Re-review: When The Rain Stops Falling, Almeida

Believing that it was quite likely that I would love When The Rain Stops Falling as already covered in my original review, I had already booked a second set of tickets to see it on the evening when a post-show Q&A was also scheduled. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to see this play again. Knowing the story meant that some of the emotional impact was lost, but for me this was a benefit since it had affected me so deeply last time and now I was able to focus on other aspects of the play. This knowledge also meant that one could make a much greater appreciation of the structure of the play and how intricately worked the plot is, echoing through the different locations and timezones, and recognising how some of the later events are presaged in earlier scenes.

Performance-wise, I still think that this is one of the strongest ensembles I have ever seen on a stage: there isn’t a single weak link in the cast and each actor delivers performances of such intensity which is all the more admirable when one considers how relatively short most of the scenes are a we flit around the timezones. On second viewing though, I think Phoebe Nicholls and Lisa Dillon possibly edge it as the older and younger incarnations respectively of Elizabeth York. Through some subtle mannerisms and the lightest of touches, they leave the watcher with no doubt that we are watching versions of the same character, yet fully flesh out their roles so that they remain sufficiently distinct. Leah Purcell and Naomi Bentley also manage this same level of synchronicity between their incarnations of Gabrielle York without resorting to ham-fisted imitation and I look forward to the opportunity to see all of these actors again. Continue reading “Re-review: When The Rain Stops Falling, Almeida”

Review: When The Rain Stops Falling, Almeida

Having its European premiere at Islington’s Almeida theatre, When The Rain Stops Falling comes from the pen of Andrew Bovell, the writer of Lantana, one of my all-time favourite films (which incidentally) was adapted from his own play, Speaking In Tongues. And when I heard some of the Australian actors with whom he was worked would also be appearing, my level of excitement shot sky-high and has been there since early November last year when I bought my tickets!

Safe to say, it lived up to my expectations and then some. By no means an easy light-hearted piece, rather it is complex, sometimes languorous, but ultimately extremely rewarding. It is just hauntingly beautiful: the echoing prose, the music, the imagery and some incredible acting combine to just devastating and moving effect, indeed I think I had tears running down my face for about three-quarters of the play. Continue reading “Review: When The Rain Stops Falling, Almeida”

Review: Parlour Song, Almeida

The latest instalment of the Spring programme at Islington’s Almeida theatre is the European première of Parlour Song, written by Jez Buttersworth. It tells the story of Ned (Toby Jones) and Joy (Amanda Drew), a couple living in apparently suburban mediocrity, and their neighbour Dale (Andrew Lincoln). After 11 years of faithful marriage to Ned, Joy’s eye is caught by the younger, fitter Dale, though it seems more through boredom than actual real desire for him, and they start an affair as Ned continues his work as a demolition worker across the country, yet everytime he arrives back home, he finds more and more of his possessions have disappeared.

Speeding through without an interval, the writing is really sharp and completely captures the way in which people often relate to each other, loading their seemingly innocuous conversation with layers of meaning. Ned and Joy’s marital harmony is revealed to be paper-thin, and Ned and Dale’s forced jokiness and blokiness highlights the lack of real kinship or intimacy between the two, and also disguises Dale’s betrayal of his neighbour. Continue reading “Review: Parlour Song, Almeida”

Re-review: Duet for One (times two), Almeida

Despite already having seen this production when it first opened, you can read my thoughts here, when I was asked if I wanted to see Duet for One again with another friend, I did not hesitate to say yes. And I was glad to see that I enjoyed it just as much as the first time, such is the strength of the acting on display. I was pleased to see that the play will be transferring to the Vaudeville Theatre so that many more people will be able to see it, but I do wonder how much will be lost given that it will be transferring from the intimate space of the Almeida to a larger theatre. I have never actually seen a play that has transferred in both of its venues, and I wonder how many people actually have! Anyway, previews for the new run start on May 7th, and I would definitely recommend trying to go if you have not already.

PS: I know I am the only person who reads this, but I do apologise for not having posted for a couple of weeks. I promise to be better at posting regularly!

