22 June 2009

When the Rain Stops Falling
by Andrew Bovell

Naomi Bentley - Gabrielle York (younger)
Simon Burke - Joe Ryan
Jonathan Cullen - Henry Law
Lisa Dillon - Elizabeth Law (younger)
Richard Hope - Gabriel York
Tom Mison - Gabriel Law
Phoebe Nicholls - Elizabeth Law (older)
Leah Purcell - Gabrielle York (older)
Sargon Yelda - Andrew Price

Directed by Michael Attenborough
Designed by Miriam Buether

Seen on the post show talk night towards the end of it's UK premiere run at the Almeida in our fave side (cheaper) seats but moving to the centre for the talk.

Very powerful, timey-wimey piece from a writer with an impeccable pedigree. Deepest regret is that in my desire to do the post show talk, I had to wait so long into the run before seeing it. Time-Out Sydney describes it as a 'theatrical Rubik's Cube' and that pretty much nails it.

There are some gorgeous nuggets of info, reviews & visual treats here.
In the same way as In a Dark, Dark House left me with a desire to analyse my thoughts and test them against time, I am left turning over the events of this play, which could also be described as a series of pleasingly related vignettes, to see what I might conclude a week hence. History relates that I rarely return to my notes for revision.

The post show talk revealed more about the provenance of the piece. It was amusing to learn that despite the fact that it is currently being performed in Sydney by Cate Blanchett's company, her filming commitments in Ridley Scott's Robin Hood meant that she had to see it here in London rather than her own gaff.
The original staging had fewer actors with some roles doubling up. I can see how that would have worked and even been a good device but I had no problem with the way this was staged here.
A couple of cast didn't take part in the talk but those who were there were entertaining, articulate and passionate. The optimum combo.

A final note to say that the incapacitation of the glorious Leah Purcell which necessitated her performing with a ski-boot and crutch, in no way detracted or jarred. It seemed completely integrated.

19 June 2009

a thought in three parts by Wallace Shawn

Summer Evening
David - Rory Kinnear
Sarah - Katherine Parkinson
Narrator - Stephen Dillane

The Youth Hostel
Dick - Christian Contreras
Helen - Daisy Lewis
Judy - Emily McDonnell
Bob - Andrew Garfield
Tom - Nicholas Burns
Narrator - Rory Kinnear

Mr Frivolous
Mr Frivolous - Stephen Dillane

This rehearsed reading was directed by Caryl Churchill downstairs in the Royal Court during their Wallace Shawn season.

Once again, I'd like to link a funny little website that has a few notes about the play from whence I gleaned this lovely quote
The 1977 London production was visited by a vice squad, and led to calls in the House of Lords to stop government funding for the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Andrew Gardfield was wearing self-consciously different socks. He's so out-there.
Katherine's voice is less annoying when she's doing the accent stuff and it actually seemed entirely appropriate in this case. Thought she was super and Emily McDonnell's kiddie voice is enough to test anyone so I was pleased that my aural apprehension was not founded.
As usual, I enjoyed watching the people who weren't performing. Stephen Dillane chuckled quite a lot and the others looked nervous, most of the time......and not without reason.
Nicholas Burns was underused but that's nobody's fault.
Rory still hypnotises me and I really don't know why. I want to pick him up and pop him in my pocket for later.
I've not been aware of Christian Contreras before but I shall certainly keep an eye out for him in future.
Hopelessly entertaining afternoon again. Flying in the face of 'No Sex Please, We're British' like thwack from a wet towel.

17 June 2009

Apologia by Alexi Kaye Campbell

Peter - Tom Beard
Kristin - Paola Dionisotti
Trudi - Sarah Goldberg
Simon - John Light
Claire - Nina Sosanya
Hugh - Philip Voss

Directed by Josie Rourke
Designed by Peter McKintosh

Bravely seen in unreserved seating at The Bush on the first night of it's previews with writer and director sitting a few feet behind us.

I'd love to return to this production later in the run because I cannot imagine many areas of tonight's show that could be improved upon. I see that they are still offering some seats at £9 which seems incredible.

