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Cracking play.  Great sets, great actors, soundtrack imageworked and a great dancing scene.  It seems very contemporary despite being written in 1993:

New York. A film studio.  A young woman has an urgent story to tell.  But here, people are products, movies are money and sex sells. And the rights to your life can be a dangerous commodity to exploit. Everyone has a story, but who owns it? What happens when a young woman sells her story to a film production company, only to see it falsified? (Almeida)

There is dancing, creepy moments, sudden violence, odd relationships and a blind taxi driver.  The last scene left me feeling oddly uplifted for all the strangeness that had preceded it.

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Just when you think you can’t see another version of the play to beat theIMG_1971 others, you do.  This one was fantastic – laughed out loud throughout.  Tamsin Greig as Malvolia (this is a key change to a female character) played it beautifully, sneering and contemptuous.  There is one point in the letter scene that you think she could tip over the edge for comic effect but she keeps the perfect balance, with disapproving looks at the audience.  The whole scene with Sir Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek, Daniel Rigby and Tim McMullan is so well acted, one like an aging rock star, the other a buffoon.  And Greig’s last moving scene is also well judged.  I’ve never seen Viola (a character allegedly in mourning) played in such an energetic and slightly predatory fashion and it works so well; Tamara Lawrance is excellent.  One strange scene in a nightclub with a drag queen but ignore that; the whole cast, the set, the costumes, the excellent musicians as part of the cast – all made for a great end to the week and raises the spirits. Quite simply fun.

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Limehouse at the Donmar

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One Sunday morning, four prominent Labour politicians – Bill Rodgers, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins and David Owen – gather in private at Owen’s home in Limehouse, east London.  They are desperate to find a political alternative.  Should they split their party, divide their loyalties, and risk betraying everything they believe in? Would they be starting afresh, or destroying forever the tradition that nurtured them?

The actors in this Steve Waters play at the Donmar are terrific.  Roger Allam as Roy Jenkins is unrecognisable, Debra Gillett as Shirley Williams is quite scary in how much her small movements remind me of Shirley, Paul Chahidi as Bill Rodgers is great and Tom Goodman-Hill as David Owen is a superb charismatic bully.  Waters clearly sees the labour party today as being very much in the same position it was in 1981 with the left of the party dominating, divided over Europe and more concerned with in fighting than opposing Thatcher.   It is a moment in time captured in a Sunday kitchen in Limehouse and one that makes you think about what could happen now.

BBC Five Live Daily Interview on 10th March had the 3 remaining Gang of Four in the studio following them watching the play the night before.  Shirley did not recognise herself but did see her fellow gang members up there; the others pretty much said the same.  They thought the play did a good job of summarising discussions that had gone on over several months into one Sunday.  Interesting that both Shirley and Bill felt that the time could be ripe for another break away party within next couple of years.

Play is on until 15th April and well worth seeing.

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Quite a contrast.  Friday evening Hedda Gabler with the amazing Ruth Wilson at the National Theatre; Sunday matinée at Matilda the Musical with my nieces.  Hedda won the day for me.  First time I saw Hedda it was in traditional dress with Eve Best in the lead with Benedict Cumberbatch at the Almeida in 2005. This new production, in modern dress, works incredibly well and the tone is modern, again with dark humour.  But this is a Hedda with contempt for everything and everyone around her, despair at being trapped but with a wild side that comes out when left alone.  Rafe Spall is also excellent as a domineering Judge Brack in a disturbing scene.  I enjoyed it which can’t often be said about Ibsen.

Matilda what can I say?  Two gins and a quick nap and it was over.  One hour too long for me.  Great set but could not make out the words from the lead. The child cast with parents then appeared in Jamie’s for a birthday party. Only sang happy birthday this time.

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Red Barn at the NT

ntgds_ec_theredbarn_ntwebbanners_whatson_1280x720px_300916Firstly, the staging.  I have never seen the stage screen used in this way with different sections of the screen opening up and then closing in, almost like framing a shot with a camera.  The changes that took place behind the screen, whilst a snippet of telephone dialogue took the place, were radical.  One moment we are in a raging blizzard, then at a party, a staid front room, NY modern apartment and finally a bedroom. I don’t want to give the plot away but Ray disappears in a snow storm and Donald’s life starts to unwind.  Wonderful performances from Mark Strong as Donald questioning whether he has lived a mediocre life, Hope Davis as his wife Ingrid subtly manipulating him and Elizabeth Debicki (from the Night Manager) as Ray’s widow.  The play moves slowly, maybe too slowly for some, but I loved it.

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Oil at the Almeida

Unusual and ambitious play which takes some tuning into as the lead character, May, travels through time with her daughter, Amy.  The time travel is not based on reality as May starts in 19th Century Cornwall and travels across 150 years as does Amy; so in 1908 Amy is 10 and in the 1970’s she is 15 years old.  The play is about many things, one being oil, but the best part for me was the mother-daughter relationship between Anne-Marie Duff and Yolanda Kettle.

Duff is great as always getting across her loneliness , desperate for her daughter to be in control of her destiny, something she gave up so much herself to secure, and yet is not giving to her daughter by her controlling behaviour.

The future scenario was the most interesting, humorous and moving, with the UK out of oil and us beholden to Chinese fuel supplies and the final mother-daughter dialogue.  It did get surreal with mother and daughter in fat suits singing Justin Bieber – I thought I’d fallen asleep and missed a moment.

Ambitious, well acted and interesting but not entirely successful from my point of view but still worth seeing – and “Love Yourself” is reprised for a second time in the closing scene so what’s not to enjoy.

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amadeus-poster_seamus-ryanI keep missing out the theatre posts so I will keep this one very brief.  You have probably seen the 4 and 5* reviews of this production.  It really is something to behold with a colourful, golden Viennese high society brought to life. The orchestra being present on the stage throughout and taking part in the action is pivotal to the success of the staging.   Lucian Msamati as Salieri is wonderful as the main character and narrator.  Adam Gillen plays Mozart as a vulgar child and turns into Quasimodo towards the end so maybe a bit over the top but that is the only criticism of a play you should try to get a ticket for.

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