Review: A Pupil, Park Theatre

Strong performances from Lucy Sheen and Flora Spencer-Longhurst make Jesse Briton’s A Pupil an interesting watch at the Park Theatre

“No instrument is more important than the player”

What price genius? We’re often subjected to portrayals of (usually male) creative masterminds that pay little mind to the havoc wrought in the name of their chosen subject. So it is instructive to see the script flipped a bit by Jesse Briton with his new play A Pupil. From its opening moments as former violinist Ye lines up the bottles of pills and whiskey she hopes will end her life, there’s little sugercoating of the weight that talent can bring to bear.

It wasn’t always thus, and it needn’t continue to be. Ye’s involvement in a car crash left her physically incapacitated but she’s slowly mending with the help of landlady Mary. And former colleague Phyllida has lined up a tutoring job for her, helping to prepare the daughter of a Russian oligarch for an audition to the Royal Conservatoire where she teaches. But is talent something that can be nurtured, whether by individuals or by institutions, and is it ever really worth it? Continue reading “Review: A Pupil, Park Theatre”

Review: Enduring Song, Southwark Playhouse

“Potestne fieri utu nus homo dua orda habeat? Ut pacem cupiat sed tumultum petat?

Bear Trap’s production of Jesse Briton’s Enduring Song is filled with youthful exuberance and a wild sense of energy that rushes through the Southwark Playhouse. It’s an energy that works excellently in some cases – the paciness of the scene changes for example – but frustratingly elsewhere as untrammelled enthusiasm overwhelms narrative clarity. There’s just so much shouting and screaming and running around that the whole experience becomes quite wearing.

Briton’s play is set in 1096 at the time when the First Crusade was just about to be launched and in contrasting the experiences of the knights laying siege to the city of Antioch with those of the women left behind and fighting to keep their farm in Avignon working, the historical parallels throughout time ring clear – every army has to choose exactly what it is they are fighting for and also leaves behind loved ones who must struggle on through, not knowing if they’ll ever be reunited. Continue reading “Review: Enduring Song, Southwark Playhouse”

Not a Review: Painted Lady – The Princess Caraboo Scandal, Finborough

“The biggest stinker is the one with the foulest stench”

Fate can be a funny thing. As anyone who has read this blog for a bit will know, I decided a while back that director and playwright Phil Willmott was going to be my new best friend after Once Upon A Time At The Adelphi melted my heart, but oddly enough that has yet to come to fruition! But being a very hard-working man, opportunities to see his work keep popping up and when a preview of his new musical Painted Lady – The Princess Caraboo Story was announced as part of the Finborough’s Vibrant festival, there was no chance I wasn’t booking my tickets. And sure enough, the man himself was there and after introducing the show, he made his way to his seat WHICH WAS NEXT TO MINE! Good times. Except, due to Chiltern Railways’ inability to notify people just when their engineering works were taking place making me rather late and needing to run to make the curtain and it being a ridiculously hot evening, it was practically like a sauna in the little theatre and so the only thing I could do next to Mr Willmott was sweat, a lot. And I am sorry to him for that. Goddamn fate!

Anyway, the show: Willmott accepted a commission for a brand new musical from the Bristol Old Vic for 2011 and this is the first airing of the material being developed for it, the first draft of an embryo I think someone described it as. After a week’s rehearsal, we were told not to expect too much and to imagine the dance routines in the big numbers, a tricksy way of lowering expectations because as a company of 17 filed onstage, they acted and sang and in some cases threw in a bit of choreography which looked quite practised and comfortable, all very impressive. As with other works-in-progress, this is more an overview though than an actual review. Continue reading “Not a Review: Painted Lady – The Princess Caraboo Scandal, Finborough”