The performances were so beautifully measured and they clearly must have enjoyed this wonderfully succinct and amusing text. There's so much I want to say about each individual right down to the smaller but most striking performance by John Light but it's really wrong to single anyone out from this staggering ensemble.

Once again, Alexi has crafted something with no spare, gratuitous fat. It's all just wonderful dialogue and thoughtful, uncompromising plot. I'm still in love.

Edited to add: Have a sift through the reviews here.

16 June 2009

A Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare

Leontes -Simon Russell Beale
Florizel - Michael Braun
Mamillius/Perdita - Morven Christie
Paulina - Sinead Cusack
Old Shepherd/Time - Richard Easton
Hermione - Rebecca Hall
Polixenes - Josh Hamilton
Autolycus - Ethan Hawke
Camillo - Paul Jesson
Servant - Aaron Krohn
Antigonus/Shepherd - Dakin Matthews
Mariner/Shepherd - Mark Nelson
Lady in Waiting/Mopsa - Charlotte Parry
Dorcas/ Jessica Pollert Smith
Cleomenes/Bear/Shepherd - Gary Powell
Young Shepherd - Tobias Segal
Emilia/Shepherdess - Hannah Stokely

Directed by Sam Mendes
Set Designed by Anthony Ward

Seen by way of a birthday present in unexpectedly close proximity to the stage (row F being only 3 from front) at the Old Vic as part of the wonderful Bridge Project collaboration. Celeb in Audience - Raza Jaffrey.

As vibrant and perfect a production of this as I could ever wish to see. Simon Russell Beale is an actor of epic proportions which demands that his cast is chosen very carefully from the best around. I think he must be one of those actors that colleagues describe as generous because whilst his fearful and regal status is always maintained, he never completely steals anything from the other performers and I am convinced that he dips his feet in wax before each performance. How else could they look so perfect and cherubic?
I have to say I thought the balloon dance was horrible & it jarred with the rest of the production.
I sat next to a couple who's male contingent was the kind of pompous twat who smugly remarks upon the glaringly obvious about 90 seconds after it happens under the spurious pretext of having to explain details to his poor simple-minded wife. Where's my tazar?
We were asked to turn off our cellphones at the start. I know this is a bridge between the US and the UK but was that really necessary?
At one point there was a strange commotion in the audience that seemed to come from a school party. It was alarmingly prolonged & involved lots of seat banging.

It's a daft and much used device but the candles gave a wonderfully regal effect & there was a pragmatic mix of real and electrically assisted fitments.
I also enjoyed the use of silhouettes which could have been overplayed but seemed to just hit the right balance.
The oracle sequence is no doubt described elsewhere in great detail but I prefer to remain mesmerised and mystified.
The music was so perfectly judged and reminded me most achingly of Gabriel Yared.

There is a lot of free parking around the Old Vic if you arrive after 6:30 but it fills fast & I had to park at the side by the stage door. As I moved away, I saw Mr Beale dragging heavily on his Benson's trying to battle through the many patrons still spilling onto the street at the front of the theatre. He made his way unnoticed and unchallenged.

12 June 2009

Our Late Night by Wallace Shawn

Samantha - Megan Dodds
Jim - Mark Gatiss
Tony - Tom Hollander
Kristin - Jenny Jules
Lewis - Peter McDonald
Grant - Andrew Scott
Annette - Jennifer Tilly

Director - Tom Cairns

A rehearsed reading during the Shawn season at the Royal Court.

Here are some informative notes to be read from when this play was produced in London almost ten years ago. A sweet, old fashioned website but it still does the trick.

Gatiss perfectly cast because he was just doing what he always does.......really well.
Megan maybe just a little too stony & did she mean to fart as she bent over?
Not enough Andrew Scott but he had a great opening scene.
Tony's sexual conquest monologue was staggering in both word and performance.
Grant's disclosure was very uncomfortable but perfectly balanced by Tony's disgust.

I'm going to link a little site which has brief descriptions of all Wally's work.
For the second time, I thought I saw Joan Plowright making her way out of the theatre.
Sadly, there are rarely photos available from rehearsed readings.

