Review: Purple Heart, Gate Theatre

“Why would I need to hurt myself?”

The scabrous humour of Bruce Norris’ last play Clybourne Park was a huge success seeing a West End transfer from the Royal Court and a clean sweep of drama awards on both sides of the Atlantic. He returns to the Royal Court very soon with The Low Road but the Gate Theatre has mounted a revival of his 2002 play Purple Heart. Set in an anonymous Midwestern city, a family struggles to rebuild their lives after the death of Gene, a soldier in the Vietnam War, the impact of such a terrible loss affecting his mother, his wife and his son in different ways.

Norris dissects the complexity of grief on the different members of this family with his customary excoriating insight, challenging what society deems to be the correct emotional responses with the unconventional Carla. Rejecting the conventional tropes of mourning, the generic platitudes and proffered casseroles from oppressively well-meaning neighbours, she lounges in her dressing gown, swigging as much booze as she can. But there’s little escape at home – her son Thor is acting out on his increasingly violent imagination and mother-in-law Grace is relentless with her forced good cheer barely masking a concern or propriety. It is takes the arrival of a stranger at the door, a veteran with his own agenda and a box of doughnuts, to really shake up the broken dynamic of this family. Continue reading “Review: Purple Heart, Gate Theatre”

Re-Review: Clybourne Park, Wyndham’s Theatre

“That’s not the joke I was thinking of…”

Maintaining an excellent record of transfers for the Royal Court, Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park is the latest play to make the leap from Sloane Square to the West End, in this case the Wyndham’s Theatre. Robert Innes Hopkins’ design seems to have transferred almost exactly as it was at the Royal Court, seemingly at the same size and still undergoing such a great transformation in the interval. All but two of the original cast have transferred with the show, directed by Dominic Cooke, which has already won Best Show plaudits from the Evening Standard, South Bank Sky Arts and the Critics Circle and looks set to continue that success.

I saw the show early in its run at the Royal Court and though not originally intending to revisit the show, the opportunity arose and I became quite intrigued by the idea of seeing the production again in a new home. The play takes a dual look at racial prejudice in America, starting in 1959 as a white family try to sell their house in a white neighbourhood to a black family despite pressure from the locals, then switching to 2009 where the tables are turned as the demographic of the area has switched completely and it is the black community resisting the ideas of a white couple who want to buy the same house. It looks at how people rarely say exactly what they mean, especially where race is concerned and though things would seem to have improved by 2009, the events of the second half show us that that progress could be seen to be quite superficial. Continue reading “Re-Review: Clybourne Park, Wyndham’s Theatre”

Critics’ Circle Awards 2010: the winners in full


Best New Play
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris 
 
The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Matilda, A Musical
 
Best Actor

David Suchet in All My Sons  

Best Actress
Jenny Jules in Ruined

The John and Wendy Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Derek Jacobi in King Lear 

Best Director
Michael Grandage for King Lear

Best Designer
Bunny Christie for The White Guard

Most Promising Playwright
Anya Reiss for Spur of the Moment

The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer [other than a playwright]
Daniel Kaluuya in Sucker Punch

 

Winners of the 2010 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards

Best Play
WINNER Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris (Royal Court)
Cock by Mike Bartlett (Royal Court)
Sucker Punch by Roy Williams (Royal Court)

Best Director
WINNER Howard Davies for The White Guard (National’s Lyttelton) & All My Sons (Apollo)
Nicholas Hytner for The Habit of Art (National’s Lyttelton) & London Assurance (National’s Olivier) & Hamlet (National’s Olivier)
Laurie Sansom for Beyond the Horizon and Spring Storm (National’s Cottesloe)
Thea Sharrock for After the Dance (National’s Lyttelton) Continue reading “Winners of the 2010 London Evening Standard Theatre Awards”

Review: Clybourne Park, Royal Court

“Fitting into a community is what it really all comes down to”

Clybourne Park is the latest play to open downstairs at the Royal Court, written by Bruce Norris whose The Pain and the Itch also played here a few years ago. This play opens in 1959 with Russ and Bev who are selling their house in Clybourne Park, Chicago for a quick move, thereby enabling the first black family to move into the neighbourhood. This is not going down well with their friends and neighbours and tensions of all sorts are brought to the fore as threats are issued and secrets unfolded. We then flip forward to 2009 where young couple Lindsey and Steve want to buy the same house but knock it down and build from scratch. These plans also do not go down well with the neighbourhood and whilst change has occurred, the same tensions begin to emerge.

Norris wrote this play partly as a reaction to A Raisin In The Sun as a way of looking at how white Americans have dealt with issues of race in the past and how in this post-Obama world, whether anything has really changed. And he does it with such style and acerbic wit, it makes it easy to overlook the slight weaknesses in the plotting. One I cannot reveal because it is too spoilerish but waiting four years, really? Another was spotted by someone cleverer than I, with inconsistencies about US behaviour in the Korean War and the last I go into more detail about later in the review. I flag these up now because otherwise this would be a purely rave review as it is fantastic. Continue reading “Review: Clybourne Park, Royal Court”

Nominations for 2010 Lucille Lortel Awards

Outstanding Play
Clybourne Park; Written by Bruce Norris; Produced by Playwrights Horizons
The Brother/Sister Plays; Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney; Produced by The Public Theater in association with McCarter Theatre 
The Orphans’ Home Cycle; Written by Horton Foote; Produced by Signature Theatre Company and Hartford Stage 
The Temperamentals; Written by Jon Marans; Produced by Daryl Roth, Stacy Shane and Martian Entertainment
When The Rain Stops Falling; Written by Andrew Bovell; Produced by Lincoln Center Theater   

Outstanding Musical
Click, Clack, Moo; Book by Billy Aronson, Lyrics by Kevin Del Aguila, Music by Brad Alexander, Based on the book by Doreen Cronin with illustrations by Betsy Lewin; Produced by Theatreworks USA 
Everyday Rapture;Written by Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott; Produced by Second Stage Theatre
The Scottsboro Boys; Book by David Thompson, Lyrics and Music by John Kander and Fred Ebb; Produced by Vineyard Theatre  
The Toxic Avenger; Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro, Music and Lyrics by David Bryan, Based on Lloyd Kaufman’s The Toxic Avenger; Produced by Jean Cheever and Tom Polum  
Yank! A WWII Love Story; Music by Joseph Zellnik, Book and Lyrics by David Zellnik; Produced by The York Theatre Company, Maren Berthelsen/Pamela Koslow/Stuart Wilk, Matt Schicker, Hugh Hayes, Jim Kierstead and Sondra Healy/Shidan Majidi Continue reading “Nominations for 2010 Lucille Lortel Awards”