Not-a-Review: ANNA, National Theatre

Created by playwright Ella Hickson (The Writer) and sound designers Ben and Max Ringham, ANNA is directed by Natalie Abrahami with real ingenuity, as individual audio headsets are used to give us a unique perspective on a play, directly from the viewpoint of Phoebe Fox’s Anna. It didn’t work for me.

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
ANNA is booking at the National Theatre until 15th June

Not-really-a-review: The Writer, Almeida

Playing with form, Ella Hickson’s The Writer is a bold new production from Blanche McIntyre at the Almeida. This review also plays with form…

“I want awe. I feel like I need blood. All the time. And anything less than that makes me feel desperate. It makes me feel like I want to die.”

Miss Vanjie
Miss Vanjie

Miss…Vanjie

Running time: 2 hours (without interval)
The Writer is booking at the Almeida Theatre until 26th May
PS: I did really enjoy, I’m just going to let other people do the heavy lifting in probing it apart!

Review: Persuasion, Royal Exchange

“We cannot all live in a fairytale”

 
I’ve been looking forward to Jeff James’ reinterpretation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion ever since it was announced, James having worked with Ivo van Hove as an associate director and the evidence of his work that I’ve seen thus far (in La Musica) really impressing. The influence from the Belgian master is palpable but it is manifesting itself in fascinating ways, interrogating notions of adaptation and theatrical experience in ways that we too rarely see in the UK.

You see it in the ways that he uses the relatively inflexible space of the Royal Exchange (IMHO van Hove rarely gets the credit he deserves for the way in which he reinvents theatrical space) and the way he positions his actors, saying so much about relationships and their dynamics without a word. And Alex Lowde’s supremely contemporary design boldly situates this Regency drama in the here and now, shifting even within itself in showing us Anne Elliot’s world. Continue reading “Review: Persuasion, Royal Exchange”

Casting news for Persuasion and Anatomy of a Suicide

 

 
I’ve already written of my excitement for the forthcoming Persuasion  and the announcement of the cast hasn’t lessened the thrill at all. Lara Rossi takes on the role of Austen’s heroine Anne alongside Samuel Edward-Cook as Captain Wentworth. The cast is completed by Geraldine Alexander, Antony Bunsee, Helen Cripps, Cassie Layton, Caroline Moroney, Dorian Simpson and Arthur Wilson. 
 
Directing them is Jeff James, “one of the UK’s most original young theatre makers”, who has adapted and is directing this bold retelling of Jane Austen’s final masterpiece at the Royal Exchange Theatre. Designed by Alex Lowde this contemporary production of Austen’s beautifully crafted novel discards the bonnets and trappings of formal life for a startlingly modern vision of Austen. Developed in collaboration with dramaturg James Yeatman and with sound design from the award-winning Ben and Max Ringham, Persuasion runs from 25 May to 24 June 2017.

 

Continue reading “Casting news for Persuasion and Anatomy of a Suicide”

fosterIAN awards 2015

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayLia Williams, Oresteia Letitia Wright, EclipsedThusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon
Best Actor in a Play
John Heffernan, Oppenheimer David Morrissey, HangmenChiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayDaisy Haggard, You For Me For You T’Nia Miller, EclipsedPriyanga Burford, The Effect
Estella Daniels, Octagon
Rosalind Eleazor, Plaques and Tangles
Sally Rogers, Hangmen
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJohn Simm, The Homecoming David Moorst, Violence and SonHarm Duco Schut, Glazen Speelgoed
Johnny Flynn, Hangmen
James Garnon, As You Like It (Globe)
David Sturzaker, Nell Gwynn
Best Actress in a MusicalNatalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham Katie Brayben, BeautifulTracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker's Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors
Best Actor in a MusicalGiles Terera, Pure Imagination Matt Henry, Kinky BootsIan Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalEmma Williams, Mrs Henderson Presents Amy Lennox, Kinky BootsAnita Dobson, Follies
Anna Francolini, wonder.land
Lauren Samuels, Bend It Like Beckham
Lorna Want, Beautiful
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalEmmanuel Kojo, Show Boat Ako Mitchell, Little Shop of HorrorsMatthew Malthouse, Mrs Henderson Presents
Ian McIntosh, Beautiful
Jamie Parker, High Society
George Rae, Grand Hotel

2015 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical


Best Actress in a Play

Lia Williams, Oresteia
Could it have been anyone else? Finally given the opportunity to present Klytemnestra’s story from the beginning, from the advent of her ferocious rage that is too often taken for granted, Williams gave us a strikingly modern politician’s wife and mother who couldn’t sit idly by if she tried. With live video giving her nowhere to hide, it was us to shrank away from the intensity of her emotions.

Honourable mention: Letitia Wright, Eclipsed
I’m not one to play favourites but short of inventing a new category of Best Ensemble, there was little else I could do for this most favourite drama. The expression on Wright’s face at the end still haunts me to this very day, clearly an actress to watch for the great things she’s bound to deliver.

