46 posts categorized "Old Vic" Feed

Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

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Two transfers - An Octoroon and Sea Wall - are they as good in bigger venues? Or a shout out for diversity.

It's great to see small production transfer to bigger venues so more people get to experience them but there is always a danger they lose something in a larger space.

An Octoroon national theatre posterAnd so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I have been to see two transfers recently - An Octoroon and Sea Wall.

An Octoroon first wowed me at the Orange Tree in Richmond where it served as a reminder of why I go to the theatre. (You can read my original review of An Octoroon here.)

Same intimacy?

Its transfer is to the Dorfman at the National Theatre which is a great choice as the space is flexible so the original staging, with the audience on four sides, can easily be recreated.

You would think it would lose some of its intimacy in the bigger venue but it didn't.

And crucially An Octoroon is a testament to not only why we need plays that reflect a more diverse narrative but also why theatres need to be attracting a more diverse audience.

By diverse I'm talking about both age and ethnicity.

Less staid

I've written before the difference it makes sitting in an audience that is more reflective of London's population, it makes for a less staid, less vanilla theatre-going experience.

And so it was for An Octoroon, right from the very beginning when the fourth wall was broken and there was a verbal response to actor Ken Nwosu's greeting when he came on stage.

This was an audience engaged and gripped from the outset and it just heightens your own enjoyment being part of that collective experience.

Go see An Octoroon if you can get a ticket. It's just as brilliant at the Dorfman, details at the end of the post.

 

 

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Review: Ben Chaplin and Séana Kerslake in Mood Music, Old Vic

Once you tune your ear to the style of the narrative and the pace of delivery Mood Music rocks.

There have been many disputes between musicians over the years - Rolling Stone has a top 12 - and former music journalists Joe Penhall takes this as the theme for his new play Mood Music at the Old Vic.

Cw-25149-660x375It is a play in which the dialogue is presented as simultaneous conversations and it takes a little getting used to but once you do is extremely effective.

The dispute that forms the central narrative is between a music producer and artist but the story is presented from each protagonists viewpoint via conversations with lawyers and therapists.

Bernard (Ben Chaplin) is the successful (and doesn't he know it) producer talking to his therapist Ramsay (Pip Carter) and lawyer Seymour (Neil Stuke).

Up and coming singer/songwriter Cat (Séana Kerslake) has her own therapist Vanessa (Jemma Redgrave) and lawyer (Kurt Egyiawan).

The two worked on an album together and then took it on tour but neither think they are getting the appropriate recognition for their work.

Rapid pace

Director Roger Mitchell often positions the actors so that they have to talk across the opposing pair - something that metaphorically reflects their relationship.  

The pace is rapid switching between recollections with barely a beat so that the stories unfold simultaneously - and you have work a little to get into the rhythm of it.

But what this style of dialogue does powerfully is show the two different perspectives on events, the different attitudes towards collaboration and the different personalities of Bernard and Cat.

Bernard is brazen, entitled, borderline sociopathic, Cat is bruised, the underdog but has her claws out.

 

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Review: Fanny & Alexander, Old Vic - tense, gripping, joyous but still overly long

It is at times gripping, tense, funny and joyful but equally there were times when I was impatient for it to move on

There was a moment after the first of two intervals during Fanny & Alexander at the Old Vic when I felt myself sit up straight. Up until that point the play had been entertaining but suddenly it got interesting as well.

Now there is nothing wrong with entertaining - it can be an overlooked element of theatre - but when you've got a play with a running time of 3 hours 45  minutes (when I saw it, it's since had 15 minutes trimmed away) entertaining isn't quite enough.

fanny and alexander old vic jay brooks
Fanny & Alexander, Old Vic. Photo: Jay Brooks

The Ingmar Bergman film, from which this has been adapted by Stephen Beresford, was also a bit of a beast in its running time - just over three hours - but I've not seen it so the story was a surprise.

Fanny and Alexander are young siblings growing up in a bohemian apartment block. Their parents Emilie (Catherine Walker) and Oscar (Sargon Yelda) are actors who run a successful theatre.

