63 posts categorized "Young Vic" Feed

Review: The Nest, Young Vic

326x326nestMarried couple Martha (Caoilfhionn Dunne) and Kurt (Laurence Kinlan) live in a bedsit and are expecting a baby. Kurt works long hours determined to provide everything their child will need. Their life is ordinary, their conversations are ordinary and their hopes and dreams are ordinary until Kurt takes on one job that has consequences he couldn't have foreseen.

Conor McPherson has translated Franz Xaver Kroetz play setting it in Ireland and adding in enough colloquial dialogue for it to feel comfortably at home. Ian Rickson directs in a style that allows the script to breath with much of the communication between the couple coming through body language. The problem is that the play doesn't feel meaty enough to quite support this pace of performance.

Everything plods along smoothly for Martha and Kurt for what seems a long time. It is interesting for a while discerning the dynamics of their relationship - from their planning for the baby, the impact it has on their every day life and how they perceive parenting - but after a while it feels a little sluggish.

There is one particularly dynamic and dramatic scene which is brilliantly performed by Laurence Kinlan and it is blackly funny but it isn't quite enough to lift the play. The Nest has two great performances but it is a play that feels like it just drifts along and I'm not sure I'll remember it in a few weeks time.

It is one hour and 45 minutes long without an interval and I'm giving it an OK three stars. It runs at the Young Vic Theatre until Nov 26.


Review: The uplifting A Man of Good Hope, Young Vic

AMOGH326OK so I've seen The Three Penny Opera this year and now musical/opera A Man of Good Hope. What's going on? Don't worry you won't be reading my reviews of Wicked or The Lion King any time soon. I was drawn to A Man of Good Hope partly because of the story and partly because of Isango Ensemble. Isango has adapted Jonny Steinberg's book about a refuge's journey across Africa.

Four actors play Somali Asad through his life - two men, a woman and child actor Phielo Makitle (who shares the role with Siphosethu Juta). The play starts with an adult Asad talking to writer Jonny Steinberg while keeping one eye nervously on the look out for gangs we then go back to his childhood home in Somalia and the events that led to his 8-year old self becoming a refugee.

It is a story of violence, rejection and loneliness but it is also a story of ingenuity, resourcefulness, hard work - and hope. Using a mixture of African choral music and classical European opera it doesn't shy away from the harsh reality of life as a refuge or politics but it nonetheless remains an uplifting story. The danger with this sort of subject matter is to be didactic, to try to manipulate the audience but A Man Of Good Hope is subtly thought-provoking as well as entertaining*.

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Another knock out performance from Billie Piper in Yerma, Young Vic

Yerma-Sq326REVIEW: There was an occasional drip of water onto the stage during Yerma. It was a leak rather than part of the staging, an indicator of what was to come - the drip being to rain what a gun prop is to a gun shot. And, inadvertently, it was an appropriate omen for a play about a woman who wants children but whose difficulty in conceiving leads her down a dark and stormy path.

This is a contemporary version of Lorca's 1930's play by Australian Simon Stone who also directs. The subject matter transfers really well to the 21st century - in fact there is arguably more to explore around the topic given that IVF is now an option and couples can have tests to find out if there are fertility problems.

Stone's production is also contemporary. He puts the actors in a glass oblong like they are specimens trapped between pieces of glass for the audience to examine. The play is divided up into chapters with a black out for the very clever scene changes.

Billie Piper plays the protagonist - although she is never referred to by name - with Australian actor Brendan Cowell as her husband 'John'. They are a liberal, middle-class hipster couple. He does something which involves jetting off to client meetings and she's a journalist with a successful lifestyle blog. They buy a big house in a dodgy neighbourhood and she wants to fill it with a couple of kids.

They have the sort of relationship where they talk openly with each other about sex, teasing each other about their preferences. It is an openness and honesty that gets challenged and tested as she gets more desperate to have children. Turning to her blog to talk about her feelings adds to the strain on their relationship as does her sister (Charlotte Randle) getting pregnant and the arrival of an ex-lover. It adds layers of tension as she grows ever more frustrated with her and John's inability to conceive.

