I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.
Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”
Vinay Patel’s An Adventure is a long night at the Bush Theatre and an ambitious one
“Home is where you fight to be”
Vinay Patel’s An Adventure certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, taking inspiration from his own family – specifically his grandparents – and constructing his own historical romance tale, folding in racism, political upheaval of differing hues and the enduring legacy of colonialism.
From India to Kenya to Britain, from the 1950s to the 1970s to the modern day, Patel traces the love story between Jyoti and Rasik, the young man she chooses from the five selected by her father. They’re both dreamers and soon find themselves swept up in the Kenyan independence movement in Nairobi and union marches in London, even as their relationship suffers. Continue reading “Review: An Adventure, Bush Theatre”
“There’s more to this magical life than the love of the ladies”
It has been impossible to ignore the reception of Ivo van Hove’s Obsession, the slight sense of glee (from some) at being able to dole out a critical drubbing to the feted director. And so I went into the Barbican with a slight sense of defensiveness – I’m only human after all – albeit with the knowledge that no-one is infallible. And whilst Obsession isn’t necessarily van Hove at his best (and lord know we’ve been spoiled there), it still makes for a fascinating piece of theatre.
Based on Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film, adapted by Jan Peter Gerrits and crucially, having its English version written by Simon Stephens, this is an altogether more abstract and expressionist affair than perhaps some were expecting. A tale of sex and murder, whose muscularity and moodiness sprawls over the vast stage with stylish languour, there’s a brooding beauty to the intensity here, captured excellently by two striking lead performances from Jude Law and Halina Reijn. Continue reading “Review: Obsession, Barbican”
An amusing tidbit from Paul Chahidi’s Twitter takeover for the Donmar Warehouse, promoting his show Limehouse and the commitment its actors have to the art of the warm-up.
“I never know when I’m going too far but I’m always so glad when I do.”
It was with no little intrigue that I approached watching the boxset of ITV sitcom Vicious – memories of its run from last year focused on the absolute hammering it got, how it had apparently set representations of gay men back centuries and basically broken television. I have to admit to having no interest in watching it from the moment I’d heard about it but clearly something had mellowed by the time I spotted a bargain in a charity shop and sat down to watch Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as a long-partnered, long-bickering couple.
Written and created by Gary Janetti (a veteran of US TV including Will & Grace) and Mark Ravenhill (a UK playwright of no little renown), it is an homage to, or more accurately a riff off, the world of 1970s sitcoms with its single living room set where Freddie and Stuart bitch away at each other all day long. They’re frequently joined on the sofa by barely-tolerated fag hag Violet, a deliciously fruity Frances De La Tour, and their newly arrived eye candy neighbour, the handsome but heterosexual Ash played by Iwan Rheon, and that’s pretty much your set-up from which endless capers abound. Continue reading “DVD Review: Vicious”
“Gar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”
Interesting art can transcend basic notions of comprehension, cutting deep to a visceral place of goosebumps and adrenalin rushes that crosses linguistic barriers, just listening to this recital of a piece of Sufi poetry moves me in an unexpectedly extraordinary way even after repeated listens. The above quote of another piece also by poet Amir Khusro (If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here) which prefaces Abhishek Majumdar’s complex Kashmir-set play The Djinns of Eidgah which provoked a similar reaction in me upstairs at the Royal Court.
Not that the play isn’t in English, but rather its reach is ambitiously grand and encompasses subjects that I would be a fool to profess any substantial knowledge of. Through the trials of young Kashmiri orphans Ashrafi and Bilal, Majumdar’s writing explores the state of being ‘inbetween’ – whether in the brutal, and ongoing, realities of being torn between India and Pakistan; or in the fable-like hinterland between life and death, explored through the Central Asian oral history tradition of dastaan and the legends of Amir Hamza. Reality and fantasy are intermingled, politics and people dissected, both head and heart engaged to create a melancholic minor masterpiece. Continue reading “Review: The Djinns of Eidgah, Royal Court”
“The question you gotta ask yourself is do you want friends or whether you want to work for the president?”
Beau Willimon may now be better known for his screen work – he was head writer on the Netflix House of Cards and also penned Oscar-nominated film The Ides of March – but he started in the theatre and that film was actually based on a play, Farragut North. Its contemporary Washington machinations are based on his own experiences working on a failed presidential campaign but as with so many takes on modern politics, the shadow of the real thing looms large.
Stephen Bellamy is a highly ambitious political campaigner, working for a major candidate for the Democrat party’s presidential nomination and at the age of 25, already a seasoned old hand of 10 years’ experience. But in the world of spin, people are more concerned about scoring the advantage rather than doing the decent thing and the trust and loyalty that Stephen cared so little for on the way up the greasy pole, bites back with a vengeance on the way down. Continue reading “Review: Farragut North, Southwark Playhouse”
Ashley Zhangazha, for Ross in Macbeth (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield)
Amy Morgan, for Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)
Lara Rossi, for Dol Common in The Alchemist (Liverpool Playhouse)
Jade Anouka, for Calpurnia, Metellus Cimber, and Pindarus in Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse)
Alys Daroy, for Yelena in The Wood Demon (Theatre Collection)
Holly Earl, for Bertha in The Father (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry)
Kurt Egyiawan, for Arsace in Berenice (Donmar Warehouse)
Paapa Essiedu, for Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Johnny Flynn, for Viola in Twelfth Night (Globe Theatre and West End)
Aysha Kala, for Maid in Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Masha in Three Sisters (Young Vic)
Simon Manyonda, for Lucius in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Luke Norris, for The Soldier in Antigone (National Theatre)
Ailish Symons, for Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest (Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Ellie Turner, for Fanny Hawthorn in Hindle Wakes (Finborough Theatre)
“For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion”
Transferring into the Noël Coward theatre, Iqbal Khan sets his RSC production of Much Ado About Nothing in modern-day Delhi, as a fitting counterpart to the African-dictator-led take on Julius Caesar which is now touring the UK after its London run. It’s a lengthy take on the play which does little by way of apparent editing, which is mighty impressive given the strength of the vision here, but it turns out the commonalities with contemporary India make this a great (arranged) marriage which is full of interesting scene readings which make this an intellectual, as well as visceral, pleasure.
I found lots of to love, but particularly what had been done with the watch scenes, normally something tolerated with gritted teeth. Here, they are a group of social misfits, almost Napoleon Dynamite-inspired and it really really works, mainly because of the straightness of the bat with which the actors play it. We’re always laughing with, and not at them and they’re never played as stupid – in fact, something rather touching emerges from their determination of purpose. Niraj Chag’s music is also something wondrous to behold. Vivid, sensuous, powerful, it richly enhances the whole production and the six musicians who play throughout the show get a well-deserved bow at the end. Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Noël Coward Theatre”