28 September 2009

The Fastest Clock in the Universe by Philip Ridley

Cougar Glass - Alec Newman
Captain Tock - Finbar Lynch
Foxtrot Darling - Neet Mohan
Cheetah Bee - Eileen Page
Sherbet Gravel - Jaime Winstone

Directed by Edward Dick
Designed by Mark Thompson
Seen at the Hampstead Theatre on a cheap Monday night. Celebs in the audience were Lee & Denise Van Outen (sitting uncomfortably near the stage) and a private celebrity who I shall forthwith refer to as 'Mr Axminster'.

It really helps if you go into this play by either knowing it, or knowing Mr Ridley's work and that was the only motivation I had for grabbing this seat at the last minute. He observes things through a wonky prism but presents them in a way that gives you the creeps when a sense of familiarity invades your brain.

This particular production was an overall disappointment to me because the considerable talents and complete understanding of the piece displayed so intoxicatingly by Messers Newman and Lynch, were dragged down to pantomime-style, skin crawling cheapness by the younger, less experienced members of the cast. A terrible, terrible shame.

Alex Newman should get an award for best presentation of crisp white underwear and very little else in an off West End production. Finbar Lynch is so perfect and works so beautifully with Alex that I never really wanted the other cast to interfere, though I had no complaint with Eileen Page's small but worthy part.

Here's a bunch of review links:-
The Stage.

27 September 2009

A Life in Three Acts by Bette Bourne & Mark Ravenhill

Bette Bourne

DIrected by Mark Ravenhill

Celeb in the audience - Fenella Fielding, of course.

This was a presentation of selected conversations between Mark and Bette. I don't know if I went on a bad night but I found Mark's interventions way too contrived - and this from a man I put on such a high pedestal. Bette was wonderfully entertaining but reverted to music hall style, audience goading a little more than I find acceptable these days. The audience lapped it up and I did have the sense that I was witnessing something wonderful and fragile.

and a performance that I am particularly annoyed to have missed as reviewed by the adorable Whingers.

I'm going to round these notes off with a little vid

19 September 2009

The Seagull Project by The Factory

Bailiff’s Daughter – Bailey
Teacher – Max
Servant – Faye
Brother – Jonno
Son – T’Evans
Girl – Katie Morgan
Bailiff’s Wife – Liz
Doctor – Simon
Bailiff – Paul
Actress – Fed
Writer – Alex

MC – Bedi
Thoughts – Pavli

You can find more comprehensive details about the cast here. In the Michael Frayn space at the Hampstead Theatre.

A contemporary interpretation of The Seagull in the style that The Factory have made their own. A charming by-product is that they write their own reports from the show.

I'm glad my usual theatre companion wasn't with me because her reaction to on-stage breakages is more invasive than mine and I was very disturbed by the glass fragments dispersed around the performance area tonight. A limp attempt to clear some of it was made but there were girls in sandals on the front row (stage level) whose toes were dangling right over a bunch of shards and it distracted me for much too long.

This doesn't yet have the brio of the Hamlet production and there was little of the casting games or prop fun to be had. It was all adequately handled and some easy laughs were wriggled out of the main characters but it fell a little flat for me. I may return to it a little further down the line.

17 September 2009

Only four more entries to catch up on....

but they were back in early to mid-August so I'm going to wander back to the film blog for a while to see what is fresh in my mind there. I will return.

Still to come:

Three More Sleepless Nights by Caryl Churchill
A Streetcar Named DesireBy Tennessee Williams
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Helen by Euripides

16 September 2009

Mother Courage by Bertolt Brecht
translated by Tony Kushner

The One with the Eyepatch & Ensemble- Anthony Mark Barrow
Soldier & Ensemble -William J Cassidy
The Regimental Secretary & Ensemble- Johannes Flaschberger
The Clerk & Ensemble - Jonathan Gunthorpe
The Chaplain - Stephen Kennedy
The Quartermaster & Ensemble - Youssef Kerkour
The Cook - Martin Marquez
Young Soldier & Ensemble- Louis McKenzie
Farmer's Son & Ensemble - Kyle McPhail
Farmer's Wife & Ensemble - Siobhán McSweeney
Swiss Cheese - Harry Melling
Farmer's Wife & Ensemble - Eleanor Montgomery
Older Soldier & Ensemble - Stephen O'Toole
Yvette - Charlotte Randle
Soldier & Ensemble - Guy Rhys
Eilif - Clifford Samuel
Mother Courage - Fiona Shaw
The Colonel & The Lieutenant - Roger Sloman
The General -Colin Stinton
Kattrin - Sophie Stone
Young Man & Ensemble - Morgan Watkins
The Army Recruiter, The Sergeant & Ensemble - Sargon Yelda

Director - Deborah Warner
Set Designer - Tom Pye

Seen at the glorious Olivier on what was originally going to the be the Press Night. It wasn't ready for the press (and how) but the good news is that we had a nice early start at 7pm. Fabulous seats improved by absentees next to us. Actor in the audience - Ryan Sampson, yes you - I spotted you!

It's so long since I've updated and I have forgotten the format I usually use. I am going to work backwards and do the things that are the most fresh in my mind. I know that I usually include some press shots but even when they become available, I shall be loathe to include them since the bloomin' photographer did his stills last night and completely disrupted a section of the fee-paying audience. Shameful scheduling there on the NT's part. It drives me crazy to see someone bobbing around as if there is nobody else in the room with a shutter clunking away in a Q & A situation but at a theatrical performance, it is inexcusable. I want to lose myself in a production but with all that going on, I found the first two or three acts fragmented and dull.

