Lots of exciting news coming out of the National Theatre today, including actors Nicola Walker, Giles Terera and Kristin Scott Thomas, directors Simon Stone, Lynette Linton and Nicole Charles, and returns for Small Island, Beginningand The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The National Theatre has today announced nine productions that will play on the South Bank in 2020-2021 alongside previouslyannounced shows. These run alongside their international touring productions, three plays that will tour to multiple venues across the UK and a West End transfer. The NT also announces today that it will increase the quantity of low-price tickets on the South Bank by 25%, with 250,000 available across the year at £20 or less.
I look ahead to some of the 2020 shows exciting me most with an emphasis away from the West End, looking mostly instead at the London fringe and across the UK
Sure, there’s all sorts of big ticket shows coming to London in 2020 (with big ticket prices too to go with their big names), like Sunday in the Park with George with Jake Gyllenhaal, Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg, A Doll’s House with Jessica Chastain. But there’s so much more to discover if you venture away from Shaftesbury Avenue…
1 The Glass Menagerie, Odéon–Théâtre de l’Europe at the Barbican
Not that I want to be predictable at all but Isabelle Huppert! Acting in French! Right in front of you! I understand that van Hove-fatigue might be setting in for people but only a FOOL would pass up the chance to see one of our greatest living actors. A FOOL!
2 The Glass Menagerie, Royal Exchange
And if you wanted to do a direct compare and contrast, Atri Banerjee’s revival for the Royal Exchange will be worth checking out too for an alternative perspective.
3 The Wicker Husband, Watermill Even before Benjamin Button tore my heart apart, I was excited for the arrival of this new musical by Rhys Jennings and Darren Clark but now, the bar has been raised even higher. And the gorgeous intimacy of the Watermill feels like a perfect fit.
4 Children of Nora, Internationaal Theater Amsterdam
Me: “I don’t need any more Ibsen in my life”
Also me: Robert Icke revisiting the world of A Doll’s House through the eyes of the next generation? Yes please.
And as such, it certainly is something of a challenge. Played for its two hours without interval, Blanchett and co-star Stephen Dillane act out a series of psychosexual, sado-masochistic role-playing games and that’s about it. There’s strap-ons and shaving foam, backseat shenanigans and boxes of cherries, and an untold amount of portentous chat which sometimes, sometimes, sears through to the soul. Continue reading “Review: When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other, National Theatre”
All sorts of goodies were announced today for the upcoming slate of productions at the National Theatre, including Small Island, Peter Gynt, and Top Girls
Small Island, a new play adapted by Helen Edmundson from Andrea Levy’s Orange Prize-winning bestselling novel, will open in the Olivier Theatre in May. Directed by Rufus Norris, the play journeys from Jamaica to Britain through the Second World War to 1948, the year the HMT Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Small Island follows the intricately connected stories of Hortense, newly arrived in London, landlady Queenie and servicemen Gilbert and Bernard. Hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as, with epic sweep, the play uncovers the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK. Hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Small Island will be broadcast live to cinemas worldwide as part of NT Live. Continue reading “News from the National Theatre Autumn 2018 Press Conference”
Such amazing casting news came our way yesterday, with not one but two of my absolute faves returning to the London stage in the coming months. The starrier of the two is Cate Blanchett, who will appear with Stephen Dillane in a brand new play by Martin Crimp’s directed by Katie Mitchell at the National Theatre in January 2019. The play is enigmatically entitled When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other – Twelve Variations on Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. (The torture presumably being the absolute scrum there’ll be to get tickets, as the show is going into the NT’s most intimate space, the Dorfman.)
Beautiful yet undeniably brutal,Anatomy of a Suicidehas all the shimmering disquiet of a half-remembered dream, a blurred imagining of people, places and things that coalesce into something deeply profound. Constructed by playwright Alice Birch and director Katie Mitchell, it revels in a hugely exciting formal inventiveness (even the playtext is stunning to look at) but is also filled with a repressed emotionality that is often bruising to watch.
The play contains three narrative strands, set in different times, which are performed simultaneously on the same stage. Across the decades from the 1970s to the 2030s, the lives of Carol, Anna and Bonnie play out with strange echoes and motifs recurring until we realise how interconnected they are. Anna is Carol’s daughter, Bonnie is Anna’s and it is more than blood that they share, Birch suggests a shared legacy of severe depression.
