Review: language, storytelling and leaving wanting more - Translations, National Theatre

Such a naive giddiness of emotion is ripe for tragedy

Translations national theatre poster colin morganColin Morgan's Owen is one of those airily bright and bubbly people who you suspect gets on with everyone.

He returns from the city to the small farming community where he grew up; he's earning good money as a translator for the English army which is mapping the area.

Ciaran Hinds' Hugh - Owen's alcoholic father - scratches a living as a teacher, entering the classroom with an authority that drapes the room in silence. He teaches Latin and Greek but refuses to teach English.

Owen's work includes anglicising the names of local landmarks for the map. He doesn't see the point of keeping eccentric old names which were born out of long forgotten local stories.

Hugh is more protectionist, wedded to tradition and the classics.

What should your relationship with the past and cultural traditions be?

'Frenemies'

The question is explored through the colourful characters that make up this small Irish community and its 'frenemy' relationship with the English soldiers.

It is this relationship that forms the narrative drive: Developing feelings and misunderstandings breed tension.

As does the pregnant absence of the 'Donnelly twins', the mere mention of which elicits uncomfortable looks.

They are playwright Brian Friel's equivalent of a Chekhov Gun.

Love triangle

There is also a love triangle. Owen's brother Manus (Seamus O'Hara) is in love with Maire (Judith Roddy) who has entered into a relationship with Yolland (Adetomiwa Edun), one of the English soldiers.

Yolland has a romanticised view of Ireland, wants to learn the local language and feels uncomfortable anglicising the Irish names.

Continue reading "Review: language, storytelling and leaving wanting more - Translations, National Theatre" »


Highlights: May's London theatre news, casting, highs, lows and a Q shaped celeb spot

Theatre stuff that caught my eye

* Director Jamie Lloyd is back with more Pinter (at the Pinter). It's a season of the one-act plays with a cast including Tamsin Greig, Danny Dyer, Jane Horrocks and Martin Freeman and will run at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 6 September through to January 23. Directors joining Jamie Lloyd include Lia Williams, Patrick Marber and Lindsay Turner.

Southwark playhouse new venue rev stan instagram
Southwark Playhouse's new venue at Elephant & Castle. Photo: Rev Stan on Instagram

* Southwark Playhouse is to get not one but two new homes from 2019. Its current spot in Elephant & Castle is hopefully the last of a string of temporary homes but as well as having a venue back under the arches at London Bridge, it's previous home, it will have a brand new theatre in Elephant. In order to secure these permanent homes the theatre needs to raise some more cash - and in return for a donation, you get the chance to have your name or other message inscribed on the wall. Dig deep.

* The Young Vic's rather brilliant production of The Inheritance gets a well deserved West End transfer. It opens at the Noel Coward Theatre Sep 21 until Jan 5.

* Andrew Scott returns to the stage with Simon Stephens superb Sea Wall. This time it has a two week run at the Old Vic from Jun 19. It is a punch in the guts short play (30 minutes) with a breathtaking performance by Scott. Need more convincing? Here's what I wrote about Sea Wall when it had its last short run at the NT's The Shed back in 2013.

* Lenny Henry is back on stage next year (still fangirling after shaking his hand during Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui). This time he's heading to Theatre Royal Stratford East to star in a production of August Wilson's King Hedley II which opens May 17.

Continue reading "Highlights: May's London theatre news, casting, highs, lows and a Q shaped celeb spot" »


Review: Dazzling, nerve-jangling and toe-tapping Circolombia, Underbelly

A street-edged show of dazzling and nerve-jangling acrobatics which captures a joyful, c'est la vie camaraderie while entertaining with the most jaw-dropping feats.

CircolombiaThe Circolombia troupe of 13 singers and acrobats chorus: 'A deep breath as I walk, as I fly and as I fall' and it is an appropriate summation of the essence and tone of their performances. 

Direct from Colombia, this street-edged show of dazzling and nerve-jangling acrobatics captures a joyful, c'est la vie camaraderie while entertaining with the most jaw-dropping feats.

