News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020

So much goodness! The National Theatre have just announced details of productions stretching deep into 2020, and with writers like Lucy Kirkwood, Kate Tempest, Roy Williams and Tony Kushner, and actors like Lesley Manville, Maxine Peake, Conleth Hill, Cecilia Noble and Lesley Sharp, it is hard not to feel excited about what’s ahead.

Olivier Theatre 

Following a sell-out run at Rose Theatre Kingston, the acclaimed two-part adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by April De Angelis is reworked for the Olivier stage by Melly Still (Coram Boy). When the most important person in her life goes missing without a trace, Lenu Greco, now a celebrated author, begins to recall a relationship of more than 60 years.  Continue reading “News: the National Theatre announces 15 new productions for 2019 and 2020”

Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village

“I’d rather spend my nights with a saag aloo”

A free adaptation of Lope de Vega’s Fuenteovejuna by April de Angelis, Nadia Fall’s debut season as AD of Theatre Royal Stratford East starts off in fine style with The Village. Harking back to the past as Joan Littlewood directed it here in 1955, it also looks firmly to the future as a statement of intent about how things are going to be different out East.

The play has been resituated from Spain to northern India and set in the modern day. And in these Kavanaugh-plagued times, there’s something of a gut punch about the way how, even with fast-forwarding half a century, this kind of story can remain so horribly pertinent. What is does remind us though, is of the importance of resistance and the strength that can come from a community.  Continue reading “Review: The Village, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Frankenstein, Royal Exchange

Frankenstein gets taken around the block one more time at the Royal Exchange in Manchester – Sun readers need not apply

“What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?”

It may have been 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s magnum opus but let’s face it, no-one has ever needed an excuse to stage it before. A programme note for April De Angelis’ new version of Frankenstein for the Royal Exchange suggests there have been well over 50 adaptations and so there’s a job to make yours be the one to stand out.

Directed skillfully by Matthew Xia, De Angelis’ main superficial difference is to play up the storytelling device that frames the novel, using Captain Walton’s discovery of a bedraggled Victor Frankenstein on his expedition to the North Pole to be the mechanism through which scarcely believable events are described. And it’s a format that offers much potential – in emphasising the parallels (or differences) between the two, in exploring the role of an unreliable narrator, in making this version stand out. Continue reading “Review: Frankenstein, Royal Exchange”

Review: My Brilliant Friend, Rose Theatre

“The thing that I’m scared of is that everything will break”

Elena Ferrante’s quartet of Neapolitan Novels have been a literary sensation since its first part, My Brilliant Friend, was published in 2012. A forthcoming Italian television adaptation will take 32 50-minute instalments to cover the story of the friendship between two Neapolitan women but April De Angelis has condensed the four into a single play, presented in two parts which can be viewed as a double bill or on separate evenings if 5 hours of theatre in a day seems like too much of a challenge. Read my review for This Is My Town here, find production photos for both parts here and get more info on the show here.

Running time: each part is 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 2nd April

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead

“Join the movement for righteous anger”

With over 100 cast, writers, directors and crew, and 25 plays (none of which were by Agatha Christie!) spread over 7 programmes, Sphinx Theatre’s Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival was a full-on day indeed for those of us who stayed the course from midday to nearly 10pm, with scarcely time to imbibe yet another coffee as we moved from rehearsal room to studio to main house. But though I was 90% caffeine by the end, the buzz I was experiencing was one of delight at the sheer breadth and quality of the theatre we’d been privileged to witness.

The Women Centre Stage Festival was initiated by Sphinx to bring together artists, venues, commissioners and funders in expanding the range of women’s roles and this it has done in a number of different ways. Workshops ran throughout the week at the Actors Centre, a panel discussion broached the larger question of how to improve gender equality in theatre and the plays that were presented throughout the festival’s performance day ranged from works commissioned and developed from the 2105 festival, to the fruits of Sphinx Writers Group, to rapid responses to this week’s headlines. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival, Hampstead”

Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – New Women

“Engaging with the voices is a radically liberating move”

There was undoubtedly a lot of theatre during the Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival but for me, the New Women session in the middle of the day was the highlight – three cracking pieces which variously looked to the past, the present and the future to thrilling effect. We started with a group new to me – The Hiccup Project – two Brighton based performers blurring the lines between dance, comedy, and theatre to create a most beguiling form of performance art.

