Review: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Print Room

“Everyone is sensitive to something”

Given the amount of writing that Tennessee Williams produced – not a year goes past without a premiere of some new short play or other by him – it’s no surprise that there’s a good deal of his work that falls into the little-performed category. A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur is one such play, written in 1976 and now revived at Notting Hill’s Print Room, directed by Michael Oakley.

In a St Louis, Missouri apartment sometime in the 1930s, a group of women spend a sweltering Sunday preparing for a picnic, illuminating as Williams so often does, the precarious nature of women’s place in society. All four are single but at different stages in their life and naturally it is the youngest – civics teacher Dorothea – who is the driving force, believing she has the most at stake. Continue reading “Review: A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, Print Room”

Review: 3 Winters, National Theatre

“Governments fall, wars break out – there’ll be nothing left of this country”

Recent Croatian history forms the fascinating backdrop to Tena Štivičić’s 3 Winters, a multi-generational family drama that stretches across nearly 70 years and endless drama, both political and personal. From the 1945 establishment of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that replaced the monarchy and promised a bright future, to its collapse in 1990 presaging both independence and the bitterly fought Balkan conflicts of that decade, and then on again to a 2011 that heralds another form of confederacy as Croatia enters into EU accession talks. Štivičić’s focus remains on a single household throughout but it can’t help but be influenced by the turbulence of the times.

That household is the Zagreb home of the Kos family, a plush place passed into their hands during the nationalisation of property at the end of the Second World War. So the residence that Monika previously served in becomes the house her daughter Rose moves into with her daughter Masha. Masha grows up to be a forthright wife and mother of two and as the clan gathers to celebrate the wedding of one of those daughters Lucia, years of frustrations and secrets and history and lies begin to uncoil as past events catch up with present actions. Štivičić takes her time to set up the play in a languorous first half but the pay off is intensely wielded after the interval. Continue reading “Review: 3 Winters, National Theatre”

DVD Review: Stage Beauty

“A woman playing a woman, where’s the trick in that” 

Any film with Clare Higgins yelling ‘give me back my merkin’ is surely destined for stone cold classic status but 2004’s Stage Beauty seems to have slipped from people’s minds whereas I always remembered it as a film I really enjoyed, more so that Shakespeare in Love. Much will depend on your opinion of Claire Danes but this tale of the rapidly changing world of the theatre during Charles II’s reign proved much more enjoyable than Shakespeare in Love ever did, and offers a fascinating, even-handed look at how both the men and women of the stage were affected by the decision to ban the former from playing the latter.

Billy Crudup’s Ned Kynaston has become one of the top actors in town, specialising in female characters like Othello’s Desdemona in which he frequently steals the show and aided by his faithful dresser Maria, played by Danes. She has a burning desire to act on the stage herself but since the Puritans outlawed such a thing in professional theatres, she’s limited to appearing in grubby pub theatres on the fringe (plus ça change…). The thespian desires of Charles’ ambitious mistress Nell Gwynn seem set to change that completely though, along with the fortunes of all concerned. Continue reading “DVD Review: Stage Beauty”

Review: Hotel, National Theatre

“It’s the same old colonial shit, just dressed in the shiny drag of free market capitalism”

Though Polly Stenham has been definitively anointed the next big thing by any number of feature writers, her repeated brand of “posh dysfunction” (I’m borrowing this from someone but I forget exactly who) has never really got my pulse racing. So when Hotel, her play for the National Theatre’s formerly-The-Shed-but-now-called-The-Temporary-Space-I-think, opens with two precocious teenagers and two bourgeois parents all suffering from the malaise of being that only a holiday to a luxurious African island resort can cure, my heart did verily sink.

Mother Vivienne has just had to resign from the cabinet due to a sex scandal that has engulfed her stay-at-home husband Robert whilst kids Ralph and Frankie look on bemusedly although not without some deeper connection as it turns out. But as we settle down for (yet another) family drama, Stenham pulls out the rug from us (and them) with a massive tonal shift which throws everyone off-balance, so much so that I’m not sure we ever regain a satisfactory equilibrium between the two very different parts of the play. Continue reading “Review: Hotel, National Theatre”

Review: Amygdala, Print Room Balcony

“I should imagine perspective plays a part”

Geraldine Alexander’s last stage outing in The Empty Quarter was pretty astoundingly good so I was intrigued to see how her debut as a playwright would turn out in Amygdala, tucked away in a found space at The Print Room. Hermione Gulliford plays Catherine, a successful lawyer with a busy family life who finds herself unravelling when a chance encounter on a bus leads to a heady affair with a handsome young man, Alex Lanipekun’s Joshua, but one with terrible consequences.

In the aftermath, Jasper Britton’s psychiatrist Simon is charged with trying to fix the emotional wreckage, the damage done to the ‘amygdala’ – the part of the brain where emotion and memory reside – but in delving into her psyche, he unwittingly stirs part of his own. It is a simply drawn play – although one full of densely complex thoughts and writing – but one in which both of Catherine’s key relationships feel curiously unrealistic – the therapist’s couch unleashes a high degree of unprofessionalism and the affair feels a little convenient.

That said, there is no doubting the quality of the acting in Alexander’s production (she directs too) particularly from Gulliford in the intense later stages of the play. Britton is strong too as he tries to suggest why such a seasoned worker might be tempted to cross a crucial boundary and Lanipekun plays off his handsome looks most effectively. The awkwardness of the space means that the production always seems like it is struggling against something but given the nature of the writing, it almost seems appropriate.


Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)

Booking until 14th December

Review: Drama at Inish, Finborough

“We do serious plays – Russian plays and that sort of thing”

The pleasures of theatregoing, especially in London, are many and varied but amongst my favourites are the chances offered to see some of our best actors in the most intimate of surroundings. So the opportunity to see the glorious Celia Imrie in the 50 seater Finborough Theatre in Earls Court was one I was never likely to miss. She is part of a large company performing Drama At Inish, a 1933 Irish comedy by Lennox Robinson which has not been seen in London for 60 years, in a strictly limited engagement. Also known as Is Life Worth Living?, the play is something of a farcical comedy, set in the small village of Inish where a travelling repertory company arrive for the summer, replacing the usual circus with their weightier fare of Ibsen, Tolstoy, Strindberg and Chekhov. But their serious drama soon begins to impact massively on the mood of the town with the inhabitants sinking into a melancholy morass of neuroses, unduly influenced by the theatre going on around them.

Fidelis Morgan’s production is full of hustle and bustle as the cast of thirteen swirl around the Seaview Hotel, where the entire show takes place, spread over a week. The actor couple of Hector De La Mare and Constance Constantia – a delightfully expansive pair of performances from Rupert Frazer and Juliet Cadzow – watch on bemusedly as their drama plays out in real life with character after character affected by what they see: political consciences, long hidden romances and secret dead children are exposed, people are moved to attempt suicide and murder, but it is all played with a jovial silliness that lifts the heart. Continue reading “Review: Drama at Inish, Finborough”