68 posts categorized "Donmar Warehouse" Feed

Review: The Lady From The Sea, Donmar Warehouse or what I remember

ImageSaw this back in October and normally I write up my thoughts within a few days, while everything is still fresh but work, then a holiday got in the way.  However, it is actually proving an interesting exercise, reflecting after nearly a month, on what has stayed with me - and some stuff has, which is a good sign at least, we've all seen those easily forgettable plays.

Ibsen's Norway mountains setting has been swapped for the Caribbean which works well in the main - references to the end of the summer and coming of colder weather did jar a little. Ellida (Nikki Amuka-Bird) is the new wife of widower Dr Wangel (Finbar Linch) who has two teenage daughters Hilde (Ellie Bamber) and Bolette (Helena Wilson) from his first marriage.

She grew up by the sea and swims everyday with a dedication and a fervour that hints of emotional disquiet. Two things haunt her: A former romance with a sailor and a recent tragedy. Worried, Wangel invites his Bolette's former tutor Arnholm (Tom McKay) to visit in the hope it will distract her but her sailor also makes an appearance.

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Review: The earthy Knives In Hens, Donmar Warehouse

Cw-17962Christian Cooke's buttocks are exposed as he rolls around on a muddy stage with Judith Roddy in an act of love making that is almost primal and animalistic. The audience has barely settled into the opening moments of Knives in Hens and already director Yael Farber has set out her stall for what type of production this is going to be: earthy.

David Harrower's play about ploughman William (Cooke), his wife (Roddy) and their relationship with the local miller (Matt Ryan) isn't a romping yarn of rural life and relationships this is a poetic and gritty exploration of self-awakening and discovery.

When William describes his wife as 'like a field' it has a seismic influence on their relationship. At first the statement jars, she has no place for the figurative but her curiosity and consciousness is pricked, the notion that 'it is what it is', is no longer satisfying. When Miller, a demon figure in the eyes of the community, puts a pen in her hand it seals the fate of all three.

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Rehearsal photos: Christian Cooke and the cast of Knives in Hens, Donmar Warehouse

Coming up in August at the Donmar Warehouse is the intriguingly titled Knives In Hens by David Harrower starring Christian Cooke, Judith Roddy and Matt Ryan. Yael Farber directs. Previews start on August 17 and then it runs until 7 October and to whet your appetite here are some rehearsal photos.

 


That was May in London theatre-land - casting, transfers, an anniversary and another bumper crop of thesp spots

600Gloria_FINAL_landscapeSmall* Stan fav Colin Morgan has been cast with Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick in Gloria at Hampstead Theatre which just happens to be my newest favourite playwright. So lots of excitement for that. Gloria will also be a 10 year theatre anniversary for me and Colin. I first saw him (and mentally tipped him as one to watch) when he played the lead in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic in 2007.

* Keeping up the Game of Thrones thesp count in London’s theatre land is Natalie Dormer who’s been cast with David Oakes in Venus in Furs at Theatre Royal Haymarket from October.

* Colm Meaney joins Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre which opens in July.

* Arthur Darvill of Broadchurch fame has been cast in Hir at Bush Theatre which opens on June 15.

* James Graham (This House) has a new political comedy, Labour of Love, coming to the Noel Coward Theatre in September starring Martin Freeman and Sarah Lancashire.

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Review: Lenny Henry in the irresistible Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Donmar Warehouse

Lennyhenryw500h500Before I had even taken my seat at the Donmar, I'd spoken to two actors and shaken Lenny Henry's hand. It's all part of the Donmar's transformation for the Bruce Norris adaptation of Brecht's play - The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. The stalls - stage and seating - have been removed and replaced to create a space decked out as a late night jazz cafe complete with wooden tables and chairs to fit the new setting of prohibition era Chicago.

The cast mingle with the audience as they arrive in the building and then in the theatre chatting as if you are cafe customers. The reason behind some of the conversations only becomes apparent as the play properly starts - PolyG and I were asked by Lenny Henry's Arturo Ui if we'd stand up when he requested during the play, naturally we agreed. If you are sat at the front - even in the circle - you may be roped in.

In Norris' adaptation our Brechtian villain is a gangster who wants respect as well as power and will be as ruthless as he needs to be to get there. However this is a far less intimidating Arturo than I have seen in other adaptations. The fact that his protection racket targets grocers and in particular the cauliflower importers and sellers gives you a taste of the tone.

It is an Arturo Ui which is frothy and fun, with unsubtle references to Donald Trump and blatant parallels with the likes of Richard III - Norris also manages to weave in excerpts from several other Shakespeare plays including 'To be or not to be'. There are also tantalising snatches of popular songs sung live in a lounge jazz style, it becomes a game of name that tune - try and guess the song from a verse or two of familiar lyrics sung in an unfamiliar way. Nat King Cole's Nature Boy gets its second stage outing in as many years too (it was the song playing at the start of Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet).

