82 posts categorized "Off West End" Feed

Review: Juliet Stevenson in The Doctor, Almeida - Principles, prejudices and listening to your PR

Robert Icke has certainly made his mark while associate director at the Almeida. Highs include Hamlet with Andrew Scott and Oresteia with Lia Williams although there was also Mr Burns.

The-Doctor-Almeida-programme-ticket

He leaves the Almeida with a challenging piece, his adaptation of the early 20th Century play Professor Bernhardi by Arthur Schnitzler.

Set in a modern hospital, the protagonist is the formidable Ruth Wolff (Juliet Stevenson) dubbed 'BB' (big bad) by her team when she isn't around.

She is an astute and skilled doctor, a leader in Alzheimer's research, focused, inflexible and forthright in her views to the point of rudeness.

'Leaders should lead' is her mantra but playing the game - the politics of management - isn't her strong suit and gets her into big trouble.

A reasonable refusal?

When a 14-year-old girl is admitted with sepsis from a botched home abortion, Wolff refuses to allow a Catholic priest to give her last rights because the girl hasn't given her express wish for the priest to be there and she doesn't want her becoming distressed.

Wolff wants her to have a peaceful death but that message gets lost in the row that ensues and she comes across as obstinate.

It is easy to see the escalating maelstrom that could be prevented by a simple apology but Icke throws so much petrol on the bonfire it's obvious she never stands a chance.

Petrol on the bonfire

Because Wolffe is Jewish, albeit non-practising, she is seen as bigoted.

Because the 14-year-old girl had an abortion, albeit self-administered, the pro-life campaigners see Wolff as pro-abortion.

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Quick review: Wife, Kiln Theatre - smart, vibrant and with a delicious sly dig at theatre

Saw Wife at the Kiln Theatre a few weeks ago but it was a really busy time with work and I got distracted from writing my review - which I now want to quickly rectify because I really enjoyed it.

Wife kiln theatre photo marc brenner
Karen Fishwick (Daisy) and Sirine Saba (Suzannah) in Wife © Marc Brenner

Samuel Adamson's play spans 60 years and while there is a connection between the different generations it isn't as simple as parents, children and grandchildren.

You have to pay attention as it time jumps, seeking out the connection when it isn't always immediately obvious, starting with an encounter in 1959 between a married woman and an actress.

The actress is starring as Nora in Ibsen's A Dolls's House and that first scene sets out the stall for the key themes - gay relationships and the changing role of women within the structure of marriage and family.

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Review: Who won the battle of comedies - Present Laughter (Old Vic) or Noises Off (Lyric Hammersmith)?

London's theatreland is ripe for a good hearty laugh. I mean look at the state of the world, who wouldn't want to bury their head in giggles for a couple of hours?

Present Laughter Old Vic poster

And so we are spoiled by not one but two classic comedies both with stellar casts: Present Laughter starring Andrew Scott and Indira Varma at the Old Vic and Noises Off starring Meera Syal and Daniel Rigby at the Lyric Hammersmith.

But which one is best?

The two plays haven't just got comedy in common, both involve actors playing actors.

Andrew Scott plays Garry Essendine a stage star with his coterie of friends and staff trying to stop him making bad decisions - or are they riding on the coattails of his fame as he believes.

Drama off stage

In Noises Off Meera Syal is one of a troupe of actors touring the regions where the drama offstage threatens to overshadow that on stage.

What the play is most famous for is showing the same scene not only as it appears on stage but also from backstage. You get to see it three times in fact.

Both plays rely on running jokes and a lot of comings and goings, lots of doors, people missing each other and being kept apart.

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Review: Cyprus Avenue, Royal Court - David Ireland's absurdist, existential comedy packs a grim bite

It is a superb play and one that can be cogitated over and debated but which in a perverse, bloody way is also highly entertaining.

Royal court cyprus avenue

Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court has long finished its run but it's such an extraordinary play that I wanted to get some thoughts down as I didn't get a chance to review it at the time.

It's not an easy piece to describe but if I was pinned down I'd say it is an absurdist, surreal, existential drama and pitch black comedy set in Northern Ireland.

Unionist Eric (Stephen Rea) thinks his baby granddaughter looks like Gerry Adams which sparks an intense internal debate about who he is.

Therapy session and flashbacks

The story and the nature of his inner turmoil unfold during a therapy session with a black psychologist Bridget (Ronkę Adékoluęjo) with 'flashbacks' to key events.

Eric begins to unravel questioning his beliefs, his Britishness and history, his unionism and much more besides.

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Review: The Son, Kiln Theatre - gripping drama with a heartbreaking inevitability

The signs are glaring, a figurative and literal Chekhov's gun, it's a car crash in slow motion and you can't look away. 

The Son Kiln Theatre

There is a heartbreaking inevitability to Florian Zeller's play The Son which is currently on at the Kiln Theatre.

Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston), a once bubbly teenager has become withdrawn since his parent's divorce. He lies, skips school and his behaviour has started to frighten his mother Anne (Amanda Abbington).

Moving in with his father Pierre (John Light) and new wife Sofia (Amaka Okafor), it is hoped, will return him to his old self.

