41 posts categorized "Almeida" Feed

Review: Richard Eyre's emotionally powerful Little Eyolf, Almeida Theatre

Little Eyolf opens with two women excited about the return of Alfred (Jolyon Coy). Rita (Lydia Leonard) is Alfred's husband and Asta (Eve Ponsonby) is, well, at first that it isn't clear what her relationship is and that is part of the genius of Richard Eyre's production. Her body language suggests more than familiar love, is she a sister in law with secret desires?

Once their relationship is revealed there remains a residual feeling of ambiguity about her feelings for Alfred that permeates all their encounters. Alfred for his part is a bit of a block. He's been away hiking in the mountains in order to kick start his writing again but in the nature of his return neither Rita or Asta will be at peace.  While he was away he had an epiphany about his life, decided to give up writing and instead devote his time and attention to his son Eyolf having previously neglected him.

This isn't music to Rita's ears who feels her husband is slipping away from her, transferring his affection onto their son. She is desperate to rekindle the passion they had when they were first married, to the point where she strips off in order to provoke her husband. Lydia Leonard's Rita is a complex mix of suppressed sexuality, jealousy, loneliness and desperation. She is like a mother lion defending her cub in whatever way she can except she is defending a relationship that is slipping from her grasp.

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Bakkhai Q&A with Bertie Carvel, Ben Whishaw, Almeida Theatre

There was a Q&A after last Tuesday's performance of Bakkhai at the Almeida, freshly showered after their characters rather grubby ending in the play Bertie Carvel and Ben Whishaw were joined by three of the chorus - Elinor Lawless, Aruhan Galieva, Kaisa Hammarlund - and the session was chaired by assistant director Jessica Edwards. And these are some of the highlights (not quite verbatim, my note taking isn't that fast and some of the questions I couldn't hear as there were no mic's so have guessed from the answers):

Q What was it like performing a play that is 2,500 years old?

BC - It's not really that different from performing a new play...except that you have to trust that it has some kind of integrity. The tricky thing is not to not mess with it but to mess with it in the right way. With an ancient play there is a danger of being bullied into thinking that it's lasted 2,500 years because its somehow perfect and that the mysteries it has are because you aren't clever enough to understand them. But it is like a modern play in that respect, you have to trust that it is like archaeology, peel it back layer by layer and it gives up its mysteries and you might discover something no one has discovered before.

Q. How was the chorus devised?

Described as a difficult and complicated process. Director James McDonald had pebbles with their initials on and assigned them lines. They would then record their spoken lines and then the rest of the chorus would have to learn it verbatim so that each line had ownership. The myriad of accents and style, it was hoped, would make it sound more interesting less "monotonous and boring". The timing came with experience and gelling as a group, they just got to know each others styles and characteristics but it took a long time.

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My 10 favourite things about the #Iliadlive reading at the British Museum and Almeida

Iliad cast & creative
Iliad cast & creative - click for bigger image

On Friday #IliadLive was trending on Twitter, a remarkable feat considering it was essentially a 16-hour live reading of an Ancient Greek epic poem - not the sort of thing you normally expect social media to get excited about. Even more remarkable that among the cast of more than 60, while sparkling with theatre stars - the sort of actors that get us theatre nerds very excited - only a handful have the broader TV screen fame of the sort that usually gets Twitter excited.

The readathon started at 9am at the British Museum and was live streamed for those that couldn't make it. Benches had been set up on a first come, first served basis and were full most of the time. There were people sat on the floor nearby, some had come prepared with picnics and always a throng of people at the back - some bemused foreign tourists.

As the museum was closing those among the audience lucky enough to snap up tickets for the remainder of the story at the Almeida were ushered onto a Routemaster bus or into cycle rickshaws where the reading continued during the journey.

I reckon I caught eight or nine hours, a combination of live streaming and watching it live at the British Museum and at the Almeida. Some far sturdier than me did the whole thing braving night buses to get home after the final lines were read, shortly before 1am. (I salute you @RhianBWatts).

Anyway here are 10 of my favourite things from Iliad Live, what are yours?

1. Simon Russell Beale set the bar high with the very first reading cementing why he is a national treasure when it comes to live performance (and possibly the only stage actor who'd get up to perform at 9am).

2. At the British Museum, there was no waiting in the privacy of the wings to come on, the actors are stood to one side script in hand for all to see and study which is fairly unusual. Sometimes you could see the nerves in their body language. John Simm borrowed a pen from an AD to make last minute notes on his script and Oliver Chris just leaned casually chatting and smiling like it was a walk in the park.

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Theatre hottie of the month: July edition (with bonus hot moment)

Thought Bertie Carvel in Bakkhai at the Almeida might steal this, even at the beginning of the month before I'd seen it. He has a look in his eye you see. There is a Greek word for it, that Poly told me about, that doesn't have an English equivalent but it sort of means a combination of sexy and fun.

Now he's quite stern to start with but Ben Whishaw's Dionysos starts to work his seduction, loosens him up. And then later he wears a dress and there is a scene where Dionysos, who is also wearing a dress, tucks a lose strand of hair back for him and it is just so sexy. Trust me.

And if all that wasn't enough to send you running for a cold shower he wears this outfit at the press night party and completely rocks it.

So my theatre hottie for July is very definitely Bertie Carvel.

Bertie Carvel in Bakkhai. Almeida Theatre. Credit Marc Brenner_2.jpg
Bertie Carvel in Bakkhai, Almeida Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner


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Review: Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel in Bakkhai, Almeida Theatre


Picture the scene: A man in a cream dress. Think Dervish - fitted through his slim body with flowing skirt in layers to the ground. He walks gracefully down a mound at the back of the stage and stops in the middle. Pauses. Clicks his finger in the direction of the ceiling and he is illuminated.

