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December 2016

November 2016

Review: RSC's bonkers Cymberline, Barbican Theatre

B5774-cymbeline_review_hub.tmb-gal-1340When plays are rarely performed you do wonder if there is a good reason for it and Cymberline isn't one of William Shakespeare's best but the RSC has done a superb job with it, particularly given that they do the whole thing.

It's definitely a play of two halves. As we paused for the interval it was all going swimmingly. Queen Cymberline (Gillian Bevan), one of several gender swaps in this production, is angry that her only daughter Innogen (Bethan Cullinan) has married her lover Posthumus (Hiran Abeysekera) and has banished him but not before the newly-weds swap gifts - a ring for Posthumus and bracelet for Innogen. Innogen's evil stepfather (James Clyde) wants Innogen to marry his oafish son Cloten (Marcus Griffiths) but he also has deadly plans for the Queen.

Things take a turn for the worse for Posthumus who, having made his way to Rome, encounters Iachimo (Oliver Johnstone), a playboy, who in hearing about the lovely and chaste Innogen wagers that he can prove she isn't by tempting her to bed. Posthumus bets the ring that Innogen has given him and you can see roughly where all that is going. Anyway that brings us up to the interval with a lot of people feeling rejected/hurt/bereft while others are rubbing their hands together in glee.

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London fringe theatre news round up - opera, circus and more

Rehearsal Shot (c) Vantage Point (6)
This Might Be It rehearsal (c) Vantage Point

2017 SEASON ANNOUNCEMENT Print Room  at the Coronet in Notting Hill has announced five plays for the first half of next year opening with Howard Barker's In The Depth of Love followed by Out of Blixen directed by Kathryn Hunter. For full season details visit the Print Rooms website.

TEEN DRAMA More to look forward to next year, Southwark Playhouse has announced a production of The Diary of a Teenage Girl which opens on Mar 1, 2017 and runs until Mar 25. It's a coming of age story as told through the eyes of a teenage girl growing up in 1970s San Francisco.

THE ONE I CAN'T PRONOUNCE Director Jimmy Walters returns to the Finborough Theatre with a new production of Tony Harrison’s The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus in its first London staging for nearly 30 years. It will run from Tuesday 3rd – Saturday 28th January 2017.

CONTEMPORARY ISSUES Theatre N16 plays host to new company Vantage Point and their first show This Might Be It, which examines our relationship to technology in the digital age - think Black Mirror on stage from a millennial perspective. It runs from Dec 4 - 8.

PUB OPERA I saw my first opera in a small room above a pub a couple of years ago and despite my scepticism really enjoyed it - you are certainly never going to get that close to the singers at the ROH. If you aren't sure whether opera is your thing, pub opera is a brilliant way to try it out and as an experience after all you won't be sitting that close to the singers if you go to ROH. This is my preamble to the King's Head Theatre announcing its opera season for next year. It includes new collaborations with Olivier Award-winning librettist Amanda Holden and Charles Court Opera, the return of internationally acclaimed opera director Paul Higgins and a new production of Tosca from the King’s Head Theatre’s Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher. For more details head to the KH website.

CIRCUS French Compagnie XY, widely regarded as one of the leading contemporary circus companies in the world, will return to London for the UK premiere of their spectacular new show It’s Not Yet Midnight….This poetic and jaw-defying spectacle will run at the Roundhouse in Camden from 10th – 23rd April 2017.

 

 


Rehearsal and promotional photos: Rufus Sewell, Tim Key and Paul Ritter in Art, Old Vic Theatre

The photo shoot for Art's promotional pics look like Rufus, Tim and Paul all had fun (see a behind the scenes vid here). There's also a bunch of rehearsal shots - really looking forward to this one and not just because of the opportunity to see Rufus Sewell on stage again. Ahem.

Art at Old Vic Theatre is directed by Yasmina Reza and opens for previews on Dec 10 and then runs until Feb 17, 2017. For more info head to the Old Vic website.

ART Fight-222-Landscape Tim Key, Rufus Sewell and Paul Ritter. Photo by Manuel Harlan (1)
ART Tim Key, Rufus Sewell and Paul Ritter. Photo by Manuel Harlan
ART Fight-243 portrait. Tim Key, Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell. Photo by Manuel Harlan (2)
ART Tim Key, Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell. Photo by Manuel Harlan

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Review: RSC's King Lear, Barbican Theatre and why it's better than the Old Vic's

King_Lear_2016_marketing_image_2016_Photo_by_Paul_Stuart_c_RSC_181766
Photo by Paul Stuart (c) RSC

The RSC's King Lear, which stars Antony Sher and is currently enjoying a season at London's Barbican Theatre, took me by surprise. Lear isn't a play I particularly like, despite repeated viewings in order to 'convert' my opinion. However, I think the RSC may have just made me a believer.

