Not-a-review: Four Weddings in a Funeral reading, Hampstead

“Fuck-a-doodle-doo”
 
It is slightly terrifying to think that it is 23 years since Four Weddings and a Funeral was released – the world will insist on reminding me I’m getting older… And though I don’t think I’ve actually seen it in about 20 years, the prospect of a reading of the film as part of the Hampstead Theatre Festival had quite the allure. Mainly because of John Heffernan and Jemima Rooper in the cast if we’re being honest, and they were worth it, but I’m low on time so I’m leaving it at that.

 

 

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group

“You told me getting pregnant would kill me”

The Sphinx Theatre Writers Group have been developing new ideas for six months now and the penultimate session of the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival allowed us to peep at the fruits of their labour. First up was Jessica Siân’s White Lead directed by Chelsea Walker (the pair reuniting after their incendiary work on Klippies last year). Circling around ideas of artistic legacy, both genetic and physical, with a healthy dose of lesbian angst and same-sex parenting thrown in for good measure, Sian’s writing was undoubtedly elevated by fearsomely committed performances from the glorious Kirsty Bushell and Karen Bryson and definitely left me wanting more.

Bunch by Catriona Kerridge, directed by Holly Race Roughan took an interesting route into the world of its mystery, first up contrasting the nature of public and private grief through the all-too-real loss suffered by two young women and the almost manic behaviour of a professional mourner, relishing the shared emotions released by high profile deaths be it Princess Di or the victims of the Soham murders. Bunch took a little while to get going for me but once it did, delivering a hell of a twist, I was again hungry for a continuation. Sara Huxley, Natasha Rickman and Miranda Bell starred in that one. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – Sphinx Writers Group”

Review: Midnight, St James

“If these walls could speak, they’d probably scream”

It’s not every day that you get an invitation to a musical set in Azerbaijan so I was certainly intrigued to hear about Midnight, receiving a workshop presentation by Aloff Theatre and directed by Matthew Gould in the cosy space of the studio at the St James Theatre. With book and lyrics by Timothy Knapman and music and lyrics by Laurence Mark Wythe (probably best known for Tomorrow Morning), the musical is based on the play Citizens of Hell by Azerbaijani writer Elchin (who for a day job just happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister there!).

Set in Baku in 1937 with the Soviet Union in gripped in the midst of Stalin’s Great Terror, every knock on every door brings with it the fear of being disappeared by the NKVD. And this New Year’s Eve is no different as a husband and wife pace about their flat, debating how – or if – to celebrate when friends and neighbours have been tortured and executed. When the knock finally comes, it isn’t necessarily who they’re expecting but the eventual chilling realisation of who their visitor is and the chaos he can unleash is even worse.  Continue reading “Review: Midnight, St James”

Not-a-review: NewFoundLand, Royal Court

“You need to stand out from all the other ordinary and average homos out there”

The fun of play readings is often getting to see actors you don’t see so frequently on stage and so it was with NewFoundLand which offered the opportunity to see Kieran Bew return to the theatre. Neil Coppen’s play is part of the Royal Court’s South Africa season, marking 20 years of democracy by pulling together a week of readings with a panel discussion, a live poetry evening, featuring top spoken word artists from South Africa and a late night music event.

As the plays are presented as works-in-progress, I won’t say a huge amount about it other than to say it made for a fascinating 80 minutes exploring, amongst other things, gay sexuality, inter-racial relationships, the intersections of race and religion for different cultures and a deeply interesting look at how memory can be tinkered with. A strong cast were directed well by Simon Godwin and as lead character Jacques, Bew was most enjoyable to watch, even if someone saying the above-mentioned quote to him stretched credulity somewhat!

Book other readings here

Not-a-review: Fana Le Fale (Here and There), Royal Court

Another of the South African readings that the Royal Court were hosting this week, Omphile Molusi’s Fana Le Fale (Here and There) translated by himself from his native mother tongue Setswana.

As works-in-progress, I’m not saying much about them other than to say they make a welcome addition to the theatre scene and I really hope we get to see at least a couple of them once they’ve further developed. Show’s synopsis: Street clown Wilfred and his girlfriend Cindy live in a shack of corrugated iron. Joined by their young relatives, “born frees” with very different dreams, they start a fight against a corrupt housing system to drag themselves out of life in the slums.

Not-a-review: The Undone Years, Theatre Royal Haymarket

 
Just a quickie to cover this reading of a new play. The Pitch Your Play initiative run by Masterclass offers the opportunity for young writers aged 17-30 to showcase their new and unpublished work in front of an audience. Simon Cotton has had a busy time of it recently as part of Action to the Word’s A Clockwork Orange but he’s also made room to write The Undone Years, a play which looks at the immediate aftermath of the First World War on British family life.

