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July 2012

When a performer pees on stage you know you are watching something memorable: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night is certainly a play full of surprises and firsts. I mean I don't think I have ever seen a performer pee on stage, possibly from nerves. And then there was the actor breaking the fourth wall inviting the audience to stay afterwards for the theatrical equivalent of a DVD extra. It was quite a stunning and unique evening at the theatre.

Continue reading "When a performer pees on stage you know you are watching something memorable: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" »

Didn't get a part in Game of Thrones? Philadelphia, Here I Come

Philadelphia_Here_I_Come_at_Donmar_Warehouse_Theatre_Covent_Garden_London_jpg_510x340_crop_upscale_q85As @trpw commented during the interval, Philadelphia, Here I Come is cast with all the Irish actors that aren't working on the HBO series of mega fantasy drama Game of Thrones, currently filming its third series in Northern Ireland.

Of course that was a joke and isn't in anyway to suggest that the acting talent on Thursday, for the first preview of Brian Friel's play, were any less than exemplary because they were all fantastic and who'd want to be running around a hill side with sword anyway?

Philadelphia is a fine play with a nice theatrical device through which much of its humour is derived. Gar is leaving his Irish backwater to go and live in Philadelphia with an aunt and uncle. It's the night before he is due to leave and he has to face his past loves and losses, his family history and an aloof father. 

But Gar isn't alone or at least we get to see two sides to him, his public persona played by Paul Reid and his private persona played by Rory Keenan. While Gar in Public is introverted and respectful, unable to tell those important to him how he feels and ask the questions he's always wanted to ask, Gar in Private is extrovert, irreverent and revealing.

Continue reading "Didn't get a part in Game of Thrones? Philadelphia, Here I Come" »

Terrific Tom in the not quite perfect Doctor's Dilemma

149135_2_previewConfession of shallowness coming up: I booked to see George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma at the Lyttleton because the very cute and ever youthful looking Tom Burke is in it, but was it worth it?

Well for a start the terrific Tom doesn't make his first appearance until late into the first half. He plays Louis Dubedat an artist with TB who's beautiful young wife Jennifer (Genevieve O'Reilly) pleads with eminent doctor, Sir Colenso Ridgeon (Aden Gillet) to have Louis included on his medical trials for a cure for the disease. Ridgeon's resources will only stretch to 10 patients on the trial and he already has all his candidates.

The dilemma has several fronts. First Ridgeon fancies Jennifer so if he helps Louis he'll never have the chance of wooing her. Secondly, one of his very good friends, the impoverished but good hearted Dr Blenkinsop (Derek Hutchinson) also has TB, so who is more deserving? And thirdly Louis is an extremely talented artist but of dubious morals, prone to charming money and goods out of people whether they can afford it or not. Should Ridgeon forgive his indiscretions  to preserve the artistic talent?

Continue reading "Terrific Tom in the not quite perfect Doctor's Dilemma" »

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio July 25 - 29

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Wednesday July 25

9am on BBC Radio 4: Midweek features Kate Bond who co-founded the theatre company You Me Bum Bum Train in 2004. A performance journey for one audience member - or passenger - at a time. 

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row reviews George Bernard Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma at the National Theatre.

Thursday July 26

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row reviews Richard III at Shakespeare's Globe, with Mark Rylance

Friday July 27

10pm on BBC Radio 2: BBC Radio 2 Arts show interviews Samantha Spiro for her role in The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare's Globe.

Saturday July 28

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Saturday Review features Richard III at Shakespeare's Globe.


Battle of the Richard III's part 2: Rylance does Rooster at The Globe

Tn-500_richardiii_6Richard III at Shakespeare's Globe was always going to have to pull out all the stops purely because it's The Globe. I'm not fond of the venue - uncomfortable seating, distracting audience, to name just two of my regular complaints although on this rare occasion I can't say it was cold as it was a beautiful summer's afternoon.

It was the draw of Mark Rylance which had me parting with cash, perhaps he would succeed in distracting me from the discomfort and the distractions*. And he did, at times.

His Richard was definitely playing for laughs, not so much evil but a cheeky scoundrel who does abhorrent things. Quite mild and gentle in his manner only succumbing to rage late into his downfall. And perhaps he was a little too gentle, he didn't feel as dangerous as Richard should. 

There was something of his Jerusalem character Rooster in his performance which surprised me as I was expecting something quite different. 

Of course this being Shakespeare's Globe this is a Richard about as traditional as you can get with the cast in Jacobean garb**, minimal props and no sets to speak of. But aside from the live music and the traditional song and dance at the end it just felt lacking.

Maybe I've just got accustomed to all the thrills and spills that normally accompany Shakespeare on a big stage, although the Richard III I saw in Stratford last week was similarly sparse in set and props but that still felt exciting and engaging. There is something quite cartoon-like about actors in Jacobean costume, it just conjures up pictures of Shakespeare caricatures and ultimate it just doesn't satisfy.  

Continue reading "Battle of the Richard III's part 2: Rylance does Rooster at The Globe" »

Battle of Richard III's part 1: RSC's Jonjo O'Neill

Richard-III-7-361x541Have ended up booking to see two different productions of Richard III within four days, all the better for close comparisons. And, both productions are going up against Propeller/Richard Clothier who set the bar very high last year with their gore-fest take on Shakespeare's most evil king.

First up is the RSC's version headed by Jonjo O'Neill which I saw on Thursday evening in the smaller, more intimate Swan Theatre, Stratford.

I was excited when I heard Jonjo had  been cast as Richard III, firstly because I loved the cheeky energy he had  as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet a couple of years ago and, secondly, because I thought a younger Richard would add an interesting energy to the play, as the role is traditionally played by men nudging middle age. It turns out that Richard, the real one, was actually 32 when he died so the casting isn't actually that radically - except in the world of theatre.