It comes hot on the heels of seeing the Old Vic’s King Lear production last month, starring Glenda Jackson, which had reinforced my bad feelings about the play. Seeing both versions in quick succession means comparisons are inevitable. Both are stripped down productions. The Old Vic has gone contemporary with a white screen, cheap plastic chairs and the cast dressed in modern street clothes (much has been made by critics of Glenda Jackson’s cardie).

The RSC opted for a vast brick wall as a backdrop and the odd prop but the royal family at the start are opulently dressed - long robes embellished with gold embroidery although with lines that had a cleaner, modern spin.

Lear wears a heavy fur coat and is carried onto the stage with his golden throne encased in a glass box, flanked by attendants carrying huge golden discs as if he floats, celestial in a higher universe. Immediately you see a King for whom appearance, status and the appropriate deference is intrinsically linked to power and rule. It sets the scene for a man who wants to have his cake and eat it. He doesn’t want the responsibility of kingship, the cares of rule but he doesn't want how he is treated or lives to change.

This production opened in the summer in Stratford, long before the American election but the way Lear protests when he isn’t treated with the respect he feels he’s due made me think of the thin-skinned, president elect Donald Trump.

It is ironic that the RSC production with its less modern setting should resonate with current political figures while the modern take in the Old Vic production felt contemporary only in look. The lack of stateliness made Glenda Jackson’s Lear less petulant and entitled and, on reflection, less understandable.

In fact one of the strengths of the RSC production is that all the key characters had clearly defined story arcs and took you on the journey with them.

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London fringe theatre news round up - upcoming tidbits, monologues and one offs

Title
Happiness Is A Cup of Tea

MONOLOGUE After successful stints on London's fringe circuit Happiness Is A Cup Of Tea comes to Theatre N16 in Balham. Story-telling, puppetry, song and grief all collide in this show about family, being the youngest, and losing the ones we love, written and performed by East 15 graduate Annie McKenzie. Catch it from Nov 27 to Dec 1.

DARKLY COMIC Pat Kinevane brings his show Underneath to the Soho Theatre. Raw, beautiful and darkly comic, Kinevane invites the audience into an intimate confidence which is at once brilliantly wise, touching and true, as he unwraps a life shaped and destroyed by disfigurement and cruelty. Underneath won the Fringe First Award at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 and the Adelaide Fringe Best Theatre Award 2016. It was named on the Forbes ‘Best Theater on Broadway and Beyond’ List, 2015.  Catch it at Soho Theatre from Nov 22 to Dec 17.

8 PLAYS CREATED IN 12 DAYS The Collective Project 2016 brings together a group of actors, directors and writers to create eight new 12 minute plays in 12 days and you can see the results at the Tristan Bates Theatre from Dec 13 to Dec 17.

JANUARY COMEDY New play The Doppel Gang combines the wild wit of iconic comedy giants The Marx Brothers – Groucho, Harpo and Chico – with generous helpings of British humour and humility. As the Blitz ravages London, a hopeless theatre manager persuades a desperate double act and a not-so-convincing male impersonator to join him in an audacious stunt – impersonating The Marx Brothers. Catch it at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 17 Jan to 11 Feb 2017.

OLD VIC's ONE VOICE This one off afternoon on Nov 26 consists of monologues specially commissioned by Shami Chakrabarti, Marie Jones and John Godber and performed by Maxine Peake, Gemma Jones and Martha Godber. Details on the Old Vic website.

 


Review: Trade, Young Vic

FA705385_942longThree different women, an idyllic Caribbean resort and one man that binds them. Debbie Tucker Green's play examines ideas of feminism, sex and power.

There is a young woman (Ayesha Antoine) who's saved up for a holiday with her friends, an older woman (Jo Martin) who is a repeat visitor and a local (Sharon Duncan Brewster) who earns money braiding tourists' hair on the beach. Each thinks they are better than the other - savvy and independent; each feels they are the master of their own destiny, make their own decisions and have choices.

The women talk, laugh, argue, at times allied and at others alienated in commonalities and differences of belief and experience.  But gradually, over the course of 60 minutes their ideas  and feelings of independence are challenged.

Debbie Tucker Green's sharp script uses a mixture of natural dialogue with something more stylised where the lines are short, sometimes just words, delivered in quick succession switching swiftly between each of the protagonists. Certain lines are repeated like a musical refrain that hangs in the air. Its effect is powerful melting the woman's individuality and differences into something more homogeneous - a collective of differences.

