200 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

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: An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre or this is why I go to the theatre

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other RichardThe first thing I have to say is 'thanks' to @mildlybitter. I'd not heard of An Octoroon or Branden Jacob-Jenkins but she recommended his play which is having its European premiere at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I'm so glad she did.

Jacob-Jenkins has taken Dion Boucicault's 1850s play but made it a play within a play by putting both himself, played by Ken Nwosu, and Boucicault (Kevin Trainor) into the story. But more than that. They talk directly to the audience, argue with each other and also play several of the characters in the original play. It's brilliantly Brechtian, meta and, with a Bre'r-rabbit running around, surreal but I'll come on to all that.

In Boucicault's The Octoroon George (Nwosu) returns home to Louisiana from Paris to find Terrabonne, the plantation he has inherited, is about to be repossessed. Local heiress Dora (Celeste Dodwell) fancies him and a marriage to her could secure the plantation - and the slaves it keeps. But George has fallen for Zoe (Lola Evans) the illegitimate daughter of his uncle from his relationship with a slave who has been brought up as part of the family.

The villain of the piece is wealthy Jacob M'Closky (also played by Nwosu) who wants Zoe for himself despite her having spurned his advances. M'Closky intercepts a cheque which could save Terrabonne and also discovers something about Zoe's legal status which he decides to use to his advantage.

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Review: Chummy, White Bear Theatre - the thriller that doesn't quite thrill.

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Chummy, White Bear. Photo: Headshot Toby

A man in black jeans, black scarf and black hood stalks the darker edges and corners of the stage with just the briefest glimpses of his face. This is Chummy (Calum Speed) a soon to be murderer who calls ex police detective Jackie Straker (Megan Pemberton) asking her to stop him. Straker has her own problems, not least a gin crutch, but Chummy quickly becomes her obsession and curse, threatening her own mental stability.

The play is set primarily in a dingy office from where Straker tries to run a private detective business. The rear wall is a series of blinds which lift to reveal silhouettes - Chummy creepily appears or a potential victim is seen out enjoying herself. It is a clever way of staging what is otherwise a fairly static play - its central plot device is two people talking over the phone after all. And that is part of the problem. The conversation between Chummy and Straker and their subsequent monologues need to be insightful and punchy but the dialogue at times feels odd and weighed down with simile. As a result the plot feels laboured and I'm not sure I learned much more about the mind of a murderer - or the mind of someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

John Foster's play has all the makings of a great psychological thriller and it has its tense moments  - ironically often when there is physical interaction between the characters - but it never quite fulfils its potential. The cast do their best with the script but I couldn't help thinking whether it might work better as a shorter radio play - the running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes with an interval.

It's at the White Bear Theatre in Kennington until 10 June and I'm giving it three stars.


Review: Family fun, friction and fear in Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman, Royal Court

FERRYMAN_Feb17_RoyalCourt_2500x1000-900x600Jez Butterworth's last play, The River, I described as the 'difficult second album' after the stellar success of Jerusalem - obviously it wasn't his second play but you know what I was getting at. I also, with an inadvertent sense of premonition described it as 'palate cleanser before the next big course'. The Ferryman is certainly that big course and not just because it's 3 hours and 15 minutes long and has a cast of 22 (including a baby) but because it is a delicious feast of a play.

The Carney family live on a farm, it's summer and they are about to get the harvest in. It's a happy time, a time of celebration where everyone comes together, working hard during the day, revelling in the evenings. It is a time of traditions that has birthed happy memories for the three generations of the family. But this is 1981 Northern Ireland, hunger strikers are dying in the Maze and the Good Friday agreement is still 17 years away. The spectre of The Troubles looms large and not just in the memories of past events. 

