News: Casting for 2018 Donmar season

It looks like Josie Rourke is getting a little demob happy at the Donmar, as her penultimate season as artistic director sees a fresh twist on gender swapping that feels like a genuine first. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden will star in a new production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in which they will alternate the roles of Isabella and Angelo, midway through the show. Heaven knows how it will work but Lord knows I can’t wait to find out.

Brian Friel’s Aristocrats, directed by Lyndsey Turner, is also added to the slate, and this will be Turner’s fourth staging of a Friel play after Faith Healer, Philadelphia, Here I Come! and Fathers and Sons. The cast includes Elaine Cassidy, Daniel Dawson, David Ganley, Emmet Kirwan, Aisling Loftus, Ciaran McIntyre and Eileen Walsh. Continue reading “News: Casting for 2018 Donmar season”

Review: John Ferguson, Finborough

“Do you not like the whistle Mrs Ferguson…?”

There is often the sense that selective quoting from the Bible can assert pretty much any viewpoint and so it turns out in St John Ervine’s John Ferguson, receiving its first airing in the UK for nearly 100 years with this production at the Finborough Theatre, directed by Emma Faulkner. Set in the 1880s in the unforgiving Ulster farmland of County Down, it centres on the Ferguson family and the trials they are forced to ensure when threatened with foreclosure by their grasping neighbour and tenant-holder, the dastardly Henry Witherow.

Ageing paterfamilias John is unwell and thus unable to work the land that gives them their living, finding succour instead from burying his head in a well-worn copy of the Bible. And in a reversal of roles, his son Andrew is induced to return from his training to join the ministry in order to run the farm. But he is ill-suited to the job at hand, they’re behind with payments and the promised cheque from John’s brother in America has failed to materialise. The only collateral they seem to possess comes in the form of daughter Hannah’s hand.  Continue reading “Review: John Ferguson, Finborough”

Review: How The World Began, Arcola

“I must have said something that sounded like gobbledygook”

When Catherine Trieschmann’s play How The World Began premiered in the US last month, it carried the advisory note “isn’t for theatregoers who might feel uncomfortable with views on evolution.” There might not quite be the same level of debate between creationists and Darwinists in this country, at least not in such a visual way, but what is striking about Trieschmann’s writing is how little of that debate she is actually interested in here, despite using it as her starting point.

Susan Pierce is an unmarried, pregnant, fully-paid-up liberal escaping a sticky personal situation in New York by training to become a science teacher on the job in a random placement far away. Where she ends up is Plainview, Kansas, a small town rebuilding itself after a deadly tornado, but her desire for a new start in a new place does not extend to adapting to the different mindset there and her uncompromising views of the teaching of science and a carelessness in dealing with the beliefs of others sets up a fierce clash between her and Micah, a student who takes offence at her dismissive comments, and his protective guardian. Continue reading “Review: How The World Began, Arcola”