Review: Duet For One, Almeida

I feel I must confess that the last time I saw Juliet Stevenson on the stage, in The Seagull at the National Theatre, I left at the interval. This plays on my mind a lot, as I love her acting, but my feelings for Chekhov were stronger that evening and so after a swift gin and tonic, we made a swift exit. I am pleased to report however, that I managed to stay until the end of this play. A two-hander with Henry Goodman, Duet For One takes place as a series of therapy sessions between a concert violinist who is struggling to come to terms with a degenerative illness and her psychiatrist who is guiding her through her highly charged emotions. Continue reading “Review: Duet For One, Almeida”

Review: In A Dark Dark House, Almeida

Due to having no internet at my flat, I have fallen behind with my reviewing, which is very poor considering this is only my second one. But I forgive myself, and I am the only person reading this anyway, lol!

This three-hander is by Neil LaBute who has a long-running relationship with the Almeida, and this is the European premiere of In A Dark Dark House. It is quite cleverly structured, in three segments with no interval and so really has a filmic feel to it which is probably a good thing as you wouldn’t have wanted it to be much longer. The play tells the story of two brothers who are still struggling with events from their childhood, and as ever with LaBute’s work, nothing is quite as it seems and the journey to the truth is quite harrowing. David Morrissey and Steven Mackintosh both do fine work, but somehow the parts don’t quite add up to a cohesive whole. The central scene with Kira Sternbach playing a Lolita-like role provides a welcome jolt of adrenaline to proceedings, but I didn’t feel the play dealt sufficiently with the questions it raised especially around the long-lasting impact of abuse . Continue reading “Review: In A Dark Dark House, Almeida”

Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre

Waste, a play by Harley Granville Barker, is another one of those plays that was banned when first written, in this case in 1907. Directed by actor Samuel West at the Almeida theatre, this version uses the revised 1926 text to great effect with as strong an ensemble you will find in London this autumn.

The story follows Henry Trebell an independent MP with a lifelong dream of wanting to disestablish the Church of England and build colleges on the land and has formed part of a Tory push to get the bill passed as law with their anticipated arrival in government. However, his personal life is in disarray as a casual affair with a married woman who ends up pregnant comes to light and threatens to ruin everything that he holds dear. Continue reading “Review: Waste, Almeida Theatre”

Review: Rosmersholm, Almeida

Rosmersholm is one of Ibsen’s lesser performed plays and is presented at the Almeida Theatre in a new version here by Mike Poulton. It is also notable for marking the return to the stage of the wonderful Helen McCrory, an Islington local, and one of my favourite actresses.

Rosmer, a former pastor, is oppressed by a whole series of factors: his conservative ancestry, guilt over his wife’s suicide and loss of religious faith. But, aided by his companion, Rebecca West, he believes he can set out on a new path of missionary idealism. This, however, turns out to be a fantasy as he is not strong in his new path, society turns against him and his new democratic ideals, his closeness to West makes them become a subject of scandal, and as Rebecca has her own demons too, sets them on a path where the weight of the past threatens everything.

Continue reading “Review: Rosmersholm, Almeida”

Review: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Almeida

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot is a play by American Stephen Adly Guirgis, receiving its UK premiere here at the Almeida in a co-production with Headlong, who are run by Rupert Goold who is the director. The play centres on a trial testing the guilt of Judas, ostensibly set in Purgatory which looks and sounds a lot like a downtown seedy part of New York today. An array of witnesses from all points in history and the Bible are summoned to argue the toss, but as they’ve all been reincarnated as foul-mouthed typical New Yorkers, they are stripped of the protective aura that history and reputation has accorded them and we see everything from a whole new perspective.

It is certainly a different way of looking at things but it has been so well written and I feel the key to its success is in its no-holds-barred approach to telling it like it is whilst maintaining a sense of decorum. Adly Guirgis is often irreverent but also respectful with it, making it all the funnier when Mother Teresa is hauled all over the coals for opposing Vatican reforms that condemned anti-Semitism and Sigmund Freud’s testimony is discredited due to his raging cocaine addiction. Continue reading “Review: The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Almeida”

Review: The Homecoming, Almeida

Pinter seems to be all the rage at the moment: Islington’s Almeida Theatre is now getting in on the act with a revival of his 1964 play The Homecoming.

Set in an all male household in North London, the play explores the reaction of a family to the homecoming of the eldest son and his wife. This household has been male-dominated for a long time and the arrival of a woman sparks a set of power plays in which not everyone is quite as they seem. The casting of Jenny Jules as the new wife also contributes a racial dimension to the dynamic, an added frisson into this powderkeg of a scenario. Continue reading “Review: The Homecoming, Almeida”