57 posts categorized "Almeida" Feed

10 plays I'm really looking forward to seeing in London 2018

Julius Caesar, Bridge TheatrePrompted by the Daily Telegraph's rather uninspiring and quite frankly lazy list of upcoming theatre treats - three plays which have already opened? Oh come on - here's my list of what I'm already really excited about seeing in the first half of 2018*.

1. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Theatre - Patsy Ferran, I love Patsy Ferran and this is the first of two plays she's doing in 2018 and it's a solo piece *insert big smile here*

2. Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre - Ben Whishaw playing Brutus alongside David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley and the chance to mingle with the Roman mob? Already booked to see it twice.

3. The Brothers Size, Young Vic - Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney who also penned Oscar best picture winner Moonlight (which I loved) and starring Sope Dirisu who was brilliant in One Night In Miami at the Donmar and the RSC's Coriolanus.

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Review: The Twilight Zone, Almeida Theatre - sinister and silly fun

It doesn't really matter if you aren't familiar with the 1950s/60s American TV series The Twilight Zone you'll soon get a feel for what it was like when you watch this stage version at the Almeida Theatre.

OK, so there will be some references you'll miss but if  you want to do a teeny bit of prep just watch this video clip of the The Twilight Zone TV series intro sequence.

The Twilight Zone Almeida TheatreI don't know if the way the play is structured mirrors the TV series or not (I never watched it) but what you get is a series of individual stories that are broken up into different sized chunks and then weaved together.

The effect it to have several stories running simultaneously, often breaking off at a cliff hanger, to move onto another, then another before coming back to continue a particular story.

There are recurring motifs, images and skits (for want of a better word) that link everything together.

Even the set is a mixture of other-worldliness and 60's TV.  It resembles the inside of a box - or an old fashioned TV - painted to look like a star-studded night sky.

Sets for different stories are wheeled in place or carried with an exaggerated flourish from behind panels which open at the sides.

These also allow the cast to slip on and off stage sometimes unseen in what feels like the human equivalent of a slight of hand trick.

Sets, costumes, props are all period in keeping with the TV series - even the performances - and this is part of what makes it fun. There are some suitably dodgy 60s style wigs for instance.

Stories range from a mysterious extra passenger on a bus journey that has been interrupted by bad weather to a child that has gone missing from her room but can still be heard calling out for her parents.

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Review: Albion, Almeida Theatre

XALBION.jpg.pagespeed.icSat down to watch Albion with a mixture of expectations. A theatre loving friend said they'd left at the interval but Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were both shortlisted for Evening Standard Theatre awards. Now, I don't believe there is too much inference to be drawn from award nominations but I was, nonetheless, encouraged.

And the verdict? Well I definitely didn't want to leave at the interval and Victoria Hamilton and Luke Thallon were very good.

Victoria Hamilton plays Audrey who has just moved from London to a big house in the country. The gardens were once something and she wants to restore them to their former glory. She is obsessed with restoring them to their former glory but that isn't really what the play is about, its about a woman who is adrift, grieving the death of her soldier son James and trying to find an anchor.

She has her patient and self deprecating second husband Paul in tow (a completely lovable Nicholas Rowe) and her university student daughter Zara (Charlotte Hope) who is not happy to be displaced into the country. Also tagging along is Anna (Vinette Robinson) who is James' grief-stricken girlfriend and Audrey's famous writer friend Katherine (Helen Schlesinger).

The house comes with furniture, Matthew (Christopher Fairbank) the gardener and his wife Cheryl (Margo Leicester) who is the cleaner and a neighbour's son, Gabriel (Luke Thallon), who cleans the windows and quickly develops an awkward crush on Zara.

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Review: Ben Whishaw has been spoken to by God in Against, Almeida Theatre

1470x690_AGAINST_NBIn Bakkhai Ben Whishaw played a god. In Against he plays a man who believes he has been spoken to by God. The difference? Well there is a lot less hair for a start.