I will surmise that had I been able to get more exclusively involved in the production as it started, I may have embraced it more thoroughly. It felt like Warhorse without the brio and that was in spite of the incredible efforts from the lovely cast. Everyone gave so much to this but it still hasn't quite pulled together. I have no doubt it will be tighter next week but I don't think I could sit through it again. Stephen Kennedy's promotion to The Chaplain was extremely successful (though I don't know how Peter Gowan had been handling it) and Fiona Shaw is staggeringly charismatic.

The musical interventions were clearly made with great meaning but didn't communicate their intent to me and I doubt the circle had any idea what they were doing there. That said, the tiny little fella had an intoxicatingly rich texture to his voice that I could have listened to in a different setting until the cows came home. Don't know anything about the band yet but since the singer/pianist lists himself in the programme as Duke Special, there's a reek of pretension that I'm not keen on (unless it's mine own). Click either of the links for a download & you'll hear what I mean about the voice.

I just wanted to go round first with some oil and then with a spanner to tighten all the nuts. I'm sure it will settle into itself eventually. My advice might be to see it near the end of the run but there were three curtain calls and many people on their feet so what do I know? One thing I am completely certain of is that this auditorium is perfect for this kind of production.

15 September 2009

The Fugitive Kind by Tennessee Williams - Rehearsed Reading

Pete - Christian Contreras
Jabe - Nigel Cooke
Carl/Drake - Garry Cooper
Glory Gwendlebaum - Claire Foy
Texas - Nigel Harman
Gwendlebaum - Nicky Henson
Terry - Rory Keenan
Sylvia/Stage Directions - Lauren O'Neil
Chuck - Con O'Neill
Rocky - Robert Rees
Leo - Stark Sands
Abel/O'Connor - Paul Shelley
Mrs Finchwell/Bertha - Sara Stewart
Olsen - Benny Young

Directed by Róisín McBrinn

Seen as part of the Tennessee Williams season at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden.

Spotted in the audience: Jeremy Herrin (but did he come to see Anton, Tom and Felicity the night before?)

Marks & Spencer let me down with their lack of toweling robes to dry myself on from the persistent torrential rain tonight but it soon evaporated.

This was a gorgeous lump of a play and produced here with levity and sensuousness at a level way beyond a rehearsed reading status.

Claire Foy is like a luminous liquid flowing around the stage and the rapport between Messers Harman and O'Neill was a joy to behold. Probably the most exciting part of the evening (and there were many of them) was my introduction to the work of a couple of young fellas I had not witnessed before. Rory Keenan is accomplished in his homeland and his comfort and confidence made him very relaxing to watch. There was another young man just starting out who will be charming casting directors all over town very soon, I'm sure. He was very nervous but he did the job and looked very cute.

The scenes between Claire and Rory seemed much more sexually charged because the actors rarely stood very near each other and had their playtexts on lecterns in front of them. It was all in the delivery and it had me dribbling.

Blissful evening

14 September 2009

A House Not Meant to Stand
by Tennessee Williams (Rehearsed Reading)

Cornelius McCorkle - Alun Armstrong
Stage Directions/2nd Man from Foley's/Officer/Ghostly Black Voice/Dr Crane - Obi Abili
Stacey/Young Joanie - Felicity Jones
Emmerson Sykes - Anton Lesser
Charlie McCorkle/Young Charlie - Tom Riley
Bella McCorkle - Alison Steadman
1st Man from Foley's/Officer Bruce Lee "Pee Wee" Jackson/Apparition/Young Chips - Tim Steed
Jessie Sykes - Una Stubbs

Directed by Jamie Lloyd during the Tennessee Williams season at the Donmar Warehouse. Seen on a steamy night in a good seat for the first half & moved to a better but scarier seat for the second, so that I could sit with my friend.

Faces in the audience: Greta Scaachi, Emma Cunniffe, Tom Mison and erm....gosh, who was the wonderful fella Emma came with, anyone?

I believe this was Williams last play and yet it could have easily been one of his earliest. It was formulaic, laden with metaphor and autobiography but seemed to plod around a bit.

The central family and their friends are as mad as a bag of spanners. Anton Lesser has another crack at trying to seduce Tom Riley's wife but unlike Ms Varma, young Ms Jones has God and she has him in spades. She probably gave the performance of the night simply because she had some real meat to get her teeth into but that's not to damn anyone else.

Poor Alun and Alison had such clunking great lumps to deliver, that were hard to keep engaged with, especially when the characters are not really able to be very physical. Their lighter moments were wonderful.

Anton gave his very, very best creepy and Una, her most delicious irritating - and I make both those comments with deep love and respect. Tom was reassuringly confident, comfortingly sane and ridiculously sexy though it turns out that Tim (well, Chuck) was always the better looking brother. Tim played his PeeWee with a nice edge.

What would this production have been without Obi leaping around the place and pulling it together? Much of his task was thankless in so far as he had endless stage directions to read but he brought a freshness and comedic flair that kept it all very light..........and he even went so far as to make laugh-out-loud moment from a lack of light.

All this on a balmy evening set around the lace balcony's of Streetcar's New Orleans set. Is there a better way to spend a tenner?