Previous month:
September 2015
Next month:
November 2015

October 2015

Theatre hottie of the month: October edition

This was a close run thing. Joe Bannister who is playing Orlando in the National Theatre's As You Like It (review coming soon) has come a very close second to Bertie Carvel. Yes Bertie, for the second time this year, is my theatre hottie of the month, this time for his muscular, vest wearing Yank in Hairy Ape at the Old Vic.


Missed a hottie?

January's theatre hottie 

February's theatre hottie

March's theatre hottie

April's theatre hottie

May's theatre hottie

June's theatre hottie

July's theatre hottie

August's theatre hottie

September's theatre hottie



Review: The mind of a murderer in The State vs John Hayes at the King's Head Theatre

Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes (c) Jemma Gross (7)
Lucy Roslyn, The State vs John Hayes. Photo: Jemma Gross

Lucy Roslyn is Elyese Dukie. She is also John Hayes, her alter-ego. Elyese was abandoned by her mother and had a father who gets her to look down the barrel of his antique gun and asks if he should pull the trigger. But she's not looking for sympathy.

John Hayes is a wife and also the lover of Lorraine, and has landed her in jail and on death row.

Roslyn, who also wrote the piece, says she is going to tell us something that will make us laugh. And she does. But she also does something else.

Elyese/John's tale isn't a sob story of unfortunate circumstance and regret, at least she doesn't see it that way. It is a tale of someone who is confident, driven; someone for whom love is fierce and remorse an alien emotion. It makes her fun, likeable, unstable and dangerous.

Continue reading "Review: The mind of a murderer in The State vs John Hayes at the King's Head Theatre" »

Review: Anne-Marie Duff and Louise Brealey in the grimy epic Husbands and Sons, National Theatre

Husbands-And-Sons-posterWhy do one DH Lawrence play when you can do three? Ben Power has combined The Daughter-in-Law, A Collier's Friday Night and The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd into one, three-hour play.

Staged with the audience on four sides of the oblong Dorfman space at the National Theatre, there are three wall-less house set ups with a path weaving between them recreating the feel of a village. Two are positioned so that when the inhabitants 'go upstairs' they disappear up the steps between the audience. It's a simple idea that works well.

To get around the fact that those sat on the shorter sides of the oblong stage are much nearer to one household and not another, the audience swaps seats at the interval moving to those diagonally opposite.

The setting is a mining village in the East Midlands and the women of the three households are all married to miners. Anne-Marie Duff plays Mrs Holroyd whose husband Charlie (Martin Marquez) is drunk, abusive and brings home women he's picked up at the pub. Blackmore, an educated man and electrician at the pit has feelings for her.

Louise Brealey plays Minnie, a women who has married Luther (Joe Armstrong) a man who is below her in social standing and financial status. (Great to see them working together again following on from Constellations earlier this year). There is friction between husband and wife with Minnie struggling to adjust to life in the pit village and Luther resentful of the money she has. It is Luther's brother Joe (Matthew Barker) who tries to placate the couple, he still lives at home but harbours an ambition to seek a new life in Australia.

Julia Ford is another Mrs who has married beneath her and has grown distant from her course and verbally brutish husband. Instead she dotes on her student son Ernest (Johnny Gibbon) but he is growing independent, and forging an attachment with a girl his mother dislikes.

In combining the three plays you get a heightened sense of the tragic elements of these women's lives, the entrapment of marriage in a patriarchal society, regret of a wrong choice, repressed emotion and sense of duty. It is understandable that affections become refocused on their children, an affection that can be smothering and destructive in itself. There are shades of DH Lawrence's novels, particularly Sons and Lovers.

Continue reading "Review: Anne-Marie Duff and Louise Brealey in the grimy epic Husbands and Sons, National Theatre" »

Review: Bertie Carvel is The Hairy Ape, Old Vic Theatre

The-hairy-ape-rehearsal-images-photos-the-old-vic-theatreSaw Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape for the first time three years ago at the Southwark Playhouse. That was a fairly straightforward production that used the small performance space brilliantly to recreate the cramped, noisy, hot belly of an ocean going liner’s engine room.

