108 posts categorized "Royal Court" 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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Review: Notes From The Field, Royal Court - or the most affecting play I've seen for a long while

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience this piece of theatre.

Anna Deavere Smith's Notes From The Field at the Royal Court is an important play and one that makes a lot of theatre feel inconsequential.

royal court notes from the field rev stanIt is a powerful, affecting piece devised and performed by Deavere Smith using the words of real people she has interviewed.

Each interview is linked thematically and explores the relationship between poverty, justice, education and racism in America but there are also clusters of interviews with people linked in various ways to particular events.

Diverse

She has spoken to a broad range of people from eye-witnesses, workers within the legal system, politicians, human rights campaigners, academics, teachers and parents.

Slipping her bare feet into a pair of trainers or boots or shoes and shrugging on a jacket or scarf or top she transforms into the person whose words she speaks.

You don't need to have heard or seen a recording to realise that each interviewee is recreated through a carefully observed performance that captures their intonation, accent, verbal ticks and body language.

Deserves applause

That in itself deserves applause.

There are minimal props - occasionally a chair or a sofa or podium - instead images and videos are projected on the brick wall at the back of the stage to either set the scene or give visual context.

Prop and costume changes are conducted in full view, the wings of the stage exposed and somehow this reality check, this breaking of the fourth wall makes her performance all the more captivating.

Real life

For all the pretend this is real life, really happening - just as the words come from real people, real situations and real experiences.

The performance and narrative hold your attention, through every distressing, disturbing, horrifying, disbelieving and uplifting moment of it.

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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: Perfection that is robotic in Instructions For Correct Assembly, Royal Court

Clever staging and some memorable moments but the play, like the robot at the centre of the story, lacks soul.

What if you could build your own robot child and programme it, a chance to correct past mistakes and produce the perfect off-spring?

Instructions-for-correct-assemblyThis is the premise of Thomas Eccleshare’s new play Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court.

Parents Max (Jane Horrocks) and Harry (Mark Bonnar) are surrounded by friends with over-achieving sons and daughters unfortunately, as we discover, their own son Nick (Brian Vernel) wasn't quite as perfect.

The staging utilises two conveyor belts on which props, bits of set and actors slide into view.

At first, we see the action through a window-shaped space as if it is taking place inside its own box of parts; watching Max and Harry build their new 'son' Jån (also Brian Vernel) who comes complete with Ikea style instruction booklet.

Once Jån is ‘out of the box’ the window screen lifts and we see them tinkering with him, getting him ‘just right’ for the big unveil to their friends.

In an interview with What’s On Stage (see related content below) Thomas Eccleshare says the play is about perfection and what that looks like.

The perfection as presented in the play is a world of high-flying careers, a benign world of politeness but it is also soulless and colourless.

Max and Harry themselves are quite mechanical and surface, there are too few chinks in their polite and friendly armour.

Their friends are also nice and polite, full of humble-brags and it's all a bit Stepford wives (and husbands) except that there isn't even anything sinister about it.

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Review: Carey Mulligan is stunning in Girls and Boys, Royal Court Theatre

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex.

Carey Mulligan has a twinkle in her eye. She stands at the front of the stage, hands in pockets, telling the story of how she met her future husband with the precise timing of stand up comic.

Her unnamed character is bright and sassy, she's decided to break out of the shallow fug of drink, drugs and casual sex and take herself wherever in the world the pin in a map lands.

carey mulligan girls and boys royal court marc brennerIt is on these travels that she spots a man in a queue at the airport whom she takes an instant dislike to.

When the back drop lifts to reveal a modern, smart living room and kitchen Carey Mulligan slips effortlessly into the role of harassed, working mother trying to look after two small children.

You don't need them there for her to convince you that they are, you can almost hear their voices when she negotiates with them.

We'll return to this domestic scene at intervals, always her with her children.

When the backdrop returns she fills in the gaps about her life outside her children, her flourishing career and relationship with her husband.

But this isn't a story of meet, fall in love, get married, have kids. Neither is it story of growing up or of following your dream. Well it is, it is all of those things but there is more to it than that.

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January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots.

