Review: Julie, National Theatre

An elegant and occasionally startling adaptation, Julie at the National Theatre is anchored by mesmerising performances from Vanessa Kirby and Thalissa Teixeira 

“If anyone has had anyone, I’ve had you

It’s Julie’s party and she’ll cry if she wants to, shag someone else’s fella if she wants to, use a blender in a somewhat inappropriate way if she wants to. Would you cry too if it happened to you? Chance would be a fine thing, as Julie is a trust fund baby and her 30-something birthday party is taking place in the antiseptic chic of the vast Hampstead townhouse where she resides with her (often absent) father and their staff. 

Carrie Cracknell’s direction of Polly Stenham’s Julie (after Strindberg, as opposed to Patrick Marber’s After Miss Julie) and Vanessa Kirby’s performance of that title role does something rather unexpected in the way it fleshes out and makes more complex its anti-hero. She’s still a straight-up entitled bitch to be sure, but we’re shown that she’s part of a cycle of sadness and abuse and neglect. And we’re dared to empathise. Continue reading “Review: Julie, National Theatre”

New casting announced for 2018 National Theatre season

TRANSLATIONS

by Brian Friel

Previews from 22 May, Press night 30 May, on sale until 7 July with further performances to be announced

Owen, the prodigal son, returns to rural Donegal from Dublin. With him are two British army officers. Their ambition is to create a map of the area, replacing the Gaelic names with English. It is an administrative act with radical consequences.

Brian Friel’s modern classic is a powerful account of nationhood, which sees the turbulent relationship between England and Ireland play out in one quiet community. Cast includes Dermot Crowley, Aoife DuffinAdetomiwa EdunMichelle FoxCiarán Hinds,Laurence KinlanColin MorganSeamus O’HaraJudith Roddy and Rufus Wright.

Directed by Ian Rickson, with design by Rae Smith, lighting design by Neil Austin and music by Stephen Warbeck and sound design by Ian Dickinson.

Part of the Travelex Season with hundreds of tickets for every performance available at £15. Continue reading “New casting announced for 2018 National Theatre season”

Review: Cymbeline, Sam Wanamaker

“Fear no more the frown o’ the great”

You wait for a production of relatively little-performed Shakespeare play and then three come along in the same year. Melly Still is doing Cymbeline for the RSC in the summer, Emma Rice is reclaiming and renaming it Imogen for her inaugural season at the Globe and inside at the same venue, it is being performed as part of a run of the Bard’s late plays in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, directed by Sam Yates.

Ah yes, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. I’ve not been much of a fan of this theatre, for purely practical reasons rather than artistic ones, but with this programming that has allowed me to tick off Pericles and see Rachael Stirling, Niamh Cusack and John Light onstage, I’ve succumbed to a rash of bookings. With that, I’ve opted to be brutally honest about the experiences as a paying customer. Continue reading “Review: Cymbeline, Sam Wanamaker”

Film Review: Jupiter Ascending / Seventh Son, or ‘What you had to do to win an Oscar in 2014’

“What in the hell is going on?” 

It could just be a matter of coincidence but it does rather seem that the deal with the devil in order to get the Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Award was to also play a camp villain in a middling sci-fi/fantasy film. Eddie Redmayne’s cape-swirling alien aristocrat Balem Abrasax threatens the earth’s very safety in Jupiter Ascending and in Seventh Son, Julianne Moore plays cape-swirling uber-witch Mother Malkin who probably also threatens the earth although I have to admit I’m not entirely sure what her endgame was. There’s something rather hilarious about watching these performances in light of the Oscar bait that was The Theory of Everything and Still Alice, which is kind of necessary as neither is particularly great shakes.

 

Jupiter Ascending sees the Wachowski siblings eschew the profundity of much of their oeuvre delve into the realm of the straight-up blockbuster or space opera, but without sacrificing any of the complexity of the cinematic universes they love to create. Problem is though, it’s all rather dense and dull despite the visual grandeur of the special effects – the Wachowskis’ screenplay is complex and unwieldy and frankly just not that interesting. The only thing that kept me going was the bizarrely theatre-friendly supporting cast and cameos – blink and miss Vanessa Kirby here, wonder if that is Tim Pigott-Smith there, ponder if Bryony Hannah’s presence is a nod to Call the Midwife and marvel too at the randomness of Samuel Barnett’s arresting turn(s).

And then there’s Redmayne, oh Eddie Redmaybe with your lovely Oscar. His villainous Balem is a bizarre confection and marked by a vocal delivery that sounds like he’s receiving a blowjob, all the time (or so I would imagine) it is hypnotically so-good-it’s-bad. But it’s not enough to save the film, which relishes its laborious set pieces far too much with over-extended chase sequences put in to show off the VFX rather than serve the story. For my money, Seventh Son was a more effective piece of fantasy storytelling, based as it is on the first book in Joseph Delaney’s The Wardstone Chronicles (retitled The Last Apprentice in the US) although Matt Greenberg, Charles Leavitt and Aaron Guzikowski’s screenplay similarly turns its potential into tedium.

