My theatre highlight of the week: A much desired Dublin transfer

TW_D_17_CILLIAN_MURPHY_SHOT_01_0431©TimWalker_webI nearly booked to see Cillian Murphy in Grief Is The Thing With Feathers when it was playing at the O'Reilly Theatre in Dublin earlier this year. 

Jumping on a plane to see a play isn't unprecedented, I've been to see Ben Whishaw in New York - twice* - but in the end, I couldn't get a ticket.

So I'm ecstatic it is going on tour and has a run at the Barbican in London next year (it moves on to St Ann's Warehouse in New York afterwards). 

I've long enjoyed Cillian Murphy's eclectic screen work from the outlandish characters to the subtle, terrifying to the tragic but it was seeing him in a solo performance tearing up the huge Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre in Misterman in 2012 which really cemented my admiration. 

I saw him two years later in existential comedy Ballyturk which was brilliantly absurd and joyful:

Imagine if Dali, with a little help from Camus, had produced an episode of Father Ted.

Grief Is A Thing With Feathers sees him working with Enda Walsh again and centres on a widower and his son. 

Next year is shaping up to be a very exciting year for theatre.

For details of the Barbican and St Ann's run head to the Complicité website.

* First time was The Pride at the Lucille Lutelle in 2010 and then again in The Crucible at the Walter Kerr in 2016

 

 

 


Review: Summit, Shoreditch Town Hall - a disappointing view from the top

Repeated phrases become vacuous in their repetition suggesting that the political narrative has similarly become empty.

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Fuel Theatre's Summit in rehearsal

Ten minutes into Summit and I'm irritated.

It's not the woman loudly crunching on her supper next to me although that is annoying, rather the fact that on stage the same point is being made over and over again.

'Fast forward' my brain screams as the setting for the story is described with pleasant customer service smiles for the umpteenth time.

Standing in front of a music stand with a copy of the script, the pages of which are turned with great drama, three performers outline the structure of the play and ask us to imagine three scenarios in the past, present and future.

Repetition but to what effect?

All revolve around an important summit where the lights inexplicably went out. Just to emphasise the point the lights of the auditorium are turned out.

Several times.

Repetition is Summit's main performance tool, sometimes the same piece of narrative is delivered in three different languages by the performers: Alesha Chaunte, Nadia Anim and Jamie Rea - the latter performs with exceptional expression in sign language.

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Review: Bullet Hole, Park Theatre - a brave exposé of the physical and psychological impact of FGM

Bullet Hole is brave in its exposure of FGM and the culture around it and it feels like a starting point for a wider narrative. 

A play about female genital mutilation is never going to be an easy watch but I particularly was drawn to Bullet Hole to better understand the culture and tradition that supports it, particularly in a 21st-century Western context.

(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve). Photo credit - Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography    (1)
(L-R) Gloria Williams (Cleo) and Doreene Blackstock (Eve) in Bullet Hole, Park Theatre.Photo: Lara Genovese for Naiad Photography

Gloria Williams' play is set in London and focuses on three women.

Aunt Winnie (Anni Domingo) is an African matriarch who follows and instigates the traditional practices; Eve (Doreene Blackstock) is a British African woman who has been cut but sits on the fence about its rights and wrongs and Cleo (Gloria Williams) is a young British African woman who has been cut and stitched is regularly assaulted by her husband and wants  a reversal.

Traumatised and broken

Cleo is sent to live with Aunt Winnie, where Eve finds her traumatised and broken. She becomes a sort of buffer between Cleo and Aunt Winnie having a foot in both camps.

Through their conversations, we learn of the physical and mental impact of FGM.

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Interview: Producer Katy Danbury on what spooky fun awaits at this year's London Horror Festival

In its 8th ghoulish and gory year, the London Horror Festival opens on 7 Oct at the Old Red Lion Theatre and I sat down with producer Katy Danbury to get the low down on what to expect.

A5 Final PosterWhat can we expect from the London Horror Festival?

First and foremost, enjoyment. The festival gives you a chance to escape from and purge yourself of the real-life horrors happening outside of the theatre.

You are united with your fellow audience members in an intimate space and together you enter an imaginary world where you can shiver, scream, laugh or spew (please don’t!) out your fears.

I like to think that the festival acts as a gateway for those who don’t often (or never) go to the theatre but want a spooky, fun Halloween experience.

Grand Guignol was popular in the early 20th Century but horror isn’t a genre that is often seen on stage these days, why do you think that is? 

To be honest, it is a tricky genre to perform well. People don’t want to see the actor clumsily place the blood capsule in their mouth or accidentally expose the vomit hose or see the string that’s pulling the floating chair.

You break the illusion, you break the suspense and it all unravels quickly from there as the audience lose interest.

Sadly, I have seen large-scale productions on the West End stage get it very wrong – this can do a lot of damage to the reputation of the genre within the theatre world.

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West End transfer: The Inheritance, Noel Coward Theatre - new production images

The Inheritance is an epic two part story of love, loss and life - think of it as this year's Angels in America. 

It is a playful play with laugh out loud moments but in a blink, it is full of pathos and tragedy. It is a play full of joy and heartbreak and for that reason alone I loved it*.

And now more people get to enjoy it as it's transferred to the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End and is booking until 21 January, 2019.

To whet your appetite here are the production photos from part 1 and part 2.

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Rehearsal photos: Clifford Samuel and Douglas Booth, A Guide For the Homesick, Trafalgar Studios

This month sees the European premiere of American playwright Ken Urban’s acclaimed A Guide for the Homesick, starring Douglas Booth and Clifford Samuel and directed by Jonathan O’Boyle.

