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”

News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

So much goodness announced here in the National Theatre’s near future – particularly excited for Nine Night’s transfer, what looks like a leading role for Siân Brooke and the prospect of Joanna Riding’s ‘Losing My Mind’. 

National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019

Nine Night, Natasha Gordon’s critically acclaimed debut play transfers to the West End following a sold-out run at the NT

Further cast announced for Antony and Cleopatra alongside Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo, playing from September

Cast confirmed for world premiere of David Hare’s new play I’m Not Running, including Siân Brooke, Alex Hassell and Joshua McGuire

Peter Brook returns to direct at the National Theatre for the first time in 50 years with The Prisoner, co-directed with Marie-Hélène Estienne

Following the acclaimed Consent, Nina Raine returns to the NT with her new play Stories starring Claudie Blakley

Anthony Neilson makes his NT debut with new play The Tell-Tale Heart, based on the short story by Edgar Allan Poe

Alexander Hanson and Joanna Riding to join the cast of Follies alongside Janie Dee and Peter Forbes, returning to the Olivier Theatre in February 2019

War Horse returns to the NT marking the centenary of Armistice Day

Antony and Cleopatra and I’m Not Running to  broadcast to 65 countries worldwide as part of NT Live

To mark the 100th anniversary of the first women in the UK gaining the right to vote, the NT stages Courage Everywhere; a series of rehearsed readings, talks and screenings Continue reading “News: National Theatre Season: July 2018 – January 2019”

Review: Consent, Harold Pinter

With a mostly new cast, Nina Raine’s deeply considered and thought-provoking Consent transfers from the National to the Harold Pinter

“It’s a fight between two opposing narratives”

Nina Raine’s Consent is yet another play to make the West End transfer out of the National Theatre’s Dorfman space. And a well-timed one it is too as even though it is only a year since it ran, the landscape when talking about how aspects of society deal with sexual assault and rape is significantly different. Read my 4 star review for Official Theatre here.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Johan Persson
Consent is booking at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 11th August

Bridge Theatre new season – excited by new writing or disappointed by lack of diversity?

Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr have announced the opening programme for their The Bridge Theatre venture – the 900-seat commercial venue near to Tower Bridge which marks their re-entry into the London theatre landscape. The first three productions, all booking now, are:

Continue reading “Bridge Theatre new season – excited by new writing or disappointed by lack of diversity?”

Review: Consent, National

“Of course I have disposable income, I rent in Zone 4”

It’s black and white – no means no. That should be enough right? Except all too often, sadly it isn’t, and the many different ways in which this is true form the bedrock of Consent, Nina Raine’s new play for the National Theatre, co-produced with Out of Joint. From the multitude of ways in which consent can be exploited by the legal profession in the public sphere, to the brutal, personal intimacy of how it impacts on a disintegrating marriage, Raine plays interestingly and intelligently with shades of grey.

Barristers Ed and Tim are on opposing sides of a rape case and there’s little love lost between them personally either, as the perennially single Tim is a long-term friend of his wife Kitty, who is trying to set him up with another pal, actress Zara (played by the wonderful Daisy Haggard). And as Ed and Tim do battle around the finer points of Gayle’s case – she alleges she was raped on the day of her sister’s funeral – with their focus on legally outmanoeuvring the other rather than on the victim, a twist that puts all their private lives under the microscope shifts their perspective entirely. Continue reading “Review: Consent, National”

Review: Tiger Country, Hampstead Theatre

“Try not to care so much”

Whilst other people wind down for the end of the year, Nina Raine is certainly keeping busy as her self-penned and self-directed Tiger Country returns to Hampstead Theatre, in advance of Donkey Heart – written by her brother Moses and also directed by her – transferring to Trafalgar Studios 2 in the New Year. Declared one of Hampstead’s most popular commissions, I must confess to being a little surprised to see this 2011 play return as it didn’t stick out as particularly memorable but with the promise of a new cast, I was interested to see how it stacked up nearly four years later.

And it seems that some time away has done it some good – the play feels cleaner, sharper and less encumbered with expository dialogue clearing a path through the medical terminology. I don’t know how much the script has been updated or edited but its spin through the state of the modern NHS feels as keenly observed as ever, visiting the stresses it imposes on those who work within it as well as those who use its services. Raine’s production recaptures the frenetic energy of a hospital and its staff at full stretch – metaphorically, physically, emotionally. Continue reading “Review: Tiger Country, Hampstead Theatre”

Review: Donkey Heart, Old Red Lion

“This has been going on for years…we never put it right, it just repeats.”