Their grandmother (Penelope Wilton) is an actress, their uncle Gustav (Jonathan Slinger) is a womaniser and uncle Carl (Thomas Arnold) has married a German woman no one seems to like.

The children take parts in their parents plays and it is a sociable, creative and free upbringing among their extended family and friends.

It is a childhood full of stories, play and fun, despite the various tensions between the adults.

Oscar has a vivid if sometimes macabre imagination - he 'sees' and talks to the grim reaper. Is he just a worrier or is there something more fatalistic about his visions of death?

The latter would appear true when his father Oscar dies suddenly and, still grieving, Emilie, marries Edvard (Kevin Doyle) a widowed bishop.

This was the moment that I sat up. The hour or so up to the first interval is like watching a colourful, animated toy box with its set of ornate furniture and rich, red theatrical drapes.

When Emilie moves with the children into Edvard's home, the set is stark, the box has been stripped bare and painted white. It reflects the austere, strict, authoritarian style of parenting that Edvard employs.

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My best of theatre list for 2017 - with some rom-com, Chekhov and Christmas surprises

If you'd told me at the start of the year that there would be a rom-com, a Chekhov and a Christmas play on my best of list, I'd have laughed in your face. Just goes to show you should always expect the unexpected...here are my favourite plays of 2017, in no particular order and links are to my reviews.

An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard
An Octoroon - Orange Tree Theatre - publicity photo by The Other Richard

Dirty Great Love Story, Arts Theatre

Let's face it most rom-coms are a bit rubbish - they generally aren't that funny - but this tale of modern romance had me guffawing with laughter and I wasn't on my own.

An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre

This is a play that reminded me why I love going to the theatre and I could write pages on it. Thought-provoking, sometime uncomfortable to watch and yet it was still entertaining. It's transferring to the National Theatre in June and I'll definitely be getting a ticket.

Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

In my review I said: "Apologia is a play of sharp humour and depth that slowly breaks down the defences to reveal something raw and emotional. You will laugh and you will have a lump in your throat." It was also a great play for female characters.

Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Theatre and Trafalgar Studios 2

This odd-ball, misfit comedy was a breath of fresh air and it got a much deserved transfer so I got to enjoy it a second time.

Hamlet, Almeida

Up there as one of the best Hamlet productions I've seen, it made me see the play anew.

BU21, Trafalgar Studios 2

Writer Stuart Slade took real testimonies from terrorist attacks around the world and used them to create a story around a fictional attack in London. The result was an honest, awkward and funny piece that was also really clever.

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My 5 biggest theatre disappointments of 2017

Not everything is brilliant or lives up to expectations. These are the plays that disappointed me the most in 2017.

Obsession, Barbican Theatre

Ivo Van Hove had two plays in my best of list last year but Obsession, starring Jude Law, felt at times pedestrian and aloof where it should have been passionate and tense.

HamletAgainst, Almeida

While I always enjoy watching Ben Whishaw on stage the play itself was so disappointing. On reflection, in my review I think I was still trying to like it  but it was just so doughy, lacking any punch or defined focus.

Woyzeck, Old Vic

Was really excited to see John Boyega on stage but like Against, the play was a disappointment. You can see where it is going early on - there is a particular line which is like having a gun on stage - but it takes a long, long time to get there. It also felt like it was trying too hard to be shocking and edgy.

Nuclear War, Royal Court

I'm a huge fan of Simon Stephens but I wasn't a fan of this at all. It felt like an experiment that shouldn't have made it out of the rehearsal room. It was so abstract and difficult to make sense of its 45 minute running time felt too long.

Hamlet, RADA

Ah yes the Tom Hiddleston/Kenneth Branagh Hamlet I was so excited about this. Love Tom Hiddleston but I'm not a fan who sees everything he does through rose-tinted spectacles (Ben Whishaw/Against is a case in point) and this felt like a huge opportunity missed. It's a small, intimate space and the play was staged in the round with the stalls seating effectively 'on stage' but it seemed as if Kenneth Branagh had directed it for a huge West End theatre.  There was no subtlety, no surprises, no innovation and given that the last two Hamlet's I've watched have been among the best I've ever seen it was really disappointing. I'm still a little bit cross about it.

