Review: Pinter Five, Harold Pinter Theatre

Jane Horrocks and Rupert Graves shine in Pinter Five, featuring The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices at the Harold Pinter Theatre

“You know where you are here”

Pinter Five sees Patrick Marber, someone who could call Harold Pinter a friend and colleague, take the directorial wheel as he presents a triple-bill of The Room, Victoria Station and Family Voices, delving further into the wealth of short plays left behind by the playwright.

The first half is taken up by Pinter’s first play, 1957’s The Room, a prototype for so much of what was to come as he settled into his distinctive voice. The air of menacing strangeness looming over seemingly everyday situations, visitors who disrupt and disturb, relationships that can never be quite pinned down… Continue reading “Review: Pinter Five, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Pinter at the Pinter

The Jamie Lloyd Company, Ambassador Theatre Group, Benjamin Lowy Productions, Gavin Kalin Productions and Glass Half Full Productions present an extraordinary season of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays on the tenth anniversary of the Nobel Prize winner’s death, performed in the theatre that bears his name.

Pinter at the Pinter is a unique event featuring all twenty short plays written by the greatest British playwright of the 20thCentury. They have never been performed together in a season of this kind. Continue reading “Pinter at the Pinter”

Review: Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court

Some stunning design work elevates new play Instructions for Correct Assembly at the Royal Court

“Of course they’re a bit more unreliable, these flatpack ones”

Instructions for Thomas Eccleshare’s Instructions for Correct Assembly

Step 1

Take a Verity Bargate Award-winning (for Pastoral) playwright and give him his Royal Court debut with a gently futuristic play about families and failures and robot surrogates.

Step 2

Find a director with real previous in quirky stagings at the Royal Court (Goats, Who Cares, Teh Internet is Serious Business) and a designer up for the challenge of maintaining the ingenious and striking look of current main house productions with its middle-class modernity.

Step 3

Up the ante by introducing illusionist Paul Kieve into the mix to put together some properly mind-boggling trickery and have a crack stage management team under Kate Aisling Jones’ leadership support actor Brian Vernel in accomplishing said illusions.

Step 4

Pull together a top-notch cast including the always good Mark Bonnar (returning to the stage after six years) and the wonderful Jane Horrocks.
Continue reading “Review: Instructions for Correct Assembly, Royal Court”

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. 

Review: King Lear, Old Vic

“’Tis the time’s plague when madmen lead the blind”

Though no spring chicken myself, I’m not quite the right age to be truly excited about Oscar winning actress-turned politician-turned actress again Glenda Jackson’s return to the stage. I was more intrigued than truly excited when she was announced in the title role of Deborah Warner’s King Lear for the Old Vic for though I’m well aware of who she is, her film and TV credits never broke through into what I was watching either back then or since. (Feel free to recommend her must-see performances – I’ll add them to the list of things I’ll get round to watching one day.)

But I’m always here for casting decisions that shake the established order somewhat and with Celia Imrie, Jane Horrocks and Rhys Ifans in the cast too, there was no chance I wouldn’t go see this. Full disclosure though, I went to the final £10 preview so treat this review how you will. For it is simultaneously an effortful and frustratingly vague production that never truly convinces of the attempted scope of its artistic vision. Fortunately, this often-times ephemeral and occasionally perplexing Lear is anchored by a striking performance from Jackson. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Old Vic”

DVD Review: Born Romantic

“Have you never been in love?
‘No, too much choice.’”

Now this is a curious thing – released in 2001 but feeling very much a child of the 90s, Born Romantic is a British rom-com written and directed by David Kane, centring on a salsa club in London and the romantic capers of the men and women to attend. It has a highly personable cast – and there’s always fun in seeing familiar faces with a much fresher hue about them – but this is fairly bog-standard, low-budget stuff. It says nothing new about relationships, metropolitan living or indeed anything exciting, it just putters along in a rather inoffensive manner that makes it hard to recommend.

For those who know their US late-night chat-show hosts, there’s still fun in seeing Craig Ferguson in a straight acting role, one of three main “romantics” of the multi-stranded story. His Frankie is a hapless divorcee, still co-habiting with his ex played by Hermione Norris, and struggling to wangle his way into the affections of emotionally distant art restorer Eleanor, the divine Olivia Williams who like everyone else here is treading water. Kane’s writing hits on some interesting points but rarely gets the opportunity to delve beneath the surface as the narrative skips around the numerous other storylines, barely scratching the surface of any. Continue reading “DVD Review: Born Romantic”

Review: East is East, Trafalgar Studios

“You not need to know my bloody business, missus”

There’s much indeed to love about East is East, the 1996 Ayub Khan Din play that was later made into a successful film (albeit one I have yet to catch), not least in the return of the remarkable Jane Horrocks to the stage and another of Tom Scutt’s impressive sets, marking him as one of the most interesting designers working in UK theatre at the moment. The play itself came at what could be considered a watershed moment in cultural representations of British Asians but given what has happened in the 20 or so years that have passed since its writing, it is interesting to consider how it stacks up now against today’s society.

