Critics’ Circle Awards 2009: the winners in full


Best New Play
August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Spring Awakening

Best Actor
Mark Rylance in Jerusalem

Best Actress
Rachel Weisz in A Streetcar Named Desire

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Jude Law in Hamlet

Best Director
Rupert Goold for Enron

Best Designer
Christopher Oram for Red

Most Promising Playwright
Alia Bano for Shades

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer [other than a playwright]
Tom Sturridge in Punk Rock

 

Review: Really Old, Like Forty Five, National Theatre

“You’re not that old, you just look it”

Really Old, Like Forty Five is a new play from Tamsin Oglesby which looks at the challenges that an increasing ageing population is having on society. We see a government thinktank come up with strategies to deal with them, and we also witness 3 siblings are dealing with old age and the effect it has on their extended family. This dual perspective is effectively shown by use of a split level stage: the government bods are perched on a balcony on top and we see how their decisions affect the general population in the form of the family who occupy the main lower part of the stage, with its mini-revolve allowing for quick scene changes.

I found it to be highly amusing and also highly moving: it’s wittily written, with funny lines popping up all over the place, we’re often laughing at our own prejudices against old people but then quickly forced to confront them as we see just how far this government is willing to go to provide a ‘final solution’ in witnessing the trials of Alice, Lyn and Robbie with their families. Gawn Grainger as Robbie gamely dresses up in more and more ridiculous ‘street’ outfits as he chases a long-gone youth and Marcia Warren has a wonderful twinkle-eyed charm as the ever chipper Alice, with a beautiful speech about the vagaries of the human memory in response to her sister’s distressing decline and jumbled up recollections of their shared youth. Continue reading “Review: Really Old, Like Forty Five, National Theatre”

Review: Daisy Pulls It Off, Arts Theatre

“This is a dismal business, isn’t it”

I rather suspect that Daisy Pulls It Off at the Arts Theatre is an old-fashioned a tale as you’ll ever see, it is certainly the one of the most odd. It’s a jolly old hockey sticks boarding school romp with Daisy Meredith, a poor scholarship girl, having to prove herself at Grangewood School for Young Ladies in the face of some absolutely beastly bullies who just don’t like her. It helps of course that she is exceptionally intelligent, plays a mean game of hockey and writes lovely poetry.

There’s some good performances here, Joanne Gale and Emma Scholes as the older girls shone for me, but some really painful ones too. There’s little real connection between the characters, such limited interactions, that it is hard to get much sense of a company here, and it is just unclear what the tone of the piece really is. Is it a spoof? Is it a comedy? Is it a straight-up play? I’m not sure, and I don’t think the actors were either, such was the variance in the way they played their roles. Plus my bete noire of the year so far raised its head again, with Daisy narrating random sections of the play which stilted the rhythm of the piece horribly. Continue reading “Review: Daisy Pulls It Off, Arts Theatre”

Review: Rope, Almeida with Q+A

“People argue about the queerest things nowadays”

Perhaps an odd choice for a festive show, Rope at the Almeida Theatre is a dark tale of murder, abusive relationships and a dinner party (which I guess is what Christmas is about for some people…) Two Oxford students, Brandon and Granillo murder a third for the existential thrill of committing the ‘perfect murder’, they then invite people, including the dead boy’s father, round for supper, which is served on the chest where the body is stashed. Only one guest begins to suspect something is amiss, Rupert Cadell, a WWI veteran now a world-weary Nietzschean and over the course of the evening, the men try to argue the case for their intellectual superiority and play the dangerous game of trying to get away with murder.

The most arresting thing about this production upon entering the theatre is that it is presented in the round. This is a first for the Almeida and it is highly effective. It gives the real sense of being in the room with the protagonists and also has the visually pleasing effect of placing the chest in the centre of the action, both physically and metaphorically. This worked beautifully in the scenes which had several of the characters on stage, but I felt that when there was just two or three of them, more could have been done to utilise this format: the final face-off scene in particular was very static and played as if on a normal stage. This worked fine for us in our central seats but people to the side would have just seen the back of one or other of the main characters for the final 20 minutes of the play.

Continue reading “Review: Rope, Almeida with Q+A”

Review: Barbershopera II, Trafalgar Studios 2

“You must go…to Norfolk”

Barbershopera II is written by company founders Rob Castell and Tom Sadler who perform it, alongside Lara Stubbs and Pete Sorel-Cameron in the shape of a comedy barbershop quartet. The plot, insomuch as it is important, concerns a Catalan matador Esteve who inherits a barber shop in Norfolk from his long-lost father but faces opposition from hostile locals and his hairdressing rival, Trevor Sorbet. There’s then an insane amount of twists and turns which get increasingly daft and surreal. The main twist though is that it’s performed in different harmony groupings throughout (though rarely as a barbershop quartet interestingly enough).

