News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar

Featuring the prime of the most excellent Lia Williams, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is an undoubted success for the Donmar Warehouse

“Miss Mackay thinks to intimidate me with quarter-hours”

Everyone has that teacher that they never forget. Sometimes it’s because they were brilliant, sometimes it’s because they bent the rules, sometimes it’s because they were so bloody-minded that they remain so unforgettable. For the selected few pupils of Edinburgh’s Marcia Blaine School for Girls who found themselves in the orbit of the entirely charismatic Miss Jean Brodie, it’s all three reasons at the same time that are destined to make her such an iconic figure in their schooling.

Based on the novel by Muriel Sparks, David Harrower’s new stage adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie not only marks the 100th anniversary year of Spark’s birth but provides a scorchingly fantastic opportunity for Lia Williams to inhabit the title role so fully as to sit proudly aside Maggie Smith’s Oscar-winning performance in the 1969 film. It’s a stunning piece of acting – elevated by stunning wig and costume work – that captures so much of that beguiling power that a teacher can possess. Continue reading “Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Donmar”

Review: Knives in Hens, Donmar

“I have no name for the thing which is in my head. It is not envy. It is more than envy. It does not scare me. I must look close enough to discover what it is”

It’s no secret that Yaël Farber creates the most immersive of worlds in her theatre but it is still a sensory thrill to allow yourself to submerge entirely into it. The growling rumble of Isabel Waller-Bridge’s score is a thrumming backdrop to the striking splendour of Soutra Gilmour’s set – all stone and earth and timber, an elemental space for the almost ritualistic unfolding of this pre-industrial play.

And if Knives in Hens seems grim and dark (Tim Lutkin lights with remarkable economy), Farber introduces a repeated motif of flashes of white – the scattering of plucked feathers, plumes of flour billowing through the air, the gentle fall of snowflakes caught just so in the light, hell even the pale sculpted muscularity of a (surely anachronistically tattooed) bare arse establishing early on the internal dynamics. Continue reading “Review: Knives in Hens, Donmar”

Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Lindsey Ferrentino, Ugly Lies the Bone
Lauren Gunderson, I and You
Martyna Majok, Ironbound
Marco Ramirez, The Royale
Anna Ziegler, Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong, A View From the Bridge
Ben Whishaw, The Crucible Continue reading “Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

Review: Secret Theatre Show 1 and Secret Theatre Show 2, Lyric Hammersmith

“You must think us a right rough bunch of people”

How long can you keep a secret? How long should you keep a secret? As it turns out, critics were tweeting the title of the Lyric Hammersmith’s ‘Secret Theatre Show 2’ as soon as they could get their phones on in the interval, unleashing a flurry of outraged blogs and tweets which argued both sides of the toss – it was either like Christmas being ruined or one of the least important parts of the whole experience. That experience is Secret Theatre, an ambitious 8 month programme launched by the Lyric’s Sean Holmes which has pulled together an ensemble of 20 creatives who will produce 7 shows over the period. But the key is that the titles are kept from us, no programmes are for sale on arrival and so technically you take your place in the auditorium, which is mid-renovation, not knowing what the curtain will rise upon.

A quick scoot around the internet will reveal the titles of Secret Theatre Show 1 and Secret Theatre Show 2 which have now opened but in the spirit of the whole affair – after all as we leave, we are urged “Shhh. Keep the secret…” – this review won’t spill the beans too much. We live in a spoiler-saturated society now when it comes to much of our popular culture and so whilst it may not be to everyone’s taste, the unique thrill of knowing nothing in advance is one to savour. It also leads to the intriguing question of when recognition of what play is being performed will come, indeed if at all for it could be a piece of new writing, experienced theatregoers should be fine but new audiences have the opportunity to possibly experience some of the greatest writing of last century as if it were a brand new play and that is what is genuinely exciting about this enterprise. Continue reading “Review: Secret Theatre Show 1 and Secret Theatre Show 2, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: Public Enemy, Young Vic

“We want people who know what must change and why”

The phrase ‘timely revival’ is one much abused by reviewers and theatre marketers alike but it is genuinely amazing how strongly the resonances of a piece of writing from 1882 chime in today’s world. Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, retitled here as Public Enemy in a terse new version by David Harrower, rails against government corruption, the treatment of whistle-blowers, unscrupulous clothing factory owners and foretells a world of growing ecological and environmental calamity. It is a powerfully compelling tale, cheekily updated to the 1970s here, and one which wriggles uncomfortably beneath the skin.

