Review: Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Which is the wiser here, Justice or Iniquity?”

You don’t get many Measure for Measures for the pound, in the grand scheme, so Outgoing Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole probably thought he was onto a winner in choosing it to be part of his final summer season and indeed the last play he’ll direct as AD. But these things come in threes and we’ve been blessed with two other major productions – Cheek by Jowl’s Russian-language version shook the rafters of the Barbican earlier this year and Joe Hill-Gibbons promises to do the same at the Young Vic with Romola Garai in the Autumn.

But no matter, we can be assured of diverse interpretations – for the first two at least – and Dromgoole’s version for the Globe does precisely what he does best, unfussily traditional productions blessed with a striking clarity (best evidenced by his superlative 2013 A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Here, we get to see Mariah Gale, one of our finest young Shakespeareans, deliver a stunning account of one of Shakespeare’s more complex female characters in Isabella and we also bear witness to Dominic Rowan ascending to the leading man status (with which he has arguably merely flirted before) as Vincentio. Continue reading “Review: Measure for Measure, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Gabriel, Shakespeare’s Globe

“It may suit the crude palates of ruffians, but there’s more tune in the one derisory ditty my flunkey can play on his fiddle called ‘Lumps of Pudding’ than there is in an entire afternoon of this inflated chronicle of Purcellian shit”

Alongside their much-vaunted productions of Shakespeare’s work, the Globe theatre is a sterling champion of new writing for its theatre as well. The results have arguably been a bit patchy (Globe Mysteries…) but in some cases simply divine (the glorious Anne Boleyn) and so I approached the new first offering of the season – Samuel Adamson’s Gabriel – with cautious optimism. The caution came mainly from hearing that this wasn’t so much as a play as “an entertainment with trumpet”, and I have to say that for me, only the second part of the description was true.

Adamson has written a series of playlets set in late-Restoration period London (1690s) about life and love and sex and music, which are threaded together by a series of musical interludes from the English Concert Orchestra led by trumpeter Alison Balsom who takes us through a selection of Purcell’s music. It’s a strange mixture and one which never really quite finds a satisfying balance – the snippets of drama mainly crude and banal, the rare moments of enlightenment over far too quickly to really give gratification. And the music feels constrained by its setting here, constantly interrupted by the dramatic diversions and of a far superior standard.


One can hear the creative thinking behind this ‘entertainment’, hoping to cast off stuffy stereotypical images of classical music and bringing it to a new audience, but the format precludes genuine engagement with the material on either side – neither the drama nor the music can really flourish with all the chopping and changing. And with the levels of bawdiness at almost unbearable levels – I simply do not understand why people find farting jokes so funny – I found this a most trying afternoon indeed. That said, I did go home and buy Balsom’s album of Purcell and Handel music Sound the Trumpet, so maybe it did the job after all!

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)

Booking until 18th August

Review: The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The isle is full of noises”

It’s always nice to be surprised by a night at the theatre, especially with a play with which one is rather familiar. And more importantly in the case of The Tempest is the feeling that I have already seen a production of the play that will rank as one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen in Cheek By Jowl’s extraordinary Russian interpretation back in 2011 – Caliban and Miranda’s parting is forever seared on my mind. But The Globe is nothing if not reliable and in casting Roger Allam as Prospero, director Jeremy Herrin knew exactly how to get me along in hope of a genuinely brave new world.

And in some ways it does it. Allam brings a studious humanity to the exiled sorcerer – less anguished magician and more concerned father, making his reading of some of Shakespeare’s most evocative writing almost unbearably moving. His control of the language is just superb, imbuing even the most innocuous of lines with worlds of meaning, so often restrained but flaring magnificently like a bearded Brunnhilde when provoked. He’s wryly amusing too, his insistence on protecting his daughter’s virtue particularly well-observed as a running gag. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: King Lear, Almeida

“This is the excellent foppery of the world” 

Considered one of the defining roles for actors, there never seems to be a lack of King Lears on our stages and in 2012, it is Jonathan Pryce’s turn to wear the crown in this Michael Attenborough production for the Almeida. Such is the potential for great quality at this North London theatre that when they get everything right, there’s a beautiful marriage between the epic and the intimate (as advertised) and this is largely what we get here.

