Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud

Just a couple of weeks left to catch The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre, and it remains entirely worth it

“That is what it takes. Thatis the cost of freedom. The price is unimaginable. And here is a man who knows that. And is willing to pay it.”

Time is so, so relative in theatres isn’t it – the mere thought of a running time that exceeds three hours can send chills running down the spine. But sometimes it is a 70 minute show that can feel like a cruel eternity and in the arms of a brilliant play, you barely even notice the hours passing by, even with Edwardian-levels of leg-room available to you. 

With just a couple of weeks left to catch The Ferryman in the West End and the chance to see Rosalie Craig in a non-musical role for once, the offer to return to the Gielgud was one I couldn’t refuse. And though it is the third time I’ve seen the show, it remains a phenomenal piece of theatre in which Jez Butterworth manages that not-inconsiderable feat of making time fly. Continue reading “Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud”

Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards

No real big surprises here though it was a shame that Hamilton’s success (7 awards in total) crowded out Everybody’s Talking About Jamie from nabbing anything. Particularly pleased to see Terera and Atim’s efforts recognised, it’s almost like I saw it coming…

Best New Play 
The Ferryman: Gielgud Theatre and Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre – WINNER
Ink: Almeida (& Duke of York’s) Theatre
Network: National Theatre – Lyttelton
Oslo: Harold Pinter Theatre

Best New Musical
An American In Paris – Dominion Theatre
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre
Girl From The North Country – The Old Vic
Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre – WINNER
Young Frankenstein – Garrick Theatre Continue reading “Winners of the 2018 Olivier Awards”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2017: the winners in full

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer (a tie)
Sheila Atim for Girl from the North Country, Old Vic and Noël Coward Theatre
John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Crucible and Apollo Theatre

The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Andrew Scott in Hamlet, Almeida and Harold Pinter Theatre

Most Promising Playwright
Brandon Jacob-Jenkins for An Octoroon, Orange Tree Theatre and Gloria, Hampstead Theatre

The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre

Best Designer
Vicki Mortimer for Follies, National Theatre

Best Director
Dominic Cooke for Follies, National Theatre

Best Actress
Victoria Hamilton for Albion, Almeida Theatre

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston for Network, National Theatre

Best New Play
The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth, Royal Court and Gielgud Theatre

Special Award
David Lan for services to theatre

Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud

 “The years roll by and nothing changes”

I always find it fascinating to watch how the critical community deals with a play that becomes a big success. The overnight rush to acclaim genius, the enthusiasm with which some greet it, the scepticism that that inspires in others followed by the relief that comes when someone publishes a well-reasoned critique that allows them to say ‘well it isn’t that good, see’. All the while, the show is doing great business with a general public who are just excited to see a hot new play.

Which is all a long-winded introduction to me getting to see Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman for a second time. I enjoyed the play, immensely so in places, when I first saw it in its initial run but it was a four star show for me rather than the full five – here’s my review from the Royal Court. And in its grander new home at the Gielgud, I have to say I pretty much felt the same way. It is a play that wields extraordinary power but it also one which struggles a tad with subtlety.

Continue reading “Re-review: The Ferryman, Gielgud”

Review: The Ferryman, Royal Court

“This family can take care of its own”

The hype around Jez Butterworth’s new play The Ferryman was so expertly managed that the show became the fastest-selling-ever for the Royal Court with a West End transfer already neatly positioned to meet the demand. And why not, Jerusalem conquered the country (if not me) and The River stretched all the way to Broadway, plus The Ferryman also has Sam Mendes making his Royal Court debut – it’s almost as if co-producer Sonia Friedman knows what she is doing!

The play’s the thing though and here, Butterworth has constructed a Northern Irish epic. Set at harvest-time in 1981, deep in County Armagh, the Carney clan are gathering for a humdinger of a do once the work in the field is done. And what a clan it is, Rob Howell’s farmhouse kitchen design really does disguise its hidden depths as family member after family member emerges from its nooks and crannies, and that’s before the cousins from Derry have turned up too. But as with any family drama worth its salt, it’s the guests you’re not expecting that you have to watch out for.

Continue reading “Review: The Ferryman, Royal Court”

DVD Review: Birthday Girl

“Are you a giraffe?”

