8 posts categorized "Menier Chocolate Factory" Feed

Review: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, National Theatre - 'you must be wondering what the hell is going on?'

Despite committed performances by Blanchett and Dillane, there is something cold and mechanical to what is going on.

Cate Blanchett national theatre poster

Cate Blanchett is clever casting for Martin Crimp's new play When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other at the National Theatre because without her I very much doubt it would have sold out before it opened.

I'm putting my hand up and admit it was her casting that persuaded me to buy tickets, it certainly wasn't the fact that the play is written by Martin Crimp - the last of his I saw I tried to fall asleep to escape the boredom.

But even the thrill of seeing the Oscar/Golden Globe/BAFTA winner on the stage couldn't elevate what was a tedious two hours at the theatre.

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Review: The web of friendship in Kiss of the Spider Woman, Menier Chocolate Factory

"..slow to get going but while a friendship between the two mean seems inevitable from the outset it is the depth of that friendship and subsequent threat to it that holds the play's power."

Samuel Barnett's Molina is recalling the plot line of one of his favourite romantic thriller films, the shadows of the characters he describes appear as projections on the walls around him.

Event-list-image_15155You are held in the spell of the story until it is broken by the complaints of Valentin (Declan Bennett) who doesn't share Molina's taste in films.

It's the 1970s and the two men are locked in an Argentinian cell together.

Valentin is a tough, no-nonsense, left-wing political prisoner and Molina is camp and has been convicted of gross indecency.

And yet, despite their differences and Valentin's complaints you know that deep down he actually quite enjoys the distraction from the tedium of prison-life.

But as differences defrost and friendship warms a spider threatens the web of this new friendship.

On the one hand, this is a play about how we aren't so different after all, how we have the same desires and needs and on the other, it is a play about trust, loyalty and the price of freedom.

It is also about survival.

Kiss of The Spider Woman, here adapted from Manuel Puig's original by José Rivera and Allan Baker, is slow to get going but while a friendship between the two mean seems inevitable from the outset it is the depth of that friendship and subsequent threat to it that holds the play's power.

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January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots.

The Inheritance Young Vic
Vanessa Redgrave joins the cast of The Inheritance, Young Vic

Theatre gets me through the dark days of January, here are my highlights from the new play and casting announcements, favourite things I saw (and the low moment).  And, thanks to the Julius Caesar press night, there was a bumper crop of actor, director and writer spots too...

* Forbes Mason, who will forever be known as the Lucifer in pants, thanks to Jamie Lloyd's Doctor Faustus, has been cast in the Almeida's Summer and Smoke which opens later this month. Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to seeing Patsy Ferran, who also stars, in that?

* Josie Rourke announced she is stepping down as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse next year after eight years in the role. My highlights of her tenure, if you were to ask me for the first things that spring to mind, would be the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus (incidentally my review of that is my most popular post and has been viewed nearly 15,000 times), the all women Shakespeare series and James Graham's Privacy. There are plenty of others but those are what stick most in my mind.

* Vanessa Redgrave (yes Vanessa Redgrave!) has been cast in The Inheritance at the Young Vic which opens next month. I could listen to her voice for hours. Also announced in the cast are Stan-fav's Kyle Soller, Michael Marcus and Luke Thallon plus a whole bunch of new names I’m looking forward to getting to know over a double play day.

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Review: Scripts and 'credit sequences' in The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory

X300200the P20lie.jpg.pagespeed.ic.lGdKregG8zIf you enjoyed The Truth last year, (it made my 'Best Of list') then you'll enjoy The Lie. It's a similar set up with two couples who are friends.

Alice (Samantha Bond) and her husband Paul (Alexander Hanson) are hosting a dinner party for Michel (Tony Gardner) and Laurence (Alexandra Gilbreath) but prior to the party Alice sees Michele kissing another woman. Should she tell Laurence? Paul thinks it is better, not to say anything, better to lie.

