Review: Glengarry Glen Ross, Playhouse

“We’re a dying breed”

Obviously, the choice to stage David Mamet’s ode to toxic masculinity Glengarry Glen Ross was made long before the hashtag #MeToo shattered the blinkers of anyone unaware of what men have been getting away with. But it feels indicative of a theatrical culture that has reflected and reinforced a societal imbalance – all-male plays, written by men, directed by men, lauded by prize ceremonies and thus easy targets (and safer bets) for revivals, a self-perpetuating loop that doesn’t seem to even be coming close to stopping. 

And why should it, one might argue. Sam Yates’ production is astutely cast and tightly wound as it visits the world of Chicago real estate. Firstly through a set of short duologues in a Chinese restaurant in which we variously meet a set of salesmen and discover their place in the pecking order. And then after the interval, they’re all brought together in their office (an impressive almighty set change from Chiara Stephenson) which has been broken into and where all the frustrations and feelings they’ve been bottling up now come tumbling free.  Continue reading “Review: Glengarry Glen Ross, Playhouse”

Review: The House They Grew Up In, Minerva

“This is not only your street with only your stories”

It’s always fascinating to get the opportunity to follow a playwright’s development in real time and so it has been with Deborah Bruce. From Godchild downstairs at the Hampstead (yes, a play written by a woman there!) to The Distance at the Orange Tree, later revived by Sheffield, and now to a Headlong co-production with Chichester, this is clearly a writer moving in the right direction.

The House They Grew Up In is a difficult play to watch though, a drama focused on reclusive siblings Daniel and Peppy whose hermit-like existence in their South-East London home sees them surrounded by the accumulated detritus of everything they’ve ever owned. The arrival of the inquisitive boy from next door, seeking refuge from his own problems, threatens the equilibrium they’ve constructed though, exposing it to severe outside scrutiny like never before. Continue reading “Review: The House They Grew Up In, Minerva”

New season at the NT: June 2017 to January 2018

Lots of exciting news in the National’s new season announcement, taking us up to January 2018, rather putting the lie to the cries of “crisis” that pop up far too easily when a less-than-well-received show (or two) takes up residency there.

Highlights for me include the perfection of this production pic:

The return of Barber Shop Chronicles:
Justine Mitchell and Sam Troughton appearing in a thing together (this may or may not be their feet:
And of course the Ivo van Hove/Lee Hall/Bryan Cranston amazefest that will be Network (which will have some onstage seating!):

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4

“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 and Forest 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.

Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 4”

DVD Review: Salting the Battlefield

“It’s not a question of how it is, it’s a question of how it appears”

Salting the Battlefield is the third and concluding part of the Johnny Worricker trilogy, following on from Page Eight and Turks and Caicos, and sees David Hare wrap up the dramas that he both wrote and directed. Worricker is an ex-MI5 analyst who is on the run from the British authorities after exposing a couple of massive secrets that threaten PM Alec Beasley, a marvelously slimy Ralph Fiennes. From the Caribbean he’s ended up in Germany with former lover and current conspirator Margot but the net is drawing ever closer for an endgame to settle all scores. 

It’s grand to see original players from Page Eight returning. Saskia Reeves’ ambitious Deputy Prime Minister still precarious as ever in her position but finding opportunity in the chaos of her personal and professional life; Judy Davis’ plain-speaking MI5 head still bemoaning the old boys’ club of an institution she appears to have firmly by the balls; and Felicity Jones as Worricker’s under-used daughter. And as stakes are raised in order for scores are settled, there’s a fantastic amount of Machiavellian manipulation by all parties, chillingly conversational confrontation the order of the day here. Continue reading “DVD Review: Salting the Battlefield”

Short Film Review #16

Stalking Ben Chadz

 

The characters of Stalking Ben Chadz – June and Izzy – have appeared in another short film Mourning Rules which I previously reviewed here http://oughttobeclowns.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/short-film-review-5.html and enjoyed so I was pleased to see another film from Montserrat Lombard and Olivia Poulet along with their co-writer Daniel Castella. It’s another brief glimpse into the somewhat batty lives of these sisters, here literally stalking a guy named Ben, who Izzy has decided is the love of her life. It’s witty – the phone call is great fun – and silly and huge amounts of fun, both Lombard and Poulet have a gift for observational comedy and so it’s well worth 2 minutes 30 of your day.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #16”

Short film reviews #8

Another collection of short films that I’ve been pointed to or had recommended to me and which I’ve enjoyed watching. If you have anything you think I should see, drop me an email at the address on the sidebar, and to read other short film reviews, click on the ‘film’ tag at the end of the post.

