Review: The Country Wife, Minerva

A cracking cast can’t quite make sense of a modern updating of The Country Wife at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre

“What is wit in a wife good for, but to make a man a cuckold?”

How many productions does it take for a playwright to have a moment? We could be on the cusp of a Wycherley wave, with the second production of The Country Wife to arrive this year (the first being at the Southwark Playhouse in April). 

But though this Restoration writer is proving popular, directors seem unable not to tinker with his work – that production was set in the 1920s and Jonathan Munby here moves it even further to the present day, casting new light but also dimming its intent. Continue reading “Review: The Country Wife, Minerva”

Review: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Hampstead

“The best thing I ever did was the worst thing I ever did. And it all came to nothing. It makes no sense to anyone, what we did, it’s written in a language no one reads anymore, it’s… incredible”

Tony Kushner’s The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures has been given the moniker #iHo for short, though quite why that impulse has kicked in now is not clear, for the play is a hard-going three and a half hours full of wordily complex pontifications. The mechanics of social media aside, to suggest that it can be encapsulated in a three letter hashtag feels crudely reductive.

The play centres on the Marcantonio family, a brood of Italian-Americans summoned back to their Brooklyn brownstone by patriarch Gus who has decided to commit suicide. He says it is because of encroaching Alzheimer’s but it is his ideals that this former Communist has lost rather than his marbles, and it is this crisis that sparks off lengthy debate after lengthy debate about faith and politics, socialism and America with his three adult children and their motley collection of partners. Continue reading “Review: The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, Hampstead”

Review: A Number, Nuffield

“Are you my father?”

After the Menier’s version which starred Timothy and Sam West, the Nuffield uses a similar conceit to cast another father and son duo in Caryl Churchill’s A Number. This time, it is John and Lex Shrapnel who delve into the murky world of cloning, medical ethics and paternal responsibility but it is Tom Scutt’s unique set design that proves to be the most striking thing about Michael Longhurst’s production.

Divided into four, the audience are seated around an observation chamber – the mirrored glass of which allows us to see in but not the actors to see out. Furthermore, they are reflected multiple times, echoing the themes of splintered self and inescapable examination. For all its technical brilliance though, it is a design which sterilizes an already clinical exercise, leaving one impressed rather than amazed. Continue reading “Review: A Number, Nuffield”

Review: The Deep Blue Sea, West Yorkshire Playhouse

“What else is there after hope?”

In the never-ending quest to variously improve my theatrical knowledge, experience and horizons (plus to see one of my favourite actors), the next week sees me making three trips out of London, the first of which was to the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds to see Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea. It is the centenary year of Rattigan’s birth and so productions of his work are popping up all over the country and through the West End too as his work is seriously reassessed. The Deep Blue Sea has long been considered one of his finest plays though and so we took the opportunity to travel north and make a first visit to this theatre, the size of which (in the Quarry at least) took me most by surprise.

Ruari Murchison’s design was most impressive, perhaps a little perversely so given the post-war austerity it was meant to be evoking, but a necessity in filling the wide expanse in the Quarry auditorium. I wasn’t too sure that the picture frame on which the apartment was set was needed but the rooms themselves were convincingly mounted with dark gauze filling in for walls, sometimes impermeable, sometimes allowing us a peek into the rooms at the rear of the bedsit or best of all, into the working stairwell which led both up and down, calling to mind Bunny Christie’s design for the National Theatre’s Men Should Weep, but at a fraction of the budget I should imagine. Continue reading “Review: The Deep Blue Sea, West Yorkshire Playhouse”

Review: Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall

“There is a destiny that shapes our ends…rough-hew them how we may”

Edmond saw a couple of firsts: my first promenade production and my first ever trip to Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest and last surviving grand music hall in the world apparently: it is a venue that has only recently come to my attention with some interesting programming, indeed Fiona Shaw will be performing The Waste Land there next month. Sadly though, the hall is semi-derelict and fighting a losing battle to secure the funds to be able to keep it open and serviceable, a shame as it really is an interesting place.

Marking Elliot Cowan’s directorial debut, this site-specific production of Edmond, David Mamet’s 1982 play, makes the most of its venue, utilising varying locations within the Wilton’s complex. Telling the story of a regular white-collar American chap whose meeting with a fortune-teller, who tells him “you are not where you belong”, sets him off on a journey through the seedy underbelly of New York city life, Edmond’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as less palatable sides of his character rise to the fore, in his search for self-discovery and redemption for his actions. Continue reading “Review: Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall”