68 posts categorized "Ben Whishaw" Feed

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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First thoughts on Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, Barbican Theatre

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First visit to see Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet this week and these are very much first thoughts on a big production that will no doubt evolve and gel over the coming weeks.

It is certainly a memorable production in many ways but I do have a few reservations. *spoilers follow*

Director Lyndsey Turner has done some interesting things with the text, moving some of the speeches and switching some of the dialogue. This is most notable in the opening scene. Normally you have the ghost appearing to the watch, instead we see Hamlet alone, listening to Nat King Cole on an old record player (great use of Nature Boy).

He's sorting through crates of belongings. There's an old toy boat and clothes. He takes a jacket and smells it in that way you do when you are nostalgically drinking in the memory sparked by an aroma. It reminds him of someone - his father presumably from the style of the jacket. And when he speaks it is 'To Be or Not To Be."

Now @polyg didn't like this, felt it took the speech out of context with no opportunity to warm up to it. I disagree. It was an impassioned, tear-filled eyes, rendering that set up Cumberbatch's Hamlet as very much the thinker, an over thinker, a melancholic who is lost in grief and isolation in his own home.

Nature Boy, the boat and later when he plays at toy soldiers in his 'antic disposition' all seem to suggest a yearning for his childhood, a time presumably when he was happy.

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Exciting Ben Whishaw theatre news

So while I was watching Benedict Cumberbatch play Hamlet last night there was a little theatre announcement concerning Ben Whishaw (thanks @andyT for alerting me).

Next year he's heading back to Broadway to play John Procter in The Crucible opposite Sophie Okonedo and Saoirse Ronan and Ciaran Hinds (who was on the stage with Mr Cumberbatch last night, playing his villainous uncle Claudius).

Obviously any Ben Whishaw casting announcement and in particular stage work is very exciting but this reaches new levels because it's to be directed by Ivo van Hove. He pretty much tops the list of my run-to directors at the moment after seeing the amazing A View From the Bridge last year and Antigone earlier this year. (@polyg and I are already booked into to see his Shakespeare history-play epic at the Barbican next year). I'd even go so far as saying he's the most exciting director around at the moment.

Then there is the play. It's Arthur Miller and it's a great play. John Procter is a meaty role. He is caught up in a witch hunt, the only voice of common sense among a sea of irrational hysteria and he pays for it dearly. Richard Armitage did a superb job in an Old Vic production last year.

I headed over to New York to see Mr W tread the boards last time he was on Broadway and I think it's pretty certain I'll be heading over the Atlantic again next Spring.

 


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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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.

 


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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