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March 2012

Shivered the Philip Ridley play that didn't quite make me shiver

Shivered1Philip Ridley's new play at the Southwark Playhouse has all the ingredients of his style that I love. There is the beautifully visual language, the stories within the story that often have a fantastical element, the shocking images and events and the humanity.

If I had rated Shivered at the interval I would have given it five stars with all the elements combining to make a classic Ridley colour but sadly after the interval it flags a little.

The play tells the story of two families in a former new town that has seen its core industry and economic driver die out and its lustre and hope dull and decay. Like Tender Napalm, Ridley's last play, the narrative jumps back and forth piecing together and interweaving the two families stories. One is coming to terms with the horrific death of eldest son Alec, a soldier in an unnamed foreign war and the other family is taking advantage of bad situation in a very Ridley-esque way.

And here I think lies the problem. There are some big issues at play here; how the YouTube generation has become desensitised to violence, the manifestation of grief, exploitation of the vulnerable, toxic manufacturing materials, post traumatic stress... Where Tender Napalm was focused very much on grief and the destruction of a relationship, Shivered feels like it is flalling around a little trying to touch on too much.

It makes you laugh, it makes you gasp just a Philip Ridley play should. The language is colourful, rich and ripe just as it should be. It has some wonderful moments and is at times keenly observed just as it should be but put it all together and it doesn't quite gel and therefore doesn't quite satisfy.

Tender Napalm got five stars, Shivered is getting four. It runs in the main house at the Southwark Playhouse until April 14.

Two postscripts:


I must just mention the cast who all do a great job. Particularly good to see Joseph Drake again after his stint as Vernon Little in the Young Vic revival of Vernon God Little last year. I know he's only small of stature but I would like to see him play an adult next.

Josh Williams is another young actor who shows promise albeit with occasional shades of drama school about his performance. I last saw him in relatively small role in Our Private Life at the Royal Court last year.

And of the grown ups it is good to see Olivia Poulet in a non comedy role.


Bit of a bumper year for Ridley fans like myself. The Arcola is currently home to a production of Pitchfork Disney, Tender Napalm is returning to the Southwark Playhouse and Mercury Fur opens at the Old Red Lion Theatre at the end of the month.


Always easy when Mr Ridley is involved because Mr W has been in two of his plays - Mercury Fur and Leaves of Glass.

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio March 12 - 18

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Monday March 12

1:15pm on BBC Radio Scotland: The Book Café, David Hayman discusses his production of King Lear at Glasgow's Citizens Theatre.

7pm on Sky Arts 2: In Love with Coward, Sheila Hancock, Karen Gillan, Patricia Hodge, Craig Roberts, Celia Imrie and Robert Sheehan perform their favourite passages from the works of playwright Sir Noël Coward. For details of passages performed:

Tuesday March 13

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: On Front Row, Playwright Helen Edmundson discusses her new play Mary Shelley, a co-production of Nottingham Playhouse Theatre, Shared Experience and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Friday March 16

10pm on BBC Radio 2: BBC Radio 2 Arts Show, Iain Glen talks about starring in a new production of Uncle Vanya at The Print Room.

11pm on BBC2: The Review Show talks about DV8's controversial stage show Can We Talk About This?

Saturday March 17

10pm on BBC Radio 2: Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton are in the Graham Norton show to talk about their west end production of Sweeney Todd.

3pm on BBc Radio 2: Zach Braff talks to Dermot O'Leary about his play All New People.

Catch up on iPlayer

Night Waves: and Saturday Review: both review Going Dark by the theatre company Sound and Fury as it is performed at Young Vic.

On Weekend Woman's Hour, Alison Steadman talks Abigail's Party 35 years on and Agyness Deyn on making her stage debut in The Leisure Society at the Trafalgar studios

British director John Tiffany talks to Front Row about the Broadway musical version of the film Once and how he's brought an Irish bar to the New York stage


Choosing who sits next to you and making friends at the theatre

Interesting blog post by Guardian writer Kelly Nestruck about whether you should be able to choose who you sit next to at the theatre. It's based on an idea by Dutch airline KLM whereby you can upload your Facebook or LinkedIn profile when you book so, presumably, you can choose a like minded person to sit next to.

I'd be more interested in an audience mute button, personally.

The article does go on to talk about how difficult it is to socialise at the theatre, in a making friends sense rather than going with your friends and not having enough room in the bar (although that can be a problem). Kelly does mention some sociable scenarios - the day seat queue camaraderie is one - but ignores one very good facilitator of socialising at the theatre: Twitter.

If is wasn't for Twitter I'd, in the main,  still be going to theatre by myself. However, over the last two to three years I've got to know more than a dozen fellow theatre aficionados and made some very good friends. 

