11 June 2011

Emperor and Galilean by Henrik Ibsen translated by Ben Power

The Pagan Cantor - Jeremy Avis
Gregory - Jamie Ballard
Sintula - Matthew Barker
Ephesian Sailor - Tam Dean Burn
Eutherius - Simon Coombs
Ursulus - Richard Durden
Jovian - Daniel Flynn
Peter - John Heffernan
The Christian Cantor - Michael Henry
Fromentius - Chris Jared
Agathon - James McArdle
Maximus - Ian McDiarmid
Ammian - Simon Merrells
Publia - Carole Nimmons
Helena - Genevieve O’Reilly
Medon / Oribasis - Prasanna Puwanarajah
Myrrha / Macrina - Lara Rossi
Julian - Andrew Scott
Constantius - Nabil Shaban
Gallus - Laurence Spellman
Maurus/Hilarion - Alexander Vlahos
Sallust - Jack Whitam
Varro - Oliver Wilson
Persian Stranger - Sargon Yelda

Director - Jonathan Kent
Designer - Paul Brown

Seen whilst still in preview in a glorious standby seat within the beautiful auditorium of the Olivier.

If ever there was a production that would be hard to envisage being staged anywhere else it is this one. The drum and revolve were used to such incredible effect and put me in mind of the old productions of the 80's.

This is a long production but the first two hours before the interval flew by in a way I can't recall since Tony Hopkins gave his Lear here.

The performances were engaging from the very beginning and the sets were awesome.
If I had one criticism, and this may have been addressed by now, I would kill the invasive, monotonous drone of the insects in Athens. Perhaps the balance could be adjusted but it was beyond ambience. It really started to painfully grate.

09 June 2011

Rocket to the Moon by Clifford Odets

Frenchy - Sebastian Armesto
Belle Stark - Keeley Hawes
Ben Stark - Joseph Millson
Cleo Singer - Jessica Raine
Willy Wax - Tim Steed
Phil Cooper - Peter Sullivan
Mr Prince - Nicholas Woodeson
Ensemble - Lisa Caruccio Came, Dan Crow, Morgan Deare, Rendah Heywood, Leighton Pugh

Director - Angus Jackson
Designer - Anthony Ward

Seen on the last night of it's run at the Lyttelton after a wonderfully entertaining platform event.

Stunning, stockingless, ruthless in her youth, Cleo Singer arrives in Ben Stark’s dental practice and turns his married, humdrum world upside down. She promises passion, escape, if only he knew how. But Stark is not alone in his frustrated dreams and in those stifling, shared offices there’s rivalry over a woman discovering life, a woman who’s hungry for expression and for love. And she’s no pushover, she’s looking for the real deal.

Why don’t you suddenly ride away, an airplane, a boat! Take a rocket to the moon! Explode!

Written in 1938 by Clifford Odets, the American master of dazzling, acerbic New York repartee, Rocket to the Moon puts opportunity in the way of a quietly desperate man and waits.

None of you can give me what I’m looking for: a whole full world, with all the trimmings!

Passionate, amusing and luxurious performances from everyone involved. The cast were beautifully weighted against each other and chosen with great care and thought.

The set design was perhaps unnecessarily ambitious but a pleasure, nonetheless.

06 June 2011

Chicken Soup with Barley by Arnold Wesker

Ada Kahn - Jenna Augen
Hymie Kossof - Steve Furst
Bessie Blatt - Rebecca Gethings
Dave Simmonds - Joel Gillman
Prince Silver - Ilan Goodman
Monty Blatt - Harry Peacock
Ronnie Kahn - Tom Rosenthal
Sarah Kahn - Samantha Spiro
Harry Kahn - Danny Webb
Cissie Khan - Alexis Zegerman
Young Ronnie Khan - Charlie Cancea/Sonnt Ryan

Directed by Dominic Cooke, Designed by Ultz

Seen on a Monday night cheapie during previews of this revival at The Royal Court. Notables in the audience: Penny Smith, Mark Lawson, Joe Penhall

I love and respect Mr Cooke and he's coaxed some tour-de-force work from his cast and designer, Ultz but ultimately I am not convinced this script that was so passionately pertinent in it's time, can actually stand up, unedited in this day and age.

