Re-review: Beginning, Ambassadors

 “If you knew everything about my life, you wouldn’t like me.
‘I don’t think there’s a person in this world you could say any different about.'”

Things worth beginning:
– a nice run of plays transferring into the Ambassadors as it really is a nicely intimate theatre and obvs it has now been released from the long-running tyranny of Stomp
– a playlist based on cheesy tunes in the style of Modjo’s Lady (Hear Me Tonight), or maybe just find my copy of Now 47
– a reassessment of David Eldridge (on my part at least) as the troubled memory of The Knot of the Heart far outweighs the glories of In Basildon in my mind
– redecorating the kitchen, using the beautiful tiling from Fly Davis’ design as an inspiration
and 
– cooking myself a fish finger in said kitchen when I am sober (I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had one sober!) (I’d be using tartare sauce though, none of this ketchup/mayo combo nonsense)

Continue reading “Re-review: Beginning, Ambassadors”

Review: Beginning, National Theatre

“I feel like my life’s turning on the toss of a coin”

There’s something about the sweet spot as the embers of a house party start to die out – people lingering behind usually there for a reason (as in the prettiest boy I ever did kiss), conversations that delve right into the deep stuff. And so it is for Laura and Danny in David Eldridge’s new play Beginning – it’s 2.40am and he’s the last one left at the housewarming do at her new pad in Crouch End.

But it’s not quite as simple as that (it never is – that boy moved to LA). Both firmly middle-aged, the weight of Laura and Danny’s potential encounter is revealed to be ever more significant as they edge towards a truth that there might be more than just a quickie on the cards, that the spark of a connection they both might be feeling could be the beginning of something more and not just a reaction to the intense loneliness they’re both feeling in this modern world. They’ve just got to get to that point. Continue reading “Review: Beginning, National Theatre”

TV Review: The Scandalous Lady W

“My mother did not tell me playing rantum-scantum would be thus”

To be in a marriage where your partner wants you to sleep with Oliver Chris on the side might seem like an ideal scenario for several people I know, but as The Scandalous Lady W shows us, dreams rarely match up to reality. Continuing my belated catch-up of TV from throughout 2015, BBC2 repeated this 90 minute drama from the summer and finally having the time to watch things, I sat down for some Georgian shenanigans.

Written by David Eldridge from Hallie Rubenhold’s book Lady Worsley’s Whim, The Scandalous Lady W tells the sorry marital woes of  Seymour, Lady Worsley. Married to Tory MP Sir Richard Worsley, the heiress was taken aback to discover that his carnal desires stretched wanting her to sleep with other men whilst he peeped through the keyhole and whilst she complied at first – a man’s wife being his property and all – she eventually eloped with one of them. Continue reading “TV Review: The Scandalous Lady W”

Review: In Basildon, Royal Court

“There’s no new beginnings for families like ours. And there never has been.”

One of David Eldridge’s most recent previous plays – The Knot of the Heart for the Almeida – proved to be one of the most divisive I’ve experienced in terms of the response from the critics who lauded it and so many of the bloggers and audience members of my acquaintance who really did not like it at all. So when the new season at the Royal Court was announced featuring a new play by him, I was OK with not booking it as it helped me with my ‘I will cut down on the amount of theatre I see’ mantra. But then they announced the cast and as soon as I saw the names Linda Bassett and Ruth Sheen I knew that I would have to book for In Basildon. Bassett blew me away in the Arcola’s undersung The Road To Mecca and Sheen is an actress whose work I have recently revisited and adored in recent Mike Leigh films, and the Leigh connection is furthered with the presence of other regular collaborators Peter Wight and Wendy Nottingham. So I was a mixture of reluctance and eager anticipation as I schlepped off to Sloane Square to catch the final preview.

Dying from prostate cancer, salt-of-the-earth Len has returned to the home he inherited from his parents as friends and family gather round his sickbed. Sister Doreen and best friend Ken lead the group but the atmosphere is shaken by the return of estranged sister Maureen who hasn’t spoken to ‘Dor’ in nearly 20 years. As Len passes away, attention turns to his will as everyone seems to have a claim on something, including Pam from next door, Doreen’s son Barry and his wife, and Shelley, Maureen’s daughter and Eldridge explores the tensions that emerge from these family loyalties and how they change over time and across the generations. The complexities of sibling relationships are brutally exposed but also overlaid with a frank discussion about class and how it is intrinsically connected to location, their working-class politics shaped by hard-earned experience. Confrontational, conflicted and compelling, Eldridge’s writing speaks with the darkest of humour but also the ring of a deep emotional truth. It’s just a shame that the Royal Court have decided to play the ‘tricksy’ card with the staging. Continue reading “Review: In Basildon, Royal Court”

