Review: The Great Wave, National Theatre

Fascinating but shocking history, and beautiful theatre. Don’t miss The Great Wave at the National Theatre

“It doesn’t mean…It doesn’t mean, that”

Francis Turnly’s new play The Great Wave explores a fascinating but shocking slice of history, severely underexplored in this country. And Indhu Rubasingham’s production thereof is one which puts East Asian experience, and actors, front and centre, a pleasing but too-rare sight to see in any of our theatres, never mind the National.

Its history covers the tense relationship between North Korea and Japan, notably in the late twentieth century when the former carried out a series of abductions of citizens of the latter, but all concerned hushed up the story. Turnly focuses down to the micro through the experience of one family but also amps up the macro, as past Japanese imperialism and the grotesqueries of the North Korean regime are also placed under the microscope. Continue reading “Review: The Great Wave, National Theatre”

News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)

The National Theatre last night hosted its biennial fundraising gala, Up Next, raising over a million pounds to support access to the arts for children and young people across the country. I think they forgot to invite me though… 😜

 

Performances commissioned especially for the event included a new piece by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, alongside performances by Sir Lenny Henry, Anne-Marie Duff and hundreds of talented young people from across London.

Continue reading “News (and photos): National Theatre gala (plus actors in suits!)”

Review: Ugly Lies The Bone, National

“It took three surgeries to give me back my eyelid”

There’s a moment to catch the breath in the opening scene of Lindsey Ferrentino’s Ugly Lies The Bone as Kate Fleetwood’s Jess removes the virtual reality helmet she’s been wearing to reveal substantial scarring across half her face (excellent prosthetic work from the creative team). Jess is a veteran of three tours of Afghanistan, the last cut short by a close encounter with an IED that ravaged her body, whose recovery process after fourteen months in a hospital bed is not necessarily being aided by a return home to the depressed Florida town where she grew up.

What is proving effective is a pioneering form of virtual reality-based therapy (based on real life) that is designed to help Jess manage the constant pain that her injuries cause. In a custom computer-generated world, she is liberated, if only momentarily from excruciating skin grafts and flashbacks and an understandable heaviness of spirit that claws its way back to the surface as soon as the helmet comes off. For in the real world, the end of NASA’s shuttle programme has left Titusville a shadow of the place it once was, making it even harder to reconnect with the sister and ex-lover she finds there. Continue reading “Review: Ugly Lies The Bone, National”

Review: Red Velvet, Garrick

“…now begrimed and black as mine own face”

For all the excitement of Kenneth Branagh’s announcement of his year long residency at the Garrick, the programme was lacking a certain diversity. So it’s pleasing to see that the Tricycle Theatre’s production of Red Velvet has been slotted in for a month, featuring a barnstorming lead performance from Adrian Lester and a fascinating insight into a piece of sorely neglected theatrical history.

My four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be found here.

 

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”

Review: The Motherf**ker in the Hat, National Theatre

“Look let’s just go there, to the pie place, and we’ll have, like, some pie, and we’ll just, like, talk, or not even talk, we’ll just eat pie first and be. And after that, we’ll talk.”

On the National Theatre’s website and nearby publicity, Stephen Adly Guirgis’ show is labelled The Motherf**ker with the Hat; inside the theatre, the accepted verbal version is The Mother with the Hat; I hear rumours that TfL have insisted on The Mother****** with the Hat for their posters (though I’ve yet to see one); and on Twitter, the official hashtag manages the neatly encapsulated #MoFoHat. But dammit, I’ve got to get it out just once at least, the title of this play is The Motherfucker with the Hat. And if that offends you, then seriously don’t book a ticket cos it’s just the tip of the iceberg, know whadda mean!

Premiered on Broadway in 2011 with a cast featuring Chris Rock and Bobby Cannavale, it’s a vibrant slice of Nuyorican life on the rough side and lays its card on the table in its opening seconds. Reformed drug dealer Jackie has just been released from Riker’s Island determined to turn over a new leaf but his beloved “Beautiful Boriqua Taino Mamacita Fuck Me Long Time Princess Fuckin’ Beauty Queen” Veronica is still using and just as they’re about to get on down under the covers, he spots another gentleman’s hat on the table and all hell breaks loose, drawing in Jackie’s cousin Julio, his sponsor Ralph and Ralph’s long-suffering wife Victoria.  Continue reading “Review: The Motherf**ker in the Hat, National Theatre”