It's much too laboured and long. That's not a statement on the pace which was well metered. It just needs some carving to bring it in much closer to the 2hour including interval. The debate is held in a present that is tired and dusty in our contemporary minds. The effort from the cast cannot be faulted but their material needs to be more taught.

28 May 2011

A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee

Agnes - Penelope Wilton
Tobias - Tim Pigott-Smith
Claire - Imelda Staunton
Edna - Diana Hardcastle
Harry - Ian McElhinney
Julia - Lucy Cohu

Directed by James Macdonald and designed by Laura Hopkins

Seen mid-run during it's revival at the Almeida in Islington in what I shall now declare is one of the best two seats in the house.

Such is the downward trend in my theatre-going, I had completely forgotten how easy it is to park for free in that part of Islington on a Saturday afternoon. So I struggled with buses and the shoppers of Upper Street unnecessarily but for a great reward.

This is a rambling Albee but it exposes so much truth in the glorious mouthpiece of Agnes, so perfectly portrayed by the radiant Ms Wilton. Her considered conversations with Tobias are beautifully balanced with the hilariously understated antics of Claire.

I'm sure all the proper reviews have declared every detail this production as a triumph. That such a wordy, long piece can hold the audience in the silence never heard from the wandering minds of fidgets, is enough accolade to commend it.

As the lights went down on for the start of the final act, I felt reassured that the denouement would unravel satisfactorily but this comfort afforded me the chance to be completely intoxicated by the choice of Agnes' dressing gown. The action begins when the light is still low in the sky as it struggles through the side window and this gown might have had it's own individual LEDs lifting the folds and form of Ms Wilton as she glides around the stage. I'm only sad there isn't a better picture of it readily available.

14 April 2011

April 14: A Night of New Stories

Ten Four Theatre gave their inaugural production to a packed arch tonight with a series of monologues inspired by today's date.

The first of eight pieces to open the evening could be either terrifying or exhilarating. To ensure the latter, a director would dream of being able to cast someone like Tom Mison and he would hope to be given the kind of writing with which he can at once hit the ground running whilst working the audience around his fingers like putty. Everything was right about "True Love" by Ziella Bryars. Directed by Kate Shearman to within a centimetre of each pause, there was as much comedy the breaths so deftly delivered by Mr Mison, as there was in the heartbreaking text. A tale of love, betrayal, revenge and deep longing.

Sophia Branson Boursot's "Cat Woman", directed by Laura Keefe might have had a tough task to follow that opening piece but Hannah James' quirky and charming delivery kept the momentum going with a tale of unexpectedly acquired companionship and the conspiracy of lottery numbers.

Charlotte Coy's performance in Maev Mac Coille's "A Door" was positively seductive as she recounts the moment when she fell hopelessly in love with her partner. This piece had wit, a touch of absurdity and a beautiful resolve.

For the final piece before the interval, Tom Mison takes the role of the writer/director of "The Bounded" and leaves the performance to Tim Wyatt whose credentials were sadly left off the programme notes for the night. He presents his monologue from within a cupboard which is very nearly tall enough for him to stand up straight in. Nearly that is, but not quite and therein lies the immediate visual cue that this was going to be deliciously silly. So it continued, with clues, a series of silly anecdotes and occasional apparently random outbursts which all pulled nicely together to reveal an April Fool's joke which did not go to plan. Another cleverly constructed piece from Mr Mison.

After an interval, Jolyon Coy was directed by Charlotte Coy (she of the iridescent performance in "A Door") in "The Lasker Award" by Fred Quillemby. This was an achingly funny introduction to addiction control with which Mr Coy kept us in stitches.

If you were to hold a gun to my head and ask if there were any weaker points to this wonderful evening, I would have to say that Lisa Ommanney's "Angel" must carry that mantel. It is a well written piece and Faye Merrall's direction of Tom Moores was perfectly fine but this piece was bravely sombre in the middle of the other taught comedic pieces and it is only for that reason, I would say it was less engaging.

"PERFECT + DAY - STRESS" by Tom Glover was performed by Sam Bern to a degree that once again had me clutching various organs for fear they'd pop out of me with all the laughter. It was just another tale of an obsessive compulsive numerologist. It had to be a pitch perfect performance for it to work at all and under the directorship of Christopher Brandon, it was just that.

