58 posts categorized "Hampstead Theatre" Feed

Review: The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre - missing in detail and nuance

Roy Williams' play The Fellowship centres on a small family unit, but there are a lot of big things going on.

The Fellowship Production Image 1 L-R CHERRELLE SKEETE  SUZETTE LLEWELLYN © Robert Day
The Fellowship, Hampstead Theatre, June 2022 L-R Cherrelle Skeete and Suzette Llewellyn © Robert Day

Dawn (Cherrelle Skeet) is grieving the loss of a child while caring for her terminally ill mother with little help from her high-flying lawyer sister Marcia (Suzette Llewellyn). She can tell her teenage son Jermaine (Ethan Hazzard) is lying to her, and if it's about what she suspects, she will be fuming.

Marcia, meanwhile, has got herself into a relationship with a married politician, which could potentially end her career, and Jermaine has rekindled ties with someone at the heart of a past tragedy.

Dawn and Marcia's mother was tough with her love, and the sisters were once close, fighting on the front line for justice but lead very different lives now. Jermaine has taken the path of least resistance and is drifting away. Tony (Trevor Laird), Dawn's husband and a touring musician, drifts in and out offering little support for any of it, just getting angry. 

The result is a lot of tension and drama, which highlights a whole raft of interesting themes. However, the result is a play that is over-stuffed and missing in detail and nuance.

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Review: The Breach, Hampstead Theatre - a slow burning, perplexing play

There is a stillness that descends over a theatre audience when they are gripped and fidgeting when they aren't. In the first half of The Breach at Hampstead Theatre, the audience was fidgeting.

The Breach Production Image 10 L-R STANLEY MORGAN  DOUGGIE MCMEEKIN  JASMINE BLACKBOROW  SHANNON TARBET © Johan Persson
The Breach, Hampstead Theatre, May 2022. L-R Stanley Morgan, Douggie McMeekin, Jasmine Blackborow, Shannon Tarbet. Photo © Johan Persson

Naomi Wallace's play is a slow burn. And this is despite it switching between younger and older versions of the same characters so that you know some of what ultimately happens, just not what triggered it. That comes in the second half and is where it gets interesting.

The younger versions of the characters inhabit 1977. Jude (Shannon Tarbet) is very protective of her brother Acton (Stanley Morgan), who is very clever but bullied for his perceived strangeness. Their mother is struggling to pay the bills after the death of their father in an industrial accident.

Frayne (Charlie Beck) and Hoke (Alfie Jones) both come from comfortable backgrounds. They want Acton's help with their school work and agree to keep the bullies at bay in return.

Jude is suspicious and doesn't brook any nonsense. Despite this, Frayne, Hoke and Acton form a tight but toxic friendship of dependency and power. They begin to challenge each other to make sacrifices to prove their loyalty.

These are sacrifices with increasingly dark consequences.

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Review: The Fever Syndrome, Hampstead Theatre - witty remarks amid a cacophony of themes

Modern families, money and the morals of genetics are just a few of the narrative tensions in Alexis Zegerman's play The Fever Syndrome at Hampstead Theatre.

The Fever Syndrome Image 1 Ensemble Photo © Ellie Kurttz
The Fever Syndrome, Hampstead Theatre April 2022. Photo © Ellie Kurttz

The family at the centre of the story is that of Richard Myers (Robert Lindsay), an eminent geneticist who now has Parkinson's Disease. He lives in a brownstone in Manhatten with his third wife, Megan (Alexandra Gilbreath), who does her best to care for him.

His grown-up children have returned home to see him presented with a prestigious science award.

His eldest child by his first wife is Dot (Lisa Dillon), who has her husband and 12-year daughter in tow. She is sharp, driven and highly protective of her daughter, who has a rare auto-inflammatory condition called the Fever Syndrome.

Then there are the twins Anthony (Sam Marks) and Thomas (Alex Waldmann) by his second wife. Anthony is charismatic, charming, and an opportunistic investor in Silicon Valley - his latest venture is cryptocurrencies. He's the favourite despite his rare appearances at family gatherings.

Thomas is an artist and has his boyfriend with him. He's the odd one out, not being adept at science and desperately wants approval.

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Review: The Forest, Hampstead Theatre - marriage, masks and our darker side

Florian Zeller's new play The Forest is like looking at broken mirror pieces, it is you, yet the angle is a little bit different in each piece. It follows Pierre, a successful surgeon who's married and the father of a grown-up daughter, as he juggles his professional and family life with having a mistress.