It’s an uncomfortable (depressing, even) premise but one which pays rich dividends as it provokes in us something primal, something elemental about the truths and conventions we cling onto. The thought that motherhood isn’t always considered a blessing but a trial, the idea that we can easily outrun familial legacies, the notion that what is so, so good for ourselves isn’t necessarily so great for another. As words and actions trickle down through the ages, reverberating back again, shaping and reshaping these lives, something vastly moving occurs.
Hattie Morahan, Kate O’Flynn and Adelle Leonce are simply stunning as the three generations of women at the heart of this story, each meticulously detailed in their performance and painstakingly accurate in the different ways in which mental illness has hollowed them out. And the way in which the intergenerational echoes pop up is unbearably moving, the precision of Mitchell’s direction in complete service of fully fleshed-out storytelling producing something astonishing, especially in the agonising poignancy of one of the final tableaux. An absolute triumph.
Running time: 2 hours (without interval) Photos: Stephen Cummiskey Booking until 8th July
The class struggle is an innate part of Jean Genet’s The Maids but the mark of many a good drama that has endured for several decades is its ability to handle new interpretations by the directors who seek to revive them. Jamie Lloyd refracted the play through the lens of American racial politics for his visually striking production at the Trafalgar Studios earlier this year and ever the iconoclast, Katie Mitchell, making her directorial debut at Toneelgroep Amsterdam, chooses to put a migrant labour spin on her more naturalistic version.
So sisters Claire and Solange here are middle-aged Polish women – underpaid, underappreciated and in at least one case, really quite ill – who have found work keeping house for Madame, or rather keeping her super-luxe apartment. The relationship is a complex one though as we see them passing the time by enacting and re-enacting the ritualistic murder of their employer, raging against the system in the only way that they can – in secret, in private, away from the eyes of a Western society that doesn’t really give a fuck when it is oppressing. Continue reading “Review: De Meiden, Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam”
“It was spoken in this way and it was spoken of in this way”
Returning to the Hampstead Downstairs after the intensely immersive small hours, Katie Mitchell continues to push the boundaries of what this theatrical space can offer by creating its first promenade production –Say It With Flowers. A journey through some of the writings of American modernist writer Gertrude Stein, it maintains Mitchell’s customary inventive approach to theatre – probably unparalleled by any other British director – as she explores Stein’s use of language and wordplay with her own unconventional, and playful, style.
The pleasures that come from a piece such as this are not those that equate to a conventional play – I’ve heard mention that “it isn’t dramatic” but it would seem to me that this is to miss the intentions of both Stein’s writing and Mitchell’s work. Rather than notions of story or character, we’re challenged as an audience about the way in which words are used, how language can define our identity, and how meaning can shift so completely with a slight change of emphasis. These are elusive, even existential concepts that defy simplistic narrative devices and consequently, it is probably best to just embrace the hypnotic swirl and compelling strangeness of this world. Continue reading “Review: Say It With Flowers, Hampstead Downstairs”
Once again, the National Theatre turn to Katie Mitchell to create their festive show and with frequent collaborator Lucy Kirkwood, who wrote and co-devised here, this year sees Hansel and Gretelreceive their inimitable treatment. As one would expect from Mitchell, this is an extremely playful and creative take on the tale which starts off with the Brothers Grimm as a vaudevillian double act hunting for elusive stories in the depths of the mysterious Black Forest. When they finally catch one, they pop it into their special confabulating machine and the result is this bewitching production.
Aimed at 7-10 year olds, this is necessarily a rather straight-forward telling of the fairytale of the young brother and sister who are the victims of a vindictive stepmother, abandoned in the forest and left to fend for themselves. They think their dreams have come true when they find refuge in a house constructed of gingerbread and sweets owned by an old lady, but it soon turns out that they pretty much gone from the frying pan and into the fire. But the story has been enhanced: there are additional characters like a euphonium-playing bat called Stuart and a Russian kitchen slave literally chained to the stove, songs by Paul Clark are sprinkled through the narrative and there’s also some sprinkling of a more festive variety. Continue reading “Review: Hansel and Gretel, National Theatre”