134 posts categorized "Royal Court" Feed

Review: Word-Play, Royal Court Theatre - powerful and punchy play on words

Yusra Warsama  Issam Al Ghussain  Kosar Ali  Simon Manyonda  Sirine Saba Word-Play Royal Court Johan Persson
Word-Play, Royal Court Theatre July 2023 l-r Yusra Warsama, Issam Al Ghussain, Kosar Ali, Simon Manyonda, Sirine Saba. Photo Johan Persson

Rabiah Hussain's play Word-Play starts with a PR team in crisis mode, having just heard the Prime Minister use a particular word (we don't know what that word is) in a live interview. The press and social media are crawling all over it.

The Prime Minister refuses to apologise, and there are hints of a less sweary Thick Of It as one of the team Googles synonyms for 'sorry' for the statement they want to put out.

Performed behind a glass screen at one end of the oblong performance space, it gives the sense of being a clinical observer. We return to the story later, and there are also snippets of reactions in Whatsapp groups and social media. 

But the bulk of the play is a mixture of monologues and scenes exploring the complexity and power of words, particularly when it comes to culture and identity.

In one scene, impartiality is challenged to the point where choosing certain descriptive words is deemed 'opinion'. In another, a father is racked with guilt have having told his children the lie that 'names don't hurt'.

And in another, 'See it, say it, sorted' sparks a debate on what is and isn't normal.

The most powerful is the final story of a mother who is challenged over the use of her mother tongue when her young daughter uses it at school.

Less effective are the scenes where words are repeated and shouted - to what end?

The majority of the play is performed in the central space (audience on three sides) with the occasional use of plastic chairs although there is one amusing and tongue-in-cheek meta moment involving the audience.

Word-Play punches at appropriation, prejudice, and the distortion of meaning. It highlights how meaning can be ascribed through the lens of who uses or hears the word. And how language is rich, fluid and powerful.

I'm giving it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Word-Play, Royal Court Theatre

Written by Rabiah Hussain

Directed by Nimmo Ismail

Cast: Issam Al Ghussain, Kosar Ali, Simon Manyonda, Sirine Saba, Yusra Warsama

Running time 80 minutes, no interval

Booking until 26 August; for more details and to buy tickets, visit the Royal Court's website.

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Review: Cuckoo, Royal Court Theatre - Sharp and silly laughs

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Cuckoo, Royal Court Theatre July 2023. L-R Michelle Butterly, Jodie McNee, Sue Jenkins & Emma Harrison. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Home is where the heart is for the Merseyside family at the centre of Michael Wynne's play Cuckoo at the Royal Court.

Daughters Carmel (Michelle Butterly) and Sarah (Jodie McNee) gravitate towards their mother Doreen's (Sue Jenkins) house, but when granddaughter Megyn (Emma Harrison) locks herself in an upstairs room and won't come out, the peace of their chip shop dinners and scrolling on their phones is disturbed.

Patience is tested, concerns grow, and uncomfortable truths are revealed.

The play's title serves up its double meaning. It's a reference to the borderline crazy situation and perhaps a nod to the derogatory term for people with mental health problems.

Cuckoos also famously lay their eggs in other birds' nests to be brought up by the unsuspecting 'foster' parent, and Megyn has taken up residence in her grandmother's bedroom, where Doreen waits on her hand and foot. Megyn will only communicate via text.

Megyn's mother, Carmel, is withering in her remarks, which doesn't always help the Megyn situation but does deliver a sharp humour to contrast the more playfully funny lines given to Doreen and Sarah.

But underneath the humour, the real world and the problems, struggles and strife that come with it press in.

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Review: All Of It, Royal Court Theatre: Mesmerising performance from Kate O'Flynn

All of It royal court kate o'flynn photo tristam kenton
Kate O'Flynn in All of It, Royal Court, June 2023. Photo: Tristam Kenton

In three short plays performed as monologues by Kate O'Flynn, writer Alistair McDowall explores authenticity, the inner vs outer self.

Northleigh, 1940, the first play, starts explosively with the poetic story of mythical creatures. But it's all in the head of a woman who escapes into books as often as possible.

But they aren't the sort of books a woman 'should' be reading, so she hides them. Later she has a conversation with her father in their Morrison shelter; it is ordinary, domestic and mundane.

Which is the authentic self, and what is the role of society in shaping or hindering that?

