Review: The Flick, National Theatre

“Sometimes I worry that there’s something really, really wrong with me but that I’ll never know exactly what it is.”

Already garlanded with a Pulitzer Prize and bolstered by articles insisting that “slow theatre” is a thing, it is clear that we’re meant to think that Annie Baker’s The Flick in all its 3 hours plus glory is close to the Second Coming. The reality is a play that it is just a very long time in a theatre for deliberately muted rewards. And it is deliberate, it is precise. Along with frequent collaborator and director Sam Gold, the simple act of mopping up the floor of a movie theatre is strictly regimented, the many pauses surrounding it measured down to the last, slow, tick of the second hand. 

The Flick is set in small-town Massachusetts in a run-down, single-screen cinema and lets us follow the lives of regular folk that work there, three people living humdrum lives in a humdrum world. At 35, Sam has worked there the longest but he’s still just sweeping popcorn; 24 year old Rose has been promoted over him to projectionist but her spiky exterior belies a vulnerable uncertainty; and just turned 20 and taking a break from college, Avery is dealing with emotional issues that set him at odds with his co-workers, especially once a pseudo-love-triangle starts to form.  Continue reading “Review: The Flick, National Theatre”

Nominations for 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
The Christians Produced by Playwrights Horizons and Center Theatre Group. Written by Lucas Hnath
Eclipsed Produced by The Public Theater. Written by Danai Gurira
Gloria Produced by Vineyard Theatre. Written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Guards at the Taj Produced by Atlantic Theater Company. Written by Rajiv Joseph
John Produced by Signature Theatre. Written by Annie Baker

Outstanding Musical
FUTURITY Produced by Soho Rep. and Ars Nova in association with Carole Shorenstein Hays. Music by César Alvarez with The Lisps, Lyrics and Book by César Alvarez
Iowa Produced by Playwrights Horizons. Written by Jenny Schwartz, Music by Todd Almond, Lyrics by Todd Almond and Jenny Schwartz
Southern Comfort Produced by The Public Theater. Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins, Music by Julianne Wick Davis, Based on the Film by Kate Davis, Conceived for the Stage by Robert DuSold and Thomas Caruso
Tappin’ Thru Life Produced by Leonard Soloway, Bud Martin, Riki Kane Larimer, Jeff Wolk, Phyllis and Buddy Aerenson, Darren P. DeVerna/Jeremiah J. Harris and the Shubert Organization. Written by Maurice Hines
The Wildness: Sky-Pony’s Rock Fairy Tale. Produced by Ars Nova in collaboration with The Play Company. Text by Kyle Jarrow & Lauren Worsham, Songs by Kyle Jarrow Continue reading “Nominations for 2016 Lucille Lortel Awards”

20 shows to look forward to in 2016

2016 is nearly upon and for once, I’ve hardly anything booked for the coming year and what I do have tickets for, I’m hardly that inspired by (the Garrick season has been ruined by the awfulness of the rear stalls seats, and I only got Harry Potter and the Cursed Child tickets due to FOMO). Not for the first time, I’m intending to see less theatre next year but I do have my eyes on a good few productions in the West End, fringe and beyond. Continue reading “20 shows to look forward to in 2016”

Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Royal Court Local

“When are we going to start acting?”

Whilst Vicky Featherstone has turned over the keys of the Royal Court’s Sloane Square home for the Open Court festival, the more traditional business of regular plays continues with Circle Mirror Transformation. But even this strains against convention, taking place under their (pre-existing) Theatre Local umbrella and introducing its audience to stations and areas such as Haggerston and De Beauvoir Town in North-East London. Annie Baker’s award-winning 2009 play takes place in a community centre in the small town of Shirley, Vermont and to replicate that feel, James Macdonald’s production takes place in the bona fide environment of the Rose Lipman community arts building, lending a veneer of authenticity that would never have been possible either upstairs or down back in SW1W.

Baker’s trick here is to take us through the six weeks of a creative drama class and visit how the five people who sign up react to the therapeutic intentions of course leader Marty, For they all have issues to deal with, Marty included, and through the breathing exercises, word-association games and self-revealing acting techniques they learn, they all edge closer to an emotional breakthrough. The undoubted charms of this play ripple gently across the hall, washing over us quietly with its perceptive take on the ways in which people respond to personal turmoil, turning to others in time of need yet using them for entirely different means.  Continue reading “Review: Circle Mirror Transformation, Royal Court Local”

Nominations for the 2013 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Annie Baker, The Flick
Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard Nelson, Sorry

Outstanding Musical
A Christmas Story: The Musical
Giant
Hands on a Hardbody
Here Lies Love
Matilda
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
The Other Josh Cohen
Continue reading “Nominations for the 2013 Drama Desk Awards”