Related: My best of theatre list for 2017


Review: The 12 things I liked about A Christmas Carol, Old Vic Theatre

Bbbefb41-c505-48e0-82ed-5983143b4bf4As someone who can mildly be described as not being a Christmas person the fact that I came out of the Old Vic after watching A Christmas Carol with a spring in my step, whistling Christmas carols is an achievement. So, in a faintly Christmassy style here are 12 things I liked, in no particular order and prefaced with a spoiler alert.

1. The lights

I've heard it described as a 'constellation' and that is wholly appropriate description for the multitude of old fashioned lamps hanging above the stage that cuts through the centre of the auditorium. Firstly there something festive and cosy about them but also lamps feature in various sizes and guises throughout the play.

2. Scrooges hair

A combination of bed-head and looking like he'd been unconsciously pulling at it while counting his money it was perfect for Rhys Ifans' Scrooge. It worked really well with his slightly dishevelled look that said 'I don't waste  money or time on fripperies such as smart clothing and grooming'.

3. Scroogey Scrooge

He looks upon charity with utter scorn but more than that, so long has he been like this, he doesn't even notice or consider it wrong - or does he? Given how his family persist with him, there are hints of a past, of a different man and Rhys Ifans plays it to perfection...

4. Happy Scrooge

...as he does the Scrooge that has seen the light and is desperate to make up for his uncharitable ways. He displays the sort of joy that could only come with rediscovery, he wears it like an old favourite coat found at the back of the wardrobe after many years. It bursts out of him and is really infectious.

5. Bells

Nothing says Christmas like the sound of tinkling hand bells, particularly when snatches of Christmas Carols are played by the cast building up to a lovely ensemble finale.

6. Snow

So giddy did this production make the audience that when it started snowing on the stalls there was a spontaneous applause. It was a magical moment, that added to the Christmassy feel. There was also a very cleverly done snowball fight in which 'thrown' snowballs looked like they were exploding on contact.

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My favourite plays of 2017...so far #midyearreview #theatre

via GIPHY 

2017 is already the year that brought us Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman and my introduction to playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and it's only six months in. There are a further nine plays I couldn't not include in my 'best of so far' list and that was with the bar set very high. I've still got Angels in America, Ben Whishaw in Against, Rory Kinnear in Young Marx and the awarding winning Oslo to come later this year, among many others potential theatre treats - the end of year list is already looking tricky to narrow down.

Anyway, here's what I've enjoyed the most in 2017 so far. Feel free to agree/disagree...

(In no particular order, because that would be too traumatic to do.)

1. Amadeus, National Theatre  This was supposed to be a 2016 play but I gave up my ticket for the early part of the run because of work pressures, good words from @PolyG made me rebook for January and I'm so glad I did. It was a play that unexpectedly floored me. It's returning next year and yes I've got a ticket.

2. Out Their On Fried Meat Ridge Road, White Bear Fringe theatre kicked off in fine style with this brilliantly warm, funny, odd, dark, misfit comedy that was the antidote to everything disturbing that was going on the world at the time. It transferred to Trafalgar Studios 2 and I got to enjoy it all over again.

3. Hamlet, Almeida  I've seen a lot of Hamlet's and there is usually something new in each but Andrew Scott's prince in Robert Icke's production made me look at the play with completely new eyes. Sorry Sherlock but this was a battle that Moriarty definitely won. It's transferred to the West End.

4. An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre  Was tipped off about American playwright Branden Jacob-Jenkins and this is the first of his plays I've seen. It's a play I could write reams and reams about and reminded me why I love going to the theatre. Gloria, another of his plays is currently on at Hampstead Theatre, it didn't quite make this list but it is still really good.

5. Rotterdam, Arts Theatre  This was in my 'best of' list last year but after a stint off Broadway it's come back to London to the bigger Arts Theatre. It made me laugh, it made me gasp and it made me cry - all that even though I've seen it before and knew exactly what was coming. That's why it's back on the list. It's on until 15 July.

6. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Old Vic  It's possibly the only Tom Stoppard play I really like and this was a great production that was lively, entertaining, profound and melancholic . There was a brilliant rapport between the two leads - Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire - and David Haig as The Player was worth the ticket price alone.

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