Review: The Big Meal, HighTide

“Don’t you think I should be wearing underwear for this?”

The major stresses and ongoing strife of family life in all its messiness is at the heart of Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal, the sole US input into the main HighTide programme, which has already played a short run at Bath’s Ustinov theatre. Taking the idea that much of importance happens around the dinner table, LeFranc explores 80 years of a couple’s life through five generations of a family in an ambitiously sprawling framework which sees time following an anything-but-linear path, swathes of dialogue overlapping noisily with each other and a ton of food. And through the cacophony, it does manage to become something rather exhilarating.

It’s a dizzying experience though, and Michael Boyd’s direction manages to somehow embrace the audience into this strange world but keep us discombobulated within it. Sam and Nicole are the couple whose initial meeting in a diner is swiftly followed by the ‘ding’ that indicates passage of time and we see that they’re married with kids and so on and so forth, each ‘ding’ changing something which further complicates the ever-growing family and their troubled dynamic, which essentially boils down to life’s a bitch and then you die, during a silent Last Supper montage. Oh and yes, you will end up like your mother.  Continue reading “Review: The Big Meal, HighTide”

Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria

 “There’s a kind of a sort of: cost
There’s a couple of things get: lost” 

Now entering its eighth year at the Apollo Victoria, Wicked remains one of the major go-to shows in London’s West End, beloved of fans and tourists alike. A major UK tour has just started to great reviews in Manchester, demonstrating the wide appeal of this prequel-of-sorts to the events in The Wizard of Oz but with a major cast-change fast approaching, the London production feels like it is missing a little of that emerald sparkle that has made it such an enduring success.

I’ve seen the show twice before (reviews here and here) and so perhaps there’s an element of familiarity breeding contempt but I do have a fondness for Stephen Schwartz’s score and you gotta love a story that puts female friendship so firmly at the centre (many may mock the musical but how many long-running plays are there that do the same…). It was just hard to shake the feeling that maybe some people were a little demob-happy, or even maybe that the production is resting on its laurels a tad.  Continue reading “Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria”

Review: The Spanish Tragedy, Arcola

“Vengeance is mine. Ay, heaven will revenged of every ill”

The Spanish Tragedy was written by Thomas Kyd in the 16th century and is regarded as one of the first ever examples of the revenge tragedy. Kyd’s play proved to be highly influential on other Elizabethan writers such as Marlowe, Jonson and indeed Shakespeare, Hamlet in particular takes much inspiration from several key elements of this play. It is presented here at the Arcola Theatre in Hackney, one of the most interesting fringe venues in London, with a great cafe and bar for pre/post-show interactions.

In the aftermath of a bloody war, the royal leaders of war-torn Spain and Portugal plan a marriage between their families in the hope of forging peace. But the bride already has a secret lover. When he is murdered to make way for the new groom, his father Hieronimo is forced down a brutal path of vengeance from which there is no return. Watched throughout by the ghost of a soldier and Revenge, personified here by a chillingly played, creepy little girl, there seems no doubt about the inexorable path of vengeance that Hieronimo takes, the implication being that their supernatural influence is guiding the grieving father. Yet the heart of the play is more about the human reaction to being wronged, and the pervasive need for retribution, no matter the consequences. Continue reading “Review: The Spanish Tragedy, Arcola”