July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
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Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

 

The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.
 
The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018. Tickets will go on general sale at 4pm today.

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Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

South West London Law Centres, a charity that provides specialist legal advice in social welfare law for people who cannot afford to pay privately for a lawyer, are holding a comedy fundraiser event, Jokes For Justice, on February 23rd 2017 at The Bedford Pub, Balham. Nish Kumar, Jonny and The Baptists and Sophie Willan will be performing on the night to help raise funds to continue their work across South West London. After the devastating legal aid cuts of 2013, our income has been slashed by over 40% and ten other Law Centres have already closed down – funds are desperately needed to support access to justice for those most in need within our communities.

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DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2

“You believe in laws but there are only lechers”

For some reason or other, I stopped watching the second series of Ripper Street midway through and it’s taken me until now to finally finish it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s more likely to do with running out of time to watch it on the iPlayer or something but anyhoo, I’ve managed it now. My review of Series 1 (which I thoroughly appreciated) is over here and I have to say that that enjoyment has continued, even if I do have a few reservations about its female voices.

It’s a shame that in a crime procedural led by three men, two of the leading supporting female characters did not return for this second series. DI Reid’s wife and kind-of-mistress (Amanda Hale and Lucy Cohu) are both MIA, losing all the work done to establish them, and though Leanne Best is introduced as a local politician who can’t help but flirt with Reid (he’s played by Matthew Macfadyen after all), the overall weight of the series does thus feel a little unbalanced.

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TV Review: Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands Episode 1

“Some people say that heroes are born and some that they’re made” 

As Da Vinci’s Demons draws to a close and Game of Thrones fans have to wait until the end of April for Season 6 to start, ITV step into the big-budget historical fantasy genre with their 12-part serialisation of Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. Created by James Dormer, Tim Haines and Katie Newman, Beowulf is based on the epic Old English poem set in the Dark Ages in Northumbria but spins its own fantasy world out of the source material, something that looks promising on the evidence of this first episode. 

With any new series, there’s a certain amount of setting up to be done in the first episode and Dormer’s writing does well to weave plenty of exposition into the story without weighing it down too much. After seeing his father killed by a fearsome beast which he then slaughters, the young Beowulf is adopted by the local thane Hrothgar. This is shown in a brief prologue as as the show starts proper, we’ve skipped a couple of decades ahead where Beowulf, long estranged from his family, returns to the frontier town of Herot to mourn Hrothgar’s passing.  Continue reading “TV Review: Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands Episode 1”

Review: The Father, Wyndham’s

“How long are you going to keep on getting on our tits for?”

It’s hard, trying to wean yourself off an addiction to theatre. You make decisions about what to see, or more accurately what not to see, and then have to stick by them. But then the damn plays get West End transfers and so the resolve has to be reinstated and redoubled, the increasing glowing recommendations from friends ignored. So it will come as no surprise that in the case of Florian Zeller’s The Father, first seen in London at the Tricycle and then moved to the Wyndham’s, I cracked.

I should state that my primary reasons for not going were not about the quality of this Theatre Royal Bath production, but rather that I’d been warned it would make me cry a lot and I don’t much like being distraught in theatres (or cinemas for that matter, I had to wait for Amour to come out on DVD before daring to watch it and rightly so). And as a portrayal of, or a theatrical assumption of, the experience of a dementia-riddled mind, it is certainly most affecting. Continue reading “Review: The Father, Wyndham’s”

DVD Review: Salting the Battlefield

“It’s not a question of how it is, it’s a question of how it appears”

Salting the Battlefield is the third and concluding part of the Johnny Worricker trilogy, following on from Page Eight and Turks and Caicos, and sees David Hare wrap up the dramas that he both wrote and directed. Worricker is an ex-MI5 analyst who is on the run from the British authorities after exposing a couple of massive secrets that threaten PM Alec Beasley, a marvelously slimy Ralph Fiennes. From the Caribbean he’s ended up in Germany with former lover and current conspirator Margot but the net is drawing ever closer for an endgame to settle all scores. 

It’s grand to see original players from Page Eight returning. Saskia Reeves’ ambitious Deputy Prime Minister still precarious as ever in her position but finding opportunity in the chaos of her personal and professional life; Judy Davis’ plain-speaking MI5 head still bemoaning the old boys’ club of an institution she appears to have firmly by the balls; and Felicity Jones as Worricker’s under-used daughter. And as stakes are raised in order for scores are settled, there’s a fantastic amount of Machiavellian manipulation by all parties, chillingly conversational confrontation the order of the day here. Continue reading “DVD Review: Salting the Battlefield”

Review: Othello, Lyric Hammersmith

“What, man! ’tis a night of revels”

At the hint of something daring and innovative in a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays, it is all too easy to fall back on the truism that it probably isn’t for purists – heaven knows I was guilty of it just last week. But whereas not all adaptations necessarily work that well, Frantic Assembly’s brutal and breathless reimagining of Othello – arriving at the Lyric Hammersmith after a UK tour – is exactly the type of thing that purists should be made to see as a thrilling example of how powerful and effective an interpretation can be.

And that is what this Othello is in the end. To start counting the characters who’ve been excised, noting which speeches are spoken by someone else or which plot details have been omitted is to utterly miss the point. Adaptors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have brilliantly managed to take the play apart, capture its essence but then reconstruct it into something familiar but new. Full-length traditional productions (of variable quality) are two-a-penny but oh so rarely is Shakespeare this pulsating and compelling and visceral and modern. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: We Are Proud To Present…, Bush Theatre

“So, there’s like a lecture that’s only sort of  a lecture and then we did this thing that is kind of like an overview before the the lecture, which is before the presentation.
Does that make sense?”

Some plays leave you thinking, and though it is now a couple of days since I saw the Bush Theatre’s We Are Proud To Present…, I’m still utterly unsure about it. This is the European premiere of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s US hit from 2012 whose full title is in fact We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the GermanSudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915 and Sibblies Drury has adapted the text for a British cast, and presumably a British audience.

For the play blisters through the weight of our colonial past, the state of current race relations and the ability of theatre to effectively process them, asking if art can find a healing way through such tangled and tortured history to find a potentially brighter future. So it is hard not to feel a little despondent at the way Gbolahan Obisesan’s production plays out, the playwright’s indictment of white people in general so unsettling and thought-provoking, the starkly uncompromising attitude breathtakingly bold. Continue reading “Review: We Are Proud To Present…, Bush Theatre”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Crucible

 “There’s some ill planet reigns”

Sheffield’s autumnal Shakespeares have become something of a yearly institution and a regular fixture in my theatregoing diary. This year sees The Winter’s Tale arrive at the Crucible with something of a less starry cast than in previous years (although Barbara Marten and Claire Price were both strong draws for us) and the return of director Paul Miller to the series, after his Hamlet back in 2010. Sad to say though, this was not for me – the atmosphere hampered by a sadly sparse matinée audience but the production also full of choices that just didn’t appeal.

Shakespeare’s late play relies on the careful balancing of two halves – Sicilia’s dark tragedy and Bohemia’s pastoral vibrancy, the pain of simmering jealousy against the freshness of new love. But though they must complement each other, they need to effectively stand alone as well and Miller struggles with his opening act. The sparseness of Simon Daw’s design places the focus strictly on the interactions of his actors, but his preferred method of placing them at some distance from each other on the large stage estranges them too much, both from each other and from the audience. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Crucible”