Review: The Real Thing, American Airlines Theatre

“Half as long as Das Kapital and only twice as funny”

Arcadia aside, it does appear I have my Stoppard issues but in the running theme of my Broadway booking, (relative) star casting trumped common sense. In this case, it was Maggie Gyllenhaal and Cynthia Nixon that tempted me (plus Ewan McGregor and Ronan Raftery) along to this most lauded of his plays. And whilst I was glad of the opportunity to see this company, and be suitably impressed by both Gyllenhaal and Nixon, I couldn’t help but feel that I just don’t get the thing about The Real Thing.

>Seeing it for the second time, the sucker punch of the metatheatrics is necessarily lessened. Knowing the layers of the Russian dolls are just that didn’t really bring anything new for me in my feeling for the play (or the play-within-the-play, or etc etc) and I think Sam Gold’s production is mostly responsible for that with a whole lot of theatrical fussiness that adds bulk but not genuine substance – musical interludes drag, David Zimm’s set distracts with its open blandness, so much of it just feels flat.

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Review: The Silver Tassie, National Theatre

“There’s no more to be said
For when we are dead
We may understand it all”

Commemorating the start of the First World War has turned into something of a full-time business for the nation’s theatres but in reviving the rarely-seen 1927 Sean O’Casey anti-war piece The Silver Tassie, the National Theatre has hit on something special. The play is structurally extraordinary in the difference of its four acts – a vaudevillian take on an Irish household transforms memorably into the visceral horror of a battlefield haunted by music hall songs, after the interval a hospital-set comedy eventually turns into stark realism, as the shattering effects of war on society are laid bare. Howard Davies’ epic production forges through blood and noise to find a most painful truth.

The cumulative effect may challenge some and is certainly disorientating at times but it also has a form of progression that feels natural, like feeling a way through what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. Opening in the Dublin tenement home of the Heegans, the play riffs on Irish stereotypes through the clownish figures of Sylvester and Simon and the neighbourhood archetypes they teasingly mock but soon allows young gun Harry Heegan to take centre stage, boasting the trophy – the Silver Tassie – he and his teammates have won playing soccer, just before they head off to join the British war effort.  Continue reading “Review: The Silver Tassie, National Theatre”

Review: Unscorched, Finborough

“You go through life thinking there’s a limit to the things people will do to each other. But there’s not. There’s just not”

The Papatango New Writing Prize is now in its fifth year and continues its excellent working relationship with the Finborough Theatre in offering a month’s full run to the winning play. And following on from such interesting works as Dawn King’s Foxfinder and Louise Monaghan’s Pack, Luke Owen’s Unscorched feels a worthy winner, an intriguing debut play which navigates its intensely serious subject matter with a supremely deft touch.

That subject is child abuse, but specifically how it impacts those whose job it is to investigate the images and films that are flagged up as crimes against children. Owen’s play follows Tom as he starts a new job in such a digital analysis team and explores how the pervasive effects of what he has to watch permeate into every aspect of his life. Echoes of what he sees and hears taint his sense of normality, the challenge to his faith in human nature threatening his burgeoning relationship with the sweet Emily.  Continue reading “Review: Unscorched, Finborough”