119 posts categorized "Royal Court" Feed

Review: Scenes With Girls, Royal Court - intelligent, fresh and funny, I want more theatre like this please

I want to see more plays like Scenes With Girls. While women talking about sex and talking about liking sex, isn't as unusual as it once was, what I particularly enjoyed about Miriam Battye's play is how it moves the discussion into the context of feminism.

Scenes with girls ticket

Tosh (Tanya Reynolds) and Lou (Rebekah Murrell) are best friends.  While boyfriends and other friends have come and gone their friendship has endured.

They are feminists, eschewing conventional stereotypes of what women should and shouldn't do.

For Lou, this means subverting what she sees as society's prescribed narrative of women needing to be in a relationship.

Badge of honour

She is determined to create a new narrative, enjoying sex but nothing more. She sees the increasing number of sexual partners she's had as a badge of honour.

Tosh meanwhile hasn't had sex for a long time.

When their old friend Fran (Letty Thomas) turns up engaged to her 'boring' boyfriend it seems to confirm everything they believe about the 'female narrative'.

Cracks appear

But in dissecting Fran's relationship and everything they perceived to be wrong about it, it challenges their principles and exposes cracks in their friendship.

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End of year review: My favourite theatre of 2019, a year of dazzling performances, wit, drama and tears

It's been tough but I've managed to whittle down my 'best theatre of 2019' list to 10 plays, well, one isn't actually a play but deserves a place nonetheless. So here goes, in no particular order:

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1. Downstate, National Theatre

A challenging, difficult play with humour and wit inflected with wisdom that carefully balanced entertainment without detracting from the seriousness of the subject matter.

2. Betrayal, Harold Pinter Theatre

I wasn't that enamoured with Jamie Lloyd's season of Pinter shorts and then came along Betrayal and it was utterly breathtaking.

The sparse script was layered with nuanced performances from Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox. What wasn't said screamed loud.

3. Seven Methods For Killing Kylie Jenner, Royal Court upstairs

This made a lot of what is on stage in London look stodgy and staid. A fresh and achingly contemporary play that cleverly and boldly tackled social media and what it reveals about modern society.

4. Hansard, National Theatre

One of those plays that get mentioned a lot in theatre conversations, this was an extremely witty and acerbic political drama/comedy which had an unexpected emotional punch.

I loved it also for its balance approached in scrutinising both left and right-leaning politics.

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10 plays from the past 10 years that stand out - for a variety of reasons (not necessarily overly worthy ones)

Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years. I say 'favourite', I've tried not to overthink it, these are simply the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.

Theatre tickets
Stan's growing pile of theatre tickets


The list is not about plays that broke new ground or changed the theatre landscape - there are plenty of those lists around already - rather these plays just had something in them that I remember fondly.

To say that it has been tough narrowing it down to 10 is an understatement but I get another go next year because my blog is 10 in April. (There, I spoilt the surprise.)

In no particular order (the links are through to my reviews):

1. After the Dance, National Theatre

This is a play that gets talked about in 'theatre circles' a lot. It had a uniformly standout cast and I can still remember Nancy Carroll's snot crying.

But it has a particularly special place in my memory for being the play which turned Benedict Cumberbatch into 'one to watch' for me.

I'd seen him plenty on TV but this catapulted him from jobbing actor to leading man potential in my eyes.

This was before Sherlock hit the screens and as a result, means I can smugly say 'well I've been a fan since before he played Holmes'.

2. Hamlet, Stratford and Hackney Empire

I've seen a lot of Hamlets, more than one a year, and while technically I did see Ben Whishaw's Hamlet for the first time in 2010, it was a recording rather than the live performance so it doesn't count.

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet for the RSC was the first, since Whishaw's, where I really felt he was a student and acting his age, he was also the most likeable which made the play all the more tragic.

Setting the play in an African country and having Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as 2 of only 3 white characters was also genius because it put them out of their depth in so many more interesting ways.

When I saw it for the second time, in Hackney, a group of teenagers were so swept up in it they leapt up to dance at the end. I don't think there is higher praise than that really.

3. The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios

It's the play in which director Jamie Lloyd had James McAvoy unicycling around the stage wearing just his pants. Have no idea why that sticks out in my mind. Ahem.

The play was brilliantly bonkers too. Wish I could see it again.

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Review: On Bear Ridge, Royal Court - heart-wrenching, tense and laugh out loud funny

There is a vulnerability in the ordinariness and something epic in its simplicity. 

On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre Photo by Mark Douet I80A8399
Rhys Ifans and Rakie Ayola in On Bear Ridge by the NTW and Royal Court Theatre. Photo by Mark Douet


Warplanes occasionally roar across the sky above John Daniel (Rhys Ifans) and Noni's (Rakie Ayola) grocery store and butchers on Bear Ridge.

They wave knives and shout at them because it makes them feel better. Then the quiet of the falling snow returns.

