Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)
Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre
The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions. A truly joyous and momentous occasion.
Adjoa Andoh excels in an all-women-of-colour production of Richard II at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
“No matter where; of comfort no man speak”
Just a quickie for this as I’ve left it very late in the run. Co-directed by Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton, this is billed as the first professional production ofRichard IIby a company of women of colour and when you look at the talent onstage, you wonder how on earth it has taken this long. (And then acknowledge that the answer is far too obvious.)
In the atmospheric space of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, it is clear that the creative decisions behind this production are drawing on a wealth of experience far beyond white Anglo-Saxon traditions. Rajha Shakiry’s design and Rianna Azoro’s costumes speak of the cultural backgrounds of the company, so too the influences of Dominique Le Gendre’s music under Midori Jaeger’s musical supervision. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse”
I’d thought I didn’t need to see Richard IIagain for a good while but Michelle Terry’s tenure at the Globe is most certainly testing that resolve. The forthcoming production there is to be staged by the first-ever company of women of colour in a Shakespeare play on a major UK stage. Co-directed by Adjoa Andoh and Lynette Linton, Adjoa will also play the titular role. Continue reading “Theatre news round-up”
Combining with the joyous feel of carnival with the sincerity of the most serious of dramas, this musical Pericles proves a heart-lifting triumph at the National Theatre for their Public Acts programme
“Pericles likes to play Pericles likes to woo Pericles never pauses to think things through”
What is a national theatre for? You’d be forgiven for answering ‘complaining about’ given the amount of sniping regularly aimed at the institution. But with the launch of Public Acts, the National Theatre’s new national initiative, you feel that they’ve alighted on the answer. The desire to “create extraordinary acts of theatre and community” by collaborating with a range of organisations whose community reach is second to none, the first result of which is this production of Pericles which brings over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier Theatre.
Emily Lim’s production is thus a huge endeavour but one whose heart swells effortlessly to accommodate the full scope of its representation. The choice of Pericles is a canny one and Chris Bush’s adaptation loses none of its essentially random character, the introduction of music from Jim Fortune further democratising it and adding opportunities for participation. So as the titular Prince of Tyre is forced on a character-building journey for the ages, Tarsus becomes a land of kazoos and cheerleaders, Pentapolis rain macs and wry humour (“it’s a man-fish” ‘or a fish-man, it’s unclear’), Mytilene a party island presided over by a drag queen. Continue reading “Review: Pericles, National Theatre”
So much goodness announced here in the National Theatre’s near future – particularly excited for Nine Night’s transfer, what looks like a leading role for Siân Brooke and the prospect of Joanna Riding’s ‘Losing My Mind’.
National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019
Nine Night, Natasha Gordon’s critically acclaimed debut play transfers to the West End following a sold-out run at the NT
Further cast announced for Antony and Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, playing from September
Cast confirmed for world premiere of David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, including Siân Brooke, Alex Hassell and Joshua McGuire
Peter Brook returns to direct at the National Theatre for the first time in 50 years with The Prisoner, co-directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne
Following the acclaimed Consent, Nina Raine returns to the NT with her new play Stories starring Claudie Blakley
Anthony Neilson makes his NT debut with new play TheTell-Tale Heart, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe
Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding to join the cast of Follies alongside Janie Dee and Peter Forbes, returning to the Olivier Theatre in February 2019
War Horse returns to the NT marking the centenary of Armistice Day
Antony and Cleopatra and I’m Not Running to broadcast to 65 countries worldwide as part of NT Live
“Contradictions, city of extremes, anything is possible in Bombay dreams. Some live and die in debt, others making millions on the internet”
True story, until last week I thought Bombay Dreams was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not having seen it onstage nor listened to it before, all I knew was the Lord’s name was attached to it and assumptions were thus made – it’s even his name that appears first on the album cover. But peruse a little closer and you see he’s just ‘presenting’ as one of the original producers, cast your eyes a little further down and A.R. Rahman is revealed as the composer. This may of course be old news to you but for me, it was a revelation before I’d even started!
This was multi-award-winning composer Rahman’s first effort for the stage and the palpable effort to mesh his unique take on Indian music with the world of musical theatre is obvious from the off. The musical soundscape that begins ‘Bombay Awakes/Bombay Dreams’ is layered and intriguing but the mood is shattered as soon as Don Black’s lyrics crash in (see the quote up top for a sample) and the combination is cringeworthily fatal. And across the score as a whole, the sense of compromise, of trying to serve two masters whilst pleasing none is too evident. Continue reading “Album Review: Bombay Dreams (2002 Original London Cast)”
“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 andForest 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.
Surtitled A Play For The Nation, Erica Whyman’s production ofA Midsummer Night’s Dreamfor the RSC has fully embraced the communal spirit that the best theatre can summon and across its UK tour over the next few months, will undoubtedly prove a wonderful tribute for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. For at each stop across the land, different local amateur theatre companies will take on the part of the Rude Mechanicals and local primary schools will make up the numbers of Titania’s fairy train, getting their moment to shine in a repurposed final scene.
It’s a rather lovely way to share the warmth of this most loveliest of plays and in Whyman’s hands, it really does succeed. Key to its inclusiveness is the relocation to 1940s Britain and a design from Tom Piper that subtly evokes the Tower of London poppies installation on which he collaborated, the suggestion of a society pulling together permeating every aspect of the show, even Oberon’s fairies muck in as live musicians. And the social disruption of the time allows for an interesting reading of the text which, while emphasising English bumptiousness over sexuality, is witty throughout. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play For The Nation, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”
“But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall”
There’s going to be a lot of Shakespearean content coming our way in the next couple of months as we approach the 400th anniversary of his death and the Guardian have got in early with the first part of theirShakespeare Solos. Six leading actors performing favourite monologues from the Bard, directed by Dan Susman, it’s all rather luxurious, especially when we get the delights of Eileen Atkins in beautifully conversational mode as Othello’s Emilia, Adrian Lester returning to Hamlet and Roger Allam whetting the appetite for a King Lear which will surely be one of the wonders of the modern world once it happens.
And if a couple of the choices here smack a little of sneaky advertising, then so what. Better to have opportunities for people to book and see more if they are so inspired by these clips. Atkins is reprising her solo show at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Ayesha Dharker (here as Titania) will open in the RSC’s mammoth tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream later this month. It might not be Hamlet but Adrian Lester can be seen being differently Shakespearean inRed Velvet and most tenuously of all though still thoroughly theatrical, David Morrissey (a hypnotic Richard III) can be seen for another month in Hangmen.
One gets the feeling that had Anita and Medecided whether it wanted to be a full-blown musical or a straight play adorned by a little music, it might have been a much more successful version of Meera Syal’s novel. But as it is, Tanika Gupta’s adaptation and Roxana Silbert’s direction is marooned in a hinterland between the two, packed too full with material trying to fulfil both remits and so it can be quite the frustrating watch.
The source material is definitely there, Syal’s semi-autobiographical portrait of growing up in the West Midlands in the 1970s is full of insight and warmly old-fashioned charm. Cosseted in the vibrant home of her Punjabi parents, Meena’s teenage rebellion takes the form of throwing her lot in with neighbour Anita to help her better integrate into the society she longs to be a part of, something complicated only slightly by the ingrained racism of said society. Continue reading “Review: Anita and Me, Theatre Royal Stratford East”