Review: Hope, Royal Court

“It’s the trouble with being so overwhelmingly Labour”

The plot for Jack Thorne’s Hope could be lifted from the newspapers right now – a cash-strapped Labour council is faced with impossible choices as austerity continues to bites hard and £22 million has to be trimmed from this year’s budget, £64 million over the next three years. In Newcastle, the figure is actually £90 million despite having already lost £151 million over the last four years, and the decisions about what essential services are to be cut are those that plague Hilary and Mark, the Leader and Deputy Leader respectively, of Thorne’s unspecified local government.

Stella Gonet’s Hilary is determined to make it work, a New Labour pragmatism already drawing up the list of priorities – Sure Start centres versus swimming pools, daycare for the disabled versus personal safety in rough areas to give but a couple of examples – but Paul Higgins’ Mark is cut from much more traditional cloth and his protesting colleagues coalesce around him. Eventually, he reluctantly spearheads a rebellion and a refusal to set an amended budget but though this is described as a fable, it is no fairytale, and the consequences of defying government are all too real. Continue reading “Review: Hope, Royal Court”

Re-review: Let The Right One In, Royal Court

“I know how good you are to me. I’m grateful”

An unexpected revisit to Let The Right One In, especially since I’d seen it just three days before but @pcchan1981 had a spare £10 ticket going and so I offered myself up as his last resort, happy indeed to have the chance see it again at the Royal Court, ahead of a rumoured West End transfer (the presence of Bill Kenwright as a co-producer suggesting this isn’t as unlikely as it may seem). Original review is here and I can’t really offer up any new insights rather than to say try your best to see it now as it flows beautifully in the relative intimacy of the Royal Court and the awesome staging of the penultimate scene might get lost in a West End house.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval) 
Booking until 21st December

Review: Let The Right One In, Royal Court

“Would you still like me if I turned out to not be a girl?”

Adapted by Jack Thorne from John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel and its two subsequent film versions, Let The Right One In could be said to fall into the teen vampire genre that has proved so enduringly popular of late, but that would do a huge disservice to all concerned, not least with this National Theatre of Scotland and Royal Court co-production. As two youngsters neglected by society cling onto each other to avoid falling through the cracks in a snow-swept Swedish town where a serial killer appears to be on the loose, they discover that one is not quite like the other…

Directed by John Tiffany with long-time associate Steven Hoggett by his side, the show produces moment after moment of elegiac beauty interspersed with the harsh brutality of real life which intrudes like jagged breaths of wintry air. Hoggett’s unmistakeable physical language is sparingly but beautifully deployed, the strangeness of situation enhanced through movement and Ólafur Arnalds’ score swoops with plangent intensity, underscoring many of the show’s most powerful sequences. Accompanied by Gareth Fry’s evocative sound design, the production constantly teeters on an anticipatory edge, toying with the film’s horror origins but converting it to a more fitting level of suspense for the stage. Continue reading “Review: Let The Right One In, Royal Court”

Review: Mydidae, Soho Theatre

“Sometimes I look at you and you don’t look the way I hoped”

When new writing theatre company DryWrite commissioned Jack Thorne to create a new play, they gave him the challenge of setting it solely in a bathroom. The result is Mydidae, newly opened in the heated closeness of the Soho Theatre Upstairs, and far from festive fare as over the course of a single day, a couple’s interactions in this fully-plumbed (in Amy Jane Cook’s design) bathroom redefine themselves and their reactions in the face of the anniversary of a terrible event. 

The setting of the bathroom emerges as an inspired choice, allowing Thorne to explore a more intimate yet mundane side of relationships in an environment where perhaps we let our guard down the most with those with whom we live. The sharing of space with someone whilst going through daily ablutions speaks of a different kind of closeness, a more intense connection and so it transpires with Marian and David. They’re both still reeling from a shared tragedy event: her pain seemingly internalised and leaving her isolated, his deferred by a greater pragmatism and an important pitch at work, but it is in the moments around and then in the freestanding bath-tub that see a searing honesty come pouring forth.  Continue reading “Review: Mydidae, Soho Theatre”

Review: Stacy, New Diorama

“I’m the sort of guy that falls in love easily”

Stacy is actually about Rob. And his best friend Stacy, and her flatmate Shona too. But mainly about Rob. For when a misguided drunken shag with Stacy later leads into another encounter with the more inexperienced Shona, it is Rob’s life that is thrown under the microscope in this hour-long monologue by Jack Thorne, as he delivers a stream of consciousness of epic proportions, full of amusing family anecdotes and wheedling self-justification, his unique world-view and several trips into a past which emerges as disturbingly warped.

Thorne’s writing literally zings with authenticity, packed full intensely familiar details – the evils of cheap blue plastic bags, the messiness that so often characterises ill-advised hook-ups, the appeal of trashy TV – to make this character a compellingly vivid and realistic depiction of disillusioned 21st century young adulthood. And Tim Dorsett really gets under the skin of Rob, a charmingly winsome presence who revels in the role of raconteur –playing beautifully off of our responses to some of the more ribald details – with a genuine warmth coming through his comedic persona too. Which makes it all the more powerful when the warning notes of uncertainty start to sound and then the siren blares at full volume. Continue reading “Review: Stacy, New Diorama”

Review: The Physicists, Donmar Warehouse

“Questions? Observations? Misgivings?”

