DVD Review: NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage

“We’re not doing in fucking tights, with whatever those fucking old jock-strap things are called that they wear”

NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage is a behind-the-scenes look at the final instalment of the Bridge Project, a transatlantic theatrical enterprise that saw a partnership between the Old Vic, London, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York and Neal Street Production. Over each of its three years, a single Anglo-American company was brought together to perform classic plays, culminating in a production of Richard III that toured the world for over 200 years.

Led by Kevin Spacey’s Tricky Dicky (very much Frank Underwood in the making) and director Sam Mendes in their first collaboration since the Oscar winning American Beauty, NOW… is still very much a company piece, giving us a glimpse into life on the road not just for the actors but also for all the creatives, it’s fascinating to see the challenges that faced the associate director Bruce Guthrie and his stage management team as this substantial production moved from city to city. Continue reading “DVD Review: NOW – in the Wings on a World Stage”

Review: The Hundred We Are, Yard

“Forget how to sit, that’s all we have to do”

I was introduced to Hobo Theatre earlier this year with their production of Hunger set in a bakery but The Hundred We Are sees them occupy a more traditional theatre space at the Yard in Hackney Wick. This award-winning play by Swedish writer Jonas Hassen Khemiri, translated here by Frank Perry, is a bit of a challenge though as three women sift through their memories and experiences, asking questions about the many different lives that we can and do live, and also pondering those that we do not choose.

For the trio, named enigmatically 1, 2 and 3, are all at different stages in the life of a woman and discuss, debate, disagree and engage in dialogue with each other, restating and rebuilding the personal history that makes them who they are, or even who she is. As fragments of the same person, Ida Bonnast’s fresh and fiery young’un, Katherine Manner’s brittle, dissatisfied middle-aged misery, and Karen Archer’s pragmatic voice of experience tussle and tug against each other, only slowly realising how much they need each other. Continue reading “Review: The Hundred We Are, Yard”

Review: From Morning to Midnight, National Theatre

“Well, that was a bit odd”

Sometimes, one knows from the first moments of a show that it just isn’t going to be your cup of tea. And so it was with the opening montage of Melly Still’s new production of From Morning to Midnight, a landmark of German expressionism apparently but for me, a hugely ambitious piece of stagecraft that indulges far too much overt theatricality at the expense of dramatic integrity. It is worth noting ‘twas a preview that I saw and one in which understudy Jack Tarlton had to step in for the injured Adam Godley in the lead role.

Georg Kaiser’s 1912 play uses an episodic form to tell the story of an everyday clerk who is jolted from the mundaneness of his existence when a sultry Italian wanders into his bank, inspiring him to seize the day and make a change to his dull family life. That he does by stealing 60,000 marks from the bank with the intention of eloping with this woman but when she rejects him, the clerk delves into a journey of the soul – both actual and metaphysical – that lasts for a day but feels like a lifetime. Continue reading “Review: From Morning to Midnight, National Theatre”

Review: Richard III, Old Vic

“I thank God for my humility”

Something of a rarity for me in visiting the final show of a run, here the final iteration of the three year transatlantic Bridge Project this time taking in just the single show, Richard III. The reason I left it so late was mainly because I hadn’t got a huge amount of will to actually go and see it, Propeller’s anarchic and inventive interpretation being so fresh in my mind especially after revisiting it just as this production opened at the Old Vic, and though my Aunty Jean was most keen to see it, by the time I got round to it, it had predictably sold out. Sod’s law dictates that tickets for a couple of shows in the final week emerged last minute but she couldn’t make it, but I snapped up a £15 bargain in the dress circle to go and see what all the fuss was about.

The big selling point of Sam Mendes’ production was clearly Kevin Spacey in the title role and Spacey rises to the challenge to provide the grandest of performances. So much so that I was initially rather turned off by the overemphatic nature of his opening scenes, it felt akin to being hit by a sledgehammer of acting and left me wondering where on earth he was going to go from this grandstanding. Fortunately, he did calm down a bit to allow the depth of his portrayal to emerge: a malevolent spirit but not one born evil, but twisted that way by life and still able to keep a black humour about him, Spacey excelling with a sardonic rapidfire delivery. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Old Vic”

Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, National Theatre

The Revenger’s Tragedy is a Jacobean revenge play of dubious authorship but these day, attributed to Thomas Middleton. It is set in a decadent Italian court full of moral decay but in Melly Still’s new production here at the Olivier auditorium in the National Theatre, it has taken on a whole new lease of life.

The story is full of backstabbing intrigue and intricate plotting which required a lot of attention. Vindice is our hero of sorts, but he is determined to be revenged on the Duke, as whilst he’s seemingly a fine upstanding type, actually raped and pillaged the fiancée of Vindice a few years back. His home life is a little eventful too, his Duchess is a narcissistic, sexually voracious, hedonist who is lusting after her husband’s bastard son; and their other sons are a motley crew of bad’uns. One of them, the handsome Lussurioso, has decided to buy a lovely young woman from her mother, but she turns out to be the sister of Vindice. Thus, the scene is set for a strange mix of tragedy and comedy as we hurtle to the oh so very bloody climax. Continue reading “Review: The Revenger’s Tragedy, National Theatre”

Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, National Theatre

I do love me some actresses, and I always get a thrill when I hear the words ‘all-female cast’ so I was very much inclined to book for The House of Bernarda Alba at the National Theatre. A new version by David Hare has been commissioned of Lorca’s classic (I say classic, I’ve never read it…) which bemoaned the way in which women were treated at the time but hinted metaphorically at his own repressed homosexuality and the increasingly oppression that brought about Franco’s rule.

Set in 1930s Spain in a stunningly mounted (by Vicki Mortimer) palace of an Andalusian house, the Alba household is mourning the death of matriarch Bernarda’s husband but the actual feeling is one more akin to liberation as it turns out she relishes the chance to take control of the family, of her five unmarried daughters, and maintain the staunchly Catholic ethos of sexual repression despite the natural urges of her girls. Continue reading “Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, National Theatre”