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June 2012

May 2012

Destructive Detroit at the National

ImageDetroit is a play about the decay of the suburban dream. Ben and Mary live in a nondescript suburb. They are ordinary. Take pride in their home but like their own lives it has its flaws - a patio door that sticks and a garden  umbrella that collapses randomly.

Ben (Stuart McQuarrie) has been made redundant and is setting up his own business and website and is always on his first drink when Mary (Justine Mitchell) gets home from her paralegal job. Mary resents the fact that Ben is already drinking when she gets home and is frustrated by the speed of progress with Ben's business start up. She too likes a drink when she gets home.

When a young couple move into the tatty house that backs onto theirs, a neighbourly friendship begins. Sharon (Clare Dunne) and Kenny (Will Adamsdale) have been moving from place to place and have just come out of rehab for drug addiction. Their new found take on life is attractive to Ben and Mary.

Sharon and Kenny see the neighbourhood in a different light. They notice the woman jogging past every day and wave whereas Ben and Mary never have. They seem to like the stability - and not being shunned.

As the friendship blossoms suburban ideals are challenged and the frayed edges begin to appear. There is an underlying tension: Will Sharon and Kenny fall off the wagon, will Ben and Mary's relationship withstand their own drinking and will Ben ever finish his website?

"Should Sharon be drinking that?"

"A beer is fine, freebasing heroin was her problem"

It is a destructive friendship but not quite in the way that you think and I liked that.

Detroit is at times funny - there are some great lines from Ben about his impression of the English - and quite sad. It is really well acted and imaginatively staged - I certainly haven't seen them do that in the Cottesloe before (not going to spoilt it).

The party scene did feel like it went on too long, it was exhausting just watching the actors jumping around to music. The final scene too did feel a little long for such a dramatic change of pace. 

Ultimately it is a difficult play to sum up. I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time but the play itself is quickly fading from memory. What will stick in my mind when I'm looking back at the end of the year  is that staging. I'm going to give it four stars.

Detroit runs at the Cottesloe in rep until July 14.


Quite pleased with this one because I don't think I've used this film of Mr W's before but Will Adamsdale was in Stoned. And one I have used before, Nathan Barley, which Stuart McQuarrie appeared in.



Stan's theatre best and worst of in far

Wow we are over four months (and 32 plays) into the year already, how did that happen?

Anyway, as I've had a wee break away from theatre-going to feed my other addiction - theme parks - I thought it would be a good time to take stock of what's been good and bad in the first four months of the year. 

Four plays earned five star reviews but, as usual, I've also given everything a rating out of 100:

Misterman, National Theatre, 86%

Cillian Murphy commands the stage in breathtaking fashion for this one man show. Want desperately to see it again

Long Day's Journey Into the Night, Apollo Theatre, 85%

It's a devastating play done devastatingly well and it haunts you for days afterwards.

Mercury Fur, Old Red Lion Theatre  84%

Revived my faith in pub theatre in spectacular style. Well deserved transfer to the Trafalgar Studios this month - go and see it.

Tis Pity She's a Whore, Barbican 82%

My first five star review of the year, Cheek By Jowl take Jacobean tragedy by the scruff of the neck, slap it about a bit and drop it in a contemporary bedroom setting. Tracey Emin's My Bed ain't got nothing on this.

And the not so good. Well there is combination of failures to amuse in this category. They all scraped three stars or 40% but the worst offender because there is no excuse for a theatre of this calibre is Making Noise Quietly at the Donmar

I'm still aghast that it's manage to get five, yes five, four star reviews from the critics. It is just dull, dull, dull and memorable only for a rather tasty looking picnic. The Donmar had a play in my 'worst of' lists in 2011 and at the moment this is looking good as a contender.

The other dud and one that I had to be reminded of as I'd wiped it from my memory was The Shallow End at Southwark Playhouse. Inexplicable sex scenes, contrived, dated and it just took too long to get to decent stuff in the last act.


Theatre related stuff on TV and Radio May 7 - 13

Compiled by Poly Gianniba

Monday May 7

7pm on Sky Arts 1: Sky Arts at the National Theatre of Wales, a look at Tim Price's play about Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of releasing secret material from the Iraq and Afghan wars.

9pm on BBC4: The King and the Playwright, episode 3. The concluding episode of James Shapiro's history of Shakespeare in the reign of King James. The Winter's Tale and The Tempest are the plays discussed.

Thursday May 10

9pm on BBC2: Shakespeare in Italy, Francesco da Mosto meets Mark Rylance and they talks about Shakespeare's Italian plays, including The Merchant of Venice, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.

Saturday May 12

2:30pm on BBC Radio 4: Othello, a repeat broadcast of Northern Broadsides' production of Othello, with Lenny Henry.

Sunday May 13

8pm on BBC Radio 3: A Midsummer Night's Dream, a repeat of the radio production first broadcast last September, with Lesley Sharp, Toby Stephens, Robert Pugh, Roger Allam. 

