37 posts categorized "Southwark Playhouse" Feed

Review: Philip Ridley's Angry, Southwark Playhouse or not angry, more disappointed

I love Philip Ridley's plays but this one isn't going to challenge my favourites.

Angry is written as six gender neutral monologues and night to night actors Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley switch which monologues they perform.

The suggestion is that there will be gender nuances in the performance or gender tensions in the stories or that it might challenge how you perceived the stories based on your own gender. The suggestion is that it will be intriguing enough that you'll want to watch it another night with the actors performing the alternate monologues.


But the problem is there was no gender tension in these particular stories; in fact there wasn't a single moment when I was curious about how a story would play out performed by the alternate actor. Or where I felt challenged.

Instead it felt merely like a ploy to get repeat visits.

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Interview: Max Lindsay on directing Philip Ridley's gender neutral, role swapping new play Angry #SouthwarkPlayhouse

Philip Ridley’s new play Angry (Southwark Playhouse) has an interesting structure, can you explain how it is going to work?

AngryWebSo Angry consists of 6 monologues that will be performed by both of the actors. However each night we are mixing up which actor performs which monologue.

Both of the actors [Georgie Henley and Tyrone Huntley] will be performing each night but will take turns as to who performs which monologue dependent on which version you see. So you can come and see Version 1 and get a completely different experience to when you come to see Version 2.

Really excitingly Philip has written all of the monologues so that they are gender neutral which means we have been able to really look at what these mean from a male and a female perspective. They come to life very differently.

How did you approach directing a gender neutral piece?

A lot of it stemmed from research that I did for both a female and male perspective but also from the conversations we had as a company. It was really important for the cast to feed in to that because the only way we are going to find truth in these monologues is filtering it through them.

And, how do rehearsals work when the actors are going to be performing the same monologues - is it a collaborative process?

We started off having a couple of days together to discuss all of the monologues and decide the routes we were going to go down with them. We played around with the characters and the interpretations.

It was so useful for us all to understand the different routes we were going to take so that we could push them apart further or bring them closer together dependent on what we wanted to achieve.

After that I was working with one performer at a time in very intense rehearsals. I work incredibly collaboratively so it was a lot of throwing ideas in to the mix and playing before finding what was right between the two of us.

It was then really down to my eye to ensure that things were playing the way we wanted them to.

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Review: Faction Theatre's Liverpool-set Vassa Zheleznova, Southwark Playhouse

Vassa-Image-AWFaction Theatre has taken Maxim Gorky's play about a matriarchal struggle to maintain wealth and status for her family and set it in Liverpool during the 1990's dock strikes.

It made me think of the TV series Bread and there are other parallels too aside from the Liverpool setting. Vassa (Sian Polhill-Thomas) is a formidable woman who runs the family and its business. If you ever saw her at home rather than at work she would surely be sat at the head of the table like Ma Boswell in comedy series. Vassa also has a philandering and alcoholic husband (Luke Shaw) and children that disappoint her.

However Vassa Zheleznova's story is one of a woman who started out with very little, married into money - a shipping business - and quickly realised that if she didn't take control they would lose it all. The irony is that her family, far from recognising all her efforts, seem determined to destroy everything they have.

Her husband has been snapped by the paparazzi with an under age girl, her son has married an environmental campaigner and been arrested and her daughter Nata (Nicole Hartley) has been believes you can only be happy if you are poor. Then there is the little matter of  the dock workers' strike which means the business is losing money.

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Review: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Southwark Playhouse or when Stan went on stage to play a flower #7actordream

Midsummer-1At the end of this promo video for Go People's A Midsummer Night's Dream an actor says that 'everyone single person will come away with a slightly different experience' and they weren't kidding. I've had actors deliver lines at me, ad lib lines at me, throw stuff at me, sit next to me, even fall in my lap but I've never been dragged on stage to play a part before. Not until last night at the Southwark Playhouse anyway.

This isn't A Midsummer Night's Dream for purists, Go People have added an extra premise that they are a company of seven actors attempting to play all 17 parts. They also only have about four props between them but are going to give it a go with a bit of imagination and imagining from the audience.

When Puck (Melanie Fullbrook) is asked by Oberon (Ludovic Hughes) to fetch a wild pansy to use as a love potion, in lieu of a prop flower Puck grabbed me. So there I am in the middle of the stage with Oberon gripping my hands and intently telling me all about how he discovered said love potion. At least I think that was the speech he was delivering, at the time I was more concerned with the fact that I was actually on the friggin' stage and feeling just a teeny bit self-conscious.

But it didn't end there. I was whisked off to wait back stage by Puck while the next scene was in progress.  Then Puck said something like 'have fun with it' and lead me back on stage to 'work my flower magic'. Randomly waving your hands sort of works for a magic potion being administered, doesn't it? Later Oberon assisted by holding my hand and moving it in a delicately, elegant gesture. And I just wanted to face palm thinking 'yep that would have been better'.

Now at this point I should add that earlier we'd been asked to imagine there was a large oak tree in the middle of the stage which all the actors subsequently stepped around when moving from one side to the other. So when I was excused from my flower magic duties I felt I should carefully avoid the imaginary tree on my way back to my seat, in keeping with the spirit of things, which seemed to go down quite well. 

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Review: Tennessee Williams adaptation One Arm, Southwark Playhouse

One-Arm2Adapted from a short story and un-produced screenplay by Tennessee Williams, One Arm tells the story of Ollie (Tom Varey) a prize-winning boxer who loses his arm and winds up on death row.

