86 posts categorized "Donmar Warehouse" Feed

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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10 plays from the past 10 years that stand out - for a variety of reasons (not necessarily overly worthy ones)

Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years. I say 'favourite', I've tried not to overthink it, these are simply the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.

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Stan's growing pile of theatre tickets


The list is not about plays that broke new ground or changed the theatre landscape - there are plenty of those lists around already - rather these plays just had something in them that I remember fondly.

To say that it has been tough narrowing it down to 10 is an understatement but I get another go next year because my blog is 10 in April. (There, I spoilt the surprise.)

In no particular order (the links are through to my reviews):

1. After the Dance, National Theatre

This is a play that gets talked about in 'theatre circles' a lot. It had a uniformly standout cast and I can still remember Nancy Carroll's snot crying.

But it has a particularly special place in my memory for being the play which turned Benedict Cumberbatch into 'one to watch' for me.

I'd seen him plenty on TV but this catapulted him from jobbing actor to leading man potential in my eyes.

This was before Sherlock hit the screens and as a result, means I can smugly say 'well I've been a fan since before he played Holmes'.

2. Hamlet, Stratford and Hackney Empire

I've seen a lot of Hamlets, more than one a year, and while technically I did see Ben Whishaw's Hamlet for the first time in 2010, it was a recording rather than the live performance so it doesn't count.

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet for the RSC was the first, since Whishaw's, where I really felt he was a student and acting his age, he was also the most likeable which made the play all the more tragic.

Setting the play in an African country and having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as 2 of only 3 white characters was also genius because it put them out of their depth in so many more interesting ways.

When I saw it for the second time, in Hackney, a group of teenagers were so swept up in it they leapt up to dance at the end. I don't think there is higher praise than that really.

3. The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

It's the play in which director Jamie Lloyd had James McAvoy unicycling around the stage wearing just his pants. Have no idea why that sticks out in my mind. Ahem.

The play was brilliantly bonkers too. Wish I could see it again.

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Review: Teenage Dick, Donmar Warehouse - a fun, sharp, black comedy

Teenage Dick is one of those play titles you have to be careful mentioning or googling, a bit like Cock at the Royal Court - but it is wholly appropriate for Mike Lew's play. 

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The Dick of the title is Roseland high-school student Richard Gloucester (Daniel Monks) who is based loosely on Shakespeare's machiavellian King.

Hemiplegic Richard is fed-up of being bullied, ostracised or worse, ignored, so with the elections for senior year president looming, he decides he will scheme his way to the top enacting revenge along the way.

However, matters become complicated by Anne Margaret (Siena Kelly) who starts to be more than a pawn in his game.

Decisions

Richard has to decide what he values and what is worth sacrificing.

Lew's play is a black comedy full of witty one-liners and verbal battles of scathing put-downs.

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Review: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Appropriate, Donmar Warehouse - family drama that hits a nerve

An Octoroon was the first play of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins I saw and it blew me away.

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He has such an imaginative and bold approach to difficult themes I rushed to get tickets to another of his plays, Gloria, at Hampstead Theatre. Again I wasn't disappointed.

So I had great expectations as I walked into the Donmar to see Appropriate which is receiving its UK debut.

Set in a crumbling plantation house in Arkansas, the Lafayette family has gathered to sort out their late father's belongings and sell the estate.

Emotional baggage

They all bring emotional baggage and scars of past events.

Older sister Toni (Monica Dolan) is recently divorced, has a teenage son who has been in trouble for dealing drugs, was close to her Dad and executor (and chief visitor) of her father as he became a recluse and required day to day care.

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I've given the theatres where I pay for membership an appraisal - how did they score?

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Photo by Rob Laughter on Unsplash


You know when you get appraised at work and scored on your performance? Well, I've done the same for the theatres Poly and I have 'friends' memberships for.

Essentially these schemes are ways of theatres raising money and in return, you get perks like priority booking.

Return on 'investment'?

We have memberships at the theatres we visit the most, which means we also buy a lot of tickets, so I wanted to work out what the return on our 'investment' is.

Are we getting bangs for our theatre bucks in terms of enjoyment, after all, you don't go to the theatre to be bored or miserable?

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2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards

110+ plays and my first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe (15 plays in 6 days), 2018 was quite a year...

Magic and memorable moments:

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

Feeling part of the set:  Sitting on a bean bag on the carpet in Patsy Ferran's 'bedroom' for My Mum's a Twat at the Royal Court (and she said hello to me).

Audience reaction #1: The audience gasping at the 'snap' during a scene in the RSC's Julius Caesar where a little boy's neck 'was broken’. Obviously, no child was harmed etc.

