Review: Country Music, Omnibus Theatre

A sensational performance from Cary Crankson anchors a powerful production of Simon Stephens’ Country Music at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre

“I want you to forgive me for the things I’ve done”

A glance at the cast for the original run of Simon Stephens’ 2004 Country Music at the Royal Court sees Sally Hawkins and Laura Elphinstone, a killer for the FOMO in me. But hopefully in 10 years time or so, people will be looking at the cast for this revival at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre and saying I saw Cary Crankson way back when…

He’s an actor I’ve rated for a while now – he won my Best Actor in 2014 for The Saints, he was a standout in The Faction’s ensemble too, so if there’s any justice we’ll be talking about him much more very soon. For he is sensational here as the troubled Jamie, the young man at the heart of this elusive but exquisitely painful play.    Continue reading “Review: Country Music, Omnibus Theatre”

Thoughts on a visit to the Bridge Theatre

Good things come to those who wait! I hadn’t booked for Young Marx at the brand new Bridge Theatre for a couple of reasons. I was still hoping that I might get a response to my email to the PR and despite a cast that includes the splendid Nancy Carroll and the delicious Oliver Chris alongside lead Rory Kinnear, Richard Bean just really isn’t my cup of tea. ‘Don’t you love farce?’ Not much my dear…

So when an email popped into my inbox offering a sneak preview of the show and an opportunity to be the first ever audience in the theatre for a pre-preview test run of the new venue and its facilities, then I knew it was meant to be. Turns out I do love a farce, at £7.50 a ticket. Continue reading “Thoughts on a visit to the Bridge Theatre”

Full cast announced for Young Marx

 
1850, and Europe’s most feared terrorist is hiding in Dean Street, Soho. Broke, restless and horny, the thirty-two-year-old revolutionary is a frothing combination of intellectual brilliance, invective, satiric wit, and child-like emotional illiteracy.

Creditors, spies, rival revolutionary factions and prospective seducers of his beautiful wife all circle like vultures. His writing blocked, his marriage dying, his friend Engels in despair at his wasted genius, his only hope is a job on the railway. But there’s still no one in the capital who can show you a better night on the piss than Karl Heinrich Marx. Continue reading “Full cast announced for Young Marx”

Re-review: Jane Eyre, National Theatre

“I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind”

I hadn’t intended to go back to Jane Eyre, having already spent a day in Bristol watching it in its original two-part format, but after a rather revelatory experience at Hetty Feather of all places, my new-found appreciation for director Sally Cookson demanded a revisit. Cookson’s adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s well-loved novel has been conflated into one single performance now, stretching out to three hours and thirty minutes but bursting with theatrical invention that just shimmers with freshness.

To carp about this or that being lost from the novel seems to be to spectacularly miss the point of what is being done here. Cookson and the company devised this production themselves and so it is clearly an interpretation of the material to suit a different medium but also one to carefully avoid any connotations of dourly faithful period drama. Iconoclastic music springs from its very soul (Melanie Marshall remaining as wonderful as I remembered), its spirit delightfully free from start to finish. Continue reading “Re-review: Jane Eyre, National Theatre”

Review: Romeo + Juliet, Rose Kingston

“Were thou as young as I”

In Joseph Drake and Audrey Brisson, Sally Cookson’s Romeo + Juliet has a perfectly matched pair of pint-sized lovers to take to the stage at the Rose Kingston. And in creating a non-specifically modern Verona (as hinted by the format of the title which borrows from Luhrmann), Cookson creates the ideal setting in which to let her vivid imagination run riot over Shakespeare’s much-performed classic. Her bold vision may not be to everyone’s tastes but it delivers a unique pleasure. 

