44 posts categorized "Hampstead Theatre" Feed

That was August in London Theatre-land (with a late addition)

9383745446_a248156e8f_zAugust always used to be a quiet month for theatre; it was as if everyone decamped to Edinburgh for the fringe. But even though the Royal Court still shuts up shop, elsewhere it just seems to get busier and busier. There is more fringe - and not just pre-Edinburgh shows - and more productions opening at the bigger theatres. As a result I ended up seeing 12 plays and yes I know there are people that see more than that each month but it's above my average.

* The 'hold the front page' story for the month (and possibly the year) was the announcement of funds to be made available to theatres to improve the ladies toilets. There is general under provision in the older theatres which means long queues and they are often so cramped and badly designed you have to be child-sized to get in and out the cubicles.

* The month was also notable for having only one steamy theatre watching experience and by that I mean the 'joy' of sitting in a non-air conditioned theatre on a hot summer evening with sweat trickling down your back while feeling sorry for the actors because at least you can wear shorts and T-Shirt. Yep thanks to Found III for that one.

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Review: Mike Bartlett's Wild, Hampstead Theatre

Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey (5)
Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey

Andrew (Jack Farthing) is alone in a nondescript hotel room. He's done something big, something which takes him from sitting in KFC with his girlfriend one week to hiding out in a hotel in Moscow the next. Sound familiar? It should, Mike Bartlett's new play at Hampstead Theatre was inspired by Edward Snowden, whistle blower and revealer of secrets that the powers that be never wanted revealed.

A woman arrives (Caoilfhionn Dunne) who may or may not be there to help him. Her identity and purpose is an enigma. There are hints that she is from a Wiki-type company - there are references to 'him' which imply Julian Assange - she is also calculated and manipulative. One moment she is his friend, one moment not. She teases, jokes, is personal, aloof and she claims to know more about Andrew than he knows about himself. There is something about her that is disquieting.

After she has left a man (John Mackay) turns up and from what he say, Andrew thinks he's also from Wiki but he claims not to know who the woman is. He is also difficult to make out giving chocolate with one hand while blackmailing with the other - never has someone opening a bag been quite so tense.

Bartlett's play is unnerving. It puts you in the shoes of Andrew, has you groping around for the truth of the situation, questioning who and what information you can trust. In a recent interview on Radio 4's Front Row he drew parallels with the recent EU referendum - how could people make an informed choice when they didn't know who or what to believe, when you can't put your trust in the people in power who can you trust?

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Production photos: Mike Bartlett's new play Wild, Hampstead Theatre

Very excited about seeing this one next week. Have always had a preference for Mike Bartlett's 'smaller' plays such as Cock, An Intervention and Bull rather than big production numbers like Earthquakes in London - although King Charles III is an exception to that. Wild has a cast of three and from these pictures looks like a fairly straightforward setting so it's already ticking a lot of boxes. It runs at the Hampstead Theatre until July 16.

Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey (4)
Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey
Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey (1)
Caoilfhionn Dunne (Woman) and Jack Farthing (Andrew) in Wild at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Stephen Cummiskey

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Review: Tom Burke in Reasons To Be Happy, Hampstead Theatre

Tom Burke (Greg) in Reasons to be Happy at Hampstead Theatre. Photos by Manuel Harlan.
Tom Burke (Greg) in Reasons to be Happy at Hampstead Theatre. Photo by Manuel Harlan

There is a shipping container centre stage and in front of it a couple are arguing. The man is Tom Burke. I'm thinking: This is all weirdly familiar, have I seen this before? Turns out I have and I haven't.

It's not unusual for me to sit down in a theatre knowing little about what I'm about to see and Reasons To Be Happy was a case in point. It turns out (Poly filled me in at the interval) that Reasons To Be Happy is the sequel to Reasons To Be Pretty which I saw at the Almeida five years ago starring Tom Burke (and a pregnant Billie Piper).

