44 posts categorized "Almeida" Feed

Review: Ralph Fiennes is Richard III, Almeida Theatre

RIII_IMAGE_1470x690_72As soon as I stepped into the Almeida auditorium and saw the stage I got the reference. There was a grave-sized earthy hole around which there were spotlights and actors dressed in white, forensic-style jump-suits who were excavating bones. The last to be lifted is a twisted spine which is a macabre sight and sets the tone.

The grave excavation is a nice merging of history and fiction and is used to book end Rupert Goold's production. It was also a promising start to what is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays.

When Ralph Fiennes' Duke of Gloucester appears for the 'winter of discontent' speech it is a slow, deliberate delivery. He makes sure he has everyone's attention, holding people's gaze. (I've embedded a video of another speech at the bottom of the post to give you a taste.)

His Richard is a snake, slithering slowly, fixing you in his eyes so that you daren't look away but a snake which has a sudden deadly bite. I've seen productions where he's played as a loveable villain - dangerous but charming. There is no such charm here. He is pure evil, prone to occasional violent outbursts, particularly towards women when his violence turns sexual. He is a coward in that respect. He's not a hands-on murderer as he is sometimes portrayed, he leaves that to others, instead he picks his fights with those he can easily overpower.

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Review: When the staging is bigger than the play - Boy, Almeida

Landscape_1470x690_WebThere is a lot going on in the Almeida auditorium and Leo Butler's Boy hasn't even started. The performance space is in the middle and is a travellator that weaves in a wiggly loop through the audience. Actors sit at various points of the slowly moving track coming to within inches of those sat closest.

I say 'sit' because they don't have chairs or any outward sign of support. It is something that immediately fascinates and continues to do so after the play starts when the get up, walk around and then 'sit' on invisible chairs again.

Immediately opposite our seats is the production photographer. Whenever actors glide in front of us he seems to snap away - something that continues throughout. Once the play starts pieces of set are fixed onto the travellator and removed from two points one right next to use. That becomes fascinating to watch too.

And here is the problem. There is so much going on that isn't performance that the plays gets a little bit lost in it all. It doesn't help that the travellator is quite noisy and despite the actors having mics it is sometimes difficult to hear what is being said despite sitting so close.

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That was my year of theatre-going 2015: The StOlivier awards

89050759_9b7a9cb884_mThere are awards and then there are the StOliviers...

I'm only human award: This goes to Ben Whishaw who, during the Iliad live reading, mispronounced a name did a delightful giggle at his mistake before slipping straight back into character and carrying on. You can see the reading here (roughly 26 mins in for the giggle).

Best food fight: Cast of Rules for Living, National Theatre, who not only managed to mess up the stage but trod and smeared mashed potato into the carpet and on the drapes at all the exits from the Dorfman stage.

Scariest prop: For Carman Disruption at the Almeida I was sat on the front row not far from the life-sized, prone but visibly breathing bull. It was so realistic it freaked me a little bit. If it had moved its head or a leg you wouldn't have have seen me for dust.

Most accident prone production: Ah Wilderness! Young Vic. Props went flying and actors fell over, I wrote a post about it.

I didn't know you had that in you surprise performance award: Lots of surprises this year Tom Sturridge in American Buffalo, David Dawson in The Dazzled but the award goes Johnny Flynn in Hangmen for a performance that meant the first two words I said to Poly after the curtain call were 'Johnny Flynn' to which she replied 'I know'.

The bloody play of the year: The single stream of blood slowly rolling down the stage towards the audience at the end of  Macbeth, Young Vic, was great but the bloody highlight goes to the Almeida's Oresteia. Agamemnon is murdered and his spilled blood slowly seeps out in a growing pool from beneath his corpse.

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

Little_Eyolf_Final_1470x690
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

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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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