Review: King Lear, Minerva

“He hath always but slightly, known himself”

As I wrote when the full cast was first announced, “the world is hardly crying for more productions of King Lear but if you’re going to put it on, you might as well go balls out on some amazing casting”. And now that the time has come to trek over to Chichester Festival Theatre to catch Ian McKellen revisiting a role he has already been most renowned for playing, you’re left in awe once again at the luxuries casting director Anne McNulty has brought to bear in Jonathan Munby’s modern-dress and modern-spirited production.

Chief among them is Sinéad Cusack’s Kent. It’s a casting decision that deserves the emphasis for Chichester has long been a venue where female representation has struggled across the board and though it is still early days yet for Daniel Evans’ tenure here, any steps are welcome. Tamara Lawrance as Cordelia is another example and a powerful contrast too. Where Cusack brings all her experience to bear as a superbly nuanced Kent (whose disguising gains real resonance), Lawrance brings a freshness of spirit to her most compassionate reading of Lear’s youngest daughter.

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Casting for Chichester’s King Lear announced

“Reason not the need”

The world is hardly crying for more productions of King Lear but if you’re going to put it on, you might as well go balls out on some amazing casting (all credit to casting director Anne McNulty here). Jonathan Munby’s production had already announced Ian McKellen as part of the ensemble (teasing an interesting casting breakdown that didn’t actually come to anything) but that’s a small niggle in what is otherwise some excellent news.

  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Dervla Kirwan, Kirsty Bushell and Tamara Lawrance as Goneril, Regan and Cordelia
  • Jonathan Bailey and Damien Molony as Edgar and Edmund
  • Sinéad Cusack as Kent
  • Michael Matus (Oswald), Dominic Mafham (Albany) and Patrick Robinson (Cornwall) in there as well
  • Danny Webb as Gloucester
  • Did I mention Sinéad Cusack as Kent?
  • I can take or leave Phil Daniels as the Fool but he may well surprise.

Tickets are all sold out so you might want to monitor regularly for returns or hope for the transfer which one suspects is already in the making.

Barely-a-Review: No Man’s Land, Wyndham’s

“You know what it’s like when you’re in a room with the light on and then suddenly the light goes out? I’ll show you. It’s like this.”
He turns out the light.
BLACKOUT”

I do try and test my prejudices when it comes to playwrights for whom I have little fondness but the reality is that its hard to psyche yourself up in the name of being open-minded. Pinter is one of those writers for me, I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed myself at one of his plays and at this point, I can’t see myself having a breakthrough moment with him in the way that I did with, say, Chekhov.

The main reason I allowed myself to be persuaded to see Sean Mathias’ production of No Man’s Land, previously seen in New York, was the cast – theatrical royalty in Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart plus Damian Molony and Owen Teale – but even then I can’t say that I was anything but bored in this tale of two old actors who may or may not share a past and waste a whole lotta breath skirting around it.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 17th December

DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2

“You believe in laws but there are only lechers”

For some reason or other, I stopped watching the second series of Ripper Street midway through and it’s taken me until now to finally finish it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s more likely to do with running out of time to watch it on the iPlayer or something but anyhoo, I’ve managed it now. My review of Series 1 (which I thoroughly appreciated) is over here and I have to say that that enjoyment has continued, even if I do have a few reservations about its female voices.

It’s a shame that in a crime procedural led by three men, two of the leading supporting female characters did not return for this second series. DI Reid’s wife and kind-of-mistress (Amanda Hale and Lucy Cohu) are both MIA, losing all the work done to establish them, and though Leanne Best is introduced as a local politician who can’t help but flirt with Reid (he’s played by Matthew Macfadyen after all), the overall weight of the series does thus feel a little unbalanced.

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TV Review: Crashing Series 1, Channel 4

“Everyone fucks everyone, eventually”

I wrote here about the first episode of Crashing, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s sitcom for Channel 4, and though it didn’t really float my boat, I did persevere with the rest of the series. Truth be told though, it was just more of the same – I continued to like what I liked about it and similarly, what substantially rubbed me up the wrong way continued to bug me.

Namely, the thoroughly unlikeable nature of Waller-Bridge’s self-played lead Lulu, crashing into the lives of old friend Anthony and his fiancée Kate and doing her utmost to fuck up their relationship in order to act on their hitherto unexplored lifelong sexual tension. Not that characters have to be likeable to be good but I found nothing redeemable in Lulu, just a thoroughly obnoxious selfishness that turned me off pretty much the whole show. Continue reading “TV Review: Crashing Series 1, Channel 4”

TV Review: Crashing, Channel 4

Someone needs an orgasm”

After the Olivier Award-nominated success of her solo show Fleabag, Phoebe Waller-Bridge has now made the leap to the small screen with Crashing, a new six-part comedy which is airing on Channel 4. Reuniting her with frequent creative partner Vicky Jones, its set-up involves a group of youngish Londoners who have opted out of increasing rental rates and signed up as property guardians for a disused hospital in which they now reside. 

