Review: Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty

“Please do not disturb”

I’ve been to a couple of plays in hotels already this year but I haven’t gotten to go through the wardrobe in any of them until Heartbreak Hotel, the latest attempt to develop an immersive theatricality in Greenwich which has ranged from the sublime Hotel Medea to the shocking Venice Preserv’d. Par for the course, The Jetty comes equipped with all the accoutrements to make it a destination venue – rooftop bar, pulled pork stands, riverside views and pumping music, but tasty as the barbeque is (I recommend the squid) it’s the theatre we’re concerned with. 

Zoe Wellman and Sam Curtis-Lindsay’s production follows the conceit of multiple stories happening in multiple hotel rooms at the same time, all connected loosely by a similar theme. The audience gets split into groups and traces a path through the hotel which takes us from sado-masochistic relationships, fanboys, self-help sessions… Over the course of an hour, we take on all different kinds of heartbreak as we traverse the corridors and secret passages of this once-grand British seaside establishment with an increasing sense of weirdness taking over the over-arching narrative.  Continue reading “Review: Heartbreak Hotel, The Jetty”

Review: Shooting With Light, New Diorama

“You don’t have to worry about taking the perfect picture”

There’s much to enjoy about Idle Motion’s Shooting with Light, currently selling out night after night at the New Diorama ahead of a UK tour, not least in their exploration of the life and work of photojournalist Gerda Taro. A devised work, it blends its text with striking use of movement, multimedia projections and innovative design, to create an impassioned, time-jumping romance slash mystery that has some truly beguiling moments.

Fleeing the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s, German Gerta Pohorylle and Hungarian Andre Friedmann met in a Parisian café and quickly bonding over a mutual love for each other and photography, reinvented themselves as the First Couple of photojournalism – Gerda Taro and Robert Capa. Initially just acting his agent, Taro’s own love for the lens saw her develop her own path, becoming the first female photojournalist to cover a war from the front line. And to die whilst doing so. Continue reading “Review: Shooting With Light, New Diorama”

Review: Reptember – Triple Bill B, New Diorama

“I can highly recommend the apricots”

And so to complete the set of triple bills at the New Diorama, Programme B of The Faction’s Reptember saw my third trip in quick succession to this most friendly of theatres, tucked away near Warren Street station and possessing some of the loveliest people working there. My mood was further enhanced by this proving to be my favourite of the three shows, demonstrating the greatest variety of style and mood in the solo performances that have made up this rep season. Programme A was also strong and if Programme C wasn’t quite my cup of tea, any issues I felt it had were more than compensated for here.

First up is Lachlan McCall in The Man With The Flower In His Mouth written by Pirandello and adapted and directed here by Faction AD Mark Leipacher. McCall is the perfect choice from the ensemble for this ruminative piece, his ruffled everyman demeanour suits the gentle rhythm of this late night interaction between his character and a man who’s missed the last train. The role of the other guy is taken by a video camera into which McCall speaks, the image being projected onto the back wall thereby co-opting us all into the reveal of the depths of his melancholy soul. It’s subtle but becomes most moving. Continue reading “Review: Reptember – Triple Bill B, New Diorama”

Review: The Robbers, New Diorama

 
“He’s the apple of your eye but if that apple do offend, then pluck it out” 

The final piece of The Faction’s 2014 Rep Season 2014 is a revival of their 2011 successful take on Schiller’s The Robbers, which slots in along Hamlet and Thebes in playing through February at the New Diorama. As Schiller’s first play, it has something of a rawness about it in the way that brings together a surprisingly mature (for the 1780s) debate about state versus revolution, intervention versus anarchy, with the kind of histrionic family drama that at times recalls Shakespeare at his most bafflingly obtuse.

The play bounces between antagonistic siblings, Franz and Karl von Moor. The devilish Franz has hoodwinked their father into disinheriting the older Franz and so is allowed to grasp for power and money in court, whereas Karl flees to the forest where he becomes the head of a vicious band of robbers who are determined to start the revolution. Interestingly, the two never meet but their actions impact strongly on those around them as class, religion and society are indicted in melodramatic style. Continue reading “Review: The Robbers, New Diorama”

Review: Thebes, New Diorama

Let this blood here be the wash of Thebes’ redemption”

The ancient Greek stories of Thebes have proved some of the most enduring, inspiring theatremakers across the years to relate the tales of power-crazed, war-torn tragedy in their own ways and to their own experiences. Here, Gareth Jandrell ramps up the epic quotient by splicing together works by Aeschylus and Sophocles to create his own new play Thebes which spans the entire misbegotten dynasty, and forms the second play in The Faction’s 2014 rep season at the New Diorama.

So we see Oedipus’ crazed descent as the terrible truths uttered by the Oracle unknowingly shape his destiny as a most tragic king and we then move swiftly into the aftermath of his death, the power vacuum that emerges that his two sons and Creon battle to fill. Which in turn unleashes its own trail of chaos in the form of Oedipus’ vengeful daughter Antigone who will stop at nothing to do what she feels is right. All the while, the city of Thebes pulses in the background – bearing witness, making comment, passing judgement. Continue reading “Review: Thebes, New Diorama”

Review: Hamlet, New Diorama


“What a piece of work is a man”

The Faction’s annual rep seasons at the New Diorama have gone from strength to strength, winning increasing critical and commercial acclaim, and so in the relatively dry spell of early January openings, they are a welcome highlight. Their 2014 season opens with a fresh take on Shakespeare’s perennial classic Hamlet, directed by Mark Leipacher in an adaptation that takes its time to find its feet and its oeuvre but once it does, it exemplifies much of the best of the Faction’s work, anchored by an excellent lead performance from Jonny McPherson.