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Review: The Nest, Young Vic

326x326nestMarried couple Martha (Caoilfhionn Dunne) and Kurt (Laurence Kinlan) live in a bedsit and are expecting a baby. Kurt works long hours determined to provide everything their child will need. Their life is ordinary, their conversations are ordinary and their hopes and dreams are ordinary until Kurt takes on one job that has consequences he couldn't have foreseen.

Conor McPherson has translated Franz Xaver Kroetz play setting it in Ireland and adding in enough colloquial dialogue for it to feel comfortably at home. Ian Rickson directs in a style that allows the script to breath with much of the communication between the couple coming through body language. The problem is that the play doesn't feel meaty enough to quite support this pace of performance.

Everything plods along smoothly for Martha and Kurt for what seems a long time. It is interesting for a while discerning the dynamics of their relationship - from their planning for the baby, the impact it has on their every day life and how they perceive parenting - but after a while it feels a little sluggish.

There is one particularly dynamic and dramatic scene which is brilliantly performed by Laurence Kinlan and it is blackly funny but it isn't quite enough to lift the play. The Nest has two great performances but it is a play that feels like it just drifts along and I'm not sure I'll remember it in a few weeks time.

It is one hour and 45 minutes long without an interval and I'm giving it an OK three stars. It runs at the Young Vic Theatre until Nov 26.


Review: Princess, Lost Theatre, Stockwell or when Stan watched a contemporary dance piece for the first time

Well this is new for me: A dance piece. And by that I mean I'm coming to this having seen a ballet once and that's it when it comes to dance as a form of story telling. There is a synopsis for Princess in the programme and I wonder if I'd read it beforehand whether it would have made a difference because I'm not sure I gleaned much of what is described there from what I was seeing on stage.

Stuart Saint is the writer/director/choreographer of the piece which, apparently, shatters the illusion of the happily-ever-afters, banishing the storybook fairytale and finding the feminism in Disney. Maybe it's my lack of familiarity and knowledge of dance but what I got from it was a toy rabbit carrying, dungaree wearing 'princess' who is seduced by a group of more scantily-clad dancers including a man wearing a rabbit mask. At some point she changes into a dress that is more Alice in Wonderland-style and eventually she rejects the man-rabbit.

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Rehearsal photos: Wild Honey, Hampstead Theatre

Hot on the heels of Platonov at the National Theatre in the summer comes Michael Frayn's Wild Honey which is based on the same early Chekhov play which was untitled and discovered after the playwright's death. Directed by Howard Davies and Jonathan Kent, this comedy of errors is a tale of nineteenth century Russian life replete with classic misunderstandings, irrepressible desires and nostalgia for a vanishing world.  

Geoffrey Streatfeild stars as Platonov and the play opens for previews on Dec 2 and runs until Jan 14. Look out for my review in December.

 


Review: The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism with a Key to the Scriptures and Socialism, Hampstead Theatre

FillWyI0MDAiLCIyNTEiXQ-richardListTony Piper's three tiered set is nearly as high as the title of Tony Kushner's play is long. It's three storeys of a stripped-back brown stone in Brooklyn: stairs, landings and fragments of rooms - a bed and picture on one floor and a desk and chair on another.

This is the home of the Gus Marcantonio (David Calder) and where his family have gathered to discuss his determination to end his life. Gus is a retired longshoreman, a union man and communist. His sister Clio (Sara Kestelman) - a former nun and Maoist - has been staying to keep an eye on him but has called the family together and with them comes the baggage of their own lives.

Pill or Pier Luigi (Richard Clothier) is a gay school teacher who can't quite seem to give up his young, hustler boyfriend Eli (Luke Newberry) despite his husband Paul (Rhashan Stone) moving them out of the state. Empty or Maria Teresa (Tamsin Greig) has a pregnant girlfriend but turns to her ex husband Adam (Daniel Flynn) for sex occasionally. Adam lives in the basement and is a realtor. And the youngest is V (Lex Shrapnell) an angry, heterosexual builder who doesn't share the rest of the family's left leanings.

On the one hand you get a family that bickers, argues and sometimes laughs but on the other hand it is a play that muses on how the shifting landscape of modern life is challenging some long held views and values. That somewhat over simplifies what is a three and a half hour long play that has plenty of meat but isn't necessarily always easy to digest.

Continue reading "Review: The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism with a Key to the Scriptures and Socialism, Hampstead Theatre" »