Thusitha Jayasundera, My Eyes Went Dark
Marianne Jean-Baptiste, hang
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nell Gwynn
Lara Rossi, Octagon

7-10
Kate Fleetwood, Medea (Almeida); Ophelia Lovibond, The Effect; Chris Nietvelt, Glazen Speelgoed; Gemma Whelan, Radiant Vermin

 

Best Actress in a Musical

Natalie Dew, Bend It Like Beckham
Redefining the triple threat to singing, acting and scoring, Dew proved to be an effortlessly charming leading player in this film adaptation. Guileless, appealing and wonderfully warm, her performance was quite the surprise and a welcome anchor for a show that is still holding on to its place in the West End.

Honourable mention: Katie Brayben, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical
Cassidy Janson may have stepped into her shoes now but there was real joy for me in watching Brayben graduate to this leading role, having admired her work for a long time. And if the show itself isn’t the strongest in the West End, the sheer conviction of her performance level ensured it worked.

Tracie Bennett, Mrs Henderson Presents
Jennifer Harding, The Clockmaker’s Daughter
Debbie Kurup, Anything Goes
Kelly Price, Little Shop of Horrors

7-10
Laura Pitt-Pulford, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Jenna Russell, Songs For A New World; Zizi Strallen, Mary Poppins; Lauren Ward, Bat Boy

Review: Octagon, Arcola


“Do poets get to be happy?”

It’s a rare production that really makes you sit up and pay attention but from the moment the percussive handclaps mark the beginnings of Kristiana Rae Colón’s ferocious new play Octagon, its unique energy electrifies the stage of the Arcola. Set in the world of slam poetry, 8 young Chicagoans prepare for lyrical battle but out on the streets of contemporary America, the struggle is painfully real as issues of race, gender and class characterise an inequality they can only protest by using their words.

And what words. Colón hooks her first half around the competition for a much-vaunted spot on Chimney, Chad and Palace’s team as five hopefuls take to the stage to deliver three minutes of poetry to win enough points from the judges. Watched over by Estella Daniels’ utterly magnificent compere who does a magisterial job in working the audience, subjects from Malala to Miley and racial profiling to the sexual gaze rattle round the theatre in some truly mesmerising and memorable performances. Continue reading “Review: Octagon, Arcola”

The 2012 Ian Charleson Awards


First prize

Ashley Zhangazha, for Ross in Macbeth (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield)

Second prize

Amy Morgan, for Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Third prize

Lara Rossi, for Dol Common in The Alchemist (Liverpool Playhouse)

Commendations

Jade Anouka, for Calpurnia, Metellus Cimber, and Pindarus in Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse)
Alys Daroy, for Yelena in The Wood Demon (Theatre Collection)
Holly Earl, for Bertha in The Father (Belgrade Theatre, Coventry)
Kurt Egyiawan, for Arsace in Berenice (Donmar Warehouse)
Paapa Essiedu, for Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Johnny Flynn, for Viola in Twelfth Night (Globe Theatre and West End)
Aysha Kala, for Maid in Much Ado About Nothing (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Masha in Three Sisters (Young Vic)
Simon Manyonda, for Lucius in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Luke Norris, for The Soldier in Antigone (National Theatre)
Ailish Symons, for Cecily in The Importance of Being Earnest (Lyric Theatre, Belfast)
Ellie Turner, for Fanny Hawthorn in Hindle Wakes (Finborough Theatre)

Review: Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall, Soho Theatre


“I didn’t realise things would be so fucking intense”

The lives of the two characters in Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall start off the most mundane of circumstances: tales of crowded commuting, office politics at the lower end of the scale, doing battle with mercenary credit card and mobile phone companies. But the niggling unease at the stifling monotony of the 9 to 5 has been building up for far too long and when war breaks out in some far-off land, it triggers some deep contemplation into how everyday life there would be affected and in turn provokes a questioning of their own existence.Thus we bear witness to their lives simultaneously imploding and exploding into jagged chaos.

Brad Birch’s enigmatic writing was sparked by a piece of his own poetry – the 4.5 pages of an introduction to the playtext may seem indulgent but actually prove an interesting read – and it maintains much of that feel. A lyrical complexity plays with repeated imagery and phrases to enrich the at-times gnomic text with a sense of thematic unity, but Birch mainly eschews simplistic narrative for an opaqueness of meaning and purpose which frustrates as much as it intrigues. Continue reading “Review: Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall, Soho Theatre”

The 2011 Ian Charleson Awards


First prize

Cush Jumbo, for Rosalind in As You Like It (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Second prize

Damien Molony, for Giovanni in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

Third prize

Jodie McNee, for Masha in Seagull (Arcola Theatre)

Commendations

Hiran Abeysekera, for Valère in Tartuffe (English Touring Theatre)
Jade Anouka, for Ophelia in Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Mark Arends, for Malcolm in Macbeth (Liverpool Everyman)
Sebastian Armesto, for Wendoll in A Woman Killed with Kindness (National Theatre)
John Heffernan, for Richard II in Richard II (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory)
Ffion Jolly, for Luciana in The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory)
Ben Mansfield, for Sebastian in Twelfth Night (National Theatre)
Sam Marks, for Friar Peter, Froth, and Gentleman 2 in Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Matthew Needham, for Nero in Britannicus (Wilton’s Music Hall)
Eddie Redmayne, for Richard II in Richard II (Donmar Warehouse)
Lara Rossi, for Myrrha and Macrina in Emperor and Galilean (National Theatre)
Sara Vickers, for Annabella in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (West Yorkshire Playhouse)