Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

 

The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.
 
The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018. Tickets will go on general sale at 4pm today.

Continue reading “Round-up of news, treats and other interesting things”

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

This year’s iteration of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2017 runs from 12 – 28 May and with it comes a substantial programme of circus, literature, classical and contemporary music, dance, family activities, performance, theatre, visual arts and The Adnams Spiegeltent that befits the fourth biggest arts festival in the country.
Eyecatching inclusions include

Review: Wipers, Curve

“Please God, help me not to make a complete fool of myself,”

Wipers – a garbled mispronunciation of Ypres – is a hugely fascinating piece of writing, co-produced by Leicester’s Curve, Watford Palace and Coventry’s Belgrade theatres and pleasingly playing in all three cities. For it is inspired by the real-life story of Khuddadad Khan, the first South Asian soldier to be awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery in the First World War, where no less than a million South Asian soldiers were active on the battlefield, previously relegated to a footnote in history but rightfully brought to our attention here.

Wounded by an attack in the first battle of Ypres that killed most if not all around him, Khan’s resilience held off enemy fire to long enough to protect the remnants of the British forces, among them the four soldiers of this play. Seeking refuge in a barn, they await hoped-for reinforcements, the noises of (the unseen) Khan’s weapon periodically discharging echoing around as they cleave together over a long night. But there’s not just four men, they’re a British officer and three Indian soldiers, with all the tension and torque that brings.  Continue reading “Review: Wipers, Curve”

Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Broadway Studios

 “A merrier hour was never wasted there”

Tucked away down the narrowest of alleyways on Tooting High Street is one of the most boisterous Shakespearean adaptations you could hope for, full of your mom jokes, nipple tweaks, disco dancing, handcuffs and Googlemaps. Tooting Arts Club’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed here by a most hard-working ensemble of 8, is also full of great humour and accessible warmth, director Bill Buckhurst modernising and revitalising this lightest of comedies into something quirkily adorable.

Buckhurst has made some great choices. Having the quartet of lovers as teenage schoolkids makes good sense of their headlong rush into the forest and the fierce intensity of their burning loins, and making the fairies a bunch of slightly past-it club kids having a bad comedown and merely toying with the intruders into their domain is inspired. Titania’s blissed-out idolatry of Bottom suddenly becomes recognisable as any bad choice one might have made on the dancefloor; Puck’s hyperactive 1000 watt personality just like ‘that guy’ you meet and find impossible to shake off. Continue reading “Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Broadway Studios”

Review: The Kite Runner, Theatre Royal Brighton

“There is a way to be good again”


The final moments of this rendering of Khaled Hosseini’s epic 2003 novel The Kite Runner are really something special indeed, capturing the quiet ecstasy of redemptive hope with the subtlest of performances and a theatrical elegance that is gently breath-taking. But Giles Croft’s production, first seen in Nottingham and making its way next to Liverpool, takes a long time to get there, hobbled by a pedestrian adaptation by Matthew Spangler which exploits little of the storytelling possibilities within and lacks the excitement to really make it soar into the sky alongside the multi-coloured kites that play such a vital role in this tale of two young Afghan boys, Amir and Hassan, and their unlikely friendship.

It’s improbable because Hassan is the son of Amir’s father’s servant and belongs to a different ethnic group yet despite their differences, a strong bond exists between the pair, typified by the way they work together in the kite flying competitions that enliven their Kabul childhood. A brutal incident involving Hassan sets in chain a tragic turn of events though and as the heavy tide of history starts to turn, forcing Amir and his father to flee the war that erupts as the incoming Taliban take over Afghanistan, not even decades and continents can prevent the need for Amir to seek redemption.

The sweep of the story is certainly grand but Spangler’s script is mired in the prosaic and banal, overly focused on the descriptive and rarely delving into the rich emotion beneath the surface. Ben Turner’s Amir perfectly epitomises this dilemma, only intermittently able to bring the necessary depth of character to this conflicted young man as he constantly has to duck in and out of scenes to give us the next segment of narration, but he is good at showing us the boyish cowardice that Amir struggles to grow out of. For those able to stay in the scenes though, there’s much more compelling work, especially from Farshid Rokey as the fiercely loyal Hassan and latterly as Hassan’s son, he of the enigmatic smile, Nicholas Karimi as the sociopathic Assef who finds his spiritual home in the harsh regime of the invaders and from Emilio Doorgasingh as Amir’s father, who never loses his pride even as he is forced into menial work when they start their new, very different life on the west coast of the USA.

But though the cast are effective, the sense of unused potential pervades this production, exacerbated by the moments that do flare into gorgeous life. The kite flying scenes are mesmerising in their simplicity, the moonlit escape across the mountains most effective, the first meeting with the attractive daughter of a fellow ex-pat. Hanif Khan’s onstage table-playing adds an authentic rhythm to many of the scenes, but Barney George’s design is largely too polite to ever suggest heat and dirt and real life, whether in Kabul’s back streets or San Francisco’s flea markets. What it does provide is cool elegance and a chimerical ability to quickly shift, aided by William Simpson’s projections, ensuring a fluid journey throughout.

Whilst the story will move you – surely only the hardest of hearts could remain unaffected – this production rarely transports you. It is undoubtedly somewhat entertaining and the near-complete standing ovation is testament to that, but The Kite Runner is seldom exciting enough to fully exploit its theatrical potential and really involve us with the grandly epic emotion of its storytelling in a presentation that invents and inspires such as in that glorious final scene. 

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)

Booking until 25th May, then playing Liverpool

Originally written for The Public Reviews