61 posts categorized "Young Vic" Feed

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

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.

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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Review: Rory K is Joseph K on the nightmare travellator in The Trial, Young Vic

The_Trial_FINAL_326X326I've only read one Franz Kafka novel and that was purely to impress my then boyfriend who said it was his favourite book. I didn't find it a page turner.

Fast forward a few years and the Gate Theatre put on a play called Joseph K based on Kafka's The Trial. Didn't much enjoy that either mainly because I didn't really understand it.

So, why go and see another stage version of the same novel? Well, there are two reasons. First: it is at the Young Vic which is one of the most exciting and innovative theatres in London and has had a pretty good run of outstanding productions recently. Second: Rory Kinnear. Have long been a fan of his work, even before he wore eye-liner in Last of the Haussmans and then gave an award-winning Iago in Othello.

In The Trial Rory K is playing Josef K and perhaps it's the years that have rolled by since that first Kafka read and the eclectic range of theatre I've watched since the Gate but my appreciation and understanding was far greater this time. Me and Kafka got on much better but that isn't to say I'm now a huge fan.

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Props and an actor go flying in Ah, Wilderness!, Young Vic

Ah-wilderness-007 Ashley Zhangazha and George MacKay in Ah, Wilderness! Photo: Tristram Kenton

Always feel for actors when they've got an awkward stage set to move around. I mean is it not enough for them to have to remember their lines, their cues, the props and act all at the same time? Sloping stages always have me worrying for their ankles but sandy stages, well that's just a recipe for problems. 

Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic has a sandy stage and the first time I saw it there were a few stumbles and wobbles. Last night Janie Dee properly fell over as she was trying to make her exit. The rest of the cast were, of course, pro's with George MacKay's 'Richard' calling out a concerned 'mom' while going to help her.

There was no limping or signs of injury at the curtain call so lets hope that means she was OK. But it wasn't the only mishap in last night's performance. The props seem to take on a life of their own.

In the opening scene Richard and his brother Arthur (Ashley Zhangazha) argue over a book that happened to have a pen clipped to its cover. In the tug of war over the book the pen went flying and nearly hit a man sat on the front row in the face.

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