The Door (trailer) from Andrew Steggall on Vimeo.

Based on the HG Wells tale The Door in the Wall, Andrew Steggall’s short film The Door is a rather lovely piece of film – with a stunningly good cast – which delves into the ambiguous world of between personal memory and boyhood fantasy as an older man tries to make sense of a key event from his past. Charles Dance plays the older Thomas Arlington with a resigned enigmatic quality as he debates with his son, a sharply-suited Elliot Cowan, but clearly distracted by his memory of discovering a magical green door into a extraordinary world.

Continue reading “Short film reviews #8”

DVD Review: All or Nothing

“Love, it’s like a dripping tap”

First up was 2002’s All or Nothing, though it was a little of an inauspicious beginning, as I’m not sure how much I actually liked this film in the end. Set on a modern-day London council estate, it circles the fortunes of three working-class families and their everyday lives, so far so Leigh, but it doesn’t really develop into anything that gripped me. There are several outstandingly strong elements in here, but they never really coalesce into an effective whole but rather remain too separate and thus end up losing some impact.

The focus settles on one of the families: Phil, Timothy Spall, is a taxi driver who has long lost ambition for life and is reduced to scraping pennies from his family in order to pay his retainer for the taxi firm; Penny, Lesley Manville, works the checkout at a supermarket and is struggling to remember what it is she ever loved about Phil. Alison Garland plays their daughter Rachel who works as a cleaner in an old people’s home and is being semi-stalked by Sam Kelly’s much older colleague and James Corden is their unemployed and belligerent son. There’s a whole lot of misery, which is then alleviated by tragedy, which ultimately suggests that life might hold something more. Continue reading “DVD Review: All or Nothing”

Review: Inadmissible Evidence, Donmar Warehouse

“Asking a working writer what he feels about critics is like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs”

Inadmissible Evidence focuses in almost exclusively on Bill Maitland, a lawyer whose life is falling apart. Everyone important to him seems to be abandoning him, work colleagues, the numerous secretaries he’s sleeping with, his angsty daughter, and he exists in a bubble of self-obsessed torture and suffering – nicely realised in Soutra Gilmour’s office set that highlights his isolation – and presumably on the way to some sort of nervous breakdown. Douglas Hodge is thus never off the stage in a marathon of a performance that rarely lets up: he’s desperate to be the life of the party yet prey to numerous neuroses; unable to really connect with anyone yet constantly talking and raging at them; in this world it is all about him and so the play becomes all about him too.

Such focus on Maitland means that the rest of the ensemble have to work extremely hard to make any sort of meaningful impact in the production, Osborne’s writing not helping them a great deal. Daniel Ryan fares best as colleague Hudson, Serena Evans triples up effectively as a series of clients and Al Weaver makes a quietly moving study of his married man arrested for cottaging. But Esther Hall is completely wasted as final mistress Liz, given the merest opportunity to shine as she does extremely well here and Karen Gillan did not seem quite equal to the task as the secretary who has just had enough, coming across as flat and unresponsive, especially up against Hodge. Continue reading “Review: Inadmissible Evidence, Donmar Warehouse”

(Not a) Review: Bull, Finborough

“He only takes part in marathons to sleep with the charity workers”

Mike Bartlett’s new play receives its world premiere here at the Finborough as part of Vibrant, their 30th Anniversary festival celebrating new plays from playwrights with connections to the Finborough theatre. In a move surely designed to provide the West End Whingers with a few more months of jokes, the play is called Bull, making it an ideal companion piece to his last, immensely successful, and Olivier award winning play Cock, I can see the double bill already…A Cock and Bull Story anyone?! The 30 premieres are all staged readings but offer an intriguing look at what some of the most exciting fresh playwrights are currently working on.

Faced with recession and cutbacks, the company has decided to lose someone from Thomas’s team. He is determined it won’t be him, but his two colleagues have other ideas. Daniel Ryan, fresh from his run in Posh as a put-upon publican, is Thomas, a put-upon businessman here, unfortunately not the intellectual equal of his peers and consequently the perfect victim for their goading and bullying, the bull to their matadors assumably. Ryan plays the dunderhead extremely well, his indignant anger doing little to help his cause and the way in which he is cut down quite heartbreakingly difficult to watch. Continue reading “(Not a) Review: Bull, Finborough”