I’m not going to review, this post is mainly for completeness of my theatre trips, but I did think that it was an interesting approach to looking at the enduring effects of war on the day-to-day living, not only on those who survived the battlefield but those who were left behind. And how whole aspects of life had to be reconfigured in light of the huge shadow of the war – how important can one make one’s individual concerns in light of such loss.

Review: PlayWROUGHT, Arcola

 “Is there a drug for that, a pill to take…?”

A rather ambitious but certainly admirable affair, the Arcola’s PlayWROUGHT festival features 12 pieces of new writing over a week, showcasing a wide range of playwrights from the Arcola community in a series of rehearsed readings in the basement studio there. I do like a bit of new writing and readings are always fun when they involve actors that I like, I love getting to see another facet to their work in a more informal setting and so I was more than happy to book for an evening that featured Lucy Ellinson, Michelle Terry and Paul Ready. Imagine how happy I felt when favourite-round-these-parts Elliot Cowan was added to the bill!

Nina-Marie Gardner’s Sherry & Narcotics was an intriguing start to the evening. Grieving for her father, American Mary finds comfort where she can on a trip abroad, settling on an online connection to wistful Irish poet Jake who swiftly invites her to Manchester from the London where she has stopped for the time being. There, they attempt a putative romance but their individual hang-ups add up to one hell of a mess, what with her barely controlled alcoholism and the child he has neglected to mention yet through it all, the impulse to try and find happiness remains strong. Continue reading “Review: PlayWROUGHT, Arcola”

Not-a-Review: Jefferson’s Garden, St James Theatre

“I wonder how I will make the potatoes understand”

Just a quickie to cover the last of Out of Joint’s rehearsed readings to accompany Our Country’s Good at the St James Theatre which was a world premiere of a new play, Jefferson’s Garden. As a work-in-progress, the convention is not to say too much but I have to say that this will be a play to look out for in the future because I found it an incredibly accomplished piece of work, even at this early stage, and it made for a highly enjoyable afternoon. 

Starting in the midst of the American revolution and stretching from a Quaker farm in Maryland to a politicised Philadelphia to the Virginian gardens of Monticello, Jefferson’s Garden looks at the birth of a nation in all its huge political and social upheaval and examines the price paid by people on all levels, from the statesmen pushing through new laws to the slaves praying for emancipation.  Continue reading “Not-a-Review: Jefferson’s Garden, St James Theatre”

Review: The Recruiting Officer rehearsed reading, St James Theatre

“Two and twenty horses killed under me that day”

Accompanying their production of Our Country’s Good, Out of Joint have put together a programme of rehearsed readings of various of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s plays and threw in a bonus reading of George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer for good measure. It is a natural choice as it is the play which the convicts of Our Country’s Good are performing and in using the same cast here, the actors are able to play the characters they are ‘rehearsing’ in the other piece which has a lovely neatness about it.

Farquhar’s play is deliciously dry and funny, impressively so for a 1706 Restoration comedy, and even with the limited rehearsal time and the cast having scripts in hand, there was a real sense of the rich comic potential of the material. And having seen it fairly recently at the Donmar Warehouse, it was interesting to see the different choices and dynamics that a new company brought. Ian Redford’s older Kite had a weariness of the soul that felt entirely appropriate, John Hollingworth’s take on Brazen was straighter than Mark Gatiss’ out-and-out fop but no less hilarious for it and the doubling that most of the actors did was impressively done and added to the humour quotient. Continue reading “Review: The Recruiting Officer rehearsed reading, St James Theatre”

Not-a-Review: Rough Cuts – Searched, Royal Court

“He opened his laptop and didn’t like what he saw”

The second part of the Royal Court’s 2013 Rough Cuts mini-season based around the internet, was a work-in-progress from EV Crowe named Searched. I hadn’t initially intended to see this play as Crowe really provoked my ire with her last play Hero, it still annoys me to think of it now, but once the cast was announced I knew I would be powerless to resist. And whilst I might have preferred a little more cooling off time and a slightly more appropriate environment, I find it is always good to test one’s preconceptions and so I was willing to give a second chance to the young playwright.

Since this was a work-in-progress, workshopped by Crowe, the company and director Carrie Cracknell over the last 10 days, I won’t say too much about it, save to mention that it really is a pleasure to be able to see such great actors up close and personal in such an early stage of a project, even with script in hand there’s a genuine openness to the performances, a freshness to the acting which is great to see.  Continue reading “Not-a-Review: Rough Cuts – Searched, Royal Court”