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!

Factory Hamlet

05 September 2008

Hamlet by Factory and Shakespeare

I WILL write my notes about this. In the meantime you can enjoy the pictures in the above post.

02 September 2008

Hedda, adapted by Lucy Kirwood based on the Ibsen

Julia Tesman - Cath Whitefield
George Tesman - Tom Mison
Hedda Gabler - Cara Horgan
Thea Eldridge - Alice Patten
Toby Brack - Christopher Obi
Eli Longford - Adrian Bower

Directed by Carrie Cracknell
Designed by Holly Waddington

Seen at the sweet little Gate Theatre in Notting Hill with as diverse an audience as you could wish to find

If you come to this and banish all expectations of plot paralleling you'll come away from a fairly solid contemporary drama, with a few flaws but fairly well executed. If you have a vague notion of the original structure and salient plot points and interactions you'd have fun comparing. I wonder how Ibsen scholars would feel.

Lines were tripped and there were some minor inconsistencies with the plot but this sweet young cast and director made a very enjoyable evening and had the strength to stay behind and chat to us all afterwards. I might note that I have never seen such a high percentage of audience stay behind for a Q & A before and some of them had clearly not been aware that it was happening until the announcement. It was clear that this was an intense collaboration between Ms Kirkwood and Ms Cracknell so I can only presume the slight plot faults were the result of forgotten or ill-delivered lines.

One of these days I am going to see Mr Bower clean shaven, tidied hair and in a smart suit. I'll probably loathe him in it! He is so wonderfully comfortable with himself that it makes watching him very easy. I was also very impressed with the pitch of Christopher Obi's performance. I don't know why he stood out because I must say that everyone seemed to really understand the small space they were in and played it very well.

Hedda's evening dress was stunning in it's simplicity and I wouldn't normally even bother to comment. It had wonderful lines and looked stunning on Cara.

So far as this contemporary rendition is concerned, I thought it stayed just the right side of smug in it's parallels and apart from a couple of clunks, it worked well. For the sake of the comfort of these old bones, I would like to have seen it 15 minutes shorter and I had a strong sense of several others in the audience reaching breaking point at about the same time as me. I don't mind plays without intervals but 90 minutes is about my limit.