111 posts categorized "Royal Court" Feed

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:

Patsy-ferran-in-my-mumand39s-a-twt-121702
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.

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2018 theatre review: My 10 favourite fringe plays

Edinburgh Fringe media pass2018 was my first year at the Edinburgh Fringe which produced a bumper crop of excellent plays (look out for transfer details) but London has delivered some gems too.

Out of the 50-odd fringe plays there are 10 that really stand out but what strikes me most when revisiting them is how many evoked such a strong emotional reaction.

Yes, some are on the list for being highly entertaining but others made me feel angry or empowered or rebellious, some even a bit teary.

The other thing that strikes me is their diversity in ethnicity and gender balance tipped away from male dominance but I'll be writing more about that in another post.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Claim, Shoreditch Town Hall

Based on research into Home Office procedures this exposes the farcical system that asylum-seekers encounter but more than that, how incompetence endangers people's lives. It made me very angry.

2. My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court Upstairs

It's been an incredible year for Patsy Ferran, kicked off in fine style with this solo performance in a play about a girl's relationship with her mother who has joined a cult. Funny and spirited it also had dark edges.

3. Coconut, Ovalhouse

An effervescent love story and a coming of age story that challenged stereotypes.

4. Flesh and Bone, Soho Theatre upstairs

Shakespeare-esque lyricism combined with East End vernacular cleverly takes you on a revealing and entertaining journey that elevates the stories of those that often overlooked. Shakespeare would, no doubt, have approved.

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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).

julius caesar bridge theatre Rev stan
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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Review: Notes From The Field, Royal Court - or the most affecting play I've seen for a long while

It was an uncomfortable, seat-squirming, horrifying joy to sit and experience this piece of theatre.

Anna Deavere Smith's Notes From The Field at the Royal Court is an important play and one that makes a lot of theatre feel inconsequential.

royal court notes from the field rev stanIt is a powerful, affecting piece devised and performed by Deavere Smith using the words of real people she has interviewed.

Each interview is linked thematically and explores the relationship between poverty, justice, education and racism in America but there are also clusters of interviews with people linked in various ways to particular events.

Diverse

She has spoken to a broad range of people from eye-witnesses, workers within the legal system, politicians, human rights campaigners, academics, teachers and parents.

Slipping her bare feet into a pair of trainers or boots or shoes and shrugging on a jacket or scarf or top she transforms into the person whose words she speaks.

You don't need to have heard or seen a recording to realise that each interviewee is recreated through a carefully observed performance that captures their intonation, accent, verbal ticks and body language.

Deserves applause

That in itself deserves applause.

There are minimal props - occasionally a chair or a sofa or podium - instead images and videos are projected on the brick wall at the back of the stage to either set the scene or give visual context.

Prop and costume changes are conducted in full view, the wings of the stage exposed and somehow this reality check, this breaking of the fourth wall makes her performance all the more captivating.

Real life

For all the pretend this is real life, really happening - just as the words come from real people, real situations and real experiences.

The performance and narrative hold your attention, through every distressing, disturbing, horrifying, disbelieving and uplifting moment of it.

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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: Perfection that is robotic in Instructions For Correct Assembly, Royal Court

Clever staging and some memorable moments but the play, like the robot at the centre of the story, lacks soul.

What if you could build your own robot child and programme it, a chance to correct past mistakes and produce the perfect off-spring?

Instructions-for-correct-assemblyThis is the premise of Thomas Eccleshare’s new play Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court.

Parents Max (Jane Horrocks) and Harry (Mark Bonnar) are surrounded by friends with over-achieving sons and daughters unfortunately, as we discover, their own son Nick (Brian Vernel) wasn't quite as perfect.

The staging utilises two conveyor belts on which props, bits of set and actors slide into view.

At first, we see the action through a window-shaped space as if it is taking place inside its own box of parts; watching Max and Harry build their new 'son' Jån (also Brian Vernel) who comes complete with Ikea style instruction booklet.

Once Jån is ‘out of the box’ the window screen lifts and we see them tinkering with him, getting him ‘just right’ for the big unveil to their friends.

In an interview with What’s On Stage (see related content below) Thomas Eccleshare says the play is about perfection and what that looks like.

