91 posts categorized "Royal Court" Feed

Watching a work in progress: Unreachable, Royal Court

Cw-8658-mediumThe Royal Court's artistic director Vicky Featherstone and playwright/director Anthony Neilson made a pre-performance appearance when I saw Unreachable on Tuesday. They wanted to explain that the play was still a work in progress, a major rewrite had happened over the weekend with further rewrites that day. As a result, the actors might still be working off scripts and things might not go as smoothly as you'd expect. We were asked to shout 'good luck' to the actors who were waiting in the wings.

Other than a read-through I've not seen a play performed with scripts in hands or scraps of paper retrieved from pockets.  Naturally, the audience, was very supportive as it invariably is during these sorts of things. It added an extra dimension to the play and the experience - seeing the actors 'feeling' their way through the less familiar parts of the script.

Matt Smith actually played on it at times saying at one point 'that's all I've got'. If there was any frustration with the chopping and changing of the dialogue among the cast it certainly did show, they all looked like they were having a ball and there was quite a bit of corpsing.

As to the play itself, I'm not sure what I was expecting but it wasn't expecting a raucous comedy, satirising the film industry and acting profession.

Naturally it is difficult to review something that could change fundamentally between when I saw it and press night. Indeed, since starting to write this, I found an interview with Anthony Neilson and Matt Smith which describes a plot that is unrecognisable from that which I saw, so if you have seen it post press night I'm curious to know whether it has changed fundamentally since.

Matt Smith plays Maxim, a film director who won the Palm d'Or for his first full length feature and is now working on his second film. The award has brought with it recognition and a much bigger budget with the politics that entails but he is 'an artist' with the stereotypical artistic temperament (think: self-serving, childish, egotist). He would rather walk away and risk financial ruin than compromise.

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Review: Why I prefer Alistair McDowall's Pomona to X (Royal Court)

X-118I was three quarters of the way through the first half of Alistair McDowall's new play X at the Royal Court and it was pressing the right buttons to give me nightmares.

It's set inside one room on a space station on Pluto where the crew are awaiting a spacecraft to pick them up and take them back to earth. Only it is late and all the lines of communication with earth have gone silent. As the crew wait for news with varying degrees of patience and panic one of them says they have seen something outside. It's an alien thing you see (don't laugh). I had to sleep with the light on after watching the film Signs. And it doesn't help that outside the one window at the back of the set it is dark. I'm thinking: if something appears at that window I might freak out.

Then something happens that seems to normalise the situation. Sort of. This is Alistair McDowall after all. It's difficult to explain without giving too much away but it's like someone took a pin to a balloon and pop, the tension is gone. And it never gets it back.

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Review: I See You, Royal Court Theatre upstairs

I_See_You-large_trans++YFziz8YEm6VE5aYFlxYehSem-Qse8IphuPOElFEbsmQThere are moments when you are watching playwright and performer Mongiwekhaya's I See You at the Royal Court that it feels like it's been pulled straight from a Kafka novel.

Ben (Bayo Gbadamosi), a black South African law student, has met Skinn (Jordan Baker) a street-wise white girl at a club and they are stopped in her car by two black police officers. Ben is bundled into the back of the police van and supposedly taken off to a police station for a breathalyser test. So far, so un-Kafkaesque but once he is there he is asked to sign form but isn't allowed to read what he's signing.  When he refuses he is documented as uncooperative.

It is the start of a physically and psychologically violent evening for Ben in which he is being punished for something that isn't his fault. I See You is essentially a play about identity. Buthelezi (Desmond Dube) who arrests Ben fought to overturn apartheid only to find that he has paved the way for a new, educated generation who seem to take freedom for granted and who can't even speak their mother tongue. He feels cast aside after his sacrifices and the horrors he experienced while fighting. He takes it out on Ben who was brought up outside South Africa and only speaks English.

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That was my year of theatre-going 2015: The StOlivier awards

89050759_9b7a9cb884_mThere are awards and then there are the StOliviers...

I'm only human award: This goes to Ben Whishaw who, during the Iliad live reading, mispronounced a name did a delightful giggle at his mistake before slipping straight back into character and carrying on. You can see the reading here (roughly 26 mins in for the giggle).

Best food fight: Cast of Rules for Living, National Theatre, who not only managed to mess up the stage but trod and smeared mashed potato into the carpet and on the drapes at all the exits from the Dorfman stage.

Scariest prop: For Carman Disruption at the Almeida I was sat on the front row not far from the life-sized, prone but visibly breathing bull. It was so realistic it freaked me a little bit. If it had moved its head or a leg you wouldn't have have seen me for dust.

Most accident prone production: Ah Wilderness! Young Vic. Props went flying and actors fell over, I wrote a post about it.

I didn't know you had that in you surprise performance award: Lots of surprises this year Tom Sturridge in American Buffalo, David Dawson in The Dazzled but the award goes Johnny Flynn in Hangmen for a performance that meant the first two words I said to Poly after the curtain call were 'Johnny Flynn' to which she replied 'I know'.

The bloody play of the year: The single stream of blood slowly rolling down the stage towards the audience at the end of  Macbeth, Young Vic, was great but the bloody highlight goes to the Almeida's Oresteia. Agamemnon is murdered and his spilled blood slowly seeps out in a growing pool from beneath his corpse.

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Review: You For Me For You, Royal Court upstairs

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Wendy Kweh and Katie Leung, You For Me For You, Royal Court. Photo Tristram Kenton

Who doesn't harbour a little curiosity for what life is like in North Korea? Mia Chung's play hints rather than shows, feeling sometimes like Alice through the looking glass crossed with Kafka - or maybe that is what it feels like?

Hunger is a feature - there were empathetic stomach rumblings from the woman sat next to me - the play opens with sisters Minhee (Wendy Kweh) and Junhee (Katie Leung) arguing over who should eat the meagre meal that's been prepared. Minhee is ill and therefore Junhee says she should eat it. Junhee works long hours so Minhee says she should have it. Their polite insistence is almost infuriating. It is Junhee who finally relents or rather is tricked by her sister into eating the food. It is symbolic for what later happens when the siblings decide to try and flee their homeland.

Minhee can't quite let go of the ideals of North Korea, that if you work hard enough everything will be OK. She gets left behind, sort of falls down the rabbit hole, where she goes on a mental journey through her tragic life, encountering absurd bureaucracy, musical rice and frog-like soldiers.

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Hangmen review or how Johnny Flynn stole the show

590x494.fitandcropJohnny Flynn. Actor, musician; I've always had a bit of a soft spot. He's never had the breadth of roles of some of my favourite actors, often playing likeable, quiet, awkward types, but he's got a certain charm on stage. So plaudits for him and casting director Amy Ball who saw Mooney in Martin McDonagh's Hangmen in him.

Mooney is a southerner who walks into the life of  Harry (David Morrissey), Britain's second best hangman, who's from Oldham. He turns up in Harry's wife's pub where the locals take a bit of dislike to what they perceive as strange 'southern' ways but Harry's wife and daughter are charmed.

It is the genius of Martin McDonagh's writing, brought to life by Flynn, that Mooney is an enigma, just as you think you've got him sussed he does something to cast doubts in your mind. McDonagh rubs it in your face, has Mooney discussing the degrees by which he is weird, whether he is creepy or scary. It works beautifully, you sit up and take notice when he's on the stage, you want him on the stage so you can laugh and be a little bit uncomfortable at the same time.

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Review: Hang at the Royal Court Theatre

700x650.fitIt isn't giving anything away to say that Debbie Tucker Green's new play is about capital punishment, the clue is in the title.

With this subject there is much ground that can be explored and covered; Hang is an hour and 10 minutes and therefore focuses on one particular aspect but not on what you would immediately expect.

We know that a crime has been committed but not what that crime is. Instead we hear about the devastating impact it has had on Marianne Jean-Baptiste's character, her husband and two children.

Sat in a nondescript room at prison with two prison employees (Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza) she is there to make a decision, the details of which only become clear later in the play.

The decision is wrapped up in bureaucracy, protocol and emotions which prove to be the great irony of the piece. This isn't directly about the morals of capital punishment but more how the punishment can fit the crime. There is no dilemma, as you would expect.  The two prison staff's ineptitude in dealing with the victim is both ridiculous and human and serves to emphasise just how damaged the family is as a result of the crime.

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Review: Maxine Peake in How to Hold Your Breath, Royal Court

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Zinnie Harris' new play at the Royal Court has a plot but it isn't really about that. The plot is a frame for something far reaching, almost epic and certainly at times baffling.

It starts with what looks like two lovers in bed: Dana (Maxine Peake) and Jarron (Michael Schaeffer) but when Jarron offers to pay Dana for the sex it sets in motion a story that feels part Greek tragedy and part Camus novel.

Dana is affronted by the offer and refuses the money. Jarron hates to have a debt and vows that within two weeks she will beg him for the money. Dana then embarks on weekend away with her sister Jasmine (Christine Bottomley) across Europe with the aim of eventually ending up in Alexandria where she has to give a presentation. She also secretly wants to find Jarron to whom she is strangely drawn.

During their trip there is an economic collapse and Europe descends into chaos.

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Rehearsal photos: More Maxine Peake this time in How To Hold Your Breath, Royal Court

Today seems to be all about Maxine Peake. Having earlier seen the vid promoting the screening of her Hamlet, I've just been sent these rehearsal pics for her next play.

The play, called How To Hold Your Breath is by Zinnie Harris and is described as a "darkly witty and magical thriller" which certainly has me intrigued. It opens in preview next week at the Royal Court so keep an eye out for my thoughts.