Review: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, National Theatre - 'you must be wondering what the hell is going on?'

Despite committed performances by Blanchett and Dillane, there is something cold and mechanical to what is going on.

Cate Blanchett national theatre poster

Cate Blanchett is clever casting for Martin Crimp's new play When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other at the National Theatre because without her I very much doubt it would have sold out before it opened.

I'm putting my hand up and admit it was her casting that persuaded me to buy tickets, it certainly wasn't the fact that the play is written by Martin Crimp - the last of his I saw I tried to fall asleep to escape the boredom.

But even the thrill of seeing the Oscar/Golden Globe/BAFTA winner on the stage couldn't elevate what was a tedious two hours at the theatre.

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Review: The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre - interesting snapshot of an often overlooked period of social history

Anouilh's humour doesn't ignite as well as it probably should but The Orchestra is otherwise an interesting snapshot of a period of social history that is often overlooked.

2 Stefania Licari (Suzanne Delicias) pic credit Jacob Malinski
Stefania Licari (Suzanne Delicias). Photo: Jacob Malinski

Set just after WWII, Jean Anouilh's black comedy The Orchestra is set in a French café during an evening performance when the harmony in the playing isn't matched by the musicians' conversations between pieces.

Mme. Hortense (Amanda Osborne), the leader of the orchestra flirts with piano player M. Leon (Pedro Casarin) which inflames jealousy in his lover Suzanne (Stefania Licari).

And while the tension increases between the three, the rest of the orchestra bicker, show off and complain about their lives.

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Some starry West End casting news to round off the week

She may be in a distinctly chilly New York but that didn't stop @polyg spotting the announcement that one of my favourite actors, Clive Owen, is taking to the West End stage in the Summer.

His last stage outing pre-dates my obsession with theatre but I've been a huge fan of his screen work since Chancer and Close My Eyes back in the early 90s.

To make this announcement even more exciting he is co-starring alongside the fantastic Lia Williams and it's a Tennessee Williams play I've yet to see - The Night of the Iguana.

It opens on 6 July at the Noel Coward Theatre with tickets on sale from Feb 5 according to What's On Stage.

But there is more.

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Review: Cost of Living, Hampstead Theatre - refreshingly bold and honest

Cost of Living is a refreshingly bold play, it presents disability in a matter of fact way focusing on relationships while challenging inhibitions

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Martyna Majok's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living focuses on two carers and the people they care for.

Eddie (Adrian Lester) is looking after his soon to be ex-wife Ani (Katy Sullivan) who is quadriplegic after a terrible accident and Jess (Emily Barber) has just been employed to help PhD student John (Jack Hunter) who has cerebral palsy.

While Ani and John are totally reliant on their carers for physical assistance, Eddie and Jess are equally needy in their own way. 

We are first introduced to Eddie who is in a bar, buying the barman drinks as penance when he gets gloomy about a recent bereavement.

Nuanced performance

Majok doesn't always give Eddie the words to explain his thoughts but it is all there in Lester's nuanced performance.

It is a gripping opening but the play stumbles a little as it moves into its middle section.

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Vault Festival review: Kompromat, a gripping, sexy, spy thriller

The performances ooze with sexual tension and sensuousness; the backdrop is an atmosphere of isolation and threat and it is this combination which elevates Kompromat above your average spy thriller.

Kompromat. VAULT Festival. Photo Mark Senior-3
Guy Warren-Thomas and Max Rinehart in Kompromat. VAULT Festival. Photo: Mark Senior

 

The 2010 'spy in the bag' murder is the inspiration behind Kompromat, a new play by David Thame which imagines the murderer using a honey trap to ensnare his victim.

A two-hander, the story is told through a series of monologues and flashbacks primarily through the eyes of Zac (Max Rinehart) who picks up Tom (Guy Warren-Thomas) at a club.

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Interview: Kristine Landon-Smith on directing the 'understated' and 'pricelessly funny' The Orchestra, Omnibus Theatre

Kristine Landon-Smith headshot
Director Kristine Landon-Smith

Jean Anouilh’s play The Orchestra tells the story of a third-rate orchestra in France just after the second world war and it is a play that made a big impression on director Kristine Landon-Smith.

"I had never seen anything quite like it: a play set in France just after the war where the musicians between arrangements try to work out who had "collaborated".

"Understated yet pricelessly funny, I knew I wanted to direct this classic gem," she says.

