Review: An Octoroon, National Theatre

One of the best plays, and productions, of last year, An Octoroon makes a hop, skip and a leap from Orange Tree to the National Theatre

“Black playwright? I can’t even wipe my ass without someone trying to accuse me of deconstructing the race problem in America”

An Octoroon transfers to the National Theatre from a hugely successful run at the Orange Tree last year and sells out entirely way in advance. And yet it is Wilde and Pinter who are getting seasons in the West End…time to shake up the orthodoxy I think, even while accepting its a big step from the Dorfman to Shaftesbury Avenue.

Rather than wrestle with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ complex writing and Ned Bennett’s layered production once again, I’m just going to point you to the fact that I named Ken Nwosu’s performance as my favourite of the year, and I ranked the show as the sixth best of the year (out of 346). My original review can be found here, I’m looking forward to seeing a hopefully more diverse range of responses this time round.  

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Helen Murray
An Octoroon is booking at the National Theatre until 18th July – currently sold out but returns and Friday Rush available

Review: Love Me Now, Tristan Bates

Sex and love in the modern age gets a little confusing, for everyone, in Love Me Now at the Tristan Bates Theatre

“It can be anything you want it to be”

One of my favourite characters in early-season Dawson’s Creek was Abby. Allowed to walk on the wild side far more than any of the leads, she was a bright pop of colour in Capeside but because she liked a drink, she had to die. First-time-writer Michelle Barnette may not have intended this allusion but in this tale of casual sex gone awry, it was what sprung to mind.

But as Love Me Now attempts to explore “the toxicity of casual dating”, maybe it is an appropriate reference. Her characters A (Alistair Toovey’s ripped cocksure man-child) and B (Helena Wilson’s Insta-loving professional woman) are engaged in the kind of no-strings affair of Tinder’s dreams, only things have gotten complicated. She wants more commitment, he just wants more head. Continue reading “Review: Love Me Now, Tristan Bates”

New casting announced for 2018 National Theatre season

TRANSLATIONS

by Brian Friel

Previews from 22 May, Press night 30 May, on sale until 7 July with further performances to be announced

Owen, the prodigal son, returns to rural Donegal from Dublin. With him are two British army officers. Their ambition is to create a map of the area, replacing the Gaelic names with English. It is an administrative act with radical consequences.

Brian Friel’s modern classic is a powerful account of nationhood, which sees the turbulent relationship between England and Ireland play out in one quiet community. Cast includes Dermot Crowley, Aoife DuffinAdetomiwa EdunMichelle FoxCiarán Hinds,Laurence KinlanColin MorganSeamus O’HaraJudith Roddy and Rufus Wright.

Directed by Ian Rickson, with design by Rae Smith, lighting design by Neil Austin and music by Stephen Warbeck and sound design by Ian Dickinson.

Part of the Travelex Season with hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Continue reading “New casting announced for 2018 National Theatre season”

Review: The Box of Delights, Wilton’s Music Hall

“The wolves are running, Kay Harker”

There’s a wonderfully rough magic to Justin Audibert’s production of The Box of Delights that makes it the perfect choice for Wilton’s Music Hall’s festive show. And it is one that will have extra resonance for those of a generation similar to my own, whose childhood TV watching centred on a VHS copy of the 1984 TV adaptation, whose use of graphics and green screen hasn’t necessarily aged all that well (see around 14.30)…

The nods to the occasional naffness of that design (a car that turns into an aeroplane!) were much appreciated but such is the warmth and wit of the theatrical invention here, that it is hard not to be won over by Piers Torday’s adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 fantasy novel whether you’re familiar with it or not. And though it flirts with the odd sinister undertone, the abiding feel is one of adventurous derring-do and festive cheer, fit for whatever family you have around you.

Set in the depths of Christmas 1938, we’re in the world of plum puddings and hot possets, where schoolboy Kay Harker finds his journey home from boarding school disrupted by falling into the middle of a battle between two mighty magicians. Given the precious Box of Delights by one of them, he’s charged with protecting it – and by extension, the very future of Christmas itself – but little can prepare him for the magical power that is contained within. Continue reading “Review: The Box of Delights, Wilton’s Music Hall”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

National treasure Matthew Kelly and West End superstar Josefina Gabrielle are to star in the brand-new stage adaptation of The Box of Delights, possibly the creepiest children’s tv show ever and one which is indeliby etched on my psyche. This original production is the first time Poet Laureate John Masefield’s festive classic has been reimagined for the stage, and will be brought to life by an ensemble cast in the gloriously Christmassy surroundings of Wilton’s Music Hall.
 
Joining Kelly and Gabrielle as part of the stellar cast will be Mark Extance, Safiyya Ingar, Tom Kanji, Samuel Simmonds, Rosalind Steele and Alistair Toovey.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree

“I invented matinées bitches, look it up!”

You wouldn’t have put money on Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre becoming the destination for some of London’s more radical theatre leanings but with Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ An Octoroon, it has done it once again. Less of a surprise is that it is director Ned Bennett at the helm again, reuniting with Pomona collaborators Georgia Lowe (design) and Elliot Griggs (lighting) to provide a headfuck of a production out of a headfuck of a play.

I could talk about the plot, about how Jacobs-Jenkins has adapted Dion Boucicault’s 1859 racially dubious play The Octoroon, but that wouldn’t do this any justice really. For this is a piece of theatre less concerned with narrative drive, with characters that move from point A to point B, but more of a thought experiment, challenging audiences to consider our attitudes toward race, both in how it is portrayed on contemporary stages and how we deal with the legacy of a wealth of drama approaching the issue in a completely different day and age.

Continue reading “Review: An Octoroon, Orange Tree”

Finalists of 2013 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year

Beth Peach-Robinson (Royal Academy of Music)
Maud Millar (GSMD)
Dylan Mason (ArtsEd)
Turlough Convery (Guildford School of Acting)
Nina Logue (BOVTS)
Michael Watson-Gray (Drama Studio London) 
Laura Darton (Mountview)
George Mercer (Oxford School of Drama)
Alistair Toovey (RADA)
Brooke Markham (LAMDA) 
Phoebe Pryce (RADA)
Kara-Ami McCreanor (Performance Preparation Academy) 

Host: Jenna Russell
Judges: Edward Seckerson (Chair), Julia McKenzie, Michael Grandage, Imelda Staunton, Mike Haslam, Matthew Scott, Bert Fink

Review: Lord of the Flies, Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park

“Which is better – to have rules and agree, or to hunt and kill?”

Watching theatre outdoors is always a bit of a challenge in this country and the weather for the last while has been so changeable and unseasonably cold at times that the prospect of going to see Lord of the Flies at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park was not one that filled me with much anticipation. But as may be evident by now, it doesn’t take too much to convince me (3 gin and tonics, if you’re wondering) and thankfully the gods were kind to us with no rain falling, even if it was extremely chilly.

Timothy Sheader’s production of William Golding’s classic novel of a group of schoolboys stranded on a desert island and left to their own devices, is nominally an updating – hints abound in the debris of the crashed-plane set – but in truth, very little concession is made to this. The language, the diction, the performances all speak of Golding’s original post-war era which fitted the rather traditional feel better than any pretence at locating this story firmly in the modern day. Continue reading “Review: Lord of the Flies, Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park”