Review: A Lie of the Mind, Southwark Playhouse

“Love… its a disease that makes ya’ feel good. While it lasts. Then, when it’s gone, yer worse off than before you caught it”

Despite being blown away by True West, something about Sam Shepard makes me a little wary. I liked rather than loved Fool For Love and ultimately steered clear of the recent Buried Child and it was with a little trepidation that I allowed myself to make my way into A Lie of the Mind, produced here at the Southwark Playhouse by the folks at Defibrillator Theatre. Part of the problem I think lies in my antipathy towards the American dream as a narrative driver, in all honesty I often find I could care less about characters who are constructed around it. So a production has to do a lot to create the kind of context that makes me care and I’d say that director James Hillier just about manages it here, albeit with a couple of reservations.

In rural Montana, a part of the declining American West, the fallout from a particularly vicious episode of the brutally abusive marriage between Jake and Beth plays out. He’s retreated back to his childhood bedroom and she is recovering from her substantial injuries at her family’s cabin and in parallel, we track – through the most abstracted of ways – the dysfunctional family bonds, their violent legacies and the crucially unexpressed love, that have led them to this point and which appear to offer little alternative beyond. Continue reading “Review: A Lie of the Mind, Southwark Playhouse”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Following the successful screenings of Measure for Measure and Ubu Roi, Cheek By Jowl have announced that The Winter’s Tale will be streamed live from the Barbican Centre on 19th April at 7.30pm*, for free.

Cheek by Jowl is an international company, with audiences around the world – as such, we will be screening The Winter’s Tale in English, French and Spanish (subtitled), partnering with BBC Arts Digital, Spain’s El País, France’s Télérama and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia. The screening will also be available with access subtitles.

As well as on these partner sites, the livestream will be available on www.cheekbyjowl.com/livestream, where we will regularly be sharing videos of the cast. This multi-camera screening is made possible due to the support of the Barbican Centre, and funding from The Space, Arts Council England and the BBC.

 
*The show will be available on demand until 7th May 2017.

 

 

Running from 29th June to 16th July, the programme for the 2017 Manchester International Festival has been announced. Highlights include

  • Cotton Panic! An industrial music drama from Jane Horrocks, Nick Vivian and Wrangler
  • <Party Skills for the End of the World, by Nigel Barrett and Louise Mari
  • Thomas Ostermeier directs Nina Hoss in world premiere of Returning to Reims, an urgent response to the populist politic sweeping Europe
  • Theatre-Rites create The Welcoming Party, a site-specific mix of installation, live music, puppetry and dance for families and children, following stories and real life experiences of journeys
  • Created by the people of Manchester from an idea by Jeremy Deller, What is the City but the People takes MIF to the streets for the opening event of the festival
  • Boris Charmatz;s 10,000 Gestures will transform Mayfield Depot with a 25-strong ensemble of dancers
  • Fatherland, a poignant new show created by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Underworld’s Karl Hyde, and playwright Simon Stephens.

An interesting diverse selection, best get looking at trains!

 


Casting is announced today for While We’re Here, a new play by acclaimed writer Barney Norris (Visitors, Bush Theatre; Eventide, Arcola Theatre). Alice Hamilton will direct Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses, BBC; Beacons, Park Theatre) and Andrew French (The Iphigenia Quartet, Gate Theatre; Boi, Boi is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse) in this world premiere which opens the Bush Theatre’s brand new 60 seat Studio. 

Co-Directors of the multi award-winning touring company Up In Arms, Barney Norris and Alice Hamilton return to the Bush following their critically acclaimed production of Visitors, for which Norris won the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Playwright. He has two other productions opening this spring; Echo’s End at Salisbury Playhouse and a revival of Every You Every Me at Oxford Playhouse/ Reading Rep. His debut novel, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, was released last year and is now a bestseller.

“Sometimes I think my whole life has been a frightening time. Well. I remember the crunch of the gravel under my feet walking back up the drive, and thinking my life might be over. I might have had all of my fun. But I was wrong, it turned out. I’ve had a lot of good things since.”