Pryce’s Lear is a father first and foremost, and losing some of the distance that accompanies an overly regal bearing results in a rather effective focus on the emotions of the man rather than the monarch. Thus the rage, the tenderness, the regret, the pain that he feels – elucidated with some masterful re-readings of the text – is always accessible and persuasive. The look in his eye during ‘I know thee well enough…’ cuts to the very core; his bantering relationship with his Fool borne of a genuine connection between the pair, Trevor Fox’s native Geordie accent a perfect fit to the riddle-me-dees and sharp observations and really demanding full attention. Continue reading “Review: King Lear, Almeida”

fosterIAN awards 2011

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayEve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)Ruth Wilson, Anna ChristieRosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
Best Actor in a PlayBenedict Cumberbatch, FrankensteinAndrew Scott, Emperor and GalileanTrevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAlexandra Gilbreath, OthelloSheridan Smith, Flare PathSinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRyan Sampson, The Kitchen SinkHarry Hadden-Paton, Flare PathRobert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Sweeney ToddAdrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, MatildaLaura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
Best Actor in a MusicalBertie Carvel, MatildaMichael Ball, Sweeney ToddDaniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, CompanyKate Fleetwood, London RoadJosefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDaniel Crossley, Singin’ in the RainNigel Harman, Shrek the MusicalConnor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road

2011 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankenstein
An odd choice given how much I disliked the play itself, but thinking back over the year as a whole, Benedict Cumberbatch really did stick out as one of the best acting performances, in both of the roles in Frankenstein. Initially disappointed that Cumberbatch was the Creature the first time we saw it (previews were a lucky dip in that respect) and recovering from the shock of the unexpected nudity, he overcame our preconceptions with 15 minutes of stunning wordless acting, a physical tour-de-force. I also felt he brought much more to the under-written and under-developed part of Victor Frankenstein, transcending the limitations of Dear’s writing as best he could. Others may disagree but I found him to be the best part about both incarnations of the show and indeed, it was only the promise of his acting that made me go back!

Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Emperor and Galilean
I don’t think Andrew Scott has got anywhere near enough credit for his Herculean efforts in this show which has to rival Hamlet in its demands from a leading man. This saw Scott grow as an actor, working in nuanced depths into his style and making a genuinely tragic figure out of the Emperor Julian who can’t see the larger picture that his actions are wreaking on his empire.

Trevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

7-10

John Heffernan, Richard II (Tobacco Factory); Trystan Gravelle, Honest; Dominic Mafham, Journey’s End; Harry Melling, When Did You Last See My Mother


Best Actor in a Musical

Bertie Carvel, Matilda
Well it couldn’t really be anyone else, could it. One of those performances that you just know will become definitive, Bertie Carvel’s Miss Trunchbull is a masterclass in characterisation, a Quentin Blake illustration brought to genius life, and the perfect villain to face off with Matilda. There’s just enough of a tiny glimpse of frailty behind her walls to suggest the necessary chink in the armour but there’s so much fun to be had watching her at her bullying best. A truly must-see performance.

Honourable mention: Michael Ball, Sweeney Todd
Virtually unrecognisable as the demon barber, Michael Ball’s reinvention on the Chichester stage was hugely successful as he portrayed the glowering resentment of the wronged Sweeney Todd with barely repressed menace, sang with great passion and partnered Imelda Staunton like a dream.

Daniel Evans, Company (Crucible)
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang

7-10

Nigel Lindsay, Shrek the musical; Adam Cooper, Singin’ in the Rain; Jamie Sampson, Guys and Dolls; Joe Maxwell, The Hired Man

Review: The Pitmen Painters, Duchess

“And when I stopped to look at what I’d done, suddenly I realised it was light – it was morning – time for work … And I was shaking – literally shaking – cos for the first time in me life I’d really achieved something …”

I spent an inexplicably long time resisting The Pitmen Painters, even though several people had recommended it to me but I was insistent that I wouldn’t like it, mainly because I thought it seemed too worthy. But after its highly successful runs at the National Theatre, on Broadway and a recent UK tour, it has now taken up shop in the West End at the Duchess Theatre and I finally succumbed to the lure of a ticket. And as the cries of ‘I told you so’ ring in my ears, somewhat predictably I really enjoyed myself with this sparky piece of writing from Billy Elliot scribe Lee Hall.

More accurately, I fell totally in love with it at the interval, the first half having moved me to tears on more than one occasion and being about as well written as I think anything could. The play is based on the true-life story of a group of gruff Northumbrian miners whose interest in painting, initially stoked by a less-than-successful art appreciation class, leads them to start creating their own art which, unexpectedly, over the coming years becomes highly regarded by the establishment. Continue reading “Review: The Pitmen Painters, Duchess”