More often than not if I happen to book to see something by myself I'll bump into someone I know from Twitter. I wouldn't have met my theatre partner in crime @polyg without Twitter. 

Twitter also means the discussions about the plays go on long after you've said your goodbyes and headed home. And there is a support network there if you are having a horrendous time trying to buy much in demand tickets on the day of release or want to know about day seat queues.

These are a few of our favourite theatre things: Or how David Tennant's newspaper inspired @_faeriequeen

Written by @_faeriequeen

IMG_0257[1]To anyone who has got to know me in the last five years or so, it could come as a surprise that there was a time where I wasn’t particularly obsessed with going to the theatre and wasn’t determined to make a career in the industry!

My object – part of a prop newspaper – is from the Tribute to Look Back in Anger that was held at the Royal Court on 8 May 2006 as part of its 50th Birthday Celebrations; an event which helped precipitate what has now become a lasting passion for theatre and, it could be argued, helped shape how my life has now turned out.

At that time I was probably at the height of my David Tennant ‘appreciation’ (I liked him before Doctor Who, I’ll have you know) and it was his involvement in this event that really spurred me into buying a ticket, along with a group of other fans from the forum on his fansite that I used to frequent.

My ticket was supposed to be for a seat at the back of the stalls somewhere, but fate would have it that one of the other girls wasn’t able to make it at the last minute, so I took the spare seat, which happened to be bang in the centre
of the front row!

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Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio March 5 - 12

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Tuesday March 6

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row, John Wilson interviews Lloyd Newson, director of DV8 physical theatre, whose new work focuses on questions of freedom of speech and censorship in a multicultural society.

Friday March 9

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4:Front Row, Kirsty Lang reports from New York, including an encounter with the theatre group who perform the whole of The Great Gatsby in an eight hour show.

10pm on BBC Radio 2: The BBC Radio 2 Arts Show has three items about theatre: playwright Helen Edmundson who discusses her new play Mary Shelley staged at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Nichola McAuliffe talks about starring in Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van. Actor Ben Chaplin talks about Hampstead Theatre's production of Farewell to the Theatre.

Saturday March 10

8pm on BBC2: Third episode of The Story of Musicals

On iPlayer from last week

Patsy Rodenburg, voice coach, on Desert Island Discs. Extract: "I did some work on Hamlet in a top security prison and the guy playing Claudius was a murderer and he spoke, 'Oh my offence is rank, it smells to heaven', and he just broke."

At the Culture Show, Philip Ridley talks about his latest play, Shivered staged at the Southwark Playhouse


Not quite sure whether I got A Place At The Table (with a note from the director)

Christopher Tester as AdamA Place At The Table is certainly a meaty play but it feels a little bit like you've been eaves-dropping on bitter personal experience. Or it would if its writer Simon Block  didn't already have a number of TV series and a BAFTA nomination to his name*.

It's essentially about how far you should compromise your creative integrity in order to gain commercial success.

Set in a TV production house, Sarah (Kellie Batchelor) has as given up working in the theatre for a job that pays the mortgage ie TV script editing/commissioning. Disabled writer Adam (Christopher Tester) has had success with a play and his agent sets up a meeting with Sarah who wants to sound him out about writing a sit-com based around a disabled character.

The ensuing discussion about rights and wrongs of the proposals results in a heated exchange and Adam's sudden affronted departure. Several months later, having had a change of heart, he returns with a script for a six episode sit-com to find that the idea is no longer flavour of the month with Sarah.

According to the write ups on the website this is supposed to be a comedy but it just feels too bitter to laugh at and the characters a little too objectionable to laugh with. It certainly succeeds in making the TV industry feel cliquey, bitchy and cut-throat and perhaps that is a little too alienating for a mere-mortal TV-watcher like myself. It isn't shocking how commercial and lacking in imagination the commissioning process is but it is for how downright rude some of the characters are to each other.

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Hay Fever and the comic moment even Coward couldn't write

Hayfever_2151671bIt sounds like a criticism, and it isn't, but the funniest moment in Hay Fever at the Noel Coward Theatre on Tuesday evening the result of a lady sitting who happened to be sitting on the front row.

On stage Jeremy Northam's  Richard Greatham is being seduced by Lindsay Duncan's Judith Bliss. They get closer and closer and then Greatham, succumbing to her attentions, suddenly kisses Judith on the neck. Cue a surprised and  loud 'oh' from said lady audience member. 

I think a hundred pairs of eyes, mine included, snapped towards her direction simultaneously bursting into laughter and we weren't the only ones. On stage Northam was fighting very hard to stifle his own giggles, fighting very hard, while Duncan stoically delivered her lines but even there the concentration was perceptible.

Continue reading "Hay Fever and the comic moment even Coward couldn't write" »