The Inheritance Young Vic
Vanessa Redgrave joins the cast of The Inheritance, Young Vic

Theatre gets me through the dark days of January, here are my highlights from the new play and casting announcements, favourite things I saw (and the low moment).  And, thanks to the Julius Caesar press night, there was a bumper crop of actor, director and writer spots too...

* Forbes Mason, who will forever be known as the Lucifer in pants, thanks to Jamie Lloyd's Doctor Faustus, has been cast in the Almeida's Summer and Smoke which opens later this month. Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to seeing Patsy Ferran, who also stars, in that?

* Josie Rourke announced she is stepping down as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse next year after eight years in the role. My highlights of her tenure, if you were to ask me for the first things that spring to mind, would be the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus (incidentally my review of that is my most popular post and has been viewed nearly 15,000 times), the all women Shakespeare series and James Graham's Privacy. There are plenty of others but those are what stick most in my mind.

* Vanessa Redgrave (yes Vanessa Redgrave!) has been cast in The Inheritance at the Young Vic which opens next month. I could listen to her voice for hours. Also announced in the cast are Stan-fav's Kyle Soller, Michael Marcus and Luke Thallon plus a whole bunch of new names I’m looking forward to getting to know over a double play day.

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Review: My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court - my first five star play of 2018?

Patsy Ferran’s ‘girl’ is sat in the corner playing a mini Casio keyboard. She says ‘hello’ to me and I go and sit on a red bean bag on the turquoise coloured carpet.

Helen murray-My-Mums-A-Twat-patsy ferran royal court
Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

We are in a kids bedroom - not a surreal dream but the set of Anoushka Warden's play My Mum's A Twat.  The furniture has glittery stickers on it, there's a shelf of Troll dolls, photos and pictures stuck to the walls.

This room, ironically, becomes a marker for the end of innocent childhood a time before the divorce and marriage to ‘moron’ lead her Mum into a ‘healing’ cult and a journey of estrangement and conflict between mother and daughter.

Patsy Ferran’s girl tells the story bubbling with defiance, resourcefulness and sassiness. You can imagine the pursed lips of the adults in her life.

Her tale unfolds through the prism of child then teen logic but while there is no abuse or great cruelty the perceived emotional abandonment by her Mum smacks hard and there are hints of the pain it causes.

We are transported swiftly from the ‘healing centre’ of her mother’s cult to Canada and back again with effervescent energy, colour and wit but in the still moments the hurt that ripples to the surface is all the more powerful.

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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


My theatre 'StOlivier' awards 2017

Step aside best actor/actress/play etc this is what was noteworthy for me in theatre land, in 2017.

Menagerie award The Ferryman was an award winning play in many way but for me it deserve an extra gong for fur and feathers - a cute little rabbit and a goose both made scene stealing appearances. Babies? Schmabies. Real, live animals on stage are the thing.

Exhibit A: Roman Tragedies, Barbican Theatre
Exhibit A: Roman Tragedies, Barbican Theatre

Event theatre and star studded audience award Ivo Van Hove's  six hour Roman Tragedies at the Barbican was an event for many reasons not least for allowing audience members to wander onto the stage between scenes and perch wherever they could get a seat. Photos, without flash, and tweeting (see exhibit A) were also encouraged. It also attracted probably the most thespy audience I've seen so far: Simon Stephens, Rupert Goold and Kate Fleetwood, Kyle Soler and Pheobe Fox, John Heffernan, Angus Wright, Jamie Lloyd, Ruth Wilson, Ian McDiarmid, Jonjo O’Neill, Jeremy Herrin and Leo Bill.

Best kiss When Paddy Considine and Laura Donnelly's characters kissed in The Ferryman, Royal Court it was so charged with years of repressed feelings it took my breath away and broke my heart a little bit.

Best spit - Not since I (probably) gave an award to the cast of Richard III for all spitting on Ralph Fiennes has their been a gobbing incident worthy of note but step forward Jasmine Hyde who spat so spectacularly on Harry Melling during Jam, Finborough Theatre.

Hottie of the month kinda lives on...these were my particular favourites in 2017: Theo James, Andrew Garfield, Douglas Booth and James Norton but if I had to choose one it would be Theo because I'm such a huge fan and it was the first time I've seen him on stage.

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