66 posts categorized "Young Vic" Feed

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 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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10 plays I'm really looking forward to seeing in London 2018

Julius Caesar, Bridge TheatrePrompted by the Daily Telegraph's rather uninspiring and quite frankly lazy list of upcoming theatre treats - three plays which have already opened? Oh come on - here's my list of what I'm already really excited about seeing in the first half of 2018*.

1. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Theatre - Patsy Ferran, I love Patsy Ferran and this is the first of two plays she's doing in 2018 and it's a solo piece *insert big smile here*

2. Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre - Ben Whishaw playing Brutus alongside David Morrissey and Michelle Fairley and the chance to mingle with the Roman mob? Already booked to see it twice.

3. The Brothers Size, Young Vic - Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney who also penned Oscar best picture winner Moonlight (which I loved) and starring Sope Dirisu who was brilliant in One Night In Miami at the Donmar and the RSC's Coriolanus.

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Review: My Name is Rachel Corrie, Young Vic Theatre

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Erin Doherty in My Name is Rachel Corrie. Photo Ellie Kurttz

Rachel Corrie (Erin Doherty) is someone who cares. OK, so a lot of people care but they don't care to the extent of Rachel, to the extent where she actually does something and does something remarkable and life-threatening.

Based on Rachel's writings and performed with tireless energy, wit and compassion by Erin Doherty we meet Rachel when she is a child growing up in Olympia, Washington. She'd probably be described as a sensitive, slightly odd, slightly eccentric child - precocious even - she thinks a lot, is ambitious but in her passions and pursuits rather for a career. When her class is asked to write down what they'd like to do when they grow up, she writes a long list.

Through her teens her personality and passions blossom, she is admirable, quirky in an amusing, endearing and sometime irritating way. She volunteers, she talks to people, listens to people, her compassion grows until all the work she does isn't enough so she gets on a plane and heads to Israel. Once there she crosses into Gaza where she joins up with the International Solidarity Movement, a group of activists trying to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israeli soldiers. 

She wants to help the ordinary people, those struggling to live on day to day basis and she puts herself in danger in order to do so. She wants to help the innocent people caught up in the politics and devastation of war. Her humanity is met with humanity, the people she is trying to help, help her, take her into their homes and feed her when they have so little. It is a story that gives you faith in the human race while simultaneously making you despair at the injustice of the world.

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Review: Juliet Stevenson soars in Wings, Young Vic Theatre #YVWings

WingsWeb3PortraitJuliet Stevenson obviously likes physically challenging roles. The last time I saw her at the Young Vic, she was buried up to her neck for the duration of the play. In Wings she has much more freedom of movement but is suspended in a harness above the stage, only occasionally touching down for brief scenes.

It's a clever device for telling the story of Emily, aviator and wing walker, who suffers a mentally debilitating stroke. For an hour and 15 minutes we watch as she tries to make sense of her surroundings and then how she now views and interacts with the world.

At first she feels like she is in some sort of prison, unable to make out her hospital surroundings, the words in her head not sounding like quite like they should. Her memory plays tricks on her, she cannot determine what is real or what is a dream. She gets snatches of recollection of her life and language, physically representing her feelings as she floats above those trying to help her. Occasionally they pull her back down to earth.

When she is physically more able, the struggle in her head continues, finding the words and memories her damaged brain won't naturally recall. There is a therapy session with fellow stroke sufferers; when asked to point to their elbow one finger points to the corner of the ceiling - it's as if a part of the brain has not so much been disconnected but is slightly out of kilter.

Juliet Stevenson, looks completely at home on the wire moving with an elegance and grace that I'm sure belies the effort and difficulty. It works well as a visual representation of what Emily is going through - and what flying means to her. There is a sense of the freedom she feels when she is up in the air, a freedom she perhaps doesn't enjoy when on solid ground.

There are other moments of insight too but it feels that if the flying device was removed there wouldn't be quite enough in the play to properly sustain the narrative. I'm giving Wings four stars and it runs at the Young Vic until Nov 4.


Review: A life in and of music - Nina, Young Vic and Traverse, Edinburgh

NinaWeb3PortraitimageJosette Bushell-Mingo is dressed as Nina Simone, a three piece band on stage plays out a rhythm and she describes the build up to her concert at Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969. It is vivid and evocative and you can almost feel the excitement of the occasion.

It also makes an interesting framing device - the piece finishes with Josette performing a mini-concert of Nina Simone songs - for a journey into Nina Simone's songs and the context behind the lyrics. But this isn't merely a history lesson, it is also a lesson in how little has changed.

When Josette unpicks the lyrics of key songs giving back the original meaning, she interweaves them with her own story and accounts of recent racist attacks in the US, UK and beyond. When Nina Simone wrote Mississippi Goddam it was a response to racist killings in Mississippi and a 'f*ck you' to white society. The message was clear then and in telling the story in both a historical and modern context it shines a light on how far society has and hasn't come in 50 odd years.

To drive home the point Josette turns a metaphorical gun back on the audience imagining a scenario where it is white people being shot simply because of the colour of their skin. It is a simple but powerful device that makes an important point, several important points. That injustice, inequality and racism are still alive and the revolution Nina Simone sang about and hoped for still has a long way to go.

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Review: The naked and messy Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Apollo Theatre #YoungVicCat

Cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof-photo-by-charlie-gray2Hands up all those who remember Tom Hiddleston taking a shower on stage during Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse? Well Tom Hiddleston and that production hasn't got anything on Jack O'Connell and the Young Vic's Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.

