Review: Against, Almeida

For

Against

  • Amanda Hale being excellent in an all-too-rare excursion to the stage
  • Ben Whishaw being Ben Whishaw in his Whishawy way, even if it’s not quite enough to enliven the play
  • Whishaw briefly in his pants, if you like that sort of thing
  • An intelligently sparse design from ULTZ
  • Did I mention Amanda Hale? She comes close to making it all worthwhile

  • The running time
  • The comparative lack of depth to Christopher Shinn’s writing which in no way justifies the above
  • The range of issues which touched upon but not interrogated despite the above
  • The structure of the play which exacerbates the above
  • The inherent misogyny in the writing which only allows men to talk about these issues, however unsatisfactorily
  • The cheap potshots at political correctness, seemingly designed for the Cavendishes and Purves of this world
  • Did I mention the running time?


Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th September

The Almeida’s Hamlet transfers to the Harold Pinter

“Most fair return of greetings and desires”

As follows many a sold out run with a high-profile cast, Almeida Associate Director Robert Icke’s new production of Hamlet transfers to the West End for a strictly limited season this summer (read my review here) from 9th June to 2nd September.

Starring BAFTA and Olivier Award winner Andrew Scott (Sherlock, Birdland, Cock, Pride) as the Danish Prince, Hamlet is brought to the stage by the critically acclaimed and multi-award winning creative team behind 1984 and Oresteia. And in further excellent news, the entire cast is making the trip to the West End (although Juliet Stevenson only until 1st July, no news yet on who might step into Gertrude’s shoes). Continue reading “The Almeida’s Hamlet transfers to the Harold Pinter”

Review: Hamlet, Almeida

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” 

The enduring image of Robert Icke’s Hamlet is family – the repeated motif of group of three cleaving together haunts the production as much as Hamlet’s father himself. From the instant and intense bond established between Polonius, Ophelia and Laertes, Icke makes striking emotional sense of the respective grief and ferocity of the latter two, powerfully played by Jessica Brown Findlay and Luke Thompson against Peter Wight’s twinkling charm as their father.

And Icke also gives the tragic visual of Andrew Scott’s Hamlet trying to rebuild his original family unit, joining hands with his mother and the ghost of his father in the midst of the closet scene, willing Juliet Stevenson’s Gertrude to see what he sees, to put things back the way they used to be. And in a stunning montage for the final scene, these trios reform, emphasising the innate happiness of one and the deep tragedy of the other. It is deeply, deeply felt. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Almeida”

The 2015 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize
James McArdle
, for Platonov in Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre)

Second prize
Elliot Barnes-Worrell, for Straker in Man and Superman (National Theatre)

Third prize
Freddie Fox
, for Romeo in Romeo and Juliet (Sheffield Crucible)

Commendations

Joel MacCormack, for Orestes in The Oresteia (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Ken Nwosu, for Silvius in As You Like It (National Theatre)
Jack Colgrave Hirst, for Clown in The Winter’s Tale (Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company at the Garrick Theatre)
Joshua James, for Konstantin in The Seagull and Nikolai in Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Emily Barber, for Imogen in Cymbeline (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Jenny Rainsford, for Miss Prue in Love for Love (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Jessica Baglow, for Marina in Pericles (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Jessica Brown Findlay, for Elektra in Oresteia (Almeida Theatre and Trafalgar Studios)

TV Review: Shakespeare Lives – The Works

 
“Make me acquainted with your cause of grief”

The Works is a short film written and directed by Elliot Barnes-Worrell that rather ingeniously explores life for a group of young people on a Peckham estate using only the words of Shakespeare. Barnes-Worrell has worked his way through the Complete Works and woven together his own story by splicing diverse characters and speeches into one powerfully effective whole.

So when tension erupts into a fight between rival factions (“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”), a nearby do-gooder called Portia intervenes to break them up (“The quality of mercy is not strained…”), breaking off from a chat with her girlfriend Celia (you always knew that, right?!) and so on and so forth. Barnes-Worrell is endlessly inventive in the way he cherry-picks the source material but it isn’t always immediately clear who is who in the power structures on this estate. Continue reading “TV Review: Shakespeare Lives – The Works”

Can’t Be Fecked With A Review: Man and Superman, National Theatre

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”

Not gonna lie, the prospect of Man and Superman has had me vacillating between

and

after ill-timed illness meant we couldn’t use our £15 seats in the front row. Some stalking of the website got me another cheap seat but this time up in the circle slips which is somewhere I never want to sit again – it may be a bargain but you sacrifice an awful lot to tucked away up there (although the individual seats are quite nifty themselves).