Acrobatic dance

Live rap and backing beats with a Colombian-flavour interlace acrobatic dance sequences and add pace to the tumbles and a rhythm of anticipation to faster segments.

The ensemble gathers for banquine, creating a human base from which to hurl each other through the air with controlled precariousness, landing with a perfect wobble on an adjacent base of human arms.

Later a teeterboard (seesaw to you and I) will propel Juan David Campo Teran higher and higher as if he is bouncing on a trampoline, building to a death-defying dismount complete with an applause-inducing array of twists and somersaults.



Continue reading "Review: Dazzling, nerve-jangling and toe-tapping Circolombia, Underbelly" »


Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Ellie (Felicity Huxley-Miners) and Rob's (David Shears) relationship starts on a train platform in dramatic circumstances.

in the shadow of the mountain felicity huxley-miners david shears
In The Shadow of the Mountain: Felicity Huxley-Miners and David Shears

One is depressed, the other is manic but both feel like they don't fit in. Is this mismatch of personality the life-raft relationship it seems?

At first, the chaos of Ellie's mind and behaviour seems charmingly kooky and awkward. In her performance, Felicity reminded me a little of Patsy Ferran in My Mother's A Twat, Royal Court and Speech and Debate, Trafalgar Studios 2.

Manipulation

But it soon becomes clear that there are deeper emotional problems, a neediness and manipulation that is calculated to mask other feelings of a lack of self-worth.

Rob is emotionally bruised from an unfaithful relationship and feeling isolated and overwhelmed by the pressures of modern life, none of which equips him to properly help Ellie - or walk away.

What we get from David's performance is feeling of powerlessness against Ellie's manipulation despite his obvious feelings of discomfort and awkwardness. 

Laughter and gasps

Laughter from the early scenes turns to exasperation and then gasps as the behaviour becomes more extreme - and desperate.

Continue reading "Fringe theatre review: In The Shadow of The Mountain, Old Red Lion Theatre" »


Comedy for the weekend: Funny and philosophical - Sarah Kendall, One-Seventeen, Soho Theatre

It is a show that rolls along with laughs but leaves you with a warm fuzzy glow and a feeling that everything will be OK.

Australian Sarah Kendall (Writers' Guild Best Radio Comedy 2018) is a storyteller, a philosopher and very funny. Or to put it another way, she made me laugh and she made me think... and she made me think about Hamlet.

Sarah Kendall5 - credit Rosalind Furlong
Photo by Rosalind Furlong

You see, in Shakespeare’s play the Prince Hamlet says: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

Which is pretty much her dad’s way of looking at life. Her mother is the opposite and sees danger everywhere. Everywhere.

Aussie self-deprecation

Kendall’s routine explores this idea of glass half full/glass half empty thinking using stories from her life - growing up, being grown up, her family and friends.

Of course, it is served up with the familiar Aussie self-deprecation, sarcasm and dark humour.

She is one of those comedians that can cleverly tell one longer story while peeling off shorter stories at the same time.

They are ordinary stories and anecdotes that demonstrate the silliness and absurdity of human behaviour.

Continue reading "Comedy for the weekend: Funny and philosophical - Sarah Kendall, One-Seventeen, Soho Theatre" »


Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre

Just like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Quiz is a skilfully crafted piece of entertainment, the difference is that the questions it asks don't have simple multiple choice answers.

James Graham is proving to be one of the best contemporary writers of plays based on modern political history - Angry Brigade, Ink and This House to name just three.

QUIZ-447X792Part of that is his exceptional talent for turning potentially dry topics into gripping and entertaining theatre.

In Quiz he focuses on the ‘coughing Major’ scandal that enfolded the popular TV quiz Who Wants to Be A Millionaire in 2001 and the subsequent trial in 2003.

Cheating

The Major - Charles Ingram -  walked away with the £1m prize on the night but was later accused of cheating and taken to court together with his alleged accomplices.

Performed on a set styled to look like the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire studio, complete with onstage seating to mimic the studio audience, the play is structured like a court case.

The first half plays out what happened from the viewpoint of the prosecution and the second half is the turn of the defence.

