Review: When Did You Last See My Mother, Trafalgar Studios 2

“You can be terribly tactless Ian”

There are two ways this review could go and since I ticked the ‘fanboy going overboard’ box with a mildly amusing drunken encounter (which rebounded on me in the most unexpected way – actors read this thing?!) at the Hampstead Theatre 2 Fridays ago, I shall try to use a more measured approach here. But the uninitiated should know that I do have a slight admiration for the work of Sam Swainsbury… đŸ˜‰ Anyhoo, to the matter in hand. When Did You Last See My Mother was the first play that Christopher Hampton ever wrote as a teenager in 1964, but despite his reputation has remained rather unknown.

And it is a little hard to believe as whilst it may not be the most sophisticated piece of theatre with an ending which whilst sweet is a little too neat, it contains a masterful piece of character work with main protagonist Ian that is a gift of a role for a talented young actor. Director Blanche McIntyre has chosen wisely in casting Harry Melling, perhaps the one of the kids from of the Harry Potter who has shown the most promise as an actor, on the stage at least, and he delivers an extraordinary performance. Continue reading “Review: When Did You Last See My Mother, Trafalgar Studios 2”

Re-review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre

“Alas, poor women! Make us but believe…”

Revisiting The Comedy of Errors, one of the Propeller shows currently residing at the Hampstead Theatre proved to be even more fun than seeing Richard III again as I found myself enjoying it more on second viewing. I actually trekked up to Sheffield to see this at the beginning of their tour and my review of the show from then still stands as there really is little more to add and i’m running out of superlatives with which to describe the guys: “anarchic panache” and “reverentially irreverent” are my personal favourites.

I can’t help but feel, that more so with this than RIII, that this is about as definitive an interpretation of the play as I will ever see. RIII has its absolutely delicious moments to be sure but I have seen and can still see other ways of doing the play that would work (if not quite as well) but in terms of getting the laughs out of a Shakespearean comedy, this is in my experience unequalled. Hardly a joke misfires or an eyebrow raises as it is all so finely tuned and carefully interpreted to extract the maximum enjoyment that I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t love this. Continue reading “Re-review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre”

Re-review: Richard III, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre

“I like you lads; about your business straight”

It seems only natural that Edward Hall would bring Propeller’s touring double bill of Richard III and The Comedy of Errors to the Hampstead Theatre, he is after all the Artistic Director for both the all-male Shakespeare company and the Swiss Cottage venue, but when the shows were first announced, there was no mention of London in the tour. Keen to have my first Propeller experience, trips were made to Guildford and Sheffield to see the shows and then as sod’s law would have it of course, a short residency in London was announced. Still, I am glad that I got to see the shows earlier, way back in November in the case of Richard III, as it has meant I was able to see them, love them, recommend them to all and sundry as they toured the country and finally get to revisit both shows as I’m pretty sure this is about as good as interpretations of Shakespeare can get.

 My review of Richard III back in November in Guildford can be read here and to be honest and somewhat less than humble, reading it back, I think it is one of my best pieces of writing in capturing how exhilarating a production it is and how enthusiastic I felt about it. Very little of my exceedingly positive opinion has changed and taking in a second viewing allowed me to appreciate some of the smaller details that passed me by first time round as there really are so many inventive touches in here, it feels impossible to soak them all in with a single viewing. Continue reading “Re-review: Richard III, Propeller at Hampstead Theatre”

Review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Sheffield Lyceum

“Men, all divine, the masters of all these”

It is not often that I start off reviews with a negative comment but it must be said that Ed Hall and his Propeller company are naughty, naughty boys. When they announced their tour of their new productions, London was not among the cities and towns being visited so schedules were looked at, train timetables checked and we duly booked trips to Guildford to see Richard III and to Sheffield to see The Comedy of Errors. They then of course announced a short stop at the Hampstead Theatre which would have cut down on my travelling time somewhat. But, they don’t play there until the end of June and having seen both these shows now, I don’t think I could have coped with the anticipation waiting that long as they are sensationally good.