08 June 2009

Aunt Dan & Lemon by Wallace Shawn

Aunt Dan - Lorraine Ashbourne
Father - Paul Chahidi
Flora - Rebecca Faulkenberry
June - Holly Goss
Lemon - Jane Horrocks
Mindy - Scarlett Johnson
Freddie - Ryan McCluskey
Andy - Martin McDougall
Jasper - Nathan Osgood
Mother - Mary Roscoe
Marty - Trevor White
Raimondo - Rene Zagger

Director Dominic Cooke
Designer Lizzie Clachan

Seen downstairs at the Royal Court during it's revival as part of the Wallace Shawn season. Mistakenly got a seat in the front row of the circle.

"My most intense memories really go back to my childhood, but not so much to the things that I did: instead I remember the things I was told"

We all remember a favourite aunty, uncle or grandparent, someone who, in our childhood, told us tales that made our toes curl and stories of wonder. For Lemon, it was Aunt Dan. A brilliant, intoxicating but dangerous woman who shared all the most intimate and daring secrets of her decadent, exotic adult world...

Aunt Dan and Lemon explores the frightening pathways of influence, the glamour of cruelty and the shadow side of nostalgia.

Running Time: 1hr 50mins, no interval

I can't say this play achieved what the last line of that quote from the Royal Court website implies that it intended (and I feel that should read 'shadowy' but I'm quoting so I shouldn't change it).
I was relieved that Ms Horrocks did not deploy her shrill missiles of declaration but I was not able to see where she was aiming to be. She was cute and warm but then chilling and ignorant. I'm pretty good at all of those myself but if I confuse people, they can walk away whereas this character was trying to communicate something to a paying audience.

I'm not sure where the fault lay and it didn't help that I was looking down at the stage rather than across or up, as I found myself following through with my downward glance into a fully closed eye position on more than one occasion. Some great slugs of text for the able cast to get their teeth into. Lorraine Ashbourne lit up the stage with what must have been exciting views in their time but now just serve as endorsements to the standard liberal mind. There were some of the cute set pieces you would expect from Mr Shawn but it didn't hit the spot for me. The press seemed to like it so perhaps we just went on a lack-lustre night. They only took one curtain all so perhaps we let the cast down too.

Harold Pinter Tribute at the National Theatre, Olivier

The great unwashed were allowed to join this celebration in exchange for £10 which was good value for this beautifully paced and moving evening.

02 June 2009

the rape of europe by Gregory Motton

Gengis - Kevin McMonagle
Uncle - Simon Paisley Day
Aunty - Penny Dimond
Lolo - Monic Dolan
Charlie/Dracula - Pearce Quigley

Join Gengis Khan on the eve of the 2009 European elections as he goes on his first trip to Brussels, the beating heart of Euroland. But democracy in the Euro-zone isn't quite what Gengis had in mind and his intensive education in EU governance transforms him into a very British freedom fighter.
Gregory Motton's hilarious and scabrous creation whisks us through the strange, devastating reality of Europe today. His previous plays for the Royal Court include Ambulance, Downfall, The Terrible Voice of Satan and The World's Biggest Diamond.

Director Ramin Gray
A random, rehearsed reading on a sunny afternoon at the Royal Court and no money exchanged hands.

With the very best comedic efforts to make this highly political message easier to digest, it still ran a bit too long and lacked consistency. The cast were wonderful in the most part though I felt Penny Dimond was out out of her depth with her strange look and wild eyes which were a little distracting. Ramin Gray called the scenes and acted as prop man & effects manager. He had an hilarious interchange with Pearce Quigley. Both Pearce and Kevin gave beautiful performances. There was a wonderful sequence where Pearce & Monica spoke their lines together that worked really well. There's something good here but it needs a little more work to engage a bigger audience for that amount of time. Wonderful use of the 'Grasses' sofa.
There were some young children in the audience and I can only presume they came to watch Mummy or Daddy. They were well behaved but must have been bored senseless. Later on in the bar, the place was swarming with young humans.

Bottom line is that everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and that goes a long way to making it fun for me.