Quinn Carney (Paddy Considine) is head of the family and father of seven children with his sickly wife Mary (Genevieve O'Reilly). Quinn's sister in law Caitlin (Laura Donnelly) and son Oisin (Rob Malone) also live at the farm as does his Aunt Patricia (Dearbhla Molloy), a fervent Nationalist, his gentle, story-telling Uncle Patrick (Des McAleer) and dementia-riddled Aunt Maggie Far Away (Brid Brennan) who has brief moments of lucid recollection described by the family as 'visits'.

What Jez Butterworth has written is a piece rich in personality, humour, passion, tension, politics and history and director Sam Mendes has taken a brilliant script and cast and turned it into a superb  tragi-comedy thriller.

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Review: While We're Here, Bush Theatre Studio

Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Credit Mark Douet
Tessa Peake-Jones and Andrew French in While We're Here at thenew Bush Studio. Photo: Mark Douet

Carol (Tessa Peake-Jones) is making up the sofa in her Havant home for Eddie (Andrew French) to sleep on. A chance meeting has thrown the former lovers together; they've not seen each other for 20 years and he's got no where to stay. She's happy to help, happy to have the company as her daughter has moved out. Eddie babbles with nerves and Carol is awkwardly sweet, something has been kindled.

There is a lot of humour in their chit chat as they share their views on TV, the local area and news stories but that chat is pregnant with their own philosophy, how they attempt to rationalise and organise their lives to get through. As the two get re-acquainted we learn of Eddie's struggles with mental health and Carol's loneliness and sense of regret.

At times they are on the same page, leaping on those moments of understanding while at others they are worlds apart. Both have built their own safety nets, Eddie keeps moving while Carol stays still making few changes. Eddie returning to her life ignites a spark that might break her out of the shell, seduced as she is by the potential rekindling of their romance. Eddie, however, is driven by a bleakly fatalistic outlook, believing happiness is transitory and consequently fearful of what he sees as the inevitable end.

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Review: Finding and keeping a roof over your head in Home Truths (cycle one), Bunker Theatre

HOME TRUTHS  RUNS AT THE BUNKER THEATRE 17 APRIL TO  13 MAY (1).Under the sub-heading 'An Incomplete History of Housing Told in Nine Plays' Cardboard Citizen are performing three cycles of three short plays exploring...housing. Playwrights including E V Crowe and Anders Lustgarten have contributed and stories told range in setting from the 1800s right up to present day. They are interspersed with snippets of historical footage and quotes which are allocated to the actors via a 'director'.

Cycle one kicks off with Sonali Bhattacharyya's Slummers. It's the story of 16-year old Polly and her family who make a living in late 18th Century London as milliners, selling their wares on the streets. They've already been displaced once to make way for a new road and are living in  'Old Nichol' - the overcrowded, unsanitary and dangerous slums in Shoreditch - when they are approached by a representative of Peabody as being suitable tenants for their new estate. However, six months into their new life and dwelling, they are threatened with eviction.

The piece examines the notion of 'deserving poor' versus 'undeserving poor' - a theme that echoes through the cycle - 'deserving' in this instance seems to mean willing not only to follow the rules but not to question or challenge those that provide.

Bhattacharyya's play aptly exposes the class tension and the powerful strings attached to assistance through the domestic triangle of Polly who wants the benefits of the new home, her mother who wants the benefits of a more just society and the Peabody volunteer who believes what she is doing is right.

Next up was 1970s set The Ruff Tuff Cream Puff Estate Agency by Heathcote Williams with Sarah Woods about an 'estate agency' set up for homeless people. The group monitor empty properties for squatting and broadcast their availability on pirate radio while themselves playing a cat and mouse game with the authorities and their own landlord.

It is fun and lively piece populated with eccentric, clever and caring people but with a serious underbelly - tonally it reminded me of James Graham's The Angry Brigade. The clever way the squatters out-manoeuvre the authorities and landlords feels satisfyingly like a huge two finger salute to the establishment while the personal stories of those who have found themselves homeless serve to demonstrate the challenges and harsh realities of everyday life.