Luke is a tech billionaire who heard a voice in his head prompting him on a journey to understand violence and change the world.

Assisted by Sheila (Amanda Hale) he decides to go where the violence is and talk to people who’ve been affected - the parents of a high school shooter and a student at a University campus where there was a spate of rapes.

His is a sophisticated and intelligent mind but his approach is relatively simple until he is forced to question what constitutes violence. Can it merely be a physical thing or is the way people are treated by society or capitalism - for example - a form of violence in itself?

While Luke wrestles with the scale and effectiveness of his project, the nature of his fame begins to change. On the one hand he starts to attract followers who see him as something of a spiritual healer or icon on the other, he starts to attract critics.

Ben Whishaw's Dionysus in Bakkhai was seductive, alluring and manipulative whereas Luke has the demeanour of someone who believes he has the light of something in him; he has a Jesus-like quality, gentle, serene and thoughtful - except when it comes to personal relationships. Luke is a good listener particularly in Ben Whishaw's hands. When he is listening, he gradually moves closer to the person who is talking. He looks rapt, an expression that encourages and empathises; perhaps there is a little sign he enjoys it that people are opening up to him. I found myself constantly watching him just in the act of listening.

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My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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Review: Bertie Carvel and Richard Coyle make newspaper history in Ink, Almeida Theatre

1470x690One of the early scenes of James Graham's Fleet Street-set play Ink sees Bertie Carvel's Rupert Murdoch at a meeting to officially sign the deal that will put The Sun newspaper in his ownership. It's 1969 and the men in suits shake hands and ask after each other's wives who naturally 'send their love'. Murdoch waits quietly while this goes on then asks if the foreplay is over and if they can now get on with the fucking.

It is a symbol of his forthright, no nonsense style that was to disrupt Fleet Street and change the British newspaper industry. It also sort of sums up the two halves of the play. The first half has the fun, laughs and sharp wit as it follows Murdoch's chosen editor Larry Lamb (Richard Coyle) putting together the editorial team and the content for the first issue under new ownership. The second half gets more serious and looks at the consequences of the direction in which he has taken the paper.

Lamb is tasked with making The Sun 'fun' and boosting its flagging circulation, pushing it ahead of The Mirror which is outselling its rival quite considerably.

What Murdoch gives Lamb is permission to disrupt the accepted norm; just because newspapers have never done something, doesn't mean they shouldn't. Why give readers what you think they want when you can give them what they actually do want. Lamb rises to the challenge and while the strategy behind his approach seems in some ways so obvious now, it was radical at the time. However, there are also lines he is given that could apply to the media now.

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"Alas he is mad" - How Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, scared me

Hamlet_1470x690_version_3REVIEW (contains potential spoilers) In 2011 Michael Sheen played Hamlet as the inmate of a mental hospital at the Young Vic hallucinating ghosts and prone to ranting and raving. Since then we've had a string of comparatively sane Hamlets, that is until now. The big difference in Robert Icke's approach, compared to Ian Rickson's, is in the process of the decline, the gradual loss of faculty.

The pomp and ceremony of court have been stripped away much like the Royal Exchange production which starred Maxine Peake. This is a modern royal family with modern, minimalist Scandi decor within their ancient castle - you get glimpses of the stone corridors via security cameras. Indeed the security cameras and the occasional appearance of suit and ear-piece wearing heavy are one of the few concessions to the fact that this is a royal family. The politics and threats of war are kept to TV news reports (in Danish with subtitles)

It is a loving family too, relaxed and at home in each others company or at least the extended family unit is. Ophelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) is a daddy's girl and Gertrude (Juliet Stevenson) is genial and tactile, you get the sense that Laertes (Luke Thompson) and Ophelia are like a much loved nephew and niece. They sit relaxed on a sofa together just like any other family. After Gertrude and Claudius's (Angus Wright) wedding party, the newly weds are drunk and giggly and roll around lustfully. And, while Hamlet (Andrew Scott) is the quietly grieving and melancholy son, when he and Ophelia are alone there appears to be a genuine love or at least affection between them.