Review: Multitudes, Tricycle

 “I haven’t taken a taxi since Rotherham”

It’s hard to imagine a time, in the near future at least, when multiculturalism in the UK won’t be a hot button issue – if nothing else, what would certain elements of the press be pitifully obsessed with instead? So naturally, John Hollingworth’s play Multitudes – his first – feels well timed, how could it not – Jihadi John and schoolgirl recruits for Islamic State dominate the front pages, the shockwaves of Charlie Hebdo are still rippling around with inflammatory polls further stirring the pot and the nefarious impact of UKIP on British politics remains impossible to escape,

Trying to make sense of these multiple strands is a job and a half for even the most seasoned of commentators and it’s not immediately apparent that Hollingworth is the man for the job as he layers all this and more into his play. But once Indhu Rubasingham’s production finds its feet in the swirl of the melting pot and one becomes accustomed to its rhythms, Multitudes’ noisy energy makes sense. Hollingworth doesn’t set out to give us answers, such as they could possibly exist, but rather gives a portrayal of of the messiness of race debates in British society. Continue reading “Review: Multitudes, Tricycle”

Review: The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Tricycle

 “Nobody knows us. They think they do. But they don’t”

As per the publicity image, Canadian playwright’s Adam Bock’s black comedy The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has aspirations of splashy cultural recognition with other North American fantastical worlds such as Carrie Bradshaw’s fabulously-affordable-somehow-even-though-shes-a-writer fashion-dominated New York, or the glossy lives of the spoiled uber-rich teens of Gossip Girl, but it achieves neither with a curiously unsatisfying clunk, possibly the first mis-step by Indhu Rubasingham since taking over the Tricycle.

It’s all so insubstantial, not in the way that the lives of the five spoiled sisters from Pitts…etc who now reside in New York are super-vacuous (though they are), but in the fact that Bock says nothing of any import about them. In their world, money says everything, except that it doesn’t really say a lot and being told money doesn’t buy you happiness is hardly ground-breaking stuff. Hints of more interesting stories do poke their way through in Trip Cullman’s production but at just over an hour, there’s no room for them to develop.

Running time: 75 minutes
Booking until 26th July

Review: Handbagged, Tricycle

“We are both Britain”

Moira Buffini’s Handbagged started life as a short play as part of the Tricycle’s Women, Power and Politics season back in 2010 and now, in a fully fleshed out version, it returns to Kilburn to imagine the relationship that might have existed between two of the most significant British women of the last century – the Queen and Margaret Thatcher. But much has happened in the meantime, not least Peter Morgan having a huge success with a play that also depicted the relationship between monarch and Prime Minister(s) and the small matter of the death of the UK’s first female head of government.

Perhaps conscious of the impossibility of trying to envisage what was really said between the pair,  Buffini opts instead for a meta-theatrical fantasia and huge fun it is. Older incarnations of the women (Q and T) interact with their younger selves (Liz and Mags), each giving us their own take on Thatcher’s reign through the weekly meetings held with the Queen, whilst two actors play any number of supporting characters – Reagans Ronald and Nancy, Rupert Murdoch, Neil Kinnock, a simple palace footman, the list goes on… As one of them recounts an event, the others pass comment, challenge memories, offer explanatory excuses, even break entirely out of character sometimes.

Continue reading “Review: Handbagged, Tricycle”

Not a Review: Cinema Red, Royal Court

“Men get hard just watching me dance”

As part of the International Playwrights season, Cinema Red was one of the rehearsed readings featuring writers with whom the Royal Court has established relationships in order to give them opportunities to showcase the work that has been developed in their creative partnerships in a certain region of the world. At the moment it is Latin America under the spotlight with Colombian play Our Private Life currently running upstairs. This particular play though is by Mexican playwright Zaría Abreu and we watched it in illustrious company which included Mike Bartlett and Chloë Moss.

As ever with readings, this shouldn’t be treated as a formal review, but rather for information as a collection of my thoughts about it. Set in Mexico, in and around a brothel/porn cinema, it follows the lives of some of people who float around, visiting, working there and the dreams they have to get them through the day. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, it took a slightly different take on the way it was read, one that I hadn’t seen before and took a little getting used to, in that in each of the four locations, a different actor took the responsibility of reading the stage directions but I soon got used to it. And it really was an engaging 90 minutes of thrilling new writing and some great acting even whilst reading from scripts sitting down in chairs. Continue reading “Not a Review: Cinema Red, Royal Court”