I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw in August.
Queen of the Mist, aka the surprisingly affecting one
Appropriate, aka all hail Monica Dolan
Waitress, aka ZZZZZZZOMGGGGG STUNT CASTING oh wait, Joe Suggs hasn’t started yet
The Doctor, aka all hail Juliet Stevenson
A Very Expensive Poison, aka it was a preview so I shouldn’t say anything
Blues in the Night, aka all hail Broadway-bound Sharon D Clarke (and Debbie Kurup, and Clive Rowe too)
The Night of the Iguana, aka justice for Skyler Continue reading “August theatre round-up”
All winners will be announced at the awards ceremony at The Brewery, London on September 15, 2019 which will be streamed live on The Stage’s Facebook page.
Best Actress in a Play – sponsored by Audible
- Liv Hill for Top Girls at the National Theatre, London
- Urielle Klein-Mekongo for Yvette at the Bush Theatre, London
- Lauren O’Leary for The Awkward Years at The Other Room, Cardiff
- Bea Webster for Mother Courage at the Albion Electric Warehouse, Leeds
Best Actor in a Play – sponsored by Audible
- Jamal Ajala for ear for eye at the Royal Court, London
- Stuart Campbell for The Hunt at the Almeida Theatre, London
- Patrick Gibson for Sweat at the Donmar Warehouse and the Gielgud Theatre, London
- Ivan Oyik for Blue/Orange at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
Continue reading “Nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2019”
I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.
Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”
Actor and voiceover artist Christopher Tester takes a thoughtful trip through his 10 questions
With his indecently listenable voice, Christopher Tester is the kind of actor who makes you sit up when he starts talking and I’ve enjoyed many of his performances over the last few years. Up at the top though is probably The Picture of John Gray.
“In many ways it was the ideal fringe experience – beautiful new writing, with a generous and talented company, which felt like it was really offering something important in a room above a pub. I think it sits up there with The White Rose as a show that prompted a huge response from its audience which I was very aware of while performing it. And the fact that it was based on little known real characters gave it an extra weight – a feeling that these people’s lives were resonating beyond their own time. It also gave me a scene where I just had to pour my guts out a little bit, and however much it’s “never about you”, that I had that opportunity coupled with writing deft enough to (hopefully) avoid indulgence was pretty special. You do it because you want to offer your heart.
And maybe kiss an actor as pretty as Patrick Walsh McBride.”
Continue reading “10 questions for 10 years – Christopher Tester”
I remain unconvinced we should be rewarding classical roles over the breadth of the theatre out there but hey ho, it’s not my award! A good selection of performances nominated here nonetheless – and Gill feels a worthy winner.
Bally Gill for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet at the RSC
Hannah Morrish for Octavia in Antony and Cleopatra at the National Theatre
Luke Newberry for Malcolm in Macbeth at the RSC
Daniel Burke for Diomed in Troilus and Cressida at RSC
Heledd Gwynn for Katharine and Dauphin in Henry V by Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory
Tyrone Huntley for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Watermill, Newbury
Martins Imhangbe for Bagot and Aumerle in Richard II at the Almeida
Toheeb Jimoh for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Crucible
Aaron Pierre for Cassio in Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe
Ellora Torchia for Emilia in Two Noble Kinsmen at Shakespeare’s Globe
Helena Wilson for Mariana in Measure for Measure at the Donmar Warehouse
Who wants a play about Trump? Not me. Shipwreck proves a crashing bore at the Almeida
“From across the room I saw the President, torchlight playing across his visage.
And the violins began, and the low rumble of the timpani.
I screamed. I ran.”
My fault really. On a day when the people were descending on London to march, my attempt to escape people talking/moaning about politics was kyboshed by picking a play which featured little else but people talking/moaning about politics. Anne Washburn’s Shipwreck just wasn’t the one for me, though it is cool she has two shows in town (even if it is the wrong one that got the transfer).
Running time: 3 hours (with interval)
Photo: Marc Brenner
Shipwreck is booking at the Almeida until 30th March
Simon Russell Beale and Leo Bill shine in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ perfectly reimagined The Tragedy of King Richard the Second at the Almeida Theatre
“Thus play I in one person many people”
It’s tempting to think of this production of Shakespeare’s Richard II as specifically designed to rile up Billington and sure enough, he fell into the trap and reviewed the show he wanted to see rather than what was presented to him. He sees what Shakespeare should be; here, Joe Hill-Gibbins shows us what Shakespeare can be.
The Tragedy of King Richard the Second is undoubtedly a consequential adaptation. Compressed to 100 minutes without interval, spoken at speed and set entirely within a grey-walled cell, it is disarming and disruptive. But it also works beautifully once you’re attuned to its rhythms as it makes the blind pursuit of power its central thesis, underscored by the desperation of the elite to cling onto their political influence. Continue reading “Review: The Tragedy of King Richard the Second, Almeida”
Robert Icke adapts Ibsen to create a vividly powerful The Wild Duck at the Almeida – stunning work
“Henrik Ibsen wrote The Wild Duck in 1884”
The Wild Duck may be a nineteenth century play but this is most definitely at twenty-first century adaptation, Robert Icke continuing his astonishing strike-rate of Almeida successes with yet another. This time it is Ibsen under the microscope but a mark of Icke’s seemingly endless invention is that his approach here repeats little of what he’s done before.
So a scalpel-sharp play about truth and lies becomes refracted through the truth and lies in Ibsen’s own life, the parallels between his own illegitimate issue and Hedwig’s situation brought into the light. The first half sees this done through meta-theatrical interjections, house lights up and actors commenting on the action as much as acting itself. Continue reading “Review: The Wild Duck, Almeida Theatre”
I loved Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at the Almeida but fear it might not get the audiences it deserves
“People don’t say they cry when they watch me dance.
When they watch Amina dance, they cry. I know.
Because I cry when I watch Amina dance.”
I saw a late preview of Dance Nation at the Almeida so I was going to hold off saying much about it. But the hypocrisy of Quentin Letts’ tweet about the show (search on Twitter if you must) roused me to action for it is a pretty damn fine piece of writing by US playwright Clare Barron, and a damn fine piece of theatre directed by Bijan Sheibani.
It uses the device of adults playing kids to delve into the world of competitive high school dance, investigating what it is like to be a 13 year old girl, to be caught up in the ferocity of cut-throat contest whilst also navigating the physical and emotional upheaval of becoming a teenager. It’s blistering, uncompromising stuff and so it is perhaps little surprise that it has ruffled the feathers of some terribly sensitive souls. Continue reading “Review: Dance Nation, Almeida”
Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 expressionist play Machinal receives an extraordinary production from Natalie Abrahami at the Almeida Theate
“Your skin oughtn’t to curl – ought it – when he just comes near you- ought it? That’s wrong, ain’t it? You don’t get over that, do you – ever, do you or do you?”
Sophie Treadwell’s 1928 play Machinal may be the story of one woman battling societal pressure but Natalie Abrahami’s production for the Almeida Theatre teases out a more elemental struggle, one which stretches over the majority of the twentieth century and by extension, even further.
The story is rooted in its ordinariness. Emily Berrington’s Young Woman gets by at a job she doesn’t like, marries the first guy who shows an interest, gives birth to a child she scarcely wants – expectations check check checked. But as she learns that she wants more, can want more, the weight of societal pressure comes to bear. Continue reading “Review: Machinal, Almeida”