Review: Stories, National Theatre

Sam Troughton and Claudie Blakley are excellent in Nina Raine’s new play Stories at the Dorfman in the National Theatre

“This isn’t crowdfunding”

What a difference a few years makes: at 35, Bobbie hasn’t decided on pretty much anything in her life; at 39 however, Anna is resolute that she wants to make big changes in her life. Specifically, in the aftermath of a messy break-up with someone who didn’t want one, she’s determined to become a mother. Such is the world of Nina Raine’s new play Stories and as with Company, there’s so much more layered in here than the headlines might suggest. 

The focus does indeed first seem to be on fertility, as Claudie Blakley’s Anna debates, with her family, the ethics of sourcing sperm donors online and then rifles through her little black book to see if any of her exes would be up for donating a few of their best swimmers. But the scope is always wider than that, probing at the stories we are told stretching from bedtimes tales to the societal myths that we are sold and what that does to a mindset over the years. Continue reading “Review: Stories, National Theatre”

Review: Albion, Almeida

“The fantasy that brings the reality into being”

 As Mike Bartlett’s profile grows and grows, one can’t help but fear that his TV successes will lead to movie commissions but for the moment, he’s not forgotten where he started and with Albion, there’s a ferocious reminder of how theatrically skilled he is. Additionally, there’s one of the performances of the year from Victoria Hamilton so I’d hotfoot it to the Almeida now, there’s no guarantee this one will transfer.

Successful businesswoman Audrey has her world rocked when her son is killed on duty in the Middle East and so she decides to retreat to the countryside, rural Oxfordshire to be precise, where she buys the neglected home of her uncle, along with its once-impressive garden. But what first seems like a fun restoration project snowballs into chaos as her increasingly ambitious plans threaten to push everyone close to her away. Continue reading “Review: Albion, Almeida”

TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2

“I ask no less than power to achieve my will in fair exchange for total service to the state”

Uneasy lies the head that waits for the crown. Mike Barlett’s King Charles III was a deserved award-winning success when it took the Almeida by storm in 2014, transferring into the West End and then Broadway, later touring the UK and Australia too. Its success lay in the conception of a Shakespearean future history play, written in verse but set in a world recognisably our own, where Prince George is nonchalantly eating croissants, Queen Elizabeth II has just passed and before he has even been crowned, Charles finds himself in a constitutional crisis of his own making. A bold but welcome move from the BBC to commission a version then.

Directed as it was onstage by Rupert Goold and adapted by Bartlett (the narrative has been telescoped down by over an hour), it re-emerges as a powerful, pacy drama, a fascinating look into how the relationship between monarchy and government could so easily shift at a time of transition, anchored by an achingly nuanced performance from Tim Pigott-Smith in the title role. The ache is of course deepened by the actor’s death last month but that sadness shouldn’t overshadow the quality of his work here, masterful in his command of the verse, mesmerising as a man trapped by history. Continue reading “TV Review: King Charles III, BBC2”

Review: King Charles III, Almeida

“Like I saw on television when 
I was a younger man, I’m Charles no more 
The human being, but transformed into 
A Spitting Image puppet”

Fans of Mike Bartlett, and quite frankly if you like theatre then you ought to be one, will be used to the way in which his writing swings from the epic to the intimate, from sprawling ‘big issue’ plays like Earthquakes in London and 13 to the charged intensity of Contractions, Cock and Bull with crackers like Love Love Love inbetween. So it is good news indeed that he is delivering from the both ends of the pendulum this month – Paines Plough have two-hander An Intervention up at the Watford Palace about to open next week and Rupert Goold’s Almeida has the ambitious and adventurous King Charles III.

And it is no exaggeration to use those words. King Charles III takes the form of a future history play, using Shakespearean language and conventions to tell a story of a constitutional crisis that take place in the aftermath of the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It shouldn’t work, and it shouldn’t work this well, but it really does, with an extraordinary confidence of vision. The great unwashed become “the man who travels day by day upon the Clapham omnibus”, x-rated text messages are described as “a token of my love”, the ceremonial role of the Royals thus “a monarchy reduced to smiling dolls, like waitresses in diners themed” – the use of language is a constant delight.  Continue reading “Review: King Charles III, Almeida”

The 2011 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations

OPERA
Albert Herring, Royal Northern College of Music
Gianni Schicchi, English Touring Opera, Buxton Opera House
Lucia di Lammermoor, Clonter Opera
The Portrait, Opera North, The Lowry
Utopia Ltd, Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, Buxton Opera House

DANCE
Carlos Acosta, The Lowry
Cinderella, Birmingham Royal Ballet,The Lowry
Danish Dance Theatre, Triple Bill, The Lowry
Richard Alston Dance Company, Triple Bill, The Lowry Continue reading “The 2011 Manchester Theatre Awards nominations”

Review: The Knot of the Heart, Almeida

“If we don’t like it, we can get on a boat to the Isle of Wight”

Following the well-received, sharply funny Becky Shaw into the Almeida is David Eldridge’s new play The Knot of the Heart about middle-class drug addiction: this is a review of a preview performance on Monday 14th March. The play stars Lisa Dillon, for whom the central character was specifically written, as comfortably middle-class Lucy whose recreational drug use leads to her losing her job as a children’s TV presenter and sets her on a downwards spiral into genuine hard addiction as her mother and sister struggle to deal with the impact it has on the family.

On Peter McKintosh’s set of sliding glass panels and doors, dividing up the revolve into ever-shifting living rooms, hospitals, bars in and around Islington, we see how Lucy’s life crumbles around her, reduced to stealing from her sister and forced to move back into her mother’s house, unable to extricate herself from the grip of heroin no matter how grim things get. But what Eldridge is also interested in looking at is how Lucy’s key relationships are affected and defined by her addiction, how parental and sisterly love can actually help to enable it due to differing attitudes to drugs: at one point, the mother actually goes out to buy the heroin for her daughter from a guy at a bakery on Upper Street, after she is raped by a different dodgy dealer, at another she wonders whether she should have stopped Lucy’s teenage dabbling in pot, despite finding it innocuous at the time given her own youthful experiences in the 60s. Continue reading “Review: The Knot of the Heart, Almeida”