Review: The Son, Duke of York’s

Some excellent acting makes The Son, Florian Zeller’s latest West End hit, worth a trip to the Duke of York’s Theatre

“Sometimes I feel I’m not made for this life”

British theatre’s determination to adopt Florian Zeller as one of its own continues unabated as the Kiln Theatre’s production of The Son transfers into the Duke of York’s for the autumn. It completes a loose trilogy of family plays (The Father, The Mother) though it is decidedly less tricksy than either of its predecessors.

The subject at hand here is mental health and in some ways, the directness feels like the right choice. A child of a broken home, Nicolas is a troubled soul – his mum Anne is unable to cope on her own, his dad Pierre’s attentions are split with his new family, and no-one seems to really clock how deep his depression runs. Continue reading “Review: The Son, Duke of York’s”

Review: The Height of the Storm, Wyndham’s

Such pleasure in watching Jonathan Pryce and Eileen Atkins onstage plus The Height of the Storm at the Wyndham’s Theatre is great for post-show reconstruction of this deconstructed story 

“What would I do without you?
What would become of me without you?”

As Florian Zeller returns to the London stage with his latest play The Height of the Storm, you get something of the sense that British theatre is patting itself on the back saying ‘look, we do do European theatre’. But as with Ivo van Hove’s continued presence here, there’s a risk that familiarity will breed contempt as the risk of employing European theatremakers is mitigated by picking the same ones over and over.

Which is a bit of a long-winded way of saying that, whilst I enjoyed this immensely, I wonder if we’re approaching diminishing returns territory with Zeller. The Father was an extraordinary piece of storytelling in its disorientating structure and The Height of the Storm occupies a similar territory as we join long-married André and Madeleine and their two daughters and try to work out who is alive, who is dead, and just how many mushrooms there are onstage. Continue reading “Review: The Height of the Storm, Wyndham’s”

#CastingbyClowns – I celebrate as Cate Blanchett and Lucy Cohu return to the stage

Such amazing casting news came our way yesterday, with not one but two of my absolute faves returning to the London stage in the coming months. The starrier of the two is Cate Blanchett, who will appear with Stephen Dillane in a brand new play by Martin Crimp’s directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre in January 2019. The play is enigmatically entitled When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other – Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. (The torture presumably being the absolute scrum there’ll be to get tickets, as the show is going into the NT’s most intimate space, the Dorfman.)

But matching Blanchett in my personal pantheon in Lucy Cohu, an actor whom I’ve longed admired since she broke my heart in the double whammy of Torchwood – Children of Earth on the TV and Speaking in Tongues on the stage. She’s joining the cast of Florian Zeller’s The Height of the Storm, alongside Anna Madeley and Amanda Drew. And given that the cast already contains the previously announced Jonathan Pryce and Dame Eileen Atkins, this ought to be a good’un. That shows arrives at the Wyndham’s Theatre in October after a brief tour of Richmond, Cambridge and Bath. Continue reading “#CastingbyClowns – I celebrate as Cate Blanchett and Lucy Cohu return to the stage”

Review: The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory

“People don’t really want to be told the truth”

Just as The Father comes along with The Mother, The Truth is followed by The Lie. British theatre’s amour fou for Florian Zeller continues apace with another of his comedies making it over to London but are we approaching diminishing returns as we delve deeper into his back catalogue? Director Lindsay Posner and translator Christopher Hampton clearly don’t think so as they return to the Menier Chocolate with The Lie but I’m not so convinced.

The production got off to a rocky start when James Dreyfus had to withdraw due to illness, though choosing Alexander Hanson as his replacement provides a little extratextual spice as he stars opposite his wife Samantha Bond as married couple Paul and Alice. As we meet them, they’re havering over a dinner party they’re hosting that is meant to start imminently – Alice wants to cancel it as she just saw Michel kissing a woman who wasn’t his wife Laurence but their early arrival takes the decision out of their hands. Continue reading “Review: The Lie, Menier Chocolate Factory”

Review: The Truth, Wyndham’s

“Don’t play those games with me”

In these post-referendum times, there’s something a little ironic in the whole-hearted manner withw which British theatre has embraced French playwright Florian Zeller. From The Father to The Mother and now to The Truth, from the Theatre Royal Bath to the heart of the West End, Zeller is clearly having un moment. A moment that has been extended by the Menier Chocolate Factory transferring their production of The Truth into the Wyndham’s Theatre for the summer.

Less inventive and affecting as his other two plays that we’ve seen, The Truth is more of an outright comedy, almost farcical at times, as the affair between Michel and his best friend’s wife Alice threatens to spiral out of control as his own wife seems to be getting closer to discovering what is going on, and who knows what Alice’s husband knows. But as ever with Zeller, it’s very difficult to ascertain exactly what we – or his characters – can believe, the truth is as slippery and unknowable as ever. Continue reading “Review: The Truth, Wyndham’s”

Review: The Mother, Tricycle

“Living with my son again is the best thing that could possibly happen to me; apart from your death”

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? The extraordinary success of The Father, now back in the West End for a second run ahead of a UK tour, has resulted in the Tricycle inviting another Florian Zeller play over from Bath. And if The Mother doesn’t quite scale the same heights of exquisite agony, it houses another storming lead role for another great British actor, Gina McKee following in Kenneth Cranham’s esteemed footsteps.

In the bleached white desolation of Mark Bailey’s design, wife and mother Anne is being hollowed out by depression. Triggered in the main by her adult son Nicholas’ departure from the family home, her sense of empty-nest-syndrome is exacerbated by her severe doubts about her 25 year long marriage to Peter, an upcoming trip to Leicester for a conference masking what she thinks is an affair, her confusion multiplied by her fondness for a bottle, pills or alcohol, either will do. Continue reading “Review: The Mother, Tricycle”

Review: The Father, Wyndham’s

“How long are you going to keep on getting on our tits for?”

It’s hard, trying to wean yourself off an addiction to theatre. You make decisions about what to see, or more accurately what not to see, and then have to stick by them. But then the damn plays get West End transfers and so the resolve has to be reinstated and redoubled, the increasing glowing recommendations from friends ignored. So it will come as no surprise that in the case of Florian Zeller’s The Father, first seen in London at the Tricycle and then moved to the Wyndham’s, I cracked.

I should state that my primary reasons for not going were not about the quality of this Theatre Royal Bath production, but rather that I’d been warned it would make me cry a lot and I don’t much like being distraught in theatres (or cinemas for that matter, I had to wait for Amour to come out on DVD before daring to watch it and rightly so). And as a portrayal of, or a theatrical assumption of, the experience of a dementia-riddled mind, it is certainly most affecting. Continue reading “Review: The Father, Wyndham’s”

The 2015 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best Actor
Kenneth Cranham, The Father, Ustinov Bath, Tricycle Theatre & Wyndham’s Theatre
Ralph Fiennes, Man And Superman, National Theatre’s Lyttelton
James McAvoy, The Ruling Class, Trafalgar Studios
Simon Russell Beale, Temple, Donmar Warehouse

Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress
Denise Gough, People, Places and Things, National Theatre’s Dorfman
Nicole Kidman, Photograph 51 , Noël Coward Theatre
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn, Shakespeare’s Globe
Lia Williams, Oresteia, Almeida Theatre & Trafalgar Studios Continue reading “The 2015 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”