Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse

Much to admire technically in [BLANK] at the Donmar Warehouse but it doesn’t quite land the emotional hit it aims for

“Have you ever felt like you were standing exactly to the left of your life?”

On the face of it, [BLANK] has all the makings of an outright success. With Alice Birch writing and Maria Aberg, this Donmar Warehouse and Clean Break co-production is a powerful indictment of how the vicissitudes of our criminal justice system hit women, and their families, the hardest by far.

And in terms of a text, it is undoubtedly an audacious undertaking, consisting of 100 scenes from which directors can craft their own narratives. Here though is where the production doesn’t quite click, Aberg trying her best to form some, any, kind of flow but the form just doesn’t allow for it. Continue reading “Review: [BLANK], Donmar Warehouse”

News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet

Kenneth Branagh’s Olivier Award-winning theatre company will join forces with RADA for a co-production of Hamlet, to support the transformation of RADA’s Chenies Street site in London, further developing the Academy as a world-leader in dramatic arts training.

 The production will feature RADA alumnus Tom Hiddleston in the title role and will play a strictly limited three week run at RADA’s 160-seat Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre from 1-23 September 2017.

All funds raised will support the RADA Attenborough Campaign, which aims to raise £20million, enabling the regeneration of the Academy’s Chenies Street premises. Continue reading “News: RADA President Kenneth Branagh to direct Tom Hiddleston in Hamlet”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“Donna Noble has left the library. Donna Noble has been saved”

And here we are, my favourite series of Doctor Who. So much huge wonderfulness and even its less good moments are still more than halfway decent. Key to the series’ success is Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble – gobby and one-dimensional in her introductory episode the Christmas special The Runaway Bride, her character journey throughout this season is magisterially constructed, a true awakening of self (with thankfully no romantic inclinations towards our Time Lord) and one given unbearable poignancy due to its frustratingly tragic end.

It’s also one of the best constructed series in terms of its over-arching season arc, its warnings and clues layered meaningfully into several stories and building into a momentous and properly climactic finale, which lands just about the right level of grandiosity. There’s also the first companion-lite episode (the superbly creepy Midnight) to go with the Doctor-lite one (the achingly beautiful dystopian Turn Left); a typically brilliant Moffat double-header in  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead with gorgeous work from Alex Kingston as the soon-to-be-hugely-significant River Song; and if the return of Rose undoes some of the emotional impact of the Series 2 finale, Billie Piper’s work is spikily powerful. These are episodes I can, and have, watched over and over again.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

Review: Dirty Great Love Story, Arts

“Things I can be sure of – I’m in a bed
‘Things I can be sure of – my bloody head…'”

With so much gloomy news dominating the headlines and cinemas filled largely with Oscar bait, two-hander Dirty Great Love Story arrives at the Arts Theatre to offer a well-timed and satisfying slice of lighter entertainment. Written by Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna from the experiences of their own lovelife, and previously seen at the Soho Theatre, in Edinburgh and off-Broadway, it’s an energetically modern take on the rom-com and if it doesn’t necessarily have anything earth-shattering to say, it’s probably all the more enjoyable for it.

Richard and Katie’s meet-cute is in a sketchy Bristol nightclub. He’s on a stag night and been single for a while, she’s on a hen do and nursing a broken heart and with friends egging them on, they’re soon sharing shots at the bar, sweat on the dancefloor and shags in a hastily procured hotel room. In the fug of the next morning’s hangover, she beats a hasty retreat but not before she wonders if there isn’t perhaps the spark of something there, and thus the rest of the play covers the next two years in the lives of these 30-something Londoners as they will-they-won’t-they their way to a climax of which even Bridget Jones would be proud.  Continue reading “Review: Dirty Great Love Story, Arts”

20 shows to look forward to in 2017

2017 is only just over a week away now and the reviewing diary is already filling up! All sorts of headline-grabbing West End shows have already been announced (The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, Don Juan In Soho, The Goat, Or Who Is Sylvia) and the National look to continue a sensational year with another (Twelfth Night, Consent, the heaven-sent Angels in America), so this list is looking a little further afield to the London fringe and some of the UK theatres I hope to get to throughout the year.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Bolton Octagon

After hearing Elizabeth Newman speak passionately on a panel discussion about women’s theatre, I kinda have a big (intellectual) crush on her, so I’m very keen to see her tackle a new adaptation by Deborah McAndrew of the classic Anne Bronte novel in a theatre that is very close to my heart.
Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2017”

Review: The Suicide, National

 “Everything was free”

A late jaunt to the National to The Suicide, Suhayla El-Bushra’s fiercely contemporary updating of Nikolai Erdman’s 1928 play, before it closed. Though I have to say I wasn’t entirely convinced by it, Nadia Fall’s production is visually hugely ambitious, retooled for the world of YouTubers and hipsters, but ultimately feeling as shallow as the societal trends that it is trying to satirise.