It is reflective of the tone of Ed Thomas' play On Bear Ridge, emotions that momentarily crack and shatter before a jagged peace returns.

Up in the mountain, in an unidentified country - although it is easy to imagine it is Wales - Bear Ridge store has long ceased trading.

Customers and community have left

It's shelves empty, the fridge is quiet, John Daniel and Noni are down to their last bag of potatoes but they won't leave like the people who were once their customers have.

Grief and loss keep them on the desolate Bear Ridge. Loss of their son, loss of the community in which they were a part and loss of a language - a culture and identity.

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Review: Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. Royal Court - the highs and lows of Caryl Churchill's sketch plays

Caryl Churchill's new work is a series of four plays linked thematically by their examination of human narrative and understanding of violence through storytelling and myths.

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Rebekah Murrell in Glass (Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp) Royal Court. Photo Johan Persson.

The plays which get increasingly longer as the evening progressing start with Glass, a metaphorical story of a glass girl and her teenage friends one of whom she forms a close relationship. 

It is a tale of abusive relationships in some shape or form - whether it is the overprotective, overbearing parents or the boy who is abused by his father.

There is an amusing interlude where they are all ornaments on a shelf but ultimately it is the piece that is most difficult to pin down.

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Review: Seven Methods Of Killing Kylie Jenner, Royal Court - makes a lot of what is on stage look stodgy and staid

It made me feel young and old, angry and ashamed, it was interesting, revealing and funny.

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Seven methods of killing kylie jenner, Royal Court: Photo Helen Murray

London's theatre scene is awash with productions which offer a 'fresh' take on classics but Jasmine Lee-Jones' play Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner demonstrates exactly what really 'fresh' theatre is - and should be.

Closeted in her bedroom, Cleo (Danielle Vitalis) is venting her anger and frustration at the world using Twitter.

However, she doesn't anticipate the storm she will create not just on social media but with her friend Kara (Tia Bannon).

Starts with a Tweet

It starts with Cleo's sarcastic tweet under her handle @incognegro about reality TV star Kylie Jenner being described as a 'self-made billionaire':

"YT woman born into rich American family, somehow against all odds manages to get more rich..."

She goes on to call out the hypocrisy pointing out the cultural appropriation, colourism and inequality.

A glib death threat becomes a musing on how you kill a 'social media figure' and the ensuing Twitter storm serves to highlight not only the toxicity that exists on social media but within society.

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Review: The End of History, Royal Court - rebellious children, parental legacy and a sentimental misstep

While Sal and David may be passionate about righting the wrongs of the world and creating a more equal and inclusive society, when it comes to embarrassing their children it's a different matter.

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The End of History, Royal Court. Photo Johan Persson.

Writer Jack Thorne and John Tiffany last worked together on the Harry Potter plays but family dynamics is the only parallel with The End of History at the Royal Court.

The play is set during three family gatherings in 1997, 2007 and 2017, in the Newbury home of Sal (Lesley Sharp) and David (David Morrissey).

They are left-leaning liberals who've brought their children up to be inquisitive and be socially aware.

Elder children Carl (Sam Swainsbury) and Polly (Kate O'Flynn) are at good universities and younger sibling Tom (Laurie Davidson) is still at school but when they come together it is a mixture of banter, jibes and warm familial bonds.

Views take their toll

Sal and David's liberal approach to parenting combined with their rigid views on social justice has taken its toll on their children.

In the first act, the gathering is to meet Carl's new girlfriend Harriet (Zoe Boyle). Behind closed doors, the kids are almost used to their parent's frank revelations and views but it is a different matter when Harriet arrives. 

The fact that she comes from money is an itch that Sal, in particular, just can't help scratching with amusingly cringe-worthy consequences.

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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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2018 theatre review: Favourite moments from the surreal to the emotional and some awards

110+ plays and my first visit to the Edinburgh Fringe (15 plays in 6 days), 2018 was quite a year...

Magic and memorable moments:

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Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

Feeling part of the set:  Sitting on a bean bag on the carpet in Patsy Ferran's 'bedroom' for My Mum's a Twat at the Royal Court (and she said hello to me).

Audience reaction #1: The audience gasping at the 'snap' during a scene in the RSC's Julius Caesar where a little boy's neck 'was broken’. Obviously, no child was harmed etc.

Audience reaction #2: Finding myself stood up singing Amazing Grace with the entire audience at the Royal Court during 'Notes From The Field'.

Actor interaction: Kia Charles winking at me and grinning during Quiz, Noel Coward Theatre (benefits of on-stage seating).

Surreal moment #1: Alex Hassell introducing himself to me and Poly was a bit surreal (stopped myself from blurting out 'I know, I saw you play Prince Hal/Henry V etc.)

But what made it more surreal is that we were in a church hall in Pimlico and after the meet and greet we sat in a circle to watch and sometimes be part of a production of Macbeth.

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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.

Continue reading "2018 theatre review: My favourite plays of the year (and my first six star play)" »