Denial or ignorance?

Anne talks about Nicolas being ill, his father believes it is 'a phase' but whether through denial, fear of stigma or ignorance neither addresses what is obviously wrong with their son.

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Review: Cost of Living, Hampstead Theatre - refreshingly bold and honest

Cost of Living is a refreshingly bold play, it presents disability in a matter of fact way focusing on relationships while challenging inhibitions

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Martyna Majok's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living focuses on two carers and the people they care for.

Eddie (Adrian Lester) is looking after his soon to be ex-wife Ani (Katy Sullivan) who is quadriplegic after a terrible accident and Jess (Emily Barber) has just been employed to help PhD student John (Jack Hunter) who has cerebral palsy.

While Ani and John are totally reliant on their carers for physical assistance, Eddie and Jess are equally needy in their own way. 

We are first introduced to Eddie who is in a bar, buying the barman drinks as penance when he gets gloomy about a recent bereavement.

Nuanced performance

Majok doesn't always give Eddie the words to explain his thoughts but it is all there in Lester's nuanced performance.

It is a gripping opening but the play stumbles a little as it moves into its middle section.

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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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Best (and worst) of London theatre for 2018...so far...and the actress in two plays on the list

As the halfway mark of 2018 rushes past, it's time to reflect on the highlights and low lights of London's theatre productions so far (edit: scroll to the bottom for the most read posts).

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Julius Caesar warm-up gig, Bridge Theatre. Photo: Rev Stan

I'm not sure whether it's a reflection of more varied programming generally or just where my interests predominantly lie these days but it's a list dominated by women protagonists and BAME stories.

Best of the big stuff (West End and off West End)

Girls and Boys, Royal Court

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex. It is a devastating and brilliant piece of theatre and it's transferred to the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York Theatre where it runs until July 22.

The York Realist, Donmar Warehouse

Like My Night With Reg crossed with God's Own Country and the steamiest flirtation on stage for a long while.

Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

Stuff with Ben Whishaw in it doesn't always make it into my best of lists but being part of the mob was at times like being at a rock concert, a rally and in the middle of a war - never thought I'd enjoy standing at the theatre.

The Great Wave, National Theatre

Had no prior knowledge about the true events this play is based on but it proved the adage that the truth really can be stranger than fiction.

Summer and Smoke, Almeida

The first of two appearances on this list for Patsy Ferran, Summer and Smoke was a delicate, yet tense and heartbreaking play and I'm so glad it's got a transfer to the West End. See ATG's official website for details.

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Round up: That was April in London theatre - Monster casting and A-list actor spots

MTNEW* I'm excited and nervous about the forthcoming stage adaptation of Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls (the book is a favourite) but I couldn’t think of a better actor than Matthew Tennyson to take on the lead Conor. The production will have a run at the Bristol Old Vic from May 31 and the Old Vic from July 7.

* David Haig’s play Pressure (in which he also stars) is transferring from Park Theatre to the Ambassadors following a successful run at the Finsbury venue. Malcolm Sinclair and Laura Rogers co-star.

* Stan-fav Adam Gillen has been cast in Killer Joe, Trafalgar Studios, which stars Orlando Bloom and I'm really looking forward to seeing him in something very different to Amadeus. You can see photos of the cast in rehearsal over at What's On Stage and previews start on May 18.

* Kilburn's Tricycle Theatre has been renamed the Kiln Theatre post refurbishment with a new season that includes the UK premiere of Florian Zeller’s The Son.

* In a new twist on role swapping (recent role swaps: Mary Stuart, Almeida; RSC's Doctor Faustus and NT's Frankenstein to name just three) Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden are to alternate playing Isabella and Angelo in Measure For Measure at the Donmar Warehouse.

* There is part of me that is excited and really curious and part of me that thinks: 'Gimmick to get repeated visits'. There is one version I'd particularly like to see but no way of knowing, having booked at ticket whether I'll get it. Previews start September 28.

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Review: Grace rather than gasps in Pirates of The Carabina's: Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine, Roundhouse

...it is in many ways an entertaining show but it is also a show that feels more about grace than gasps and I missed those nerve-jangling, pulse-raising moments you normally get with acrobatics.

Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine - Photographs by Ollie Millington - 159
Relentless Unstoppable Human Machine. Photograph by Ollie Millington

Pirates of the Carabina are more than acrobats they are also clowns, singers and musicians.

So while one of them is hanging spectacularly by their feet from a hoop that is being spun above the stage another is singing or playing guitar in the onstage band.

As well as the band the lights sometimes fall on a group of singers up in the balcony.

The rhythm and tone of the music and singing introduce the pace and style of each sequence of acrobatics and clowning.

There are graceful pieces, that are almost balletic when combined with the music where artists are swinging in circles from ropes or bolts of fabric - or hoops - while creating amazing shapes or performing incredible holds.

More uptempo music denotes a faster pace to the acrobatics or some clowning around.

And there is some great clowning around with chase sequences on roller skates and a 'novice' attempting a wobbly walk along a tightrope - I'm sure it is more difficult to look bad when you are actually really good.

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