Nominations for 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Bethany – Produced by Women’s Project Theater; Written by Laura Marks
Cock – Produced by Stuart Thompson, Jean Doumanian, Royal Court Theatre, William Berlind, Scott Delman, Dena Hammerstein, Jon B. Platt, Scott Rudin, Ted Snowdon, True Love Productions; Written by Mike Bartlett
Detroit – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Lisa D’Amour  
The Flick – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Annie Baker
The Whale – Produced by Playwrights Horizons; Written by Samuel D. Hunter 

Outstanding Musical
Dogfight – Produced by Second Stage Theatre; Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Book by Peter Duchan
Giant – Produced by The Public Theater in association with The Dallas Theater Center; Book by Sybille Pearson, Music and Lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, Based on the novel by Edna Ferber 
Murder Ballad – Produced by Manhattan Theatre Club; Conceived by and with Book and Lyrics by Julia Jordan, Music and Lyrics by Juliana NashThe Other Josh Cohen – Produced by Amas Musical Theatre in association with Scandobean Productions, LLC; Book, Music and Lyrics by David Rossmer and Steve Rosen  
Skippyjon Jones – Produced by TheatreworksUSA; Book and Lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, Music by Eli Bolin, Based on the book by Judy Schachner   Continue reading “Nominations for 2013 Lucille Lortel Awards”

Review: The Aliens, Bush Theatre

“We’re not even close to being one of them”


Annie Baker’s play The Aliens marks the first time that Peter Gill has directed at the Bush Theatre in West London. Set at the yard of back of a diner in Vermont, former trailer park kid Jasper is trying to write a novel and college dropout KJ is laconically trying to find the perfect recipe for magic mushroom tea. A high school student who starts work at the coffee shop discovers the two nearly-30-somehings and a slow gentle friendship develops based on little chats, eating snacks and watching the 4th July fireworks.


Lucy Osbourne’s stage design is excellent, with the audience right there in the yard with the characters, it is well balanced being extremely intimate without feeling too intrusive and continues a strong vein of interesting design work at the Bush. But sadly that was about as good as it got for me.



It was well-acted to be sure: Mackenzie Crook nicely portrays the deluded self-confidence of Jasper, Ralf Little is convincing (and surprisingly tuneful) as the chilled stoner dropout KJ and would-be songwriter and Olly Alexander makes an intriguing debut as the awkward naïf who is sucked into their seductive world.

But as so little actually happens, I just found it dull to be honest. I longed for something more than just observing this world as I didn’t care much for Jasper or KJ and their attempted defence of their lifestyle and so struggled to engage with much of the piece. The interjections of an outsider helps a little as it is much easier to empathise with the geeky teenager but it just wasn’t enough for me.

It is fine to be minimalist, but it does rely rather on having engaging characters and I am not so sure that Baker has succeeded here in that respect. It actually reminded me most of Jerusalem, or at least in my reaction to it, in the way that it depicts a kind of fringe lifestyle that just doesn’t interest me or engage me on the night.

Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes (with interval)
Playtext cost: £3.50
Booking until 16th October

Nominations for the 2009 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play:

Annie Baker, Body Awareness
Gina Gionfriddo, Becky Shaw
Neil LaBute, reasons to be pretty
Lynn Nottage, Ruined
Michael Weller, Fifty Words
Craig Wright, Lady

Outstanding Musical:

9 to 5
Billy Elliot The Musical
Fela!
Liza’s at the Palace….
Shrek The Musical
The Story of My Life

Outstanding Revival of a Play:

Blithe Spirit
Exit the King
Mary Stuart
The Cripple of Inishmaan
The Norman Conquests
Waiting for Godot

Outstanding Revival of a Musical:

Enter Laughing The Musical
Hair
Pal Joey
West Side Story

Outstanding Actor in a Play:

Simon Russell Beale,The Winter’s Tale
Reed Birney, Blasted
Raúl Esparza, Speed-The-Plow
Bill Irwin, Waiting for Godot
Daniel Radcliffe, Equus
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, reasons to be pretty

Outstanding Actress in a Play:

Saidah Arrika Ekulona, Ruined
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Elizabeth Marvel, Fifty Words
Jan Maxwell, Scenes From an Execution
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Actor in a Musical:

James Barbour, A Tale of Two Cities
Daniel Breaker, Shrek The Musical
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Josh Grisetti, Enter Laughing The Musical
Sahr Ngaujah, Fela!
Will Swenson, Hair

Outstanding Actress in a Musical:

Stephanie J. Block, 9 to 5
Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Megan Hilty, 9 to 5
Allison Janney, 9 to 5
Karen Murphy, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play:

