38 posts categorized "Old Vic" Feed

Review: Timothy Spall in The Caretaker, Old Vic Theatre

3902It's raining heavily outside the Old Vic, it's raining inside too.  The stage is obscured by a slate roof onto which rain pours. As the lights go down the roof lifts up and back to reveal a junk-filled, tatty attic room.

There is a bed to one side and a bucket hangs from the ceiling to catch drips. There is one window and rain trickles down the outside. There are voices from the other side of the one door to the room and through it steps a man in a smart grey suit and an old man with wild, wiry grey hair and a tatty old-gent suit.

If you are going to see your first ever production of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker you might as well make it big budget production with actors of the calibre of Timothy Spall, Daniel Mays and George MacKay. First production? Shocking I know, the play has taken on almost mythical qualities because it's a classic I haven't seen. I've not read it either so I'm experiencing the play (and Spall on stage) for the first time.

He plays Davies, a homeless man, whom Aston (Daniel Mays) has rescued from a brawl. Aston lives in the room which is in a house owned by his brother Mick (George MacKay). He's doing it up for him, although he never seems to do much other than try and fix a plug or stare deep in thought. Davies talks without really seeming to say anything of any substance and Aston doesn't say much he just goes about working on the plug.

Mick, when he appears, talks a lot, fast and aggressively but again doesn't say much of any substance. They are all slippery, half-characters, you learn little of their history the irony being that Davies, the most loquacious, is probably the least reliable narrator. He says what he thinks people want to hear allies himself to whomever he thinks will let him stay. It is a tactic that doesn't reckon on family loyalty.

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Review: Ralph Fiennes is The Master Builder, Old Vic

Cw-9693-mediumIbsen's The Master Builder is rather an odd play and it's interesting that the premise it is marketed on isn't actually the bit I enjoyed so much.

The story is that Halvard Solness (Ralph Fiennes), a naturally talented but untrained architect, has become a great success but is worried that his days as the master builder may be coming to an end. He fears that younger, more talented architects will come along, like Ragnar (Martin Hutson) who works in his office. A young woman Hilde Wangel (Sarah Snook) arrives one day claiming to have met Halvard 10 years previously, when he made advances on her together with some outlandish promises (think trolls and castles in the sky).

But that is part of the play that I didn't like so much. I couldn't make out if Hilde was delusional or calculated and I'm not sure if she is meant to be either (maybe it is David Hare's adapatation?). I think the trailer interview with Ralph Fiennes talking about the play being a psychological thriller doesn't help. Reading up on the play afterwards Halvard has been described as a middle-aged man showing off in front of a young woman and that I get. But, in his work practices Halvard doesn't so much flirt with youth as block it, he manipulates his young book-keeper Kaja's (Charlie Cameron) feelings for him in order to keep her fiance Ragnar from striking out on his own.

Hilde brings with her a slightly fantastical element, perhaps she represents a younger, freer, bolder Halvard before life experience and tragedy shaped him? You can't really take her at face value because she is quite fanciful which is why I question whether she is delusional. But then Halvard's wife and his doctor friend fear he might have his own mental issues.

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Review: Bertie Carvel is The Hairy Ape, Old Vic Theatre

The-hairy-ape-rehearsal-images-photos-the-old-vic-theatreSaw Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape for the first time three years ago at the Southwark Playhouse. That was a fairly straightforward production that used the small performance space brilliantly to recreate the cramped, noisy, hot belly of an ocean going liner’s engine room.

Really loved the play, the story of a man whose sense of place in the world is challenged and shattered in just the briefest of incidents.

On the vast Old Vic stage – now returned to its traditional proscenium arch layout -  the confines of the engine room is recreated using what looks a bit like a ship packing container. It is painted yellow and there is a barred door on one side giving it a cage-like feel.

The stokers are kicking back with a beer, sweaty and smeared in coal dust, testosterone levels are high. Every now and again you get a sense of the ship lurching with the swell as the men stagger in unison.

Yank (Bertie Carvel) sits slightly apart from the group but is listening, occasionally interjecting. It quickly becomes obvious that he holds some power, some authority over the other men. He can cut off the start of a song with a whip-like command that cracks through the room.

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Rehearsal photos: Bertie Carvel and the cast of Hairy Ape, Old Vic

Hot on the heels from playing Pentheus and Pentheus' mother in Bakkhai at the Almeida, Bertie Carvel will soon be seen as the muscular and fiery ship stoker Yank in Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape at the Old Vic. Can't wait.

Bertie Carvel (Yank) - The Hairy Ape, Photos by Manuel Harlan (2)
Bertie Carvel (Yank) - The Hairy Ape, Photos by Manuel Harlan

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Review: Rob Brydon and other starry names in Future Conditional at the Old Vic

PosterMatthew Warchus' tenure as artistic director at the Old Vic kicks off with a new comedy about education and has a cast of many. Rob Brydon is the star name being touted on marketing material but in reality this is an ensemble piece.

