297 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Review: Monster, Park Theatre - shocking and powerful

There was a point while watching Monster at the Park Theatre when I realised I had my hand over my mouth. What was unfolding on stage was shocking, and I haven't had a reaction like that to a play for quite a while.

 

Monster credit Ben Wilkin-7741
Caitlin Fielding and Abigail Hood in Monster, Park Theatre Aug 22. Photo credit: Ben Wilkin

 

Abigail Hood's new play is set in Glasgow in 2006 and follows teenager Kayleigh 'Kay' Grey (played by Hood) and her best friend Zoe (Caitlin Fielding). Zoe is quiet and shy and gets bullied, and Kay is prone to retaliate on her behalf. However, the retaliations tend to get her into increasingly serious trouble.

One teacher, Mrs Hastie (Emma Keele), thinks Kay is at heart a good person, but something is going on to make her act up. She is trying to build trust so Kay will open up.

But before Mrs Hastie can find out if her hunch is right, events start to spiral out of control with horrific consequences.

(I'm being deliberately vague as I don't want to spoil anything.)

The structure of the play means it builds to a critical event, but rather than that being towards the end, it allows time to deal more fully with the consequences. And that's what makes this really interesting.

Continue reading "Review: Monster, Park Theatre - shocking and powerful" »


Review: Tom Hollander in Patriots, Almeida Theatre - star performance and penny drop moments

Confession: I sat down to watch the Patriots at the Almeida, not realising that the central character Boris Berezovsky (Tom Hollander) was based on a real person. 🤦🏻  The penny drop moment came when a character previously referred to as 'The Kid' was introduced as Roman Abramovich (Luke Thallon).

Patriots poster
Poster for Patriots, Almeida Theatre July 2022

Peter Morgan's play follows Berezovsky from his position as an influential oligarch who helps to put Vladimir Putin (Will Keen) in power to public enemy and exile.

He has a clever mind, a sharp tongue and is not shy of dropping f-bombs. While his primary motivation, he tells us, is doing what is best for his country, his arrogance says something slightly different. And that arrogance blinds him or skewers his judgement and leads to his downfall.

Tom Hollander plays Berezovsky with wit and swagger; it is a star performance (he got a standing ovation at the end) but not a surprising performance.  

Putin is the only other character that has some traction in the play and is expertly played by Keen. He really embodies the character presenting an uncanny likeness that is quite disconcerting.

Wasted character

It's similar for Thallon, he does bear an uncanny resemblance to the man he is playing. However, his character feels wasted, with little for Thallon to really get his teeth into, particularly given the meatier roles he's had recently (Camp Siegfried and After Life).

Continue reading "Review: Tom Hollander in Patriots, Almeida Theatre - star performance and penny drop moments" »


Review: The Collaboration, Young Vic - Jeremy Pope and Paul Bettany had me on my feet

Anthony McCarten's new play The Collaboration at the Young Vic kicks off as you arrive in the auditorium with an 80s DJ set. It's toe-tapping, hip and creates a party, edgy, youthful yet nostalgic atmosphere.

The Collaboration Young Vic 2022 poster
Official poster for The Collaboration at the Young Vic, Feb 2022

Contrast this with the first scene in which we find Andy Warhol (Paul Bettany) being persuaded by his manager Bruno (Alec Newman) to work on a collaboration with young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (Jeremy Pope).

Bettany's Warhol is buttoned up, stiff, contained, tidy and hates mess. His appeal in the art world isn't what it once was.

In the next scene, we meet Basquiat, whose star is firmly in the ascendant. He is having a similar conversation with Bruno, whom he also manages, and we see someone who is more fluid and loose in their body language, inquisitive and prowling. Someone who doesn't care about mess.

But this isn't just about physical differences; it's a play about different minds, different approaches to art and different lives.

The first half is a verbal sparring match, the two artists having reluctantly agreed to work together. They clash on the purpose of art, what it's for and whether it can heal.

Contrasting styles

Warhol's art is planned, slow, particular and calculated its value, ironically, dismissed as nothing. Basquiat's art is spontaneous, rooted in emotion. It is about expression and saying something.

Continue reading "Review: The Collaboration, Young Vic - Jeremy Pope and Paul Bettany had me on my feet" »


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.