Javone Prince’s Sam Desai is long-term unemployed and newly bereft of benefits, so disillusioned with the world is he that he decides to top himself but when a film clip of him making that decision goes viral, he’s swept along for the ride as all of society try to co-opt him for their own ends. To publicise a café, to get a music deal, to highlight the lack of adequate mental health care. Continue reading “Review: The Suicide, National”

Review: Blue/Orange, Young Vic

“They see what they want to see, not what they really see”

I seem to be surrounded by people who saw and loved the original production of Blue/Orange, with its extremely tasty cast of Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and who love to tell me about it! It was however before my time (here in London at least) and so my first, and only, previous experience of the show was with Tiata Fahdozi’s all-female version at the old Arcola, with a less starry but no less interesting cast of Helen Schlesinger, Esther Hall and Ayesha Antoine.

I mention this because it is interesting to me the ways in which people’s journeys with plays are shaped by these interactions, especially when they have been lauded as modern classics. Of the eight, only two are going back to this new production at the Young Vic (it doesn’t seem to be inspiring repeat visits), and the one who has been already didn’t like it. And critics’ responses thus far stretch from Aleks Sierz reconfirming its status as a contemporary classic to Matt Trueman declaring that it hasn’t aged well. Continue reading “Review: Blue/Orange, Young Vic”

Review: Red Velvet, Garrick

“…now begrimed and black as mine own face”

For all the excitement of Kenneth Branagh’s announcement of his year long residency at the Garrick, the programme was lacking a certain diversity. So it’s pleasing to see that the Tricycle Theatre’s production of Red Velvet has been slotted in for a month, featuring a barnstorming lead performance from Adrian Lester and a fascinating insight into a piece of sorely neglected theatrical history.

My four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be found here.

 

Review: A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes, Tricycle

“A thick, golden-brown, brickhouse goddess of voluptuous lusciousness”

Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand was something of a triumph for the Tricycle last year so it is little surprise that Indhu Rubasingham has returned to the playwright for a new production there, A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes. An adaptation of Molière’s Tartuffe, it shifts the action from seventeenth century Paris to modern-day Atlanta and the world of mega-churches but maintains the air of hypocrisy around its lead character, here renamed Tardimus Toof.

Toof’s church is in a parlous financial position and having long sold himself as having healing powers, turns to fried chicken tycoon Archibald Organdy to lay his hands and fleece his pockets. His lascivious eye, which has wandered over many a female parishioner as he “undresses sin”, turns to Organdy’s mistress Peaches – a never-better Adjoa Andoh – even with Sharon D Clarke’s imperious wife a considerable presence both in church and at home. Continue reading “Review: A Wolf in Snakeskin Shoes, Tricycle”

Review: The House That Will Not Stand, Tricycle

“A decent woman never talks about two things: her age and her lovers”

Ensembles that offer multiple opportunities for middle-aged women of colour (apologies for the clunky description) are few and far between so I think it is important to acknowledge Indhu Rubasingham’s efforts in bringing The House That Will Not Stand to the Tricycle for that alone. That Marcus Garvey’s play turns out to delve into a fascinating and under-explored period in history thus feels like something of a Brucie bonus.

It’s New Orleans in 1836 and Lazare Albans has died. As mistress to this rich white man, the fiercely proud Beartrice has become wealthy in her own right and under the relatively liberal system of plaçage, she and their three daughters are free women and stand to receive a grand inheritance. But as Louisiana changes hands from the French to the Yankees, so too do the prevailing US attitudes towards slavery glower on the horizon and threatens the position of all people of colour in a state that had somehow bucked the trend in race relations.

Continue reading “Review: The House That Will Not Stand, Tricycle”