Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

Rob Drummonds’s National Theatre play starts with his guilt at not voting in the Scottish Referendum and IMG_0653then a story about meeting an activist, Eric, and is increasingly awkward relationship with him.   The central idea is around how a liberally minded individual can tolerate views that they believe to be wrong.  The audience is given voting handsets and we voted at different times on questions put to us eg. if there is a runaway train heading for 5 railway workers, do you divert it to hit and kill 1 lone railway worker on a different piece of track.  This escalates into would you do it if it was your child and then a Nazi.  But the final question was supposed to be dramatic but felt a bit vague around whether it is okay to abuse someone holding a differing opinion.  So a bit of let down at the end of 90 minutes.

It also felt a bit awkward – I not sure as to whether that was deliberate and supposed to be cheesy or whether it was just misjudged with Rob walking about and standing in spotlights.  And he does not have a raconteur’s skill and so it felt badly acted at points.  Not one that I would be rushing to recommend.


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Ink at the Almeida

DSCF2486Loved this play directed by Rupert Goold at the Almeida.

Fleet Street. 1969. The Sun rises.

James Graham’s ruthless, red-topped new play leads with the birth of this country’s most influential newspaper – when a young and rebellious Rupert Murdoch asked the impossible and launched its first editor’s quest, against all odds, to give the people what they want.

It is a great cast.  The leads, Richard Coyle as Larry Lamb and Bertie Carvel as Rupert Murdoch, are really engaging with Tom Steed as Bernard and Sophie Stanton as Joyce standing out for me. It is clear that Murdoch buys the paper to get back at the establishment and Lamb joins the cause as he is also outside the group due to being a northerner.  Lamb trawls Fleet Street looking for staff and then follows a very funny brainstorming scene as to what the paper should offer.  We go from knickers in a tin via a kidnap to page 3.  There is a lot of humour, some singing and dancing in the first act, and a wonderful set.  It switches from a Fleet Street basement to a printing press room  all swathed in cigarette smoke.

The whole experience was enhanced by finding myself sitting next to Kevin Spacey in the interval as I am a huge fan.

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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


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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