Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End

“I couldn’t leave this place, not in my mind, not in my heart”

After a scorching run at the Young Vic, Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance makes a well-deserved transfer into the West End. And though the seats (and some of the sightlines) at the Noël Coward Theatre make it a little bit more of an endurance test over its near-seven hours of drama, the experience remains a truly soul-enhancing, life-enrichening thing.

All but one of the original cast have returned (Jack Riddiford stepping in for Luke Thallon who has turned to alternative Cock in Chichester), but none of the production’s magic has been lost. Indeed, for those who have seen it before, it is almost better second time round as the exquisite agony of knowing what is to come deepens so much of the first part. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Noël Coward Theatre”

News: Cast for the West End transfer of The Inheritance announced

All but one of the original cast of The Inheritance will make the transfer into the West End at the Noël Coward Theatre

The ensemble cast of The Inheritance at the Noël Coward Theatre is now confirmed and will include: Hugo Bolton, Robert Boulter, Andrew Burnap, Hubert Burton, John Benjamin Hickey, Paul Hilton, Samuel H Levine, Syrus Lowe, Michael Marcus, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Riddiford, Kyle Soller and Michael Walters. The main change is that Jack Riddiford joins the company in place of Luke Thallon who is going to be appearing in Chichester’s revival of Mike Bartlett’s Cock instead.

I absolutely adored The Inheritance when I saw it at the Young Vic and am glad that the brave decision to transfer this major new work into the West End has been made. It certainly deserves a bigger audience and I sincerely hope that they come – and why wouldn’t they, when you look at this lovely set of blossom portraits of the new cast by Johan Persson.

 

All photography by Johan Persson

 

Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic

An epic gay play for the 21st century – Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance is a must-see at the Young Vic

“A chain of gay men helping each other, loving each other, hurting each other, understanding each other”

It would be easy to focus on the fact that The Inheritance is long and yes, its two parts total up to nearly seven hours in the thankfully comfortable seats of the Young Vic. But they also sum up to a brave and epic piece of new writing from Matthew Lopez, taking a scalpel to contemporary gay life in New York, asking what does it mean to be a gay man today and just how much of that is owed to an inherited (and neglected) cultural legacy.  

Structurally, the play owes a curious debt to EM Forster’s Howard’s End, using it as a considerable inspiration for plot but also as a device to launch into its storytelling, which has an occasional tricksiness to it, pulling at the thread of the stories we wish we could tell rather than the ones we have to. That main story centres on Eric and Toby, a gay couple who have the foundations of their relationship rocked when the tenancy of their amazing apartment is terminated. As their lives reshape around new realities, new experiences, new challenges, they come to see how little of the world they really know. Continue reading “Review: The Inheritance, Young Vic”

Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic

“Holy shit, Meryl Streep is here?”

I’m just going to write the one review to cover both parts of the The Inheritance but I wanted to flag up that if, for some crazy reason, the full seven hours of Mathew Lopez’s epic didn’t appeal, then you could do worse than sticking with Part One. For though it may not have any Vanessa Redgrave, it does contain a moment of pure transcendent beauty that left me weeping on the bus journey home, and so how could you possibly now resist?! Continue reading “Not-really-a-Review: The Inheritance Part One, Young Vic”

Review: Saint Joan, Donmar

“Must a Christ perish in every age to save those that have no imagination”

This
 is Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan but very much via Josie Rourke, as the medieval piety of the pre-show entertainment gives way to the uber-modernity of this interpretation with the opening flourish of a tablecloth being whipped away (more impressive than it sounds!). The gods being worshipped here are high finance and business as scenes are set in companies like Vaucouleur Commodities Brokerage and Dauphin Holdings, Evan Davies and Bloomberg news tickers give us regular updates and it is in the midst of all this that Gemma Arterton’s Joan arrives, the sole figure in period dress. 

Dealing with an amusing take on the egg crisis of the first scene, and using Skype to correctly identify Fisayo Akinade’s spoiled manchild heir of a Dauphin in the next, the modern take is clever but there’s a strange tension that never quite resolves. The text has been cut but not completely modernised, so talk of battles and forts sit alongside the rise and fall of stocks and shares and it doesn’t settle into an interpretation that didn’t leave me going ‘you what now’ until it starts to play the drama straight as in the English plot to bring about the downfall of the woman uniting the French against them. Continue reading “Review: Saint Joan, Donmar”

Review: Henry V, Open Air Theatre

“This revolt of thine is like another fall of man”

It would be great to live in a world where gender-blind casting isn’t newsworthy in and of itself but we don’t and so it should be shouted out and celebrated wherever it happens, until the day that it just feels rightly commonplace. What should always be celebrated though is the opportunities being given to some our greatest actors to take on powerful leading roles – the intrigue of Glenda Jackson’s return to the stage, the trifecta of Harriet Walter’s Donmar leads soon to be capped off with Prospero and here at the Open Air Theatre, the glorious Michelle Terry rising to the challenge of Henry V.

