222 posts categorized "RS/BW - 6DS" Feed

Review: People, Places and Things, National Theatre


Emma (Denise Gough) is an actress for whom drugs and alcohol have become a bit of a problem and so she goes to rehab. Her aim is to get the 'piece of paper' that says she isn't a risk to employers implying that she's had her arm twisted; certainly her attitude towards rehab doesn't imply someone on a genuine mission to clean up their life.

As she goes through the programme she resists, rants and rails against the world and its problems but you are never sure whether it is the real her, how much she is deflecting. Confiding in fellow resident Mark (Nathaniel Martello-White) she admits she only feels alive when she is performing.

The road to recovery is hard and there is a sense of going round and round in circles. Just as you feel Emma might be making positive steps she retreats back. There are some nice theatrical devices such as multiple 'Emmas' appearing out of her bed when she's hallucinating during detox but it isn't always enough to distract from what is essentially a painstaking and frustrating process.

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First thoughts on Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet, Barbican Theatre

First visit to see Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet this week and these are very much first thoughts on a big production that will no doubt evolve and gel over the coming weeks.

It is certainly a memorable production in many ways but I do have a few reservations. *spoilers follow*

Director Lyndsey Turner has done some interesting things with the text, moving some of the speeches and switching some of the dialogue. This is most notable in the opening scene. Normally you have the ghost appearing to the watch, instead we see Hamlet alone, listening to Nat King Cole on an old record player (great use of Nature Boy).

He's sorting through crates of belongings. There's an old toy boat and clothes. He takes a jacket and smells it in that way you do when you are nostalgically drinking in the memory sparked by an aroma. It reminds him of someone - his father presumably from the style of the jacket. And when he speaks it is 'To Be or Not To Be."

Now @polyg didn't like this, felt it took the speech out of context with no opportunity to warm up to it. I disagree. It was an impassioned, tear-filled eyes, rendering that set up Cumberbatch's Hamlet as very much the thinker, an over thinker, a melancholic who is lost in grief and isolation in his own home.

Nature Boy, the boat and later when he plays at toy soldiers in his 'antic disposition' all seem to suggest a yearning for his childhood, a time presumably when he was happy.

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Review: Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong in Constellations, Trafalgar Studios

CONSTELLATIONS by Nick Payne Joe Armstrong as Roland and Louise Brealey as Marianne © Helen Maybanks

Nick Payne's play Constellations is many things. It is a love story, it's a life story and a death story. It's a story about free-will versus predestination:

"We have all the time we've always had. You'll still have all our time."

Marianne (Louise Brealey) is a cosmologist who believes that all the possible choices we can make in our lives are being played out in parallel. Roland (Joe Armstrong) is a beekeeper and isn't quite so convinced. The two meet at a barbeque and Payne has Marianne and Roland play out several different scenarios to their opening encounter. Marianne is chatty, perhaps flirtatious and Roland responds in different ways sometimes he rebuffs, sometimes he's uncomfortable by the attention, sometimes he responds and so on. A blink of light 'resets' the scene each time.

It is a device that continues throughout the play; a decision made in moment and a path is formed but what of the other paths had Marianne or Roland chosen or reacted differently?  And so we follow Marianne and Roland's relationship or not as the case may be.

And it's a clever device. Of course there is the notion of predestination but also it allows us to see a spectrum of subtleties in Marianne and Roland's personalities and in doing that shows individuality and humanity. Marianne can be confident, confused, insecure, awkward, contrary, controlling and many other things as can Roland. 

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Review: Rory K is Joseph K on the nightmare travellator in The Trial, Young Vic

The_Trial_FINAL_326X326I've only read one Franz Kafka novel and that was purely to impress my then boyfriend who said it was his favourite book. I didn't find it a page turner.

Fast forward a few years and the Gate Theatre put on a play called Joseph K based on Kafka's The Trial. Didn't much enjoy that either mainly because I didn't really understand it.