Early on, the most arresting feature of this production is the ingenious use of a digital Simon Russell Beale to play the ghost. Leipacher comes up with a novel method of displaying Martin Dewar’s projection work, the ensemble making it somehow float in the air but for all its resourcefulness, it never feels truly integrated into the show, a distance is forced between reality and artifice which undermines the emotional current that ought to pull so strongly. And generally, the first half feels slow to start, competently played to be sure but not quite essential. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, New Diorama”

Review: Othello, National Theatre

“Demand me nothing: what you know, you know”

Though I’ve been to the theatre a fair bit over the last few years and taken in more than my fair share of Shakespeare, the distribution across his plays has been far from equitable. I’ve seen more Macbeths, Twelfth Nights and Midsummer Night’s Dreams that I can shake a stick at, yet my first and only Othello to date was in Sheffield back in 2011. Not having previously read or studied it, it was never a play that had really appealed and though I really did enjoy that trip to the Crucible, I can’t say I was dying to see it again. But this high-profile National Theatre modern-day update, featuring Rory Kinnear and Adrian Lester under Nicholas Hytner’s direction, proved impossible to resist, not least with preview prices meaning the £48 seats were going for £20 (and with this running time, it was money well spent).
 
The Venice of the opening is a non-descript place and it is only with the departure to Cyprus, and specifically here a British base on the island, that the military aesthetic of the production comes to full fruition. Vicki Mortimer’s design captures the sun-blasted stone of the Mediterranean location and the claustrophobically stuffy air of the prefab offices and rooms of the military base, with the only real nod to the geopolitics of the modern-day setting a map of the Middle East behind a desk. The production wears the updating quite lightly: on the one hand, nothing feels too forced to fit in with the concept but on the other, it doesn’t always seem like the most inspired. The bland nature of so much of the setting – the generic office, the shared bathroom, the depersonalised bedroom – mutes something of the tragedy, there’s little grandeur on display to match the heights of the emotion.

Continue reading “Review: Othello, National Theatre”

Review: Miss Julie, Faction at New Diorama

“I have to get down but I don’t have the courage to jump”

Miss Julie is the third iteration of the Faction rep season at the New Diorama, though there’s been a bit of a gap for me between seeing this and the brilliant first two –Twelfth Night and Mary Stuart. And I’m not sure if it was the gap, my feelings that night or perhaps the company stretching themselves just a little bit too far, but I did not take to Strindberg’s play half as much as I did the others.

Part of it came from the feeling that this was more of an afterthought than an integral part of the rep season – it seems an odd choice for the company to choose with an ensemble at work as the play is a three-hander at heart. Miss Julie is a Count’s daughter but rather than attend the formal ball being put on by her father, she opts to go to the party being held by the servants where she embarks on a dangerous flirtation with footman Jean. Continue reading “Review: Miss Julie, Faction at New Diorama”

Review: Mary Stuart, Faction at the New Diorama

“Who could look at these naked walls and say that majesty lives here”

When I booked in for the first show in the Faction’s rep season, Twelfth Night, I knowingly said ‘I hope this isn’t good’ as I knew that if it were, then I would be suckered into seeing their other two shows. But it was, exceedingly so, and so I found myself back at the New Diorama for the opening of the second show, Schiller’s 1880 play Mary Stuart in a new version by Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher.

One of my big theatrical regrets of pre-blogging times was missing the Donmar’s production of this play and so this was my first time of seeing it, though I’m fairly familiar with the history, it being an era I’ve always liked. Schiller depicts the final days of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic cousin and rival to the throne of Elizabeth I, as she is held under house arrest in England whilst the queen decides on her fate. The intrigues of the Elizabethan court are vividly captured as noblemen’s loyalties remain murkily hidden with religion and politics playing off against each other and double-dealing being the order of the day. Continue reading “Review: Mary Stuart, Faction at the New Diorama”

Review: Twelfth Night, The Faction at New Diorama

“What great ones do, the less will prattle of”

With a burst of enthusiasm and ambition that should inspire anyone who is already struggling to keep their New Year’s resolutions,The Faction Theatre company are launching into 2012 with a three play rep season for the next seven weeks at the New Diorama Theatre. First up is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy of assumed identities, passionate yearnings and carousing nobles with a hard edge of revenge. The play is well suited for a large ensemble – the 11 actors here will all star in all 3 plays – and in Mark Leipacher’s production, proves a considerable, imaginative success.

The black box of the New Diorama is kept bare and the use of props judiciously low thus focusing the attention on the text, which is extremely well spoken here, and on the physical language employed by the company which creates some moments of striking imagery. The cell within which Malvolio finds himself interned is created from bodies and hands pressed all around him; the tree for the gulling scene made from six actors outstretched and swaying gently in the breeze; the shipwreck is powerfully evoked through movement, and a bedtime scene is extremely wittily and cleverly portrayed. It all makes for a constantly engaging production which, with the great deal of pace, means the attention is rarely allowed to waver. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, The Faction at New Diorama”