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Review: Threads, Hope Theatre

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Threads: Samuel Lawrence and Katharine Davenport. Photo Lidia Crisafulli

Vic (Katherine Davenport) has made a mercy dash to see her ex Charlie (Samuel Lawrence) suspecting he may have done something to himself. He still lives in the flat they shared when she walked out of the relationship five years earlier and he's become a recluse. He is having problems letting go and moving on and seems to think she is too.

The invisible relationship bonds that connect people together, that are difficult to sever is an interesting subject (how do you let go of the past?) but David Lane's play wraps the story up in the supernatural - self-locking doors, flickering light bulbs, medical science defying symptoms etc which are a distraction rather than adding to the narrative or drama. You could see some of it as overt metaphor for being trapped in the past/broken hearted but rather it makes a potentially interesting relationship drama just rather odd at times.

As to the relationship itself there are hints of what Vic and Charlie were like as a couple but very little that sheds any light on what attracted them to each other and led them into the sort of relationship where you share a flat. As a result it is difficult to see why Vic and Charlie were together in the first place which weakens the idea of being tied to the past. The question marks over their past relationship dulls the dramatic impact, tension and any emotional tug of the piece.

There are some nice twists towards the very end of the play - and a particular scene that isn't one for the squeamish - but it feels too little, too late which is a shame.

Threads is at the Hope Theatre in Islington until April 29 and is 70 minutes without an interval.


Review: Nina Raine's funny, sharp and intelligent Consent, National Theatre

Consent-2160x2160Playwright Nina Raine's previous plays have tackled social integration in the deaf community and the NHS, in Consent she takes on justice and the notion of consent.

At the centre of the play is a rape case which two lawyer friends are working on - Edward (Ben Chaplin) is defending and Tim (Pip Carter) is prosecuting. However, this isn't a courtroom drama, instead it focuses on how the case challenges and resonates through the relationships of Edward, Tim and their circle of friends.

Edward and Kitty (Anna Maxwell Martin) have just had their first baby and Edward wants another but Kitty isn't keen. There are tensions in Jake (Adam James) and Rachel's (Priyanga Burford) marriage as Rachel suspects he is having an affair and bit-part actress Zara (Daisy Haggard) is desperate for a baby but can't seem to find the right man - could the slightly dull Tim be the perfect match?

Gayle (Heather Craney), the victim in the rape trial lives a world away from the privileged friends but her case raises questions of how justice is best served. Is cold objectivity best or should the process allow for some empathy? It is far more complex than it initially seems. On the one hand an emotional detachment seems to be the fairest approach but, when the barristers cross examination technique is dissected, it reveals it to be a game of cold intellectual chess, more about winning than perhaps what is morally right.

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Review: Young, gay and in love in Run, The Bunker

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Tom Ross-Williams as Yonni in Run, The Bunker

Jewish teenager Yonni's eyes meet Adam's and they are planets circling each other, perfect orbits, in sync. It's as if their relationship is written in the stars.

Against a back drop of growing anti-Semitism outside Yonni's north London community and potential homophobia within it Stephen Laughton's play Run examines young love. Delivered as a monologue by Tom Ross-Williams we follow the blossoming relationship with its ups and downs, discoveries, fun and drama. Stephen Laughton has a keen eye not just for domestic detail but also how first love feels for Yonni something which is reflected in the mixture of vernacular and poetic imagery in the script.

There is humour in Yonni's innocence and intense moments when time seems to stop which all serve to beautifully capture this love story and the growing tensions in the teenager's world.

Tom Ross-Williams' performance is one of innocent joy and the energy of youth indeed he seems to positively glow as if with new found feelings. He has you rooting for Yonni, smiling with him and worrying for him. There are some slightly clunky segments movement but otherwise the story slides easily from episode to episode painting a vivid picture of this first love. 

It's a lovely, simple piece of theatre that is both funny and at times moving and I'm giving it four stars. It's 70 minutes long without an interval and is at the The Bunker in Borough until 1 April.

 




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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