So, why go and see another stage version of the same novel? Well, there are two reasons. First: it is at the Young Vic which is one of the most exciting and innovative theatres in London and has had a pretty good run of outstanding productions recently. Second: Rory Kinnear. Have long been a fan of his work, even before he wore eye-liner in Last of the Haussmans and then gave an award-winning Iago in Othello.

In The Trial Rory K is playing Josef K and perhaps it's the years that have rolled by since that first Kafka read and the eclectic range of theatre I've watched since the Gate but my appreciation and understanding was far greater this time. Me and Kafka got on much better but that isn't to say I'm now a huge fan.

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Review: Hang at the Royal Court Theatre

700x650.fitIt isn't giving anything away to say that Debbie Tucker Green's new play is about capital punishment, the clue is in the title.

With this subject there is much ground that can be explored and covered; Hang is an hour and 10 minutes and therefore focuses on one particular aspect but not on what you would immediately expect.

We know that a crime has been committed but not what that crime is. Instead we hear about the devastating impact it has had on Marianne Jean-Baptiste's character, her husband and two children.

Sat in a nondescript room at prison with two prison employees (Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza) she is there to make a decision, the details of which only become clear later in the play.

The decision is wrapped up in bureaucracy, protocol and emotions which prove to be the great irony of the piece. This isn't directly about the morals of capital punishment but more how the punishment can fit the crime. There is no dilemma, as you would expect.  The two prison staff's ineptitude in dealing with the victim is both ridiculous and human and serves to emphasise just how damaged the family is as a result of the crime.

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Review: Hugo Weaving is Waiting For Godot, Barbican Theatre

Hugo Weaving and Richard Roxburgh in Waiting for Godot

I've been waiting for Godot (sorry) to return to London for six years. Samuel Beckett's surreal, existential tragicomedy is a Marmite play, I know, but I think it's a great piece. It is a play that tests both actors and audience and one which always gives up something new.

This is a Sydney Theatre Production which is in residence at the Barbican for just over a week and sees Hugo Weaving take on Vladimir and Richard Roxburgh Estragon with Philip Quast as Pozzo and Luke Mullins as Lucky.

Their back drop are the walls of a what looks likes a former industrial building and yet there is proscenium arch of sorts which also looks likes a dressing room mirror frame with most of the bulbs around its perimeter either missing or broken. And of course there is the tree, just a long trunk disappearing off into the flies and one branch.

It is evocative of economic decay, the passing of good times and a reflection of ourselves and the human condition. The latter is an irony that is really brought to the fore in this production. It feels like the play is often poking fun at the audience; as Vladimir and Estragon entertain themselves to pass the time so we are similarly entertained. There is a bleakness and tragedy in everything but equally there is something very warm and comforting. This is a production with no half measures.

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Review: Simon Russell Beale in Temple, Donmar Warehouse


Simon Russell Beale is staring out a window. You can see St Paul's Cathedral looming large and hear the rhythmic beat of drums outside punctuated by the occasional roar of a crowd cheering and snatches of song. 

It is Autumn 2011 and Occupy London, having been prevented from protesting outside the stock exchange have instead set up camp outside St Paul's. The cathedral has be closed because of protest and is losing thousands of pounds a day in essential tourist revenue.

In Steve Water's new play at the Donmar he takes a fictional look at what was going on behind the scenes at St Paul's at this unprecedented time in the Cathedral's history - its doors had been kept open during the Blitz, floods and terrorist threats.

SRB is the Dean of the Cathedral and faced with a difficult decision. He is under pressure from the City of London to co-operate with an injunction to get the protestors evicted. He is under pressure from within the chapter of the Cathedral some of whom question what the church's role should be in such situation's: a church of the high finance or a church of the common man. And he is under pressure from the Bishop of London to make the right decision and minimise the damage to the Cathedral and church's reputation.