The shower is a permanent part of the opulent, minimalist, bedroom set for Tennessee Williams' classic play; thick black carpet, gold walls, black dressing table and chair, black bed with just some fresh flowers on the night stands for colour.

Right at the front of the stage, on the carpet, are six bottles of whisky, a bag of ice and some glasses, towards the back and to one side is the stem of the shower. There is no screen, or shower tray it grows out of the carpet and it becomes something to lean on or sit against as well as a shower. Rather randomly it reminded me of the lamp post in the Chronicles of Narnia - probably because the characters sometimes gather around it.

As the lights come up Brick (Jack O'Connell) is sat naked, under the flow of water (yes it runs straight into the carpet to the delight of the stage manager I'm sure), while his wife Maggie (Sienna Miller) talks incessantly about nothing and everything.

It is Brick's family home and preparations are underway for Big Daddy's (Colm Meaney) 65th birthday party but there is more than just blowing out candles on the cake at stake. Big Daddy is a rich land owner who's just had a cancer scare and there are ambitions and expectations among the wider family which, it quickly becomes clear, has led to rivalries. This isn't the Walton's.

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That was May in London theatre-land - casting, transfers, an anniversary and another bumper crop of thesp spots

600Gloria_FINAL_landscapeSmall* Stan fav Colin Morgan has been cast with Game of Thrones’ Ellie Kendrick in Gloria at Hampstead Theatre which just happens to be my newest favourite playwright. So lots of excitement for that. Gloria will also be a 10 year theatre anniversary for me and Colin. I first saw him (and mentally tipped him as one to watch) when he played the lead in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic in 2007.

* Keeping up the Game of Thrones thesp count in London’s theatre land is Natalie Dormer who’s been cast with David Oakes in Venus in Furs at Theatre Royal Haymarket from October.

* Colm Meaney joins Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Apollo Theatre which opens in July.

* Arthur Darvill of Broadchurch fame has been cast in Hir at Bush Theatre which opens on June 15.

* James Graham (This House) has a new political comedy, Labour of Love, coming to the Noel Coward Theatre in September starring Martin Freeman and Sarah Lancashire.

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Review: John Boyega in Woyzeck, Old Vic Theatre

4487I'm going to preface this piece by pointing out that I saw a preview performance and given the nature of the production there may be an element of tightening up. Of course in prefacing this way I'm hinting that I had problems and I did, some may be resolved before the official opening next week, some might not but as this was the performance I paid to see, I can only write about my experience and impressions of the play as it was performed.

Georg Buchner's original play, which he started writing in the 1830s and never completed, isn't one I'm familiar with. In this version by Jack Thorne for the Old Vic, the action has moved from provincial Germany to 1980s cold war Berlin. Orphan Frank Woyzeck (Voy-tzeck) is a British soldier who is living in a cheap flat above an abattoir with his Catholic girlfriend Marie (Sarah Greene) with whom he has a baby. Money is tight - military digs are out of the equation as they aren't married - and Frank volunteers to take part in drug trial to earn extra so they can move somewhere better.

At the start we find him a gentle soul, devoted to Marie but it is a devotion that grows increasingly obsessive. He isn't much liked among his military colleagues after an incident on a previous tour in Belfast and as the play unfolds we learn more of that and his past.

One of the key problems with the play, for me, is that the moment Frank signs up for the drug trials I could see the rest of the story mapped out and it felt like it took too long to get there. Frank becomes increasingly unwell, mentally and physically and it takes its toll on his relationships. The more unstable he becomes the more he clings to Marie and the more their relationship becomes a crutch. 

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"Alas he is mad" - How Andrew Scott's Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, scared me

Hamlet_1470x690_version_3REVIEW (contains potential spoilers) In 2011 Michael Sheen played Hamlet as the inmate of a mental hospital at the Young Vic hallucinating ghosts and prone to ranting and raving. Since then we've had a string of comparatively sane Hamlets, that is until now. The big difference in Robert Icke's approach, compared to Ian Rickson's, is in the process of the decline, the gradual loss of faculty.

The pomp and ceremony of court have been stripped away much like the Royal Exchange production which starred Maxine Peake. This is a modern royal family with modern, minimalist Scandi decor within their ancient castle - you get glimpses of the stone corridors via security cameras. Indeed the security cameras and the occasional appearance of suit and ear-piece wearing heavy are one of the few concessions to the fact that this is a royal family. The politics and threats of war are kept to TV news reports (in Danish with subtitles)

It is a loving family too, relaxed and at home in each others company or at least the extended family unit is. Ophelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) is a daddy's girl and Gertrude (Juliet Stevenson) is genial and tactile, you get the sense that Laertes (Luke Thompson) and Ophelia are like a much loved nephew and niece. They sit relaxed on a sofa together just like any other family. After Gertrude and Claudius's (Angus Wright) wedding party, the newly weds are drunk and giggly and roll around lustfully. And, while Hamlet (Andrew Scott) is the quietly grieving and melancholy son, when he and Ophelia are alone there appears to be a genuine love or at least affection between them.

Under Robert Icke's direction there is back story in every gesture, touch and look in these opening scenes which makes the betrayals, hurts and horrors to come all the more stark. It is also a perfect back drop against which Hamlet and Ophelia can lose their minds. And this is what sets this production apart. Andrew Scott's delicate soul Hamlet is slowly pulled apart by grief, the weight of revelation about his father's death and the way his uncle and Polonius (Peter Wight) try to manipulate him.

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