 
Eddie and Carol were lovers once, but their lives went in different directions. Now they meet again in a town full of memories, and find something still burns between them. On the country’s southern margin where the towns give way to the English Channel, both search for the centre of their lives.


Shallower people than me (yeah right…) would might be interested to know in the casting new for Defibrillator’s production of the Sam Shepard play A Lie of the Mind at the Southwark Playhouse. Running from 4th May to 28th May, it may not be the happiest of stories as it looks at two families torn apart by spousal abuse… But with Gethin Anthony and Robert Lonsdale in the cast (both stars of a certain list in 2014), it will at least be nice to look at (and most likely problematic!)

 

Defibrillator artistic director James Hillier will direct the cast which also includes Kate Fahy, Laura Rogers, and John Stahl. 

Leading Man of the Year 2014

Year after year, I bust my ass writing about the hundreds of shows I see yet the most popular posts, without fail, are all about the hotness đŸ˜‰

So let us do the annual ritual of casting off the Daley-like coyness for a while and appreciating the visual pleasure that theatre can bring.

 

The results from 201020112012 and 2013 can be found here for your delectation. And so without further ado, let’s take a deep breath, admire Harington’s abs, and dive into this year’s selection, in no particular order.

 

Continue reading “Leading Man of the Year 2014”

Still-not-a-Review: Japes, Hampstead Downstairs

“You’re too good for me, that’s the trouble”

I continue to have little to say about the Simon Gray quartet of plays – Japes is the third for me – aside from to point you to how they were described on the website. 

“Experience four Simon Gray plays based on the same characters, in the same situation but all telling a different story with opposite conclusions…”
 

If I cared enough, I would start to investigate trade description law. The last one – Missing Dates – comes next week for me at which point I will try to put down how this whole enterprise has made me feel.

Not-a-Review: In the Vale of Health – Japes Too, Hampstead Downstairs

“I don’t mind sharing him with you”

And so back to the downstairs theatre at the Hampstead for round two of Simon Gray’s In the Vale of Health. For me, this is Japes Too – there apparently being no set order in which to see these four plays – after Michael last week, and though I wish I had something to say about Japes Too, I can’t say that I do at this point – it is probably safer to leave it until I’ve seen at least one more.    

Review: In the Vale of Health – Michael, Hampstead Downstairs

“I’ve never had a bad review, at least not in the theatre”

A cycle of four interlinked Simon Gray plays might have seemed a curious enterprise for the Hampstead Theatre but it is one that has paid rich dividends before even a curtain had been raised. The run in the downstairs space sold so well that a transfer upstairs to the main house was quickly announced for In the Vale of Health, four plays which feature the same characters in the same situation but making different decisions – Japes, Japes Too, Michael and Missing Dates.

The play that started it all off is Japes but in the mad rush to get the highly bargainous multi-deal that worked out at a fiver a show, all thoughts of scheduling went out of the window and so I’ll be seeing Japes third and the show that started off my experience was Michael, the one that Gray wrote third in the sequence of exploring the potential worlds of these characters. We were told that the plays could be watched in any order though I can’t help but wonder if seeing Japes first might not have been a better idea.  Continue reading “Review: In the Vale of Health – Michael, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: The Hotel Plays, Langham Hotel

“The world is a circle, and everything comes back to where it started”

A soldier on leave, a lover in the cupboard, an actress in her dotage; newlyweds, mistresses, hucksters; satin pyjamas, warm croissants, endless liquor. Such is the stuff of many a hotel and in the plush surroundings of the Langham, London, all of the above and more can be found in Defibrillator Theatre Company’s revival of The Hotel Plays, a suite of three Tennessee Williams short plays performed in three suites in the hotel itself.

Site-specific performances are sometimes guilty of square peg round hole syndrome but here, the marriage of material and setting is perfect. The seating may not always be the most comfortable but that’s only right as we’re the ones eavesdropping on the private affairs unfolding in these most intimate of surroundings, flies on the wall of Williams’ mini-universes full of heartbreak, hedonism and heists. Continue reading “Review: The Hotel Plays, Langham Hotel”

Review: Boris Godunov, Swan

“Everywhere they curse the name of Boris”

The instinctive reaction when one hears of a production of a lesser-known work by a well-known writer tends to be one of healthy scepticism, as one waits to find out whether there was a good reason for its relative obscurity. But sometimes there are mitigating circumstances and Alexander Pushkin’s 1825 play Boris Godunov – receiving its first ever professional production in English here at the Swan Theatre – sufficiently provoked the ire of the state censors so that it was 30 years after his death before it was first approved and even then, continued political pressure ensured its limited impact.