Forming the final entry in her debut season as Donmar AD, The Physicists continues Josie Rourke’s realignment of the Donmar’s artistic policy. And as with Making Noise Quietly, it is into previously unknown areas for me as this play was written in 1962 by Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt (although Rourke commissioned a new version here from Jack Thorne), someone I’ve never previously heard of. Wikipedia informs me he was a proponent of epic theatre but what it translates to here is a tragi-comedy with a farcical first half, which darkens to a more serious second which reflects its Cold War origins.

It starts off like the punchline to a joke: three nuclear physicists are in a mental asylum. Herbert Georg Beutler, who believes he is Sir Isaac Newton, Ernst Heinrich Ernesti who is convinced he is Albert Einstein and Johann Wilhelm Möbius who has regular visitations from King Solomon. It emerges that the first two have murdered their nurses and that Möbius seems set to follow suit, but as the reasons for their actions slowly become apparent, it is clear that something greater is at stake here. Continue reading “Review: The Physicists, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Bunny – Soho Theatre

“I imagine the other future…”

Jack Thorne’s Bunny first played at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and was exceptionally well received, winning a Fringe First award. This 60 minute monologue has now taken up residence in the intimate space upstairs at the Soho Theatre, nabokov’s production reuniting cast and creatives on this excoriating tale of a day in the life of an eighteen year old girl, Katie, caught on the emotional rollercoaster of young adulthood.

Rosie Wyatt’s Katie is mess of contradictions: a sixth-form good student, clarinet player in the school orchestra and solidly middle class with her Guardian-reading parents but frequently acts out with them as riven with gnawing self-doubt and identity issues. She doesn’t have too many real friends in her life, she’s well known at school for giving anyone a blowjob and she’s currently seeing an older guy Abe, and it is when he gets involved in a street fight that Bunny really kicks off. Sucked into a trail of violent revenge and sexual menace, we follow headstrong Katie as she struggles to keep her head afloat and make the important decisions that could impact the rest of her life. Continue reading “Review: Bunny – Soho Theatre”

Review: Where’s My Seat, Bush Theatre

“They kiss reluctantly; they kiss enquiringly; they kiss passionately”

Though the Bush Theatre has gained a huge reputation as one of London’s top fringe theatres, balancing the charm of its intimacy with the severe limitation of the venue perched above a pub in Shepherds Bush has been something of a trial and so the opportunity to relocate to an old library just around the corner was gratefully seized and a new chapter in the Bush’s history commenced. Where’s My Seat offers audiences a preview of what the theatre will become, as it is still under construction and development, as three short plays test-drive the space and feedback from the audience actively sought from compère-for-the-evening Ralf Little.

There’s a real playfulness to Where’s My Seat that is evident from the moment one walks into the old Shepherds Bush Library: the walls are covered with scribbles of what will eventually be there or marked ‘knock through’. The programming also reflects this: 3 playwrights were invited to write short plays, utilising one of three different seating configurations and up to nine of the most random props that had been selected at random from the National Theatre’s archive, but the challenge did not even end there. Three theatrical luminaries were then invited to create a set of challenging stage directions which had to be incorporated into the plays, so outgoing Donmar supremo Michael Grandage, outgoing Bush supremo (and going to replace Grandage) Josie Rourke and Alan Ayckbourn did their best (Ayckbourn displaying something of a lack of humour about his efforts though, providing three pages worth where the others had about 6 each!) Continue reading “Review: Where’s My Seat, Bush Theatre”

Review: Greenland, National Theatre

“It’s like we’re conducting a big, massive experiment…”

Pulling together narratives and investigative work from four playwrights, Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne around the ever-current issue of climate change, Greenland is the latest play at the National Theatre to tackle this issue, following on from Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London last year. Based on interviews with scientists, politicians, money-makers and philosophers, woven together by dramaturg Ben Power and directed by Bijan Sheibani, this is a highly ambitious, challenging piece of work and though this was the first preview, it seems that some of these challenges might be a little too much.

Predictably, multiple strands of story run parallel, some explored and revisited more than others as the narrative shifts around, there are occasional intersections but these are perfunctory rather than integral to the stories. Amongst everything, there’s a young woman moved to drop out of university to become a climate change activist; two women in a therapy session (there was division in the group as to whether they were mother/daughter or a lesbian couple, but it really isn’t that important) who are being driven apart by the strident ‘green’ views of one of them; two guys bird-watching in Greenland, one of whom has been doing it for 40 years; a Labour politician struggling to make a difference leading up to and at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. All are trying to make sense of the conflicting viewpoints around the issue and figuring out who to trust and what, if anything, can be done. Continue reading “Review: Greenland, National Theatre”