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January 2012

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio Jan 30 - Feb 5

Compiled by @polyg

Monday January 30

2pm on BBC Radio 5 Live: Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton appeared in the Richard Bacon show to talk about their production of Sweeney Todd. You can listen again on iplayer

5pm on BBC Radio 2: Simon Mayo interviews Lenny Henry about the National Theatre production of The Comedy of Errors.

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row reports on a new staging of Waiting for Godot at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Tuesday January 31

10pm at BBC Radio 3: Night Waves reviews the production She Stoops to Conquer at the National.

 Friday February 2

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row reports on the production of the Way of the World at the Sheffield Crucible

10pm on BBC Radio 2: The Radio 2 Arts Show, Claudia Winkleman interviews playwright David Seidler about the new production of The King's Speech

On iplayer

Saturday review at BBC Radio 4 reviews the Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Taming of the Shrew


Silly fun: She Stoops To Conquer @nationaltheatre

She-stoops-to-conquerIt is definitely the performances that make Oliver Goldsmith's 18th century play She Stoops To Conquer so thoroughly entertaining.

There is a scene where Mrs Hardcastle the well-intentioned but interfering mother played by Sophie Thompson is trying to show off that she isn't a country bumpkin but up to speed with the latest fashion and trends to her daughter's potential suitor and city-boy Marlow (Harry Hadden-Paton).

Thompson's Mrs Hardcastle does a superb job of trying to put on what she thinks is an accent that demonstrates city sophistication but is really failing miserably. It is brilliantly funny to watch but all the time you are aware that what she is saying rather than just how she was saying it would be having exactly the same effect on the 18th century audience.

It's not that everything in the script goes over our 21st century heads, far from it, but there is another level of humour that you just occasionally comprehend like getting glimpse through a crack in the door.

But the performances certainly fill the gap. Goldsmith has, after all, created the sort characters and situation that directors and actors can have a lot of fun with. The aforementioned Marlow, for instance, we are told from the outset has contrasting reports of his character. One is that he is all shy politeness and the other is that he's a bit of a party animal.

Kate Hardcatle (Katherine Kelly) who's being lined up to marry Marlow likes the sound of the wild Marlow but not the meek one so she determines to disguise herself in such a way as to bring out his wild side.

Continue reading "Silly fun: She Stoops To Conquer @nationaltheatre" »

One for the Ben Whishaw fans: The Pride interviews and clips

Haven't come across this one before. It's Alexi Kaye Campbell, Ben Whishaw, Andrea Riseborough, Hugh Dancy and Adam James all talking about The Pride, what it's about and what it's like performing.

It's bringing back very fond memories of seeing the play and my trip to New York. And also making me wonder what Alexi is working on at the moment. (And when Mr W is going to get back onto the stage again, of course.)



Katie Mitchell under the critical spotlight or do the critics hate Katie?

857cd1aa492311e180c9123138016265_7When What's on Stage posted review round up of Katie Mitchell's latest, Trial of Ubu at the Hampstead Theatre, the headline was 'Critics judge Mitchell's Trial of Ubu' a pun on the plays title of course but maybe an unconscious reference to how she is viewed by the industry - someone to be judged as if she could possibly have done something wrong.

This, together with a comment @oughttobeclowns made last night about how some critics love to hate Mitchell's work got me thinking about whether some critics have indeed got it in for her regardless of what she does.

So I set about doing some research  to see if this rang true. As critics generally rate plays out of five I thought I could apply a Mitchell/Critic score. My methodology was to choose regular theatre critics and a selection of plays performed in the UK, directed by Mitchell.

Mark, who was mentioned last night as a potential culprit, doesn't give his reviews a rating so I've had to eliminate him from the research leaving Michael Coveney (What's On Stage), Michael Billington (Guardian) and Charles Spencer (Telegraph).

The plays I chose were the Trial of Ubu, Woman Killed With Kindness, Pains of Youth, ...some trace of her, The Seagull and Wastwater. Only Coveney has seen every one but Billington and Spencer have seen four a piece which I figure is a reasonable amount to judge against.

