52 posts categorized "Drama" Feed

Review: Drag King Richard III, Riverside Studios

Drag King Richard III (photo by Jamie Scott-Smith) 7
Bonnie Adair and Anne Zander in Drag King Richard III, Riverside Studios. Photo by Jamie Scott-Smith

This play is full of the unexpected. I didn't expect it to be quite so serious - the title led me to think of something completely different and I didn't expect to be cowering behind the fourth wall having been singled out in a dance scene by one of the actors.

It is, on the whole, a curious piece that is at times devastating in it observations about the life of lesbian and transgender friends and at other times frustrating in its execution.

Writer Terri Power draws inspiration from the words of Shakespeare's Richard III for the character Laurie/Laurence (Anne Zander) who has always fancied girls but feels trapped in her female form.  Richard's description of his outward appearance becomes a reflection of how Laurie feels about herself and how she is perceived by society. Later when Richard's seduction of Anne is re-enacted the angrily delivered description of the King as a "foul deformity" carries a different weight.

These occasional Richard scenes are mingled with the story of Laurie's friendship with lesbian La Femme (Bonnie Adair) through high school until a misunderstanding sets them on different paths. They return to each other later but La Femme struggles with Laurie's decision to have a sex change.

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Review: Public Enemy, Young Vic

Public_Enemy326Had Henrik Ibsen been alive today, Public Enemy would be a play fostered by the Royal Court's international writers programme and would probably be debuting at the Jerwood upstairs. There is a certain irony to the fact that the themes he explores are as pertinent today as they were when they were written in 1882 - is there any change in progress?

In Public Enemy - a version by David Harrower with the title changed from Ibsen's Enemy of the People - Dr Stockman discovers that his beloved home town's money-spinning spa is in fact toxic. He thinks people will be grateful of his discovery and initially has support from the local businesses and newspaper but when they realise that exposure of the problem will destroy the cash cow, for a couple of years at least until expensive repairs are made, their support wains.

It is on one level a deeply political play. The Mayor and the council rushed through the spa development putting short term economic gain ahead of longer term moral duty. It is democracy that leans heavily toward an oligarchy with undue influence and power.

On the other it is about one man's fight to expose the truth but in doing so risks his family and livelihood. An idealist he slowly becomes obsessed and disillusioned, fixated on his rights as an individual resorting to political and philosophical rants.

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Review: Mark Gatiss and Douglas Henshall calmly power through 55 Days

55_days_finalmarkbThe Hampstead Theatre has rolled out a bumper cast for its latest production, a Howard Brenton play about the days between King Charles I's imprisonment, his trial and then execution.

I'm not sure whether the 30 or so actors and extras  were really warranted - I'm wondering who might have been roped in for walk on parts - although it did create quite a nice effect as they streamed across the stage from opposite sides picking up pieces of furniture and props in passing. Incidentally, the stage has been placed in the middle of the theatre with seating on two long sides which, vaguely, reminded me of the Houses of Parliament although the stage furniture was more 1950's office.

I digress, the stars of the show are most certainly Mark Gatiss and Douglas Henshall who play Charles and the engineer of his downfall Oliver Cromwell.

Gatiss's Charles is dressed as you see the King in portraits complete with the trademark pointy moustache and beard and long hair but his is the only period dress. Cromwell and the rest of the cast all wear modern attire, sometimes military garb sometimes suits to emphasise the overthrow of an old order with something more modern.

Henshall's Cromwell is calm and thoughtful without being cold, his composure and strong moral stance gives him an air of approachable authority that makes his success as a leader understandable.

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When a performer pees on stage you know you are watching something memorable: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night is certainly a play full of surprises and firsts. I mean I don't think I have ever seen a performer pee on stage, possibly from nerves. And then there was the actor breaking the fourth wall inviting the audience to stay afterwards for the theatrical equivalent of a DVD extra. It was quite a stunning and unique evening at the theatre.

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Pub theatre is back and kicking with size 10's: Mercury Fur at the Old Red Lion Theatre

Mercuryfur_editPhilip Ridley is a bit of a favourite of mine but I've come to him relatively recently so I'm catching up with his earlier work. And I must say that the Old Red Lion Theatre's production of Mercury Fur is one of my favourites so far. It feels like Ridley stripped back to the core compared to his more recent work, the bare, classic elements that have put him on my fav list.

Like everything else I've seen in his repertoire, Mercury Fur is not an easy watch. I can't really say I loved the play because love is completely the wrong word. You can't however ignore its lasting, haunting impression.

Set in familiar Ridley territory - a post war/post societal breakdown future, Elliot (Ciaran Owens) and his brother Darren (Frank C Keogh) are organising a party for Spinx (Ben Dilloway) which you discover, as the story unfolds, has a barbaric party piece.

Ridley's genius here is in the suggestion. What is implied, what isn't seen, leaving your imagination to run wild. Mercury Fur is about survival at its most macabre and horrific; of a society desensitised to violence so that the younger generation who've known no different recount stories of murder, torture and rape like they are fairy tales. A generation for whom the ice cream van's tune signals the imminent sale of drugs, shaped liked butterflies with different wing colours offering a menu of effects.

In the bleak, destructive world of Elliot, Darren and Spinx human kindness and compassion take on a different, alien form but it is there nonetheless and together with brief moments of tenderness offer up a perverse sort of hope for mankind.

