30 May 2012

Antigone by Sophacles in a version by Don Taylor

Antigone - Jodie Whittaker
Ismene - Annabel Scholey
Chorus - Paul Bentall, Martin Chamberlain, Jason Cheater
Chorus - Tim Samuels, Paul Dodds, Craige Els, Ross Waiton
Chorus - Alfred Enoch, Michael Grady-Hall, Stavros Demetraki
Creon - Christopher Eccleston
Soldier - Luke Norris
Haemon - Luke Newberry
Teiresias - Jamie Ballard
Boy - Trevor Imani
Messenger - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Eurydice - Zoƫ Aldrich
Ensemble - Jo Dockery, Emily Glenister

Directed by Polly Findlay
Designed by Soutra Gilmour

Seen on at the start of the run of this revived version at the Olivier on the South Bank.

Upon entering the space, the first thing to note is that Ms Gilmour's set is derived from a post-apocalyptic imagination of what Denys Lasdun's architecture might leave after wars of sibling claims to kingship, seemingly growing from the iconic design of the National Theatre itself. Effectively, there are only two sets, one of which is seen for a few minutes at the very start of Act 1 but busy, expositional declarations and murmurs of courtly dissent punctuate what would otherwise be scene changes. All of the action takes place in a bustling suite of offices which, however much it waivers between being irrelevant and apposite is an inventive representation of Thebes for this tight drama of politics, ethics and relentless ego.

The performances are fabulous. From the agony and righteous anger of Antigone, the fear of Ismene and the cold, assured conviction of Creon to the comedy of the soldier and the fearless passion of Haemon. From the chorus, Craig Els and Ross Wailton seem to deserve special note but merely by virtue of them having more opportunity than other excellent roles to show their talents.

Many of the company have little to say but are connected to the production with great conviction. Even the eponymous lead role seems sparing with it's lines making her speeches the more powerful.

The morning's papers will reveal whether the rapturous applause was from journalist or friends.

In the audience and in many cases supporting family members in the cast and crew were, Ruby Bentall and Janine Duvitski, Michelle Dockery, Debra Findlay, Oliver Cotton, Rory Kinnear, Adrian Lester, Lesley Manville, Trevor Cooper, Danny Lee Wynter and Roy Williams plus many more. Mel Kenyon and Nicholas Hytner were also there. It was Press Night, after all.

The prawn and capsicum salad was perfect for a summer's evening and nicely complimented by a delicious cheese and warm bread. I didn't stay for desert.

23 May 2012

The Sunshine Boys by Neil Simon

Willie Clark - Danny DeVito
Ben Silverman - Adam Levy
Al Lewis - Richard Griffiths
Patient - William Maxwell
Voice of the TV Director - Peter Cadden
Eddie - Nick Blakeley
Miss MacKintosh - Rebecca Blackstone
Registered Nurse - Johnnie Fiori

Directed by Thea Sharrock
Designed by Hildegard Bechtler

Seen in the bottomless pit at the Savoy Theatre for virtually nothing.

The Savoy is a beautiful auditorium but they certainly make you pay for such joy by having more stairs to the stalls than any other theatre I can remember and that's after you've run the gauntlet of the approach road being littered with untidily placed tourists.

It's a bawdy riot of a play but written with so much brio and tightly screwed lines it's impossible not to be swept up in the silliness of it.

So much so that the last-to-be-mentioned, unreliable, clumsiest cast member, the audience are helpless in their conspiracy to oil the wheels of the laughter machine in a way that you can't fail to enjoy.

This entire, glorious cast perform with that fragile mixture of freshness and precision.

It's daft but go and see it.

14 May 2012

Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett

Kenneth - Ben Miles
Henry - Sam Troughton
Sandra - Victoria Hamilton
Jamie - George Rainsford
Rosie - Claire Foy

Directed by James Grieve and designed by James Osborne

Grabbed a £10 cheapie at 9am this morning via the Royal Court's wonderful on-line and in person scheme. Had a great seat downstairs 
......in the the Jerwood Downstairs.