Continue reading "Katie Mitchell under the critical spotlight or do the critics hate Katie?" »

Provocative and macabre Japanese drama: The Bee @sohotheatre

ImgresThis is a curious little play at the Soho Theatre. Written jointly by Hideki Noda, who also directs and plays Ogoro's wife, and Colin Teevan it's based on a Japanese story called Mushiriai. 

The premise is: Mr Ido (Kathryn Hunter) returns home to find his house cordoned off by police and TV news crews buzzing around. He soon discovers that his wife and son are being held hostage inside by an escaped murderer.

But this play is about challenging the norms and turning the tables and as a result is provocative and quite macabre.

It is imaginatively staged. A small, orange perspex stage is embedded with objects that mirror the few props. There is a table and two chairs and what looks like a mirrored wall across the back of the stage (weird seeing yourself and the rest of the audience staring back across the stage). The wall becomes translucent when the light changes so that some action can take place behind. There is also some imaginative use of elastic bands and pencils.

Kathryn Hunter is at home playing Mr Ido in what is a surprisingly physical performance. The story's Japanese roots come to the fore in brief interludes of what can only be desribed as warrior dance moves. (Think Haka.)

Noda also does a superb job as the murderer's Ogoro's wife. I always judge gender swapping in straight plays by how easy it is to forget that it's a man in drag and this was easy except for what the gender swapping actually adds to the drama. I won't spoil the story by going into plot details but the idea of turning the tables has a more subtle twist when the opposite sex plays the part and I'm curious as to how conscious a decision that was.  

Continue reading "Provocative and macabre Japanese drama: The Bee @sohotheatre" »

Noises Off - it's a farce

Noises-Off-2Anyone who read my review of One Man Two Guvnors will know I am not a massive fan of farce but I liked that play despite myself. 

Noises Off at the Old Vic came highly recommended (otherwise I wouldn't have gone) and I did laugh like a drain at times.

It is also a technically superb production from all sides. Extra credit must go to all round amazing cast whose timing, co-ordination and, well, memory for all of that on top of the lines was breathtaking.

I am, however, leading up to a but which is that for all its skill and the clever structure - a play about a play that is performed under three different circumstances - it is still a farce with all the elements of that genre that start to grate on me after a while. For instance there are only so many times a plate of sardines is funny before it just gets annoying.

I can certainly recommend Noises Off if you like farce and even if you don't there is plenty to admire and enjoy - I particularly liked the opening rehearsal act which I'm sure has more than a heaped teaspoon of truth in it. It is going to get a star knocked off though for the moments of irritation - it's a personal thing but there we go - so it scores four out of five.

Noises Off runs at the Old Vic until March 10.

PS Noises Off does get one extra accolade for possibly having the best value programme the Old Vic has ever produced but only because you get two for the price of one as the play within the play gets it's own programme too.


Not a direct link but Robert Glenister who plays the director Lloyd Dallas was in the TV series An Appropriate Adult which starred Dominic West who, of course, has worked with Mr W in The Hour.

Theatre related TV and Radio Jan 23 - 29

Compiled by @polyg

Monday January 23rd

9am on BBC Radio 4: Start the Week playwright Simon Stephens talking about The Trial of Ubu at the Hampstead Theatre

8:10pm on BBC Radio 3: A History of the Interval, broadcaster Paul Allen explores the interval itself, talking to a conductor, a director, performers, a bar person and audience members (repeat of a programme broadcast in May 2011)

Thursday January 26th

10pm on BBC Radio 3: Night Waves reviews Almeida Theatre's production of The House of Bernarda Alba, set in Iran. 

Friday January 27th

10pm on BBC Radio 2: The Arts show interviews Horrible Histories creator Terry Deary about his new live show, Leslie Ash on starring in a new play All The Single Ladies, and Michael Billington reviews the latest stage productions.

