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September 2019

Review: Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. Royal Court - the highs and lows of Caryl Churchill's sketch plays

Caryl Churchill's new work is a series of four plays linked thematically by their examination of human narrative and understanding of violence through storytelling and myths.

Glass Kill Bluebeard Imp royal court 1
Rebekah Murrell in Glass (Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp) Royal Court. Photo Johan Persson.

The plays which get increasingly longer as the evening progressing start with Glass, a metaphorical story of a glass girl and her teenage friends one of whom she forms a close relationship. 

It is a tale of abusive relationships in some shape or form - whether it is the overprotective, overbearing parents or the boy who is abused by his father.

There is an amusing interlude where they are all ornaments on a shelf but ultimately it is the piece that is most difficult to pin down.

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An 'oooh' London theatre announcement (Clue: It involves Richard Armitage and Toby Jones)

This is something good to look forward to in the dark days of January and February next year, Stan-fav Richard Armitage and Toby Jones are taking to the stage.

Uncle vanya toby jones richard armitage © Muse Creative Communications  photography by Seamus Ryan
Uncle Vanya with Toby Jones and Richard Armitage © Muse Creative Communications. Photo by Seamus Ryan

They will appear in a new adaptation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya by Conor McPherson, directed by Ian Rickson. Jones is taking the titular role while Armitage will play Astrov.

It's not a Chekhov play I've seen many productions of - one in fact back in 2012 starring Ken Stott and Samuel West which I very much enjoyed.

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Review: Hedda Tesman, Minerva Theatre, Chichester - does an older, contemporary Hedda work?

There is always a danger when you transport classic plays to a contemporary setting that the difference in society's attitude destroys the tension of the original.


Ibsen's original Hedda Gabler is a young woman, newly married who sees no future, trapped into a life in which she sees little purpose.

Cordelia Lynn's modern take - entitled Hedda Tesman - follows the basic plot of Ibsen's but Hedda is now an older woman with a grown-up daughter living in contemporary England.

Hadyn Gwynne plays Hedda as a woman bitter and twisted by resentment and regret at the promising career she gave up to have a child.

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Review: Black Chiffon, Park Theatre - emotional disturbances and a family dilemma

Lesley Storm's 1949 play is part family drama, part exploration of mental health but to a contemporary audience, the notion of what was then labelled an 'emotional disturbance' is no doubt quite different.

Black Chiffon at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet 650A2426
Abigail Cruttenden in Black Chiffon,  Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet

It makes me wonder how audiences then and now perceive central character Alicia Christie (Abigail Cruttenden).

She is the height of middle-class respectability and an attentive mother and wife. Her two children are grown up but still hold a lot of affection for their 'darling' mother.

Daughter Thea (Eva Feiler) is heavily pregnant with her first child and her son Roy (Jack Studden) is excited about his imminent marriage to Louise, (Jemima Watling) something even his tense relationship with his father Robert (Ian Kelly) isn't going to mar.

But this happy picnic is about to be unsettled by a wasp.

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Booking for James McAvoy's Cyrano de Bergerac - and a warning

Priority booking opened today for James McAvoy's next stage outing and the first of Jamie Lloyd's new season - Cyrano de Bergerac.

Good news is that there are thousands of tickets for first-time theatre visitors, key workers and under 30s.

Bad news if you don't fall into either of those categories, the ticket prices are particularly steep.

I ended up booking restricted view in the upper circle for £32 because anything closer was just too pricey.

The Playhouse has a reputation among regular theatre-goers for bad sightlines which doesn't make the 'cheaper' seats much better value but it is better than nothing and I'm hoping there might be some rush tickets or day seats so I can get a better seat.

Oh and this notice popped up before you buy the tickets, so you have been warned...ahem.

Cyrano de bergerac warning

Cyrano de Bergerac opens for previews at the end of November, for more details on dates and booking head to the ATG website.

Interview: Theatre photographer Simon Annand on what he's learned about actors and whether he gets star struck

Simon Annand
The man behind the camera, Simon Annand

Photographer Simon Annand has spent decades capturing actors backstage at the theatre in the half-hour before curtain up.

His collection of photos, published in a book THE HALF, are now on display at an exhibition at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and include early career Tom Hardy and David Tennant, as well as acting legends Dame Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins. 

