95 posts categorized "Royal Court" Feed

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


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.



Video: Maxine Peake's Hamlet gets cinema broadcast

Saw Maxine Peake's turn as Hamlet at the Royal Exchange in Manchester last year and so glad that more people are going to be able to see it when it is broadcast in cinemas in March. Just watching the trailer makes me want to see it again.

In the meantime I only have to wait until next week to see Maxine treading the boards again. She's starring in Zinnie Harris' new play How To Hold Your Breath at the Royal Court.



Review: Austerity under the spotlight in Hope at the Royal Court

780x400.fitandcropDuring the interval of Jack Thorne's latest play Hope @polyg and I were discussing how the play posed an impossible question. The fictional town council at the heart of the story is setting its budget. It must make substantial savings but doesn't have the means to generate extra income in the amounts necessary to compensate.

The councillors are faced with impossible questions of whether to cut such services as disabled day care or residential care for the elderly. Do they close the library and keep the museum open or cut classes and swim lessons at the local baths? Trimming a few quid here and there isn't going to get the numbers they require.

The baddie in this is not on stage, its central Government. It would have been easy to slip into stereotype, show a council full of bluff and a history of reckless spending. Instead these are committed and essentially good people faced with making decisions that will impact on some of the most vulnerable and in need. This is austerity.

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Review: Back to school in God Bless The Child, Royal Court

590x494.fitandcropThe Royal Court's upstairs theatre has gone back to school. The space has been transformed into a primary-age classroom complete with wall displays, little tables and chairs and book corner. It's probably the most complete transformation of a theatre space I've seen with the audience seated in plastic institutional style chairs around the very edge as if part of the classroom.

It must be quite spooky for the younger members of the cast who play the pupils and are central to the story both physically and thematically.

Molly Davies's new play is about a former children's TV presenter and author Sali Rayner (Amanda Abbington) who has devised a new system of teaching based around Badger Do Best and his woodland friends. The classroom in which the play is set is one of three around the country which is trialling the system before the government decides whether to fund phase three of its development. There is a substantial grant on offer for the school awarded the final trial stage, a grant that would enable the school to finish a much needed extension.

The problem is that the kids aren't stupid or rather one in particular - Louis (Bobby Smalldridge*). He sees through the moral manipulation of Badger Do Best and starts to make up his own stories which soon have the class doing what he wants.

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Review: Teh Internet is serious business at the Royal Court

Bewildering---Teh-Interne-011There is just a little irony in the fact that a play about the internet is two hours thirty five minutes long (with interval) and Greek tragedy, Elektra, which is also opening this week, is one hour forty straight through.

Not that Tim Price's play Teh Internet Is Serious Business isn't lacking in ideas and imagination; making coding and internet geeks exciting isn't easy and it certainly succeeds in that, the problem is the first and second halves feel out of kilter.

Based on true events, although using dramatic licence Teh Internet is about group of hackers who meet in the chat room 4Chan and wreak havoc on corporate and government websites across the globe.

The first half sets the scene. The two central characters "Topiary" (Kevin Guthrie) and "TFlow" (Jeetooa) are young, bright, talented but one is agoraphobic and the other finds social situations a challenge. The internet world they enter is depicted by a blank gray stage with doors and window-style entrances and exits from all sides and the floor - a physical embodiment of virtual chat room with people popping up from all places.

At the front is a ball pool from where popular internet meme characters appear - socially awkward penguin, paedo bear and a plethora of others I'd never heard of but you get the gist.

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Review: Uncomfortable viewing - The Nether, Royal Court

David Beames (Doyle) and Stanley Townsend (Sims) in The Nether, Royal Court

I'm not sure I could give The Nether a second viewing. I say that not because it is bad, far from it, it is dazzlingly staged and one of the most thought provoking plays I've seen for a while, it is just very uncomfortable to watch.

The Nether of Jennifer Haley's play is a virtual world of total sensory immersion where humans are choosing to spend more and more of their time. There are 'realms' for all aspects of life and in The Nether you get to be whoever you want.

It is part detective story, part examination of the morality of modern society in a virtual world. Morris (Amanda Hale), a detective, discovers a realm called The Hideaway that offers a disturbing brand of entertainment and sets about unearthing who is behind the virtual characters and where the servers are. And this is where it gets uncomfortable because this particular brand of entertainment involves children.

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Review: Nick Payne's The Art of Dying at the Royal Court

510x340.fitandcropNick Payne is sat on a chair in the middle of the stage talking about when his dad was dying. You probably aren't going to see a piece of theatre as affecting or personal as this.

And that is its power. It is obviously a personal experience for Payne but then so is it for anyone who's suffered a loss.

With great pathos he interweaves his experiences with the stories of two other deaths adding a dose of humour along the way.

What the stories acutely show is just how raw the emotions are around death, emotions that are at once simple and complicated. Despite the certainty of death it remains an awkward, uncomfortable subject; it is one we tend to brush under the carpet.

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