Previous month:
July 2017
Next month:
September 2017

August 2017

Why I will review Tom Hiddleston's Hamlet

RADA-KBTC-HAMLET-CAST-Nicholas-Farrell-Ansu-Kabia-Lolita-Chakrabarti-Kathryn-Wilder-Tom-Hiddleston-Ayesha-Antoine-Sean-Foley-Caroline-Martin-Irfan-Shamji-and-Eleanor-de-RohanMatt Trueman wrote a piece for The Stage this week - 'What's the point of reviewing Hiddleston's Hamlet?' based on the fact that the Kenneth Branagh directed production is essentially an exclusive gig and a fundraiser.

I'll gloss over him referring to Tom Hiddleston as 'Hollywood's very own' - my view on this is reflected by some of the comments on his piece - and move on to why I will be reviewing HiddleHam. (Yes, I am extremely lucky to have a ticket, thanks to @polyg getting picked in the second round of the ballot).

I enjoy writing about theatre, it's nice to revisit the experience of seeing a particular play. It gives me time to properly cogitate on what I've seen and I sometimes discover something new I hadn't considered while watching. It's also nice to have a record of the experience and I do go back and re-read some reviews - Hamlets are always fun to revisit and compare.

Then there are the conversations I strike up with people who comment on what I've written, discussions I wouldn't otherwise have if I hadn't written a review.

And in the case of HiddleHam, it is an exclusive event, I know I've been lucky and there are at least two people out there who will appreciate reading what I have to say about it, as I would appreciate reading about it had I not got a ticket.

Is it the difference between being a paid critic and someone who is first and foremost an avid theatre fan?

Review: The earthy Knives In Hens, Donmar Warehouse

Cw-17962Christian Cooke's buttocks are exposed as he rolls around on a muddy stage with Judith Roddy in an act of love making that is almost primal and animalistic. The audience has barely settled into the opening moments of Knives in Hens and already director Yael Farber has set out her stall for what type of production this is going to be: earthy.

David Harrower's play about ploughman William (Cooke), his wife (Roddy) and their relationship with the local miller (Matt Ryan) isn't a romping yarn of rural life and relationships this is a poetic and gritty exploration of self-awakening and discovery.

When William describes his wife as 'like a field' it has a seismic influence on their relationship. At first the statement jars, she has no place for the figurative but her curiosity and consciousness is pricked, the notion that 'it is what it is', is no longer satisfying. When Miller, a demon figure in the eyes of the community, puts a pen in her hand it seals the fate of all three.

Continue reading "Review: The earthy Knives In Hens, Donmar Warehouse" »

Review: It's 'yes' or 'no' answers and The Majority rules, National Theatre

IMG_5112If you don't leave the theatre, after seeing The Majority, talking about the show and feeling challenged then you weren't really paying attention. Part stand up, part story, part morality test, comedian Rob Drummond examines democracy mixing his own story (with added dramatic licence, he admits) and a series of live votes.

As you enter the auditorium you are given a small key pad (pictured) and, during the show, are invited to press one for 'yes' and two for 'no' in relation to a series of statements. The results are displayed moments later on screens as percentages and the majority rules.

The statements on which your opinion is sought start off with basics to establish the make up of the audience and rules (should we allow latecomers, for example) moving on to re-runs of recent referendum votes and a variety of moral dilemmas. Some relate to variations of a scenario involving a deadly runaway train heading towards a group of workmen, others relate to the story Rob Drummond tells.

His story is about a random encounter he had the morning after the Scottish independence referendum and how that took him on a journey across Scotland and into the world of protests, activism, freedom of speech and the far right.

Continue reading "Review: It's 'yes' or 'no' answers and The Majority rules, National Theatre" »

Review: Ben Whishaw has been spoken to by God in Against, Almeida Theatre

1470x690_AGAINST_NBIn Bakkhai Ben Whishaw played a god. In Against he plays a man who believes he has been spoken to by God. The difference? Well there is a lot less hair for a start.

Luke is a tech billionaire who heard a voice in his head prompting him on a journey to understand violence and change the world.

Assisted by Sheila (Amanda Hale) he decides to go where the violence is and talk to people who’ve been affected - the parents of a high school shooter and a student at a University campus where there was a spate of rapes.

His is a sophisticated and intelligent mind but his approach is relatively simple until he is forced to question what constitutes violence. Can it merely be a physical thing or is the way people are treated by society or capitalism - for example - a form of violence in itself?

While Luke wrestles with the scale and effectiveness of his project, the nature of his fame begins to change. On the one hand he starts to attract followers who see him as something of a spiritual healer or icon on the other, he starts to attract critics.

Ben Whishaw's Dionysus in Bakkhai was seductive, alluring and manipulative whereas Luke has the demeanour of someone who believes he has the light of something in him; he has a Jesus-like quality, gentle, serene and thoughtful - except when it comes to personal relationships. Luke is a good listener particularly in Ben Whishaw's hands. When he is listening, he gradually moves closer to the person who is talking. He looks rapt, an expression that encourages and empathises; perhaps there is a little sign he enjoys it that people are opening up to him. I found myself constantly watching him just in the act of listening.

Continue reading "Review: Ben Whishaw has been spoken to by God in Against, Almeida Theatre" »

Review: The Catastrophists, White Bear Theatre

The Catastrophists, White Bear Theatre

When Jack Stanley was writing The Catastrophists he couldn't have known that Donald Trump would have been threatening 'fire and fury' on North Korea but it certainly adds an edge to this play about a posh middle class couple having dinner with a couple from the commune next door that is preparing for the end of the world.

