News: The RSC launch Sonnets in Solitude

The Royal Shakespeare Company have announced Sonnets in Solitude, a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets self-recorded by RSC actors while in lockdown. 

Many of the actors were working with the RSC at the time of the theatre’s temporary closure on 17 March and have been unable to perform or rehearse since.

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran said,

“The sonnets are so intimate, confidential and direct, and watching them being performed in this way captures that immediately. Perhaps after 400 years, the form has finally found its ideal format”.

The RSC will release 90 of the 154 sonnets over the coming weeks which will be available to view via the RSC’s You Tube channel Miles Jupp, Alexandra Gilbreath, Antony Sher, Emma Fielding and Rosie Sheehy are just some of the actors involved in Sonnets in Solitude. Continue reading “News: The RSC launch Sonnets in Solitude”

Review: As You Like It, RSC at the Barbican

I find much to enjoy in Kimberley Sykes’s production of As You Like It for the RSC at the Barbican, particularly Lucy Phelps’ epic Rosalind

“Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly”

The critical reception for Kimberley Sykes’ production of As You Like It for the RSC was a little lukewarm this summer, all 3 stars and grudging praise. But I found myself really rather seduced by its many charms, as it opens the winter residency for them at the Barbican. And in Lucy Phelps, a Rosalind full of big dyke energy for the ages. Read my four star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Photo: Topher McGrillis
As You Like It is booking in rep at the Barbican until 18th January

Review: Viva Forever, Piccadilly Theatre

“Do you still remember, how we used to be…”

Producer Judy Craymer reinvigorated a whole new theatrical genre when she masterminded the ABBA jukebox hit Mamma Mia! to huge box-office success, and so proved the natural choice to steer a show featuring the back catalogue of the Spice Girls and a script by Jennifer Saunders into the West End. The resulting show – Viva Forever – is a story of a young woman who is forced to ditch her bandmates in pursuit of her reality show dreams, the mentor who is determined to exploit her in order to secure her own media career and her mother who is on hand to make sure she never forgets who she is. But it is one that doesn’t quite so much fill the Piccadilly Theatre with girl power as a sense of what might have been.

Crucially, the discography isn’t always sufficient for the task in hand of a jukebox musical. Delving into some of the lesser-known works of the Spice Girls isn’t as much as a problem (though front-loading them so is a curious choice as we have to wait a while for a stone-cold hit) as the way in which the lyrical content has to be shoehorned in, resulting in some awkward fits – ‘Say You’ll Be There’ suffers particularly here. But equally, there are moments that do work. The act 1 closer weaves together ‘Goodbye’, ‘Mama’ and ‘Headlines’ in a rather stirringly affecting manner as the three women reach crucial points in their journey; ‘Spice Up Your Life’ becomes a dazzling fiesta of a Spanish street festival; and the titular ‘Viva Forever’ is recast as a tenderly intimate acoustic ballad. Continue reading “Review: Viva Forever, Piccadilly Theatre”

Review: Lay Down Your Cross, Hampstead Downstairs

“Fancy a pork pie?”

The Hampstead Downstairs has attracted an interesting range of creative talents since opening and with perhaps fortuitous timing, welcomes Nick Payne’s newest play Lay Down Your Cross. Payne is coming off the huge sellout success of Constellations upstairs at the Royal Court, but this is a much different piece of work – more akin to Wanderlust, my other experience with him as a playwright. We’re in Tony’s poky new flat in Luton where he is waiting for the arrival of his daughter Dawn, who has emigrated to Australia, as it is the funeral of his soldier son Adam. As we also meet his scatty ex-wife Grace, who’s all too keen on a box of wine or two, and Adam’s girlfriend Raph who is worrying about delivering the eulogy, Dawn gets to find out some uncomfortable truths about home, and her brother’s death.

Payne excavates this troubled family dynamic extremely well: the emotional distance between them all, Tony’s struggle to shake his ex-wife’s dependence, his bluff demeanour having to hide his disappointment at the choices that his children have made, his lashing out when things get too much, all is excellently portrayed in Andy De La Tour’s persuasive performance. His quiet heartbreak is set well against the blinkered disintegration of Grace, Susan Wooldridge in fine form, but the play suffers a little with the shift into the blame game which comes with Dawn’s relentless pursuit of the truth. Lucy Phelps does well at signifying the righteous liberal anger but Payne absolves her, too easily for my liking, from the familial responsibility from which she has divorced herself and I wanted more resolution in this father/daughter relationship. Continue reading “Review: Lay Down Your Cross, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: Earthquakes in London, Richmond Theatre

“These aren’t the results we were expecting”

Of all the new plays that I saw last year, it would have taken me a long time to arrive at Earthquakes in London as being the one which would receive a national tour. Not because it wasn’t good, in fact I really enjoyed Mike Bartlett’s slightly flawed epic ambition, but because the National Theatre production was intrinsically linked to the way in which Headlong utterly transformed the Cottesloe auditorium with Miriam Beuther’s design with its serpentine catwalk, trapdoors, bar stools and cutaway stages. But never ones to shirk a challenge, Goold and Headlong, along with touring director Caroline Steinbeis, have remounted the show into a tour-able format which I caught at Richmond Theatre.

My original review can be read here and it was actually quite nice to be able to revisit the show a year later in the context of his other 2010 work Love Love Love and especially in a week when I had also caught Bartlett’s latest epic work 13. Knowing what to expect makes a world of difference: I didn’t feel the length of the show – 2 hours 55 minutes here – whereas people new to it all commented on it; one was able to take in more of the detailed work of the company alongside the razzmatazz which was sometimes a little distracting; and even the final sequence, something that I wasn’t hugely keen on last time, made more sense this time round and felt like the necessary balancing of tone to keep the play from being too despondent. The central conceit of the intertwining stories of the three sisters remained strong and the jumps around time were also effective, possibly more so for knowing exactly what was going on in them from the off! The scale of the storytelling is occasionally unwieldy in reaching to be epic , but I don’t think any other writer in the UK is stretching themselves this much and whilst it may not all come off, I thoroughly admire the scope of his ambition. Continue reading “Review: Earthquakes in London, Richmond Theatre”