The show really caught light for me with a brilliant medley of songs during the hairdressing competition which skillfully wove in a whole raft of jokes, both visual and lyrical through five completely different styles in quick succession. Lyrically, the songs are excellent throughout, always provoking laughter, but it is sometimes hard to escape the feeling that this is one (albeit excellent) trick that is drawn out for too long. Continue reading “Review: Barbershopera II, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Review: Three Sisters, Lyric Hammersmith

“One day you’ll be so bored that you’ll read it”

According to the programme, Christopher Hampton’s version of Three Sisters at the Lyric Hammersmith directed by Sean Holmes and the Filter theatre company, is here to raise “the audience’s otherwise sluggard pulses in a revivifying revival”: what more introduction could we possibly need?!

Three Sisters opens with Irina Prozorova’s name-day celebration, in the provincial Russian town where their late military father had been stationed. Irina and her sisters Olga and Masha make half-hearted attempts to put up with life in their adopted home, but cannot stop longing for their birth town Moscow. We then follow the sisters and a group of acquaintances over a 3 year period as the sisters learn the hard lessons of life. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Silence! The Musical, Above the Stag

“I’ll throw her in a well so that no-one can find her,
I’ll tuck my dick between my legs and call it a vagina”

Silence! The Musical is described as ‘the unauthorised parody of The Silence of the Lambs‘ and grew from a collection of songs posted on the internet into an off-Broadway show in 2005. It had a two week run in Baron’s Court last year, but this version at the Above the Stag theatre above a Victoria gay bar is billed as the European professional premiere: it has added new material getting its first airing and retains the original director from New York, Christopher Gatelli.

It does what is says on the tin, it’s a relatively faithful rerun of the events of the film where trainee FBI agent Clarice Starling is pressed into interviewing notorious psychiatrist and serial killer Hannibal Lecter in prison in order to help catch another serial killer Buffalo Bill. However, it is mercilessly and hilariously parodied throughout with a book by Hunter Bell and music and lyrics by Jon & Al Kaplan and a chorus of singing and dancing lambs. Continue reading “Review: Silence! The Musical, Above the Stag”

Review: The Little Dog Laughed, Garrick

“You’re like Huckleberry Finn on a raft of rent boys”

I’m not sure at what point something moves from just being popular to becoming a trend, but containing either onstage narration and/or male nudity seems to be recurring with alarming regularity in plays this year. The Little Dog Laughed contains both, but more on those later!

It’s a tale of a up and coming Hollywood actor, Mitchell Green, who just happens to be a closeted homosexual but using the cover of a relationship with his lesbionic agent, Diane in order to maintain the facade. He’s then thrown when he meets and falls for a rent boy, Alex who has a girlfriend Ellen, and decides that he wants to pursue this relationship and come out to the public. This is played against a sub-plot of Diane trying to get a ‘gay play’ made into a movie as a star vehicle for Mitchell, but needing it to be ‘de-gayed’ in order for it to be made and to maintain Mitch’s straight front. Continue reading “Review: The Little Dog Laughed, Garrick”

Review: Greta Garbo Came To Donegal, Tricycle

“‘So you approve of loneliness?’
I’ve made a career out if it, haven’t you heard”

Who knew penises were like buses? Having not seen one onstage all year in 2009, a couple popped up in Six Degrees… on Thursday, and a third came along today in Greta Garbo Came To Donegal at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn. Frank McGuinness has taken a fact, Greta Garbo did in fact use a friend’s castle in Ireland as a retreat, and spun a fictional tale set in 1967’s Donegal where cultural and sexual change is threatening the established order, epitomised by the arrival of the Swedish filmstar.

Garbo (Caroline Lagerfelt) arrives at the house of an aristocratic painter friend, Matthew Dover (Daniel Geroll) with a view to maybe purchasing this property, but it is soon clear that they are both weighted down with the pressures of dealing with homosexual attractions, Dover with his wideboy South London bodyguard, Garbo with the housekeeper Paulie (Michelle Fairley), whose family in a cruel twist of fate used to own the house where she is now forced to serve. Garbo’s presence also awakes other frustrations elsewhere in the house with a young niece straining to escape the yoke of familial obligation and pursue her own dreams. Continue reading “Review: Greta Garbo Came To Donegal, Tricycle”

Review: Six Degrees of Separation, Old Vic

“Every person is a new door, opening up into new worlds”

John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation receives its first revival in 18 years with this David Grindley directed production at the Old Vic. Based on a true story of a conman finagling his way into the lives of wealthy Manhattan socialites by pretending to be the son of Sidney Poitier, we see the lives of two New York art dealers, Ouisa and Fran Kittredge turned upside down after they take an injured Paul into their home and he wreaks havoc on their lives and those of them around them as he challenges their comfortable existences. It is kept in its original 1980s setting, presumably as the issues around financial greed are as pertinent today, even if those around race and homosexuality are less so.

Onstage narration seems to be the flavour of the month and it is a tricky thing to get right: Innocence fails, Midsummer gets it right, here is somewhere in the middle. There’s a mixture of Ouisa and Fran, and indeed other characters, narrating the events and the action being played out, and I’m not sure the balance is wholly there: it is just so much more entertaining when the actors are engaging with each other and I was frequently left wanting to see more of that. Continue reading “Review: Six Degrees of Separation, Old Vic”