305 posts categorized "New plays" Feed

Review: Mary, Hampstead Theatre - politics and patriarchy in this tight historical thriller

There's a line towards the end of Rona Munro's play, Mary, that changes your perspective of the central character, Lord Melville, played by Douglas Henshall.

Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre_credit Manuel Harlan
Douglas Henshall (James Melville) and Brian Vernel (Thompson) in Mary at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Set during the turbulent reign of Mary Queen of Scotts, Melville is her most loyal advisor. But, with a string of scandals and seemingly bad choices threatening her position, Melville is under increasing pressure to turn his back on the Queen. 

The play is a series of increasingly tense conversations between Melville, Thompson (Brian Vernel), who has risen rapidly up the ranks at court and Agnes (Rona Morison), a maid and vocal Protestant.

Thomspon and Agnes have little sympathy for the Queen and believe Scotland would be best served if she abdicated.

Can Melville win them around to his way of thinking and onto the side of the Queen, or will they convince him that putting the infant prince James on the thrown with a regent is the better path?

Queen Mary (Meg Watson) makes only two brief appearances and says very little, but her presence is a constant throughout as every decision, every look and smile is analysed and interpreted.

Simply staged with a wood-panelled backdrop, two chairs and later a desk, the focus is firmly on a debate about the Queen's suitability to rule.

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Review: King Hamlin, Park Theatre - important issues are drowned out

King Hamlin at the Park Theatre starts before it begins with three teenage boys joshing around; it's noisy and boisterous with an undercurrent of tension.

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Kiza Deen and Harris Cain in King Hamlin, Park Theatre, October 2022. Photo: Steve Gregson

When the play formally starts, Hamlin (Harris Cain) is having a nightmare about being late for a job interview. He wants to help his mum (Kiza Deen), who has just lost her job and can't get benefits for five weeks.

They have a good relationship, and Hamlin wants to finish college, go to university and become a software engineer.

But circumstances start to conspire against him. His mum can't afford wifi, he doesn't have a laptop, and he's losing out on job opportunities because he can't work from home.

Added to this, the area he lives in is rife with gangs, making it a dangerous place to be as a young male.

There is an element of pride in that Hamlin doesn't want to work in a supermarket but do something that is less manual - and paid better.

Would it have mattered if he had got any old job?

His friend Quinn (Inaam Barwani) is, by his own admission and his behaviour, not cut out for studying and college but has a proposition for Hamlin which could help solve his money issues.

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Review: Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre - interesting story but stylistically it didn't gel

Written by Peter Oswald and Alexander J Gifford 'after' an unfinished play by Friedrich Schiller, Dmitry is the story of the much loved, youngest son of the Tzar of Russia who was murdered - or was he?

Dmitry  Marylebone Theatre  credit Ellie Kurtz (03)
Dmitry, Marylebone Theatre, Oct 2022. Photo: Ellie Kurtz

Years later, when a young man turns up in Poland wearing Dmitry's jewelled crucifix but knowing nothing of his past other than he grew up in a monastery, people believe he is the beloved Tzarevich and rally behind him.

It is a story about identity and what that means against a backdrop of religious and political manoeuvring. It's also a play about the future direction of Russia as Dmitry (Tom Byrne), backed by an uneasy alliance of Polish Catholics and Russian Orthodox Cossacks, marches on Moscow to claim his rightful place as Tsar.

And it's a bold play to launch the new 200-seat Marylebone Theatre, bold in that it clocks in at nearly 3 hours (including an interval).

At times it rocks along at a satisfyingly rapid pace with plotting, countermoves and in-fighting. The sense of jeopardy grows, although it's not a case of 'if' but rather 'when'.

But at other times, it is loaded with stodgy exposition and wordy speeches, that do little to move things along.

There are some odd production choices which pull you out of the story. Modern costumes, grungy heavy metal music and sporadic segments of movement give it a contemporary feel but the performances and delivery often feel like it would sit better in a more traditional production. It didn't quite gel.

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Review: Eureka Day, Old Vic - sharp and very funny

There is a scene in Eureka Day at the Old Vic during which the audience is roaring with laughter, but it isn't anything to do with the actors who are on stage or what they are saying.