Continue reading "Review: The Forest, Hampstead Theatre - marriage, masks and our darker side" »


Review: The Glow, Royal Court - mysterious, curious and perplexing

Alistair McDowall's The Glow at the Royal Court is a play I've had to ponder - a lot - and I still don't have any firm conclusions.

The Glow  Royal Court Theatre  Ria Zmitrowicz  Rakie Ayola Photo Manuel Harlan
The Glow, Royal Court Theatre: Ria Zmitrowicz and Rakie Ayola. Photo Manuel Harlan

It is why my immediate thoughts on leaving the theatre were the staging and, in particular, the lighting design - which was stunning. It was something tangible to mentally grasp, but I'll come back to that.

The first half of the play is set in Victorian England. The mood is gothic: dark corners, shadows, ghostly figures and candles.

Mrs Lyall (Rakie Ayola), a spiritualist, bribes a porter at an asylum to let her have a woman (Ria Zmitrowicz) with no memory to use as a conduit for spirits. She sets the woman up in her son Mason's room (Fisayo Akinade), much to his disgust.

She is kind to her, albeit with selfish intent. She wants to be the first to reanimate a human and the woman's lack of memories or identity make her the perfect vessel.

But the woman is far more than Mrs Lyall could ever conceive. Her returning memories are strange and ancient, like the soldier (Tadhg Murphy) who chases her in them.

Continue reading "Review: The Glow, Royal Court - mysterious, curious and perplexing" »


Review: Fair Play, Bush Theatre

Fair Play at the Bush Theatre is set in the world of female athletics. Ann (NicK King) joins a running club and meets Sophie (Charlotte Beaumont), and the two bond over their love of running, drive and ambition to compete at the highest level. 

L-r NicK King and Charlotte Beaumont in 'Fair Play' at Bush Theatre. Photo credit Ali Wright-2
L-r NicK King and Charlotte Beaumont in 'Fair Play' at Bush Theatre. Photo credit: Ali Wright

It is simply staged with the lines of a running track marked out and a couple of scaffolding frames. The dialogue weaves around their training regime, the warm-ups, practice races and competitions. 

There is banter, encouragement, anger at bad performances and revelations about the sacrifices the two make and the impact training at such a high level has on their bodies.

With snatches of races imaginatively performed, the stop-start pace creates bursts of energy like that which goes into the runs. It envelops you into the landscape of serious athletics.

And so the first half jogs, and it is fun and interesting, but after a while, it starts to feel like it is circling as Ann and Sophie circle the running track. I did wonder if it was leading anywhere.

In the second half, the circle is broken. Just as the two are competing on the world stage, Ann's ambitions for reaching the Olympics are shattered - and the friendship tested. 

Continue reading "Review: Fair Play, Bush Theatre" »


Review: Manor, National Theatre - unsatisfying hodgepodge

As the stage was plunged into darkness at the end of Manor on the National Theatre's Lyttelton stage, I was thinking: What was the point?  

The applause died down and the actors left the stage, I turned to my friend who said what I was thinking before I had the chance.

National Theatre at night
Manor is on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre

Manor is an odd play and one that will divide given the mixed response from those sitting around us.

Set in a crumbling restoration-era manor house, on a stormy day with floodwaters rising, Lady Diana Stuckley (Nancy Carroll) is arguing with her husband Pete (Owen McDonnell).

He's off his tits on drugs (to put it bluntly), but the row whiffs of a marriage long past its sell-by date.

When daughter Isis (Liádan Dunlea) appears, there is no cessation of hostilities, and the mood doesn't get any better when strangers start arriving seeking shelter from the storm.

There's Ripley (Michele Austin), a nurse training to be a doctor and moody teenage daughter (Dora) Shaniqua Okwok, who were staying at a nearby holiday cottage.

And the charismatic-as-a-snake, Ted Farrier (Shaun Evans), who is the leader of a far-right group, accompanied by his blind girlfriend Amy (Ruth Forrest) and loyal recruit Anton (Peter Bray) in tow.

Local vicar Fiske (David Hargreaves) and unemployed youth Perry (Edward Judge), who lives in a caravan nearby, make up the group.

Remind you of something?

The set-up immediately reminded me of The Mousetrap, but while Manor is described as darkly comic on the National Theatre website, there isn't a great deal to laugh at unless you find fat-shaming funny.