Landon-Smith, who was founder member and artistic director of Tamasha for 22 years and a senior lecturer in acting at The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Australia, got her wish 10 years later. 

However, she's now been drawn back to the play a second time.

I asked her what has changed and whether she thinks the landscape is changing for the better for women theatre-makers.

The Orchestra obviously had a big impact when you first saw it but watching is different from directing - what did you want to explore in directing it?

I was a young actress when I first saw it and just making a foray into directing.

There was this beautiful mix of understated throw away comic delivery and then these heightened moments where the actors mime the musical numbers.

I could see it required great skill and precision to play well and I was very drawn to this aspect of it.

And now you are revisiting it a second time, what has changed?

Everything has changed. I have changed and the world has changed so you do come to things with that experience behind you and also with a sensibility of how you are feeling at the moment.

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Cate Blanchett play at the National Theatre has an audience member fainting

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National Theatre content advisory warning


If a play is called 'When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other' you expect there to be some uncomfortable moments.

But apparently Martin Crimp's play, which is in preview at the National Theatre, is so explicit a woman in the audience fainted during a performance.

Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane star in the production and Katie Mitchell directs.

In fact, Mitchell's name should be a second warning for those of sensitive disposition as she isn't known for shying away from topics and behaviour that aren't an easy watch.

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Interview: Peter Darney talks 5 Guys Chillin' success and directing the 'dangerous' and 'sexy' play Kompromat

"Theatre should challenge, should open your eyes to the nooks and crannies of life you wouldn't see otherwise."

Peter Darney studied drama at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has acting, writing and directing credits to his name including the international fringe hit 5 Guys Chillin’.

He is currently directing gay crime thriller Kompromat by David Thame, which was inspired by the 2010 'spy in the bag' murders and opens at the Vault Festival next week.

Here he talks about what has made him a more empathetic director, how theatre should challenge and why Kompromat is a must-see.

Peter Darney
Writer/director Peter Darney. Photo by Oscar Blustin

You wrote while you were at drama school, subsequently studied directing and then took up writing again how do the disciplines compare?

I made a living from acting for six years and it's quite blissful because I feel like I've come full circle.

I think what I always wanted to be was a writer and I am now really exploring that again but I'm bringing the knowledge I learnt from being an actor, knowing that I have to be able to motivate any line of dialogue.

And from being a director, having an understanding of structure and the bigger picture of what works and what doesn't; what's going to be impossible to stage, what's going to be cheap to stage and then taking all of that back into my writing.

Does it make you a better director?

A good boss can always do your job and everybody else's, so I think [it’s good] understanding the three disciplines.

You know what it feels like to stand there as an actor and get crushed by a director and I would hope it stops me from crushing an actor.  

Similarly, knowing what it feels like to have a director say ‘oh no this is rubbish’... having empathy for each role I hope helps me work a little more holistically and with kindness.

What are you most proud of so far?

The thing I'm most proud of is a play that I wrote and directed called 5 Guys Chillin’ which is a verbatim drama about the chemsex epidemic.

It played in London for about six months, did two Edinburgh festivals, played Sydney and Toronto and it’s opening in a French translation in Paris this month.

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Review: Rosenbaum's Rescue, Park Theatre - finding truth in competing narratives

A Bodin Saphir's play, directed by Kate Fahy, is an engaging look at the nature of truth and whether it is merely a matter of perspective or personal belief.

David Bamber & Neil McCaul in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet _50A0544
David Bamber & Neil McCaul (L-R) in Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

Set in 2001, Rosenbaum's Rescue at Park Theatre examines the circumstances surrounding the safe exodus of thousands of Jews in Denmark during the Second World War.

A tip-off and the absence of Nazi ships meant that in 1943, 7,500 Jews were able to flee to Sweden on fishing boats.

Abraham (David Bamber) and Lars (Neil McCaul) were both 8-years old at the time and have very different views about what happened and its significance but the truth might just fracture an already prickly friendship.

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All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre - rehearsal photos and day seat info

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Gillian Anderson and Julian Ovenden in rehearsal for All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre. Photography by Jan Versweyveld

Rehearsal photos and day seat information have been released for Ivo Van Hove's All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre.

Opening for preview on Feb 2 and starring Gillian Anderson and Lily James, there are two options for getting cheaper tickets on the day of the performance.

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