160 posts categorized "National Theatre" Feed

Review: Anna, National Theatre - a thriller in which sounds tell the story

This is a taut thriller and an interesting and different play watching experience.

Anna National Theatre poster

At the curtain call of Anna, the cast hold up a series of cards which spell out 'No Spoilers' so I'm going to attempt to write my review without giving anything away.

It's set in East Berlin in 1968 and centres on married couple Anna (Phoebe Fox) and her husband Hans (Paul Bazely) who are having a celebratory party but there is an underlying tension to the convivial atmosphere.

Staged in a unique style, the apartment is set is behind a glass screen and each audience member has a headset through which to hear the dialogue.

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Review: Small Island, National Theatre - "a cracking piece of theatre"

I enjoyed the book, admired the TV adaptation but did the stage adaptation of Andrea Levy's Small Island at the National Theatre hit the mark?

Small Island poster
Small Island is an epic story both in scope and subject. The narrative straddles Jamaica and England before, during and after World War II, exploring colonialism, racism, love and identity.

The novel tells the story from four different characters perspectives but Helen Edmundson's stage adaptation pares it down making the two women Hortense (Leah Harvey) and Queenie (Aisling Loftus) the primary focus.

Hortense and Queenie have very different personalities - the former is well-mannered to the point of being uptight and has a tendency to look down her nose at people while the latter is more convivial, open-minded but, initially at least, easily led.

Both want to escape their lives and the identity that has been prescribed for them.

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Review: Top Girls, National Theatre - a curious mix of timely and of its time

Top Girls is a curious play, a mixture of moments that had me mentally punching the air, feeling angry and a little frustrated.

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Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls has currency today but the shoulder pads and back-combed hair aren't the only echoes of the period in which it was written. 

Its themes of women's role in society, their career options, the expectations, sacrifices and prejudices have echoes in today's exposure of the gender pay gap and lack of representation at board level.

A restaurant dinner with a fantasy guest list opens the play, the singularity of which is only revealed as the story progresses. 

It is hosted by Marlene (Katherine Kingsley) who is celebrating a promotion to a senior position at a recruitment agency.

She is joined for dinner by a collection of notable but perhaps unfamiliar women from history and folklore.

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Review: Bruce Norris proves theatre can be challenging and entertaining with Downstate, National Theatre

It is a play that challenges your thinking and reactions.

Downstate poster

When I went to see Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park at the Royal Court I wrote: "Norris' skill at handling such a delicate and inflammatory subject in a way that makes you laugh but equally question yourself is quite genius."

And with Downstate he's done it again.

This time rather than tackling racism he's turned his attention to sexual abuse, setting the drama in a house share where four convicted child abusers are living on license having served their jail sentences. 

They are on the sex offenders register, GPS tagged, banned from using the internet and smartphones and restricted to where they can go.

It opens with the quiet, polite, wheel-chair bound Fred (Francis Guinan) being confronted by Andy (Tim Hopper) one of his victims. 

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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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Cate Blanchett play at the National Theatre has an audience member fainting

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National Theatre content advisory warning


If a play is called 'When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other' you expect there to be some uncomfortable moments.

But apparently Martin Crimp's play, which is in preview at the National Theatre, is so explicit a woman in the audience fainted during a performance.

Cate Blanchett and Stephen Dillane star in the production and Katie Mitchell directs.

In fact, Mitchell's name should be a second warning for those of sensitive disposition as she isn't known for shying away from topics and behaviour that aren't an easy watch.

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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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2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays

Edinburgh Fringe media pass2018 was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe which produced a bumper crop of excellent plays (look out for transfer details) but London has delivered some gems too.

Out of the 50-odd fringe plays there are 10 that really stand out but what strikes me most when revisiting them is how many evoked such a strong emotional reaction.

Yes, some are on the list for being highly entertaining but others made me feel angry or empowered or rebellious, some even a bit teary.

The other thing that strikes me is their diversity in ethnicity and gender balance tipped away from male dominance but I'll be writing more about that in another post.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall

Based on research into Home Office procedures this exposes the farcical system that asylum-seekers encounter but more than that, how incompetence endangers people's lives. It made me very angry.

2. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Upstairs

It's been an incredible year for Patsy Ferran, kicked off in fine style with this solo performance in a play about a girl's relationship with her mother who has joined a cult. Funny and spirited it also had dark edges.

3. Coconut, Ovalhouse

An effervescent love story and a coming of age story that challenged stereotypes.

4. Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre upstairs

Shakespeare-esque lyricism combined with East End vernacular cleverly takes you on a revealing and entertaining journey that elevates the stories of those that often overlooked. Shakespeare would, no doubt, have approved.

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