Continue reading "Review: Manor, National Theatre - unsatisfying hodgepodge" »


Review: Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre - humour carries this meaty play

Al Smith's new play Rare Earth Mettle at the Royal Court is a meaty piece that covers a lot of ground, ironic considering the central premise is about the fight for control over one piece of land.

Rare Earth Metal

In Bolivia, Kimsa (Carlo Albán) scratches a living showing tourists around the remnants of colonial silver mines, including a British train, but the land he lives on is rich in the rare and valuable mineral lithium.

Billionaire Henry Finn (Arthur Darvill) wants to buy the land to mine the lithium for batteries for his new range of electric cars. Anna (Genevieve O'Reilly) is a doctor who wants the lithium because research tentatively shows that lithium helps improve mental health.

And Nayra (Jaye Griffiths) wants to use it for political (and financial) gain.

On the surface, there is something inherently good about all their motives - green cars, better health and a leader who wants to make life better for indigenous people.

Tarnished motives

But as the play unfolds, those motives are increasingly tarnished by the devious, corrupt and illegal means they'll go to reach their end goals.

If the play was focused purely on the debate over good motives badly executed, it would make for a really interesting and provocative play, particularly given the sharp wit and humour that weaves through it - more of that in a moment.

Continue reading "Review: Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre - humour carries this meaty play" »


Review: Camp Siegfried, Old Vic Theatre - teen romance and radicalisation

Camp Siegfried is more than a German-themed summer camp for German Americans in 1938 Long Island; alongside all the usual fun activities, Nazi doctrines are openly pedalled.

Old Vic Camp Siegfried
Camp Siegfried, Old Vic, Sept 2021. Photo: Rev Stan

The camp is based on a real Camp Siegfried, which operated in the 1930s and included flower beds in the shape of swastikas.

Bess Wohl's play sets the innocence of a teen romance against a backdrop of fascist grooming.

Our teenagers, played by Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon, are in the process of finding out who they are and what they want out of life. They are impressionable but without realising it. 

Thallon's Him is 17 and already fully immersed in the camp and its values, having visited several times before. He spots Ferran's Her, a shy 16-year old and makes a bee-line towards her.

It's her first camp, she's there with an Aunt and not finding it easy. The marching bands are loud, she doesn't like dancing and is no good at sports or anything outdoorsy.

Romance is encouraged

As the two hang out together more and more, we learn of how 'romance' is encouraged to further the Nazi cause and, through camp gossip, how the reality is often inexperienced fumblings and embarrassment, not the great love and conquest most anticipate. 

Continue reading "Review: Camp Siegfried, Old Vic Theatre - teen romance and radicalisation" »


Review: After Life, National Theatre - a bittersweet, warm, fuzzy glow of a play

If you had to choose one memory to take with you into the afterlife, what would you choose - and how would you choose? This is the premise of After Life, adapted by Jack Thorne from a film by Hirokazu Kore-eda.

After Life flyer at the National Theatre
After Life, National Theatre Dorfman stage

And it's an intriguing concept. One which gnaws at your mind while you are watching the story unfold in front of you.

Set in a sort of in-between place - kinda like 'King's Cross station' in the Harry Potter book - where people go for a week after they die. It looks a bit like a 1940/50's Government department, bureaucratic and grey.

The back wall of the Dorfman stage is floor to ceiling metal filing draws. There is a ladder on tracks of the sort you see in old libraries to help the staff reach the higher draws.

Its staff are there to guide the newly deceased in their choice of memory and then recreate it for them so they can pass on with their chosen memory.

Challenges and mistakes

They have their own issues and challenges, make mistakes and occasionally face a moral dilemma. It adds a rich layer to the story, another layer of humanity.

Naturally, different people respond to the place and the task they have in different ways.

There's the elderly lady more concerned about her cat, the teenager who settles on a memory very quickly, the young man who refuses to engage with the process and the workaholic who struggles to settle on something meaningful.

The search and recollection of memories provoke a huge mixture of emotions, but amid the maelstrom of anger, hurt, and regret, there are bundles of tender moments and joy.

Continue reading "Review: After Life, National Theatre - a bittersweet, warm, fuzzy glow of a play" »