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Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Visited Almeida to see Dance Nation a play about a teenage dance troupe preparing for a competition, testing friendships.  Only the teenagers are played by adults and it didn’t float my boat despite rave reviews.  Brendan Cowell as the dance teacher was great but maybe it’s because he was playing an adult.  The dancing was good but not for me as just too far removed from being a teenager or knowing any.

The second play was Allelujah by Alan Bennett at Bridge Theatre.  The plot is about a hospital, the Beth, about to be closed down so a documentary crew has been invited in to film and they focus on the Dusty Springfield Geriatric Ward and the old people’s choir. I was never sure whether we were applauding the acting and writing or older actors being able to dance – who knows?  It had some laughs and was full of heart and did examine the way we treat old people and focus of the NHS around targets.  Hopefully, not resonating as I’m too far removed from being in a geriatric ward.  Not so sure its a must see but it will be beamed into cinemas in November.

 

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aristocrats-posterI need to confess at the outset that at dinner on the way to the play, the restaurant gave us a gigantic glass of complimentary ouzo which, on top of the wine, may have affected my view of the play.  Not really the head you want on you when at the theatre.  Great cast, Elaine Cassidy (Alice) and David Dawson (Casimir) particularly good.  Strange decision to portray the old house Ballybeg Hall as a doll’s house when it has such a key role in the play.  But the play never sparked and really got going.  You were left aware that there were secrets in the past and wanted to know more but they never were explored.  Just at the interval the father leaps onto the stage and shocks everyone; post interval that shock is never taken any further.  So you are left with a play wondering what the point was and wishing it had delved deeper.  On until 22nd December.  PS the Eton Mess ice-cream in the break was lovely – but that could have been the ouzo effect.

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Home, I’m Darling at the NT

home @m darling

How happily married are the happily married? Every couple needs a little fantasy to keep their marriage sparkling. But behind the gingham curtains, things start to unravel, and being a domestic goddess is not as easy as it seems.

The set is fantastic, very 50’s, the music nostalgic, the dancing also.  Katherine Parkinson plays Judy with a brittleness stemming from trying to be the perfect 50’s housewife but defending the choices she has made.  Some scenes are excruciating for example when Johnny’s (her husband played by Richard Harrington) female boss comes for cocktails.  Sian Thomas (Judy’s mother) delivers a very funny rant about how the 50’s just was not that great at all and is embarrassed by her intelligent daughter’s choices.

The play changes pace in the second act and the world intrudes with their friend being accused of sexual harassment, an activity that went unreported in the 50’s.  I was not clear on what the play was trying to say at times but I enjoyed it – it was well acted, funny and ends with a choreographed breakfast scene that was the perfect ending.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Jean Brodie Donmar 600The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at the Donmar Warehouse is excellent.  I had seen the film with Maggie Smith but Lia Williams plays Brodie as a more softly spoken, a formidable yet vulnerable character.  In that overused phrase “she makes it her own.”  Jean Brodie is teaching at the Marcia Blaine Schools in the 30’s, determined to instill her beloved girls with her way of educating them in music, art, love of Italy and of Mussolini.  And yet we see her vulnerability around the male teachers and when the girls fade away from her.

My favourite line of the play “Miss MacKay thinks to intimidate me with quarter-hours” delivered with precision and humour.  The set is stark acting as both a classroom and a convent which makes Brodie’s clothes stand out even more, beautiful in red and lime green.  Great performance from Lia Williams and Rona Morison as Sandy who betrays her leading to Brodie’s sacking and lonely end dying from cancer.  Now ended its run.

 

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lehmanlThis play, directed by Sam Mendes, is long at 3 hours plus two intervals.  But it is worth every minute to watch Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley play the 3 Lehman brothers, Jewish, Bavarian immigrants to the USA in the 1840’s.  We follow the family starting off with a general store in Alabama, moving into trading raw cotton and then, as the years pass,  moving into coffee, banking and railways.  And of course, the end that we all know, bankruptcy on September 15th 2008.

The set is simple and effective – a revolving glass box with video screens behind which take us through the burning cotton fields, the civil war, the Wall Street Crash to closure –  the latter is covered very quickly, maybe too quickly and could be the only flaw.  But then again this is the story of a family and no family members remain at the time of the bank’s collapse.  A pianist accompanies the play sitting down in the stalls.

But the 3 actors play the entire cast and it is astonishing.  I consider Simon Russell Beale to be the best stage actor out there – he is great at both comedy and tragedy and everything in between. And here he covers the whole gamut of gender and ages playing Henry Lehman, a tightrope walker, a rabbi, a wonderful divorcee and his own nephew amongst others.  Miles and Godley pull off a similar feat with Godley running through a whole range of potential brides and children to great comic effect.  They play family members and colleagues across the centuries, wearing the original costumes they emigrated in, turning into new characters with gestures and maybe the addition of a hat or pair of glasses. It is carefully choreographed with them moving filing boxes around to build bits of the scenery and weaving in and out of the various rooms to change scene.

Was it long – yes it was.  But it makes it even more astonishing that just 3 superb actors could learn all those lines and make it look so easy to play such a huge cast of characters.  It is funny, moving and just stunning performances by some of our greatest stage actors.  The theatre erupted into applause and a standing ovation.

Buy a ticket today before the reviews make it a sell out.

 

 

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28276321_10156248551934973_4813927839880737730_nVanessa Kirby is a great actress and could not fault her – she plays an early thirties wealthy and aimless heiress with aspects of a spoilt and wilful teenager. And yet you see the anxiety and inner torment. It is a long, long time since I saw Strindberg’s Miss Julie on which this is based and a lot of the reviews have not liked this adaptation. For me though is about the speed of descent into tragedy which seems disproportionate to what we get of the back story in the play. Some critics did not like the 10 minutes of party scene with dancing and thumping music; I loved it. So good and bad. Great acting and dancing from the whole cast but unconvincing storyline.

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Found this one a little complicated to follow at times but it has a great cast and is Screen-Shot-2018-02-19-at-10.13.43-PM-260x300genuinely funny period piece. Congreve’s play is from the 1700’s and yet gender equality is key in the plot.  Millamant wishes to marry Mirabell and there is a scene where the contract is negotiated.  Central to Mirabell’s demands is that she does not fall into the stock role of wife but mutual respect is to be at the heart of the marriage.  Justine Mitchell as Mirabell is hilarious bringing a modern intonation to her speeches.  Haydn Gwynne is on form as Lady Wishfort and absurd character, her best scene being one where she is getting ready to meet a potential suitor, arranging herself on the chaise longue in white powder.  Keeping this review brief though as the run ended the day after I saw it so you can’t go and see it.  Sorry!

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