In Stereo, the second play, ordinariness again collides with less ordinary, often in an amusing way. Inner thoughts are observations and descriptions, and the self is divided, appearing in different parts of a house:

"I hear myself moving around downstairs I was keeping out of my way"

Is the voice the house? Perhaps. Just as the self has divided, so do the voices. It becomes a cacophony of inner monologues with nothing distinguishable. Which did beg the question, what was the point other than to create a noise of dialogue?

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Review: BLACK SUPERHERO, Royal Court - witty, sharp and entertaining but not the sum of all its parts

Dyllon Burnside danny lee wynter black superhero royal court johan persson
Dyllón Burnside and Danny Lee Wynter in BLACK SUPERHERO, Royal Court, March 2023. Photo: Johan Persson

"I'm holding out for a hero" is Bonnie Tyler's famous song, and it could be the theme tune for David (Danny Lee Wynter) in BLACK SUPERHERO. He's long held a torch for friend King (Dyllón Burnside), who is playing superhero Craw in a low-brow movie franchise.

"I trained at Julliard," he moans while secretly enjoying being recognised.

When King reveals that he and his travel-writer husband Steven (Ben Allen) have decided on an open relationship, David is a beneficiary of King's new liberal sleeping arrangements.

But can David keep himself together long enough not to screw up the one thing he's dreamed about?

Danny Lee Wynter's debut play bursts onto the stage with banter and bitching between David, his sister Syd (Rochenda Sandall) and friend Raheem (Eloka Ivo), who are supposed to be on a night out with King.

Sharp and witty

It sets a crisp pace and witty tone with sharp one-liners as relationships and sex - particularly each other's - getting dissected.

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Review: The Glow, Royal Court - mysterious, curious and perplexing

Alistair McDowall's The Glow at the Royal Court is a play I've had to ponder - a lot - and I still don't have any firm conclusions.

The Glow  Royal Court Theatre  Ria Zmitrowicz  Rakie Ayola Photo Manuel Harlan
The Glow, Royal Court Theatre: Ria Zmitrowicz and Rakie Ayola. Photo Manuel Harlan

It is why my immediate thoughts on leaving the theatre were the staging and, in particular, the lighting design - which was stunning. It was something tangible to mentally grasp, but I'll come back to that.

The first half of the play is set in Victorian England. The mood is gothic: dark corners, shadows, ghostly figures and candles.

Mrs Lyall (Rakie Ayola), a spiritualist, bribes a porter at an asylum to let her have a woman (Ria Zmitrowicz) with no memory to use as a conduit for spirits. She sets the woman up in her son Mason's room (Fisayo Akinade), much to his disgust.

She is kind to her, albeit with selfish intent. She wants to be the first to reanimate a human and the woman's lack of memories or identity make her the perfect vessel.

But the woman is far more than Mrs Lyall could ever conceive. Her returning memories are strange and ancient, like the soldier (Tadhg Murphy) who chases her in them.

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Review: Rare Earth Mettle, Royal Court Theatre - humour carries this meaty play

Al Smith's new play Rare Earth Mettle at the Royal Court is a meaty piece that covers a lot of ground, ironic considering the central premise is about the fight for control over one piece of land.

Rare Earth Metal

In Bolivia, Kimsa (Carlo Albán) scratches a living showing tourists around the remnants of colonial silver mines, including a British train, but the land he lives on is rich in the rare and valuable mineral lithium.

Billionaire Henry Finn (Arthur Darvill) wants to buy the land to mine the lithium for batteries for his new range of electric cars. Anna (Genevieve O'Reilly) is a doctor who wants the lithium because research tentatively shows that lithium helps improve mental health.

And Nayra (Jaye Griffiths) wants to use it for political (and financial) gain.

On the surface, there is something inherently good about all their motives - green cars, better health and a leader who wants to make life better for indigenous people.

Tarnished motives

But as the play unfolds, those motives are increasingly tarnished by the devious, corrupt and illegal means they'll go to reach their end goals.

If the play was focused purely on the debate over good motives badly executed, it would make for a really interesting and provocative play, particularly given the sharp wit and humour that weaves through it - more of that in a moment.

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Review: Is God Is, Royal Court Theatre - superb quirky, dark revenge comedy

Two actors on stage describe their characters as if the direction in the playtext is part of the script. It is the first of many quirks in Aleshea Harris' dark revenge comedy Is God Is.

