Review: Small Island, National Theatre

Andrea Levy’s novel Small Island comes to life most beautifully in this adaptation by Helen Edmundson at the National Theatre

“How come they know nothing about their own empire?”

There’s something glorious about Small Island, its epic scale suiting the National Theatre to a tee as a story about marginalised communities finally breaks free from the Dorfman… Andrea Levy’s novel was memorably adapted for television in 2009 and Helen Edmundson’s version is no less adventurous as it refashions the narrative into a linear story of just over three hours and stellar impact with its focus here on three key characters whom circumstance pushes all together.

Jamaicans Hortense and Gilbert with their respective dreams of being a teacher and a lawyer, and Lincolnshire farm daughter Queenie, all searching for their own version of escape and all unprepared for the consequences of smashing headfirst into the real world. For dreams of the ‘motherland’ prove just that for these first-generation immigrants shocked by the hostility of post-war Britain. And Queenie’s hopes of freedom are curtailed as she finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage to bank clerk Bernard. Continue reading “Review: Small Island, National Theatre”

Review: Emilia, Shakespeare’s Globe

In this year, at this time, with this message, Emilia feels more important than ever. a triumph

We are only as powerful as the stories we tell…
we have not always been able to tell them”

Three weeks on holiday and completely off social media have been bliss but within seconds of switching back on, it was hard to miss the buzz around Emilia so I did the right thing and booked myself in at the Globe. And though I’d been forewarned, I still wasn’t quite prepared for just how much Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s brand new play would so thoroughly shake the ground on which it was performing.

Ostensibly, Emilia is a piece of historical biography, a deep dive into the life of Emilia Bassano, a writer who was one of the first Englishwomen to publish an original collection of poems and as contemporary of Shakespeare, a possible inspiration to the Bard. With hard facts about her few on the ground, Lloyd Malcolm toys with this to suggest that that inspiration may have extended beyond giving her name to several of his characters across to providing a literary source from which to crib. Continue reading “Review: Emilia, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s new play Emilia already looked like one of the top tips of Michelle Terry’s inaugural season at the Globe and with this cast announcement, Nicole Charles’ production fast becomes an absolute must-see!

Nadia Albina will play Lady Katherine 
Anna Andresen will play Mary Sidney 
Shiloh Coke will play Lady Anne Clifford
Leah Harvey will play Emilia 1
Jenni Maitland will play Countess of Kent 
Clare Perkins will play Emilia 3 
Carolyn Pickles will play Lord Henry Carey 
Vinette Robinson will play Emilia 2 
Sophie Russell will play Lord Thomas Howard
Sarah Seggari will play Lady Cordelia 
Sophie Stone will play Lady Margaret Clifford 
Charity Wakefield will play William Shakespeare 
Amanda Wilkin will play Alphonso Lanier

In 1611 Emilia Bassano penned a volume of radical, feminist and subversive poetry. It was also the first published collection of poetry written by a woman in England. Lloyd Malcolm promises to reveal the life of Emilia: poet, mother and feminist from the 10th August. See you there? Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: Misty, Bush

“Here is the city that we live in
Notice that the city that we live in is alive
Analyse our city and you’ll find that our city even has bodily features
Our city’s organs function like any living creature
Our city is a living creature
And if you’re wise enough, you’ll know not all of us are blood cells…
Some of us are viruses.”

A quick belated note for this, which I loved, and which deservedly sold out and extended at the Bush. Written by and starring Arinzé Kene, one-man show Misty blends verse, music and video projection in a fierce interrogation of the act of telling a story on a theatre stage. Epic in scope, intimate in nature, Omar Elerian’s direction on Rajha Shakiry’s balloon-filled set made this a play I wished I caught much earlier so I could recommend it to people (who would have probably already been!).

Photo: Helen Murray
Booking until 27th April

Review: Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar at King’s Cross

“As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free”

I must confess I hate it when critics roll their reviews of separate shows of a larger ‘event’ into one overarching piece – if you have to buy separate tickets to see the shows, then reviewers should write reviews for each one. Of course, it’s never quite as simple as that, it’s nice to have the space to talk about the whole as well as the constituent parts, but it should be noted that the Shakespeare Trilogy has been just as enjoyable, if not more so, in its individual segments as it was on the epic (and awkwardly timed) trilogy day. 

I have seen all three of the shows before, and reviewed them – Julius Caesar, Henry IV, The Tempest – so that’s my excuse for this composite piece. And for all that Phyllida Lloyd was uber-keen on having the official press response to the trilogy, I have to admit I didn’t see too much artistic merit in running them together. The only real common thread that emerges is Harriet Walter’s epic performance(s) as Hannah, the lifer who is the only character to recur in the prison setting that is used for all three shows. Continue reading “Review: Shakespeare Trilogy, Donmar at King’s Cross”

Review: The Tempest, Donmar at King’s Cross

“She did confine thee”

A slightly odd one this, the Donmar’s all-female adaptation of The Tempest opened at the King’s Cross Theatre late last month, but from what I can tell won’t be officially reviewed until 22nd November. The reasoning being that it is part of their Shakespeare Trilogy (productions of Julius Caesar from 28th October and Henry IV from 17th November are being remounted) and on select days, audiences can see all three back-to-back. And that is how director Phyllida Lloyd wants them to be critically reviewed, as an over-arching trilogy, which is all fine and good but tickets are either £90 or £120 for those days and I ain’t here for that (that said, if you’re 25 and under, 25% of the tickets are being made free due to this great scheme). So the majority of people seeing The Tempest will only see The Tempest and that’s why I’m writing this review now.

For this enterprise, the Donmar has decamped to the King’s Cross Theatre and a well-designed temporary space there (sightlines from the back row – F – are fine and dandy) with the audience seated on all four sides of the theatre. The sense of blank newness is perfectly suited to the institutional setting – Lloyd has returned to the prison set-up that has previously served so well – and retained several members of the ensemble including crucially, the glorious Harriet Walter, who has thrived on the opportunity to expand her already superlative Shakespearean experience. So from Brutus to Henry IV, she now ascends to take on the role of Prospero. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Donmar at King’s Cross”

‘Sharon Rooney and the Henrys’ release their cover of Glasvegas’ ‘Daddy’s Gone’

“Right now I’m too young to know
How in the future it will affect me when you go”

One of the most striking moments in Phyllida Lloyd’s recent production of Henry IV for the Donmar Warehouse was Sharon Rooney’s extraordinary take on Lady Percy, skewering previous notions of the character to make her a vibrant and passionate equal to her husband. And as she bade him farewell, a lament struck up to the tune of Glasvegas’ ‘Daddy’s Gone’, capping off a performance provoked as much thought about Shakespearean gender roles as did the overall all-female casting.

It’s a really lovely tune in its own right but this rendition did feel like something special so it was great hear that it has been recorded under the name of Sharon Rooney and the Henrys and it is now available to download from iTunes here. Profits will benefit organisations that the company have been working closely with like Clean Break Theatre Company and Justice for Women, as well as the Donmar’s outreach work to help women and girls find their voices, exemplified by the company performing Henry IV at the Mulberry School for Girls in Tower Hamlets next week.

It’s a cracking tune enlivened by Rooney’s Glaswegian accent, it’s for a cracking set of causes and remember, you don’t want to be the lonely one sitting on your own and sad… Here’s the link again.