I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK
Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…
1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL!
2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective.
3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.
4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.
Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)
Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre
The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions. A truly joyous and momentous occasion.
When you see as much theatre as I do, it can be difficult to keep up to date with cinematic releases – if I have a night off, I rarely want to spend it in a dark room… – but I have tried my best this year to see at least some of the Oscar-nominated films, so that I can chip in once they’ve been distributed in a way that will doubtless cause some controversy or other.
The end-of-year lists of favourite plays and performances should be on their way soon, once the food coma has abated, but to tide you over, here’s my list of 9 of my top moments in a theatre over 2016, the things that first come to mind when someone says ‘what did you enjoy this year’. For reference, here’s my 2015 list and 2014 list.
The ‘arrival’ of the Hope Theatre
I’ve been gazumped by The Stage in recognising this Islington fringe theatre for a stellar year but it is no more than Matthew Parker and his team there deserve. Over the course of 2016, intelligent and exciting programming has made the Hope into a must-see venue for me, no mean feat in a market already full of fringe venues and new ones opening every time you look up. From promoting new writing to astutely chosen revivals, scorchinglypersonal writing to themed seasons culminating in delightfully campy lesbian musicals, this theatre has been on fire all year long and has made me excited to see every single thing they put – and there’s precious few places, large or small, that can say that.
Wizards and magic and owls, oh my
I’d have to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again before deciding officially whether it is a great piece of drama or not, but there’s no doubting that it is a stonking piece of theatre and the atmosphere at the very first shows was something quite amazing to be a part of, even from the back row of the balcony. The romantic sweep of Christine Jones’ set and Steven Hoggett’s movement, John Tiffany’s endlessly imaginative direction and of course, the masterfully jaw-dropping effects from Jamie Harrison. It felt like something I’d never seen before and in the case of Sprocket the Owl, it was something no-one else saw either!
“Va-t’en fous le camp ne me touche pas ne me parle pas reste avec moi.”
Funny story – I actually bought a ticket to see Phaedra(s) in Paris when it was first announced, such is the hold that Isabelle Huppert has over me. Naturally having done so, a few months later a short run at the Barbican was announced as part of LIFT 2016 and for once, I erred on the side of caution by opting not to head over to the Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe and waiting for its arrival in the UK (something I didn’t do with Kings of Warin Amsterdam…)
It probably helped that I had already made the trip to Paris to see Huppert once before, 2014’s Les Fausses Confidences crossed that boundary and I’m glad, for though there was much to appreciate in Phaedra(s), it is extremely challenging too. Stretched over 3 hours 40 minutes with just the single interval, Krzysztof Warlikowski’s multimedia-heavy production stitches together different versions of the story of Phaedra, the wife of Theseus who fell in love with her stepson Hippolytus, with predictably tragic consequences. Continue reading “Review: Phaedra(s), LIFT 2016 at the Barbican”
Relocated to a contemporary USA and with two women of colour playing the servants, Jamie Lloyd’s version of Jean Genet’sThe Maidsbecomes just as much about race as it does about class and incredibly powerfully so. The ‘otherness’, the ‘difference’ of which sisters Solange and Claire speak as they twist themselves into increasingly sadomasochistic games thus plays at an additional level and at the point when their socialite employer Madam casually, cruelly, asks Claire “which one are you, you both look the same to me”, it lands with an absolute gut-punch.
Loosely based on the real-life story of sisters Léa and Christine Papin who murdered their employer’s wife and daughter in 1933, years of servitude have similarly done for Uzo Aduba’s Solange and Zawe Ashton’s Claire. Whilst their mistress is out, they play vicious divertissements of dress-up in her couture gowns, roleplaying both her and each other in scenarios that end in violent death. And as eventually becomes apparent in the vibrant and salty language of Benedict Andrews and Andrew Upton’s translation, what we’re actually witnessing is less a game than a rehearsal for the real thing. Continue reading “Review: The Maids, Trafalgar Studios”
2016 is nearly upon and for once, I’ve hardly anything booked for the coming year and what I do have tickets for, I’m hardly that inspired by (the Garrick season has been ruined by the awfulness of the rear stalls seats, and I only got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets due to FOMO). Not for the first time, I’m intending to see less theatre next year but I do have my eyes on a good few productions in the West End, fringe and beyond. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2016”
“Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over”
I don’t think there’s much that can be said about Michael Haneke’s Amourthat hasn’t already been said a thousand times before. I wanted to go and see it at the cinema when it was first released last year but after a good friend went, he advised me that I would be perhaps best waiting until I could watch it in the privacy of my own home, cognisant of the types of thing that make me bawl (I once wept for 15 minutes outside a cinema after Pan’s Labyrinth destroyed me) and I am forever grateful for his advice. Tears fell down my face for pretty much the entire film but on two occasions, I broke out into full-on sobbing, such is the devastating emotional impact within.
Amour is truly one of the greatest films about old age ever created and possibly one of the finest films I’ve ever seen. Georges and Anne are retired music teachers in the 80s, bobbing along quite merrily in their Parisian apartment when their lives are rocked by a series of strokes that Anne suffers. Bit by bit, she fades away from the person she used to be, further wasted by progressive dementia, and Georges is left to hold together the pieces of their shattered lives, their shared love. Haneke’s camera barely leaves the apartment where the couple’s existence is unutterably changed, and where previously much-loved visitors are no longer welcome, not even their daughter Eva. Continue reading “DVD Review: Amour”
Having recently seen Isabelle Huppert on stage and Fanny Ardant at a film festival, I was reminded that I hadn’t watched François Ozon’s 8 Femmes for some time and I took great pleasure in reacquainting myself with a film I love dearly. If I believed in guilty pleasures this would be up there but for me, there’s no guilt at all, purely pleasure. Adapted by Ozon from the play by Robert Thomas, 8 Femmes is a retro delight, a technicolour musical version of an Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery, beautifully spoofing the overblown Hollywood style.
It also boasts quite the roll-call of cross-generational French acting talent in the eight women it gathers in a snowbound country mansion to celebrate Christmas with the single man of the piece Marcel. There’s his wife Gaby (Catherine Deneuve), his mother-in-law Mamy (Danielle Darrieux), his sister-in-law Augustine (Isabelle Huppert), his daughters Catherine (Ludivine Sagnier) and Suzon (Virginie Ledoyen), his sister Pierette (Franny Ardant) and his household staff Madame Chanel (Firmine Richard) and Louise (Emmanelle Béart).