L-R Clifford Samuel (Teddy) & Douglas Booth (Jeremy) in Rehearsals for A Guide For The Homesick - (c) Helen Maybanks_25
L-R Clifford Samuel (Teddy) & Douglas Booth (Jeremy) in Rehearsals for A Guide For The Homesick. Photo: Helen Maybanks


Described as a tender and bittersweet play about conscience and connection, Samuel plays Teddy who is searching for a friend for the night while Booth plays Jeremy who is searching for a beer.

L-R Douglas Booth (Jeremy) & Clifford Samuel (Teddy) in Rehearsals for A Guide For The Homesick - (c) Helen Maybanks_38
L-R Douglas Booth (Jeremy) & Clifford Samuel (Teddy) in Rehearsals for A Guide For The Homesick. Photo: Helen Maybanks

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All about the must see plays of 2019: All My Sons and All About Eve

Tickets went on sale this week for what must surely count as two of London's must-see plays of 2019: All My Sons, Old Vic and All About Eve, Noel Coward Theatre. 

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All About Eve: Gillian Anderson and Lily James. Photo: Perou

The new production of Arthur Miller's All My Son's has big Hollywood star casting with Sally Field and Bill Pullman and British favourites Colin Morgan and Jenna Coleman joining them.

Let's just pause for a moment and think about that casting, I mean Sally 'life is like a box of chocolates' Field alone.

Headlong is co-producing with Jeremy Herrin directing and we all know how impressive and eclectic his CV is.

Genius writing

Arthur Miller's writing is genius, the way he slowly strips away the narrative layers to reveal something raw underneath.

The last production of All My Son's I saw was in 2010 and starred Zoe Wanamaker, David Suchet, Stephen Campbell Moore and Jemima Rooper and was one of my favourite plays of that year.

But as if all that wasn't quite enough we have Ivo Van Hove directing Gillian Anderson and Lily James in All About Eve at the Noel Coward Theatre.

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Review: The Other Place, Park Theatre - finding truth in imagined memories

Karen Archer's performance gives the impression of someone who has run off a cliff and is still running, her sarcasm and sharpness serving to emphasise her vulnerability in those moments she begins to realise she's falling.

Karen Archer & Neil McCaul in The Other Place at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet. C31B0305
Karen Archer & Neil McCaul in The Other Place at the Park Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet.

If you believe it happened does that make it true?

Karen Archer plays Juliana, a scientist in pharmaceuticals who is trying to arrange a meeting with her estranged daughter and divorcing her philandering husband Ian (Neil McCaul).

She also can't understand why there is a woman in a yellow bikini in the audience at her presentation.

Convinced she has brain cancer

These are Juliana's narratives, her reality, her history and memories. But her reality is also that after 'an episode' she is convinced she has brain cancer and won't hear her doctors say otherwise.

The Other Place is a play about dementia which reminded me a little of the 2014 film Still Alice for which Julianne Moore won an Oscar. Both show cognitive degeneration through the eyes of the sufferer.

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From the archives: Colin Morgan's stage debut in Vernon God Little, Young Vic Theatre

It's a play I still remember fondly and I was right to think that Colin Morgan was 'one to watch'

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Colin Morgan in Vernon God Little, Young Vic Theatre, 2007

It's 10 years since the BBC's Merlin first aired, which I loved, but one of the reasons I started watching was because I'd seen Colin Morgan on stage a year earlier.

It was his stage debut as Vernon in Vernon God Little at the Young Vic in 2007. He was still at drama school when he was cast.

Rufus Norris directed (what happened to him ;0) and Mariah Gale was also in the cast and went on to play Ophelia opposite David Tennant's Hamlet.

There was no Rev Stan's Theatre Blog then but I did have a 'general thoughts' blog where I wrote about the play which I've reposted below. (Like to think my theatre writing has developed a bit in the past 11 years.)

It's a play I still remember fondly and I was right to think that Colin was 'one to watch' - my review may not come across overly enthusiastic but I was more restrained back in those days.

Reposted from Rev Stan's Other Stuff 8 June 2007:

Loved DBC Pierre's book when I read it a couple of years ago as it is clever and thought-provoking black comedy and thoroughly deserving of the accolades it received.

So I was curious to see how it was translated for the stage in this production at the Young Vic.

The book has many characters and many locations which must have presented a challenge for the production which ended up with just 10 actors. The stage sets and props were fairly minimal but imaginatively used.

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Review: The Sword of Alex, White Bear - power and violence overshadows identity debate

Meaningful debate, clever thought and persuasiveness get overshadowed by ego manifested as sneering, sarcasm and physical violence.

The Sword of Alex (c) Valeria Coizza (6)
The Sword of Alex. Photo: Valeria Coizza

Power and identity are at the heart of Rib Davis' play The Sword of Alex.

A confrontation between leader Antonio (Patrick Regis) and Karl (DK Ugonna), one of his ministers who is trying to get independence for the region of Nikal, interweaves with scenes of their own domestic problems.

Antonio's mistress Calantha (Kate Terence) wants to leave him while Karl's wife Gina (Georgia Winters) has similar plans.

The confrontation between the two leaders occurs during a ceasefire when they meet to try and persuade their opponent to back down from hostilities and violence.

Are ego and aggression the problem?

Antonio is arrogant, dismissive, sarcastic and grows aggressive easily. Karl, by comparison, has the demeanour of an underdog but has more fight than first appears.

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