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June 2013

Review: Happy New at theTrafalgar Studios 2

HappyNewImage-1The Old Red Lion Theatre is having a good run of transfers into the West End at the moment and Happy New is the latest. And a curious play it is, a sort of Australian Elling.

When brothers Lyall (Joel Samuels) and Danny (William Troughton) were children, they were discovered locked up and abandoned in chicken coop. Rescued and rehabilitated they have become curiosities within Australian culture. TV presenter Pru (Lisa Dillon) has brought them into the limelight but it is now time for them to go out into the real world and get on with their lives.

Happy New feels like a black comedy without as many laughs as it should have. When someone throws a roast chicken at them I did have to stifle a fit of giggles in the otherwise silent auditorium.

The characters are given long speeches which border on surreal, contemporary, poetry and is laced with melodrama the reason for which only becomes clear much later in the play. In fact the script drips with simile and metaphor and is beautifully performed.

It is refreshing in that sense but there was something a little too surreal which felt alienating and maybe explains the lack of laughs - you are not sure what you are watching. The play feels slightly unbalanced with most of the exposition towards the end when it feels too late to really have an impact.

There was much that I liked about Happy New but it would probably benefit from a second look to see if greater insight made it sing at the top of its voice. It runs at the Trafalgar Studios 2 until 29 June.

Recently seen:

Amen Corner, National Theatre

Strange Interlude, National Theatre

Chimerica, Almeida Theatre


This is a cheap shot and I'm slightly embarrassed but only slightly. Lisa Dillon is a former beau of Patrick Stewart who was in Richard II with Mr W.

Review: Amen to Amen Corner

Amen_corner_poster2Despite the name of this blog, I'm not a religious person but I do like listening to gospel singing on occasions. Of course James Baldwin's play is more than gospel singing, much more, but the songs  provide rare moments of harmony between a group of characters connected by faith but conflicted by internal politics.

The protagonist of the piece is Sister Margaret (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) a strict but dedicated pastor of a small Harlem church whose past catches up with her testing her faith, re-kindling old emotions and threatening her position.

Sister Moore (Cecilia Noble) is Sister Margaret's foil and a delicious character to watch. She is all outward innocence and piety, 'praise the Lord' never far from her lips, while inwardly she is manipulating and conniving. Most of the laughs come from Sister Moor thanks to Noble's superb comic timing and delivery. She can make the most innocent phrase funny.

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"Bollocks about the Pause" - Harold Pinter platform at Trafalgar Studios


Director Jamie Lloyd chaired a discussion about Harold Pinter's influence on British Theatre last night with Guardian theatre critic and Pinter biographer Michael Billington joining actors Gina McKee and Lia Williams and playwright Nick Payne for the discussion.

McKee and Williams particularly provided an interesting insight into working with Pinter and naturally there was a lengthy discussion on the Pinter pause. Here are some highlights of the discussion.


MB Pinter taught us that in drama everything should have significance.

NP A lot of contemporary playwrights influenced by Pinter: Mike Bartlett, Jez Butterworth and Simon Stephens. There is a desire to let the audience find their own meaning. [Of experience with first play being stage] I was surprised by how many questions actors asked during rehearsal and initially felt I had to have an answer for everything.

LW Pinter didn't know everything about his characters and it astonished me as I hadn't come across that before or since. You can go anywhere with performing Pinter as long as you are meticulous with punctuation and your timing.

Continue reading ""Bollocks about the Pause" - Harold Pinter platform at Trafalgar Studios" »

Review: Anne-Marie Duff in a Strange Interlude


Eugene O'Neill's epic play has been sliced down to 3 hours and 10 minutes (plus interval) from more than 4 hours for this National Theatre production. And it is a good job too, particularly if you are sitting in the backbreaking cheap seats in the first few rows at the Lyttleton where its being staged.

It does cover a lot of ground in its 3 hours and 10 minutes,  the life of Nina (Anne-Marie Duff) from a young woman mourning the loss of her lover in the First World War to a mother seeing her son head off to marry. But I confess, I'm not sure what they chopped out, never did it feel under developed or that there were holes in the plot development.

A Strange Interlude is at times rambling and bloated almost like O'Neill wanted to enjoy the sound of his own words in actors mouths but equally at others it focused and utterly gripping.

Nina is surrounded by men who dote on her: Charles (Charles Edwards) a father-like figure who secretly loves her; Edmund (Darren Pettie) her lover and Sam (Jason Watkins) her husband. They all think they know what is best for her but really are all dependant on her for their own happiness. Nina is an intriguing character self-obsessed, jealous and melodramatic and yet sacrifices much of her own freedom and happiness for the sake of others.

O'Neill has his characters tell the audience what they are really thinking so that there becomes a disconnect between their external and internal persona. The pure honesty of the vocalised internal voices is often humourous but equally displays an uglier side of mankind.

Anne-Marie Duff puts in a stunning performance in this marathon role and is ably supported by the male cast and while a very meaty play with much to mull over I would never for one moment say it wasn't long enough. It did feel long and would benefit from further trimming.

I'm really glad I've seen it but it's not a play I would rush to see another production of. I've ticked the Strange Interlude box.

Strange Interlude runs at the National's Lyttleton Theatre in rep until Aug 12.


Jason Watkins was in The Hour with Mr W

(New*) Pics: Set and props start arriving for the Cripple Of Inishmaan (is that Daniel Radcliffe's bed?)

Ben Whishaw and Dame Judi Dench had barely left the stage after last night's final performance of Peter and Alice when work began on setting up for the next production in Michael Grandage's season at the Noel Coward Theatre.

The Cripple of Inishmaan, written by Martin McDonagh, stars Daniel Radcliffe as Billy, the cripple of the title, and opens on Saturday (8 June) and today I got a sneak peek of some of the set and props which were stacked in the street outside the theatre.

I'm not going to make any quips about what could very well be Daniel Radcliffe's bed (first pic), that would be as obvious as the Equus/wand jokes. Ahem.

And if you want to read about the last performance of Peter and Alice, Poly has summed it up perfectly - I'm still too emotional to put it into words ;0)

* Monday: Swung by the Noel Coward Theatre at lunch time and this wheel chair was sitting outside backstage door. Surely must belong to Billy.



Continue reading "(New*) Pics: Set and props start arriving for the Cripple Of Inishmaan (is that Daniel Radcliffe's bed?)" »