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Rehearsal photos and irresistible prospect of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui with Lenny Henry, Donmar Warehouse

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui is the play in the Donmar's current season I'm most excited to see. Why? Well, Lenny Henry was one of the iconic TV stars of my childhood. I grew up with Tiswas (which my mum hated us watching), Three of a Kind, the Comic Strip and the Lenny Henry Show and it's been six years since I last saw him on stage in A Comedy of Errors at the National.

So there is that. But it's also the play. It's a brutal satire which I've seen given such a wide variety of treatments including a version with puppets by Marmite director Katie Mitchell at Hampstead Theatre and Cheek By Jowl's bonkers French dinner party at the Barbican. What will the Donmar do? I suspect it won't be quite as radical as those two productions but nonetheless?

At the very least it feels like a wholly appropriate time to have a production of this play about the abuse of power.  It's a new translation by Bruce Norris - the king of uncomfortable laughs with plays such as Clybourne Park - and set in prohibition era Chicago. I'm expecting something powerful, that doesn't hold it's punches and I feel like I need to see some theatre like that.  So fingers crossed for when I get to see it later this month.

 

 


REVIEW: Cooking up behind the scenes politics in Limehouse, Donmar Warehouse

Cw-13821-mediumSteve Water's last play at the Donmar Warehouse, Temple, about the anti-capitalist protests outside St Paul's Cathedral, didn't particularly set my world on fire. It was one of those plays that while well done, it wasn't fantastic but neither was is bad. At the time I said I probably wouldn't remember it and that's how I remember it, ironically, for not being memorable.

His new play goes behind the scenes at a meeting of the so called 'Gang of Four' labour politicians who, in 1981, frustrated with the direction of the labour party broke away and set up the Social Democratic Party. It is a fictionalised account of what was discussed by the four - David Owen (Tom Goodman-Hill), Shirley Williams (Debra Gillett), Bill Rodgers (Paul Chahidi) and Roy Jenkins (Roger Allam) in the hours leading up to their break from Labour. David Owen's literary agent wife Debbie (Nathalie Armin) suggests he invites his three like-minded colleagues over for an informal brunch in order to persuade them into joining him in breaking away and over an hour and 40 minutes we track their discussions, debate and dilemma.

Given the rift in the current Labour Party, its an obvious piece of history to draw parallels with. However, the play feels structured to give each character their moment of impassioned oratory and once you realise that you are waiting for the next big speech. The rest of the play starts to feel cooked up to contrived to create drama - perhaps knowing how things ultimately end up doesn't help.

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Review + Production photos: Verbal punch up in One Night In Miami, Donmar Warehouse

 

 

Four men in a room: Cassius Clay (Sope Dirisu) on the cusp of becoming Mohammad Ali, singer Sam Cooke (Arinzé Kene), football player Jim Brown (David Ajala) and activist Malcolm X (Francois Battiste). They have gathered to celebrate Clay becoming heavyweight champion of the world. Each is successful and well known - iconic - in their own right but this is on the eve of the civil rights movement and they know the limitations of their fame.

Kemp Powers' punchy play sees a party mood turn into a heated debate about black power, integration and the responsibilities of fame.

Clay is on the one hand supremely confident and yet has gentler, innocent side that is incongruous with his boxing prowess. Brown is pragmatic about milking his fame to get a career in the movies as his football playing days come to an end. He is also acutely aware of how far society will allow him to integrate, telling of his hero's return to his home town only to realise that a white man won't entertain him inside his house.

Cooke has an independent record label where he can promote black artists but also believes in integration. He tells of his determination to find the key to entertaining the white audience and, in one of the highlights of the play, demonstrates his technique leaping off stage to sing directly to people on the front row (yes I was one of them and as Libby Purves gave Arinzé Kene his own star in her rating I'm guessing she was too).

It is Malcolm that is the real challenger of the group and he particularly guns for Cooke whom he thinks should be using his music to spread important messages. He teases him comparing his love songs to Bob Dylan's campaign songs and accusing him of selling out. But Cooke wrong foots him in what is the main bout of the play.

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Review: The Donmar's all female The Tempest, King's Cross

TEMPEST_1263x505If you saw the Phyllida Lloyd-directed all female Henry IV or Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden you'll have an idea of the tone and style of The Tempest which completes a trilogy of plays for the company. If you didn't see them then then the first thing to know is they were powerful pieces with a modern grit and contemporary edge.

The biggest difference between the first two plays and The Tempest is the venue. The Tempest opens at a temporary space outside King's Cross station which is bigger and more spacious (more loos) and has the stage surrounded on four sides by the audience. Julius Caesar and Henry IV are being revived as part of the run at King's Cross.

Each of plays is set in a woman's prison*, a device that is used fully throughout rather than being a flimsy artistic contrivance. In fact it works particularly well with The Tempest; Harriet Walter plays a prisoner serving a long sentence who is playing Prospero. As she recites Prospero's explanation of how he ended up on the island it is difficult not to see it as a sort of incarceration. The setting also highlights other imprisonments - Ariel's by Sycorax, Caliban by Prospero (for the crime of trying to harm his daughter Miranda) and then the magical imprisonment of the nobles shipwrecked on the isle at Propero's command. At the end there is liberty for most but perhaps not not all.

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