20 posts categorized "Classics" Feed

All My Sons, Apollo Theatre

All-my-sons-006 Arthur Miller is the master of presenting the happy family then slowly stripping away the veneer to reveal something far less than perfect.

In All My Sons that happy family is the Kellers: Kate (Zoe Wanamaker) factory owning husband Joe (David Suchet) and working-for-Dad son Chris (Stephen Campbell Moore) whom all live in their nice house with porch and garden and neighbours that pop by. But this is Miller.

The play starts with a storm in which a tree - a memorial to second son Larry who is missing, presumed dead, in the war - is blown down and the calm that follows the next day is inevitably temporary. Chris has invited Ann (Jemima Rooper), Larry's former girlfriend to stay as he intends to propose but is worried what his mother will think. Kate clings on to the hope that Larry is still alive.

But Ann brings with her more than a stirring of the memories of Larry as old wounds of a conflict between the two families are opened. Ann's father was in business with Joe but is in prison for selling defective airplane parts to the air force during the war which resulted in 21 pilots dying.

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Going out on a high: After the Dance

Atdhero-The-London-Magazine-After-The-Dance-at-the-National-Theatre-15b3a514-6493-4397-9e40-90d8ac46a3b6 It's been a marathon theatre week - four plays is maybe a little too many in six days - but it finished in style on Saturday with After the Dance at the National's Lyttelton Theatre.

I'm a bit of sucker for watching posh people of yesteryear behaving 'pratishly' as @sjc_home4tea so accurately described them. But Terence Rattigan's 'forgotten' play doesn't just play for laughs it also has emotional depth.

Set between the wars, David Scott-Fowler (Benedict Cumberbatch) is of the class that can afford not to work and spends his days drinking and entertaining. He and his group of shallow and superficial 'friends' seem to live for a hedonistic party about which they can gossip endlessly.

David is half-heartedly writing a book assisted by his cousin Peter (John Heffernan). Peter's girlfriend Helen (Faye Castelow) however, has fallen in love with David, and he with her, and she is determined to 'save' him from the life he living, fearing that he may already have cirrhosis of the liver.

"Why do you all talk of nothing but the old days and the old parties and the things you all used to do and say?"

Rattigan's play is an amusing and moving delight in the hands of director Thea Sharrock and her extremely able cast. Notable nods go to the brilliantly funny Adrian Scarborough as eternal house guest and sponger John Reid and Nancy Carroll as jilted wife Joan Scott-Fowler who, in one scene, gave one of the snottiest, most heart-wrenching performances I've seen since Juliet Stevenson in the film Truly Madly Deeply.

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Coming soon... but what should I see?

It's one of those crunch times in the theatre calendar when new seasons are announced and those of us who like to be close enough to see the sweat on the actors' brow have to break out the diaries and credit card.

But there is sooo much choice. So much choice, it's making my brain spin just thinking about it. Here's what I'm considering - any recommendations greatly received:

National Theatre

Hamlet with Rory Kinnear in the lead directed by Nicholas Hytner. It's my favourite play and the play I've seen the most. Always curious about interpretations, delivery and staging. Pretty much a given this one.

Men Should Weep by Ena Lamont Stewart is, according to the synopsis, about a large, poor family living in a tenement and their trials and tribulations. Sounds really interesting but down side is it on at the Lyttleton which I don't really like as theatre.

Prince of Denmark a new play by Michael Lesslie about Hamlet, Laertes and Ophelia 10 years before the events of Shakespeare's play. I'm currently reading John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, what can I say, I'm fascinated by anything Hamlet related.

Hampstead Theatre

Tiger Country by Nina Raine who is described by the Guardian as "one of theatre's brightest talents". Play is set in the high pressured, sexually charged hospital environment.

Ecstasy by Mike Leigh and as a fan of his films this one screams out at me to watch it. Have never seen one of his plays before either.

