Review: Rose, Park Theatre - a story of a life of love and tragedy told with wit and humour

Martin Sherman's play Rose at the Park Theatre is framed by two identical killings decades apart, and the titular character witnesses both.

Maureen Lipman  Rose  Park Theatre Photo Mark Senior
Maureen Lipman in Rose Park Theatre, Sep 2022. Photo: Mark Senior

Played by Dame Maureen Lipman, Rose sits Shivah on a wooden bench, reflecting on her life.

Born in Ukraine in the 1920s, it is a life of searching and surviving; she moves towards the excitement of Warsaw as a teenager, and when the Nazis arrive survives by hiding.

After the war, her searching and surviving continue taking her across Europe and then the US via Palestine. Once in America, she moves driven by economics and opportunity.

But while this is a life shaped by brutal war and racism, it is also a life of love, romance, and humour. Rose, as played by Lipman, is witty and deadpan.

"I have only vague, wandering images of my childhood, but yesterday - I remember everything single thing about yesterday. Nothing happened yesterday."

She is not shy about the details and talks about love and sex almost in the same tone as losing loved ones. There are occasional emotional outbursts - anger and tears - but mostly, she is matter-of-fact, her vitality as a person expressed in her actions as described - and that humour.

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Review: The Clinic, Almeida Theatre - an intoxicating and befuddling brew

Tea drinking features heavily in Dipo Baruwa-Etti's posh kitchen-set play The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre. But this tea may or may not have intoxicating or calming effects; even those who fervently dislike infusions get a taste for it. 

The Clinic. Mercy Ojelade  Gloria Obianyo  Maynard Eziashi  Donna Berlin  Simon Manyonda. Photo - Marc Brenner (2)
The Clinic, Almeida Theatre Sep 22. Mercy Ojelade, Gloria Obianyo, Maynard Eziashi, Donna Berlin and Simon Manyonda. Photo: Marc Brenner

And that is The Clinic, a mix of contemporary family drama and something more difficult to put a finger on.

It opens with the 60th birthday celebration of Segun (Maynard Eziashi) with his wife Tiwa (Donna Berlin), son Bayo (Simon Manyonda, daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) and Bayo's wife Amina (Mercy Ojelade).

The dialogue crackles and sparks; this is a familiar family dynamic that is a mix of love and frustration. There are harsh jibes and sharp digs centring on politics and activism.

Segun is a therapist and author, and Tiwa volunteers at a women's refuge. They have made a comfortable life for themselves and vote Tory. Bayo is in the police, Ore is a junior doctor and both vote labour. Amina is a labour politician.

Job choice comes under scrutiny, as does who is best placed to force change and drive racial equality and what is the most effective tactic. Sparks fly in a fierce, passionate, angry debate that quickly spills over into hurtful remarks.

Into this mix comes Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase), a suicidal widow with a baby, whom Ore thinks her parents can help.

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Review: Who Killed My Father, Young Vic Theatre - subtle but powerful

I can now say I've seen Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio on stage. OK, so they were on telly on stage, but that is technically on stage. Kate and Leo were in Titanic mode, the favourite film of the son in Who Killed My Father.

Who Killed My Father
Who Killed My Father, Young Vic, Sep 2022

His homophobic father initially refuses to get him the video for his birthday.

Father and son are both played by Hans Kesting in this Ivo Van Hove adaptation of Édouard Louis' novel. The son is visiting his dying father and reflecting on his life, what shaped him and ultimately brought him to an untimely death.

Kesting differentiates the two using postures, cigarette breaks and stuffing fists up his jumper to indicate a protruding belly. He flits seamlessly from one to the other. There are shifts in energy too, the play covering childhood, teens, adulthood and middle age.

It's a punchy 90-minute play that feels a little like a whodunnit, with the suspects being parents, culture, class and politics.

While it is set in France, there is a lot that resonates about the struggles the poor face here in the UK and how the most minor political decision can make a huge difference - for good or bad.

It's also an interesting exploration of toxic masculinity and how that gets passed down and reinforced by society. It shows the devasting impact it has on the father and his prospects - toeing the line at school is seen as a feminine or homosexual trait. 

But this isn't a simple story of an emotionally abusive father who can't hide his shame about his son's lack of 'masculine' traits. There are family treats, the Titanic video and singalongs to Celine Dion in the car.

The father also experiences a good dose of misfortunate, which makes life even more difficult despite his best efforts.

Kesting's delivery is slow and considered, reserving bursts for youthful energy. It makes for an effective contrast in mood and tone, although the pace does drag a little in a couple of places. He doesn't always play to the audience, so at times it feels voyeuristic. 