Really loved the play, the story of a man whose sense of place in the world is challenged and shattered in just the briefest of incidents.

On the vast Old Vic stage – now returned to its traditional proscenium arch layout -  the confines of the engine room is recreated using what looks a bit like a ship packing container. It is painted yellow and there is a barred door on one side giving it a cage-like feel.

The stokers are kicking back with a beer, sweaty and smeared in coal dust, testosterone levels are high. Every now and again you get a sense of the ship lurching with the swell as the men stagger in unison.

Yank (Bertie Carvel) sits slightly apart from the group but is listening, occasionally interjecting. It quickly becomes obvious that he holds some power, some authority over the other men. He can cut off the start of a song with a whip-like command that cracks through the room.

Continue reading "Review: Bertie Carvel is The Hairy Ape, Old Vic Theatre" »

Review: Universally Speaking, Bread and Roses Theatre, SW4

The sub-head for this quartet of monologues under the banner Universally Speaking is 'How Well is the 21st Century Doing?' and it is the final piece that really probes this question.

Called The 7-11 Butterfly Effect writer Don Grimme explores America, the Middle East and Europe post 9/11. With clever and amusingly contrived character names - Talia Ban is nicknamed after a vomiting incident in a convenience store - we are taught the history of the world by a teacher (Pallas McCallum Newark) who uses flash cards to illustrate certain points.

It is a satirical piece in which the absurdity of Grimme's story exposes a truth about the West's reaction and how it has shaped society.

Robert Holtom's piece, Fat, is brilliantly performed by Samantha Shaw who manages to make food and over eating sexy and seductive. But, at the same time, it questions the fat-shaming and fat-blaming culture we live in.

Continue reading "Review: Universally Speaking, Bread and Roses Theatre, SW4" »

Hangmen review or how Johnny Flynn stole the show

590x494.fitandcropJohnny Flynn. Actor, musician; I've always had a bit of a soft spot. He's never had the breadth of roles of some of my favourite actors, often playing likeable, quiet, awkward types, but he's got a certain charm on stage. So plaudits for him and casting director Amy Ball who saw Mooney in Martin McDonagh's Hangmen in him.

Mooney is a southerner who walks into the life of  Harry (David Morrissey), Britain's second best hangman, who's from Oldham. He turns up in Harry's wife's pub where the locals take a bit of dislike to what they perceive as strange 'southern' ways but Harry's wife and daughter are charmed.

It is the genius of Martin McDonagh's writing, brought to life by Flynn, that Mooney is an enigma, just as you think you've got him sussed he does something to cast doubts in your mind. McDonagh rubs it in your face, has Mooney discussing the degrees by which he is weird, whether he is creepy or scary. It works beautifully, you sit up and take notice when he's on the stage, you want him on the stage so you can laugh and be a little bit uncomfortable at the same time.

Continue reading "Hangmen review or how Johnny Flynn stole the show" »

Review: Tom Hughes is on death row in Ticking, Trafalgar Studios

Niamh Cusack and Tom Hughes in Ticking, Trafalgar Studios. Photo by Bronwen Sharp

My second execution-themed play of the week (Measure for Measure was the first) was a tense and emotional affair.

It's set in a far eastern prison where Simon (Tom Hughes) is visited by his parents (Niamh Cusack and Anthony Head) on the evening of his execution. He's waiting to hear whether he has had a last minute reprieve from the firing squad.

Trafalgar Studios bijou theatre 2 is simply set up as prison waiting room. Institutional, grubby, there is a wooden bench and a chair and a guard always on view. A small hole in a frosted glass and barred window gives Simon a view of the gathered press and crowds outside the prison.

