Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End

“I couldn’t leave this place, not in my mind, not in my heart”

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End. And though the seats (and some of the sightlines) at the Noël Coward Theatre make it a little bit more of an endurance test over its near-seven hours of drama, the experience remains a truly soul-enhancing, life-enrichening thing.

All but one of the original cast have returned (Jack Riddiford stepping in for Luke Thallon who has turned to alternative Cock in Chichester), but none of the production’s magic has been lost. Indeed, for those who have seen it before, it is almost better second time round as the exquisite agony of knowing what is to come deepens so much of the first part. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre”

News: Cast for the West End transfer of The Inheritance announced

All but one of the original cast of The Inheritance will make the transfer into the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre

The ensemble cast of The Inheritance at the Noël Coward Theatre is now confirmed and will include: Hugo Bolton, Robert Boulter, Andrew Burnap, Hubert Burton, John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H Levine, Syrus Lowe, Michael Marcus, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Riddiford, Kyle Soller and Michael Walters. The main change is that Jack Riddiford joins the company in place of Luke Thallon who is going to be appearing in Chichester’s revival of Mike Bartlett’s Cock instead.

I absolutely adored The Inheritance when I saw it at the Young Vic and am glad that the brave decision to transfer this major new work into the West End has been made. It certainly deserves a bigger audience and I sincerely hope that they come – and why wouldn’t they, when you look at this lovely set of blossom portraits of the new cast by Johan Persson.

 

All photography by Johan Persson

 

Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic

An epic gay play for the 21st century – Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a must-see at the Young Vic

“A chain of gay men helping each other, loving each other, hurting each other, understanding each other”

It would be easy to focus on the fact that The Inheritance is long and yes, its two parts total up to nearly seven hours in the thankfully comfortable seats of the Young Vic. But they also sum up to a brave and epic piece of new writing from Matthew Lopez, taking a scalpel to contemporary gay life in New York, asking what does it mean to be a gay man today and just how much of that is owed to an inherited (and neglected) cultural legacy.  

Structurally, the play owes a curious debt to EM Forster’s Howard’s End, using it as a considerable inspiration for plot but also as a device to launch into its storytelling, which has an occasional tricksiness to it, pulling at the thread of the stories we wish we could tell rather than the ones we have to. That main story centres on Eric and Toby, a gay couple who have the foundations of their relationship rocked when the tenancy of their amazing apartment is terminated. As their lives reshape around new realities, new experiences, new challenges, they come to see how little of the world they really know. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic”

Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic

“Holy shit, Meryl Streep is here?”

I’m just going to write the one review to cover both parts of the The Inheritance but I wanted to flag up that if, for some crazy reason, the full seven hours of Mathew Lopez’s epic didn’t appeal, then you could do worse than sticking with Part One. For though it may not have any Vanessa Redgrave, it does contain a moment of pure transcendent beauty that left me weeping on the bus journey home, and so how could you possibly now resist?! Continue reading “Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic”

Film Review: Their Finest

“He is an actor. Unless you have reviewed him, had intercourse with him, or done both simultaneously, he won’t remember you”

With Gemma Arterton doing a Welsh accent and some wistful crying, Rachael Stirling as a fearsome, elegant-trouser-wearing lesbian with a fabulous line in repartee, Bill Nighy being Bill Nighy, and the subject being women working in wartime, Their Finest is pretty much tailor-made for my interests, it even has bonus Helen McCrory in it for God’s sake! But even without all that box-ticking, it is a gently, most enjoyable film.

Adapted by Gaby Chiappe from Lissa Evans’s novel Their Finest Hour and a Half, and directed by Lone Scherfig, the story follows a British Ministry of Information film team making a morale-boosting film about the Dunkirk evacuation during the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz. So it’s a film about making films, the romance and realities of the business, with the added spin of it being set in wartime. Continue reading “Film Review: Their Finest”

DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2

“You believe in laws but there are only lechers”

For some reason or other, I stopped watching the second series of Ripper Street midway through and it’s taken me until now to finally finish it. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it’s more likely to do with running out of time to watch it on the iPlayer or something but anyhoo, I’ve managed it now. My review of Series 1 (which I thoroughly appreciated) is over here and I have to say that that enjoyment has continued, even if I do have a few reservations about its female voices.

It’s a shame that in a crime procedural led by three men, two of the leading supporting female characters did not return for this second series. DI Reid’s wife and kind-of-mistress (Amanda Hale and Lucy Cohu) are both MIA, losing all the work done to establish them, and though Leanne Best is introduced as a local politician who can’t help but flirt with Reid (he’s played by Matthew Macfadyen after all), the overall weight of the series does thus feel a little unbalanced.

Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 2”

DVD Review: The Physician

“How pale and tedious this world would be without mystery” 

Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Noah Gordon, 2013 film The Physician is a slight oddity in being a German big-budget movie that just happens to be in English. Directed by Philipp Stölzl (who also directed Madonna’s ‘American Pie’ video in amongst a varied career), it has the epic sweep of a properly big production and with stars such as Sir Ben Kingsley and Stellan Skarsgård at the helm, alongside the swooningly handsome lead Tom Payne, it is surprising that it didn’t get a wider release, only now making it onto DVD in the UK.

