14 October 2009

Kings of Convenience at the Barbican

What a beautiful evening. Crying with joy is OK at a music gig, isn't it?

Taxi Taxi were so sweet and wonderful too. They made a load of t-shirt to sell. I resisted. How many headliners come on stage to introduce their support, anyway?

Spent time with a dear friend instead of going to the after party.

08 October 2009

Sea Wall by Simon Stephens

Alex - Andrew Scott

Directed by George Perrin
Lighting by Natasha Chivers

Seen at the Shepherd's Bush Library during it's tiny London run via Traverse.

I had almost given up hope of seeing this. Andrew spent the entire half hour before the show started, wandering around the library & it was all I could do to stop myself from kissing his feet.

He's the kind of actor who really stands up to watching in close proximity. To see him control the audience with a monologue like this was incredible. The piece is so carefully pitched with no extraneous nonsense and Andrew is so comfortable with his material and luxuriates in giving the audience wonderful chunks of digesting and thinking time.

The pacing of the emotional arc was extraordinary and so gratifying. I really loved this. Would that I had time to see it again.

There's an interview with Simon here.

Independent review from Edinburgh and good words from The Telegraph. The Guardian's Lyn Gardner has pretty much spammed her admiration all over the mother-site and who can blame her.

There's a link to the Festival that doesn't work any more so I am going to quote.....

Pray silence for an exquisite performance

Alex does not voice the cruellest words he ever spoke. We don’t actually hear the dreadful phrase he utters to his father-in-law. But we can imagine it. Playwright Simon Stephens is too subtle a craftsman to allow his central character to blurt it out; instead he pushes us carefully and confidently to the point where we need only fill in the dots.

The theme of the playwright, whose Pornography was named best play in the recent Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland, is the impulse to believe in God and the more awesome prospect – as he would have it – that no God exists. The story told by Alex in this exquisitely realised 30-minute show from London’s Bush Theatre is an everyday story of young love, fatherhood and family bonding which Stephens booby-traps with a shockingly meaningless tragedy. Can the God we thank for life’s unfathomable beauty also be responsible for its inexplicable cruelty?

As theological arguments go, Stephens is not the first to ask the question, but he weaves it into the flow of his narrative so subtly – a phrase here, a fragment there – that you almost don’t notice when the theme emerges. Much credit for this must go to actor Andrew Scott who, under the direction of George Perrin, gives a performance with an authority you’d want to call dazzling were it not so undemonstrative. Wearing workaday T-shirt and jeans, he brings a beguiling sense of spontaneity to the script, as if he too were hearing it newly minted, finding pockets of humour and bucket-loads of charm in his conversational delivery.

He draws us compellingly into his breathtaking romance, the unexpected affection that grows for his oddball father-in-law in the South of France and the unconditional love for his daughter. All of which makes his change of fortune so much more brutal and the big questions about God that much more vivid.

A tiny little note about the wonderful venue was that there was an air-con thrumming away in my right ear & I almost wished I'd sat on the left flank so that I could see the trains rushing by in the background. It wouldn't have been relevant to the play but I liked the sense of the rest of the world still going on out there.

05 October 2009

Judgement Day by Ödön von Horváth
translated by Christopher Hampton

Woodsman/Deputy - Andy Williams
Fray Leimgruber - Sarah Woodward
Salesman/Detective/Platelayer - Jack James
Fray Hudetz - Suzanne Burden
Alfons - David Annen
Ferdinand - Daniel Hawksford
Anna - Laura Donnelly
Thomas Hudetz - Joseph Millson
Policeman - Jake Nightingale
Landlord - Tom Georgeson
Leni - Julie Riley
Kohut/Customer/Public Prosecutor/Pokorny - Patrick Drury
Child - Lewis Lemprereur Palmer
Child - Thomas Patten

Directed by James Macdonald
Designed by Miriam Beuther

Seen on the night of the post show talk at the Almeida Theatre. Took a seat in the front row of the circle & wasn't very comfy. Not even enough room for my silly stumpy legs and the railings induced back-bending agony all round. My mistake since I knew all this. I don't know why I booked that seat.

Michael Attenborough came on stage before the lights went down. We were told that Joe had been suffering with a very sore throat for 36 hours and I sensed hearts plummeting to the floor.

