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May 2012

April 2012

The play on TV review: BBC's Richard II with Ben Whishaw

Tumblr_m1zmd2dX1D1qbbxawThis was a preview screening at BAFTA and I wanted to get a few thoughts down while it's fresh - notes from post screening Q&A with Ben Whishaw (Richard), Rory Kinnear (Bolingbroke), Rupert Goold (director) and Pippa Harris (producer) will follow on tomorrow (and here they are).

First of the tetralogy which starts with Richard II then Henry IV parts 1 and 2 and Henry V which will be broadcast on BBC 2 in the summer - think Richard is scheduled for July.

Done in traditional dress and shot entirely location so has an earthy, natural, visceral feel to it. 

Ben's Richard is effete and delicate, not quite as petulant or spoilt as I thought he might play it, more an indulged poet. There are homoerotic hints in the way he touches a painting of a semi naked St Sebastian, his body language around his favourites and the way he caresses Bolingbroke but it isn't overblown.

Richard also has a pet monkey which works as a great device for distracting the King at important moments (more on the monkey and why it's in there in the Q&A).

Religious metaphors are stamped throughout with the painting of St Sebastian being painted for Richard in early scene. It is an image the replicated later in the story. Richard also appears at Flint Castle flanked by images of angels.

He's dressed throughout almost entirely in white with some gold and yellow, gradually stripped of his fine clothes as he edges closer to his downfall and finally dressed in a loin cloth. Wasn't sure about the cave-like setting of the prison or the loin cloth - felt like it was taking the religious metaphor a bit too far, especially as he's still Royalty and supposed to be in the Tower. Or maybe I was just sitting there thinking, he must be freezing!

Goold certainly makes the most of the setting, isolating Richard with just three others on a vast empty beach when he returns to England, beautifully emphasising the weakness and delicacy of his position and power. It also makes it easier for Whishaw to lose his serene composure as he stumbles through the sea in his long gowns.

Rory Kinnear's Bolingbroke is strong but gentler than others portrayals, he seems visibly nervous about what he is doing - and shocked at times - as if he is being coerced into more than the return of his lands. He nonetheless succeeds in being a commanding presence, an essential ingredient in understanding how he can attract enough support to so easily depose a king.

Patrick Steward and David Suchet are naturally superb as Gaunt and York adding a regal weight as acting royalty should. 

Overall it is a stunning production although I do think some of the cinematography feels a little forced at times - 'we are doing it for the telly therefore we can and will' or maybe it's the editing? Just felt a little bit too noticeable at times.

The play has been hacked back (think Goold says there is about third left!) and what you are left with is its core without feeling like any meaning has been lost. It also means that the actors get to take their time over the words which, incidently, are delivered with such great clarity you forget it is 16th century dialogue.

It is an effecting and interesting take on the play and I can't wait to see it again. Mr Whishaw certainly didn't disappoint - yes he made me cry - in a role that I've wanted him to take on for a while.

There was an official photographer at the Q&A so will link to the pictures as and when they appear online.

PS Have to mention Harry Haddon-Paton's wig, he plays Green, and it just looks wrong, almost comic, I kept expecting him to crack a joke.

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio Apr 30 - May 6

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Monday April 30

 9pm on BBC4: The King and the Playwright: A Jacobean History, episode 2. Professor James Shapiro's history of Shakespeare in the reign of King James . Macbeth and Coriolanus feature in this episode.

Tuesday May 1

9pm on Sky Arts 1: The South Bank Sky Arts Awards 2012, nominations for theatre: Matilda (RSC), One Man Two Guvnors (National Theatre), Constellations (Royal Court  Theatre), also in the Breakthrough Award for his work on stage last year, including playing Vernon God Little at the Young Vic, is Joseph Drake. Shortlists for all the categories can be found on the Sky Arts website.

Wednesday May 2

9am on BBC Radio 4: Midweek, Libby Purves interviews musical theatre star, Maria Friedman.

Thursday May 3

9pm on BBC2: Shakespeare in Italy. Land of Love. Francesco da Mosto in search of Shakespeare in Italy, from Romeo and Juliet to the jealousy of Othello.

Friday May 4

10pm on BBc Radio 2: The Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman, Timothy Sheader, artistic director of the Regents Park Open Air Theatre, talks about the theatre's new season. 