And it isn't a mistake, it is intended, and it's a genius scene for a couple of reasons, how the actors carry on regardless and the relatable source of the comedy.

Kirsten Foster  Mark McKinney  Helen Hunt  Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic  photo by Manuel Harlan
Kirsten Foster, Mark McKinney, Helen Hunt, Ben Schnetzer and Susan Kelechi Watson in Eureka Day at The Old Vic, Sep 2022. Photo by Manuel Harlan

Eureka Day is the name of a private school in Berkeley, California, which is welcome to all children. That is until there is a health crisis which tests the ideas and values of five members of the PTA.

At first, the play is a satirical stab at the 'woke' left as they debate the appropriate racial groups to reference on the school's website. Everyone is seemingly doing their best to listen, suggest, understand and reach a consensus without causing offence. And it raises a good few laughs.

Of course, the irony is that they are so busy demonstrating what the school stands for and its inclusivity they don't realise the voices they are trying to include are getting stifled.

However, when a child at the school comes down with mumps, the play shifts gear into the debate around vaccines.

Where it gets very funny is at an emergency meeting about what to do, conducted via live video call with the rest of the parents. The PTA are huddled around one laptop, remaining polite and respectful to each other's views.

Then on the back wall of the classroom set, the comments from the video chat start popping up.

At first, it is a mixture of gossip, random remarks and polite comments about vaccines, but it soon descends into chaos, a mixture of wacky ideas, passive-aggressive comments and plain insults about each other's views.

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Review: The Clinic, Almeida Theatre - an intoxicating and befuddling brew

Tea drinking features heavily in Dipo Baruwa-Etti's posh kitchen-set play The Clinic at the Almeida Theatre. But this tea may or may not have intoxicating or calming effects; even those who fervently dislike infusions get a taste for it. 

The Clinic. Mercy Ojelade  Gloria Obianyo  Maynard Eziashi  Donna Berlin  Simon Manyonda. Photo - Marc Brenner (2)
The Clinic, Almeida Theatre Sep 22. Mercy Ojelade, Gloria Obianyo, Maynard Eziashi, Donna Berlin and Simon Manyonda. Photo: Marc Brenner

And that is The Clinic, a mix of contemporary family drama and something more difficult to put a finger on.

It opens with the 60th birthday celebration of Segun (Maynard Eziashi) with his wife Tiwa (Donna Berlin), son Bayo (Simon Manyonda, daughter Ore (Gloria Obianyo) and Bayo's wife Amina (Mercy Ojelade).

The dialogue crackles and sparks; this is a familiar family dynamic that is a mix of love and frustration. There are harsh jibes and sharp digs centring on politics and activism.

Segun is a therapist and author, and Tiwa volunteers at a women's refuge. They have made a comfortable life for themselves and vote Tory. Bayo is in the police, Ore is a junior doctor and both vote labour. Amina is a labour politician.

Job choice comes under scrutiny, as does who is best placed to force change and drive racial equality and what is the most effective tactic. Sparks fly in a fierce, passionate, angry debate that quickly spills over into hurtful remarks.

Into this mix comes Wunmi (Toyin Ayedun-Alase), a suicidal widow with a baby, whom Ore thinks her parents can help.

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Review: Who Killed My Father, Young Vic Theatre - subtle but powerful

I can now say I've seen Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio on stage. OK, so they were on telly on stage, but that is technically on stage. Kate and Leo were in Titanic mode, the favourite film of the son in Who Killed My Father.

Who Killed My Father
Who Killed My Father, Young Vic, Sep 2022

His homophobic father initially refuses to get him the video for his birthday.

Father and son are both played by Hans Kesting in this Ivo Van Hove adaptation of Édouard Louis' novel. The son is visiting his dying father and reflecting on his life, what shaped him and ultimately brought him to an untimely death.

Kesting differentiates the two using postures, cigarette breaks and stuffing fists up his jumper to indicate a protruding belly. He flits seamlessly from one to the other. There are shifts in energy too, the play covering childhood, teens, adulthood and middle age.

It's a punchy 90-minute play that feels a little like a whodunnit, with the suspects being parents, culture, class and politics.