Birthday Girl is a rather odd little thing, a 2001 film from Jez Butterworth (he of Jerusalem) that seemed to slip under the radar somewhat. It’s not brilliant but by the same token it isn’t terrible either and plenty worse films have made bigger waves. Ben Chaplin’s John is hapless in St Albans (is there anything else you can be there? ;-)), having no luck in love and so resorting to getting himself a Russian mail-order bride called Nadia. She turns up in the form of Nicole Kidman, who else, and though she can’t speak a word of English, she indulges his S&M fantasies and so job’s, it would seem, a good’un.

But it’s no happily ever after, Nadia’s two rough cousins soon turn up on the doorstep (played by Frenchmen Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz, assumedly because the Russians were out on the day they were casting?) and John’s job as a bank clerk turns out to be rather important. Their unpredictable violence pulls John deep into a morass of deception and criminality but after the mid-film twists take place, the movie runs out of energy and trundles towards a rather uninspired ending that no amount of random Brit cameos (Ben Miller, Reece Shearsmith) can rescue. Continue reading “DVD Review: Birthday Girl”

Review: The River, Circle in the Square

“You will try to remember. How you felt. You’ll try to be back there. To live it again. But you can’t get back there. You can never go back.”

Cripes. They say you should never go back (so obviously I booked two Royal Court transfers that I’ve already seen for this trip to Broadway) and this one proved to be a case in point. Jez Butterworth’s The River was the talk of the town when it opened at the Royal Court Upstairs back in 2012, mainly because of the ridiculous booking system that meant there were no advance tickets available. And when it opened recently on Broadway, all the chat was similarly diverted from the play at hand by Hugh Jackman’s biceps and a raft of articles about audience (mis)behaviour.

Which is a shame, as it is a strikingly poetic piece of theatre, intriguingly and obtusely written by Butterworth as an opaque study of masculinity and relationships and mystery and trout-fishing. I enjoyed it considerably in London but was quite happy to give it a miss in NY until I found out Cush Jumbo had been cast in this production, an odd choice perhaps, given the location, but a tempting one for me as I’ve much enjoyed her work. Too tempting as it turned out, as it over-rode the misgivings I had about returning to the show, which were apparent upon the moment I took my seat. Continue reading “Review: The River, Circle in the Square”

(P)review: Mojo, Harold Pinter

“I promise not to squeeze your nuts”

So I’m trying the preview thing again, talking about a show that has just opened rather than reviewing it per se, offering more of an overview and little tidbits that will hopefully whet the appetite of people keen to know more about the show, without giving too much away. Press night is 13th November.

Much of theatre marketing has long been about putting bums on seats and so posters for shows up and down the land often feature ‘im or ‘er off the telly front and centre, hoping that a bit of canny casting will draw in interested audiences. The West End of course has a little more pulling power and so for this first major revival of Jez Butterworth’s Mojo, the cast of six includes some high-wattage ‘im off that thing, including

 photo output_axNmvQ_zpsac713ed7.gif Continue reading “(P)review: Mojo, Harold Pinter”

Review: The River, Royal Court

“I’m not entirely sure what love is”

Despite being prepared for all kinds of brouhaha with the specially instituted booking system for The River, Jez Butterworth’s new play upstairs at the Royal Court – tickets only available on the day of performance, 30 in person and the rest online – when it came to it, I only had to refresh the website twice at 9am to get my tickets (I recommend logging into your account first) so hopefully, it may be less of a trial than might be currently considered. Butterworth’s last play here was the behemoth that became Jerusalem (and yes, I am one of the few people that wasn’t much of a fan…) but I did enjoy his more intimate Parlour Song for the Almeida and so expectations were at a nicely manageable level.

Which is always a good place to be, especially when it enables one to fully appreciate a play free from too much baggage. For The River is a piece of gorgeously sensitive writing, utterly beguiling in its subtle deconstruction of the way we conduct ourselves in relationships -the facades erected, the lies told, the declarations made, the pasts conveniently ignored. An introspective look at what it means to be intimate with someone and the importance of honesty in conjunction with that, it combines the highly naturalistic world realised by Ultz with the almost magical, poetic language of Butterworth which swims with unknowing purpose, occasionally catching the light beautifully like the sea trout in the story, negotiating the swells of the river back to its spawning ground.    Continue reading “Review: The River, Royal Court”