The Complete Walk, from the comfort of your sofa #7

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Gemma Arterton and Michelle Terry (almost) in the same play, how my heart doth beat. Sam Yates’ Love’s Labour’s Lost combines Arterton and David Dawson dashing delightfully through the corridors of the Royal Palace of Olite of Navarre, Spain as Berowne and Rosaline, whilst drawing in elements from the gorgeous 2009 production at the Globe – one of my favourite clips from the whole Complete Walk.
Measure for Measure

Queer as Folk hits Austria (I suppose I’m showing my age, the more contemporary reference would be Game of Thrones) as Aidan Gillen takes on Measure for Measure at Vienna’s Burg Liechtenstein. Last year’s production at the Globe gets a look in too and reminds me that I think it was much maligned for trying a more comic take on the play for once. 

The Two Gentleman of Verona

A slightly different take from Christopher Haydon here as he has location footage – filmed at the Scaligero di Torri, Verona with Meera Syal and Tamara Lawrance – but opts to explore the play’s dramatic links to the rest of the canon. So we get clips of 10 of Shakespeare’s other plays and are shown how devices and plots are reused time and time again. 


Possibly one of my most favourite potential productions in the making here, as James Dacre takes David Harewood and John Heffernan to Othello’s Tower in Famagusta, Cyprus where they nail it. Please make this happen somehow.
Timon of Athens

Timon of Athens sees Dromgoole go for the similar star wattage of Dominic West in Coriolanus, opting to focus on Simon Russell Beale wandering through atmospheric parts of Athens with no other actors or productions to distract. And it works wonders again, even if I’m not sure I need to see the play again in a hurry. 

Review: Romeo and Juliet, Garrick

“More inconstant than the wind…”

KenBran’s residency at the Garrick continues with an all-star Romeo and Juliet, reuniting Richard Madden and Lily James from his Cinderella, and there’s finally a bit of interesting casting with Derek Jacobi as Mercutio. That said, it’s somewhat typical that this season’s one headline concession to diversity has been to put an old white man in a young white man’s part. Here’s my 3 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 13th August

TV Review: Shakespeare Live, Royal Shakespeare Theatre

“I am a spirit of no common rate”

The culmination of the BBC’s celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was the 2 and a half hours of Shakespeare Live, a veritable landslide of multidisciplinary performances of and responses to his work. From theatre to opera, jazz to ballet, hip-hop to musicals, the enormous scope of his influence was showcased in a very well put together (royal) variety show (Charles and Camilla were in attendance) at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

And like anything with variety, a selection box or tub of Quality Street, there are the ones you love, the ones you can tolerate and the ones that you really don’t care for (the Bounty, or the purple hazelnutty one). And I have to say as impressive as they were, the dance, jazz and opera sections really didn’t do it for me whether Berlioz or Duke Ellington. I was predictably much more interested in the theatrical side of things, particularly as such an august cast of performers was in the offing along with the thrilling thought of a Dench and McKellen reunion. Continue reading “TV Review: Shakespeare Live, Royal Shakespeare Theatre”

Review: Anita and Me, Theatre Royal Stratford East

“Now here’s a little story
To tell it is a must”

One gets the feeling that had Anita and Me decided whether it wanted to be a full-blown musical or a straight play adorned by a little music, it might have been a much more successful version of Meera Syal’s novel. But as it is, Tanika Gupta’s adaptation and Roxana Silbert’s direction is marooned in a hinterland between the two, packed too full with material trying to fulfil both remits and so it can be quite the frustrating watch.

The source material is definitely there, Syal’s semi-autobiographical portrait of growing up in the West Midlands in the 1970s is full of insight and warmly old-fashioned charm. Cosseted in the vibrant home of her Punjabi parents, Meena’s teenage rebellion takes the form of throwing her lot in with neighbour Anita to help her better integrate into the society she longs to be a part of, something complicated only slightly by the ingrained racism of said society. Continue reading “Review: Anita and Me, Theatre Royal Stratford East”

Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, National Theatre

“The world doesn’t work in our favour”

Rufus Norris is set to take over the artistic directorship of the National Theatre in April next year but makes an admirably bold move in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Adapted by David Hare from the 2012 non-fiction work of the same name by Katherine Boo, who spent three years living, investigating and writing about life in the Indian slum of Annawadi which lies in the shadow of Mumbai airport, it’s sprawling and scrappy yet epic and enlightening as it elucidates something of what it means to be this far below the poverty line. It is rarely comfortable viewing but its unflinching and unsentimental approach feels essential.

Whether accurate or overemphasised, a strongly matriarchal societal structure emerges in this version of Annawadi as wives and mothers seize the initiative in the face of feckless husbands and sheer necessity. Which results in the pleasing preponderance of excellent female roles – Stephanie Street’s Sikh Asha is the fixer for the entire neighbourhood, putting work at the expense of even a special birthday party her kids have put on; Thusitha Jayasundera’s crippled Fatima is a cyclone of malevolent anger that dominates her household; and Meera Syal’s practical Zehrunisa looks set to secure her family’s future out of the slum with some canny deal-making. Continue reading “Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, National Theatre”

TV Review: Silk, Series 3

“It’s not what any of you want”

And so it ends. A little unexpectedly, it was announced by creator Peter Moffat that this third series of Silk would be the last and whilst I would love to say that it was a fitting finale to the joys that were Series 1 and 2, I have to say I was quite disappointed in it. After showcasing Maxine Peake marvellously as the driven QC Martha Costello, here the character was barely recognisable; after securing the fabulous Frances Barber as a striking opposing counsel as Caroline Warwick, her incorporation into Shoe Lane Chambers neutered almost all the interest that had made her so fascinating; and with Neil Stuke’s Billy suffering health issues all the way through, the focus was too often drawn away from the courtroom.

