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

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: 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”

Review: In Other Words, Hope Theatre

“That song, at a moment like that, well, it just doesn’t get much more perfect, does it?’”

In Other Words isn’t the first play to make me cry this year but it is the first one to make me sob. I had tears running down my face for about two thirds of the running time, just about held back the ugly crying by not saying anything to friends as I dashed out of the Hope Theatre, and then I sobbed all the way down Upper Street and the Victoria line (thank to the lady who offered me a tissue, Londoners aren’t all bad you know), completely emotionally broken.

Dementia is one of those subjects that just gets me right there (in not unconnected news, it won’t surprise you that I couldn’t bear to watch Amour in a cinema or that I find Judy Parfitt’s work in Call the Midwife as Sister Monica Joan deeply affecting). And based as it is on the playwright’s studies into the condition and the extraordinary way in which sensory stimulation – particularly playing music – can sometimes find a way through it, Matthew Seager’s In Other Words is a deeply sincere and moving play. Continue reading “Review: In Other Words, Hope Theatre”

Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA

“I got us some chocolate body paint…we ended up having it on toast”

Just a quickie(ish) for this as a dicky tummy meant I had to leave at the interval but I wanted to make mention of the cast in case any of them end up super-famous. Tom Wells has quickly rocketed up the list of must-see playwrights in recent years, something kickstarted largely by the 2011 success of The Kitchen Sink (although Me As A Penguin was the first time I dipped in the Wells), and so it is little surprise to see drama schools like LAMDA getting in on the act. This production of The Kitchen Sink forms part of their showcase this year and in lieu of new Wells work, a trip down the Talgarth Road was organised.

And whilst I wish I could say I liked it, the first half never really managed to grab me. Stephen Unwin’s production here lacked the vital spark that brought Tamara Harvey’s for the Bush to such vivid life, plodding along a little too much rather than surfing the ripples and waves of everyday living. The subtleties of Wells’ writing and his inimitable voice of extraordinary ordinariness failed to really shine through here – although his observational gifts means there’s many a one-liner that lives in the memory, ripped jeans, couscous, Dolly Parton’s nipples…nothing is safe but crucially, everything feels authentic. Continue reading “Review: The Kitchen Sink, LAMDA”