93 posts categorized "Donmar Warehouse" Feed

Review: Silence, Donmar Warehouse - filling the silence, a play that left me wanting more

Silence is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Kavita Puri who interviewed people who lived through the partition of India in 1947 and subsequently settled in the UK.

Silence Donmar Warehouse
Silence, Donmar Warehouse Sep 2022

The play is co-authored by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood and is structured as a series of individual stories joined loosely by the thread of a journalist trying to coax her elderly father into talking about his own experiences.

Partition is not an event in history I know much about, which is what immediately drew me to the play, and for that, it is a good introduction. These are real experiences of trauma from a country suddenly divided on religious grounds. Friends turned enemies overnight because of a line drawn on a map and the atrocities and violence that result when people are othered.

The staging is simple, with large panels of cloth hanging towards the back of the stage, onto which there are projections. These can be turned at different angles.

Simple but devastating divide

A piece of string is used to denote how the country was carved up with religious groups designated to certain areas. And chalk lines depict train tracks now dissected by the 'border'.

However, the staging is such that it pushes the actors towards the front of the stage, and the production doesn't make the most of the Donmar's thrust with much of the performance played forwards, neglecting those sitting to the sides.

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Review: Kit Harington in Henry V, Donmar Warehouse

Henry V opens with a burst of energy at a nightclub with a worse for wear party prince. It's a scene lifted from Henry IV part 2 and is an important reminder of Henry V's past and subsequent transformation into a serious king.

It is a great scene-setter for this modern-dress production and a performance of Henry that leaves the lines blurred between heroic and ruthless leader.

Henry V Donmar Warehouse poster

One of the first things we see the new king decide is whether to go to war with France. His claim to the French throne is explained by a Bishop, with the help of a family tree projected on the stage's back wall.

There is a satirical note in the way the hereditary links are drawn. However, it is Kit Harington's controlled switch in tone when addressing the French ambassador after being insulted, which is the first glimpse of Henry's character as king.

He is angry but sparing, there is no chewing the scenery, and yet it magnifies his power and presence even when he isn't on stage.

His divine status is emphasised subtly in choral and operatic pieces sung by members of the cast. The music serves as a reminder of the role the church plays in driving Henry to war with France as well as lending a tragic tone to the story.

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Review: Force Majeure, Donmar Warehouse - laughs, oddness and is the staging right for the space?

The Donmar Warehouse's stage has been converted into a French ski resort for Force Majeure. There is a mountain backdrop, in the middle of which are lift doors and a 'snowy' slope that tilts downwards towards the centre of the stalls.

Force Majeure poster
Force Majeure, Donmar Warehouse 2021/22

It's ski-able as some of the cast demonstrate, swooshing from one back corner, down the slope and through the audience. It's an impressive bit of staging, but it comes at a cost.

Adapted by Tim Price from Ruben Ostlund's film, Force Majeure follows a Swedish family on holiday. The father, Tomas (Rory Kinnear), is a workaholic, and his put-upon wife Ebba (Lynsey Marshal) is determined to keep him off his phone and focused on family time.

Meanwhile, their two children are glued to screens ignoring their parents and are indignant when they do get asked to do something. It is a familiar dynamic, but an incident on the slopes threatens family and relationship bonds.

It's an incident that forces them to face some hard and ugly truths. 

Nordic humour

I haven't seen the film, but there are shades of Scandi humour in the play. There are also laughs that come from the easily recognised behaviour - the plays keen observation is one of its strengths.

However, sometimes jokes are overused and become laboured. It occasionally slips into farce, and the humour doesn't always gel with the more serious, contemplative moments. At times the play feels at odds with itself.

And then there is the staging and the skiing. On the one hand, it is quite cool to see people skiing in a theatre and does bring the ski resort to life. But on the other, if you're sitting in the wrong seats, you will get a limited view of what is going on.

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Sunday theatre question: A song you always associate a play

This week's Sunday theatre question is inspired by a comment made on my Instagram post about how a song played during a production of Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre became forever associated with that play.

Sunday theatre question song

It got me thinking about which songs take me back to a play whenever I hear them. 

I've always loved music (just not musicals) and can find songs very evocative of particular times and places, so it isn't surprising that a stand out scene or play can get linked with a song that is played over it in a particular production.

Probably the strongest link is Chris Isaak's Wicked Game which was played during a pivotal scene in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Young Vic, starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby.

It fit so perfectly, tonally and lyrically to what was going on, and whenever I hear it, I think of that play and that scene.

Another song that I always associate with a play is David Bowie's Starman which was used during My Night With Reg at the Donmar Warehouse. It is a song with a bittersweet tone that worked perfectly when it was played for a dance scene at the end of the play.

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Sunday theatre question: Have you seen a production design fail?

This week's Sunday theatre question is about when the production design of a play doesn't quite work. It perhaps distracts or gets in the way of the play or maybe makes performing unnecessarily challenging for the actors.

I've got a couple of examples that stick in my mind, one was a Shakespeare play at the Young Vic and the other was a classic Greek tragedy at the Donmar.

Both are memorable for the production fails rather than the performances or interpretation of classics.

Have you had a similar experience? Let me know in the comments.

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Review: Blindness, Donmar Warehouse - the intimate social distancing experience

Is it ironic that in going to the theatre with strict social distancing in place, I felt closer to an actor than at any time before?