Ephesus has been re-imagined as a Costa del Sol type resort in Michael Pavelka’s design, full of football-shirt wearing blokes, geezers selling fake watches and flirtatious policemen and the air is filled with music, played live by the company who frequently break out into song, mostly snippets of cheesy 80s tunes which are brilliantly done and never outstay their welcome. Most of the ensemble remain onstage throughout, slipping out of their main role and into this group to provide a raft of sound effects straight out of a cartoon which are ridiculously funny and creating amusing moments in group scenes. Continue reading “Review: The Comedy of Errors, Propeller at Sheffield Lyceum”

Leading Man of the Year 2010

Whereas the aim of the blog has always been to take a semi-serious look at theatrical productions up and down the country, when it comes down to it, I can be extremely shallow and get easily distracted by pretty faces and fit bodies. And so too, it seems, do my readers as my Leading Man of the Year post last year has consistently been one of the most viewed posts on here!! So without further delay, I present to you my top ten of 2010: some familiar faces, some less well-known and some unexpected crushes, but all of whom set my little heart a-flutter at some point this year.
 

 

Continue reading “Leading Man of the Year 2010”

Review: Richard III, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

“Thus it is when men are ruled by women”

I have not been lucky enough to catch Propeller, Edward Hall’s all-male Shakespeare company, in my theatregoing thus far and it was only the perseverance of a new friend at Boycotting Trends that convinced me to make the trip (also my first) to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford in order to catch Richard III, the first of their two plays that they will be touring for the next several months in rep with The Comedy of Errors. And boy am I glad that he did, for this reimagining of the history play into a post-modern gothic Victoriana-fest is pretty close to being unmissable.

The story of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of his Plantagenet family yet possessed of a burning ambition to be King and utterly ruthless in his bloodthirsty, backstabbing, blackmailing and brutal climb to the throne, is one of Shakespeare’s longest plays but Edward Hall along with Roger Warren has adapted and re-edited the text into something more dramatically compelling than I remember this play ever being, mainly through incorporating an outrageously comic, even vaudevillian approach to the dastardly deeds that are carried out. Continue reading “Review: Richard III, Propeller at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre”

Review: Hay Fever, Rose Theatre Kingston

“People stare in astonishment when we say the most ordinary things”

In mounting a new production of Noël Coward’s Hay Fever, the Rose Theatre, Kingston has managed another casting coup after attracting Judi Dench out west earlier this year, although their plans haven’t quite gone according to schedule. Celia Imrie agreed to take on the lead role of Judith Bliss, but subsequent filming commitments meant she can only fulfil half the run, so Nichola McAuliffe will be stepping in for the final two weeks. Still, a very interesting cast under Stephen Unwin’s direction, makes this an intriguing proposition.

Set in the Blisses’ family home in the 1920s, Judith, a recently retired stage actress, David, a self-absorbed novelist, and their two equally unconventional children make for a eccentric family grouping given to melodramatic theatrical excesses. On the weekend we see them, they have each invited someone, unbeknownst to the others, a stuffy diplomat, a shy girl, an athletic boxer and a fashionable sophisticate and the scene is set for comedic chaos as endless scenes and permutations are played out by the Blisses and their unsuspecting house guests. Continue reading “Review: Hay Fever, Rose Theatre Kingston”

The 2009 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Ruth Negga, for Aricia in Phèdre (National Theatre)[35]

Second prize

Max Bennett, for Claudio in Measure for Measure (Theatre Royal, Plymouth) and Frank in Mrs Warren’s Profession (Theatre Royal, Bath)

Third prize

Natalie Dew, for Celia in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)

Special commendations as previous winners

Mariah Gale, for Celia in As You Like It (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Rebecca Hall, for Hermione in The Winter’s Tale (Bridge Project at the Old Vic)