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Review: Mental illness, ethics and ethnicity in Blue/Orange, Young Vic

326x326BOThe last time I had to venture back stage, through an extension of the set, to get to my seat at the Young Vic was when Michael Sheen played Hamlet. This time it is for Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange - is it a coincidence that both are set in institutions? Tables and chairs are askew and abandoned from a earlier story to which we weren't party. The only other clues are segments of oranges, peeled and left, perhaps thrown, perhaps dropped.

Christopher (Daniel Kaluuya) is a day away from release from a mental hospital. He thinks his father is Idi Amin and oranges are blue. He's ready to go home but his doctor Bruce Flaherty (Luke Norris) doesn't think he is. He suspects, rather than suffering from delusions and paranoia he is actually schizophrenic and isn't ready to cope on his own. He wants more time to properly diagnose Christopher. He asks his supervisor Dr Robert Smith (David Haig) for his opinion but Smith just wants a bed free.

This three-hander is a tense and darkly funny piece. Flaherty is young, scrupulous and idealistic. Smith is concerned only with promotion, status and maintaining the status quo. Battle lines are drawn with Christopher in the middle.

It is a play about mental health and how we treat those suffering but it is also about ethics and ethnicity, idealism versus reality. Smith is fiercely ambitious doing anything to protect his career path while Smith is unflinchingly righteous in his pursuit of doing his job.

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Review: A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, Young Vic (and the Cleansed comparison)

Enews569x364There are parallels between Sarah Kane's Cleansed which is currently playing at the National Theatre and Anna Ryan's adaptation of Eimer McBride's novel A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing at the Young Vic. I didn't immediately see them but watching the latter reminded me of one of the problems with the former.

Both are very personal stories. I wrote in my review of Cleansed that I felt like a voyeur of someone else's emotional pain but ultimately felt detached from it. A Girl... is a monologue, a stream of consciousness about the life of a girl, her relationship with her family and men as she grows up. You can't be anywhere but with her through the good and the bad times - Aoife Duffin's performance is utterly compelling and holds you transfixed.

It's not a pretty story, it's a very difficult story to watch unfold at times in fact, but instead of using scenes of torture to represent the grim, darker sides of human emotion, as Cleansed does, A Girl's... simple storytelling relies just on Aoife Duffin's performance. She pulls you into the story; there is a connection, a bond, Aoife Duffin disappears and becomes the woman of the story. You witness the horrors she feels, the injustice, the fun and grief.

At times you want to hug her, comfort her, defend her, at times you want to scream at her and shake her. It is an often bleak story, explicit and unflinching but it doesn't push you away. Her struggles, reactions and emotions are not shrouded in the abstract as Cleansed is but instead a sort of poetry. There is a stark lyricism to it.

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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: John Heffernan is Macbeth at the Young Vic but he isn't dancing

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Macbeth, Young Vic. Photo Richard Hubert Smith

The last Macbeth I saw was on the big screen and starred Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It was a powerful, visual, period piece; muscular, bloody and muddy with the Scottish Highlands rain-lashed sweeping landscapes as its back drop.

Fast forward to the Young Vic's current production, directed by Carrie Cracknell and Lucy Guerin, and it couldn't contrast more. This is contemporary setting for starters. The walls of the stark set narrow towards the back of the stage to form a door sized entry point. A segment about two thirds back slides to one side taking with it members of the cast and bringing on others as if everything is slotting into place or being ordered and filed. There are hidden doors everywhere.

In the opening battle the soldiers are dressed to look like a cross between military personnel and crime scene investigators. Rather than dying on the end of a sword, victims are suffocated with plastic bags before having their throats cut. The bodies, wrapped in plastic and gaffer tape, are piled up to be logged by a clip-board wielding official.

The three witches appear dressed in flesh coloured leotards, faces bare of make up. They twitch,  jerk, tremble and shake in an almost inhuman dance. Are they what is hidden in Macbeth's soul, his darkest thoughts, the naked truth?