Blindness poster on door smll

The Donmar has opened its doors, the first major theatre in London to do so, but with live performance still not allowed it has created what is an extraordinary experience using sound.

Blindness is adapted by Simon Stephens from a novel by José Saramago and tells the story of an epidemic in which people suddenly go blind.

Juliet Stevenson plays the narrator, then the doctor's wife, the only person who can still see as  society struggles to cope with its sudden predicament.

The Donmar, partially by design and partially by necessity, has been stripped back so that it is both familiar and different.  The bar is stacked with boxes and equipment and stage and seating have mostly been removed from the auditorium - there are still some of the benches stacked against one of the walls.

It's transformed into an open space with pairs of seats strategically placed across the floor for social distancing but facing different directions.

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10th Birthday list: My 10 (ok it's 11) favourite stage actresses plus who I'd really like to see on stage more

While there might not be quite as many meaty stage roles for actresses as there are actors (is that changing?) the plethora of acting talent I've seen over the past 10 years made this quite tricky to narrow down. Hence the list of 11 rather than a neat 10 (and presented in no particular order).

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's a Twat, Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Helen Murray.

I've also added a few names I've only seen once or twice but really want to see do more stage work.

Who would you add, let me know in the comments?

1. Imelda Staunton

Who can forget Margaret in Good People or Martha in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? It's always a treat when she treads the boards.

2. Jade Anouka

She was the best Hotspur I've seen when Phyllida Law did her all-female Henry IV at the Donmar Warehouse. She also did a fantastic one-woman show at the fringe (Chef) and I still remember the bit of subtlety she brought to Jamie Lloyd's lively production of Dr Faustus.

3. Patsy Ferran

Patsy, Patsy, Patsy. Have seen her in fringe productions, small studio theatres, one-women shows and taking lead roles in classics which have ended up in the West End (and winning her awards). So pleased to see her career taking off and can't wait to see what she does next.

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Theatre streaming: National Theatre announces four more brilliant plays to watch at home

When the National Theatre announced it was going to be streaming plays from its archive I had a wish list in my head of what I'd like to see or see again.

NT Live May June play streaming detailsAnd one of the ones that I really want to see again is Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus at the Donmar Warehouse back in 2013.

It was a super hot ticket as the Donmar is such a small, intimate theatre - and TH was becoming a big-screen star then - and so I was chuffed to bits that I managed to get a pair of tickets.

The quality of the performances and the portrayal combined with the fact that I was sitting a few feet from the knee-level stage made this such a memorable production.

And then there is A Streetcar Named Desire starring the amazing Gillian Anderson and Ben Foster which was also on my 'love to see again' list.

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10th Birthday list: Best play I've seen for each of the last 10 years (or the agony to choose list)

So this month Rev Stan's Theatre blog is 10 years old. My first post was 18 April 2010, it took a couple of weeks before I was to post again but the marker was in the sand.

Various theatre tickets

I had lots of ideas for fun theatre nerdery to celebrate but the lockdown has clipped my wings a little bit as many of them involved actually be at the theatre.

But not to let a decade of theatre bloggery go by without marking the occasion I've got a few other things up my sleeve for the coming few weeks/months.

And to kick things off I've compiled a list of my favourite play for each year I've been blogging (I did my 10 best plays of the decade back in December).

It has been fun revisiting my best-of lists but absolutely agony narrowing each list down to just one, as you will see.

I'm still not 100% happy but here goes:

2010

I initially chose The Pride, Lucille Lortel Theater, New York which saw Ben Whishaw make his Broadway debut alongside Hugh Dancy and Andrea Riseborough but then I realised that technically I saw that in February 2010 before Rev Stan's Theatre blog was born. So I've reluctantly decided it doesn't count.

So my second choice is Clybourne Park, Royal Court Theatre. It's a play that set the benchmark for uncomfortable humour and one which I regularly reference when talking about superb dark comedies.

2011

Jeez, this was a tough one. This was the year I saw Jerusalem, Much Ado with Tennant and Tate and Collaborators, National Theatre to name just three. But with much soul-searching I'm going to choose Flare Path, Theatre Royal Haymarket because it was so beautiful and warm and sad and I'll always remember Sheridan Smith's trembling bottom lip and a brilliant early performance by Matthew Tennyson. Saw it more than once too.

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End of year review: My favourite theatre of 2019, a year of dazzling performances, wit, drama and tears

It's been tough but I've managed to whittle down my 'best theatre of 2019' list to 10 plays, well, one isn't actually a play but deserves a place nonetheless. So here goes, in no particular order:

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1. Downstate, National Theatre

A challenging, difficult play with humour and wit inflected with wisdom that carefully balanced entertainment without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter.

2. Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre

I wasn't that enamoured with Jamie Lloyd's season of Pinter shorts and then came along Betrayal and it was utterly breathtaking.

The sparse script was layered with nuanced performances from Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. What wasn't said screamed loud.

3. Seven Methods For Killing Kylie Jenner, Royal Court upstairs

This made a lot of what is on stage in London look stodgy and staid. A fresh and achingly contemporary play that cleverly and boldly tackled social media and what it reveals about modern society.

4. Hansard, National Theatre

One of those plays that get mentioned a lot in theatre conversations, this was an extremely witty and acerbic political drama/comedy which had an unexpected emotional punch.

I loved it also for its balance approached in scrutinising both left and right-leaning politics.

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