And he brought youthful energy to the role in abundance. Within his first speech he'd broken the fourth wall and responded to one audience member's particularly loud laugh at a line, ad-libbing a response with a grin and a wink. He was a cocky, smiling and cheeky Richard barely hiding his duplicity and all the more venomous for it.

It was all performed at a frenetic pace - sometimes maybe a little too frenetic, although it does serve to nicely mirror the increasingly frantic and sometime erratic behaviour of the King as he struggles to stay on top. 

Continue reading "Battle of Richard III's part 1: RSC's Jonjo O'Neill" »

Playwrights' plays go out with a fizz rather than a bang: Across Oka

Alarm bells should have rung when I realised that Robert Holman, who wrote Across Oka, also wrote the trio of dull plays collectively called Making Noise Quietly which the Donmar recently put on.

Across Oka is not without merit in that there are some well-observed moments but ultimately the lady sat next to me summed it up after the actors had left the stage when she turned and said: 'I'm not sure what happened there'.

And that was the point. The plays dramatic denouement seemed so out of character as to not make any sense.

Rewinding, the play is a sort of musing about life expectations and disappointments. Jolyon (Paul Copley) is interested in a Professor Pavel's (George Irving) work trying to re-introduce the Siberian crane back into its natural habitat. Jolyon dies before he gets to realise his dream to visit the cranes homeland, a journey taken up by his grandson Matty (Matthew Tennyson) and widow Margaret (Marion Bailey) who .

Playwright David Eldridge chose the play for the Royal Court's playwrights' playwrights season because it made him realise you could write family drama and said he was moved by it for reasons we, as the audience, would understand once we'd watched.

I'm still curious as to what moved him. When Jolyon dies their are some poignant moments as Margaret muses on her loss and the inevitable regrets. But once the story moves to Oka, where the cranes are to be reintroduced there are some cultural tensions and the one out of character act from Matty but that is about it.

Perhaps it was stymied by the actors being seated. There is a lot of description in the play text about what the stage should look like and what characters should be be doing. Perhaps too it was hampered by having quite a large cast, being quite a long play and only having a day to rehearse.

Abide With Me, last week, was just over an hour in length and had three actors. It left me wanting to seek out more of playwright Barry O'Keeffe's work, the same can't be said for Across Oka and Robert Holman.

Have I found my perfect production of The Tempest?

Tempest-2012-19_541x361Went to Stratford Upon Shakespeare on Thursday having never seen a totally satisfying production of The Tempest mainly because either Prospero feels wrong or Miranda or their relationship. But happy to report that the RSC have nailed it, almost.

Jonathan Slinger is a stern but warm Prospero and Emily Taafe a plucky but innocent Miranda and, crucially for me, it feels like there is a genuine father-daughter fondness between the two of them. It made his change of heart from revenge to forgiveness, always a tricky scene if you've been a hard and aloof Prospero (Ralph Fiennes), far more believable.

Ariel was also superbly played by Sandy Grierson but with an interesting twist. Rather than spritely and ethereal he was in the main dressed identically to Prospero in a tatty suit almost as if he was the magician's own projection or maybe he just wanted to be like his master.  There is also a physical resemblance between the two actors which is clever casting, if it was a conscious decision.

Continue reading "Have I found my perfect production of The Tempest?" »

Propeller takes on the problematic Winter's Tale channelling Alice Cooper and Beyonce

The-company-of-Propellers-The-Winters-Tale-Credit-ManueIt's definitely one of Shakespeare's problem plays, The Winter's Tale. It feels like the theatrical equivalent of a cut and shut, the first half being a serious car, a family BMW say and the second half a hippies drug-fuelled, loved up VW camper van.

In what is quite a long set up and tonally very different we find Leontes, King of Sicilia (Robert Hands) accuse his pregnant wife Hermione (Richard Dempsey) of infidelity with his brother Polixenes, King of Bohemia (Nicholas Asbury). He doubts he is the father of his son Maximillius (Ben Allen) and the unborn child. So stubbornly fixed is the idea that he has Hermione thrown into prison where she gives birth.

In an attempt to bring Leontes around, Paulina (Vince Leigh) takes him the baby Perdita hoping he'll see the resemblance and relent. In fact it just angers him further and he orders that the baby be taken far away and left to die. 

Hermione is put on trial and so shocked by what is happening the Maximillius dies. On hearing the news Hermione too falls down dead. Leontes is full of remorse and vows to cry on his wife and son's graves every day.

Cheery stuff. And for once the all male Propeller company played it straight, proving that men in dresses can be taken seriously and even shed tears. But you don't pay to see Propeller playing it straight you pay for the irreverence and inventiveness, the (bum) cheek and the fun. The second half didn't disappoint.

Continue reading "Propeller takes on the problematic Winter's Tale channelling Alice Cooper and Beyonce" »

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio July 17 - 21

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Tuesday July 17

11:20pm on BBC2: David Tennant on Hamlet, part of the Shakespeare Uncovered season. David Tennant explores the meaning and the reason why it is considered by many to be the greatest play Shakespeare ever wrote. With Ben Whishaw, Simon Russell Beale, David Warner

Wednesday July 18

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row reviews Timon of Athens at the National Theatre, starring Simon Russell Beale

Saturday July 21

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Saturday Review features National Theatre's production of Timon of Athens, directed by  Nic Hytner, starring Simon Russell Beale.

8pm on BBC2: the last of the Hollow Crown series, Tom Hiddleston stars as Henry V in the Shakespeare play by the same name. Directed by Thea Sharrock.

On iPlayer

Simon Mc Burney of Complicite was the guest at Desert Island Discs

Interview with Vicky Featherstone, current artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland and future artistic director of the Royal Court.