At one point, Kesting disappears from view if you are sitting to the left of the stage, but it isn't for very long  He spends a bit of time sitting on a bed which is stage left, but I'm not sure if that affects the view if you are in seats that are to the far right.

Who Killed My Father presents some interesting ideas about the agency poor people have over their own lives, and the way society both helps and hinders. It's subtle but powerful, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Who Killed My Father, Young Vic

Adapted from Édouard Louis' book by Ivo Van Hove

Directed by Ivo Van Hove

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval.

Booking until 24 September; visit the Young Vic website for more details and tickets.

Recently reviewed

Silence, Donmar Warehouse⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cruise, Apollo Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Monster, Park Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Theatre coming up soon:

The Clinic, Almeida Theatre, Rose, Park Theatre and The Crucible, Almeida

 

 


Review: Silence, Donmar Warehouse - filling the silence, a play that left me wanting more

Silence is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Kavita Puri who interviewed people who lived through the partition of India in 1947 and subsequently settled in the UK.

Silence Donmar Warehouse
Silence, Donmar Warehouse Sep 2022

The play is co-authored by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood and is structured as a series of individual stories joined loosely by the thread of a journalist trying to coax her elderly father into talking about his own experiences.

Partition is not an event in history I know much about, which is what immediately drew me to the play, and for that, it is a good introduction. These are real experiences of trauma from a country suddenly divided on religious grounds. Friends turned enemies overnight because of a line drawn on a map and the atrocities and violence that result when people are othered.

The staging is simple, with large panels of cloth hanging towards the back of the stage, onto which there are projections. These can be turned at different angles.

Simple but devastating divide

A piece of string is used to denote how the country was carved up with religious groups designated to certain areas. And chalk lines depict train tracks now dissected by the 'border'.

However, the staging is such that it pushes the actors towards the front of the stage, and the production doesn't make the most of the Donmar's thrust with much of the performance played forwards, neglecting those sitting to the sides.

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Review: Cruise, Apollo Theatre - an explosive, energetic delight

There are two types of standing ovation: The ones where there is a slow trickle of people getting to their feet and the rarer ones where the entire audience leaps up en masse. Jack Holden's Cruise at the Apollo Theatre was in the latter category.

033_Cruise 2022_Pamela Raith Photography
Jack Holden and John Patrick Elliott in Cruise, Apollo Theatre 2022. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Written and performed by Holden, this hour and 40-minute explosive, energetic delight of a play is primarily set among the gay community in 1980s Soho. It's about having one last night when you think you won't be around for tomorrow. But to set up that night, the play looks back at the four preceding years.

Aided by musician and DJ John Patrick Elliott, Holden takes the audience on a journey evoking the sounds, atmosphere and characters of this colourful but less than salubrious part of central London.

And what characters, some only in the story for a few lines, others who weave in and out throughout, but each is richly painted. Holden doesn't put on costumes or use props; rather, he brings each vividly to life in the way he describes them and with subtle and not-so-subtle mannerisms. 

He switches effortlessly but with almost dizzying speed between each, and as a result, the play feels like it has a huge cast. The tonal shifts are also effortless. Wit, humour, fun and uplifting moments mix with the grimier, grimmer and heartbreaking, all of which are set against a backdrop of music that matches and enhances each moment.

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Review: Monster, Park Theatre - shocking and powerful

There was a point while watching Monster at the Park Theatre when I realised I had my hand over my mouth. What was unfolding on stage was shocking, and I haven't had a reaction like that to a play for quite a while.

 

Monster credit Ben Wilkin-7741
Caitlin Fielding and Abigail Hood in Monster, Park Theatre Aug 22. Photo credit: Ben Wilkin

 

Abigail Hood's new play is set in Glasgow in 2006 and follows teenager Kayleigh 'Kay' Grey (played by Hood) and her best friend Zoe (Caitlin Fielding). Zoe is quiet and shy and gets bullied, and Kay is prone to retaliate on her behalf. However, the retaliations tend to get her into increasingly serious trouble.

One teacher, Mrs Hastie (Emma Keele), thinks Kay is at heart a good person, but something is going on to make her act up. She is trying to build trust so Kay will open up.

But before Mrs Hastie can find out if her hunch is right, events start to spiral out of control with horrific consequences.

(I'm being deliberately vague as I don't want to spoil anything.)

The structure of the play means it builds to a critical event, but rather than that being towards the end, it allows time to deal more fully with the consequences. And that's what makes this really interesting.

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Review: Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre - a compelling watch

Mark St Germain's play Freud's Last Session at the King's Head Theatre in Islington is a compact yet powerful play which imagines a clash of intellect and reasoning between two famous minds.