Somewhat confessional, somewhat quirky, altogether fun, Cristina Mackerron and Chess Dillon-Reams’ May-We-Go-Round was a delight and a canny piece of programming as it was unlike anything else in all 10 hours of the day, made me excited to see further work by them and if nothing else, reminded us all of the benefits of a good skip. Looking to the past, Winsome Pinnock’s Tituba embroiders a rich emotional life for the character who almost incidentally appears in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Continue reading “Review: Women Centre Stage: Power Play Festival – New Women”

Review: After Electra, Tricycle

“How long was it supposed to go on – this mother thing?”

On the one hand, it’s rather flipping marvellous to see a play that places multiple older female characters at its heart, continuing the stirring efforts of Indhu Rubasingham’s artistic directorship at the Tricycle Theatre to continue to broaden the scope of the stories it tells, far beyond the white male dominance we often see on our stages. And its themes of individual expression versus maternal love fit neatly into an emerging trend that we’ve seen in contemporary plays I’ve really loved like Love Love Love and The Last of the Haussmans.

On the other hand, I’m not too sure that I really liked April De Angelis’ After Electra, a Theatre Royal Plymouth production directed here by Prince Caspian himself Samuel West. It has a sparky beginning as uncompromising artist Virgie decides to celebrate her 81st birthday with family and friends by declaring that she’s going to take her own life while she’s still compos mentis enough for it to be her decision. Notions of what longer life expectancy really means and how that impacts on familial relationships suggest something intriguing lurking in Michael Taylor’s handsomely appointed set. Continue reading “Review: After Electra, Tricycle”

Review: Gastronauts, Royal Court

“Brave diners…trust us”

Gastronauts is a self-identified “ theatre adventure with food and music”, a label that calls to mind Lyn Gardner’s timely blog on finding new names for alternative theatre, but the key word that reveals its nature, in my opinion, is devised. Writers April De Angelis and Nessah Muthy with director Wils Wilson have created this show in collaboration with a company of five, and as it explores the not inconsiderable topic of food and our multi-faceted relationship with it, plus serving up a range of varied nibbles to illustrate their point, the 95 minute running time seems scarcely sufficient.

For as the show touches on all of its talking points, there is barely the time to delve into them in anything but the most glancing manner. The catastrophic environmental effects of our more extravagant eating habits, the vicissitudes of the diet industry, the reality of what goes into processed foods like white bread, the profiteering that exploits those who grow much of our foodstuffs and also more benevolent aspects, like the comforting memories that food from the family table inspires in us even as we become adults.  Continue reading “Review: Gastronauts, Royal Court”

Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Portugal, – Royal Court via YouTube

“Progress has not been as pronounced as expected”

The Portuguese take on The Big Idea was Farewell to the Old Country, written by Sandra Pinheiro and responded to by April de Angelis in Articipation, with snatches of verbatim interviews interspersed throughout, and as seemed to be something of the model, ranged from the harrowing (from the native playwright) to the surreal (from the Brit). Pinheiro’s story involved a family who had taken the difficult decision to emigrate from Portugal in pursuit of work and new beginnings, but having opted to make a staggered departure – letting the husband go first to get settled – the enormity of their choice makes the wife question what is most important. 

For they have a child and she will be left with her grandma and though Dad has put up with it for six months, Mum is now having a crisis of faith. Told mainly via the medium of Skype, it formed an interesting look at how far people are willing to go in order to make change happen but also how far they are willing to let others go for them. The strain put on this marriage is unimaginably huge and though one is left appalled, there’s an element of understanding about it too. Continue reading “Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Portugal, – Royal Court via YouTube”