Saturday May 5

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Saturday Review features a discussion about Love, Love, Love, Mike Bartlett's play, at the Royal Court

Sunday May 6

8:30pm on BBC Radio 3: The Tempest. David Warner is Prospero, with Carl Prekopp as Ariel, Rose Leslie as Miranda and Don Warrington as Gonzalo. Directed by Jeremy Mortimer.

Catch up On iPlayer

David Hare is interviewed on Front Row and Night Waves

 Night Waves also talks about the World Shakespeare Festival and the Globe Theatre's staging of all of Shakespeare's plays in 37 different languages


The posts most liked so far this year - you lovely people

Just because I'm nerdy (top plays of the year so far is coming soon, well when I get back from my holiday) and I'm always surprised that people actually read my blog. Thank you.

1. Trevor Nunn introduces screening of Ben Whishaw's Hamlet

2. Absent lines in Absent Friends

3. The David Tennant newspaper favourite objects post

4. Is Katie Mitchell back in my favour with the Trial of Ubu?

5. Shivered didn't quite make me shiver

Will new casting create a Tenderer Napalm?

Confess that one of the reasons for booking to see Tender Napalm at the Southwark Playhouse when it is revived in the summer was the chance to see Jack Gordon (who looks like a young Clive Owen) in the white vest again. But then I found out that it has a new cast and again, a confession, my immediate reaction was a little disappointment.

Tender Napalm is a very physical play. Gordon and Vinette Robinson ran around the oblong shaped stage, filling it despite being only two in number. It felt muscular, solid, strong as well as tender. Funny that.

FileTom Byam Shaw is playing the Man this time around and the last part I saw him take on was Ariel in The Tempest opposite Ralph Fiennes' Prospero. He played Ariel brilliantly (pictured right). There was a delicacy and gracefulness to his form. Add in the make up and hair and there was a femininity. It is this image that was in my head which added to my initial reaction to hearing he'd been cast in Tender Napalm - will the play work with, well, less muscle I suppose?

But now I've got over the Gordon/vest disappointment, I'm curious in the same way I'm curious about seeing what a younger actor playing Richard (Jonjo O'Neill at Stratford) in Richard III does for the play.

By nature we are drawn to the familiar and yes I'd like to see the Tender Napalm that so wowed me again but I'm looking forward to be wowed, but in a different way, all over again.

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio Apr 23 - 29

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Monday April 23rd

4:30am on BBC News: at Shakespeare's Globe, Hardtalk interviews Zoe Wanamaker, actor and honorary president of the Globe. Repeats Tuesday April 24th, 12:30am.

9am on BBc Radio 4: at Start The Week, Andrew Marr discusses national identity with, among others, playwright David Hare.

9pm on BBC4: The King and the Playwright: A Jacobean History, new historical series, where American scholar James Shapiro examines the later period in Shakepeare's career.

Thursday April 26th

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Front Row interviews playwright Edward Bond.

Friday April 27th

7:15on on BBC Radio 4: Front Row has a feature on the National Theatre of Scotland production of Enquirer, a site specific production about the newspaper industry.

10pm on BBC Radio 2: At the BBC Radio 2 Arts Show, actor Rupert Friend talks about appearing at the Arcola Theatre in the revival of Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle.

Saturday April 28th
10pm on BBC Radio 2: Antony Sher is interviewed at the Graham Norton Radio show.

Sunday April 29th
8:30pm on BBC Radio 3: new radio production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Trystan Gravelle, Vanessa Kirby, Rosie Cavaliero, Ron Cook, Paul Ready, Adam James, David Tennant

10:45pm on BBC4: Mark Lawson interviews Zoe Wanamaker.

Donmar's Making Noise Quietly - more suited to the radio?

2769_fullI'm starting to think that I'm turning into one of the West End Whingers. Earlier this week I was obsessed with an actor eating on stage, Jammie Dodgers falling from the gods and last night I caught myself feeling impressed with the spread that was being laid out as a picnic - bread, cheese, butter, cherries and bottles of beer (can we call it ginger, please?).

