59 posts categorized "Ben Whishaw" Feed

Curtain call antics and emotions

Curtain call, the moment when actors float somewhere between their character and themselves; the moment of relief, jubilation, pride and perhaps regret. It is at this brief juncture between performance and dressing room that a myriad of emotions can erupt into something amusing or quite telling.

I love the curtain call moment for the unexpected, the awkwardness (how much should you look at any one actor?) and its simple joy. For those reasons it's become a category in my StOlivier awards in previous years - 2014's are currently being deliberated - but there was such a good measure of memorable moments, I thought they should get their very own blog post.

First up there are the last night antics. When else but on the last night of the RSC's Richard II could the King (David Tennant) and his deposer Bolingbroke (Nigel Lindsay) have a final tussle for the crown. It was 2-0 to Bolingbroke in the end, David Tennant's curtain call lunge to take the golden circlet from Nigel Lindsay was not quite  fast enough.

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Ben Whishaw on being in love and Hamlet


It's the Australia and New Zealand festival of literature and arts here in London and Ben was on a panel this morning discussing art and spirituality among other things. It was led by Australian artist and writer Juliet Darling whose partner, art curator Nick Waterlow, was murdered along with his daughter by his mentally ill son.

Julia is a friend of film director Jane Campion and wrote a book, A Double Spring, about losing Nick.

Nick Waterlow believed you had to be an 'empty vessel' to fully appreciate art which Ben said he found a helpful ideology:

"It was helpful to me not just as a human being but in how you form relationships with others. You have to have an empty space and allow other people to come in and fill it."

Which led him on to talking about love:

"Falling in love is a similar sensation, being in a state of openness and a feeling that you are helpless to resist. It changes the course of your life and you are powerless to resist."

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What's the collective noun for a group of actors who've played Hamlet?

Sam Mendes, in a DVD commentary referred to a scene in the Bond movie Skyfall as the 'Hamlet scene' because it involved three actors who'd all played Shakespeare's Dane: Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear and Ben Whishaw.

I was reminded of this when listening to James McAvoy being interviewed on Radio 4's Front Row about the new X-Men film recently. McAvoy gets screen time with Patrick Stewart and the presenter John Wilson asked if they discussed playing Macbeth to which McAvoy said they did. He then went on to point out that they weren't the only two actors in the film to have played the Scottish King on stage as Ian McKellen has also taken on the part and Michael Fassbender is just about to in a film version.

It is further significant because McAvoy and Stewart plays the younger and older version of the same character in the film as do Fassbender and McKellen.

Now I'd love to know if Fassbender asked for advice and what McAvoy and Stewart discussed. I'd also be curious to know if anyone can beat four actors appearing in a film who've all played the same Shakespeare character?

As to the collective noun I reckon you'd have a worry of Hamlets and an ambition of Macbeths but I'm sure there are far, far better words.


First, much better, suggestion via Kathryn on Twitter is a dither of Hamlets

It's a list with a stage actor/music video/Ben Whishaw theme. OK.

I've been collating this list in my head for a while but struggling to give it some sort of cohesive title. It started out as stage actors (and some film actors but I might come onto that) who are also musicians. But in compiling two subsequent themes floated to the surface: music videos and Ben Whishaw.

So in the end its a sort of themed brain-dump of a list which one or two of you might appreciate. I certainly enjoyed compiling it, mainly because it's a good excuse to listen to some music and watch some music videos.

It all started with Johnny Flynn whom I first saw on stage in The Heretic in which he played and sang. This led to some googling and the discovery of his band Johnny Flynn and The Sussex Wit whose albums I now own and love.

I've seen him in lots of plays since and he is due to play Roger Taylor in the Freddie Mercury biopic opposite Ben Whishaw as Freddie. The prospect of him acting and singing in a film alongside Mr W brings me untold joy.


Next on my list is Olly Alexander whom I first saw on stage in Mercury Fur (he'd already been on the big screen with Mr W in Bright Star. I've subsequently seen them together in Peter & Alice but prior to that I discovered that he had a band called Years and Years. And lo and behold who should pop up in the bands latest video...

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Emotional last night performances: David Tennant in Richard II and the cast of Mojo

Mojo production photo by Alastair Muir

It's rare for me to see a play more than once and even rarer to see the last performance, I'm normally in during preview and then that's it. So it is extremely unusual to have seen not one but two last nights in the space of a fortnight.

If money would allow I'd do it more often because there is always something rather special about the last show. Emotions run high (for cast and audience), tolerance to mishaps is reduced and there is a little less care towards props and sets, all of which was brilliantly demonstrated in the very last performances of the RSC's Richard II and Mojo.

For Richard II it was David Tennant's extra emotional delivery of the "Let us sit upon the ground" speech that sticks firmly in my mind. You could tell that he was really enjoying it in a "this is the last chance I've got to say this" kind of way. His queen played by Emma Hamilton was also more teary than usual when she had to say goodbye to her king.

But it was the cast of Mojo who really made for an eventful last night - the tone and nature of the play does make it somewhat easier than a Shakespeare history.

