Review: All My Sons, Old Vic

Some titanic acting performances from Sally Field, Bill Pullman and Colin Morgan in this superb All My Sons at the Old Vic Theatre

“We all got hit by the same lightning”

You do wonder how new playwrights are ever going to get a look-in when Arthur Miller can dominate London theatres without it even being a significant anniversary year for him. That said, the Old Vic’s second Miller in a row sees a Headlong co-production of All My Sons (with Death of a Salesman imminent at the Young Vic, he’ll have the run of The Cut) that gives an enviable target to aim for.

I’ve seen a handful of All My Sons since starting the blog, from the sublime and superb to the somewhat less impressive, and it is remarkable how it stands as a play that really needs little doing to it for its quality to shine through. And so it is with Jeremy Herrin’s production here, a relatively straightforward one for Headlong all told, but all the more effective for it. Continue reading “Review: All My Sons, Old Vic”

Re-review: ear for eye, Royal Court

I go back to debbie tucker green’s ear for eye because sometimes, you just have to

“Change don’t give-a-fuck
change gone do its thing with or without you.”

Not too much to add about ear for eye that I didn’t already say in my original review but it was a play that I kept thinking about, reading and re-reading, and decided that I needed to see again to really get that confrontational power that it possesses. A bit disappointed to see a few people making a dash for it, clearly too much of a challenge for them but you have to laud debbie tucker green for creating the kind of structurally ingenious and politically urgent work that provokes such some emotion.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Stephen Cummiskey
eye for ear is booking at the Royal Court until 24th November

 

Review: ear for eye, Royal Court

ear for eye, debbie tucker green’s new play for the Royal Court is ferocious and uncompromising and challenging and quite often breath-taking

“This is harder for us than it is for you”

debbie tucker green’s new play play ear for eye is ferocious and uncompromising and challenging and quite often breath-taking. Tackling the current state of racism in both the UK and the US, a triptych of wildly diverse parts bind together green’s innate linguistic power with an acutely pointed experiential style and a determination to really make you listen.

Played at two hours without an interval, green thus presents us with what it is to be black today. The first is a tangle of overlapping voices, mothers advising sons how to deal with contact with the police, victim of harassment, activists looking to galvanise the struggle. Scenes are repeated in different voices, viscerally contrasting those experiences (particularly when the hand gestures scene is replayed with BSL).

Then we switch to a tightly wound duologue (Lashana Lynch and Demetri Goritsas, both excellent) as a black student talks, discusses, argues with a white professor about the violence meted out by white men in school shooting and bombings etc. She’s adamant it is indicative of systemic, structural racism, he’s sure they’re all lone wolves, but the power dynamics here are astonishing as we’re swept right into the maelstrom of mansplaining mendacity as he battles to exert his authority.

Finally, the third section is a filmed segment, white people reciting the horrific detail of some of the Jim Crow laws, seemingly the basis for segregation in the US. And lest we British get too complacent, it is followed by extracts from UK slave codes, tracing the historic links of these pernicious rules, literally codified into society and seemingly impossible to shake off. It is hard to take and that is pretty much green’s point (and why there’s no interval to slope off shamefully). 

green directs with laser-like precision, Vicki Manderson’s movement creating beautiful tableaux as the sixteen-strong ensemble endlessly switch and reconfigure. And Merle Hansel’s monolithic set frames this opening sequence with real visual flair, under Paule Constable’s elegant lighting choices. ear for eye is as challenging as theatre gets, as art gets, but make no mistake as to how vital it is. (And what a year Kayla Meikle is having!)

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
Photos: Stephen Cummiskey
eye for ear is booking at the Royal Court until 24th November

Review: Dance Nation, Almeida

I loved Clare Barron’s Dance Nation at the Almeida but fear it might not get the audiences it deserves

“People don’t say they cry when they watch me dance.
When they watch Amina dance, they cry. I know.
Because I cry when I watch Amina dance.”

I saw a late preview of Dance Nation at the Almeida so I was going to hold off saying much about it. But the hypocrisy of Quentin Letts’ tweet about the show (search on Twitter if you must) roused me to action for it is a pretty damn fine piece of writing by US playwright Clare Barron, and a damn fine piece of theatre directed by Bijan Sheibani.

It uses the device of adults playing kids to delve into the world of competitive high school dance, investigating what it is like to be a 13 year old girl, to be caught up in the ferocity of cut-throat contest whilst also navigating the physical and emotional upheaval of becoming a teenager. It’s blistering, uncompromising stuff and so it is perhaps little surprise that it has ruffled the feathers of some terribly sensitive souls. Continue reading “Review: Dance Nation, Almeida”

Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival

“We don’t need a book, what we need is action”

The publicity for Abi Zakarian’s I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream puts it better than I ever could – it’s “a play-performance-art-protest-thing.” With one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a theatre this year, involving Sean Bean. Directed by Rafaella Marcus, the show has all the raw energy of devised work but also carries with it the weight of something much more deeply considered.

I Have A Mouth… is an attempt to “address every single feminist issue in the space of sixty minutes” and does so, with its company of six, in a mightily anarchic manner. These are women who are just as likely to spit in a mirror, throw a tampon at you and bite the head off a wedding bouquet than sit quietly in the corner and put up with the patriarchy any longer and fuck knows, they’ve got every right to be angry. Continue reading “Review: I Have A Mouth And I Will Scream, VAULT Festival”

TV Review: Will, Episodes 1 + 2

“You are a curiosity”

American versions of Shakespeare (whether his plays or the man himself) are always worth looking up, even if only for a chuckle and new TNT TV series Will is certainly no exception. There’s some weight behind it – it was created by Craig Pearce, the longtime writing partner of filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and has Shekhar Kapur, who directed the award-winning Elizabeth and Elizabeth: The Golden Age, directing and executive producing and in the role of the Bard himself, there’s a potentially star-making role for British newcomer Laurie Davidson.

I watched the first two episodes and they sure make an arresting introduction. You feel Luhrmann’s influence almost immediately as this is no antiquated version of a sedate Elizabethan London, but rather it is one shot through with bright colours and a punk-filled attitude. Literally so, as they have conceived the burgeoning theatre scene of the time as being akin to the contemporary(ish) world of punk rock – theatres filled with patrons in leather and mohicans, the soundtrack filled with the Clash and drunken singalongs to Lou Reed.  Continue reading “TV Review: Will, Episodes 1 + 2”

Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts

“Why, there be good women in the world”

At the heart of Custom/Practice’s Verve festival – exploring shifting relations between minority groups and the theatre – is this gender-flipped production of The Taming of the Shrew. Indubitably one of the more challenging of Shakespeare’s plays, contemporary companies thus have to work a little harder to make it ‘work’ for them – Propeller played up the Christopher Sly framing device to confront notions of masculinity and power to great effect but here, director Rae Mcken excises it to plunge us straight into a world where women are ruling the roost.

For pretty much every character save Grumio is being played by someone of the opposite sex as someone of the opposite sex but further blurring the boundaries, costumes suggest the original gender. So Martina Laird’s Petruchio arrives looking for a husband by striding onto the stage somewhere between matador and pirate in resplendent gold satin and Tim Bowie’s Bianca bristles under his mother’s edicts whilst wearing make-up, heels and a corset over his tapered joggers. It’s an inventive and challenging take that forces constant questioning about gender roles and society’s role in enforcing them. Continue reading “Review: The Taming of the Shrew, Above the Arts”