The uncensored version was finally translated by Adrian Mitchell, premiered at Princeton in 2007 and selected now by Michael Boyd to mark his swansong as AD at the RSC, as part of the ensemble-led globetrotting A World Elsewhere season. And one can see why the Russian authorities wouldn’t have taken too kindly to Pushkin’s satire, indeed still to this day, as wrapped up in the tale of men lying, cheating and murdering their way to become Tsar in the late 1590s is an excoriating indictment of the Russian ruling elite. And what Boyd teases out in this fast-moving version, is that such autocratic leadership is seemingly endemic in this country and so its resonances play out right up to the current day.


Lloyd Hutchinson is an exhilarating presence as the titular Boris, whose increasingly wearied Ulster tones show the weight of a wrongfully seized crown as rumours swell that he murdered the old Tsar’s young heir Dmitry to secure his own place on the throne; Gethin Anthony has a striking energy as the monk Grigory who later grasps the chance to imitate Dmitry and manipulate his way into the hearts and mind of the people and thus grab power for himself, his quicksilver shifts in mood revealing a thrilling emotional instability; and there’s great work from Lucy Briggs-Owen’s pragmatically covetous Polish princess and from James Tucker and Joe Dixon as key courtiers who never allow anything as small as significant political differences to their leader to get in the way of their own advancement. 

Boyd keeps his staging to a minimum on the thrust stage of the Swan, which highlighted his main conceit of the various costumes from different Russian ages hanging at the back of the stage, the players slowly working their way through the wardrobe to reach the Putin-inspired suits of the final scene. And this motif of the changing clothes also allowed for the production’s most striking moment in its evocation of battle-scenes through the beating of coats on the floor, surprisingly effective in its stirring simplicity and indicative of the extremely tight ensemble. John Woolf’s music has a similar unfussy quality that keeps it hauntingly moving and fans of stage gore won’t be disappointed with some grisly moments.

I was kindly invited as part of a bloggers’ event which meant I was lucky enough to get a Q+A session at the end of the show which was lots of fun and highly illuminating in a number of areas: the reality of the experience of actors in a rep season, the relationship with the audience in the open space of the Swan (which brought to mind something of the groundling experience at the Globe for me), the Shakespearean connections that many others were able to draw with Pushkin’s work, and the interesting note that this wasn’t intended to be a comedy but rather that the black humour came naturally through the process of putting it together. Boris Godunov is indeed funnier than one might expect but it also contains two powerful studies of the corrosive effects of chasing power which are superbly brought to life by Hutchinson and Anthony. 

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)

Programme cost: £4
Booking until 30th March

Review: Ditch, Old Vic Tunnels

I’ve listened to all the stories of my generation, then watched ’em get sick or fade away. And it wasn’t this world that killed ’em. It was the other… the memory of it.”

Wandering into the Old Vic Tunnels and being directed towards the section with the seats where the action takes place, one walks past a collection of several strikingly constructed images and montages, animal skins, a cat’s cradle of ropes and lastly a hanging, dissected tree being the most stunning, it wouldn’t look out of place in many a modern art gallery. It’s a highly effective way of setting a suitably atmospheric mood upon entering the complex to see Ditch, the collaboration between the Old Vic and HighTide, but sadly not one which is maintained.

Ditch is set in a post-apocalyptic Britain, the government has largely fallen, violence reigns but a small group of people in the North have banded together in an attempt to keep civilisation going. It’s depressingly reminiscent of Your Nation Loves You, the previous production to take up residence beneath Waterloo, and one which did not go down well in this household. Still, I was determined to give this venue another chance as I can see its potential and hoped that Ditch would be an enlightening experience for me in that respect. Continue reading “Review: Ditch, Old Vic Tunnels”