Review: Ink, Almeida

“I should warn you that nobody likes me”

Truth be told, I resisted seeing Ink for the longest time, mainly because I had zero desire to see a play about Rupert Murdoch. I feel the same way about Thatcher – I will never see The Iron Lady (sorry Meryl) or any other Maggie-based drama because I just damn well don’t want to. These firmly held convictions can of course be bypassed by sourcing me a free ticket (I stepped in for an otherwise occupied colleague) and so I was able to get the best of both worlds – onto a winner if it was good, and easily able to sneer (cos yes, I am that person) if it was bad.

And as with so much in life, the truth was somewhere inbetween. I could see how good Bertie Carvel’s performance as Murdoch was, naturally far more than a simple caricature, but I still felt uneasy whilst watching him – and the play in general – about what still felt like a tacit endorsement somehow, of an institution that I believe to be thoroughly reprehensible. Ink isn’t straightforwardly about The Sun though, Graham is far too canny a writer for that. His target is journalistic ethics as a whole, using Murdoch’s purchase of that paper in the 1960s as a tipping point for tabloid behaviour. Continue reading “Review: Ink, Almeida”

Review: Image of an Unknown Young Woman, Gate

“Is there a cause that I’d die for?”

Taking aim at anyone who tweeted #JesuisCharlie (and plenty more besides), Elinor Cook’s Image of an Unknown Young Woman continues the Gate Theatre’s long-running investigations into how the modern world sees and deals with revolution. The nation torn apart by civil war here is unspecified, just A N Other country with a repressive regime but when footage of a young woman in a yellow dress being shot by police at a demo gets uploaded to the internet, the video quickly goes viral, inciting a new social media phenomenon, and is adopted as the latest cause du jour by all and sundry.

Twitterstorms flare up about the correct level of anguish to show, sales of yellow dresses on ASOS increase, aid charities start pumping the wealthy for donations and the BBC send over a news crew. But as well as exploring how we, a Western audience (quite literally) respond, Cook also delves into the effects on the people still there like the young couple who uploaded the clip and the woman searching for her mother who may have gotten swept up in the mob. Ricocheting between the emotionally explosive and the physically threatening, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, unsettling truths come to light. Continue reading “Review: Image of an Unknown Young Woman, Gate”

Review: Treasure Island, National Theatre

“Thanks for all the pies and adventures”

The big family-oriented show at the National Theatre this winter is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (though as it runs in rep right through to April, one hopes Spring will have sprung by then) which has been adapted for the stage by Bryony Lavery. But whilst Polly Findlay’s production has some very definite plus points, not least in an inspired design by Lizzie Clachan which utilises so much of the Olivier’s potential, it doesn’t quite have the full shiver-me-timbers factor to make it an undoubted success.

Clachan frames the theatre’s large revolving drum with a set of lowering curved ribs which suggest all kinds of mystical maritime adventures – the frame of a trusty ship, the ribcage of a giant whale, the quivering trees of a strange island. Deep in the revolve is where the real treasure is though, a warren of cabins that reflect the social hierarchy of the time and later on the maze of tunnels in which the gold can be found. Combined with the sensational starry skyscape up above, Bruno Poet’s lighting looking stunning, this is the National doing what it does so well. Continue reading “Review: Treasure Island, National Theatre”

Review: Double Feature 2, National Theatre

“We keep it loose, we stay chatty…we do not freak out”

Switching it up a little for the summer is the National Theatre with their Double Feature run: 2 double bills of new writing performed by one ensemble and playing in a new space, the Paintframe. It wasn’t always meant to be thus, the original plan was to put this into the Cottesloe but the huge success of London Road and its subsequent extension meant alternative arrangements had to be found and so the area where sets are painted was co-opted, a rather neat decision as it plays into the experimental feel of the whole experience.

Divided into 2 double bills, I saw Double Feature 2 first, at the first preview, which pairs Prasanna Puwanarajah’s Nightwatchman and Tom Basden’s There Is A War. I ummed and aahed a bit about how to write up these shows and so what will follow is a general overview of the plays and the experience as a whole, and there will be two separate reviews of the actual shows which will be a bit more detailed and so potentially spoilerific. Continue reading “Review: Double Feature 2, National Theatre”