I'm happy to say I've chased Mr Bartlett's work wherever I can find it. Can it really be five years since "my child"?

His work has gone from strength to strength, always using his fearless voice to explore the intense fragility of relationships and how the prevailing social climate can shape them.

The way he writes for women as powerfully as he does for men must have had them queuing as far up as the Saatchi Gallery to be cast.

To say that Love, Love, Love is a culmination of all the work he's produced so far would be confining his career to an unnecessary retrospective but it certainly feels like a deeply satisfying distillation.

On paper, the running time seems potentially testing but there is nothing spare in this script. The only moments that drag are the two intervals, during which time sets are dismantled and constructed behind the most sumptuous festooned drapes.

The premise of this piece also allows all but one of these characters to develop beautifully before our eyes. Whilst they are all in some form of conflict with each other, their plights can be identified and empathised with equally.

The performances are all extraordinary.

When Ms Hamilton is dealt some disturbing news, if you are close enough to the stage you can see her at first lose colour as the sickness of the circumstance hits her followed by her cheeks shaking almost imperceptibly before the sob-free tears begin to well. I can only image this wonderful actress has a particularly awful experience to draw upon for this performance.

She is aided by the reassuringly solid performance of Ben Miles, without whose support I doubt she could deliver such a stunning portrayal. With the deployment of a couple of wigs, Mr Miles channels Cliff Richard as he flaunts his young and spirited body performance throughout the piece. He surely must have a crusty portrait in the loft somewhere. His opening scenes with the beautifully dour Mr Troughton are deliciously teasing and his character then travels via almost dependable through to whimsical by the end. I notice the touring version of this production cast a younger pairing but Ben was not just included because of his past, early experience with Mr Bartlett's work. He is the perfect Kenneth.

It is some time since I have seen Ms Foy in a regular stage production but it's very easy to see how she came to be cast in a leading television role so early in her career. There is a fluid beauty to her performance. It's passionate and yet contained which is not always easy to achieve on screen, let alone on a stage.

Mr Rainsford's performance was at first hilarious moving to deeply touching in the final act. As with Claire, it's too long since I last saw him on stage.

I cannot speak more highly of this production. It could even be perfect. I may not be in a position to see as much theatre as I used to but when my choices include pieces like this, I feel sated. However, I do realise that my objectivity resides in a more narrow channel.

I would even go so far as to say the Royal Court's trailer excels itself too.

I may loiter in the slips for one of the post-show talks.

10 May 2012

Misterman by Enda Walsh

Thomas Magill - Cillian Murphy
Mammy - Marcella Riordan
Edel- Alice Sykes

Other voices:
Eanna Breathnach, Niall Buggy, JD Kelleher, Simone Kirby, Mikel Murfi, Morna Regan. Eileen Walsh, Barry Ward

Directed by Enda Walsh and designed by Jamie Vartan.

Seen in the middle of it's run at the Lyttelton Theatre in a last minute cheap seat.

Anyone who has felt themselves to be slightly unhinged by the uncontainable grief of loss will immediately connect with the seemingly random acts bouncing around this huge and, for a solo performer, unforgiving space. Mr Murphy fills it with an eerie energy that leaves the fastidious in us, urgently needing to tidy it up.

Mr Walsh has articulated a deep and painful ravine in the human soul that many, if not all of us have to traverse at one time or another. Hopefully, most of us will be a little more sure footed than Thomas Magill. He presents this open wound, unhealed and unredeemed.

Drawing with deep respect from Beckett, but infusing this piece with space and grandiose mechanics, Enda Walsh
has given a platform to Cillian Murphy that no studio executive has thus far trusted him with. How the poor fella doesn't have pneumonia, I'll never know.

Landmark theatre that lingers for days.