Katie Sykes’ multi-platformed urban playground of a set suggests an underbelly of a city akin to the undercroft of the Southbank Centre, recently saved for its skateboarders and under the tumble of fluorescent tubes that makes up Aideen Malone’s lighting design, there’s a highly charged sense of energy ready to explode. Benji Bower’s score carries much of the weight of the atmosphere though, an insistent presence throughout the production for better and for worse. Continue reading “Review: Romeo + Juliet, Rose Kingston”

Review: The White Devil, Swan

“Sum up my faults, I pray”

It feels a bit of a shame that one of the centrepieces of the RSC’s Roaring Girls season is a play that doesn’t manage gender parity in its cast, even with some cross-gender casting. This may speak of the nature of Jacobean Theatre, for it is Webster’s The White Devil of which we speak here, but Maria Aberg’s reputation precedes her and so it was a little disappointing to see that the opportunity hasn’t been seized here – if not now, then when?
 

And though I’d heard such great things about this production, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed here. Part of lies in the play itself – I can’t deny that I just don’t really like it and though it is updated to the debauchery of the 1980s Rome club scene here, the messy chaos of the pursuit of naked self-interest that proves Aberg’s main focus dominates too much and often to the detriment of the storytelling. Continue reading “Review: The White Devil, Swan”

Review: Jane Eyre, Bristol Old Vic

“You are no better than an animal…”

It is hard to feel too inspired by the revivals that keep popping up in the West End – Coward has Blithe Spirit and Relative Values, Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest is set to return soon – knowing full well that they will well-acted (by and large) but conservatively directed, playing it safe in search of the widest audience but consequently lacking any form of real inspiration. Instead, one has to look elsewhere for the kind of innovation that gets me genuinely excited about the prospect of seeing a classic on stage, in this case, Sally Cookson’s production of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre.

The production is split into two shows but I opted for the marathon performance, the two spliced together, to minimise my travelling time and though it was quite the epic journey, I’m glad I did it as it really gave a sense of the grand sweep of the piece to do it in one go. Devised by the company, this highly musical and theatrically inventive interpretation has a wonderfully contemporary edge about it, presenting the narrative very much as we know it but teasing a freshness, a modernity of feeling about the whole affair which makes it a crying shame that it is so relatively short-lived here at the Bristol Old Vic. Continue reading “Review: Jane Eyre, Bristol Old Vic”

Review: Virgin, Watford Palace Theatre

“We’ll just wait 5 minutes for the email to send”

EV Crowe’s latest play Virgin comes to us under the auspices of Watford Palace’s Ideal World season, exploring the way that the digital revolution has impacted on human relationships, but it crowbars so much into its 80 minutes that the brief ends up feeling a little constrictive. Working mother Emily toils away in local government and is determined that a project to bring high-speed broadband to her rural village will be the springboard to get her out of the admin office. But with a younger, web-savvy generation snapping at her heels, she is forced to confront the limitations of her own bandwidth.

Laura Elphinstone imbues the spiky Emily with a remarkably conflicted complexity – her ambition thwarted by men, her maternal instinct disguised by stress, her warmly hesitant optimism at connecting the village tempered by her treatment of loyal husband Mark, Michael Shelford adorable in a range of chunky knits. And she is contrasted well by Rosie Wyatt as cuckoo-in-the-nest Sally, the consultant who comes to stay in their home whilst helping out on the project and the embodiment of a tech-confident but socially-awkward youth, happier online than IRL. Continue reading “Review: Virgin, Watford Palace Theatre”

Review: Untitled Matriarch Play (Or Seven Sisters), Royal Court

 “Be the change you want to see in this world”

As we get closer to the end of the weekly rep season, I’d love to be able to say that the over-arching conceit of the whole affair has been revealed in a moment of stunning clarity, but instead it just trundles on as a bold experiment which has had just as many misses as it has had hits. Play number five – Nikole Beckwith’s Untitled Matriarch Play (or Seven Sisters) – was closer to the former than the latter for me – a decent concept but one besmirched by an over-extended, over-worked stab at something interesting that rarely comes off.

The play begins in Nowheresville USA with Siobhan Redmond’s Lorraine gathering her ageing mother and her four-strong brood of daughters to reveal that she is going to have another baby, and this time it will be a boy. This comes as something of a surprise as Lorraine is 54, so she is employing a surrogate in the form of Angela Terence’s Sera, but her decision awakens a whole host of dissatisfactions in these women as the situation highlights the frustrations they all hold. Continue reading “Review: Untitled Matriarch Play (Or Seven Sisters), Royal Court”