Flicking back and forth between Ollie awaiting his execution in prison and the story of how he ended up there, this is a tragic tale of a life full of promise to a life cut short.

When Ollie loses his arm he loses his livelihood and is forced to hustle on the streets. He is good looking and people are drawn to him because of his missing arm but for Ollie it makes him feel incomplete and ugly and he retreats emotionally.

He finds it difficult to settle and ends up travelling widely, making an impression wherever he goes. It isn't until he is in the last few weeks of his life that he realises just what an impression he has made.

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February's theatre hottie

Well you all seemed to love January's hottie of the month and luckily February has had some strong contenders. Thought it might go to Oliver Chris in Closer - love Oliver Chris - but then I went to see Gods and Monsters at Southwark Playhouse last weekend. No contest, February's theatre hottie is Will Austin.

When he first appears on stage he's wearing jeans and a white vest and I swear the audience collectively held their breath. Having seen him in the flesh, he looks like he's been spending even more time down the gym since these pictures were taken.

Willaustin-4

Gods and Monsters is his stage debut and if you won't get a chance to see it, he'll be playing (another) marine in Mission Impossible 5. Not er..convinced? Well there are some more pics here.

Missed January's hottie, find him here.


Review: Gods and Monsters (and men in the buff), Southwark Playhouse

 

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Ian Gelder and Will Austin in Gods and Monsters, Southwark Playhouse. Production photo by Annabel Vere

It was noticeable that the audience for Gods and Monsters at Southwark Playhouse yesterday afternoon was predominantly male. In fact, I could count on both my hands the number of women present, which made for a blissfully non-existent queue for the ladies at the interval.

Gods and Monsters is about James Whale, the London theatre turned Hollywood film director who was most well known for directing Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein in the 1930s. He was, unusually for the time, openly gay. The play also carries warnings of nudity. I like to think it isn't the latter that is drawing in the crowds but this production has garnered a certain reputation since it opened (see photo).

The play sees Whale (Ian Gelder) in his later years, in his California home, recovering from the effects of a stroke. He is in pain and his memory and word recall can come and go but his medication make him sluggish so he tries not to take it. He is encouraged to paint again, something he did when he was younger but, with mischievous charm, uses it as an excuse to get young men to disrobe. 

With flash backs to his youth and early relationships at University and then as an officer in the First World War, we get a picture of man who was rose from a humble background on the back of his artistic talent and cleverness. A man who loved men.

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Review: Macabre comedy Grand Guignol, Southwark Playhouse

ImageThe nights are drawing in and the Grand Guignol in early 20th Century Paris is drawing in the crowds for its macabre and terrifying horror shows. Meanwhile outside on the streets of Monmatre a monster carries out his gruesome murders. 

Into this scenario steps eminent psychologist Dr Alfred Binet (Matthew Pearson) who is conducting a study of 'creatives': "Actors, playwrights, lunatics. They are all imminently fascinating to me."

And so it begins, a witches cauldron of horror, melodrama, satire and farce with a pinch of murder mystery added for good measure.

The actors at the Grand Guignol are pretentious and affected, the stage manager/props maker bossy and the owner of the theatre demanding in the pursuit of profit. The theatre's resident writer Andre De Lorde (Jonathan Broadbent) is a gentle soul but a slave to his craft and haunted by Edgar Allen Poe whom he relies on for inspiration (a terrifying Andy Williams complete with stuffed raven on his shoulder).

Later we meet the theatre critic Level (Andy Williams again). He is all that you imagine in this context but with a delightful twist.

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Review: The grimly poetic Debris at Southwark Playhouse

Debris, Harry McEntire (Michael) and Leila Mimmack (Michelle), photo credit Richard Davenport RWD187
Harry McEntire and Leila Mimmack in Debris, Southwark Playhouse Photo by Richard Davenport

I'm a huge Philip Ridley fan and Dennis Kelly's writing reminds me of him. Kelly's play Debris -  receiving a 10th anniversary brush down at the Southwark Playhouse - has a similar poetry, a potent mix of shockingly grim reality, black humour and a narrative that is evocative and affecting.

Brother and sister Michael (Harry McEntire) and Michelle (Leila Mimmack) recount the story of their lives blending fantasy and reality with a child's interpretation and some scarily mature observations. It jumps back and forth in time and between the siblings eventually drawing everything together.

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Review: Three Sisters at the Southwark Playhouse

Three_Sisters_Web_circle2This production of Chekhov's Three Sisters is a version by Anya Reiss who has modernised the language and placed the sisters in a British enclave, in an unnamed Middle Eastern country, from where the British army is about to withdraw. The characters have mobile phones and iPads and rather than wanting to return to Moscow the sisters want to return to London.

The problem with going down this path is one of context. The basic premise of Chekhov's play is that the three woman are trapped in a man's world, unable to fulfil their desires and return home because they can't do so without their brother Andrei. Those constraints just don't exist in this modern context and the production just reminded me of that fact all the way through.

In the same way that my inner voice is screaming "just sell the friggin' cherry orchard" in this I just wanted to yell: "get onto Expedia and book yourself a flight". And in the same context would Masha stay with her husband whom she resents?

Stuck in a place they don't want to be the three sisters and their army friends philosophise on their place in society, their worth and happiness. However, all this got clouded by the modernity of the setting and considering its trimmed running time - 2 hours 10 including interval - it felt a little slow and stodgy.

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