Young Vic

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams has got to be high up on my list. Studied Streetcar at unit and saw The Rose Tattoo at the National Theatre a year or two ago. Really want to see more of his work.

Vernon God Little is one of my favourite books and I enjoyed the play when I saw it first time around. Colin Morgan made his professional debut and was pretty impressive. He's gone on to do quite a bit of telly including Stan favourite Merlin.

I am the Wind by Jon Fosse about two life long travelling companions looks really interesting.

And that's as far as I've got so far. Any other recommendations?


Rupert Goold's Romeo & Juliet, Courtyard Theatre, Stratford

Sam-Troughton-and-Mariah--001Romeo and Juliet, on the surface, is a very silly story for any sensible thinking person. Two young teens meet and fall in love at first sight (Romeo after only moments before being infatuated with another), agree to marry the next day then end up killing themselves.

Teen love, angst and rebellion is of course a timeless theme but it is the 'gang culture' of Verona which resonates the strongest with modern times - perhaps why Goold eschewed guns for the more traditional blades as weapons of choice?

His approach is to give the play the energy of a teen on Red Bull, keeping the first half sexually charged and full of teasing, fun and humour. There is some brilliant skitting (and scene stealing) by Mercutio, the marvellous bleach-haired Jonjo O'Neill, who plays on the sexual double-entendres to the maximum.

Romeo, played by Sam Troughton (BBC's Robin Hood) is at times excitable and cocky while at others  awkward and withdrawn. However, he could learn something about clarity of delivery from Jude Law as he did have a tendency to garble his lines in the passion of the performance. 

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Elektra at the Young Vic (and it was free!)

Elektra-new_6_wide Greek Gods were my favourite bit of RE at school - they were far more interesting to me as 12/13 year old than the bible which is the only other thing we studied. The Gods were far more colourful and seemed more human to me somehow with their jealousy, anger, hatred, passion and love.

Greek tragedies have a similar appeal but now with the added realisation that they have subsequently influenced so many writers and are still being interpreted today. And Elektra is just one example, this time being retold through the eyes of poet and professor of classics Anne Carson.

Elektra is one of three surviving children of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra (glad we didn't learn about them in school - can you imagine the spelling challenge?). Elektra is kept at home with her sister Chrysothemis by her mother and her mother's lover Aegisthus who both murdered Agamemnon. Her brother Orestes escaped to safety.

While Chrysothemis has accepted the situation the best she can, Elektra is grief stricken and broods on revenge (traces of Hamlet?). Her only hope is that Orestes will return and do the deed thus releasing her.

*Plot spoilers* Luckily for Elektra but unknown to her, Orestes is planning to do just that. He sends a messenger ahead supposedly heralding his death in a chariot-racing accident (cue mother quite relieved the potentially vengeful son is out the way) and he will then follow on, unrecognised by years away, gaining access to the palace by being the bearer of evidence of his own death in the form of a casket of ashes.

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Some interesting casting news: Ben Barnes and Gemma Arterton

Barness News emerged this week that Ben Barnes - he of Chronicles of Narnia film fame - has been cast in the Trevor Nunn-directed, stage adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' novel Birdsong.

I've not read the book but have heard very good things about it. I have seen Ben Barnes on the big screen  but he hasn't done anything that makes me go 'wow'. So I'm curious*. It's not his first time on stage but I imagine it is his biggest role to date.

Adaptations of much loved novels are a risk in themselves and to play the lead? Trevor Nunn at the helm can only be a plus though. Might have to get myself a ticket.

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Michael Sheen to join the list of famous Hamlets

Michael_sheen I've been catching up with theatre news over at WhatsOnStage.com and came across this story which I'm surprised I missed. It seems Michael Sheen is to take on the Bard's most famous role at the Young Vic.

Now I am a bit of a Hamlet fan and never tire of seeing it performed, having been captivated by the play as a student watching it performed at the Theatre Clwyd in Mold. My favourite performance of recent years has to be David Tennant followed by a surprisingly good Jude Law.