Michael took rather a long winded opportunity to tell everyone about the lack of luxuries in a theatre like the Almeida to wit, there are no understudies. I thought it was odd that he referred to the National Theatre in his gripe since it's funding is so transparent but what do I know? I certainly don't mean to in any way play down the struggle that these wonderful independent theatres have but I was confused by the example given.

The good news was that Joseph was going to appear despite feeling so poorly and with the sincere appreciation and thanks of a the mighty artistic director. The audience exhaled with relief and in the absence James Macdonald that night, I thought it was wonderful that Michael made the announcement. In the event, he hardly needed to as Joe performance was faultless.

First comment is about the set design and the inspired use of the train turning-house concept. The back wall of the Almeida, with it's bare brick and gentle curve always reminds me of the interior of the Roundhouse and when they swung the platform around at all angles, the image was complete and as it turned out, that was one of the inspirations for the set. One thing in favour of not being downstairs was the enormous amount of smoke used when trains entered the station but from where I was, the effect seemed wonderful. The lighting was glorious, making this a very stylish production.

An incredibly interesting piece investigating the nature of guilt and self-absolution but not necessarily in that order! The individual characters were well realised and performed with steady enthusiasm.

The post show talk brought a couple of areas of contention between the cast and audience in so far as many people felt there was an implied notion of incest between the brother and sister which the cast flatly denied any knowledge of. There was also a debate about whether one or two bells were heard as the train missed the signal. I didn't hear the first one but I thought Ms Woodward had said we didn't hear it because we were concentrating on the kiss, however one of my companions on the evening who had seen the play twice, said there was no first bell to be heard. Confused? You don't need to be. I think it was just a little company toy to play with. It may even have been a missed queue that night, for all I know!

A fabulous story, very well told but don't trust me - read.......The Independent, The Times and The Stage to link a few randomly.

For more glorious pictures, check out the Almeida Theatre website.

01 October 2009

The Power of Yes by David Hare

Ensemble - Julien Ball
Paul Hammond/A Hedge Fund Manager - Ian Bartholomew
The Author - Anthony Calf
The Chair of a Mortgage Lender/A Leading Industrialist - Richard Cordery
Howard Davies - Jonathan Coy
Ensemble - Mark Elstob
Ronald Cohen - Paul Freeman
John Moulton - Ian Gelder
Simon Loftus/A Northern Echo Journalist - John Hollingworth
Myron Scholes - Bruce Myers
A Financial Times Journalist - Claire Price
David Marsh/Tom Huish - Jeff Rawle
A Young Man at the Bank - Christian Roe
Masa Serdarevic - Jemima Rooper
Adair Turner - Malcolm Sinclair
Scott Rudman - Peter Sullivan
John Cruddas. MP/Paul Mason - Nicolas Tennant
Ensemble - Alan Vicary
Harry Lovelock - Simon Williams
Deborah Solomoan - Lizzie Winkler

Director - Angus Jackson
Designer - Bob Crowley

Seen whilst still in preview at the Lyttelton Theatre.

There's all sorts of info to plunder at the NT website and I'm still late enough with my notes to be able to link the What's On Stage review round-up. As with Poliakoff, there are critics who think they are being clever when they pull these men's work to pieces but they will have met their match with this one. A bald account of the banking crisis brought together with an accessible lightness of touch by allowing us to live through the research process with The Author. I wonder if there might be a much shorter companion production to go with this eventually, or if Mr Hare simply found the evidence too compelling and complex to put into a regular drama.

A staggeringly impressive cast guide us through this fact & opinion-heavy piece with ease. Simon Williams gallantly soldiered through with what sounded like the beginnings of swine flu. A few people fumbled and I had great issue with Anthony Calf's wardrobe since he was supposed to be playing one of the most stylishly dressed playwrights of our time but that didn't take away from his wonderful great tent pole of a performance.

The simple dictates of bringing the cases of the relevant real people to the stage made this piece male-heavy but I suspect that Hare was acutely aware of this and introduced some wonderfully tight female parts for the likes of Misses Rooper, Winkler and Price to balance the evening. Nicolas Tennant and Paul Freeman were underused but I don't see a way around that. Peter Sullivan gave us another chance to witness his deliciously comfortable portrayal of an American.

If I ever catch up with this blog, I may ad some photos. I found myself sometimes distracted by the set in an effort to see how they were projecting and synching it. It was one of those complicated things that looked very simple to the audience.