, it didn't matter that I was so late in the day. Jumped back in the car and parked almost outside the Young Vic. Perfect.

03 March 2008

Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw

Lady Britomart Undershaft - Clare Higgins
Stephen Undershaft - John Heffernan
Morrison - Derek Howard
Barbara Undershaft - Hayley Atwell
Sarah Undershaft - Jessica Gunning
Charles Lomax - Tom Andrews
Adolphus Cusins - Paul Ready
Andrew Undershaft - Simon RUssell Beale
Rummy Mitchens - Stephanie Jacob
Snobby Price - Paul Anderson
Jenny Hill - Katharine Burford
Peter Shirley - Patrick Drury
Bill Walker - Ian Burfield
Mrs Baines - Maggie McCarthy
Bilton - Martin Chamberlain
Ensemble/Understudies - Alasdair Craig
Keiran Flynn
Barbara Kirby
Pamela Merrick
Richard Shanks
Lizzie Winkler

Directed by Nick Hytner
Designed by Tom Pye

See on the night before the press did at the Olivier. You can see some reviews here

I saw Nick Hytner but that's not really remarkable given the circumstances

Wonderful set, wonderful performances and a great piece of writing.