Like The Truth, to say more about the plot would spoil it but at the heart of the play is the moral dilemma whether it is better to lie and protect or tell the truth and potentially hurt. Of course being a Florian Zeller play (translated by Christopher Hampton) he cleverly turns the idea on its head exploring truth, lies and relationships with insight and sharp wit, director Lindsay Posner and the cast bringing the humour beautifully to the surface.

There is something quite genius in the way Alexander Hanson says 'hmmm', his intonation and timing speaks volumes. It is particularly admirable given that he is a late addition to the cast - James Dreyfus had to withdraw for medical reasons - and with only a week of rehearsals under his belt, he was still working off script during the preview I saw. He even managed to put meaning into the manner in which he turned the pages and if he is that good with so little rehearsal time, it bodes well.

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Tom Stoppard's Travesties, Menier Chocolate Factory - great acting, not sure about the play

TravestiesREVIEW Tom Hollander's Henry Carr has just shuffled onto the stage. 'Oh it's him!' says the old lady sat behind me loudly, so loudly he could probably hear her from the other side of the stage. I stifle a laugh.

This is a play of Henry Carr's reminiscences from his stint at the British consular in Zurich during the first world war. Zurich has become a magnet for artists and political exiles and his acquaintances include James Joyce (Peter McDonald), Tristan Tzara (Freddie Fox) - one of the founders of Dadaism - and Lenin (Forbes Mason) but, as his forgetfulness suggests, his recollections may not be accurate. While Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia explores maths and science, here he explores art, war and revolution.

There is a farcical love story of sorts. Tzara fancies Henry's sister Gwendolene (Amy Morgan) but she doesn't like his radical, anarchic art movement so he's pretending to be Jack, a less radical fictional brother of Tzara's. Meanwhile, Henry fancies Cecily (Clare Foster) a librarian who is helping Lenin with research for a book. All the while James Joyce admires Lenin from afar and is trying to manage a production of The Importance of Being Earnest in which Henry will take a leading role.

Travesties is performed with such energy and verve, the delivery gunfire quick and clipped it is a skill in its own right. The performances I enjoyed very much, particularly Freddie Fox who was on fine form but I have a problem with the play. It's not the first time I've had this problem with a Tom Stoppard play in fact I'm starting to think Stoppard and me just don't get on.

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Terrific Torch Song Trilogy




The Menier Chocolate Factory's Torch Song Trilogy is one of those plays you see in preview that despite odd moments of visible nerves and a dialogue stumble you know it is just going to fly given a few more performances to bed in.

In cutting the original trilogy of plays down to one of around 2 and a half hours (that's a guesstimate as I didn't check the time when it finished) you lose some of the detail and the middle play, I don't think, quite establishes the depth of protagonist Arnold's relationship with Alan. 

But I jump slightly ahead, the three plays have been edited to three neat acts each following drag queen Arnold (David Bedella) through the trials and tribulations of his search for true love.

At the start of the first act he is disillusioned with love having had a string of unrequited love affairs. He meets confused bisexual Ed  (Joe McFadden) in a bar and things all seem to be going well for once when Ed dumps him for Laurel (Laura Pyper). 

Over the course of the next act Ed flits in and out of Arnold's life as does Laurel culminating in a visit to the couple's holiday home with his new beau Alan (Tom Rhys Harries) when all get to say what's on their mind.

The final part sees Arnold adopting gay teen David (Perry Millward), resisting the advances of Ed who is confused, again, and dealing with a visit from his un-approving and overbearing mother (Sara Kestelman).

Arnold, when he first bounded onto the stage back in the late 70s and early 80s, would have no doubt surprised audiences, challenging gay stereotypes, with his desire to find a meaningful relationship and have a family. Today with civil partnerships common place and celeb gay couples such as Elton John adopting it doesn't really raise an eyebrow.

However, his mother's reaction to his homosexuality and the adoption together with the fate of Alan is something that, I'm sure, still resonates 30 years on far more than it should and as a result Torch Song doesn't feel particularly dated.  