Mr Brandon wrote the last piece, "John" in which Jolyon Coy directed James Rigby in another heartbreaking performance. A story of bullying and revenge, some of this piece does rely perhaps a little too much upon the audience being theatrically savvy but happily, on 14th April 2011 in Southwark, the target assembly was entirely present.

Everyone involved in putting this evening together should be exhausted and very proud.

04 April 2011

Wastwater by Simon Stephens

Harry - Tom Sturridge
Frieda - Linda Bassett
Mark - Paul Ready
Lisa - Jo McInnes
Sian - Amanda Hale
Jonathan - Angus Wright
Dalisay - Jasmine Chen, Candice Chen

Directed by Katie Micthell and designed by Lizzie Clachan

Seen at the Royal Court for £10 in a brilliant Monday seat booked that morning, at the start of the run.

A complicated, contemporary ramble through the seemingly dispassionate minds of three pairs of gently connected souls.

Tom Sturridge must surely be a worthy successor to Ben Whishaw in Ms Mitchell's affections and his pairing with Linda Bassett was like watching flour and cool water slowly merge to make a smooth paste.

Katie Mitchell has such a wonderful talent for casting. These two connect assuredness and barely disguised uneasiness like a child's wooden jigsaw.

The final act is the really uncomfortable one because it involves a child but it also gives us the resolution that we knew would come but had been resisting.

A fabulous piece of writing, beautifully performed and directed.

There's an interview here and a podcast here but poke around the Royal Court link for more information, reviews and a video teaser.

14 February 2011

Our Private Life by Pedro Miguel Rozo
Translated by Simon Scardifield

Sergio - Eugene O'Hare
Carlos - Colin Morgan
The Mother - Ishia Bennison
Tania - Clare Cathcart
The Psychiatrist - Adrian Schiller
The Father - Anthony O'Donnell
Joaquin - Joshua Williams

Directed by Lyndsey Turner and designed by Lizzie Clachan

Seen at the Royal Court Upstairs in it's third performance of the run.

This had better look sharp and settle in before press night although most performances seem to be sold out already. It's a bit of a mess and I fear the fault may be across the language divide.

I had the strong sense that there could be something very good in here but it felt messy and the punch points seemed misplaced. The idea of thoughts being as loud as dialogue in a family who don't communicate properly is a wonderful line of discussion but it wasn't exploited other than for a few lame laughs. This was exacerbated some over-excited members of the audience exploding false guffaws at the start but even they weren't able to sustain them once they'd got over seeing Merlin in the flesh (who seems to have forgotten what to do on a stage).

It doesn't stop there. The mother was poorly cast in particular. She gave an energetic performance but having a brash, 'Jewish Mother' in a family who reference their Catholic upbringing more than once seemed like a strange choice however Joshua William's portrayal of the boy hails another performer's career to watch out for.

The set was clever and simply served the plot although my OCD was bothered by the messy way the tablecloth was skewed across the table for the duration. Had there been an interval, I would have straightened it myself. A traditional stage was used but at right angles to the normal configuration in order to give more width. This meant fewer, longer rows of seats and annoyingly there was no centre aisle.

08 February 2011

A Flea in Your Ear by Georges Feydeau
in a translation by John Mortimer

Olympe -Di Botcher
Romain Tournel- Jonathan Cake
Dr Finache - Oliver Cotton
Raymonde Chandebise - Lisa Dillon
Camille Chandebise - Freddie Fox
Lucienne Homenides de Histangua - Fiona Glascott
Victor Emmanuel Chandebise/Poche - Tom Hollander
Augustin Feraillon - Lloyd Hutchinson
Etienne Plucheux - Tim McMullan
Carlos Homenides de Histangua - John Marquez
Baptisin - William Maxwell -
Eugenie - Rebecca Night
Antoinette Plucheux - Maggie Service
Herr Schwarz - Walter van Dyk

Guests at the Hotel Coq D'Or - Greg Baldock, Peter Cadden, Emma Campbell-Jones, William Findley, Kirsten Hazel Smith

Directed by Richard Eyre and set designed by Rob Howell.