I also have high hopes for Ben Whishaw's interpretation when I see it at the V&A archives on Friday.

Coming up I'm hoping to see John Simm at The Crucible. I've seen Simm on stage a couple of times, first showing off his comic acting skills in the superb Elling and then in the drama Speaking in Tongues, so I know he's good on stage and am really quite excited about what he'll do with the Dane. I predict a quietly angry and brooding Hamlet.

And then I'm sure I'll not be able to resist Rory Kinnear at the National Theatre in the Autumn. I've seen him in a couple of things at the National and he's always been good but the jury is still out on whether he'll pull off Hamlet.

So what about Michael Sheen? First of all I must say I'm excited about it being at the Young Vic and not one of the big old West End theatres. Every time I go to the Young Vic they seem to have the stage in a completely different place which makes for a fresh experience every visit. And it is a small theatre so you can usually see the sweat on the actors' brow wherever you are sitting.

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Something old: Women Beware Women

Women-Beware-Women_1627394c Promised I'd write about this in a bit more detail earlier in the week, so here goes....

It's great to see a piece of classic drama such as Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women played out on the grand Olivier stage at the National with all the stagey whizz-bangery and live music and singing they do so well.

If you want a plot summary - it's complex tangle of plotting and trickery as you'd imagine from a Jacobean drama - probably best to go to the official website but boiled down its about greed and satisfying carnal desires.

In classic Jacobean style there is a good serving lust and envy with most of the characters displaying little in the way scruples over how they get what they want and as this is Middleton it naturally includes everything from lying and bribery to rape and murder.

As with The Revenger's Tragedy which the National put on two years ago the whole play is essentially a set up for a delicious revenge-fuelled killing-fest in the second half.

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Dramatic weather prediction

Just booked to see Arthur Miller's The Crucible at the Regent's Park Open Air theatre next week.

I've never seen The Crucible before, neither have I been to the Open Air theatre as he sun is shining and there is a hot weekend in prospect it seemed like a good idea. 

I can confidently predict a change in weather to something a bit more cool and damp around mid-week.

Still I have my thermals I bought for February in New York I can dig out. Play looks really good though, it's got Oliver Ford Davies in it, who was superb as Polonius in the RSC's Hamlet a couple of years ago, for a start:


Move over Harry Potter, Dudley Dursley is taking the stage

151644-1249176915 While Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe has been proving his acting mettle and shocking grannies and mum's by smoking on stage and stripping off in Equus here in London and on Broadway, his cousin Dudley in the film series played, by Harry Melling, has been quietly hitting the stage himself.

I first saw Melling last year in Mother Courage and all her Children at the National Theatre. He played Swiss Cheese, a character that is the son of Mother Courage played by Fiona Shaw who, coincidentally, plays his mother in the Harry Potter films*. It wasn't a major role  but he'd certainly shed the bumbling Dudley character and size and I remember him from the play.

28_women-beware-243 And so when I saw him listed among the cast for Women Beware Women, also at the National, I was eager to see whether the performance of Mother Courage was a one off. But it certainly wasn't. While his character in WBW - The Ward - is again a small part he made his mark quickly in the first half and I was actually looking forward to more of his character in the second half.

He raised the biggest laugh of the night and got a spontaneous applause. He left me wanting more of the character and looking out for him climatic final scene. If WBW is a taste of what he can do I look forward to his next project. 

There will be more Rev Stan thoughts on WBW coming soon.

* For those unfamiliar with the Potter films the stage-screen connection goes further, Radcliffe's Equus co-star Richard Griffith's plays Potter's Uncle and Dudley's dad in the film - incestuous, the theatre?

Melling is pictured above right as Dudley in Warner Bros Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with Richard Griffith's and Fiona Shaw and above left in Women Beware Women at the National Theatre