Simon swings from terrified, to resigned, to resentful and it is into this heady mix of heightened emotions he has what could be his last conversation with his mum and dad. Something is eating at him; something has eaten into his relationship with his dad, something that might just get vomited up at this crucial hour. Facing death his life, and that of his parents, come under the spotlight.

Tom Hughes's Simon is at times a brattish, spoilt, entitled, stretching your levels of sympathy. He can be cruel and cutting but also funny, vulnerable and ultimately tragic.

It is Niamh Cusack who really pulls at your heart strings, the mother being ripped to emotional bits and desperately trying, and sometimes failing, to keep it together. The small performance space and proximity to the actors intensifies the emotions as the clock ticks towards Simon's fate. You feel like you are locked in the prison with him.

Continue reading "Review: Tom Hughes is on death row in Ticking, Trafalgar Studios" »

Review: the smutty, energetic and chaotic Measure for Measure, Young Vic theatre

M4M_pressThe Duke (Zubin Varla) is telling the audience of his plans to leave Angelo (Paul Ready) in charge of Vienna in the hope that he will clean things up. Behind him is a huge pile of blow up dolls, which the citizen's of Vienna have just been throwing around, the phallus on one of male dolls just to the left of the Duke waggles distractingly. This is Measure for Measure Young Vic style.

It is a strange play that has elements that are often difficult to reconcile in a modern context - the Duke claiming Isabella (Romola Garai) for his bride when she has just been nearly raped and blackmailed by Angelo.

The Cheek By Jowl Russian version at the Barbican earlier this year was sexy, brutal and had an air of danger. Joe Hill-Gibbin's production is by contrast smutty, energetic and occasionally chaotic.

The stage is divided into two with the rear separated by a wooden screen which has both a door through which characters enter and exit but also slides away to reveal a large space. The to-ing and fro-ing between the two spaces can get a bit chaotic at times and the pace is such that some familiarity with the story is helpful.

Often when the screen is in place a live camera feed projects images of what is going on out of view. The rear space in the main represents the prison where Angelo has locked up the many that have broken his strict laws including Isabella's brother Claudio (Ivanno Jeremiah). It is where all the blow up dolls end up with Pompey amusingly using them to represent prisoners at one point.

Startling close ups of actors faces are projected onto the back wall sometimes as a live back drop to other things that are happening at the front of the stage. But for all the close ups this production lacks some deeper emotion. Garai's Isabella is impassioned but her interactions with her supposedly much loved brother are distant. It makes for an anticlimatic final reveal when she discovers Claudio is actually alive.

Continue reading "Review: the smutty, energetic and chaotic Measure for Measure, Young Vic theatre" »

Review: Teddy Ferrara, Donmar Warehouse

Teddy-FerraraChristopher Shinn's American university campus play, Teddy Ferrara, is based on real events but that is a hook for a far more meatier and complex play.

Gabe (Luke Newberry) is in his final year and is chair of the LGBT student group, his best friend Tim (Nathan Wiley) is straight but his new boyfriend Drew (Oliver Johnston) doesn't believe it. And then there is Teddy (Ryan McParland), the softly spoken, strange, loner who spends rather a lot of time in online gay chat rooms.

When rumours start circulating that a popular student who committed suicide was closet gay the President of the university (Matthew Marsh) is persuaded he should do something to address prejudice and homophobia on campus.

Weaving threads of the politics of LGBT issues with social and emotional issues there is a lot going on beneath the surface of this play.

The president is out of his comfort zone when forced to confront LGBT issues to protect the reputation of the university. He's looking for a simple, one-size-fits-all solution.  Give him a spade and watch him dig himself into hole at a student-staff meeting, it is funny and cringe-worthy at the same time and a brilliant performance by Matthew Marsh.

Where the play gets really interesting is with the students. There are no simple, easy to understand characters here. Instead Shinn beautiful demonstrates the complexity of human relationships, the individuality, differences, the attitudes and needs.

Continue reading "Review: Teddy Ferrara, Donmar Warehouse" »