But I'm sorry to say that the picnic was probably the most memorable thing about Making Noise Quietly - a trio of short plays by Robert Holman currently being aired at the Donmar. Well that and when the two male characters who were having the picnic, stripped off to their birthday suits. Wasn't expecting that.

Ok so it was first preview and things, no doubt, will  sharpen up a little - there seemed to be a few nerves in evidence - but I have to agree with @pcchan, it was like watching three slow radio plays.

After the exuberant performance, set and theatre decoration of The Recruiting Officer, the Donmar has been striped back to a basic stage of green and plain back drop. A projection on the back wall introduces the place and year of each play and then there are silhouettes - roof tops or a window to give a little more detail to the setting.

After that it is simple props - the picnic and bicycle in the first, two chairs a coffee table in the second and a painting easel, chair and table with painting equipment in the third. There is nothing wrong with minimalism - a good story and performance doesn't need physical objects to embellish. But it just wasn't interesting or entertaining enough.

Continue reading "Donmar's Making Noise Quietly - more suited to the radio?" »

The DNA is not in the language at the Unicorn

ImgresI couldn't understand why the language in Dennis Kelly's DNA was so clean. It's about teenagers after all. It jarred. Didn't feel natural. There was no slang, no swearing, very little teen vernacular. It was too clean. Then afterwards I read that it is a school set text. The penny dropped.

The result is a play that is bursting with issues to discuss - 'is one bad act OK if it is for the benefit of a whole group?' is the central moral conundrum but one that doesn't quite pack the right punches in it's performance. In essence I didn't find all the characters convincing enough because they felt constrained by squeaky dialogue.

James Alexandrou of Eastenders fame headlines the cast and is a commanding presence primarily because he goes for long periods without speaking, preferring to eat various snacks and sweets in an imaginative or just plain meditative fashion. This normally takes place while a girl called Leah (Leah Brotherhead) is wittering on trying to engage him in conversation in a borderline irritating fashion.

She reminded me of Miss Bates in Jane Austen's Emma who goes on and on and as a consequence no one listens but if they did they might actually learn something interesting. Except, I was in the Emma et al camp and I switched off so if she did say anything interesting I missed it. I was watching Phil methodically unwrapping  and laying out a whole packet of Chewits ready to eat. (Surely the West End Whingers would approve of the amount of food eaten on stage in such a short play: tangerine, packet of crisps, Chewits and a waffle carefully, very carefully, dotted with strawberry jam.)

I digress. When a gang of teens lands themselves in serious trouble - an initiation ceremony that goes too far - it's the silent, brooding Phil they turn to for help. When Phil speaks, they listen because every word counts. He's given it thought.

Continue reading "The DNA is not in the language at the Unicorn" »

Review: Cillian Murphy in Misterman - Mister Killing it Murphy

Misterman-magI think Cillian Murphy has to get some sort of award for best use of the Lyttelton Stage.

Aided, I'm sure, by Lucozade or some other type of energy drink, his solo performance in Enda Walsh's Misterman somehow filled the huge stage in such an electrifying manner it almost took my breath away.

There must have been a wonderful sense of abandonment when he first realised he could run the full length of the stage, literally disappearing into the dark corners right at the back wall and then also wildly fling objects around as part of his portrayal of Thomas Magill.

Thomas lives in isolation in a small Irish town, Innisfree and through a series of encounters either real or imagined (can you totally believe the narrative of someone who sees an angel?) a picture emerges of an evangelical young man whose mission is to set the town's sinful inhabitants onto the path to righteousness.

He sees sin in everybody and it disturbs him. From his home in a disused warehouse, his at times manic and yet ordered and obsessive behaviour hint at an oddness that steps beyond harmless religious fervour.

Indeed there is an underlying but gently growing concern about exactly what he might do and to whom. 

Continue reading "Review: Cillian Murphy in Misterman - Mister Killing it Murphy" »

Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio Apr 16 - 22

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Monday April 16

7pm on Sky Arts 2: Shakespeare's Globe, documentary on the Globe theatre.

8:00pm on Sky Arts 2: Henry IV, Part 1, the Globe's production of the Shakespeare play, with Roger Allam as Falstaff, a performance for which he won the Olivier award for best actor.

Tuesday April 17

8:00pm on Sky Arts 2: Henry IV, part 2, second part of the Globe production of Shakespeare's play. Roger Allam and Jamie Parker star.