Audience reaction #2: Finding myself stood up singing Amazing Grace with the entire audience at the Royal Court during 'Notes From The Field'.

Actor interaction: Kia Charles winking at me and grinning during Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre (benefits of on-stage seating).

Surreal moment #1: Alex Hassell introducing himself to me and Poly was a bit surreal (stopped myself from blurting out 'I know, I saw you play Prince Hal/Henry V etc.)

But what made it more surreal is that we were in a church hall in Pimlico and after the meet and greet we sat in a circle to watch and sometimes be part of a production of Macbeth.

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2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)

So I've published my favourite fringe plays list and my least favourite plays list, time now for my best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I've seen - large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe:

via GIPHY

Misty, Trafalgar Studios

A play which put the pulse back into the West End and as a result was a breath of fresh air.

A Monster Calls, Old Vic

I was nervous about seeing a stage adaptation of a much-loved book but the creativity with which it was staged combined with the performances meant I was an emotional wreck by the end. So much of an emotional wreck, I had to walk around for a bit afterwards to compose myself.

Queens of Sheba, Underbelly, Edinburgh Fringe

A play about the dual prejudice of sexism and racism encountered by black women that succeeded in being both angry, uplifting and empowering.

It left me feeling teary in a happy/sad/exhilarated way and ready to march if the call came.

There is another chance to see it at the New Diorama Theatre, Jan 30-Feb 3 as part of the Vault Festival.

Notes from the Field, Royal Court

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience and I gave it an unprecedented six stars. Yes, six stars.

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Can we move beyond gender-swapping roles on stage and write better characters for women?

Bernhardt_Hamlet2A theatre announces that a classic male role will be played by a woman and gets a plethora of headlines as a result.

While giving a woman a meaty, lead role is something to be applauded, it exposes the shortcomings in onstage equality in theatre-land.

Gender swapping characters isn't fresh, new and exciting, it's starting to feel overused, calculated and like lip-service. 

Progress in Hollywood

Given the progress Hollywood seems to be making on equality and diversity theatre land needs to up its game.

In fact, recent research shows that films with a female lead have bigger box office takings than those with a male lead so there is also a business case.

Part of the problem is the reliance on regurgitating classic plays which tend to be male-dominated. 

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Review: Sweat, Donmar Warehouse - Globalism, the American Dream and human drama in Lynn Nottage's superb play

There is slow growing tension and tense personal drama in Sweat but it is also inconspicuously provocative.

ImageSeven years ago, playwright Lynn Nottage started spending time in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest towns in America and wrote Sweat based on her experiences there.

Set among a group of factory workers, what you get is in many ways a classic drama of friendship, jealousy and tragedy born out of a moment of madness. 

But globalisation and immigration beat at the heart of this story as, when the workers' way of life is threatened by layoffs, they are pitted against each other and big business.

Job for life ideology

This is a community brought up on the idea that a factory job is a job for life, where the reward for decades of hard, physical work is a good pension.

It is also a community where union cards are the key to the lucrative factory jobs but they are like elusive golden tickets if you aren't local or the right sort of local.

Two families form the centre of the narrative. Cynthia (Clare Perkins) works at the factory and her son Chris (Osy Ikhile) works there too but has longer-term plans to go to college.

Cynthia works with her friend Tracey (Martha Plimpton) and Tracey's son Jason (Patrick Gibson) who is happy to have his factory job and his life mapped out.

Friendships challenged

Tensions in their friendship first appear when there is an opportunity to apply for a promotion - the first person to make it off the factory floor into a management position.

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3 London theatre stories that caught my attention this week - and an actor encounter

SWEAT Donmar Warehouse Picture Spencer Platt  Getty Images1. Exciting casting announcement at the Donmar 

One of my favourite films growing up in the 80s was The Goonies so imagine my excitement when learning that Martha 'Stef' Plimpton is going to be starring in the Donmar Warehouse's production of Sweat (previews from Dec 7).

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play was written after playwright Lynn Nottage starting spending time in Reading, Pennsylvania - one the poorest cities in America.

2. Trevor Nunn returns to the Jermyn Street Theatre

The Jermyn Street Theatre announced its Spring/Summer 2019 season which sees the return of Trevor Nunn who is directing Agnes Colander, Harley Granville Barker’s play exploring love, sexual attraction and independence.

The play was written in 1900 but was only discovered at the British Library 100 years later and is described as a 'hidden gem'.

It's a revival of a production that ran at the Ustinov Studio at Theatre Royal, Bath earlier this year. Jermyn Street Theatre 12 Feb - 16 Mar.

 

 

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