163 posts categorized "National Theatre" Feed

Review: 'Master Harold'... and the Boys, National Theatre - lessons and losses

It is a play about lessons and devastating loss, about how you can't dance around injustice and its impact.

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Athol Fugard's semi-autobiographical play is set in a tea room in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1950.

It is a wet afternoon - rain patters on a skylight - and Willie (Hammed Animashaun) and Sam (Lucian Msamati) are making the most of the quiet to practice their ballroom dancing steps ahead of an important competition in two weeks.

Hally (Anson Boon) the owner's son arrives to hang out and do his homework as is his routine.

Spectre of apartheid

There is an obvious friendship between the three, with familiar banter and games but the spectre of apartheid lurks in the background.

As they reminisce about Hally's early childhood we learn how Sam has become an influential figure for Hally who has a difficult relationship with his actual father - an amputee with a drink problem.

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Interview: Director Harry Mackrill on his new play, working on Angels In America and dream casts

"I can’t begin to describe everything I’ve learnt from some incredible directors. Their passion and dedication is perhaps the most immediate thing that comes to mind."

Harry Mackrill - World's End
Harry Mackrill

Director Harry Mackrill lastest work is World’s End, the debut play from upcoming writer James Corley at The King's Head Theatre and he's recently been announced one of the theatre's new artistic associates.

As an associate director, he's worked on two epic productions at the National Theatre: Angels in America and Peter Gynt and spent a year at the Kiln Theatre.

I asked him about his latest work, the role of an associate director and if he knew Angels was going to be such a huge success.

Tell us a bit about World’s End the play you are directing at the King’s Head and what drew you to the work?

World's End is a story, set in 1998 against the backdrop of the approaching Millennium and the Kosovo war, which charts two neighbouring families – both single parents – and how their sons fall in love whilst playing Zelda on the Nintendo.

This is a play about first love. When we meet Ben and Besnik they are both dealing with their own fears and insecurities about the outside world, but together they find security and passion.

I think James [Corley] has written two wonderful LGBT figures in the two characters, but the love they find in each other is something that is universal.

It is a profoundly moving, visceral piece of storytelling. I am drawn to work that embraces stillness, and James understands the power of simplicity.

It’s a gift to be able to work on the play – both in the writer-director relationship, but also with the actors and seeing the characters come to life.

How would you describe your directing style and what was your approach for this play?

I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer this question – I have set of rules that I approach each production with.

My main passion for directing comes from a love and respect for actors: what they do and the fact that they are brave enough to do it.

I think my role as the director, in the rehearsal room, is to create a space that is supportive and rooted, so that actors can do their best work.

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Review: Hansard, National Theatre - exceptionally witty, acidic and punchy drama

Simon Woods' debut play Hansard, a political drama, is set in 1988 but feels like it was written for now. Certainly watching it on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he was going to prorogue Parliament added an extra frisson of meaning to some of the lines.

Hansard poster national theatre

Set in the Cotswolds home of Tory MP Robin Hesketh (Alex Jennings) he is reunited with his wife Diana (Lindsay Duncan) having returned from working in London for the week.

Thatcherism is in full swing, the UK economy is riding high on an economic boom and the Poll Tax is on its way but all is not right in the Hesketh house and it's not just the foxes digging up the garden or Diana's hangover.

A two-hander it starts off as the sort of bickering long term couples almost enjoy, the familiar digs and quips but the comments become increasingly barbed and weighted.

Diana isn't the traditional Tory wife, she doesn't like the Tories for a start and isn't shy about it but Robin doesn't hold back in his opinion of her more liberal, left-leaning views either.

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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.

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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.

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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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