On iplayer

Catch up with a special programme from Night Waves about Shakespeare's The Tempest. Participants include of Jonathan Miller and David Troughton b01gvtwq


Brimstone and Treacle - still controversial 36 years later?

4f197fc7ca70bf5f2e001635-746e593b358da86960e3c6acc8e682adAm always attracted to plays that are shrouded in controversy and Brimstone & Treacle is certainly one of those. Written for television by Dennis Potter in 1976, it was ten years before it was broadcast. At the time the director of programming described it as "brilliantly written and made but nauseating". A rewritten version for the stage was performed in 1977.  

Thirty-six years of de-sensitising later and Brimstone still shocks or at least one particular scene does. There was a perceptible shift in the atmosphere in theatre from warm enjoyment and mirth to an awkward, stiff incredulity at what was unfolding on the stage. The silence couldn't have been more complete if everyone had held their breath.

Up until then there had been a good dose of humour, albeit with sinister undertones. Martin Taylor (Rupert Friend) ingratiates his way into the home of Mr and Mrs Bates (Ian Redford and Tessa Peake-Jones) claiming to have been in love with their daughter Pattie (Mattie Houghton) - still in love in fact. Pattie was hit by a car two years earlier and lies bed bound, twitching involuntary and unable to speak.

Martin oozes charm, is polite, helpful and says all the right things but sly asides, sometimes just a look straight at the audience, exposes a wolf beneath the sheep's clothing. Is he just a fraudster casing the joint for valuables or is there something more sinister in his attentions?

Mrs Bates is completely won over as he starts to give her an escape route from her labourious carer and house wife routine but conservative, National Front-leaning Mr Bates is sceptical.

But Brimstone isn't merely about goodies and baddies, Potter twists the morals so that wolves become sheep and sheep become wolves raising questions about when a wrong overpowers a right, a right overpowers a wrong. 

This 90 minute piece packs punch. Potter described it as his best work and it is brilliantly written. The cast are uniformly superb - indeed it is a treat to see such a quality production in such a tiny venue, a venue incidentally that works very well at creating the claustrophobic, closeted atmosphere of the Bates's home. 

I'm going to give it four and a half stars. It runs at the Arcola's studio space until June 2 and I saw a preview performance.


There are a couple of second degree links which leap out, firstly Rupert Friend was in Young Victoria, as was Miranda Richardson who appeared on stage at the Royal Court with Mr Whishaw for a reading of the Carol Churchill play Ice Cream. (Like that one as I don't think I've used Ice Cream before.)

And Ian Redford was in The Devil's Whore which starred Andrea Riseborough who was in The Pride with Mr W.

BBC Richard II: Rupert Goold talks working with Ben Whishaw and Michael Jackson influences

OK so here's the Q&A from last night's preview screening of Richard II at BAFTA as promised.

Must confess that I hadn't been expecting Mr Whishaw to show up. I get the distinct impression that the publicity side of the acting profession isn't his favourite bit of the job.  He was a no show at The Hour preview screening. The only other time I've seen him at a Q&A (after a performance of Cock at the Royal Court) he sat looking into his lap, twirling his hair around his finger, shifting uncomfortably in his seat anytime a question came his way.

The confirmation that he was indeed at BAFTA came when I overheard a conversation: 'Is Ben in or has he run away?' 

He was joining Rupert Goold (director), Pippa Harris (producer) and Rory Kinnear who plays Bolingbroke on the panel. Kinnear was overheard to say to press on his way in that he hadn't seen the finished product yet. Whether Ben had or not is unclear but from a comment he made in the Q&A he didn't sit through it this time.

Anyway on to the Q&A itself which was conducted by bumbling Telegraph journalist. Here are what I think were the most interesting bits:

How it came about:

Rupert Goold - been thinking of doing RII on stage but struggling with how to do it. It's never been filmed before (actually it has, thanks @weez and @3rdspearcarrier, with Derek Jacobi in title role, think I watched it as an A-level student). Film is more about character theatre about dialogue. Not a huge amount happens compared to other plays and appealed as a film project in developing the characters.

Wanted to do a Michael Jackson themed RII and the monkey (King Richard has a pet monkey) is a tribute to that.

Never done Shakespeare in a historical setting but so much about kingship, crowns and chivalry that decided it would be best.

Shakespeare on screen vs on stage - different approach?

RG: Wanted to make the language clear and available and find a performance style that works on screen. He said there are a lot of big name actors like Patrick Stewart and David Suchet who have a lot of screen experience but also a lot of stage experience. And that is mirrored in the younger generation of actors like Ben and Rory who have also done a lot of both. 'They can do verse but with an understanding of acting for the screen'.

Ben Whishaw: It is different in craft as it's much more about subtext, that can be explored much more on film than on stage. The subtext is present more.

Goold on working with Ben:

There are lots of different takes on Richard and Ben was generous and we had lots of different takes to work with in the edit. His performance was multi-faceted and he gave lots of different versions. Goold started talking about the deposition scene as an example but then got side tracked onto the subject of shooting on location - nothing was shot in a studio.

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