It is good story told with wit, humour and poignancy and a Stan-friendly number of songs. In chopping the three stories into one, what you lack in depth is certainly made up for in pace with never a slack moment.

The staging mixes between conventional and the less so with a rather imaginative use of an over-sized double bed in the weekend away scene.

There are strong performances throughout particularly from Bedella and I just loved Perry Millward's precocious and cheeky David so much I want to take him home in my pocket and feed him cake.

Must also mention Tom Rhys Harries who graduates from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama this Summer, definitely someone to keep an eye on.

I'm going to give Torch Song a strong 4 stars, so strong it's on the cusp of five, but not quite. I'm sure if I saw it again, later in the run, it would get five.

The Torch Song Trilogy runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory until August 12. Get tickets as I think it's going to be popular.

* And just a tip on seating, the Menier is a small theatre so you are never going to get a rubbish view but if you are sat in the front two/three rows at either end, the set juts out close to the front row and very occassionally the action takes place at these points. As a result you have to painfully crick your neck to see what is going on if it is at the opposite side of the stage. You can't not see anything, it's just not the best angle to watch from so if you can get more central seats, then all the better. 


I'm really pleased with this one because I don't think I've got to use the film Perfume: Story of a Murderer much before. But little Perry Millward was in it, as was the wonderful Mr W who, of course, played the lead Grenouille.

And now for something completely different: Accomplice London

Accomplice_CF_220x300_1a Accomplice London  is a bit like Ghost Stories in that you don't want to reveal much so as not to spoil the experience for others. But that is as far as you can go with a comparison - on any level.

Probably the best way to describe Accomplice, without giving anything away, is a theatrical, interactive treasure hunt.

The drama starts the day before you've booked with a phone call detailing the rendezvous point, which is somewhere on the South Bank. Once there the journey proper begins. There is no announcement about mobile phones, no buying a programme or settling into your seat with a glass of wine instead you are not so much lead but pointed in the direction of a trail along which there are clues to solve and encounters to experience.

You and your fellow 'audience' members - there is a maximum of 10 per group for every performance - are part of the story. A big part of the story in fact. But who else is in on it? You certainly start to look at people differently as you wander around the South Bank.

If you want to see something different, something that involves a bit of walking and exploring the less well known parts of the South Bank and don't mind interacting with real live actors or people you've never met before then you will have a hoot.

Don't book if you are expecting something deep and meaningful or prefer to sit in the dark in front of a stage and not talk to anyone.

As it is so different from almost all other theatre you will see in London at the moment it's a bit difficult to compare it, ratings-wise, to others but I'm going to give it five stars for being fun quirky and clever.

Accomplice London is part of the Menier Chocolate Factory's repertoire, has performances starting at regular intervals and is booking until Oct.

No RS/BW 6DS this time because of the absence of a cast list.



A Number, Menier Chocolate Factory

Images-2 First trip to the Menier and what a fabulous little theatre it is. It feels like the Royal Court's more down to earth, less pretentious cousin with its cosy cafe bar, friendly staff and a strangely comforting saw-dusty smell.

There was one blot on its copy book though and I'll come to that in a moment but first, as some playwright once wrote, 'the plays the thing'. And what a punchy little play A Number is. I don't mean real fisty-cuffs like Sucker Punch over at big cuz's but boy it gives you a lot to think about during its 50 minutes performance time.

OK so playwright Caryl Churchill was on to a bit of a winner with me as I've had a fascination with cloning ever since reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World as a teen. What she does is focus on the human response to cloning and raises questions about attitude towards life.

The story unfolds through separate encounters between a father and three of his cloned sons played by Timothy and Samuel West. Incidentally I can't imagine ever finding a production as satisfying without an actual father and son playing those parts.

It's opening encounter sees son Bernard, confronting the father who raised him about his discovery of a cloned brother and the possibility that he is just one of 'a number'. 

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