Rehearsal photos: Dominic West, Janet McTeer, Elaine Cassidy and company in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Donmar Warehouse
Is Les Liaisons Dangereuses going to be the highlight of the Donmar's most recent season? Not long to wait to find out.
Is Les Liaisons Dangereuses going to be the highlight of the Donmar's most recent season? Not long to wait to find out.
Gabe (Luke Newberry) is in his final year and is chair of the LGBT student group, his best friend Tim (Nathan Wiley) is straight but his new boyfriend Drew (Oliver Johnston) doesn't believe it. And then there is Teddy (Ryan McParland), the softly spoken, strange, loner who spends rather a lot of time in online gay chat rooms.
When rumours start circulating that a popular student who committed suicide was closet gay the President of the university (Matthew Marsh) is persuaded he should do something to address prejudice and homophobia on campus.
Weaving threads of the politics of LGBT issues with social and emotional issues there is a lot going on beneath the surface of this play.
The president is out of his comfort zone when forced to confront LGBT issues to protect the reputation of the university. He's looking for a simple, one-size-fits-all solution. Give him a spade and watch him dig himself into hole at a student-staff meeting, it is funny and cringe-worthy at the same time and a brilliant performance by Matthew Marsh.
Where the play gets really interesting is with the students. There are no simple, easy to understand characters here. Instead Shinn beautiful demonstrates the complexity of human relationships, the individuality, differences, the attitudes and needs.
The Donmar's stage has been transformed into an opulent sitting room complete with chandelier and grand windows looking out into the darkness - the no doubt equally opulent gardens beyond left to our imagination.
A circle of ornate flooring is fringed with broken glass and there is only one entrance and exit onto the stage. Splendour can be summarised right there: extravagance, privilege, claustrophobia, danger.
Sinead Cusack is Micheleine, the wife of a dictator in an unnamed country. Together with her best friend Genevieve (Michelle Fairley), a photo journalist Kathryn (Genevieve O'Reilly) and translator Gilma (Zawe Ashton) they are waiting for her husband to return, drinking chilli vodka and eating snacks to pass the time.
All is not well outside the room. Genevieve had to use the back road to get to the presidential palace because of unrest in the streets, the dictator can't be reached by phone and the maid has disappeared. But it is the women inside the room that the camera lense has firmly in its focus. Civil tensions are played out in the room. Gilda has tried to disguise her regional accent and is dating a soldier. Genevieve's artist husband drowned in a swimming pool in dubious circumstances and Micheleine is trying to maintain an air of composure, a sense of normality - is it denial in order to deal with her growing fear?
Most intrigued about the structure of Abi Morgan’s play Splendour. From reviews of previous productions, I get the distinct impression this isn’t a linear plot and I do like a play which messes about with time and character ciphers.
I think Christopher Shinn's Teddy Ferrara might be the pants play of this year and the boy kissing play of this year (yes I've been perusing photos of past productions) which makes it a fitting birthday evening entertainment for @PolyG. I’m expecting My Night With Reg but perhaps with fewer laughs.
Why have I never come across Christopher Shinn before? The more I read up on him and his work the more I want to see everything he’s written. (This is where TRP Watson comes in with a list of Shinn’s plays he’s seen and the amazing people that have been in them).
Les Liaisons Dangereuse is already my least favourite play to spell and it seems to be the most popular with Donmar Friends scheme members, if the number of seats left was anything to go by* - or maybe everyone else just booked that one first before Splendour and Teddy Ferrara.
If they opt for the full-on period costumes for Les Liaison Dangereuse (big, big dresses) how many of the female characters will they physically be able to get onto the Donmar’s bijou stage at the same time?
Booking is already open to Friends of the Donmar and public booking opens 16 June. Full season details are here.
* I was only looking at preview dates so there may well be plenty of seats left later in the run.
Simon Russell Beale is staring out a window. You can see St Paul's Cathedral looming large and hear the rhythmic beat of drums outside punctuated by the occasional roar of a crowd cheering and snatches of song.
It is Autumn 2011 and Occupy London, having been prevented from protesting outside the stock exchange have instead set up camp outside St Paul's. The cathedral has be closed because of protest and is losing thousands of pounds a day in essential tourist revenue.
In Steve Water's new play at the Donmar he takes a fictional look at what was going on behind the scenes at St Paul's at this unprecedented time in the Cathedral's history - its doors had been kept open during the Blitz, floods and terrorist threats.
SRB is the Dean of the Cathedral and faced with a difficult decision. He is under pressure from the City of London to co-operate with an injunction to get the protestors evicted. He is under pressure from within the chapter of the Cathedral some of whom question what the church's role should be in such situation's: a church of the high finance or a church of the common man. And he is under pressure from the Bishop of London to make the right decision and minimise the damage to the Cathedral and church's reputation.
When I saw the film version of Patrick Marber's love quadrangle play in 2004 I wasn't blown away. It struck me as story that might best be told on stage when the drama is presented close up and in a more concentrated form. And I was right, it is better as a play but I still have problems with it.
