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