Review: Giles Terera in Othello, National Theatre

The National Theatre's Lyttelton stage has been transformed with steps and terraces around the performance space, creating a look that is a cross between an ancient greek theatre and a fighting pit.

Othello National Theatre Nov 2022
Othello, National Theatre, Nov 2022

Before the play starts, images of past productions of Othello and the year they were performed are projected onto the steps and back wall as a reminder of the story's timelessness.

When the play begins an angry mob confronts Othello (Giles Terera) about his marriage to Desdemona (Rosy McEwan), and one of them holds a rope tied into a noose. It's a startling reminder of the lynch mobs of the not-too-distant past.

The production is consciously white, with Terera the only person of colour in the cast. It serves to emphasise the racism and jealousy that fuels the tragedy and Othello's isolation.

A sort of chorus - called 'system' on the cast list - is almost permanently present on stage, either seated or standing on the steps. They are like the personification of an infection, the sickness of emotions that grows in Othello's mind synchronising their jagged and exaggerated movements.

And there is something that is part creepy, part peaceful in how they gather and sit with Othello as he dies. 

Paul Hilton's Iago is played with the chill and wit of a good comic book villain. The system moves and are animated by what he says and does; sometimes, there is something grotesquely comic in how they respond.

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Review: Richard The Second, Omnibus Theatre - accomplished and timely revival

Anna Coombs' adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard II sees the story slimmed down for five actors, with three of the cast playing more than one character.

Richard the Second  Tangle 2022. Photo by Bettina Adela (6)
Raheim Menzies and Daniel Rock in Richard the Second, Omnibus Theatre, Nov 2022. Photo by Bettina Adela

It focuses the attention on King Richard (Daniel Rock) and his cousins, the loyal Aumerle (Lebogang Fisher) and Henry Bollingbroke (Raheim Menzies), and the power tussle between them for the crown.

The production sets out its stall dressing the stage with step ladders of various heights. Who will climb, and how high will they go?

From the opening scene, where Henry accuses Mowbray (Sibusiso Mamba) of lying and murder, and Richard flip-flops over his decisions, it's a one-sided fight in terms of who is most suited to lead, but with this position of power, it's more complex than suitability.

It is the first incident that chimes with contemporary British politics of the last few years.

Menzies' Henry is a born leader, he is level-headed compared to Richard, and his campaign for what he is entitled to feels just next to the King's abuse of power.

He seems thoughtful and considered, while Richard makes decisions on a whim and falls into poetic whimsy. His justification for what he does is a divine right; he is anointed in holy oil at his coronation, after all.

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Review: Mary, Hampstead Theatre - politics and patriarchy in this tight historical thriller

There's a line towards the end of Rona Munro's play, Mary, that changes your perspective of the central character, Lord Melville, played by Douglas Henshall.

Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre_credit Manuel Harlan
Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Set during the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scotts, Melville is her most loyal advisor. But, with a string of scandals and seemingly bad choices threatening her position, Melville is under increasing pressure to turn his back on the Queen. 

The play is a series of increasingly tense conversations between Melville, Thompson (Brian Vernel), who has risen rapidly up the ranks at court and Agnes (Rona Morison), a maid and vocal Protestant.

Thomspon and Agnes have little sympathy for the Queen and believe Scotland would be best served if she abdicated.

Can Melville win them around to his way of thinking and onto the side of the Queen, or will they convince him that putting the infant prince James on the thrown with a regent is the better path?

Queen Mary (Meg Watson) makes only two brief appearances and says very little, but her presence is a constant throughout as every decision, every look and smile is analysed and interpreted.

Simply staged with a wood-panelled backdrop, two chairs and later a desk, the focus is firmly on a debate about the Queen's suitability to rule.

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Review: King Hamlin, Park Theatre - important issues are drowned out

King Hamlin at the Park Theatre starts before it begins with three teenage boys joshing around; it's noisy and boisterous with an undercurrent of tension.

Steve Gregson- KingHamlin-Full-029
Kiza Deen and Harris Cain in King Hamlin, Park Theatre, October 2022. Photo: Steve Gregson

When the play formally starts, Hamlin (Harris Cain) is having a nightmare about being late for a job interview. He wants to help his mum (Kiza Deen), who has just lost her job and can't get benefits for five weeks.

They have a good relationship, and Hamlin wants to finish college, go to university and become a software engineer.

But circumstances start to conspire against him. His mum can't afford wifi, he doesn't have a laptop, and he's losing out on job opportunities because he can't work from home.

Added to this, the area he lives in is rife with gangs, making it a dangerous place to be as a young male.

There is an element of pride in that Hamlin doesn't want to work in a supermarket but do something that is less manual - and paid better.

Would it have mattered if he had got any old job?