Catch up on the iplayer

Front Row has a feature on the play The Two Worlds of Charlie F, written by the poet Owen Sheers and starring soldiers injured in Afghanistan and Iraq

Loose Ends interviews Ardal O'Hanlon about starring in the play Port Authority at the Southwark Playhouse

Saturday review on Travelling Light at the National Theatre, directed by Nicholas Hytner, starring Antony Sher

Patrick Stewart is interviewed at the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast show about Edward Bond's Bingo at the Young Vic theatre (1hour 44mins into the programme)!/


Wondering what happened to Rooster's caravan? (He's parked on a double yellow)

Was in town the morning after the last performance of Jerusalem to witness the demise of the set and Rooster's caravan. Feels appropriate that it's been chopped up with one chunk parked on a double yellow lines. Can't help thinking that Rooster would approve.

If anyone knows the set salvage company who took it away and what will become of it, I'd love to know. Oh and Mark Rylance said in an interview that he would like to play Rooster again but not for 5 to 10 years. Start queueing for tickets now.





Is Katie Mitchell back in my favour with The Trial of Ubu?


Prior to The Trial of Ubu at the Hampstead Theatre, I'd seen two plays directed by Katie Mitchell. The first, ...some trace of her, took my breath away and the second, A Woman Killed With Kindness, made me angry at Mitchell.

She is certainly a director that divides opinion and in a way, I like that because it makes for a far easier review.

Sitting down to watch The Trial of Ubu I knew nothing about it, let alone its roots in the absurdest play Ubu Roi by Alfred Jarry which in 1896 caused riots. The audience of the time weren't quite ready for Jarry's crude and cutting satire on power, greed and evil with the first word spoken his own variation of the French word for shit.

I can certainly see what attracted Katie Mitchell to directing Simon Stephen's play. There is, after all, a lot to get your teeth into with absurdity and the surreal. But was this a 'trace' or a 'kindness'?

*This is quite a detailed description of the play, some of which may be deemed as spoilers*

Well as the title suggests the play is about a trial but we have to know the crimes levelled at Ubu first and this is how the story starts. The Hampstead theatre stage has been wood-panelled off from the audience, floor to ceiling, and as the lights dim a small rectangle about two thirds the way up the panelling, in the centre opens up, sort of like a serving hatch or in this case space for a puppet show.

A set of grotesque Punch and Judy-esque puppets tell the story of Ubu who has his King murdered, seizes the thrown and then lets power go to his head murdering and torturing anyone who gets in his way or doesn't like or even just for fun.

It is very well done and an inspired decision not only a firm nod to Jarry absurdist source material but also a powerful medium for the subject matter. Yes puppets. The child-like story-telling sits as uncomfortably with the subject matter as the behaviour of Ubu sits with common human morality and principles.

When the rein of Ubu - an embodiment of as many dictators you can care to recall (or Tony Blair as @MrBrianHolmes suggested) - comes to an end the puppet show is over and a new one begins, one without puppets: his trial in an international criminal court.

Continue reading "Is Katie Mitchell back in my favour with The Trial of Ubu?" »

Review round up: Travelling Light at the National Theatre divides critics

Travelling Light, which I saw last week in preview, has opened and that means reviews to pore over.

What's On Stage has done the hard work in collating the main reviews, and of the six featured they range from four stars to a rather harsh one star from Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail. 

Letts comments: "The adjective ‘cheesy’ is insufficient for the new play at the Royal National Theatre."

It seems a little harsh to me. Travelling Light isn't going to win any awards but there was nothing offensive or fundamentally bad about it. I thought  it was genuinely enjoyable light entertainment and I can't help thinking that Letts' review is a bit of calculated controversy. 

I gave it four stars but that includes a star solely for its star Antony Sher. Michael Billington in the Guardian is one of the critics to give it four stars and also sings the praise of Mr Sher:

"But it is Antony Sher who steals the honours as the ebullient Jacob, a self-consciously wise peasant who seems to have stepped out of a Sholom Aleichem story. It is one of those performances in which the actor seems to have expanded to twice his usual size."

Travelling Light scores an average of 2.8 from the critics. The What's on Stage link above has summaries of all the reviews and direct links to the full versions