Review: The Crucible, Walter Kerr Theatre

“I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder 

I heard the phrase avant-garde mentioned several times in reference to Ivo van Hove whilst in New York and every time I bristled – the connotations in my head leaning towards a dismissive pretentiousness aimed at someone who I think is one of the most exciting theatre directors currently working. And it did make me wonder, especially in light of the reports of Katie Mitchell being booed at the Royal Opera House last week, about what feels like an instinctive resistance to ‘change’ from established audiences that just feels a bit sad.

Granted, with Broadway ticket prices you may well want to minimise the risk but it would be hard to get excited about another traditional production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible even with big names like 2-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan and Ben Whishaw in the cast. As it was, I was just as excited at the prospect of seeing Sophie Okonedo and Jenny Jules – both too rarely on the London stage in recent years – and of course, the chance to see van Hove at work once again was irresistible, especially since I’d let Lazarus pass me by. Continue reading “Review: The Crucible, Walter Kerr Theatre”

Short film reviews #8

Another collection of short films that I’ve been pointed to or had recommended to me and which I’ve enjoyed watching. If you have anything you think I should see, drop me an email at the address on the sidebar, and to read other short film reviews, click on the ‘film’ tag at the end of the post.

The Door (trailer) from Andrew Steggall on Vimeo.

Based on the HG Wells tale The Door in the Wall, Andrew Steggall’s short film The Door is a rather lovely piece of film – with a stunningly good cast – which delves into the ambiguous world of between personal memory and boyhood fantasy as an older man tries to make sense of a key event from his past. Charles Dance plays the older Thomas Arlington with a resigned enigmatic quality as he debates with his son, a sharply-suited Elliot Cowan, but clearly distracted by his memory of discovering a magical green door into a extraordinary world.

Continue reading “Short film reviews #8”

Review: Julius Caesar, Donmar Warehouse

“There is a tide in the affairs of men”

In a year when the Globe has gathered an all-male ensemble which has now made its way to the West End and Propeller continue their innovative range of productions, it perhaps apt that Phyllida Lloyd has turned to an all-female cast for her take on Julius Caesar for the Donmar Warehouse. The overarching conceit that she has adopted, and it is one that the production wears heavily at times, is that it is a play within a play, put on by inmates in a women’s prison, aided and abetted by wardens (or are they?) and so the power struggles within the jail population come to be replicated and challenged in the political struggles within the text.

Perhaps as it should be, the most striking moments come from acting choices that have nothing to do with gender. A bluntly vicious Caesar, Frances Barber’s hoarsely croaked out “et tu…” is devastatingly affecting after the assassination is carried out in a rather unexpected manner and Cush Jumbo’s delivery of “Friends, Romans, countrymen…” is spun completely on its head as it opens under the most violent of circumstances, her Mark Antony is superbly played. And Jenny Jules and Harriet Walter as Cassius and Brutus are both blessed with the kind of emotive verse-speaking that breathes real life and explanatory motive between the text and the interpretation.   Continue reading “Review: Julius Caesar, Donmar Warehouse”

2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic
Billie Piper – The Effect, Headlong at the National, Cottesloe
Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
Jill Halfpenny – Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Wyndham’s
Julie Walters – The Last of the Haussmans at the National, Lyttelton
Sally Hawkins – Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs & Duke of York’s

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss at Hampstead
Adrian Lester – Red Velvet at the Tricycle
David Haig – The Madness of George III at the Apollo
David Suchet – Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo
Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the National, Cottesloe
Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night & Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe & the Apollo Continue reading “2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Radio Review: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen + Gracey and Me

“Is this the way to Macclesfield?”

Books like Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Owl Service and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series were huge favourites of mine when I was a wee laddie, so I quite most intrigued to hear that a radio adaptation had been made of the former for Radio 4. Peter Thomson’s dramatization condenses the novel down to a highly atmospheric hour as this children’s fantasy tale winds its way around the ancient mysteries hidden on Alderley Edge. The story starts with Colin and Susan, young siblings who are sent to stay with old family friends in Cheshire whilst their parents are away, and who soon find themselves sucked into a mystical battle between the forces of good and evil who are all hunting for the Weirdstone which has gone missing and which looks strangely like the jewel at the heart of Susan’s favourite bracelet. 

Thomson has the tale narrated by an older version of Colin, a technique I’m not normally a fan of but one which works extremely well here, especially as he is played by Robert Powell whose sonorous tones are soothingly ideal for the purpose. And Jane Morgan’s production is inspired in its use of music (by Mia Soteriou) and special effects (by Wilfredo Acosta) to quickly establish the necessary atmosphere of ancient mystery and peril. She’s cast her play astutely too: Trevor Cooper’s booming guardian Gowther is brilliant, Philip Voss’ voice epitomises weary wisdom and Monica Dolan is a perfect choice for the wicked Selina Place. And with Hugo Docking and Fern Deacon full of youthful energy and wonder as Colin and Susan, it’s a rather wonderful hour of radio entertainment. Continue reading “Radio Review: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen + Gracey and Me”

Review: King Lear, Almeida

“This is the excellent foppery of the world” 

Considered one of the defining roles for actors, there never seems to be a lack of King Lears on our stages and in 2012, it is Jonathan Pryce’s turn to wear the crown in this Michael Attenborough production for the Almeida. Such is the potential for great quality at this North London theatre that when they get everything right, there’s a beautiful marriage between the epic and the intimate (as advertised) and this is largely what we get here.

Pryce’s Lear is a father first and foremost, and losing some of the distance that accompanies an overly regal bearing results in a rather effective focus on the emotions of the man rather than the monarch. Thus the rage, the tenderness, the regret, the pain that he feels – elucidated with some masterful re-readings of the text – is always accessible and persuasive. The look in his eye during ‘I know thee well enough…’ cuts to the very core; his bantering relationship with his Fool borne of a genuine connection between the pair, Trevor Fox’s native Geordie accent a perfect fit to the riddle-me-dees and sharp observations and really demanding full attention. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Almeida”

Review: Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre

“I see a change in this Trinidad”

Moon on a Rainbow Shawl is a 1953 play by Trinidadian playwright Errol John which has rather fallen into neglect, due to a rough time with contemporary producers who wanted it changed. But Michael Buffong has unearthed it in its original state for the National Theatre and given the Cottesloe an intimate Caribbean-infused flavour in this rather gentle production which I found to be rather enjoyable.

We find ourselves in a run-down part of Port of Spain where a group of neighbours are introduced to us along with the travails of their lives, disrupted somewhat by the raucous  troops returning from the Second World War, as some concentrate on getting through the daily grind and others dream of escape. Two main characters exemplify these differing approaches: Martina Laird’s empathetic Sophia, a stalwart matriarch figure rooted in this homestead and whose heart beats for everyone , and Danny Sapani’s Ephraim who is determined to carve out a better life for himself in England, even as family responsibilities loom large. Continue reading “Review: Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre”

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”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2010: the winners in full


Best New Play
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris 
 
The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Matilda, A Musical
 
Best Actor

David Suchet in All My Sons  

Best Actress
Jenny Jules in Ruined

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Derek Jacobi in King Lear 

Best Director
Michael Grandage for King Lear

Best Designer
Bunny Christie for The White Guard

Most Promising Playwright
Anya Reiss for Spur of the Moment

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer [other than a playwright]
Daniel Kaluuya in Sucker Punch