The story of the intertwined love affairs between four friends - Greg (Tom Burke), Kent (Warren Brown), Steph (Lauren O'Neill) and Carly (Robyn Addison) - has moved on three years. Steph and Greg - the couple arguing at the start - are beginning to wonder if they can rekindle their relationship despite the fact that Steph is married and Greg has started a relationship with Carly.  Carly is a single mum having separated from Kent after he had an affair. It is a play about relationships and doing what makes you happy and it makes a love triangle seem simplistic.

Michael Attenborough, directed Reasons To Be Pretty and also directs this bringing with him the shipping container which opens to reveal different sets  - hence why I had a feeling of deja vu.

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Review: Double dealing spies in Hapgood, Hampstead Theatre

Lisa Dillon (Hapgood) in Hapgood at Hampstead Theatre. Photos by Alastair Muir.
Lisa Dillon (Hapgood) in Hapgood at Hampstead Theatre. Photos by Alastair Muir

Tom Stoppard likes his science. It's probably why the only play of his I've seen that I've really liked is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (see link below). I don't have anything against science it's just the way he uses it in his plays, I feel it often gets in the way, slows things down. Poly disagrees with me.

In Hapgood, Stoppard's 1980's set spy drama, the science is quantum physics. Russian physicist Kerner (Alec Newman) has been turned double agent by MI6 boss Hapgood (Lisa Dillon). When  his information drop to the Russian's at a swimming pool doesn't go according to plan there is suspicion that either Kerner's loyalty has reversed to his home nation or there is a double agent in the home team.

Kerner likes to explain how he sees things using quantum physics. His explanations are quite lengthy and often complex. This being a spy drama where everyone has poker faces and is under suspicion these, fortunately infrequent, interludes just halt the tension rather than add to it. There is less science in Hapgood than there is in Arcadia and that is a bonus here because, putting the science to one side, as a spy thriller it works well.

The opening scene  is a little disorientating - perhaps deliberately so. Set at the swimming pool a line of changing cubicles is used to pass briefcases between agents with towels being draped on the back of the door as a series of secret signs. Once Hapgood and her team start assessing 'the drop' and what went wrong it isn't immediately obviously what has taken place and who had responsibility for what. Those first impressions of each agent are frequently challenged as Stoppard arouses your suspicion about them all including Hapgood.

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Review: Wigs, frocks and expletives, it's Simon Russell Beale in Mr Foote's Other Leg

3513-1Gone are the dog collar and respectful black and in are bouffant wigs and dresses with faux buxom bosoms. Simon Russell Beale follows up his subtle and serious turn in Temple with a raucous comedy Mr Footes Other Leg at Hampstead Theatre.

Written by Ian Kelly (who also plays Prince George) the story is based on real life Samuel Foote (Simon Russell Beale) a lawyer turned actor and satirical comedian who ended up running the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 18th century, securing its royal warrant along the way. After a bet goes wrong Foote loses his leg which he turns to his advantage.

Set primarily back stage in Footes' dressing room, he enjoys fame and notoriety and his life is populated with colourful characters. Among them are his friend and rival David Garrick (Joseph Millson) the Brummie obsessed with Shakespeare; Peg Woffington (Dirvla Kirwan) actress and mistress to the rich who's not afraid of a bit of titillation to bring the punters in; Mrs Garner (Jenny Galloway) the no nonsense, loyal and occasionally mischievous stage manager; and Frank Barbour (Micah Balfour) the freed slave from Jamaica who does all the odd jobs and is therefore indispensable.

We follow his battle with the censors, the squabbles back stage, desperate tactics to make money and rivalry with other theatres. Intertwined are scenes with Foote's friend, failed actor John Hunter (Forbes Masson), who together with Benjamin Franklin (John Stinton) has an interest in the science of the brain and questions whether fame makes you mad.

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Review: Zoe Wanamaker is Stevie at Hampstead Theatre

Stevie_3233851bAll I know of Stevie Smith is her poem Not Waving But Drowning and I decided to keep it that way ahead of seeing Hugh Whitemore's play at Hampstead (Poly didn't even know she was a poet and I'd like to have seen the play through her eyes).