The perfection as presented in the play is a world of high-flying careers, a benign world of politeness but it is also soulless and colourless.

Max and Harry themselves are quite mechanical and surface, there are too few chinks in their polite and friendly armour.

Their friends are also nice and polite, full of humble-brags and it's all a bit Stepford wives (and husbands) except that there isn't even anything sinister about it.

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Review: Carey Mulligan is stunning in Girls and Boys, Royal Court Theatre

Carey Mulligan's performance is a tour de force, precise, subtle and complex.

Carey Mulligan has a twinkle in her eye. She stands at the front of the stage, hands in pockets, telling the story of how she met her future husband with the precise timing of stand up comic.

Her unnamed character is bright and sassy, she's decided to break out of the shallow fug of drink, drugs and casual sex and take herself wherever in the world the pin in a map lands.

carey mulligan girls and boys royal court marc brennerIt is on these travels that she spots a man in a queue at the airport whom she takes an instant dislike to.

When the back drop lifts to reveal a modern, smart living room and kitchen Carey Mulligan slips effortlessly into the role of harassed, working mother trying to look after two small children.

You don't need them there for her to convince you that they are, you can almost hear their voices when she negotiates with them.

We'll return to this domestic scene at intervals, always her with her children.

When the backdrop returns she fills in the gaps about her life outside her children, her flourishing career and relationship with her husband.

But this isn't a story of meet, fall in love, get married, have kids. Neither is it story of growing up or of following your dream. Well it is, it is all of those things but there is more to it than that.

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January theatre round up: Big (big) name castings, highs, lows and lots of actor spots.

The Inheritance Young Vic
Vanessa Redgrave joins the cast of The Inheritance, Young Vic

Theatre gets me through the dark days of January, here are my highlights from the new play and casting announcements, favourite things I saw (and the low moment).  And, thanks to the Julius Caesar press night, there was a bumper crop of actor, director and writer spots too...

* Forbes Mason, who will forever be known as the Lucifer in pants, thanks to Jamie Lloyd's Doctor Faustus, has been cast in the Almeida's Summer and Smoke which opens later this month. Did I mention how much I'm looking forward to seeing Patsy Ferran, who also stars, in that?

* Josie Rourke announced she is stepping down as artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse next year after eight years in the role. My highlights of her tenure, if you were to ask me for the first things that spring to mind, would be the Tom Hiddleston Coriolanus (incidentally my review of that is my most popular post and has been viewed nearly 15,000 times), the all women Shakespeare series and James Graham's Privacy. There are plenty of others but those are what stick most in my mind.

* Vanessa Redgrave (yes Vanessa Redgrave!) has been cast in The Inheritance at the Young Vic which opens next month. I could listen to her voice for hours. Also announced in the cast are Stan-fav's Kyle Soller, Michael Marcus and Luke Thallon plus a whole bunch of new names I’m looking forward to getting to know over a double play day.

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Review: My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court - my first five star play of 2018?

Patsy Ferran’s ‘girl’ is sat in the corner playing a mini Casio keyboard. She says ‘hello’ to me and I go and sit on a red bean bag on the turquoise coloured carpet.

Helen murray-My-Mums-A-Twat-patsy ferran royal court
Patsy Ferran in My Mum's A Twat, Royal Court. Photo: Helen Murray.

We are in a kids bedroom - not a surreal dream but the set of Anoushka Warden's play My Mum's A Twat.  The furniture has glittery stickers on it, there's a shelf of Troll dolls, photos and pictures stuck to the walls.

This room, ironically, becomes a marker for the end of innocent childhood a time before the divorce and marriage to ‘moron’ lead her Mum into a ‘healing’ cult and a journey of estrangement and conflict between mother and daughter.

Patsy Ferran’s girl tells the story bubbling with defiance, resourcefulness and sassiness. You can imagine the pursed lips of the adults in her life.

Her tale unfolds through the prism of child then teen logic but while there is no abuse or great cruelty the perceived emotional abandonment by her Mum smacks hard and there are hints of the pain it causes.

We are transported swiftly from the ‘healing centre’ of her mother’s cult to Canada and back again with effervescent energy, colour and wit but in the still moments the hurt that ripples to the surface is all the more powerful.

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