For it is a hugely fascinating story, following young Robert Cole (Payne) who, once orphaned in 11th century England, vows to study medicine, hoping to find the answers to the illness that took his mother and also to explain his ability to foresee death. First attached to a rough-around-the-edges travelling surgeon (Skarsgård), Rob’s aptitude for medicine soon becomes apparent and a chance meeting with a surgeon of advanced knowledge sends him onto Isfahan in Persia, where the great scholar Ibn Sina (Kingsley) runs the most advanced medical school in the world.  Continue reading “DVD Review: The Physician”

Film Review: The Theory of Everything

“One simple, elegant equation to explain everything”

Alongside The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything offers a double whammy of Oscar-baiting, British-biopicing filmic goodness – Benedict Cumberwhatsit’s Alan Turing and Eddie Redmayne’s Stephen Hawking seem dead certs for Academy Award nominations alongside their respective films – and for my money, it is the latter has the edge on the Cumbersnatch-starring film as something slightly less Hollywoodised and thus more interesting. That’s not to say that James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is all rough edges – it is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s memoir of her marriage after all and both she and Hawking have ‘blessed’ the film – but it is a complex love story that doesn’t shy away from too much challenge.

The focus of the film is in fact the relationship and marriage between physicist Stephen and Jane Wilde, his contemporary at Cambridge University where she studied literature, and the severe pressure that it came under after his diagnosis with motor neurone disease and then his increasing fame as his discoveries broke exciting fresh ground. Redmayne’s physical performance as Hawking is undoubtedly astounding as his condition worsens but there’s something deeper there too that comes across later on, in the merest flicker of the lips and glints in the eye that come before the synthesised voicebox kicks in, an enigmatic level of emotion that we never get to truly discover and that is entirely beguiling.

Continue reading “Film Review: The Theory of Everything”

Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC at Theatre Royal Newcastle

“Foster’d, illumin’d, cherish’d, kept alive”

I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at making work trips coincide with theatrical opportunities and as with last year, the stars aligned to put me in Newcastle at the same time as the RSC, and to see a Shakespeare play I’d never seen before as well (only six more to go and one of those will come this weekend). Two Gentlemen of Verona doesn’t get anywhere near as much exposure as some of the others, a recognition that as an early play – possibly even the first he ever wrote – it bears the marks of a playwright still very much working his way into his craft.

It also plants the seeds of what would grow into several of his hallmark devices – the liberating freedom of the forest to solve the problems of the town or court, a woman dressed as a man, sudden and random declarations of love – but they’re deployed here with a little clumsiness as the quartet of lovers here wind their way through the trials and tribulations of love’s young dream. Where Simon Godwin’s production succeeds though is in embracing these issues and shifting the tone of the play from a comedy to more of a problem play.

This ambiguity really does work and is clearly emphasised in the final reconciliations – it is no given that this is a genuinely happy ending and this complexity, paired with a modern-dress version from Godwin, manages to make the play work in a way I can’t imagine a traditional one ever would. Mark Arends’ Proteus is darn well near to being a dastardly villain as he betrays Pearl Chanda’s appealing Julia something rotten, and Michael Marcus’ Valentine matches well with Sarah MacRae’s Silvia, even with a less fascinating storyline.

Then there’s a dog. Which seemingly everyone loved but me. Thank the Lord that Will got out of that habit early on as there’s something bizarre in the hold that animals seem to hold over theatre-going audiences, to the point where there’ll happily ignore everything and everyone aside from the canine critter. (I’m not an animal person, can you tell.) I can’t say I’ll be rushing back to see this play again but I’m pleased that my first experience thereof was with as intelligent a production as this.

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 11th October

Review: Richard II, Donmar Warehouse

“Such is the breath of kings”

After nearly a decade as Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, Michael Grandage is bowing out to let Josie Rourke take up the reins and his final production for this theatre is Shakespeare’s Richard II, most notably starring Eddie Redmayne. As the audience enter the auditorium, Redmayne is already poised in high state on his throne, the air heavy with incense in Richard Kent’s gilded Gothic set but we soon see how this regality is but a superficial veneer on a deeply flawed character.

This Richard is a petulant, nervy presence – a little prone to over-gesturing, acting out too many of the lines for my liking “make pale our cheek” is the example that sticks in the mind – as he is more effective in the subtle characterisations, the intensity of his eyes that nervously twitch throughout. This capriciousness is aired most perfectly in the reluctant coronation scene but as a whole but it ends up being rather one-note and missing some complexity, therefore it means that this isn’t a Richard that engenders much sympathy. Only in his final scenes, bereft of crown, sceptre and trappings of state, does he really fly and give beautiful voice to the verse. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Donmar Warehouse”