Mere mortals don’t stand a chance without a dynasty behind them… Moses Raine’s father is noted poet Craig and his sister is playwright and director Nina (who looked into my very soul with the peerless Tribes) and not only that, his mother, who has her own literary career, is the niece of Boris Pasternak who wrote Doctor Zhivago. And it is to the Russian connection that Moses has turned to write his new play Donkey Heart, directed by Nina, which opens at the Old Red Lion with one of the best casts you could hope to see in any intimate theatre, never mind one perched atop an Islington pub.

Casting director Emily Jones definitely deserves mention for gathering such an illustrious company on the fringe – such experience as Wendy Nottingham and Patrick Godfrey, the younger talents of Emily Bruni and James Musgrave and emerging with one of the performances of the year so far, Lisa Diveney, She plays Sasha, the 20-something daughter of a Moscow family, three generations of which are compressed into a small apartment, along with a British visitor Thomas, her brother’s mouthy girlfriend and her father’s PA whose been stung by her landlord. Continue reading “Review: Donkey Heart, Old Red Lion”

Review: Longing, Hampstead Theatre

“Is there no room for love in your philosophy of life?”

One of the reasons Fawlty Towers remains so highly respected is because it managed that rare feat of going out on a high after making just 12 episodes. And though the reasons for the relatively limited dramatic output of Anton Chekhov may be more to do with his untimely demise, the ethos seems to me to remain similar – the handful of plays that he left behind should be celebrated as such. But he was also a prolific writer of short stories and spotting an opportunity to enrich the canon, novelist William Boyd has fashioned a new play – Longing – from two of them, directed by Nina Raine (her of the astounding Tribes) at the Hampstead Theatre.   

Boyd has used one of Chekhov’s longest stories My Life and “taken its core and impacted it on” one of his most obscure A Visit to Friends and what results is a story of distinctly Chekhovian flavour but one calls to mind numerous of his other plays rather equalling them in their depth and richness. Kolia is invited the summer estate of some old friends but what he thinks will be a relaxing break turns into something much more complex as long-buried emotions come up against current dramas in typically tragicomic fashion. And there’s much to recognise: an ageing woman laments the summer estate she is no longer in possession of, another dares to dream of the love she has sacrificed for a working life, somebody longs to get back to Moscow…these are all highly familiar themes and though they are skilfully woven together by Boyd, there is rarely a sense of dramatic impetus compelling this particular story to be told or ultimately justifying the exercise at large. Continue reading “Review: Longing, Hampstead Theatre”

Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s

“You think ‘I’m being a strong woman’, that’s a misinterpretation…”

Not too much to say about this last minute revisit to Jumpy before it closed this weekend, aside from the predictability that I would end up there despite repeatedly assuring the world I wouldn’t. My original review from its run at the Royal Court can be read here and much of it still stands as my response was largely the same second time round and, rather pleasingly for a play in the West End, it was a sell-out. I was admittedly a little surprised when I first heard this would be one of the plays transferring to the Duke of York’s as whilst I found it good, I didn’t think it was necessarily that great (unlike many others).

But holding onto the vast majority of its cast (just two replacements were needed), April De Angelis’ play maintained its essential quality with a stirring central performance from Tamsin Greig as a woman in the midst of a mid-life crisis as crises with her teenage daughter, tensions with her husband and losing her job all leave her reeling. De Angelis wraps all of this into a comedy though and so there’s a lightness to the whole affair which at once feels like its strength and its weakness.  Continue reading “Re-review: Jumpy, Duke of York’s”

The 2011 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best Play
The Heretic by Richard Bean (Royal Court)
One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean (National’s Lyttelton)
Becky Shaw
 by Gina Gionfriddo (Almeida)
Tribes by Nina Raine (Royal Court)

Best Director
Mike Leigh for Grief (National’s Cottesloe)
Rob Ashford 
for Anna Christie (Donmar)
Dominic Cooke for Chicken Soup with Barley (Royal Court)
Edward Hall for Richard III & The Comedy of Errors (Propeller at Hampstead) Continue reading “The 2011 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”