Continue reading “Film Review: Jupiter Ascending / Seventh Son, or ‘What you had to do to win an Oscar in 2014’”

Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall

“So the night recedes too, until at last it must die and join all the other long nights in nirvana”

So Ruth Wilson is a god amongst mere mortals, you all know that right? Probably one of the most exciting actresses working at the moment, Hollywood has now come a-calling and she should surely have been a shoo-in for Doctor Who if she were so inclined (although given her inimitable excellence as the devilish Alice Morgan in Luther, perhaps she is destined to be the next regeneration of the Rani…) and so her return to the stage in any shape or form is something to celebrate. And in The El. Train, this triple bill of Eugene O’Neill one-act plays, her artistic wings fledge even further as whilst she appears in the first two, she makes her directorial debut in the third.

Wilson has form with O’Neill of course – her Anna Christie at the Donmar was rightfully hugely lauded and she slips right back into the groove perfectly. She effortlessly holds the stage as the busying Mrs Rowland in Before Breakfast, struggling to make ends meet whilst her feckless husband languishes out of work, ballsily confident whilst yelling at him from the kitchen and sneaking guiltily satisfying sips of grog from the cupboard. Likewise in The Web that follows, her ability to conjure the most intensely felt of emotions at the drop of a hat is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to witness, especially in the intimately historical surroundings of Hoxton Hall. Continue reading “Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall”

Film Review: Anna Karenina

 

”I’d rather live life wishing I hadn’t rather than wishing I had”

Today I was lucky enough to catch an early screening of Joe Wright’s new film, Anna Karenina starring Keira Knightley in the title role, which is certain to be divisive with its unique approach. Tom Stoppard has been employed to distil Tolstoy’s weighty tome into something more manageable and his adaptation clocks in at a shade over 2 hours. Remaining largely faithful to the novel, Stoppard’s focus is on exploring different kinds of love, and so whilst the focus is mainly on Anna herself as she negotiates the tumultuous affair with a young cavalryman that sets her against her husband and the might of Russian society, he also ensures that the subplot featuring the agrarian Levin’s attempts to woo the object of his affections is kept in to provide a neat counterpoint.

Presented with a classic of literature and wanting to avoid predictability as far as period dramas are concerned, Wright’s main conceit has been to reconceptualise the whole thing in a deeply theatrical manner, literally. He treats the story as a piece of theatre, sometimes being played out in front of an audience, sometimes as backstage drama, but always with a defined fluidity and through-line. This exceedingly stylised and highly choreographed approach has a huge cinematic sweep which I adored, but it does soon calm down into something more measured and at key moments, it opens out with some breath-taking transformations.  Continue reading “Film Review: Anna Karenina”

Review: Really Old, Like Forty Five, National Theatre

“You’re not that old, you just look it”

Really Old, Like Forty Five is a new play from Tamsin Oglesby which looks at the challenges that an increasing ageing population is having on society. We see a government thinktank come up with strategies to deal with them, and we also witness 3 siblings are dealing with old age and the effect it has on their extended family. This dual perspective is effectively shown by use of a split level stage: the government bods are perched on a balcony on top and we see how their decisions affect the general population in the form of the family who occupy the main lower part of the stage, with its mini-revolve allowing for quick scene changes.

I found it to be highly amusing and also highly moving: it’s wittily written, with funny lines popping up all over the place, we’re often laughing at our own prejudices against old people but then quickly forced to confront them as we see just how far this government is willing to go to provide a ‘final solution’ in witnessing the trials of Alice, Lyn and Robbie with their families. Gawn Grainger as Robbie gamely dresses up in more and more ridiculous ‘street’ outfits as he chases a long-gone youth and Marcia Warren has a wonderful twinkle-eyed charm as the ever chipper Alice, with a beautiful speech about the vagaries of the human memory in response to her sister’s distressing decline and jumbled up recollections of their shared youth. Continue reading “Review: Really Old, Like Forty Five, National Theatre”

Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray

Just a quick review for this as it was a couple of weeks ago, and the run has now finished, plus there’s lots of lovely pics I wanted to post too! Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray returned to Sadler’s Wells after premiering in Edinburgh last summer, with largely the same cast. Taking Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as its source material, this dance drama updates the action to modern times, so that Dorian is now a beautiful model who becomes an ‘It boy’ who takes the London fashion scene by storm, the portrait becomes a giant advertising billboard and there are a couple of characters who have switched gender.

I generally do not go to much dance and so cannot comment with much authority on the finer points of the quality of the choreography, but I can say that I found it most entertaining. The combination of the at times classical dancing between pairs and the modern, almost pop video-like group dances worked very well, and there was a surprising amount of humour worked into the dance as well. My lack of dance knowledge perhaps made me focus more on the storytelling, and I find it incredible how well the piece did in relating the action with not a word being said. The only area that needed a little clarity for me was with the doppelganger: I wasn’t sure whether he was a real character that had appeared on the scene or meant to just be an alter ego of Dorian himself. Continue reading “Review: Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray”