Review: The Madness of George III, Nottingham Playhouse

I like almost everything about The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse Theatre apart from the main performance…

“I am not going out of my mind, my mind is going out of me”

Mark Gatiss has been getting rave reviews for his performance in The Madness of George III at Nottingham Playhouse but for me, there was just a little bit too much of
for my liking. There’s lots to love in Adam Penfold’s production, particularly in key supporting roles like Adrian Scarborough’s Dr Willis and Debra Gillett’s Queen Charlotte, and some of the smaller parts like Nadia Albina’s Fitzroy and Jack Holden’s Greville.

And I enjoyed that Penfold cast several of the ostensibly male parts with women, allowing the likes of Louise Jameson and Stephanie Jacob. Throw in a lusciously opulent design from Robert Jones and strikingly dramatic lighting from Richard Howell, and it’s a real theatrical treat, a real statement of intent from this nicely ambitious artistic director.  Continue reading “Review: The Madness of George III, Nottingham Playhouse”

DVD Review: Othello (1990)

“Horribly stuffed with epithets of war”

When starting this DVD rewatching enterprise, I knew I’d be happy to see actors I knew and loved earlier on in their careers but I had barely a thought for the directors, particularly Trevor Nunn. His reputation precedes him so far now (in terms of keeping a wide berth) that it is hard to think of him as the interesting and innovative talent that got him to that place but through his stunning Macbeth and this Othello, the evidence is here.

His 1989 RSC Othello played The Other Place to intimate audiences, as did his Macbeth, and it is an approach that pays dividends once again. Still a hefty three and a half hours, its American Civil War setting lends an interesting dynamism in which some brilliant key casting allows real fire and emotion to flourish in a drama that tends to the domestic in its bitter jealousies, fevered realisations and misappropriated affection. Continue reading “DVD Review: Othello (1990)”

Review: The Empty Quarter, Hampstead Downstairs

“It’s easy to get carried away here, it happens to everyone”

Alexandra Wood’s The Empty Quarter may find itself the victim of slightly unfortunate timing – a play about tough working conditions in the oil-rich Gulf States would lead many, who have seen recent headlines, to thoughts of the horrendous plight of migrant workers in Qatar. That the play is actually about a much higher grade of worker in Dubai, housed in palatial flats and raking in a healthy tax-free income, may initially throw you, but the story it tells of the strictures of life on the Arabian Peninsula has its own compelling drama.

From the outset, it is clear that mid-twenties couple Greg and Holly haven’t quite taken to Dubai like the proverbial duck to water. What seemed attractive in the brochures seems unreal and hollow in the flesh, the comparative social isolation is particularly hard for Holly who isn’t working and an ill-advised jaunt into the desert resulted in something like second-degree burns. But when Greg takes matters into his own hands and quits his job, they discover that the rules are entirely different out here and that they’re in for the long haul whether they like it or not. Continue reading “Review: The Empty Quarter, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: This House, National Theatre

“We have traditions, gentlemen’s agreements…things to help us to the best we can”

It’s always nice when karma works out in your favour. A clash in the schedule meant that I had to return my original ticket for This House and as the run was completely sold out, I was doubtful that I’d get to see the show. But as it turned out, standing tickets in the pit had just been released and so for the princely sum of £5, I was able to take in an early preview of James Graham’s new play for the National Theatre.

Set in the halls of Westminster across the incident-ridden 1974-1979 parliament, This House occupies that strange ground of fictionalised reality that so many playwrights seem to love. Graham has taken inspiration from the real events of the time – the hung parliament, economic crises, changes in leadership and a surprisingly high mortality rate among MPs – and created his own version of events. His focus lies with the whips on both sides and it is from their perspective that we see events occur, as they troubleshoot left, right and centre, struggle to control their wayward members and do deal after deal with their opposing counterparts, observing the age-old traditions and principles that serve in place of a constitution. Continue reading “Review: This House, National Theatre”

Review: Macbeth, Crucible

“I go, and it is done”

They appear to be creatures of habit up in Sheffield. Just as big musicals pop up at Christmas, a high profile Shakespeare forms the centrepiece of their autumn schedules and powerless to resist once again, I made my way to the Crucible, this time for Macbeth. Last year’s Othello was an extraordinary success – John Simm’s Hamlet the year before somewhat less to my tastes – and the casting news of Geoffrey Streatfeild and Claudie Blakley whetted my appetite for what lay ahead in Daniel Evans’ production.

But part of the problem in investing too much expectation in anticipated performances means that one can end up blinded to the more general merits of a production through the haze of disappointment. And so it was here as the central casting just doesn’t seem to work. I have no problem at all with atypical interpretations of characters, such subversions often lead the way to sensational new insight, but I simply couldn’t get a handle on what was trying to be done here. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Crucible”

DVD Review: North Square

“Do the thing you have to to get your client off”

Helen McCrory first came to my attention as one of the lead characters in legal ensemble show North Square. Broadcast on Channel 4 in 2000, it featured a cracking ensemble that also included Rupert Penry-Jones, Dominic Rowan and Phil Davis, yet it only had the one series which I don’t think you can get on DVD but it is available to watch on Channel 4’s 4 On Demand service.

Written by Peter Moffat, North Square is a drama set in a criminal chambers in Leeds and centres on a group of young, irreverent barristers all determined to make their mark by using unorthodox methods and unconventional approaches to counter the dusty practices of a legal profession they want to lead into the twenty-first century. They are led by their chief clerk, the highly manipulative Peter McLeish played brilliantly by Phil Davis, who is determined to make a success of this enterprise and has no scruples about negotiating with the criminal families that rule Leeds in order to maximise business opportunities even as it poses a moral quandary for some of the lawyers. Continue reading “DVD Review: North Square”