Review: A teacher in her seductive prime, the superb The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse
Review: Blood, dead cats and very (very) dark humour. Lieutenant of Inishmore, Noel Coward

Two transfers - An Octoroon and Sea Wall - are they as good in bigger venues? Or a shout out for diversity.

It's great to see small production transfer to bigger venues so more people get to experience them but there is always a danger they lose something in a larger space.

An Octoroon national theatre posterAnd so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I have been to see two transfers recently - An Octoroon and Sea Wall.

An Octoroon first wowed me at the Orange Tree in Richmond where it served as a reminder of why I go to the theatre. (You can read my original review of An Octoroon here.)

Same intimacy?

Its transfer is to the Dorfman at the National Theatre which is a great choice as the space is flexible so the original staging, with the audience on four sides, can easily be recreated.

You would think it would lose some of its intimacy in the bigger venue but it didn't.

And crucially An Octoroon is a testament to not only why we need plays that reflect a more diverse narrative but also why theatres need to be attracting a more diverse audience.

By diverse I'm talking about both age and ethnicity.

Less staid

I've written before the difference it makes sitting in an audience that is more reflective of London's population, it makes for a less staid, less vanilla theatre-going experience.

And so it was for An Octoroon, right from the very beginning when the fourth wall was broken and there was a verbal response to actor Ken Nwosu's greeting when he came on stage.

This was an audience engaged and gripped from the outset and it just heightens your own enjoyment being part of that collective experience.

Go see An Octoroon if you can get a ticket. It's just as brilliant at the Dorfman, details at the end of the post.



the old vic sea wallSea Wall

I saw Sea Wall at The Shed (read my original review here), the National's temporary space built while the Dorfman was being refurbished.

It's a 30-minute monologue written by Simon Stephens and performed by Andrew Scott and is having a run at the Old Vic.

Now it helps that the Old Vic currently has a thrust stage (presumably in readiness for A Monster Calls) so that Scott can be physically closer to more of the audience.

It is a punch in the guts play and you need to hang on every word.


The problem with a bigger venue is there is more space between you and the stage - particularly when you are up in the circle - which means more potential distractions, more phones to accidentally go off and that faint alarm sounding noise coming from somewhere intermittently.

While the play still packs a lot of punch I found myself having to concentrate extra hard to lose myself in the story.

A friend had been a couple of nights earlier and complained about the acoustics and I could understand what she meant.

Emotional edge

Whether it is because of the reputation of the play or Scott's growing fame there was a frisson of excitement in the audience that was teetering on some sort of emotional edge from the outset.

Laughs were bigger than I remember but then so were the silences.

Bigger performance

Scott was on fine form and in full command - his performance felt bigger but then the venue required it.

At one point if there hadn't been a loud sneeze, you'd image everyone holding their breath.

Would I have rather seen it in a small venue again? Absolutely. But this was a very good second best.

Sea Wall is at the Old Vic until June 30 and An Octoroon is at the National Theatre's Dorfman space until July 18.

For a bit of fun you might like:

10 Very British Theatre Problems

And some more plays I've enjoyed recently:

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar Warehouse - a teacher in her seductive prime

Julie, National Theatre - Vanessa Kirby plays an unravelling, modern rich-bitch.

Translations, National Theatre - language, storytelling and leaving wanting more.

Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios - The good and bad about Killer Joe