Stockmann is a principled doctor in a provincial Norwegian town famed for its spa baths but when he discovers that the waters are poisonous and need to be shut down and announces this to the town at large, he is not met with the gratitude and acclaim he expects but rather is ostracised and demonised by the leaders of the town’s society. Chief among these in the mayor but as is often the way in small-town politics, he just happens to be Stockmann’s brother. The battle for public opinion that ensues is then bitterly fought as Stockmann, Ibsen thinly veiling his contempt for the frosty reception of his previous play Ghosts, reacts to becoming the enemy of the people. Continue reading “Review: Public Enemy, Young Vic”

Not-a-review: Government Inspector, Young Vic

“Compared to the important things in life, everything in life is dust and vanity, ashes and delusion”

David Harrower’s version of Gogol’s Russian comedy for the Young Vic is titled simply Government Inspector, losing the definitive article as did the Arcola’s Seagull, marking an odd potential trend for 2011. The inept Mayor of a small Russian town is driven into a frenzy with news of an impending visit from a government inspector but when a conman is mistaken for this visitor, the hypocrisy and corruption that the town’s bigwigs are desperate to hide is exposed.

I can’t fairly pass judgement on anything I saw as I didn’t make it to the end. For the first time in about three years, I left at the interval: something I have resisted doing since starting to write reviews properly, although often against my better judgement. And in a week when an article elsewhere about not overdoing it at the theatre mentioned me by name, there was something ironic in the fact that I even arrived to this show since I was pretty sure I wouldn’t like it and several people had warned that they knew I would hate it: my default position is currently seeing as much as is humanly possible whilst (barely) holding down a job in order to expand the breadth of my theatrical experience rather than making considered decisions about what I’m inclined to like. Continue reading “Not-a-review: Government Inspector, Young Vic”

Review: Sweet Nothings, Young Vic

“Stop moping, stop brooding…”

Sweet Nothings is David Harrower’s take on Arthur Schnitzler’s Liebelei (Tom Stoppard previously created a version called Dalliance in 1986) and is described as a sex tragedy on the Young Vic’s website. Well, there’s no sex but plenty of tragedy, though perhaps not in the way they intended.

Rather predictably, there’s pandemonium with the seating arrangements. They’re still unreserved as usual with the Young Vic, but it is set up in a horseshoe with benches that are reminiscent of a lecture theatre, but they’re extremely narrow so it is hard to pass people once they’ve sat down. And human nature being what it is, means people always fill these rows from the aisle inwards, meaning that it is a very arduous task to get everyone seated and there’s much huffing and puffing as people are asked to move along to allow everyone in the theatre. I know it is a thankless job, but the ushers need to much firmer with people from the outset, otherwise every evening will suffer a delayed start and much grumpiness. Continue reading “Review: Sweet Nothings, Young Vic”

Review: Knives in Hens, Arcola

“Pull them sleeves up, Miller”

Rather amusingly, Hackney Council’s newsletter refers to this play as Hens with Knives, a completely different Orwellian prospect, one wonders, and a possible new commission for someone! Knives in Hens as this play is more commonly known, was my first experience in the studio space at the rear of the Arcola, and an interesting one it is too.

The first play written by David Harrower, who had success with his most recent play Blackbird, this is a look at the role of language in intellectual awakening. An uneducated young woman, trapped by marriage in a closed and superstitious community, develops an intense relationship with the village outcast, a miller. He reads and writes and so is distrusted by the villagers, but offers the woman a route to her own intellectual and sexual awakening, away from the life to which she is accustomed.

Jodie McNee’s Woman is nicely portrayed, sensitively showing the potential aroused in her by the new connection in her life: her increasing ability to name things, setting herself free and open to what she might become is a nice judged journey. As the agent of change in her life, Phil Cheadle’s handsome miller is laden with enigmatic temptation and Nathaniel Martello-White (recently impressive in Innocence at the same theatre) as her unyielding husband was also good. Continue reading “Review: Knives in Hens, Arcola”