06 March 2009

Stovepipe by Adam Brace

Andre/Grif - Christian Bradley
Alan - Shaun Dooley
Eddy/Harry - Niall Macgregor
Caroline/Masha/Sally - Eleanor Matsuura
Saad/Marty/Rami - Sargon Yelda

Directed by Michael Longhurst
Designed by Takis

Promenade performance seen in preview underneath the West12 Shopping Centre on Shepherd's Bush Green

There's more info at the NT (including a rehearsal video) and at the HighTide website.

Finally, I get my chance to see Shaun Dooley perform live. Britain's most underused actor who will hopefully soon get a double whammy from this and from his amazing contribution to the Red Riding films - especially the last one. He rightfully takes the lead in this and as such has the luxury of only playing one character. The NT's biog for Niall implies that I've not seen him on stage before but I feel sure I have.

This is a remarkable production and the press will be on fire with it next week. The Bush have sweetly turned one of the shopping centre units into a box-office-cum-bar. From there, 'participants' (or should I say delegates?) are ushered into the bowels of the building into what looks like a display and conference area for the rebuilding of Iraq. I was immediately confronted by a greeting from the breathtakingly beautiful Ms Matsuura and the rest of the cast wandered around in their suits discussing the exhibits with us until we were gently shown to a lecture area at which point, the main part of the performance began. I have not yet checked the playtext to see how much of this is scripted as opposed to directorial interpretation.

That the rave reviews have been pouring in since the first night of preview is testament to how hard the production team have worked to make this practically complicated piece work. As we are ushered or intuited to differently dressed areas of this stark space, there are people redressing the ones we have just left. An enormous amount of effort was put into a couple of areas which seemed to only be used for less than 10 minutes of the production. We end up where we started but what used to be the lecture area has been transformed into a funeral chapel and the audience spontaneous joins in with the hymn at the close of this sad adventure. It's an experience not to be missed. The performances (with all their wardrobe and character changes) were marvelous and seamless. The staging was outstanding (and a merciful about of in-sitting).

If I was being hyper-critical, as with the the Red Death sensation, whilst I realise one does have to technically 'promenade' around the from set to set, my old fashioned brain remembers promenade performances that made use of the pre-existing areas in which to play. My other gripe has nothing to do with the production really but throughout the show I was plagued by an annoying woman who thought she could spout her ego and opinions at me unbidden & also the noise of over enthusiastic students scratching notes on their pads. The joy of the promenade was that I could freely wander away from these irritations but they were tenacious, to say the least.

It was a day for theatrical memorabilia. This afternoon, I came away with a bag, tonight I came away with a funeral service leaflet and I later found that I'd still got my visitor badge with me that is issued upon arrival to everyone who attends 'the conference'.
I shall return with reviews and pictures next week but in the meantime, here is an interview with the writer.
Thoughts from Michael Coveney, Charles Spencer and the Evening Standard.

From The Bush website

By Adam Brace
A HighTide Production in collaboration with the National Theatre and The Bush
3 March - 26 April 2009
For every guy tryin to be a pro, there's a psychopath. And for every psychopath, there's a cowboy.
When a mercenary goes missing en route to Iraq, his closest surviving friend embarks on a hunt across the post-war Middle East.
Stovepipe is an indoor promenade performance at a location in Shepherd's Bush; audiences observe the unravelling of this original drama whilst being guided through five-star hotel bars, seedy brothels, and war-torn desert landscapes.
Stovepipe premiered at the HighTide Festival 08 and is an indoor promenade performance at West 12, The Broadway, Shepherds Bush W12.