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Review: Restoration comedy laughs in The Beaux' Stratagem, National Theatre

The_Beaux_Stratagem_poster_notitleSamuel Barnett preens onto the Olivier stage, frock coat swishing and looking handsome. He is Aimwell, the younger brother of a count, who has frittered away his fortune enjoying life with his friend Archer (Geoffrey Streatfeild) and the two are on a mission to find rich wives to replenish their coffers.

Arriving at a coaching inn with Archer posing as Aimwell's servant they set about their plan to seek out well-funded beaux. Meanwhile the most eligible young woman Dorinda (Pippa Bennett-Warner) is helping her sister in law, Mrs Sullen (Susannah Fielding), to make her husband jealous in the hope that he will be less neglectful.

Throw in a highway man, a romantic French captain, an amorous 'French' priest and a love tangle among the servants and you have George Farquhar's restoration comedy The Beaux' Stratagem. It is an entangled tale of love, lust, marriage and money. And while it isn't quite the romp that She Stoops to Conquer was three years ago, there is plenty of amusement and laughs.

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Review: Who was the star of American Buffalo for me?

Tom Sturridge (Bob) in American Buffalo at Wyndham's Theatre. Credit Johan Persson (10)
Tom Sturridge (Bob) in American Buffalo at Wyndham's Theatre. Photographer: Johan Persson

Looking back to when I saw American Buffalo on Wednesday, it all seems at bit of a blur now. A blur apart from one character.

@pcchan1981 would say it's a blur because it was boring but I certainly didn't think that when I was watching it. Some plays are like that, you enjoy them at the time and then they fade quickly. Others don't really make their mark until the days after.

But in thinking back there is one character who sticks in my mind and that's Tom Sturridge's Bob. Damian Lewis' Teach was a needy mix of entitlement and hypocrisy and John Goodman's Don is beautifully conflicted. But then there is Bob.

To put it in context, just a few days before I had seen Tom Sturridge playing a handsome cad, dressed in military red in the film Far From a Madding Crowd. Bob couldn't be more different and it is always a treat to see actors showing off their range.

But that is the only reason Bob sticks in my mind. In the play he is an 'ex' heroin addict whom junk shop owner Don has taken under his wing as a sort of protege.

Thin frame, head shaved with a sore on his face he looks likes he's slept in the gutter in his overly baggy clothes. He moves and talks like he's a little bit stoned or struggling to keep up and when he stops he holds on to things or leans. I didn't know whether I wanted to shake him or take him home for good meal. I found my attention drawn to him, watching what he was doing whenever he was in scene.

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Review: Cheek By Jowl's Russian invasion at the Barbican with Measure for Measure

Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina. Photographer - Johan Persson
Alexander Arsentyev, Anna Khalilulina in Measure for Measure. Photographer - Johan Persson

Cheek By Jowl have done it again. This time they've brought a Russian flavour to Shakespeare's Measure For Measure. It's a Russian cast, performed in Russian* and it's rather taken me prisoner.

The run time is trimmed down to around two hours 10 straight through -  longer than one hour 45 minutes it says on the website - and opens with the Duke (Alexander Arsentyev) leaving Angelo (Andrei Kuzichev) in charge.

All the cast are on stage and move as one like a swarm of insects with the Duke gradually becoming separated. No words are spoken but this feels like part rejection, part ejection and part choice.

And so the scene is set for his disguised return and his journey back to the path of leadership. It is a journey of revelations and lessons through the injustice, immorality and corruption that he witnesses.

Angelo in deciding to follow the law to the letter has had Claudio (Peter Rykov) imprisoned and sentenced to death for getting a woman pregnant outside marriage.

Claudio's sister Isabella (Anna Khalilulina), who is about to take Holy Orders, is persuaded to try and intervene and get the sentence overturned. It pits compassion, leniency and purity against lust and corruption. Angelo holds the power of justice but uses it to try and satisfy his own desire.

I've not seen Measure For Measure before but director Declan Donellan has created a world that is dark, grubby and dictatorial but all the more dangerous for being conducted under the banner of justice.

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