The tale is an autobiographical one – Khan Din was himself part of a large family from Salford with a white British mother and a Pakistani father and a thinly disguised version of this household is what he puts on stage. It’s 1971 and George’s overbearing paterfamilias is keen for his seven children to respect and revere their sub-continental heritage, especially at a time when East Pakistan was fighting for its independence. He’s appalled that his children consider themselves more British than Asian though and have no respect for the customs he would impose upon them, especially in the arranged marriages he tries to secure for the family.

What additionally makes Sam Yates’ production spectacular is that Khan Din is playing George, the barely fictionalised representation of his father in all his complex frustrated rage and fury, a deeply moving portrayal that brings such nuance to a man who could so easily be demonised and dismissed as an autocratic wife-beater. Instead we come to realise the fear with which he would rule is his own fear of being left behind, of becoming his own father. And whilst our sympathies automatically go to Horrocks’ highly pragmatic Ella, we’re never in any doubt as to the depth of emotion that holds them together, even if their kids can’t understand why she doesn’t leave him.

Those kids are also excellent by the way, from the shyness of Michael Karim’s youngest Sajit through the sparkiness of Taj Atwell’s Meenah – the only girl – to Ashley Kumar’s wannabe heartthrob, the way these siblings rub each other up is heartening and hilarious, we so quickly get so fully engaged in their fates that it is nigh on impossible to not get caught up in the emotional ties that bind them all. Scutt’s design of terraced houses and flexible proppage adds to a recognisable feel that variations of the family dramas here are played out in houses across the nations and across the ages, and all with an Auntie Annie passing comment from the corner of the room! A hugely worthwhile revival.

Running time: 2 hours (with interval)
Booking until 3rd January

DVD Review: Sunshine on Leith

“If I get drunk, well I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you”

The idea of a Proclaimers jukebox musical is not one that appealed when I first heard of it and so Sunshine on Leith was hardly on my list of films to see when Stephen Greenhorn’s musical was made into a film by Dexter Fletcher last year. But one of the lead actors George MacKay caught my attention in The Cement Garden a couple of months ago and reading in the programme that he had won awards for his performance, I decided to give it a whirl.

And as is often the case when expectations are low, I ended up absolutely adoring it. It may be jukebox in form but I’d wager most people – myself included – would be hard pressed to name more than two songs by the bespectacled brothers (who make a neat early cameo) and so there’s a real freshness to the score, a vibrancy that is essentially Scottish but ultimately universal in its celebration of the quirkiness of life and the emotions that govern us all. Continue reading “DVD Review: Sunshine on Leith”

Short Film Review #39

WOW 2014 – A Day In Detention

 

Not a short film as such, but utterly essential. The Women of the World Festival took place at the Southbank Centre in early March and A Day In Detention was part of that event. A piece of verbatim theatre pulled together by Nell Leyshon and directed by Jessica Swale, it looks at varying experiences of refugee women in the UK asylum system with an unblinking eye and a near-shocking straightforwardness. The harsh reality of what they are forced to go through, after escaping untold horrors in their own country, is appallingly bleak but there’s a beautiful dignity to the way in which their stories are told, both in the way they have been captured and also in the stunning performances of Juliet Stevenson, Bryony Hannah and an unbearably moving Cush Jumbo.

Continue reading “Short Film Review #39”

DVD Review: The Flint Street Nativity

 “Who put Jesus in with the iguana?”

Much more fun than traditional takes on the Nativity is Tim Firth’s The Flint Street Nativity (which I’d somehow managed to avoid seeing until now) which is utterly charming and heart-warmingly British in the best possible way. Firth’s conceit is to have adults playing children, hardly the most original of ideas, but as the pupils of this infant class put on a chaotic performance of the Christmas story complete with onstage squabbles and backstage power struggles, we see how the turbulence of their home lives is played out in their interactions with their schoolmates.

It is beautifully done, and sensitively played throughout. It never stops being funny – particularly as Dervla Kirwan’s determined Jaye plots and schemes to usurp Josie Lawrence’s Debbie Bennett as Mary – as playground rituals dominate proceedings. There’s the endless procession of ever-changing best friends, the relentless goading of the one who always says “dares ya” to the more susceptible kids, the terror of the boy with the stammer, the terrifying rough kid, the bossy know-it-all, the teacher whose patience wears ever thinner with each crisis. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Flint Street Nativity”