Not Waving makes an appearance, as do several of her other poems as we visit Stevie (Zoe Wanamaker) living with her 'lion aunt' (Lynda Baron) in suburban North London, working by day as a secretary in Piccadilly and writing by night.

Chris Larkin acts a sort of narrator and stands in for various boyfriends and acquaintances of Stevie's. Through the three characters we learn of Stevie's childhood, teenage years and how she thinks of the world.

It is a warm, tender and amusing portrayal from Wanamaker in what is a warm and gentle play. Stevie was an independent and extremely intelligent woman and probably viewed as an eccentric at the time. She wasn't really interested in men and was obsessed with death in that it was a subject and state that fascinated her, something that was reflected in her poems. She sought out other writers and became a bit of a celebrity, broadcasting on the BBC.

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Review: The ins and outs of love - Hello/Goodbye, Hampstead Theatre

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Miranda Raison and Shaun Evans in Hello/Goodbye, Hampstead Theatre

Juliet (Miranda Raison) is moving into her new flat only to discover there's been a bit of a mix up and a man, Alex (Shaun Evans), is already there, unpacking his own belongings. This is the set up of Peter Souter's relationship 'dramedy' which has graduated from the Hampstead's studio space into the main theatre.

For Juliet the flat is supposed to be a fresh start after a disastrous (in more ways than one) relationship. She's ambitious, a little bit narcissistic, a little bit rude and a little bit self-centred in fact to start with she comes across as a bit of a bitch.

Alex on the other hand is presented as intelligent and witty but with a nerdy obsession with collecting things - McDonald's Happy Meal toys, coke bottle lids etc. A verbal sparring becomes something more. Juliet starts to flirt and Alex resists which makes her flirt all the more until the inevitable happens.

The second half fast forwards 10 years to see what happened to the two of them.

As relationship dramas go, its refreshing to see something contemporary and well written and it is well performed. Shaun Evans' Alex is one of those characters that oozes charm without even realising while Miranda Raison's Juliet is all front to hide insecurities.

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Review: Was Stan Raving about Simon Paisley Day's new comedy?

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Film critic Mark Kermode has a five laugh rule for comedies. If he doesn't laugh five times at a film comedy it isn't funny.

It's an interesting rule because on the one hand I think I laughed five times at Simon Paisley Day's new comedy at the Hampstead Theatre but on the other I found there was much wanting.

Three couples have left their kids being cared for at home while they have a much needed weekend away in rural Wales. As soon as you know it is Wales you know there are going to be one or more of the following plot contrivances: a) no phone signal, b) a power cut and c) a scary or unwelcoming farmer or local. You can tick off two out of those three so in that respect it didn't disappoint.

The problem is that aside from the occasional funny line (and this is a two hour play plus interval)  Raving is predictable and full of cliches and stereotypes.

Take the couples. Briony (Tamsin Outhwaithe) and Keith (Barnaby Kay) are 'lefty' teachers and politically correct parents. Serena (Issy Van Randwyck) and Charles (Nicholas Rowe) are upper-middle class, boorish, hunting types who don't believe in setting boundaries for their kids. And Rosy (Sarah Hadland) and Ross (Robert Webb) are middle class professionals who are successful at everything they do.

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Review: Antony Sher in the odd and awkward Hysteria at the Hampstead theatre

 

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Antony Sher as Professor Sigmund Freud in Hysteria. Photo by Tristram Kenton
Hysteria has a lot of potential on paper: Two big, very different and interesting personalities from history meet. On one side you have penis-envy psychologist Sigmund Freud (Antony Sher) and on the other avant garde, surrealist painter Salvadore Dali (Adrian Schiller).

 

The two did meet in London during the Second World War having fled conflict in their respective homelands - Austria and Spain - and if the play focused entirely on their meeting and the clash of personality then it might work. Equally if the play focused entirely on the second plot line - the unexpected arrival of a young woman who is obsessed with a past case of Freud's - then it might work but the two combined just sit really awkwardly.

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