Brian d’Arcy James, Port Authority
Jeremy Davidson, Back Back Back
Peter Friedman, Body Awareness
Ethan Hawke, The Winter’s Tale
Pablo Schreiber, reasons to be pretty (Off-Broadway)
Jeremy Shamos, Animals Out of Paper

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play:

Rebecca Hall, The Cherry Orchard
Zoe Kazan, The Seagull
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Andrea Martin, Exit the King
Carey Mulligan, The Seagull
Condola Rashad, Ruined

Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical:

Hunter Foster, Happiness
Demond Green, The Toxic Avenger
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5
Bryce Ryness, Hair
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical:

Farah Alvin, The Marvelous Wonderettes
Christina Bianco, Forbidden Broadway Goes to Rehab
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Nancy Opel, The Toxic Avenger
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey

Outstanding Director of a Play:

Sarah Benson, Blasted
Michael Blakemore, Blithe Spirit
Garry Hynes, The Cripple of Inishmaan
Terry Kinney, reasons to be pretty
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests
Kate Whoriskey, Ruined

Outstanding Director of a Musical:

Walter Bobbie, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot The Musical
Joe Mantello, 9 to 5
Jason Moore, Shrek The Musical
Diane Paulus, Hair
Stuart Ross, Enter Laughing The Musical

Outstanding Choreography:

Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot The Musical
Bill T. Jones, Fela!
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Shonn Wiley, My Vaudeville Man!

Outstanding Music:

Neil Bartram,The Story of My Life
Zina Goldrich, Dear Edwina
Elton John, Billy Elliot The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show
Jeanine Tesori, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Lyrics:

Neil Bartram, The Story of My Life
Jason Robert Brown, 13
Marcy Heisler, Dear Edwina
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5
Stephen Sondheim, Road Show

Outstanding Book of a Musical:

Steven Cosson and Jim Lewis, This Beautiful City
Joe DiPietro, The Toxic Avenger
Lee Hall, Billy Elliot The Musical
Brian Hill, The Story of My Life
David Lindsay-Abaire, Shrek The Musical
Patricia Resnick, 9 to 5

Outstanding Orchestrations:

Larry Blank, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Bruce Coughlin, 9 to 5
Aaron Johnson and Antibalas, Fela!
Edward B. Kessel, A Tale of Two Cities
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot The Musical
Danny Troob, Shrek The Musical

Outstanding Music in a Play:

Mark Bennett, The Cherry Orchard
Mark Bennett, The Winter’s Tale
Dominic Kanza, Ruined
DJ Rekha, Rafta, Rafta…
Richard Woodbury, Desire Under the Elms
Gary Yershon, The Norman Conquests

Outstanding Set Design of a Play:

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
David Korins, Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Neil Patel, Fifty Words
Walt Spangler, Desire Under the Elms

Outstanding Set Design of a Musical:

Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Anna Louizos, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Thomas Lynch, Happiness
Scott Pask, 9 to 5
Scott Pask, Hair
Basil Twist, Arias With a Twist

Outstanding Costume Design:

Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
William Ivey Long, 9 to 5
Michael McDonald, Hair
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Carrie Robbins, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Play:

Marcus Doshi, Hamlet (Theatre for a New Audience)
David Hersey, Equus
Ben Kato, Washing Machine
R. Lee Kennedy, Bury the Dead
Paul Pyant, The Winter’s Tale
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Outstanding Lighting Design in a Musical:

Kevin Adams, Hair
Jules Fisher and Kenneth Posner, 9 to 5
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot The Musical
Jason Lyons, Clay
Sinéad McKenna, Improbable Frequency
Richard Pilbrow, A Tale of Two Cities

Outstanding Sound Design:

Acme Sound Partners, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot The Musical
Gregory Clarke, Equus
John Gromada, Shipwrecked! An Entertainment The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself)
André J. Pluess, 33 Variations
John H. Shivers, 9 to 5

Outstanding Solo Performance:

Mike Birbiglia, Sleepwalk With Me
Frank Blocker, Southern Gothic Novel
Michael Laurence, Krapp, 39
Lorenzo Pisoni, Humor Abuse
Matt Sax, Clay
Campbell Scott, The Atheist

Unique Theatrical Experience:

Absinthe (2008 Edition)
Arias With a Twist
Celebrity Autobiography: In Their Own Words
Désir
Soul of Shaolin
Surrender

Nominations for 2008-2009 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Annie Baker, Body Awareness
Gina Gionfriddo, Becky Shaw
Beau Willimon, Farragut North

Outstanding Actor in a Musical
James Barbour, A Tale of Two Cities
Matt Cavenaugh, West Side Story
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek the Musical
Josh Grisetti, Enter Laughing
David Pittu, What’s That Smell? The Music of Jacob Sterling Continue reading “Nominations for 2008-2009 Outer Critics Circle Awards”