Review: Brighton Rock, Theatre Royal Brighton

Pilot Theatre’s touring production of Brighton Rock is visually arresting, beautifully staged and very well acted. 

“How do you know what’s right and what’s wrong?”

Where else to see Graham Greene’s classic Brighton Rock than in the beautiful surroundings of the Theatre Royal Brighton, with the sound of seagulls and smell of fish suppers lingering on the air just outside. And Pilot Theatre and York Theatre Royal’s touring production makes for a gorgeously theatrical treat as it probes deep into the darkness under the pier.

Esther Richardson’s production has a striking physicality to it, utterly eyecatching but careful not to overly glamourise this noirish world. Case in point – the opening murder may be stylishly staged as sharp-suited gangsters operate as a sinuous ensemble to ensnare and execute. But Jennifer Jackson’s movement has them rocking queasily back and forth as they move in, an ugliness that stops them from ever seeming too cool. Continue reading “Review: Brighton Rock, Theatre Royal Brighton”

Review: Macbeth, Omnibus and Clapham Common

“Upon this blasted heath you stop our way”

Following handsome bearded men down shadowy paths has long been a vocation on Clapham Common but for the next couple of weeks, the entertainment being provided is of a more theatrical bent as the Omnibus presents a promenade production of the Scottish play which leads its audience on a journey both outside and in. It’s a canny, modernised take on Macbeth which makes inventive use of its locale to thrust us right in the midst of the action.

Whether huddled around a bonfire in the empty paddling pool, jammed into a crowded alleyway, guests at the banqueting table or spectators in the midst of hand-to-hand combat, Gemma Kerr’s production is more site-responsive than truly immersive and is the better for it, with less distraction from the bleakness of this world that has been created, where society is crumbling and the privations of long-running war are felt keenly by everyone. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Omnibus and Clapham Common”

Review: Thérèse Raquin, Theatre Royal Bath

 
“I am yours. Do what you want with me”

It is clearly the moment for Thérèse Raquin– a stage adaptation in Bath (and touring to Malvern and Cambridge), the Finborough’s musical version transferring to the Park Theatre, and a film of the story also hitting our cinemas recently. Émile Zola’s 1867 novel heralded a new world of naturalism in literature in its focus on mood rather than character and has remained an enduring classic, hence this confluence of versions now and a cheeky trip to the penultimate show of the run at the gorgeous Theatre Royal Bath.

Reflecting Zola’s intent, Jonathan Munby’s direction is highly theatrical and brings a powerful lyricism to the stage, bringing in Ann Yee to provide a fluid movement style that is near-balletic and which captures the yearning spirit perfectly – in a world where so much is unsaid, body language becomes ever more eloquent. And Helen Edmundson’s version emphasises Thérèse’s elemental connection to the water and the fevered eroticism that takes her over, unutterably disrupting her world as sex, murder and self-destruction come a-knocking to liven up her dull life forcibly married to her cousin in the Parisian backstreets. Continue reading “Review: Thérèse Raquin, Theatre Royal Bath”

Not-a-review: Scenes from an Execution, National Theatre

“Art is opinion, and opinion is the source of all authority”

Not too much to say about Scenes from an Execution as we left at the interval and so any opinion has to take that into account, along with the fact this was actually the first full preview (the previous night’s performance being re-cast as a full dress). Howard Barker’s play, originally written for radio, is centred on Galactia, a sixteenth century Venetian artist who is commissioned to create a giant celebration of the triumphant Battle of Lepanto, but whose strong will and artistic impulses set her firmly at odds with the authorities.

Fiona Shaw returns to the National Theatre to take on this part, directed by Tom Cairns, so it is fair to say that expectations were a little high, but I just wasn’t prepared for the utter lack of engagement that came from the first half. It opens entertainingly enough: a naked man spread-eagled on a rock, an artist sketching him with a smock barely covering her up, a narrator figure flying around (literally) in a big white box (kudos to Hildegard Bechtler’s design). But after the initial set-up, I found little of interest in the portrayal of this fictional painter’s trials and tribulations. Continue reading “Not-a-review: Scenes from an Execution, National Theatre”

Review: The Condor and the Maiden, King’s Head

“Everyone knows the land belong to him, but I do all the work”

The Condor and the Maiden is a new play by Dermot Murphy which is playing in the afternoons at the King’s Head Theatre at 1pm. Produced by Tricolore, a company dedicated to the promotion of international culture, literature and language, it is a short quirky piece which proved to be a pleasant way to spend an hour in Islington.

Set in a village in Southern Bolivia, Lucía is living below the poverty line with her daughter Clarisa and struggling daily to make ends meet. When duty to her absent husband’s family and a land dispute threatens to leave them homeless and indeed their very existence, she is forced to dig deep in order to defend her and her daughter’s futures. Continue reading “Review: The Condor and the Maiden, King’s Head”