"Long hair, bedroom eyes, cheeks like wine" is how Anne Carson has Pentheus describe him in this, her adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy.

He speaks. Tells us the story of his birth. Those eyes. A cheeky half smile. A blink-and-you-miss-it quiver of an almost pout. The quiver of an almost pout. You are seduced. This is Dionysos. This is Ben Whishaw god-like.

Had there been a hill to run to for drinking and carousing as the women of Thebes do to worship him, I would have, and I doubt I would be the only one.

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Rehearsal photos: Ben Whishaw, Bertie Carvel and the cast of #Bakkhai, Almeida Theatre

The Bakkhai rehearsal pictures have arrived. I see walking sticks are a theme...

Bakkhai Rehearsals Kevin Harvey, Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel by Marc Brenner
Bakkhai Rehearsals Kevin Harvey, Ben Whishaw and Bertie Carvel by Marc Brenner
Bakkhai Rehearsals Ben Whishaw by Marc Brenner
Bakkhai Rehearsals Ben Whishaw by Marc Brenner

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Exciting casting news: Bertie Carvel to play Yank in Old Vic The Hairy Ape

Bit of a recent convert to the church of Bertie Carvel. PolyG has long sung his praises but he hasn't really been on my radar. I thought Bakkhai opposite my fav Ben Whishaw would be my first proper chance to see him in action but the TV adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came along and suddenly my excitement levels about Bakkhai got ramped up (if that was possible).

Then yesterday I got the press release announcing he's playing Yank in the Old Vic production of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. It's a play that was already on my radar without any cast having seen a superb production at the Southwark Playhouse three years ago.

Now Bertie has been cast it suddenly gets really interesting. Yank is very much a manly man, reminds me a little of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire. He's all muscle and testosterone but it is just a few words that knock him to the ground and challenge him in a way that he never predicted.

From the seating plan on the Old Vic website it looks like they are keeping the round stage format (hurray) which should work really well in making the audience feel like they are in the dark, hot, cramped ship engine room where Yank works.

Excited? Moi?

The Hairy Ape is on from Oct 17 until November 21 and is booking now. Five weeks before the start of the run £10 preview seats will be released for half the auditorium.


Review: #AlmeidaGreeks season kicks off with the emotionally charged Oresteia

Oresteia-at-the-almeida-theatre_lia-williams-in-oresteia-photo-david-stuart_302924c4cf9ef727a6c02e6ec1ef47e1Each of the intervals during the three hours, forty minutes running time of the Almeida Theatre's Oresteia is announced as a break by the Chorus (Rudi Dharmalingam). We are instructed to return within the designated time or be refused admittance, and there are clocks counting down the minutes and seconds just to make sure you know.

It isn't as much of a gimmick as it first appears but part of a theatrical device that only becomes clear as the play progresses although it works brilliantly at getting everyone back in their seats for a prompt start.

The clocks are not the only way that director Robert Icke plays with time during this powerful production and neither is it the first time he plays with the audience.

Oresteia, the first in the Almeida's Greeks season, was originally three plays telling the story of Orestes (Luke Thompson) the son of Klytemnestra (Lia Williams) and Agamemnon (Angus Wright). In this adaptation by Icke he melts the three into one story but introduces elements that are usually told in other Greek tragedies. For example, rather than starting the play at the return of Agamemnon from the Trojan war he begins with the events leading up to his departure it helps put Klytemnestra and Orestes' behaviour into context.

In Icke's Oresteia what you get is the story of a family torn apart by faith and tragedy which raises questions about justice and revenge. Agamemnon's lands are threatened by war and he puts his faith in the Gods whom he believes have sent him a sign: He must kill his youngest daughter to ensure victory. It is an act he naturally agonises over: is the death of his treasured daughter worth it to save many other lives? It makes for a powerful, emotionally charged and disturbing first act and includes ones of the most distressing scenes I've watched in the theatre.

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Review: Simon Stephen's poetic, passionate yet imperfect Carmen Disruption, Almeida Theatre

Image by NB Studio

The Almeida's performance space has once again undergone a transformation this time to host Simon Stephen's new play Carmen Disruption.

Stalls ticket holders enter via the back of the stage, crossing a performance space strewn with rubble, a faded, red-velvet theatre seat and a bull which lies prone but breathing*. Two musicians play. The circle balconies take on the appearance of a faded, grand old theatre all reds and gold and on the brick wall at the back of the stage there is subtitle screen.

The names of characters from Bizet's famous opera are borrowed for four of the characters and together with 'The Singer' are connected only by geography, they all happen to be in the square in front of the opera house in Seville at the same time. Other links with the opera are thematic and musical rather than narrative or at least it appeared to me with my basic knowledge of the story.

There are two Carmens; one for appearances in the form of Victoria Vizin, who with the two musicians, acts as chorus and another who is a rent boy played by Jack Farthing.

Each of the characters tells snatches of their story. Carmen, for example, describes getting ready and going out on a 'date' which doesn't end well. Micaela (Katie West) has to dash across town to deliver an essay and recounts the sorry tale of a failed love affair. Don Jose (Noma Dumezweni) is a taxi driver with tough connections and a grim job to do and Escamillio (John Light) is a global trader pulling off a huge deal. The Singer (Sharon Small) is losing all sense of her self and seeks connection in the streets.

It is a play of atmosphere and impressions rather than simply plot. Where it succeeds is in being deeply sensual, passionate, brooding, rich and dark. The writing is at times poetic and its content grim as if Stephen's has lifted a stone and let selfishness, narcissism, neediness, lust and greed crawl out. And yet it is done with a dark beauty and with occasional wit and humour.

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