28 January 2012

Grief by Mike Leigh

Dorothy - Lesley Manville
Victoria - Ruby Bentall
Edwin - Sam Kelly
Hugh - David Horovitsch
Gertrude - Marion Bailey
Muriel - Wendy Notthingham
Maureen - Dorothy Duffy

Directed by Mike Leigh and designed by Alison Chitty

Seen, as seems to be my tradition with Mike Leigh's plays, at the very last performance in the Cottesloe in a brilliant, last minute seat.

I sit in such awe of Ms Manville that it seems trite to say that this roll seemed written for her. The organic way in which Mr Leigh work inevitably gives the impression that each actor makes their own role but that would be simplifying the process disrespectfully.

These performances are all perfectly pitched with humour and heartbreak in equal measure. I do hope that young Ms Bentall was able to dip in and out of her dour zone as she left the stage or this would not have been a jolly experience for her.

The set was realistic but gratifyingly simple and yet perfectly functional for the narrative. If felt like a home that should have been comfortable but somehow wasn't.

Unlike most actors who burst into song on stage, the lovely serenades between Dorothy and Edwin were beautifully nostalgic, entirely natural and completely lacking in contrivance.

I had a wonderful evening in their company.

27 January 2012

Travelling Light by Nicholas Wright

Maurice Montgomery - Paul Jesson
Tsippa, Moti's aunt - Sue Kelvin
Moti Mendl - Damien Molony
Jacob Bindel, a timber merchant - Antony Sher
Ida, Jacob's wife - Abigail McKern
Aron, Jacob's son - Jonathan Woolf
Itzak, Jacob's son-in-law - Karl Theobald
Anna Mazowiecka - Lauren O'Neil
Josef, foreman at the sawmill - Colin Haigh
Hezzie, a workman - Darren Swift
Mo, a workman - Mark Extance
Rivka, Jacob's daugher - Alexis Zegerman
Nate Dershowitz - Damien Molony
Little Boy - Nell McCann
Ensemble - Tom Peters, Jill Stanford, Geoffrey Towers, Kate Webster

Actors on film
Teacher - Tom Keller
Rabbi - Harry Dickman
Young woman - Julia Korning
Dying man - Michael Grinter
Reb Gershon - Jack Chissick
Reb Korovitz - Jeffry Kaplow
Doctor - Philip COx
Wife - Norma Atallah
Servant - Jill Stanford
Young servant/Granddaughter - Elsie Mortimer
Yeshiva Boys - Tom Allwinton, Roy Baron, Pablo Carciofa, Daniel Kramer, Henry Markham-Hare, Pip Pearce.

Seen at the beginning of it's run in the Lyttelton Theatre via a half price ticket in a surprisingly good seat (row O) despite sitting next to a couple who talked, quizzed, explained crunched and rustled all through it and thought the musical accompaniment to the silent film sequences was a period for uninhibited general debate.They were impervious to the glares from the people in front of them. I'd hate to have watched The Artist in their company.

Well now then. This is a beautiful premise, performed commendably by most of the cast. The tale is a simple one and a little too much of the dialogue targets the lowest common denominator in the audience. Sometimes there is solace in the easily identifiable progress of a piece like this and if it had been any more complicated, I would not have heard it above the din on my neighbours. I was fortunate enough to hear almost all of the filmic witticisms which are varied and many. The explanation for Mr Scher's comedy accent was delicious and completely acceptable. On occasion it strayed dangerously into the area of farce a couple of times which made me a little grumpy but the audience loved it. It was a Friday.

The effort involved in making this very effective set design work is utterly commendable. It's a bugger of a stage to get right and this piece uses the space perfectly. The projection material was wonderfully handled.

I'm not sure it's worked out what it wants to be yet. The audience were loving the comedy and it's fine to make a period piece funny and educational but it was just a bit too trite in places. That said, there wasn't a moment when my thoughts drifted, other than controlling my desire to punch the idiots next to me.

25 January 2012

Constellations by Nick Payne

Marianne - Sally Hawkins
Roland - Rafe Spall

Directed by Michael Longhurst and designed by Tom Scutt.

Seen in the middle of it's premiere run at the Royal Court Upstairs under a sky of balloons. The moon's a balloon, you know.

This gave me the same kind of visceral thrill I got from the first time I saw Caryl Churchill's A Number.

It's so tight, witty and poignant. These two incredible actors perform with such inclusive comfort and I could watch it again quite easily, knowing that I would see a different show each time.

06 January 2012

13 by Mike Bartlett

Sarah - Genevieve O'Reilly
Amir - Davood Chadami
Ruth - Geraldine James
Martin/Paul - Nick Blakeley
Shannon - Katie Brayben
Rachel - Kirsty Bushell
Stephen - Danny Webb
Holly - Lara Rossi
Edith - Helen Ryan
Zia - Shane Zaza
Rob - Matthew Barker
Mark - Adam James
John - Trystan Gravelle
Ruby - Grace Cooper Milton
Dennis - Nick SIdi
Liam/Terry - John Webber
Carol - Sioned Jones
Alice - Natasha Broomfield
Sally - Esther McAuley
Esther - Barbara Kirby
Fiona - Zara Tempest Walters
Sir Christopher - Martin Chamberlain
Other parts played by members of the Company.

Directed by Thea Sharrock and designed by Tom Scutt.

Seen in the middle of it's opening run at the Olivier. Bought a side-ish seat under the wonderful GILT scheme & scuttled along the entire length of the otherwise empty row to a centre aisle seat.

I do enjoy Mr Bartlett but I prefer his more claustrophobic pieces, or should I say I enjoy his work when space is at a premium.

Don't get me wrong, I reserve a special part of my brain especially to thrill at the full use of the drum revolve in this stage and in that respect I wasn't disappointed but the material just seemed too big and rambling. I wanted something drum-tight and this seemed to have some frayed edges.

It's cinematic, has something clever and has some lovely performances. Adam James steals every scene he's in. I have a special soft spot for the work of Kirsty Bushell and can't quite work out why we don't see more of her.

03 January 2012

Haunted Child by Joe Penhall

Julie - Sophie Okonedo
Thomas - Jack Boulter
Douglas - Ben Daniels

Director - Jeremy Herrin
Designer - Bunnie Christie

Seen one month into it's premiere run at the Royal Court downstairs during the wonderful winter bargain period

It has been over six months since I made an entry here and almost as long since I have been to the theatre, such is the sorry state of my lifestyle these days. I could not let another Penhall come and go without making an effort to sneak into it.

I had a moment at the start when I feared this might be a little self-conscious but then the writing I know and love kicked in and it was heartbreaking and funny, moving along at a comfortable pace and resolving beautifully. It's not without flaws and slightly questionable logic from the Julie character but I liked the journey.

I enjoyed the set but admit to not quite understanding the uplighting through the floorboards. I thought the little boy was very good, considering he is a little boy.

Since it's a while since I've been to this building which I used to visit once a week, I sensed a change. I was in the circle and the front of house staff were having to marshall inconsiderate patron. One person was chastised for not turning their iPad off, even though the lights had not yet gone down but the Kindle user next-door-but-one was left unshamed. At one point, someone shouted repeatedly at another to turn their iPhone off. It may have made for a performance without noise or light pollution but the atmosphere in the circle took a while to relax.

The bar was open but not serving food so soon after the New Year.....whatever......I guess they couldn't get fresh supplies. The Front of House staff were exceptionally lovely, as ever although I scarcely recognised any of them. The bookstall was reassuringly stuffed and cordially attended.

This may not be the last post of the week.