I asked him about his approach, what he's learned about actors over the years and whether he ever gets star struck.

How do you ensure an authentic photograph of a ‘private’ moment and have you ever felt like you were intruding?

The Half is not an attempt to be “fly on the wall”. Authenticity is therefore not based on pretending the camera is absent, but rather acknowledging that the actor is alone in their responsibility to perform the role.

All the sessions have been arranged prior to the meeting so there has never been a question of intrusion.

Has your process changed over the years?

The process has deepened over time in line with a more informed knowledge of the decisions that the actors are making.

The photos themselves have hopefully gained in resonance as this journey has taken place.

JUDE LAW (Simon Annand) Colour LR
Jude Law. Photo by Simon Annand

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Review: Jade City, Bunker Theatre - an interesting verbal boxing bout that ends up on the ropes.

In the confined space of the boxing ring and armed with just a couple of low bar stools Calvert and Quinn make the dialogue a dynamic sparring match.

Jade City  Barry Calvert and Brendan Quinn (credit Ali Wright) (3)
Jade City: Barry Calvert and Brendan Quinn. Photo: Ali Wright

Alice Malseed's play starts with Monty (Barry Calvert) and Sas (Brendan Quinn) standing in the audience either side of the stage which has a boxing ring at its centre.

It's the only time you'll see them outside the ring, the Belfast men talk of their childhood, bikes they coveted, japes and fun - champion times before life's battles became more challenging.

As they move into the ring they are older and a fight has begun, for freedom, for a place in the world and a simple happiness of cans of Harp.

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Interview: Director Harry Mackrill on his new play, working on Angels In America and dream casts

"I can’t begin to describe everything I’ve learnt from some incredible directors. Their passion and dedication is perhaps the most immediate thing that comes to mind."

Harry Mackrill - World's End
Harry Mackrill

Director Harry Mackrill lastest work is World’s End, the debut play from upcoming writer James Corley at The King's Head Theatre and he's recently been announced one of the theatre's new artistic associates.

As an associate director, he's worked on two epic productions at the National Theatre: Angels in America and Peter Gynt and spent a year at the Kiln Theatre.

I asked him about his latest work, the role of an associate director and if he knew Angels was going to be such a huge success.

Tell us a bit about World’s End the play you are directing at the King’s Head and what drew you to the work?

World's End is a story, set in 1998 against the backdrop of the approaching Millennium and the Kosovo war, which charts two neighbouring families – both single parents – and how their sons fall in love whilst playing Zelda on the Nintendo.

This is a play about first love. When we meet Ben and Besnik they are both dealing with their own fears and insecurities about the outside world, but together they find security and passion.

I think James [Corley] has written two wonderful LGBT figures in the two characters, but the love they find in each other is something that is universal.

It is a profoundly moving, visceral piece of storytelling. I am drawn to work that embraces stillness, and James understands the power of simplicity.

It’s a gift to be able to work on the play – both in the writer-director relationship, but also with the actors and seeing the characters come to life.

How would you describe your directing style and what was your approach for this play?

I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer this question – I have set of rules that I approach each production with.

My main passion for directing comes from a love and respect for actors: what they do and the fact that they are brave enough to do it.

I think my role as the director, in the rehearsal room, is to create a space that is supportive and rooted, so that actors can do their best work.

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Review: Hansard, National Theatre - exceptionally witty, acidic and punchy drama

Simon Woods' debut play Hansard, a political drama, is set in 1988 but feels like it was written for now. Certainly watching it on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was going to prorogue Parliament added an extra frisson of meaning to some of the lines.

Hansard poster national theatre

Set in the Cotswolds home of Tory MP Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings) he is reunited with his wife Diana (Lindsay Duncan) having returned from working in London for the week.

Thatcherism is in full swing, the UK economy is riding high on an economic boom and the Poll Tax is on its way but all is not right in the Hesketh house and it's not just the foxes digging up the garden or Diana's hangover.

A two-hander it starts off as the sort of bickering long term couples almost enjoy, the familiar digs and quips but the comments become increasingly barbed and weighted.

Diana isn't the traditional Tory wife, she doesn't like the Tories for a start and isn't shy about it but Robin doesn't hold back in his opinion of her more liberal, left-leaning views either.

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