His friend Quinn (Inaam Barwani) is, by his own admission and his behaviour, not cut out for studying and college but has a proposition for Hamlin which could help solve his money issues.

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Review: David Tennant in Good, Harold Pinter Theatre - "there is a brutal and uncomfortable honesty in the absence of bravery and action"

A victim of rescheduling because of theatre lockdowns, Good, starring David Tennant, finally gets in front of an audience but is it worth the wait?

Good Harold Pinter Theatre Oct 2022
Good, Harold Pinter Theatre Oct 2022. Photo: Rev Stan

Tennant is a household name because of his screen work, but he is also a seasoned stage actor, taking on an eclectic mix of roles from Hamlet to Don Juan in Soho, so expectations are high.

Good is set in Germany during the rise of Nazism and the Second World War. Tennant plays John Halder, a literature lecturer, novelist and liberal. His best friend Maurice (Elliot Levy) is Jewish.

John has a busy life; his elderly mother has gone blind, his wife can't cope with the day-to-day, and he suspects a mutual attraction between him and one of his students (all played by Sharon Small).

He is a mild and ordinary man in many senses; he works, he visits his mother, cooks for his family, is a hands-on dad and spends time with his friend.

Through his verbalised internal monologues, we see his human flaws; the lapses of attention and care when he's talking to others instead focusing on himself. And he falls into an affair with his student.

He's not a perfect human but what you might describe as good at heart.

However, Cecil Philip Taylor's play puts the idea of 'good' under the spotlight exploring the slow and subtle indoctrination into Nazi ideas.

John is an inert character in that he doesn't seek out change or advancement in his life and career. He responds to what comes his way but doesn't challenge or resist. He believes that the Nazi's abhorrent policies will be short-lived - something to 'distract the masses'.

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Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel

Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford 'after' an unfinished play by Friedrich Schiller, Dmitry is the story of the much loved, youngest son of the Tzar of Russia who was murdered - or was he?

Dmitry  Marylebone Theatre  credit Ellie Kurtz (03)
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre, Oct 2022. Photo: Ellie Kurtz

Years later, when a young man turns up in Poland wearing Dmitry's jewelled crucifix but knowing nothing of his past other than he grew up in a monastery, people believe he is the beloved Tzarevich and rally behind him.

It is a story about identity and what that means against a backdrop of religious and political manoeuvring. It's also a play about the future direction of Russia as Dmitry (Tom Byrne), backed by an uneasy alliance of Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Cossacks, marches on Moscow to claim his rightful place as Tsar.

And it's a bold play to launch the new 200-seat Marylebone Theatre, bold in that it clocks in at nearly 3 hours (including an interval).

At times it rocks along at a satisfyingly rapid pace with plotting, countermoves and in-fighting. The sense of jeopardy grows, although it's not a case of 'if' but rather 'when'.

But at other times, it is loaded with stodgy exposition and wordy speeches, that do little to move things along.

There are some odd production choices which pull you out of the story. Modern costumes, grungy heavy metal music and sporadic segments of movement give it a contemporary feel but the performances and delivery often feel like it would sit better in a more traditional production. It didn't quite gel.

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Review: Eureka Day, Old Vic - sharp and very funny

There is a scene in Eureka Day at the Old Vic during which the audience is roaring with laughter, but it isn't anything to do with the actors who are on stage or what they are saying.

And it isn't a mistake, it is intended, and it's a genius scene for a couple of reasons, how the actors carry on regardless and the relatable source of the comedy.

Kirsten Foster  Mark McKinney  Helen Hunt  Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic  photo by Manuel Harlan
Kirsten Foster, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt, Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic, Sep 2022. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Eureka Day is the name of a private school in Berkeley, California, which is welcome to all children. That is until there is a health crisis which tests the ideas and values of five members of the PTA.

At first, the play is a satirical stab at the 'woke' left as they debate the appropriate racial groups to reference on the school's website. Everyone is seemingly doing their best to listen, suggest, understand and reach a consensus without causing offence. And it raises a good few laughs.

Of course, the irony is that they are so busy demonstrating what the school stands for and its inclusivity they don't realise the voices they are trying to include are getting stifled.

However, when a child at the school comes down with mumps, the play shifts gear into the debate around vaccines.

Where it gets very funny is at an emergency meeting about what to do, conducted via live video call with the rest of the parents. The PTA are huddled around one laptop, remaining polite and respectful to each other's views.

Then on the back wall of the classroom set, the comments from the video chat start popping up.

At first, it is a mixture of gossip, random remarks and polite comments about vaccines, but it soon descends into chaos, a mixture of wacky ideas, passive-aggressive comments and plain insults about each other's views.

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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.

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Theatre coming up soon:

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