Wednesday April 18

1:30pm on Sky Arts 1: In Conversation... with John Hurt, interview with the British actor who discusses his time in the theatre among other things. 

8pm on Sky Arts 2: the Globe's production of As You Like It, directed by Thea Sharrock

Thursday April 19

8pm on Sky Arts 2: Othello, filmed at the Globe theatre, starring Eamonn Walker and Tim McInnerny 

Friday April 20

8:00pm on Sky Arts 2: Romeo and Juliet, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, filmed at the Shakespeare's Globe.

10pm on BBc Radio 2: the Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman has an interview with RSC artistic director Michael Boyd about the World Shakespeare Festival.

11pm on BBC2: the Review Show will talk about Cate Blanchett starring in the London stage in the play Gross und Klein.

11pm on Sky Arts 2: Every Little Step documentary charting the exhausting auditions behind Broadway's revival of A Chorus Line. 

Saturday April 21

9am on BBC Radio 4 Extra: A Celebration of the Swan of Avon. Simon Russell Beale with a selection of shows about and inspired by the Bard: Great Lives, Macbeth, Shakespeare Stories, Lenny and Will, Mrs Shakespeare and Desmond Olivier Dingle.

7:15pm on BBC Radio 4: Saturday Review feature the Misterman, starring Cillian Murphy, at the National Theatre.

8:00pm on Sky Arts 2: Last Will And Testament, film exploring the evolution of the authorship debate surrounding the works attributed to William Shakespeare, with contributions by Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave, Mark Rylance.

Sunday April 22

11:15am on BBC Radio 4: The Reunion, Sue MacGregor reunites five people who helped to create Shakespeare's Globe Theatre: Patrick Spottiswoode, the first Director of Education; Diana Devlin, who saw the project through some of its most difficult years; architect Jon Greenfield; Claire van Kampen, the first Director of Music; and Zoe Wanamaker, Sam's actor daughter who is now Honorary President of Shakespeare's Globe.

5:30pm on BBC Radio 4 Extra: The Matinee - The Creation of a Theatrical Institution, programme investigating the lore and history of matinees in theatres. With June Whitfield, Donald Sinden and Sandy Wilson.

8:30pm on BBC Radio 3: a new radio production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, starring David Tennant as Malvolio, Naomi Frederick as Viola/Cesario, Paul Ready as Orsino, Ron Cook as Sir Toby Belch, Adam James as Sir Andrew Aguecheek 

10:25pm on BBC4: Mark Lawson Talks to... Felicity Kendal.

Catch up on iplayer

Greg Doran, the new artistic director for the RSC, is interviewed at the Midweek programme

Cillian Murphy discusses Misterman on Night Waves


Looking for the words for A Long Day's Journey Into the Night

I1J2xAmwypPgIt's a play that takes a few days to fully feel the force. Not that A Long Day's Journey Into the Night at the Apollo Theatre isn't affecting when you are sitting in the theatre watching, it's just that the affect grows in the days that follows.

And I'm not sure I'm going to be able to find quite the right words but I'll try. 

A Long Day's Journey is widely regarded as Eugene O'Neill's semi-autobiographical play, a play he didn't want published, let alone performed - a wish that was broken after his death. And when you watch it, you can understand why. Even if half of the story is based on real events, conversations and feelings, O'Neill's family life was certainly not a happy one.

The Tyrone's of the play: James Snr (David Suchet), his wife Mary (Laurie Metcalfe) and two sons Jamie (Trevor White) and Edmund (Kyle Soller) all have resentments, hurts and regrets which are exacerbated and antagonised by their various addictions - alcohol in the case of the men and morphine in the case of Mary. 

From the outset, the family is in a heightened state of concern and denial. Mary has returned from what we would now call rehab and the family make a good show of normality while constantly looking for signs of a relapse and bickering when she's out of the room. Adding to the anxiety, youngest son Edmund is sick and awaiting diagnosis which is most likely to be TB.

Following the family over the course of a day, the play explores the fragile, raw relationship of the family and the destructive nature of addiction. The tragedy is subtle and something that haunts you. And much of that must be down to the acting.

Continue reading "Looking for the words for A Long Day's Journey Into the Night" »