Freud's Last Session King's Head Theatre
Consulting couch on the set of Freud's Last Session, King's Head Theatre July 2022. Designer: Brad Caleb Lee

It's England on the day that World War II will be declared, and Freud (Julian Bird) has invited Oxford Professor CS Lewis (Séan Browne) to see him at his London home. The founder of psychoanalysis is in the later stages of painful mouth cancer, while Lewis is yet to become a famous writer.

Freud, an atheist, is fascinated with Lewis's sudden re-adoption of Christianity, having lost his faith as a teenager. With the threat of war looming, the two debate the existence of God, religion, sex and relationships.

St Germain's tight script allows the interrogation of both men's arguments, yet the conversations' seriousness also has flashes of wit and humour. It is not so much a case of one winning over the other but what they discover about themselves during the conversation.

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Review: Closer, Lyric Hammersmith - a sad and sordid tale of love, lust and lies

The Lyric Hammersmith's circle was steaming hot, but can the same be said about Closer, Patrick Marber's play about love, lust and lies?

Closer Lyric Hammersmith programme
Closer, Lyric Hammersmith July 2022

Two men and two women form a love 'quadrangle': Dan (Jack Farthing) is an obituary writer, Anna is a photographer (Nina Toussaint-White), Larry (Sam Troughton) is a dermatologist, and Alice (Ella Hunt) is sometimes a waitress, sometimes a stripper.

The play opens with Dan and Alice meeting in a hospital. The latter has been knocked over by a taxi, and Dan, a witness to the accident, has accompanied her to get checked out.

It is the first random event that will eventually link the four and starts them on a journey of love pursuits and broken hearts (and egos).

Throwing away love

The problem Dan, Anna and Larry have is that they convince themselves they are chasing love and happiness, only to throw it all away when they get it.

Certainly, in the case of the men, it is quickly apparent that sexual desire is the driving force with infidelity never far away. Larry even likes to visit prostitutes and strip clubs and spends time in internet sex chat rooms while at work.

It is quite sad to watch them make the same mistakes over and over while kidding themselves they are being honest and truthful.

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Review: Tom Hollander in Patriots, Almeida Theatre - star performance and penny drop moments

Confession: I sat down to watch the Patriots at the Almeida, not realising that the central character Boris Berezovsky (Tom Hollander) was based on a real person. 🤦🏻  The penny drop moment came when a character previously referred to as 'The Kid' was introduced as Roman Abramovich (Luke Thallon).

Patriots poster
Poster for Patriots, Almeida Theatre July 2022

Peter Morgan's play follows Berezovsky from his position as an influential oligarch who helps to put Vladimir Putin (Will Keen) in power to public enemy and exile.

He has a clever mind, a sharp tongue and is not shy of dropping f-bombs. While his primary motivation, he tells us, is doing what is best for his country, his arrogance says something slightly different. And that arrogance blinds him or skewers his judgement and leads to his downfall.

Tom Hollander plays Berezovsky with wit and swagger; it is a star performance (he got a standing ovation at the end) but not a surprising performance.  

Putin is the only other character that has some traction in the play and is expertly played by Keen. He really embodies the character presenting an uncanny likeness that is quite disconcerting.

Wasted character

It's similar for Thallon, he does bear an uncanny resemblance to the man he is playing. However, his character feels wasted, with little for Thallon to really get his teeth into, particularly given the meatier roles he's had recently (Camp Siegfried and After Life).

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Review: The Seagull, Harold Pinter theatre - understated performances amplify the tragedy

Jamie Lloyd is a genius. There I've said it. How else would you describe a director who has his cast seated for most of the play while giving understated performances that somehow manage to amp up the emotion to 11 on the dial?

The Seagull  Harold Pinter Theatre July 2022
The Seagull, Harold Pinter Theatre July 2022

In fact, the performances are so understated it makes previous productions of The Seagull I've seen seem brash and showy. There is no hand-wringing and sweeping gestures, swooping onto the stage or storming off. It's the opposite: contained, subtle and still, and that supercharges the feelings and subtext.

You can almost hear the inner monologue of the characters.

It's a blank plywood stage with green plastic chairs of the type you get in community centres and church halls. Conversations are mostly pitched at 'private' and 'casual' making it an almost voyeuristic watching experience.

Hanging on every word

You don't need huffs and sighs and characters flopping around to indicate lethargy and boredom it is in their stillness and subtle movement. And that stillness sharpens the focus on what is being said. You hang on every word.

Occasionally there are bursts of energy but it somehow magnifies the subtle emotions of the quiet conversations.

Anya Reiss' modern adaptation makes the play feel completely at home in the 21st century: Carriages have become Land Rovers and Jeeps and Trigorin tells Nina to call his agent.

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