Under Robert Icke's direction there is back story in every gesture, touch and look in these opening scenes which makes the betrayals, hurts and horrors to come all the more stark. It is also a perfect back drop against which Hamlet and Ophelia can lose their minds. And this is what sets this production apart. Andrew Scott's delicate soul Hamlet is slowly pulled apart by grief, the weight of revelation about his father's death and the way his uncle and Polonius (Peter Wight) try to manipulate him.

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Andrew Scott's Hamlet is in the press but not in the way Cumberham was during previews

Hamlet_1470x690_version_3This article by the Telegraph about Andrew Scott's Hamlet at the Almeida is interesting for two reasons. Firstly because it picks up on some of the issues of long running times and secondly because it both quotes and links to reviews by bloggers who've seen previews.

My regular readers will know that long running times are a personal bug bear - this production of Hamlet rocks in at 4 hours, or it did the night I saw it. It is not very practical for those who don't live locally and have regular jobs to get up for. I luckily don't have too far to get home but it was still 11.45pm before I walked through the door and my usual alarm is 6.30am. Go at the weekend? It's not always possible, beside when you book way in advance as I do there is no way of knowing just how long the running time is.

I remember going to see Michael Sheen's Hamlet at the Young Vic with a friend who lived in Shoreham and he had to leave at the interval because he was worried about missing the last train home. It doesn't make for a relaxing evening if you are constantly worried about when its going to finish.

Now while I think Robert Icke's production and Andrew Scott's performance are both excellent (full thoughts coming soon) I'm sure there is stuff that could be trimmed, indeed the expectation is it will lose around 15 minutes before press night.  And as the run is pretty much sold out the running time doesn't seem to be putting off sufficient numbers to worry box office revenue but it will be publicity I'm sure the Almeida would rather not have.

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Ben Whishaw is back on stage at the Almeida #almeidatheatre

So I wake up to this news in the Guardian:

August will also see the debut of Pulitzer-nominated playwright Christopher Shinn’s new work, Against. Ben Whishaw will play Luke, a tech millionaire convinced he is the next messiah, whose calling is to confront violence in America.

Which is exciting not only because Ben Whishaw is back on stage (obviously) and at the Almeida rather than in the West End but also because it's a contemporary play and it feels like a while (The Pride - half contemporary - so perhaps Cock in 2009?).

James Graham will also debut a new play about newspapers in the 1960s. Given the brilliance of This House (currently enjoying a revival in the West End) this should be cracking.


Review: Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams take turns in Mary Stuart, Almeida Theatre

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Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams, Mary Stuart Almeida Theatre. Photo Miles Aldridge

Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams walk on stage both wearing the same blue velvet trouser suit and a white shirt. Lia calls heads, a coin is spun, it lands and the courtiers bow to Juliet and Lia is stripped of her jacket and shoes and led away. This is the way it will play this time and I am pleased; in my head when I thought of the two actresses I saw Juliet as Queen Elizabeth and Lia as her prisoner Mary, Queen of Scots.

And so the stage is set for Robert Icke's adaptation of Schiller's play of politics, power, religion and family. Elizabeth has kept Mary, her first cousin once removed, imprisoned for many years and is under pressure from her council to do something about her. Mary, through her lineage, has a claim to the English throne, is Catholic seen as a threat to the Protestant Queen Elizabeth.

Mary has been tried in a kangaroo court and found guilty of plotting against Elizabeth but the Queen is reluctant to sign the death warrant. She's also under pressure to marry, itself a political hot potato as without an heir a huge question mark hangs over the succession. Mary, realising she is in grave danger plans, with some trusted sympathisers, to make one final appeal to the Queen.

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