When it did sit inside the Old Bailey, it did what the series has previously done so well, refracting topical issues through the eyes of the law – the kittling of protestors, Premiership footballers believing themselves beyond justice, assisted suicide, the effects of counter-terrorism on minority communities. And it continued to bring a pleasingly high level of guest cast – Claire Skinner was scorchingly effective as a mother accused of a mercy killing, Eleanor Matsuura’s sharp US lawyer reminding me how much I like this actress who deserves a breakthrough, and it always nice to see one of my favourites Kirsty Bushell on the tellybox, even if she melted a little too predictably into Rupert Penry-Jones’ arms. Continue reading “TV Review: Silk, Series 3”

Review: The Big Idea – PIIGS Spain, Royal Court via YouTube

“The wealth has been distributed differently, but they take your house too”

The Spanish take on The Big Idea featured the short plays Chalk Land by Vanessa Montfort and Merit by Alexandra Wood, interspersed with some verbatim accounts of interviews that Montfort conducted with some Spanish people. Though the last to be performed, this was actually the first of the set that I watched but I genuinely did find it hugely engaging from start to finish. Director Richard Twyman ensured that Chalk Land had the visual humour, though of a distinctly bittersweet note, to accompany the conversation between a homeless man and a passer-by full of indignance at the injustice of the world, Robert Lonsdale and Mariah Gale pairing up well.

And Wood’s Merit was a fascinating look at the ethical compromises people are willing to make in terms of getting and securing a job, but also at the ethics of friends and family around us from whom we might well benefit. Meera Syal and Paul Chahidi as the parents pussyfooting around their concern for their daughter, Gale again full of righteous fire, both giving excellent performances. I really enjoyed the verbatim accounts though, raising the powerful issue of how media coverage of austerity shies away from the ordinariness of so many of the victims and preferring to focus on stock images of poverty-ridden people in order to separate ‘them’ from ‘us’ even as the dividing line has become so blurred as to not even exist any more. Continue reading “Review: The Big Idea – PIIGS Spain, Royal Court via YouTube”

Review: The Big Idea – PIIGS, Greece – Royal Court via YouTube

There are no Greek islands left, they’ve all been bought up at knockdown prices by the Qataris”

The Greek iteration of The Big Idea had a rather distinct character, mixing the ruminative quality of Andreas Flourakis’ I Want A Country with the more absurdist bent of Mr Brown, Mrs Paparigopoulou and the Interpreter by Alexi Kaye Campbell. And perhaps with an abiding feeling that Greece has borne the brunt of the European financial crisis, watching these plays felt less enjoyable and rooted in a greater seriousness, a weight which it didn’t always manage to pull off. 

I Want A Country worked better, its lament for a homeland gone awry, for the security of the past to return and envelop the three characters in home comforts, is a delicately persuasive one and Flourakis laces the bittersweetness with occasional laughs to ensure the tone never gets too mordantly dark. Alexi Kaye Campbell – himself a Greek expat – fared less well for me, trying to find a more overtly humourous angle on the nightmare of unwanted bureaucracy being imposed on an entire nation. Continue reading “Review: The Big Idea – PIIGS, Greece – Royal Court via YouTube”

Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Portugal, – Royal Court via YouTube

“Progress has not been as pronounced as expected”

The Portuguese take on The Big Idea was Farewell to the Old Country, written by Sandra Pinheiro and responded to by April de Angelis in Articipation, with snatches of verbatim interviews interspersed throughout, and as seemed to be something of the model, ranged from the harrowing (from the native playwright) to the surreal (from the Brit). Pinheiro’s story involved a family who had taken the difficult decision to emigrate from Portugal in pursuit of work and new beginnings, but having opted to make a staggered departure – letting the husband go first to get settled – the enormity of their choice makes the wife question what is most important. 

For they have a child and she will be left with her grandma and though Dad has put up with it for six months, Mum is now having a crisis of faith. Told mainly via the medium of Skype, it formed an interesting look at how far people are willing to go in order to make change happen but also how far they are willing to let others go for them. The strain put on this marriage is unimaginably huge and though one is left appalled, there’s an element of understanding about it too. Continue reading “Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Portugal, – Royal Court via YouTube”

Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Ireland, – Royal Court via YouTube

“I had a completely ungrounded confidence, financially”

The Irish incarnation of The Big Idea featured Protest by Deirdre Kinehan, with its parents at a school meeting debating the ethics of austerity and particularly the effects that cuts in education threaten to make in their school. It’s quite an intimate piece, its concerns perhaps a little inwards –looking but for me that is where its strengths lie, in dramatizing the kind of everyday situation that people under austerity are facing. It isn’t all headlines news and high-profile decisions, but rather the slowly tightening screw of small cut after small cut taking over almost every aspect of people’s lives.

Following that was Kieran Hurley’s Belcoo, a less successful play for me, looking at the G8 protests, as fake shop fronts are erected in a Northern Ireland town and three people debate the ins and outs of plastic fruit. Again though, I found the verbatim pieces more fascinating than the dramatic writing itself, especially the Stephen Carswell section. There’s something truly educational about the staging of such brutally frank conversations about the financial crisis that works so much better than trying to dramatise it fictionally and it would have been good to see at least one play that was entirely based on this format. Continue reading “Review: The Big Ideas- PIIGS, Ireland, – Royal Court via YouTube”