The Forest Production Image 1 featuring TOBY STEPHENS  GINA MCKEE © The Other Richard
The Forest, Hampstead Theatre, 2022: TOBY STEPHENS & GINA MCKEE. Photo © The Other Richard

The first inkling you get that he is duplicitous is his reaction to the news that his daughter has caught her partner cheating. He is sympathetic but doesn't think it's that big of a deal.

It's a stark contrast to what unfolds when his own affair threatens to be exposed. Or at least what he fantasises.

I confess that there is a moment in the play when the train jumps tracks, and it nearly left me behind. If you've seen The Father, you know that Zeller can play with timelines, and he does something similar here with the same scenes played out with subtle differences.

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Review: Peggy For You, Hampstead Theatre - an entertaining snapshot of a theatre star

Peggy Ramsay (Tamsin Greig) is a play agent, but she is more famous than the playwrights and the work that she represents. Written by Alan Plater, a client of the real Peggy, the play is set in her office in the late 1960s and covers a day in her life.

Peggy For You Production Image 4 featuring TAMSIN GREIG © Helen Maybanks
Peggy For You, Hampstead Theatre 2021 starring Tamsin Greig. Photo © Helen Maybanks

It opens with Peggy reposed on a chaise lounge, reading play scripts. As she reads them, she makes a series of phone calls through which we learn it is early morning, and she's been up all night bailing out one of her clients who has had a brush with the law.

We also learn that Peggy has little regard for the hour and the disturbance that her early calls cause.

As the day progresses, there's the arrival of a promising young playwright Simon (Josh Finan), who, when told what he has written isn't a play, asks: 'What is a play?' It becomes a running theme as Peggy asks various clients for their answers.

Then there is her golden boy playwright, Philip (Jos Vantyler), who arrives announcing that he is getting married, much to Peggy's chagrin - she believes it will kill his creativity. And a disgruntled ex-golden boy Henry (Trevor Fox) visits to tell Peggy he is tired of her interference.

To add to the office bustle, the phone regularly rings. Her secretary Tessa (Danusia Samal), handles calls and other demands, like buying an atlas so Peggy can see where two Yorkshire based playwrights live.

Peggy For You is a character piece where the activity is designed to show who Peggy was and how she was rather than taking her on a journey.

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Review: 'Night, Mother, Hampstead Theatre - drama without drama

There's a moment right at the end of 'Night, Mother which tugged on my heartstrings and that surprised me.

The play is set in rural America, where a mother (Stockard Channing) and daughter Jessie (Rebecca Night), who has epilepsy, live together. It's quickly apparent that Jessie is the household organiser, making sure her mother has enough of her favourite sweets and biscuits.

Stockard Channing and  Rebecca Night. Photography by Marc Brenner.
Stockard Channing and Rebecca Night in 'Night, Mother, Hampstead Theatre 2021. Photography by Marc Brenner.

In some ways it reminded me of the premise for Martin McDonagh's The Beauty Queen of Leenane which, coincidentally, I saw earlier in the week at the Lyric Hammersmith, except this relationship has far less hatred and vitriol.

Just what their relationship is, like Beauty Queen, is slowly revealed, but in Marsha Norma's play, it's through the lens of a limited time frame. Very early in the play, Jessie tells her mother she is going to kill herself that evening.

Despite the fact that this will be their last evening together, there is a sort of calm activity.  Mother and daughter talk about the 'why', going over the past, but all the time Jessie is organising and tidying.

There is a confident and steady control about everything she does, but we've not seen her before tonight, so there is nothing to compare her behaviour to; instead, we rely on what she tells us about her feelings. 

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Review: The Memory of Water, Hampstead Theatre - siblings spar over childhood memories

In the bedroom set on the Hampstead Theatre stage, three grown-up sisters are arguing or is it bickering? Even that becomes a point of contention. It will be a scene familiar to many with siblings, the shared upbringing that can be a comfort but equally provide all the right triggers to arguments.

The Memory of Water Production Image 7 Sitting Front L-R Lucy Black  Carolina Main Back Laura Rogers © Helen Murray sml
The Memory of Water, Hampstead Theatre 2021. Front L-R Lucy Black Carolina Main Back Laura Rogers © Helen Murray

The three sisters in Shelagh Stephenson's play The Memory of Water - Teresa (Lucy Black), Mary (Laura Rogers) and Catherine (Carolina Main) - have gathered at their mother's home ahead of her funeral.

Teresa, the oldest, runs a herbal remedy business with her solid husband Frank (Kulvinder Ghir), always organising and making lists but tired of taking all the responsibility.

