4 posts categorized "Menier Chocolate Factory" Feed

Tom Stoppard's Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory - great acting, not sure about the play

TravestiesREVIEW Tom Hollander's Henry Carr has just shuffled onto the stage. 'Oh it's him!' says the old lady sat behind me loudly, so loudly he could probably hear her from the other side of the stage. I stifle a laugh.

This is a play of Henry Carr's reminiscences from his stint at the British consular in Zurich during the first world war. Zurich has become a magnet for artists and political exiles and his acquaintances include James Joyce (Peter McDonald), Tristan Tzara (Freddie Fox) - one of the founders of Dadaism - and Lenin (Forbes Mason) but, as his forgetfulness suggests, his recollections may not be accurate. While Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia explores maths and science, here he explores art, war and revolution.

There is a farcical love story of sorts. Tzara fancies Henry's sister Gwendolene (Amy Morgan) but she doesn't like his radical, anarchic art movement so he's pretending to be Jack, a less radical fictional brother of Tzara's. Meanwhile, Henry fancies Cecily (Clare Foster) a librarian who is helping Lenin with research for a book. All the while James Joyce admires Lenin from afar and is trying to manage a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in which Henry will take a leading role.

Travesties is performed with such energy and verve, the delivery gunfire quick and clipped it is a skill in its own right. The performances I enjoyed very much, particularly Freddie Fox who was on fine form but I have a problem with the play. It's not the first time I've had this problem with a Tom Stoppard play in fact I'm starting to think Stoppard and me just don't get on.

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Terrific Torch Song Trilogy

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The Menier Chocolate Factory's Torch Song Trilogy is one of those plays you see in preview that despite odd moments of visible nerves and a dialogue stumble you know it is just going to fly given a few more performances to bed in.

In cutting the original trilogy of plays down to one of around 2 and a half hours (that's a guesstimate as I didn't check the time when it finished) you lose some of the detail and the middle play, I don't think, quite establishes the depth of protagonist Arnold's relationship with Alan. 

But I jump slightly ahead, the three plays have been edited to three neat acts each following drag queen Arnold (David Bedella) through the trials and tribulations of his search for true love.

At the start of the first act he is disillusioned with love having had a string of unrequited love affairs. He meets confused bisexual Ed  (Joe McFadden) in a bar and things all seem to be going well for once when Ed dumps him for Laurel (Laura Pyper). 

Over the course of the next act Ed flits in and out of Arnold's life as does Laurel culminating in a visit to the couple's holiday home with his new beau Alan (Tom Rhys Harries) when all get to say what's on their mind.

The final part sees Arnold adopting gay teen David (Perry Millward), resisting the advances of Ed who is confused, again, and dealing with a visit from his un-approving and overbearing mother (Sara Kestelman).

Arnold, when he first bounded onto the stage back in the late 70s and early 80s, would have no doubt surprised audiences, challenging gay stereotypes, with his desire to find a meaningful relationship and have a family. Today with civil partnerships common place and celeb gay couples such as Elton John adopting it doesn't really raise an eyebrow.

However, his mother's reaction to his homosexuality and the adoption together with the fate of Alan is something that, I'm sure, still resonates 30 years on far more than it should and as a result Torch Song doesn't feel particularly dated.  

It is good story told with wit, humour and poignancy and a Stan-friendly number of songs. In chopping the three stories into one, what you lack in depth is certainly made up for in pace with never a slack moment.

The staging mixes between conventional and the less so with a rather imaginative use of an over-sized double bed in the weekend away scene.

There are strong performances throughout particularly from Bedella and I just loved Perry Millward's precocious and cheeky David so much I want to take him home in my pocket and feed him cake.

Must also mention Tom Rhys Harries who graduates from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama this Summer, definitely someone to keep an eye on.

I'm going to give Torch Song a strong 4 stars, so strong it's on the cusp of five, but not quite. I'm sure if I saw it again, later in the run, it would get five.

The Torch Song Trilogy runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until August 12. Get tickets as I think it's going to be popular.

* And just a tip on seating, the Menier is a small theatre so you are never going to get a rubbish view but if you are sat in the front two/three rows at either end, the set juts out close to the front row and very occassionally the action takes place at these points. As a result you have to painfully crick your neck to see what is going on if it is at the opposite side of the stage. You can't not see anything, it's just not the best angle to watch from so if you can get more central seats, then all the better. 

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I'm really pleased with this one because I don't think I've got to use the film Perfume: Story of a Murderer much before. But little Perry Millward was in it, as was the wonderful Mr W who, of course, played the lead Grenouille.


And now for something completely different: Accomplice London

Accomplice_CF_220x300_1a Accomplice London  is a bit like Ghost Stories in that you don't want to reveal much so as not to spoil the experience for others. But that is as far as you can go with a comparison - on any level.

Probably the best way to describe Accomplice, without giving anything away, is a theatrical, interactive treasure hunt.

The drama starts the day before you've booked with a phone call detailing the rendezvous point, which is somewhere on the South Bank. Once there the journey proper begins. There is no announcement about mobile phones, no buying a programme or settling into your seat with a glass of wine instead you are not so much lead but pointed in the direction of a trail along which there are clues to solve and encounters to experience.

You and your fellow 'audience' members - there is a maximum of 10 per group for every performance - are part of the story. A big part of the story in fact. But who else is in on it? You certainly start to look at people differently as you wander around the South Bank.

If you want to see something different, something that involves a bit of walking and exploring the less well known parts of the South Bank and don't mind interacting with real live actors or people you've never met before then you will have a hoot.

Don't book if you are expecting something deep and meaningful or prefer to sit in the dark in front of a stage and not talk to anyone.

As it is so different from almost all other theatre you will see in London at the moment it's a bit difficult to compare it, ratings-wise, to others but I'm going to give it five stars for being fun quirky and clever.

Accomplice London is part of the Menier Chocolate Factory's repertoire, has performances starting at regular intervals and is booking until Oct.

No RS/BW 6DS this time because of the absence of a cast list.

 

 


A Number, Menier Chocolate Factory

Images-2 First trip to the Menier and what a fabulous little theatre it is. It feels like the Royal Court's more down to earth, less pretentious cousin with its cosy cafe bar, friendly staff and a strangely comforting saw-dusty smell.

There was one blot on its copy book though and I'll come to that in a moment but first, as some playwright once wrote, 'the plays the thing'. And what a punchy little play A Number is. I don't mean real fisty-cuffs like Sucker Punch over at big cuz's but boy it gives you a lot to think about during its 50 minutes performance time.

OK so playwright Caryl Churchill was on to a bit of a winner with me as I've had a fascination with cloning ever since reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World as a teen. What she does is focus on the human response to cloning and raises questions about attitude towards life.

The story unfolds through separate encounters between a father and three of his cloned sons played by Timothy and Samuel West. Incidentally I can't imagine ever finding a production as satisfying without an actual father and son playing those parts.

It's opening encounter sees son Bernard, confronting the father who raised him about his discovery of a cloned brother and the possibility that he is just one of 'a number'. 

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