Tamsin Oglesby's Future Conditional is essentially three plays in one, each with a separate cast, the action swapping between the stories with only two characters crossing over (one seen and one referred to).

In Brydon's segment he plays a teacher at a secondary school telling the story in a series of conversations with his class but for the most part you have to imagine what the pupils are saying because you only hear his side.

Through the teachers eyes we see some of the challenges of the classroom. Juggling the ultra bright and eager to learn Pakistani refugee Alia (Nikki Patel) with the disruptive Jordan who's got problems at home.

It is skillfully written and performed so that it is not just Brydon's physical and verbal reactions that are funny but also the imagined comments from the kids.

And while Brydon is no doubt a draw, for me at least the excitement mainly came from seeing Ben Lloyd-Hughes (see additional 6DS below). He features in a segment set around a Government think tank which is supposed to be advising on educational policy.

The group is a mixture of people from different backgrounds, state and private education with Joshua Maguire (another Stan fav) playing an Oxbridge graduate and ex-Etonian. The debate here is about equality in education and how you maximise the potential of children from poorer backgrounds so that they are on an level playing field with those from affluent backgrounds.

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Exciting casting news: Bertie Carvel to play Yank in Old Vic The Hairy Ape

Bit of a recent convert to the church of Bertie Carvel. PolyG has long sung his praises but he hasn't really been on my radar. I thought Bakkhai opposite my fav Ben Whishaw would be my first proper chance to see him in action but the TV adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell came along and suddenly my excitement levels about Bakkhai got ramped up (if that was possible).

Then yesterday I got the press release announcing he's playing Yank in the Old Vic production of Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape. It's a play that was already on my radar without any cast having seen a superb production at the Southwark Playhouse three years ago.

Now Bertie has been cast it suddenly gets really interesting. Yank is very much a manly man, reminds me a little of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire. He's all muscle and testosterone but it is just a few words that knock him to the ground and challenge him in a way that he never predicted.

From the seating plan on the Old Vic website it looks like they are keeping the round stage format (hurray) which should work really well in making the audience feel like they are in the dark, hot, cramped ship engine room where Yank works.

Excited? Moi?

The Hairy Ape is on from Oct 17 until November 21 and is booking now. Five weeks before the start of the run £10 preview seats will be released for half the auditorium.

 


All you need to know about the Old Vic Theatre PwC £10 preview tickets

Excited by the prospect of being able to see stuff at the Old Vic for a tenner? I know I am. Here's how it's going to work:

For the first five previews* half of the seats will be £10 and they will be scattered throughout the auditorium.

Seats will be released on a first come, first served basis at 12pm on the Monday five weeks prior to the first preview. Four tickets per person. Dates will be announced to the PwC Previews mailing list and you can sign up for that list at www.oldvictheatre.com/pwcpreviews

* excludes Jekyll and Hyde, Rise and The Old Vic Variety Nights


Review: Daniel Kitson hangs out in a Tree, Old Vic Theatre

Treew165h250The Old Vic Theatre has a rather large and impressive tree on its round stage. On the floor beneath it a road is marked out with white tape (and the word 'ROAD' just in case you were unsure) and there are also squares marking imaginary tree stumps.

Tim Key arrives with a cool box and a small ruck sack. He's meeting 'Sarah' for a picnic date underneath the tree but he's got the time mixed up, forgotten the clocks went back. Then he notices Daniel Kitson up the tree. Over an hour and a half the two men tease out each other's stories - the back ground to the date and why up a tree. They are amusingly told, often filled with banter, teasing and incredulity.

The picnic is set out during the conversation - very ordinary yet pertinent fare which is served with a particular flourish - and Kitson stays up the tree.

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Review: Kristin Scott Thomas' impassioned Electra at the Old Vic

2658Kristin Scott Thomas takes James McAvoy's impassion five minute speech I watched last week and raises it to full length play.

It is difficult not to be affected by her performance as Electra, the woman who is forced to live, unmarried and childless with her fathers murderers: her mother and her mother's lover. Through an hour and forty minutes she is haunted, mourns, despairs and rails frustrated against those who don't understand her loyalty and faint hope that her brother Orestes (Jack Lowden) will return and enact revenge.

She embodies the predicament of a woman imprisoned in a patriarchal society who is determined to push her 'captors' to the limit. There is nothing left for her but her rebellion, grief and a little hope.

Lowden prooves himself once again a magnetic stage presence and equally Diana Quick as Clytemestra makes her mark during her short appearance. This is a play in which the performances demand you hang on every word.

There is, however, a 'but' to all this. I enjoyed watching the emotionally charged performances, I was moved by the performances but the play left me wanting. Essentially the ending felt a little anti climatic after all that high emotion. Orestes reveals his plan to fake his own death in order to gain entry to his childhood home, duping Electra for a time too and it all goes rather swimmingly. The bloody revenge is performed off stage in the Greek-style and it all felt a little, well, easy after all that angst.

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