Mary is a doctor and having an affair with married TV doctor Mike (Adam James). She's the 'successful' one, perceived as the golden child who had an easy ride. But she's haunted by her mother Vi's resentful ghost (Lizzie McInnerny) and finding something from her past.

Catherine is the youngest. Over from Spain, where she lives with the latest in a string of unfaithful boyfriends. She's a hypochondriac, irresponsible ("broke doesn't mean you can't buy stuff") and feels overlooked, which makes her self-centred and needy.

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Review: The Two Character Play, Hampstead Theatre - siblings make for an odd couple in a mixed play

The stage at Hampstead Theatre is part set, backstage equipment and lighting rigs. Zubin Varla's Felice is trying to prep the area for a performance, after which he practices a few lines from a play he's writing, delivering them to a camera on the stage, the image projected onto the back wall. 

The Two Character Play Image 9 Zubin Varla Photo © Marc Brenner
The Two Character Play: Zubin Varla. Photo © Marc Brenner

It is one of the ways high tech equipment is used in The Two Character Play - one of the later works by Tennessee Williams. It plants it firmly in two different times and is perhaps a cheeky nod to digital theatre during lockdown.

Felice is an actor as well as a writer, but the company he is touring with has upped and left him and his actor sister Claire (Kate O'Flynn). The note they leave declares that the two are insane.

Even their manager has abandoned them.

Claire arrives all skittish and wants to cancel the evening's performance but Felice insists they do The Two Character Play instead. Claire agrees, but only if she can make cuts as they go, something she will signal by playing a C-sharp on the piano.

The Two Character Play Image 4 L-R Kate O%u2019Flynn  Zubin Varla Photo © Marc Brenner
The Two Character Play:  L-R Kate O'Flynn &  Zubin Varla Photo © Marc Brenner

They warn each other they might dry and have to improvise, but 'the show must go on'.

And so, the play within the play begins. Claire frustrates Felice with her random cuts, and Felice has to run 'off-stage' to change cassette tapes with the music.

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Lockdown London theatre walks: Hampstead Theatre - comedy conversions, velvet and Ben Whishaw

I don't want to turn this lockdown theatre walks series into Ben Whishaw stories, but I do have a Ben Whishaw story connected to Hampstead Theatre, but I'll come onto that.

Hampstead theatre Dumb Waiter
Hampstead Theatre Jan 2021

Normally I'd get the tube to Hampstead as the Santander Cycle docks don't stretch that far but having the time, I cycled into town and met up with fellow blogger Maryam (Cultural Capital) for a socially distanced walk to the theatre.

At the end of last year, we had tickets to see The Dumb Waiter, but then theatres had to close, again, so it was bittersweet seeing the posters.

I think my relationship with Hampstead properly started with Propeller Theatre and two particular productions: Richard III and A Comedy of Errors.

Richard Clothier's portrayal of Richard III is still one of my favourites and Propeller's 'Errors' was the first time a Shakespeare comedy had really made me laugh so it was a bit of a revelation.

Velvet trip hazards

Another play that really 'stands out' is The Judas Kiss for reasons of impressive velvet backdrop which proved to be a teeny trip hazard and, well, if you've seen it you'll know the 'other' reason. 

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10th birthday list: My favourite comedy plays and a few I didn't like so much

Humour is personal, what one person finds hilarious might fall flat for someone else. And it is really difficult to get right, comic timing is a great skill.

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Now I love dark comedy, the uncomfortable laugh that makes you think but I'm also partial to the silliness of a good farce.

Here are my favourite comedies from the past 10 years of writing this blog and I would love to know what your favourites are - tell me in the comments.

Upstart Crow, Gielgud Theatre

A clever and funny play that twists and weaves Shakespeare's plots - often exposing their ridiculousness and prejudices - with modern references.

Teenage Dick, Donmar Theatre

Based loosely on Shakespeare's Richard III the setting is an American high school and the machiavellian protagonist is a hemiplegic student Richard who is fed up of being bullied and teased about his disability.

It was a great combination of fun and dark comedy - and had a brilliant dance sequence.

Emilia, Vaudeville

A potent mix of humour, fun and feminism. It had a powerful message delivered in a deliciously entertaining and clever way.

Present Laughter, Old Vic

Director Matthew Warchus put a fresh spin on the well-trodden Noel Coward play which, coupled with Andrew Scott's performance, made this a sublime comedy.

I reviewed it alongside Noises Off at the Lyric Hammersmith, in a compare and contrast of the two comedies which you can read here.

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