While it is set in France, there is a lot that resonates about the struggles the poor face here in the UK and how the most minor political decision can make a huge difference - for good or bad.

It's also an interesting exploration of toxic masculinity and how that gets passed down and reinforced by society. It shows the devasting impact it has on the father and his prospects - toeing the line at school is seen as a feminine or homosexual trait. 

But this isn't a simple story of an emotionally abusive father who can't hide his shame about his son's lack of 'masculine' traits. There are family treats, the Titanic video and singalongs to Celine Dion in the car.

The father also experiences a good dose of misfortunate, which makes life even more difficult despite his best efforts.

Kesting's delivery is slow and considered, reserving bursts for youthful energy. It makes for an effective contrast in mood and tone, although the pace does drag a little in a couple of places. He doesn't always play to the audience, so at times it feels voyeuristic. 

At one point, Kesting disappears from view if you are sitting to the left of the stage, but it isn't for very long  He spends a bit of time sitting on a bed which is stage left, but I'm not sure if that affects the view if you are in seats that are to the far right.

Who Killed My Father presents some interesting ideas about the agency poor people have over their own lives, and the way society both helps and hinders. It's subtle but powerful, and I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Who Killed My Father, Young Vic

Adapted from Édouard Louis' book by Ivo Van Hove

Directed by Ivo Van Hove

Running time: 90 minutes without an interval.

Booking until 24 September; visit the Young Vic website for more details and tickets.

Recently reviewed

Silence, Donmar Warehouse⭐️⭐️⭐️

Cruise, Apollo Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Monster, Park Theatre ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Theatre coming up soon:

The Clinic, Almeida Theatre, Rose, Park Theatre and The Crucible, Almeida

 

 


Review: Silence, Donmar Warehouse - filling the silence, a play that left me wanting more

Silence is based on a non-fiction book by journalist Kavita Puri who interviewed people who lived through the partition of India in 1947 and subsequently settled in the UK.

Silence Donmar Warehouse
Silence, Donmar Warehouse Sep 2022

The play is co-authored by Sonali Bhattacharyya, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Ishy Din and Alexandra Wood and is structured as a series of individual stories joined loosely by the thread of a journalist trying to coax her elderly father into talking about his own experiences.

Partition is not an event in history I know much about, which is what immediately drew me to the play, and for that, it is a good introduction. These are real experiences of trauma from a country suddenly divided on religious grounds. Friends turned enemies overnight because of a line drawn on a map and the atrocities and violence that result when people are othered.

The staging is simple, with large panels of cloth hanging towards the back of the stage, onto which there are projections. These can be turned at different angles.

Simple but devastating divide

A piece of string is used to denote how the country was carved up with religious groups designated to certain areas. And chalk lines depict train tracks now dissected by the 'border'.

However, the staging is such that it pushes the actors towards the front of the stage, and the production doesn't make the most of the Donmar's thrust with much of the performance played forwards, neglecting those sitting to the sides.

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Review: Cruise, Apollo Theatre - an explosive, energetic delight

There are two types of standing ovation: The ones where there is a slow trickle of people getting to their feet and the rarer ones where the entire audience leaps up en masse. Jack Holden's Cruise at the Apollo Theatre was in the latter category.

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Jack Holden and John Patrick Elliott in Cruise, Apollo Theatre 2022. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography

Written and performed by Holden, this hour and 40-minute explosive, energetic delight of a play is primarily set among the gay community in 1980s Soho. It's about having one last night when you think you won't be around for tomorrow. But to set up that night, the play looks back at the four preceding years.

Aided by musician and DJ John Patrick Elliott, Holden takes the audience on a journey evoking the sounds, atmosphere and characters of this colourful but less than salubrious part of central London.

And what characters, some only in the story for a few lines, others who weave in and out throughout, but each is richly painted. Holden doesn't put on costumes or use props; rather, he brings each vividly to life in the way he describes them and with subtle and not-so-subtle mannerisms. 

He switches effortlessly but with almost dizzying speed between each, and as a result, the play feels like it has a huge cast. The tonal shifts are also effortless. Wit, humour, fun and uplifting moments mix with the grimier, grimmer and heartbreaking, all of which are set against a backdrop of music that matches and enhances each moment.

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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.

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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).

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