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Chuckling at the Tobacco Factory's Cherry Orchard

TimthumbI don't remember ever chuckling at The Cherry Orchard quite like I did at the Tobacco Factory Theatre on Thursday. Director Andrew Hilton has teased out the wit in Chekhov's play of posh folk with money troubles, cranking up the melodrama and throwing in some physical humour to boot. 

It not only gives the play a lighter touch - in a good way - but makes it all the more entertaining and engaging for it.

The Cherry Orchard isn't a favourite play of mine, as I've mentioned before here, and my irritation with the central characters' inaction remains but in making their deportment so ridiculous it heightens the sense of futility that is at the heart of their behaviour. There is also a warmth in their behaviour you suspect that, deep down, they are aware of their silliness and foibles but it binds them together.

Julia Hills' Ranevskaya has a charm that makes you believe her Paris apartment would be crowded with gentlemen callers and Simon Armstrong's Lopakhin is shrewd but not cold and portrays a genuine warmth and affection for Ranevskaya and her family.

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The charm of Filumena @AlmeidaTheatre but is it enough?

Filumena%20455Filumena is a curious little play.  The premise of Italian Eduardo De Filippo's story is that our heroine has faked a near death illness in order to get her lover of 25-years standing to marry her. On the pronouncement of being husband and wife Filumena (Samantha Spiro) miraculously recovers, earning the ire of lover Domenico (Clive Wood).

However there is more to Filumena's plotting than meets the eye - she has a grand plan but will her beloved Domenico play ball?

It is a play that is both charming in its depiction of the battle of the sexes (there are shades of Much Ado About Nothing) but it is also a little frustrating. Maybe it was just me but the second half seemed to be building towards something that is never quite satisfactorily realised.

Filumena is a great character, a woman of spirit and pluck and fundamentally a good soul. Clive Wood balances Domenico the selfish, arrogant philanderer with a softer, gentler man who just needs to be nudged down the right path.

Both leads put in sterling performances - it's great to see Spiro in such a spirited role again. It is also very nicely produced. The house courtyard setting, bedecked with flowers and a wonderful soundtrack of bird song and insects chirruping is like an advert for holidays in Italy's yellow-stoned Tuscan towns.

It is entertaining, amusing and charming but the second half seems to run out of fizz. Yes both characters learn something and are better as a result but it just wasn't quite enough. There was an element of drama, another twist or revelation that was hinted at but not realised. Perhaps we were spoilt in the first half, perhaps we are supposed to accept what is, like Domenico? 

As a result it's nudging four stars but not quite so I'm going to give it three and a half.

Filumena runs at the Almeida until May 12.


Not a direct one but Clive Wood was in Flare Path with Sienna Miller who play Mr W's girlfriend in the film Layer Cake.


After Miss Julie and the budgie murder

After%20Miss%20Julie%20by%20Richard%20Huber%20SmithI don't want to let what will now be know as 'the budgie incident' overshadow what is a very good play but I can't but help but obsess with it. You see something bad happens to a budgie. It's hopping around in its cage. It gets removed from its cage and then, well, it's bloody, is all I'll say.

Now I know no real harm comes to the budgie - although there is no official confirmation of this in the programme, just the name of the company that supplies the birds (it says budgies plural). But where does it go, how does the theatre trickery work so that it is safely stowed for the remainder of the play with some cuttlefish or Trill to keep it happy and quiet?

I've asked the Young Vic and they haven't yet replied. Yes I am that obsessed with it but putting it to one side, the play itself is very good.

It's set just after the end of the second world war in the kitchen of an aristocratic household. It's a time of austerity, rationing still in full force. Labour has just swept into power on a landslide, class barriers are starting to break down and so too the perceived role of women.

Julie (Natalie Dormer), the daughter of 'his Lordship' has had a unconventional upbringing. From what she tells us, her mother was a bohemian who was eventually 'brought into line' by her father who appears to have got embarrassed by her behaviour - presumably the behaviour that first attracted him to her.

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When theatre trailers go too far?

Am off to see The Seagull at the Arcola tonight. Never seen the play before and very much looking forward to it. Decided to watch the trailer and kind of feel they've given the ending away - which is a real shame. Nothing beats a shock or surprise at the end of a play when you see it for the first time.

I'm not against theatre trailers, it's nice to get a flavour of a production to whet the appetite but I do hope they don't start falling into the same trap as some film makers and give away virtually the entire plot in 1 minute 20 seconds.


Will Luise Miller redeem the Donmar?

Schillers-luise-miller After the disappointing Moonlight, I've been waiting for something a bit more in the league of Red from the Donmar and Luise Miller might come close.

It's a new version of Friedrich Schiller's late 18th century play and one of what became known as the 'domestic tragedies'.

Luise (pronounced Louisa not Louise as I quickly discovered and played by Felicity Jones) is a musician's daughter who falls in love with one of her father's students, Ferdinand (Max Bennett), the son of the powerful and important Chancellor.

It would be problem enough except that Ferdinand reciprocates Luise's love and his father (Ben Daniels) has a strategic and politically important marriage arranged for him to the Prince's mistress Lady Milford (Alex Kingston).

Of course the passionate young love threatens to derail The Chancellor's plans and those of his servant Wurm (John Light), who has an eye for Luise himself, and so something must be done to break the bond between the two.

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