It’s hard to judge a series on its first episode alone but it does feel that Crashing has a way to go if it is going to work effectively. The writing does feel rather derivative – I kept having flashbacks to The One, with its repeated fake-outs – and rather too determined to be bolshy and indeed banterish, instead of, well, funny. The jokes about tampons, lesbian porn et al try too hard, the will-they-won’t-hey trope is deployed twice in this first episode alone, there’s work to be done…  Continue reading “TV Review: Crashing, Channel 4”

Some initial points of interest* about The Hard Problem at National Theatre

  • Damien Molony looking cute in a cardigan
  • The line “she was milking the family buffalo at 8” is mentioned. It is a winner.
  • Damien Molony looking strangely alluring in a lady’s shorty robe
  • Olivia Vinall looks to be the new Hattie Morahan, and delivers the leading role here with a delightful mixture of charm and confidence – nice to see her outwith Shakespearean damsel mode for once
  • Damien Molony’s thighs in said robe. *swoons*
  • Stoppard hasn’t reined in his tendency to lay his research bare. Not sure what a hedge fund is? A character conveniently asks the question to allow an explanation… Nor is there a huge deal of sophistication in his plotting, the twists that come seem rather obvious (though this could possibly have been his intention)
  • Damien Molony in his boxers
  • The play does have some meaty, fascinating aspects to it though, pairing up thoughtful forays into God versus science and the mind versus the brain, whilst also delving into the financial markets, research ethics and the vagaries of human behaviour, especially under pressure. Heaven only knows what those who’ve done their homework will make of it, for me it could do with exploiting the emotional angle more fully.
  • For all his hotness, Damien Molony could really do with enunciating and projecting a little better.
  • And plus ça change at the Dorfman/Cottesloe as in its end-on configuration, Row S clearly stands for severely restricted view – the cheap seats in the gallery on the right hand side (looking at the stage) cut off an area where Hytner frustratingly places actors on a regular basis. Even leaning didn’t really help. And with all the recent renovation work, it’s surprising the NT hasn’t managed to put signs up to Door C or Row S (or indeed placed ushers on that level to help out customers).
  • I continue to love Lucy Robinson, my first ever Lady Macbeth, even when she’s forced to swear like she’s in a Richard Curtis film.
  • Some gorgeous brainwave and synapse-inspired design work by Bob Crowley and lighting designer Mark Henderson make it visually arresting, though the reliance on the piano soundtrack felt a little clichéd and uninspired. Press go in on Wednesday though it is hard to imagine, that with this being Hytner’s directorial swansong as Artistic Director and Stoppard’s first new play in nine years, that a certain air of benevolence won’t characterise a goodly portion of the critical responses. If you’ve been already, let me know what you thought of it.

*Yes, shallowness abounds but hey, it’s Friday night.
Show information can be found here
Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 16th April (though new dates to be released in next booking period and returns often pop up)

Review: The Body of an American, Gate

“People ask me questions they don’t want the answers to”

Paul is a Canadian photographer, Dan is an aspiring American playwright, and they’re the two main characters of The Body of an American. In real life, Paul Watson is a photojournalist who won awards for a shocking picture of the body of a US soldier being dragged through Mogadishu by Somali insurgents, and Dan O’Brien is a writer who has pulled together fragments of Watson’s biography and pieces of their own burgeoning relationship – as initial respect turns into genuine friendship – into a freewheeling study of how guilt can corrode the soul.

Photojournalism has proven a richly fascinating topic for contemporary writers (Lucy Kirkwood’s Chimerica, Vivienne Franzmann’s The Witness) and so too it proves here, initially at least. Paul is tormented by the idea that his photo was a desecration of sorts of the dead soldier and craves forgiveness; and Dan suggests, obliquely, that the picture had a huge part to play in the geo-politics of the region and can even be said to have prefigured 9/11. It’s a leap, a huge one, but barely touched upon in this fast-moving, almost free-associating complex piece of writing. Continue reading “Review: The Body of an American, Gate”

Short Film Review #11

The latest set of short films that have crossed my path.

I haven’t covered any animated films before, but the voice cast for Cooked was just too irresistible, featuring as it does Katherine Parkinson, Stephen Mangan and David Morrissey. And I’m glad I did as this tale of an everyday love triangle between a walrus, a lobster and a seal by German animators Jens & Anna is just adorable. My limited experience in the field makes the comparison with Aardman’s work a little lazy but it really does have some of the same fresh and quirky sense of humour about it and visually it looks really impressive, using a variety of techniques to create something that feels nicely different. At barely six minutes long, you should definitely give this a watch. Continue reading “Short Film Review #11”