The play itself isn’t bad, not as good as I’d hoped in all honesty given how lovely and sunny it was outside, and I rarely felt that inspired by it (a consequence of being much farther away than I’m used to I think). So for this one, I’m abdicating my blogging responsibilities and you’ll have to look elsewhere for a review…

 

Running time: 3 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 17th May

Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC at Theatre Royal Newcastle

“Foster’d, illumin’d, cherish’d, kept alive”

I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at making work trips coincide with theatrical opportunities and as with last year, the stars aligned to put me in Newcastle at the same time as the RSC, and to see a Shakespeare play I’d never seen before as well (only six more to go and one of those will come this weekend). Two Gentlemen of Verona doesn’t get anywhere near as much exposure as some of the others, a recognition that as an early play – possibly even the first he ever wrote – it bears the marks of a playwright still very much working his way into his craft.
It also plants the seeds of what would grow into several of his hallmark devices – the liberating freedom of the forest to solve the problems of the town or court, a woman dressed as a man, sudden and random declarations of love – but they’re deployed here with a little clumsiness as the quartet of lovers here wind their way through the trials and tribulations of love’s young dream. Where Simon Godwin’s production succeeds though is in embracing these issues and shifting the tone of the play from a comedy to more of a problem play.

This ambiguity really does work and is clearly emphasised in the final reconciliations – it is no given that this is a genuinely happy ending and this complexity, paired with a modern-dress version from Godwin, manages to make the play work in a way I can’t imagine a traditional one ever would. Mark Arends’ Proteus is darn well near to being a dastardly villain as he betrays Pearl Chanda’s appealing Julia something rotten, and Michael Marcus’ Valentine matches well with Sarah MacRae’s Silvia, even with a less fascinating storyline.
Then there’s a dog. Which seemingly everyone loved but me. Thank the Lord that Will got out of that habit early on as there’s something bizarre in the hold that animals seem to hold over theatre-going audiences, to the point where there’ll happily ignore everything and everyone aside from the canine critter. (I’m not an animal person, can you tell.) I can’t say I’ll be rushing back to see this play again but I’m pleased that my first experience thereof was with as intelligent a production as this.
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 11th October

The 2013 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Jack Lowden, for Oswald in Ghosts (Almeida Theatre)

Second prize

Jessie Buckley, for Miranda in The Tempest (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Princess Katharine in Henry V (Noël Coward Theatre)

Third prize

Graham Butler, for Henry VI in Henry VI, Parts I, II & III (Shakespeare’s Globe)

Commendations

Fisayo Akinade, for Adam, Silvius, and William in As You Like It (Transport Theatre on tour)
Elliot Barnes-Worrell, for the Groom in Richard II (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Nari Blair-Mangat, for Caithness in Macbeth (Manchester International Festival)
Gavin Fowler, for Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Noël Coward Theatre) and Florizel in The Winter’s Tale (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Kim Hardy, for Konstantin in The Seagull (The White Bear)
Brian Markey, for Hugh in Mixed Marriage (Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Charlene McKenna, for Regina in Ghosts (Almeida Theatre)
Rose Reynolds, for Lavinia in Titus Andronicus (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Gemma Soul, for Rose in The Recruiting Officer (Salisbury Playhouse)
Luke Thompson, for Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Olivia Vinall, for Desdemona in Othello (National Theatre)

Review: Richard II, Barbican

“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me”

I am aware that I’m flying in the face of received wisdom here but I really wasn’t a fan of the RSC’s Richard II. The announcement of David Tennant in the leading role ensured its sell-out success (regardless of the actual strength of the production) and its transfer to the Barbican after its initial run in Stratford-upon-Avon likewise proved to be the quickest of sellers. Its critical notices have been close to superlative too, so the level of expectation was certainly high.

But for all of this, I found Gregory Doran’s production to be largely quite dull, it hardly ever provoked excitement or even piqued my interest in the slow-moving telling of its tale of regime change and the corrosive effects of absolute monarchy on the individual. The inferences of a Christ-like demeanour to this King are heavily played and Tennant laps this up, irascible and irritable throughout and increasingly given to thoughts of his own divinity. Intentional perhaps, but hard to like. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Barbican”