Insofar as Robert Hastie’s modern-dress production has a conceit, it’s of a group of actors coming together to put on a play, waiting for Charlotte Cornwell’s Chorus to anoint one of them with the leading role – and it’s hard not to feel a frisson of delight as she bypasses the cocky guy pushing to the front to place the crown on Terry’s head. And from then, it’s a relatively straight-forward production, playing out on the wide expanse of Anna Fleischle’s square of riveted iron, props kept to a minimum, John Ross’ movement coming to the fore in impressionistic battle scenes lit beautifully by Joshua Carr. Continue reading “Review: Henry V, Open Air Theatre”

Review: The President and the Pakistani, Waterloo East

“Wherever you go, don’t forget who you are”

Layers upon layers: can we ever get to know the truth about the private lives of our public figures? In his own 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama changed names and conflated people to both protect people and to create more narrative flow, thus creating his own version of events from his life. And in The President and the Pakistani, Evening Standard journalist Rashid Razaq has now written his own fictionalised account of one of those crucial junctures in the life of POTUS in The President and the Pakistani to further obfuscate the picture whilst simultaneously providing a rather intriguing piece of drama.

In 1985 when Barack was still Barry, he was shacked up in Harlem and living a relatively normal life. But having decided to take a job in Chicago, that would mark the beginning of a meteoric political ascension, he has to say goodbye to his old life, including his roommate, an illegal Pakistani immigrant called Sal Maqbool (who is neither Obama’s fictional Sadiq, or real-life’s Sohale Siddiqi, and yet he is both). Over the course of a long night, Obama has to break the news to Sal – who thinks they’re just packing to move flat – that their journeys are about to take wildly different turns. Continue reading “Review: The President and the Pakistani, Waterloo East”

Review: Macbeth, Everyman Liverpool

“What’s done cannot be undone”

The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool will shortly be closing for an extensive three year renovation programme which will see the building being completely rebuilt to reinvigorate the already sterling work that the Everyman and Playhouse theatres have been doing for the last few years. The final show to be mounted here is a production of Macbeth which features the return of one of its prodigal sons in the title role, David Morrissey, a Liverpudlian by birth who trained at the Everyman Youth Theatre in the early 1980s alongside Ian Hart, Mark McGann and Cathy Tyson.

Originally cast alongside him to play Lady Macbeth was Jemma Redgrave but she had to withdraw due to personal reasons (one hopes that she is ok, that family has suffered enough hardship in recent times) just three weeks before the show was due to open, but fortunately Julia Ford (recently seen in Mogadishu) was able to join the cast and ensure this valedictory telling of ‘the Scottish play’ was able to continue. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Everyman Liverpool”

Review: Earthquakes in London, National Theatre

“This room is significantly different because you’re in it”

And boy is it different! The first thing that strikes you as you enter the Cottesloe for Earthquakes in London is not the light jazz elevator music, but the complete reconfiguration of the auditorium inside. An inverted S-shaped catwalk-stage dominates, with bar stools either side for the audience, two raised letterbox stages at either end and a DJ in the corner.

A new play from the pen of Mike Bartlett (he of Cock and also Bull) and a co-production with Rupert Goold’s Headlong company. With a timeline switching around from 1968 to 2525 (though predominantly in the present day), it deals with the threat of climate change and impending planetary collapse by looking at the impact on a family of three sisters each with their own issues and the same estranged father. Continue reading “Review: Earthquakes in London, National Theatre”

Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse

“Judas…Traitor…Het-er-o-sexual!”

When it was first announced that John Barrowman would be taking one of the lead roles in La Cage au Folles, many, including myself, instantly called this a crazy decision. Having seen this show twice already with different casts, and it remaining one of my favourite things I have seen on the stage this year, I had my doubts about this particular casting decision but when a family delegation (including 3 major Barrowman fangirls) expressed their interest in coming down to see the show, tickets were booked.

The obvious criticism is that John Barrowman is too young and good-looking to play Albin, especially given the actors who have played the role here previously, but by casting an equally younger-looking and handsome Simon Burke as his lover, this production has been cleverly reconceived. Instead of being a meditation on a drag queen at the end of his career, the focus here is more on Albin’s insecurities about his relationship with Georges, the comment about not being able to play Salome any longer becomes more of a bitchy aside than a sad statement of truth. There has been a considerable injection of raunchiness into this production, with some very suggestive croissant eating that was dangerously close to the bone (fnarr fnarr) for a family show. However this more overt sexuality played very convincingly with the younger coupling and led to some hilarious scenes. Continue reading “Re-review: La Cage aux Folles, Playhouse”