Review: Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

 “This bodes some strange eruption to our state”

It shouldn’t be newsworthy in this day and age but it is impossible to ignore and important to recognise this does mark the first time that a black actor has played the title role in Hamlet at the RSC in the 50+ years since its founding. The task falls to 25-year-old Paapa Essiedu (last seen at the Royal Court but most memorable from the Finborough’s Black Jesus) in Simon Godwin’s production, which relocates the play to West Africa.

It is an interpretation full of bold choices – opening at Hamlet’s Wittenberg graduation ceremony whose celebratory mood is shattered by his father’s funeral cortège scything through the stage – and largely successful, underpinned by Essiedu’s assuredly capricious performance of impulsive exuberance. This Hamlet is a lover not a fighter, an artist rather than a soldier, youthfully funny but full of a student’s swagger rather than lived-in experience. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Review: Flare Path, Richmond Theatre

“Supposing there is an ‘after the war’”

One of the unexpected highlights in the raft of productions that marked Terence Rattigan’s centenary year in 2011 was Trevor Nunn’s Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Previously unheralded, it emerged as an understated masterclass in repressed emotion, wonderfully enlivened by Sheridan Smith’s Olivier-winning supporting role. The Original Theatre Company’s touring version of the show, directed by Justin Audibert, thus has a lot to live up to to equal its success.

And sadly, it never quite manages it. Part of this lies in the fact that it isn’t the most thrilling piece of writing. Set exclusively in a 1942 hotel lobby close to an airbase, it follows a group of fighter pilots as they wait to be called onto the next raid with their loved ones watching on anxiously. Naturally, their loved ones aren’t always the ones they’re married to and the emotional crux of the play centres on a love triangle between Patricia, her airman husband Teddy and her Hollywood star ex Peter. Continue reading “Review: Flare Path, Richmond Theatre”

2014 Offie Award Finalists

Offies Awards - Off West End Theatre Awards

Best Female
Leanne Best for The Match Box at The Tricycle 
Lucy Ellinson for Grounded at The Gate
Vicki Lee Taylor for On A Clear Day You Can See Forever at The Union
Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag at Soho

Best Male
Joe Armstrong for The Dumb Waiter at The Print Room
James Cooney for Bottleneck at Soho
Michael Pennington for Dances of Death at The Gate
Jamie Samuel for Jumpers for Goalposts at The Bush

Best New Play
Bottleneck by Luke Barnes at Soho
Jumpers for Goalposts by Tom Wells at The Bush
The Match Box by Frank McGuinness at The Tricycle Continue reading “2014 Offie Award Finalists”

Review: Bottleneck, Soho Theatre

“The sun peeking its head over the tower block like a paedo”

Fast approaching his 15th birthday, Greg is obsessed with football – every aspect of his life in the Boot Estate in Liverpool revolves around the beautiful game and it informs his every action. And in Luke Barnes’ one-man play Bottleneck set in the late 1980s, we find a portrait not just of adolescence in progress as we lead up to the tumultuous events of his birthday, but also of working class life in a city in decline. It is heartfelt and lively, fearlessly funny and almost unbearably moving.

Barnes is clearly a gifted playwright, not just in the careful unwinding of his narrative but also in the richness of his text which deepens and layers his writing. Though Greg is the epitome of teenage rebelliousness and is straining for a greater independence, details abound that remind us he is still in many ways just a boy – his mittens, his naïveté about most everything about girls, the joy of being on his BMX. And Barnes also has a way of making vivid images linger in the mind, whether the comical obsession with much-vaunted moustaches or the desolation of impressions of wire fences and fingernails. Continue reading “Review: Bottleneck, Soho Theatre”