2012 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Male Performance
Aden Gillett in Accolade at the Finborough
Trystan Gravelle in Honest at the Queen’s Head Pub
Michael Matus in The Baker’s Wife at the Union
David Wilson Barnes in Becky Shaw at the Almeida

Best Female Performance
Kelly Burke in Zelda at the Charing Cross Hotel
Vicky Campbell in I Am A Camera at the Rosemary Branch
Lisa Dillon in Knot Of The Heart at the Almeida
Vinette Robinson in Tender Napalm at the Southwark Playhouse

Best New Play
Knot of The Heart by David Eldridge at the Almeida 
Mogadishu by Vivienne Franzmann at the Lyric Hammersmith
The Kitchen Sink by Tom Wells at the Bush Continue reading “2012 Offie Award Finalists”

Review: The Stock Da’Wa, Hampstead Downstairs

“What is the real truth of our lives?”

The Stock Da’Wa by David Eldridge was perhaps a surprising choice for me to go to given how strongly I reacted against his other play in London at the moment, The Knot of the Heart at the Almeida, but I do try to keep an open mind and be willing to have it changed. Plus, the downstairs at Hampstead Theatre season has been an interesting mix, featuring another strong cast here and the directorial return of the marvellous Kathy Burke.

Paul, a young heavily bearded man has returned to the village of Stock where he went to school. He’s reunited with his old English teacher Mr Wilson and Joan, the woman who was his unofficial foster mother, at her house and they are surprised to see him, not least because it is the dead of night but also because his nose and shirt is covered in blood. But this is no ordinary reunion, as we soon find out that it is 20 years since Paul was last here and he has changed a lot, there’s unresolved issues around the death of Joan’s son and everyone’s recollections of the past vary slightly on crucial details and are less rose-tinted than fractious and rancorous. Continue reading “Review: The Stock Da’Wa, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: The Knot of the Heart, Almeida

“If we don’t like it, we can get on a boat to the Isle of Wight”

Following the well-received, sharply funny Becky Shaw into the Almeida is David Eldridge’s new play The Knot of the Heart about middle-class drug addiction: this is a review of a preview performance on Monday 14th March. The play stars Lisa Dillon, for whom the central character was specifically written, as comfortably middle-class Lucy whose recreational drug use leads to her losing her job as a children’s TV presenter and sets her on a downwards spiral into genuine hard addiction as her mother and sister struggle to deal with the impact it has on the family.

On Peter McKintosh’s set of sliding glass panels and doors, dividing up the revolve into ever-shifting living rooms, hospitals, bars in and around Islington, we see how Lucy’s life crumbles around her, reduced to stealing from her sister and forced to move back into her mother’s house, unable to extricate herself from the grip of heroin no matter how grim things get. But what Eldridge is also interested in looking at is how Lucy’s key relationships are affected and defined by her addiction, how parental and sisterly love can actually help to enable it due to differing attitudes to drugs: at one point, the mother actually goes out to buy the heroin for her daughter from a guy at a bakery on Upper Street, after she is raped by a different dodgy dealer, at another she wonders whether she should have stopped Lucy’s teenage dabbling in pot, despite finding it innocuous at the time given her own youthful experiences in the 60s. Continue reading “Review: The Knot of the Heart, Almeida”

Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange

“What is it you long for?”

The second part of my double bill at Manchester’s Royal Exchange was the production in the main theatre Ibsen’s The Lady From The Sea. Presented here in a new version by David Eldridge, using a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund, it marks the third time Eldridge has delved into the Nordic playwright’s work, this time working his stuff on one of his lesser-performed works. Just as a quick aside, I can highly recommend the blueberry cheesecake muffin from the bar at the theatre, it was a little piece of heaven!!

Set in a small fjordside Norwegian town, living a passive half life between sea and mountains, Ellida broods over her past love, despite having settled into a comfortable marriage of convenience with Doctor Wangel. Her reluctance to play the role of doting wife and stepmother results in Wangel bending over backwards to try and please her by inviting a man from her past to stay and cheer her up yet a web of misunderstandings and frustrations, that stretches all the way throughout this household, as the pull between domesticity and emotional freedom is explored. Continue reading “Review: The Lady From The Sea, Royal Exchange”