Seen during it's run at the Old Vic in a wonderful half-price seat

I don't rush to see a farce but I have unfaltering faith in Richard Eyre, adore this theatre and have never been let down by the notable members of this cast.

It hits the ground running with lot of silly exchanges, some a tad too shrill for my liking but the entire piece is deftly set up in a matter of minutes.

A production like this can fall on it's face at the first hurdle but the faith that brought me here was well placed. The timing and sheer joy of the cast make this romp along in an relaxing way.

At first, I was distracted but Mr Hollander's 'enhanced' bottom but it soon became clear that a sweet gluteus maximus can only take so much bashing without padding. Tom's energy was exhausting as he dashed in and out of his various costumes finishing off with a delightfully pratish moment at the curtain call. I am not sure how he manages with two performances and I doubt I would rush to see this in the evening of a matinee day. That said, he is probably flying on adrenaline.
I just enjoyed the freshness of his performance this time.

Ms Dillon was divine once again but the male cast were the most pleasurable to observe. Oliver Cotton maintains his grandeur in the face of ridiculous circumstances and subtly holds the fulcrum of the farce together. Freddie Fox's cleft palette was no doubt a difficult thing to perfect without seeming too ridiculous even for this but in the most part, he was superb albeit annoying. The only actor who I felt was physically miscast gave a faultless performance.

The set for the hotel was gloriously ridiculous and a complete shock after the austere drawing room of the Chandebise's house. That it was swung into place in so few minutes and still settling as the curtain went back up was one of the most joyful moments of the night.

If you know what you're in for, understand the craft of these things and are not looking for deep, intellectual post-show debate, toss your cares aside and laugh your way around this.

07 February 2011

The Heretic by Richard Bean

Dr Diane Cassell - Juliet Stephenson
Pheobe - Lydia Wilson
Ben Shooter - Johnny Flynn
Geoff Tordoff - Adrian Hood
Professor Kevin Maloney - James Fleet
Catherine Tickell - Leah Whitaker

Directed by Jeremy Herrin and designed by Peter McKintosh.

Seen on a last minute Monday cheapie at the Royal Court Downstairs.
Celebrity in the audience...that woman with the eyes....don't worry, it'll come to me.

Fabulous characters and a very funny script. There were a couple of problems but they'll sort themselves out by press night.

Gorgeous bit of new writing performed by a very tight cast, the newer members of which are certainly people to keep an eye on in future. Sing to me, Johnny.

04 January 2011

Get Santa by Anthony Neilson

Teddy - Bill Buckhurst
Holly - Imogen Doel
Bumblehole - Tom Godwin
Gran - Amanda Hadingue
Barbara - Gabriel Quigley
Santa - David Sterne
Bernard - Robert Stocks
Puppeteer - Chan Martinez

On the big stage at the Royal Court with music by Nick Powell and the designer was Mirium Buether. They were giving seats away for this and probably with good reason. Celebrities in the audience were Stephen Tomkinson and Dawn Steele.

Written for children 7 year-old and older, Get Santa! follows a ten-year old girl, Holly, in her quest to find the perfect family, meeting a host of weird and wonderful characters along the way.

First of all, I should say that I probably chose my seat unwisely. This would have been much better from the front of the dress circle where the Wild At Heart stars were lucky enough to be seated. The design was a joyful thing from the very start as the stage opens like a great bit present. There were some simple special effects that were carried off well and the puppeteer did a good job. I particularly liked his outfit camouflaging all but his face with the frenetic wallpaper. The structure of the story was sweet and simple enough for any seven year old audience to engage with but not be bored by.

For the first time I can ever remember, I was unable to return after the interval. In fact, I raced out of my seat as soon as the curtain went down. I had prepared myself for children chatting and kicking me in the back, making rhythmic noises to sooth themselves through their boredom. I had not prepared myself, given my love for this space, for the almost inaudible screeching from certain areas of the cast. I know I wasn't the target audience and that they were pantomiming it up but it was more than I could tolerate. I am sure many children found it a refreshing change from Cinderella and as far as I could tell, there was no awful audience participation but it grated like a rusty knife through my eardrums.