It is easy to diagnose Fassbender's Macbeth with what we now know as post traumatic stress but for John Heffernan's murderous Scot there is something slightly more unhinged. Lady Macbeth, a strong, cool and elegant Anna Maxwell Martin, points him firmly in the direction of the path towards his perceived destiny but it is Macbeth who runs careering down it.  And in the background the witches lurk.

There are parties for the King, old and new and more dance, a combination of synchronised pulse and fluidity, it is ordered chaos with Macbeth often in the middle of it. But Macbeth isn't dancing, except perhaps in his mind with an agony of purpose that makes you feel sorry for him. In the quieter moments, where it is his conscience and ambitious desire raging, Heffernan speaks with a clarity and comprehension that makes him equal parts scary and pitiable. What you get a sense of is a haunting desperation, perhaps a cognisance of the destructive path he is on but incapable of turning away from.

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Review: the smutty, energetic and chaotic Measure for Measure, Young Vic theatre

M4M_pressThe Duke (Zubin Varla) is telling the audience of his plans to leave Angelo (Paul Ready) in charge of Vienna in the hope that he will clean things up. Behind him is a huge pile of blow up dolls, which the citizen's of Vienna have just been throwing around, the phallus on one of male dolls just to the left of the Duke waggles distractingly. This is Measure for Measure Young Vic style.

It is a strange play that has elements that are often difficult to reconcile in a modern context - the Duke claiming Isabella (Romola Garai) for his bride when she has just been nearly raped and blackmailed by Angelo.

The Cheek By Jowl Russian version at the Barbican earlier this year was sexy, brutal and had an air of danger. Joe Hill-Gibbin's production is by contrast smutty, energetic and occasionally chaotic.

The stage is divided into two with the rear separated by a wooden screen which has both a door through which characters enter and exit but also slides away to reveal a large space. The to-ing and fro-ing between the two spaces can get a bit chaotic at times and the pace is such that some familiarity with the story is helpful.

Often when the screen is in place a live camera feed projects images of what is going on out of view. The rear space in the main represents the prison where Angelo has locked up the many that have broken his strict laws including Isabella's brother Claudio (Ivanno Jeremiah). It is where all the blow up dolls end up with Pompey amusingly using them to represent prisoners at one point.

Startling close ups of actors faces are projected onto the back wall sometimes as a live back drop to other things that are happening at the front of the stage. But for all the close ups this production lacks some deeper emotion. Garai's Isabella is impassioned but her interactions with her supposedly much loved brother are distant. It makes for an anticlimatic final reveal when she discovers Claudio is actually alive.

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Theatre hottie of the month: September

I knew pretty much from the first week of September when I saw A Song From Far Away at the Young Vic that Eelco Smits would be my hottie of the month. I wasn't wrong. He's very talented.

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Eelco Smits in A Song From Far Away © JAN VERSWEYVELD

Theatre hottie catch up just in case you've missed one:

January's theatre hottie 

February's theatre hottie

March's theatre hottie

April's theatre hottie

May's theatre hottie

June's theatre hottie

July's theatre hottie

August's theatre hottie

 

 


Review: Simon Stephens' elegiac A Song From Far Away, Young Vic

SongFromFarAway_326x326When the lights came up in the auditorium at the end of A Song From Far Away, all I could say to Poly was 'fuck'. It's not a bad thing, far from it. It was a symptom of how Simon Stephens' new play left me feeling emotionally fragile and struggling to articulate just how it made me feel.

Talking to Simon Stephens afterwards (she writes casually like it wasn't a big thing when it was a massive thing) he described it as a sketch and was worried that as a result it wasn't powerful enough. It's what gave it power for me: it's a haunting, emotional ghost of a story about a man whose life is haunted, who is himself a metaphorical ghost living a hollow, disconnected, gossamer existence.

Eelco Smits plays Willem who buys and sells things for a bank in New York. During a Sunday work meeting he gets a phone call from his mum to say his brother Pauli is dead and he needs to come home to Amsterdam.

The story of his journey home, facing what he left behind many years earlier and dealing with the emotional carnage of bereavement is told in a series of letters he writes to Pauli. There are hints of Willem's past and his relationships but when everyone is grieving can anyone be deemed a reliable narrator?

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