Commendations

Hedydd Dylan, for Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion (Clwyd Theatr Cymru)
Tracy Ifeachor, for Rosalind in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Max Irons, for Max Piccolomini in Wallenstein (Chichester Festival Theatre)
Tunji Kasim, for Lucius and Romulus in Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Vanessa Kirby, for Regina in Ghosts (Octagon Theatre, Bolton)
Keira Knightley, for Jennifer in The Misanthrope (Comedy Theatre)
Jack Laskey, for Orlando in As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Harry Lloyd, for Oswald in Ghosts (Arcola Theatre)
John MacMillan, for Malcolm in Macbeth (Royal Exchange Theatre), and Rosencrantz in Hamlet(Wyndhams Theatre)
David Ononokpono, for Orlando in As You Like It (Curve Theatre)
Henry Pettigrew, for Marcellus and Second Gravedigger in Hamlet (Wyndhams Theatre)
Prasanna Puwanarajah, for Messenger in Thyestes (Arcola Theatre)
George Rainsford, for Bertram in All’s Well That Ends Well (National Theatre)
Sam Swainsbury, for Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Salerio in The Merchant of Venice (Propeller)
Ellie Turner, for Agnes in The School for Wives (Upstairs at the Gatehouse)

Review: A Day at the Racists, Finborough

“People aren’t out and out racist any more, not like they used to be”

It’s been a bit of a political weekend for me, what with Moonfleece and A Day at the Racists, a new play by Anders Lustgarten premiering at the Finborough, both looking at the encroachment of the British National Party in East London and how this rise in fascist politics could have happened. But where as Moonfleece let the politics form a backdrop to a different story, A Day at the Racists is not afraid to show its teeth and really examine what motivates people to considering the BNP as a serious political option.

Set in Dagenham, dyed-in-the-wool Old Labour stalwart Peter is struggling to deal with the disillusionment of his daily life. This is highlighted by his son Mark’s inability to get regular work and to secure a council flat for him and his daughter, whilst Pete perceives that the immigrants in the area are having their needs met first. When a local BNP campaigner’s message, a smartly dressed British Asian woman at that, resonates strongly with him, he falls for the rebranding and the renewed sense of purpose given to him as she employs Pete as her campaign manager. Sucked into this murky world, Pete is forced to face the conflict between his new politics and old, between new relationships and his multicultural old friends and family, all the while dealing with his ultimate sense of betrayal by a country he has worked so hard for. Continue reading “Review: A Day at the Racists, Finborough”

Review: The Rivals, Southwark Playhouse

“If I reprehend anything in this world, it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!”

Taking up residence at the Southwark Playhouse is this new production of Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals, mixing music and dance with a very high calibre cast to create a fresh new look at this well-known comedy. Set in eighteenth century Bath, it follows the efforts of the meddlesome Mrs Malaprop to marry off her niece Lydia Languish, who has romantic designs of her own, but with an array of suitors, some of whom are not all who they seem, the scene is set for a plethora of romantic capers.
I loved the opening: the cast trickle onto the stage and chat away to the audience as if we’re all here for a ball, then up strikes the music and there’s a wickedly subversive choice of songs for an opening dance number which set the tone for this mischievous little production. There’s a real convivial atmosphere throughout, with plenty of fourth-wall-breaking going on (be warned if you’re on the front row!) and the cast play up to the intimacy of the venue with a strong conversational style.

It’s led by a trio of high-profile female performances. The stunningly beautiful Charity Wakefield as a playful Lydia is spritely good fun and charmingly engaging and Ella Smith as Julia does well with the lightest of touches on some very wordy scenes and showing off a melodious voice and some flute-playing thrown in for good measure. But it is Celia Imrie as Mrs Malaprop who is the star of the show: this being my first viewing of The Rivals, I can hardly imagine anyone else doing better in the role, it seems tailor-made for her. She endows her with such warmth and humour that one tended to find oneself laughing with and not really at her, and it is genuinely distressing to see her discover the truth about who has written the letters mocking her. Imrie seizes every opportunity to display her comic chops too, the incredible misjudged verbosity is always well-delivered, the constant shooing away of the recorder-playing heralds was a nice touch and her seductive swaying is just a sight to behold. Continue reading “Review: The Rivals, Southwark Playhouse”