Audience vote

With electronic devices, the audience can vote on whether Ingram (played by Gavin Stokes), his wife Diana (Stephanie Street) and the other 'conspirators' are guilty or not guilty.

Votes take place at the end of the first half and again at the end of the play after which the results from the previous 10 plays are displayed for comparison.

The style and structure is a reference to the subtler themes and subtext of the play, something that becomes more evident when audience opinion is canvassed.

Continue reading "Review: Skilfully crafted entertainment that poses interesting questions - Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre" »


Review: Hot, wet, bathtub acrobatics are good clean fun in SOAP, Underbelly Festival

It's a sexy show but good clean fun with a big dose of playfulness to much of what is performed

Try writing a review of comedy/acrobatic/opera show SOAP at Underbelly without using double entendres.

SOAP_WET_©_Dmitry_Shakhin-24_400x300I mean there are bathtubs, water, men in pants and pink balls for goodness sake.

Themed around bath-time, when the cast of acrobats, jugglers and red-welly wearing 'clown' (Marie-Andrée Lemaire) aren't frolicking, sliding in, hiding in and generally performing amazing feats in and around the roll-top tubs, they are squirting water, making watery music - or performing under a shower.

Splashes

Don't worry, those in the front row get some protection (from the splashes).

It's a sexy show but good clean fun with a big dose of playfulness to much of what is performed. 

 

Continue reading "Review: Hot, wet, bathtub acrobatics are good clean fun in SOAP, Underbelly Festival" »


Review: Seeing the world through different eyes in 213 Things About Me, Battersea Arts Centre

...loaded with wit and humour, sharp observation and understanding.

213-web213 Things About Me started life as an art installation at Edinburgh Fringe and has evolved into a 60-minute monologue performed by Rosa Hoskins.

It is based on the life of Rose, a friend of the play's writer and director Richard Butchins who is a documentary filmmaker. 

When Rose was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, Richard asked her to write down five of her good traits. She drew up a list of 213 but later that same year she committed suicide.

Contrariness of human behaviour

In using Rose's own words and performing the piece as a monologue you not only get insight into how she sees the world but it also exposes the contrariness of human behaviour.

While Rose's way of seeing and interacting with the world might be different from what is perceived as the norm, her perspective makes you question that norm.

And, at times she is able to see what no one else around her can which allows her to be forgiving of less desirable behaviour when others perhaps cannot.

Continue reading "Review: Seeing the world through different eyes in 213 Things About Me, Battersea Arts Centre" »


Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic - an epic tale of love, loss and life but was it better than Angels?

It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy

The Inheritance at the Young Vic is this year's Angels in America - a two-parter set in New York about a group of gay men.

The Inheritance Young Vic Rev Stan InstagramI really enjoyed Angels but I wasn't bubbling over with the same enthusiasm for it that some had. So I approached Matthew Lopez's play with a hint of trepidation: it's a long play, would this be more of the same?

Angels sequel

You could describe it as a sequel to Angel's following the generation of men that grew up after the AIDS epidemic.

The Inheritance of the title in many ways represents the life and society that the Angels' generation paved the way for.

But the play is also heavily influenced by EM Forster's Howard's End examining class, entitlement and privilege and framed as an attempt to tell a story - EM Forster serves as a tutor and mentor at various points.

Truth and fiction playfully interweave the narrative, occasionally options for alternative dialogue is presented as if we are in a narrative brainstorming session - or viewing different perspectives.

Love triangle

But the essence of the play is a love triangle.

Eric Glass (Kyle Soller) lives in a protected rent apartment with his boyfriend Toby (Andrew Burlap) who is adapting his debut novel into a play.

Their group of gay friends often congregate at the apartment - Eric is a good cook and host but at one such gathering a young man, Adam (Samuel H Levine), turns up to return Toby's bag, Toby having taken his own, identical, bag in error.

Heartbreak and obsession

That encounter sends each on a journey that none of them could have foreseen, a journey of love, heartbreak, obsession, success and tragedy, a journey that makes and breaks them and forces painful introspection.

A journey that unfolds over six and half hours of theatre.

Continue reading "Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic - an epic tale of love, loss and life but was it better than Angels?" »


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.

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