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Who do you want to see play...Iago

IagoIt's a topic that comes up frequently among us theatre nerds, who we'd like to see play certain characters, so thought I would start an occasional series. Inspired by a report that Nigel Lindsay has said Iago is the next character he'd like to play (he'd be brilliant btw) I thought the Othello villain would be a good place to start.

So this is my list, who is on yours?

Ben Whishaw is my first choice, obviously. Have written before about how I'd love to see him play a real out and out baddie and we've got closer with Baby in Mojo but Iago is still on the to do list I've written for him. I think he could do a wonderful job at Iago's duplicitous persona caring and concerned friend of the butter wouldn't melt sort while gripping the bread knife firmly behind his back.

Someone else I think would be very good is Kyle Soller and probably influenced by his performance in Edward II I could see him being quite an excitable, kinetic and slightly nervous Iago.

I also fancy a charming blond bombshell Iago, someone who is beautiful on the outside but cut through with blackness on the inside in an almost surprising way. And again, because I've just seen him on stage in Ghosts, I think Jack Lowden would be interesting at this.

A curve ball and because I think gender swapping shouldn't just be the preserve of men playing women (so looking forward to Maxine Peake playing Hamlet later this year) I'd like to see Andrea Riseborough as Iago. She doesn't do enough stage work in my book and I think she could play a beautifully bitchy Iago opposite Cush Jumbo as Othello.

My longer list would include: Harry Melling, Sam Troughton, Jamie Parker, Daniel Mays, Mark Gatiss...I could go on but it has to stop somewhere




The highs and lows of 2013 in theatreland, it's the StOlivier awards

It's that time of year to recognise, reward or even just acknowledge those special moments from the last 12 months of theatre. First of all some goodbyes. The Old Vic Tunnels closed its doors and the Southwark Playhouse moved from under the arches at London Bridge to temporary space at Elephant Castle, which has a rather fine cafe bar area as it happens.

We also said goodbye, sort of, to Nicholas Hytner who is passing the keys of the National Theatre onto Rufus Norris in 2015 and Kevin Spacey also announced he will be leaving the Old Vic  in 2015. The later has promised to source funding for the renovation and expansion of the theatre including sorting out the ladies loos before he leaves. Dominic Cook also handed over the Royal Court to Vicky Featherstone who has had a mixed season thus far.

Several themes for this year, because all theatre people collude.  Firstly egg smashing  - Amen Corner, Cripple of Inishmaan and Children of the Sun. As fellow theatre blogger Nick says, all very wasteful in these days of food banks. And then there was the dangling actors by their ankles, not wasteful but there are only so many red-faces you can watch before the novelty wears off (Titus Andronicus, Let The Right One In, Mojo and Coriolanus).

And finally 'boy kissing', which has been a particular favourite Poly's. I've seen more man on man puckering up this year than the last three combined as the Best Kiss StOlivier will testify. And talking of which lets gets onto the awards which, you will soon notice I make up as I go along throughout the year:

The 'what on earth do they use for that?' award*

During The Low Road at the Royal Court, Johnny Flynn spits out the 'climax' of a blow job he'd just performed. Nice.

Best kiss

David Tennant puckers up with both Nigel Lyndsey and Oliver Rix in Richard II but his kisses are just runners up to Harry Haden-Paton and Al Weaver's with tongues snog in The Pride and John Heffernan and Kyle Soller's long, lingering lip-lock in Edward II.

Best waterworks

Sam Troughton for convincingly blubbing in just about every play he did during the Royal Court's weekly rep. He should give a masterclass.

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My ten favourite plays of 2013

This has been tough, really tough, it's been a really great year for theatre and not just because Mr Whishaw has graced us with his presence in not one but two plays, although you might be surprised by one of the omissions...

These aren't in a particular order:

  1. Mojo, Harold Pinter Theatre - Jez Butterworth + Stan fav's Ben Whishaw and Colin Morgan with a sprinkling of curiosity about Rupert Grint how could it fail? A refreshing change from the bulk of the safe West End offer. I've seen it five times, so far, just in case anyone was wondering.
  2. The Weir, Donmar Warehouse - beautiful, simple and atmospheric storytelling. The bijou Donmar was perfect for this.
  3. Orpheus, Battersea Arts Centre - a delightful and surprising evening of imaginative story-telling and entertainment. Probably the closest I'll get to a musical. Its back next year and so will I be.
  4. As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Theatre - The chemistry between the leads and the fun and frolicks made this feel like you were at a party. Oh and the wrestling scene was a feast for the eyes too. Ahem.
  5. Cripple of Inishmaan, Noel Coward Theatre - This was a heady mix of deliciously dark humour and heartfelt emotion. Laughing one minute and crying the next.
  6. Sea Wall, The Shed - Andrew Scott had me hanging on every word and in just 30 minutes reduced me to bits. Probably one of the most affecting pieces of theatre I've seen and you can see it online if you don't believe me (link at bottom of review).
  7. Edward II, Olivier Theatre - It wasn't for everyone but it was for me. This high energy, bold and contemporary production blew me away.
  8. Richard II, Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Barbican Theatre - David Tennant and a fantastic supporting cast have done it again. Loved the interpretation of Richard in this the genius being to turn sympathy from firmly with Bolingbroke to Richard by the end. An unlikeable Richard I very much liked.
  9. Let The Right One In, Royal Court - A fantastically atmospheric and inventive piece of theatre that did justice to a much loved film.
  10. Coriolanus, Donmar Warehouse - Third Shakespeare in my top 10 and another high energy and inventive production that brings a very political play to life. The shower scene also gets extra marks *grins*.