Raf (Elizabeth Donnelly) and Harry (Alexander Stutt) have bought a second home in the Cotswolds using money they inherited but, drunk one night, Harry pees on Claudia (Patsy Blower) and Peter's (Edmund Dehn's) yurt. Inviting them over to dinner is Raf and Harry's way of saying sorry.

It opens with an argument between Raf and Harry about whether they should serve crisps or flat bread and guacamole as pre dinner nibbles. Raf believes the latter shows effort, Harry, rather astonishingly given his character, has never heard of guacamole and champions crisps. Raf gets her way and then when their guests arrives full blown social awkwardness pursues - you know the overly insensitive comments that expose social stereotypes, that type of thing. Some in the audience chuckled away others were stony-faced.

Claudia and Peter are, initially, what you'd expect of two people who've dropped out of city jobs to live off the land in a commune but as the play progresses there is something not quite platonic about their ideals and ambitions for their community. We'll gloss over questions about what they actually live on given that they admit the soil isn't any good, they can't grow anything and they slaughtered the one pig they had several years ago. 

Continue reading "Review: The Catastrophists, White Bear Theatre " »

That was July in London Theatre land with a bumper crop of announcements and thesp spots

Loot_460x375After a quiet June, July was a bumper month for announcements and thesp spots...

* The cast for The Divide, the new Alan Ayckbourn play, was announced. Clare Burt will be joined by Sophie Melville, Sian Thomas and Finty Williams. It opens at the Edinburgh Fringe this week (8 Aug) and then at the Old Vic from Jan 30.

* It was a month of former Globe artistic director announcements starting with Dominic Dromgoole who has announced an Oscar Wilde season at the Vaudeville Theatre including Lady Windermere’s Fan directed by Kathy Burke and A Woman of No Importance starring Eve Best.

* Then the Old Vic announced that Emma Rice’s production company, Wise Children, would have a residency at the Old Vic. The first production next year will be an adaptation of an Angela Carter novel. Goodie.

* Stan-fav Sinead Matthews has been cast in Loot at Park Theatre (picture) which also exciting because it’s been many years since I last saw a production of Loot.

* Much lauded on Broadway, the UK production of Oslo (National Theatre and West End) has found its leads: Toby Stephens and Lydia Leonard.

* This Christmas will see the battle of the stage Scrooges. Rhys Ifans is playing Scrooge in an Old Vic production of A Christmas Carol while Phil Davis is playing same character in the RSC’s version in Stratford. Already looking forward to compare and contrasts.

Continue reading "That was July in London Theatre land with a bumper crop of announcements and thesp spots" »

Review and production pictures: The art of acerbic wit and self defence in Apologia, Trafalgar Studios

The kitchen set of Alexi Kaye Campbell's play Apologia is framed like a picture. Later art historian and successful writer Kristin (Stockard Channing) will describe a moment of revelation she had when looking at a renaissance painting but as family and friends are reunited for her birthday dinner that won't be the only revelation.

Kristin is smart, acerbic, pragmatic and opinionated - she certainly doesn't hold back. She protested in the 1960s, is an atheist and has a picture of Karl Marx in her downstairs loo. Her son Peter (Joseph Millson) works for a bank "that rapes the third world" and Simon (also Joseph Millson) can't keep a job and is suffering from depression. Neither are impressed that their mother has omitted them from her recently published biography - it re-opens old wounds.

Peter's girlfriend Trudi (Laura Carmichael) is the type of American Kristin says she left the States to get away from. She is nice, vanilla sweet and an easy target for Kristin's sarcasm: "You're a Christian, I'm thrilled for you.". Simon's girlfriend Claire (Freema Agyeman) is also an easy target: She is an actress on a soap opera. Having been impressed by a performance Claire gave in a fringe production of The Doll's House Kristin is disappointed by her career direction - and penchant for designer dresses. Kristin seeks an authenticity of purpose in people to match that of her own. However, it takes someone Kristin doesn't expect to expose it as a mask, as a means of self preservation and self defence.

Continue reading "Review and production pictures: The art of acerbic wit and self defence in Apologia, Trafalgar Studios" »

Fringe review: Did The Wasp at the Jermyn Street Theatre have a sting in its tail?

Lisa Gorgin and Selina Giles in The Wasp. Photo by Andreas Grieger

The Wasp didn't get off on the right foot for me. It immediately falls into easy stereotypes of the working and middle classes and struggled to pull attention away from that until much later in the play.

We are introduced to two women who are meeting in a cafe, they are former school friends who haven't seen each other for 20 years. Carla (Lisa Gorgin) is common sounding, casual clothes, hair Croydon facelift style, pregnant with her fifth, smoking, works in Morrison's and is strapped for cash. She drinks builders tea and chews gum.

Heather (Selina Giles) is smartly dressed, professional looking, neat conventional hair, middle class accent and obviously reasonably well off. She 'rescues' a latte and later drinks camomile tea to be 'good'.

The stereotypes don't stop with appearances. Carla, we learn, had a physically abusive father and takes it out on people at school, people like Heather who comes from a loving, stable home. Naturally.

Where the play gets a little more interesting is in the proposal that Heather has for Carla. At first it seems outlandish and unbelievable but it's a narrative to stick with because it comes good in the way writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm unpacks the history between, and of, these two women and how that is shaping the terms of their reunion. And the pay off does have a little sting.

Continue reading "Fringe review: Did The Wasp at the Jermyn Street Theatre have a sting in its tail? " »