Its plot revolves around the love, lies and lust of four people. Dan (a nicely bearded Oliver Chris) is an obituary writer who falls for a stripper (Rachel Redford) but then meets divorcee Alice (Nancy Carroll), a photographer and falls in love with her. Meanwhile Dan inadvertently sets up Alice with Larry (Rufus Sewell), a dermatologist which a penchant for strip clubs and prostitutes. And so the merry-go-round of love, lust and relationships begins.
If you saw the all-female Julius Caesar at the Donmar two years ago, the setting of this abridged version of Henry IV parts 1 and 2 will be familiar to you: a women's prison. And I must confess I was a little bit disappointed when I heard it was to be the same device (why does the all female cast have to be explained?)
The plastic chairs, stark lighting and functional institution-style set and props are back. In order to make this a more immersive experience, the audience is asked to gather at a cocktail bar down the road before being directed to an unglamourous side entrance where staff dressed as prison guards direct you to your seats.
Brash and bold in style and tone - just like Julius Caesar - the genius of this particular production is in the use of popular songs and music and also in the cast. It feels a bit impolite to say but they look normal, like an everyday bunch of women who just happen to have taken a path down the wrong side of the law. The grey baggy track suits help, it is size, shape, haircuts and ethnicity that are the distinguishing features. The personalities and attitudes of the characters shine through released from the shackles of formal costume and 'courtly' behaviour.
Harriet Walters plays a no nonsense king, she reminded me a little of Marlon Brando in the Godfather with her slightly set jaw and low gravely tone.
Her son, Prince Hal (Claire Dunn), is Irish and the leader of the rebellion, the hot-headed Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy (Jade Anouka) is a small but tough and moves like she could take care of herself on a dark night in less salubrious London suburb.
There are Scottish, Yorkshire and Afro-Caribbean accents in the mix too giving Shakespeare’s words an earthiness. And it is delivered with a fresh clarity and comprehension – it is some of the best I’ve heard.
The two plays have been condensed down into a swift and pacey two hours straight through and not once did it feel like there were any great omissions, in fact there is one scene that could have been cut shorter without harm.
It's the 20th anniversary of Kevin Elyot's gay comedy My Night With Reg and while medical science has subsequently made huge leaps in the treatment of Aids this production hasn't lost any of its bittersweet edge.
Set in the flat of Guy (Jonathan Broadbent) the play follows the lives, loves and affairs of a group of gay friends over several years as they adjust to life and the spectre of Aids. The eponymous 'Reg' is like Godot in Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, never seen but pivotal to the plot.
Guy is the cuddly, affable one and the least successful in love mainly because he has held a torch for John (Julian Ovenden) since they were students. John oozes charm and charisma, is independently wealthy and unable to settle down, disappearing for months sometimes years on end until he falls for the wrong person.
Daniel (Geoffrey Streatfeild) and John were best friends at University, swapping lovers and easily falling back into old jokes and teasing when they meet up. Daniel has subsequently settled down with Reg. The group is completed with Eric (Lewis Reeves) a young Brummie barman at the local gay pub and Benny and Bernie (Matt Bardock and Richard Cant) a bickering couple for whom domestic bliss suits one more than the other.
Been keen to see Seth Numrich on stage again after watching him pucker up with (lucky) Kim Cattrall in Sweet Bird of Youth at the Old Vic last year and here he is obliging me at the Donmar.
The play is a Brian Friel adaptation of Ivan Turgenev's novel set in 19th century Russia that pits youthful idealism and coming of age against the traditions the older generation.
Numrich plays Bazarov a university friend of Arkady (Joshua James) whose nihilistic beliefs don't exactly go down well when the two visit Arkady's father's estate.
Arkady shares his friend's belief but not quite his conviction and when he falls in love with the sister of a rich young widow tensions mount. Bazarov doesn't believe in love but that a physical coupling is natural and ultimately more honest. But it is in this belief where his own convictions are tested. Bazarov may be an excellent scholar and expert orator but his emotions perplex and challenge him beyond what he can reason which makes him particularly antagonistic.
On Monday night the audience at the Donmar was asked to do something extraordinary - play with their mobiles. Now that isn't extraordinary for those with no manners who cannot switch off but for the vast majority who stow their phones safely away for the duration of a play it was a decidedly odd sensation.
Playwright James Graham has taken audience interaction to a new level with Privacy. His play The Man at the Finborough in 2010 required the audience to hand the solo actor receipts about which a story unfolded. In Privacy the audience is given exercises, for want of a better description, in which to demonstrate points of information the protagonist, a writer (Joshua Maguire), discovers and uses.
The play debates security and internet privacy and the morals and effectiveness of how personal information is used. The writer is working on a piece about Edward Snowden's expose of CIA surveillance tactics which, aside from putting him under potential scrutiny from the security services, also serves to demonstrate what and how information is gleaned.
On a more personal level the writer is a bit of an introvert, obsessed with his own privacy to the point where he eschews social media and finds it difficult to let people into his life.
The rest of the cast play a mixture of the writer's acquaintances, friends and depictions of real life people from his research.