I'd have loved to have squeezed Peter and Alice in there and also Sweet Bird of Youth, Jeeves and Wooster and Fortune's Fool but unfortunately there could only be 10. The bar has been set high for 2014.

Related posts:

My top five fringe plays of the year

My top five Shakespeare plays and top five off-West End


What the critics thought of Rupert Grint, Colin Morgan and Ben Whishaw

Photo by Alastair Muir

You can read the What's On Stage review round up of Mojo here - most critics have given four or five stars - but what did the critics say our leading boys? It is Rupert and Ben that seem to garner the most comments:

Rupert Grint

"Daniel Mays and Rupert Grint are the jumpy, insecure sidekicks in the club, the first a non-stop jittery bugger with a hilarious line in feeble self-assertion, the other – in a more than competent stage debut – a moon-faced, slow-thinking foil who finds himself retching without any sick." What's on Stage

"Rupert Grint makes an assured stage debut as Sweets, a pill-popping, pill-dealing kid with a hollow confidence. His opening dialogue with Daniel Mays’s garrulous, sweaty Potts is played out at a beguilingly brisk comic pitch.." The Times

"Distancing himself from his alter-ego, Ron Weasley, the Harry Potter actor has chosen to make his stage debut, and a new start, with an edgy role.

It’s a formula tried and tested by his co-star Daniel Radcliffe, who went from heroic Harry to nude heart-throb when he starred in Equus in 2007.

Still, it’s a shock to see the loveable Ron as Sweets, a pill-popping member of London’s 50s underworld.

Almost as surprising is just how natural and convincing he is, showing great comic timing and delivery throughout." The Mirror

"Grint also shows his growing maturity as a performer as his much dimmer, but no less frightened, pal..." The Stage

Colin Morgan

"Colin Morgan is both wonderfully funny and desperately poignant as the club’s dim-witted cloakroom attendant." The Telegraph

"Morgan (spoiler alert) does one of the best death scenes I’ve ever seen." Daily Express

"Colin Morgan’s Skinny is a tragic, bullied study in human weakness, his final demise played with skill, precision and pathos." The Stage

Ben Whishaw

"...there is a superb performance from Whishaw, who brings a drop-dead arrogance and a chilling touch of the psycho to the late club-owner’s abused son, Baby." The Telegraph

"Ben Whishaw as Baby radiates a toxic stillness, yet never lets you forget that the character is a victim of paternal abuse." The Guardian

"Whishaw is brilliant at creepy, capricious menace..." Daily Express

"Baby, played with dangerous psychotic charge by an utterly mesmerising Ben Whishaw." What's on Stage

"Oh yes. And Ben Whishaw (Q from Skyfall) as Ezra’s son, Baby, is the heart of it. He is sinewy, unnervingly still, angry, unpredictable. Cool to the point of crazy. He reacts to his father’s death with nagging chat about how Colin Morgan’s cadaverous Skinny has nicked his fashion sense. You dread what is really inside him.

Whishaw handles Baby’s dry wit — “There’s nothing like someone cutting your dad in two to clear your mind” — without resorting to off-the-peg psycho glibness. By the end, he is crying one second, bursting into song the next. It’s a performance far outside of his usual range, one that reminds us just how versatile an actor he is." The Times

"Ben Whishaw (once a pretty formidable Dane) offers up a Hamletesque portrait of Baby, savvy enough to play his new situation with an antic disposition but allowing the deep pain and fear to emerge subtly and incrementally. His father, we soon learn, sexually abused him, but this is a world that cannot afford any pity (his “type think the world owes them a trip to the zoo” as Potts puts it). Appropriately enough, Whishaw’s performance hovers perfectly between wounded vulnerability and a frankly disturbed menace that feels like his only recourse." The Stage

Review: Matthew Macfadyen and Stephen Mangan are Jeeves and Wooster


Every now and again comes along a comedy that is perfect silliness and Jeeves and Wooster: Perfect Nonsense at the Duke of York's is one.

The humour is farce gleaned from two narrative threads. Wooster - PG Wodehouse's hapless toff - has just got into a bit of a scrape involving a silver cow-creamer, miss-directed affections and an extremely tall German gentleman. One of his club drinking pals, in hearing of the tale, suggests it is the stuff of a stage play and so Wooster decides to give it a go.

Assisted by his capable butler Jeeves (Matthew Macfadyen) and his Aunt's butler Seppings (Mark Hadfield), who between them play all the other male and female characters, you are set upon a journey where the finer plot details - there is a lot of blackmail - is of lesser importance than the fun and japes.

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