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(l-r) Adelayo Adedayo and Tamara Lawrence in Is God Is, Royal Court. Photo Tristram Kenton

Twin sisters Racine (Tamara Lawrence) and Anaia (Adelayo Adedayo) receive a letter from their mother (Cecilia Noble), whom they thought was dead.

When they visit her, she tells them her dying wish is that she is avenged for a horrific past crime, and so the two set off from the "Dirty South" to California armed with just a name and a determination to carry out their mother's deadly wishes.

Dressed differently by their mother as young children so she could tell them apart, Racine is the natural leader, often protecting her more 'emotional' sister Anaia. But their mission proves revealing both about their family, their mother's past and themselves.

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(l-r) Adelayo Adedayo,  Ray Emmett Brown, Tamara Lawrence in Is God Is, Royal Court. Photo Tristram Kenton

The brutality that fuels and defines the narrative is played out against incongruous sets of candy-coloured houses, cartoon-like props and sound effects. There are backdrops that would look at home in a spaghetti western and signs in different styles that announce each scene.

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Sunday theatre question: Favourite solo performance

Sometimes plays just have one actor. They might be playing one character, they might be playing many, but they don't have any other actors to play off. It is just them and their performance.

Sunday theatre question solo performance

There are no distractions, it's just you and them.

Do you have a favourite solo performance?

The moment I started thinking about this, I realised it was going to be really tricky to choose a favourite as I've seen some superb solo performances over the years.

So here are a couple of notable mentions... and my overall winner:

Carey Mulligan in Girls and Boys, Royal Court Theatre

A tour de force performance from Carey Mulligan in which she manages to paint a picture of domesticity filling the stage with a family that is only their in our imagination while subtly hinting at something different. It's a play that surprised and a lot of that was down to the delivery.

Cillian Murphy, Misterman, National Theatre

Not only was it a solo performance, it was a solo performance on the Lyttelton stage which is one of the biggest in London. And Cillian Murphy made use of the entire space. It was a superb performance that mixed humour and fun with something darker and sinister, and I still remember it vividly.

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Sunday theatre question: A screen/book adaptation that worked surprising well on stage

Going to see a much-loved film or book that has been adapted for the stage can conjure up a mixture of feelings from excitement to nerves. Sometimes there is an element of curiosity about how it will be adapted.

So have you seen a screen or stage adaptation that has particularly surprised you in how it was staged?

In the video, I explain my top choice, the National Theatre of Scotland's adaptation of Swedish horror film Let The Right One In which I saw when it transferred to the Royal Court.

I loved the film but never in a million year would have pegged it as a stage adaptation. I approached it with trepidation but was completely blown away by the inventiveness of the staging and how the tone of the film had been captured.

Here are some of my other favourite adaptations for stage, tell me about yours in the comments.

Let the Right One In, Royal Court Theatre

A Monster Calls, Old Vic Theatre - the book, written by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd, held a particular place in my heart because I read it not long after my Mum died. There had already been a film version which used CGI to great effect to render the tree-like monster - or is it monster-like tree - of the title and I'd been relieved when that version was reasonably faithful to the book.

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Sunday theatre question: Favourite Winter play

This week's theatre question is inspired by the wintery weather. The weathermen forecast snow for this weekend here in London but instead, it's peeing it down with rain. Not that I mind too much snow is just a pain - on those rare occasions we get it in the city.

Anyway, the prospect of snow got me thinking about plays that either have a wintery setting or remind me of the winter. Watch the video to find out my choice of favourite winter play and let me know your snowy-set play choices in the comments.

If you are looking for some inspiration, here are some other plays that have wintery connections:

The Red Barn, National Theatre - Mark Strong and Elizabeth Debicki starred in this intriguing and tense play in which a snowstorm throws a group of people together.

On Bear Ridge, Royal Court - The mountain setting, the snowy stage, the actors wrapped in layers against the 'cold' - a beautiful play with a bleak future setting and the weather to match.

A Christmas Carol, Old Vic - The one starring Rhys Ifans had everyone in the audience so giddy that when it started 'snowing' over the stalls there was spontaneous applause. It was such a joyful moment.

And my review of Macbeth at the Trafalgar Studios starring James McAvoy which had a distinctly wintery feel.