Review: Common, National Theatre

“If I were a man you’d call me rogue; let us do with whore, liar, thief, cunt”

Over the past few years where he may or may not have been studying sculpture at Saint Martin’s College, Northampton-born playwright DC Moore has been putting together a résumé of quietly impressive work – exploring aspects of contemporary masculinity in insightful plays such as the excellent Straight and under-rated monologue Honest, or opening up his focus to the war in Afghanistan in The Empire and family dramas in The Swan. So news that he was making his main-stage debut at the National Theatre with Common, in a co-production with Headlong and starring no less than Anne-Marie Duff and Cush Jumbo, was bright news indeed. 

But whilst I thought I wanted to do what other common people do, Moore has taken a completely different tack here. Common delves into the under-explored history of rural England in 1809 as the social and economic changes heralded by the Industrial Revolution begin to filter through the country. More crucially, his acute ear for sharply observed dialogue has been smothered by the invention of a fruitily rich mode of language full of compound words – described charitably by Jumbo as “a mixture of Shakespeare, Harry Potter and some kind of Angelina Jolie movie”. Continue reading “Review: Common, National Theatre”

Review: Rough Cuts – Bytes, Royal Court

“It’s on the internet…”

Just a quickie for this as the Royal Court’s Rough Cuts season is a space for short plays, experimental readings and works in progress and so I’m just including it here for the completeness of my theatregoing records. It has previously taken place in the upstairs theatre but as this is currently occupied, they have converted the Wilson rehearsal studio – right next to the main building – into a public performance space for this group of four pieces, all based on the theme of our relationship to the internet.

This year’s cohort of writers made this a must-see from the moment it was announced, featuring as it does Alia Bano, DC Moore, Penelope Skinner and Nick Payne, and with an ensemble of six actors including Sarah Woodward and Al Weaver, I was confident of enjoying the performances too. And it was an agreeable evening from start to early finish – such a rarity to be home well before 9pm on a theatre night – and a pleasing indication of the vibrancy and variety in new theatre writing in the UK.  Continue reading “Review: Rough Cuts – Bytes, Royal Court”

Review: Straight, Bush Theatre

“We just have to position ourselves right”

Though Nick Payne is the name on most people’s lips when it comes to exciting new male playwrights thanks to his award-winning Constellations, for my money DC Moore is as equally deserving of such attention. He is probably one of the most talented composers of dialogue working at the moment and his clear-sighted writing has definitely marked him out as one to watch. Directed by Richard Wilson, his latest play Straight opened in Sheffield earlier this month but now arrives in London at the Bush Theatre to present a picture of male friendship unlike most others.

Based on Lynn Shelton’s film Humpday, Straight starts off in a moment of apparent marital bliss. Lewis and Morgan are making the best of a bad lot in their property situation but are so into each other that they are discussing babies. But when Lewis’ old university friend Waldorf arrives, through the letter box first, to collect on a promise of a bed after he finished his gap year travels, he threatens to upset their dynamic by reminding Lewis of the freedom he is midway through relinquishing. A drunken night out ensues with much taunting about their comparative sexual adventures and ends up with them daring each other to have sex on camera, as you do.  Continue reading “Review: Straight, Bush Theatre”

Review: Decade, Headlong at St Katharine Dock

“I get that it was…well, it is…a big deal for some people”

The tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre has and will receive a vast range of coverage through all sorts of media, but perhaps one of the most anticipated is Headlong’s new piece of site-specific  theatre, Decade. 19 writers, playwrights mostly and Simon Schama, have all contributed their own responses to the events of the 11th September, their brief purely to be a scene set in the last 10 years, and they have been woven together by director Rupert Goold and housed in a warehouse on St Katharine Docks. I hadn’t intended to see this show so soon, wanting to let the experimental stuff settle before making my visit, but I was forced to reshuffle my diary and in order to fit it in before October and still get one of the cheaper tickets, this was my only opportunity.

After passing through a security checkpoint where you are questioned and ticketed (I was mildly disappointed there was no full body search from my guard, Tobias Menzies), we’re then guided through to take our seats in a replica of the dining room of the Windows On The World restaurant, formerly on the top floors of the North Tower. It’s a quirky entrance that sets the anticipation levels high even if the whole process did take a little time to fully accomplish. Seating is around dinner tables with a large raised stage in the middle of the room and is unallocated though ‘waiters’ do take you a table once summoned by the Maître D’. (My top tip would be to try and get on the long bank of seats on the side opposite the bar as close to the middle as you can. Just before the lights went down, I was advised by our Maître D’, in this case it was the delectable Charlotte Randle, that I might want to move from my original seat to this new place as there’s a certain amount which happens on a balcony level but all on one side, and it would have been rather difficult to see from there. So thank you Charlotte!) Continue reading “Review: Decade, Headlong at St Katharine Dock”

Review: The Swan, National Theatre

Second up in Double Feature 1 is DC Moore’s The Swan. Set in a South London pub, much as his brilliant one-man show Honest was, the scene is the morning of a funeral and preparations are being made for the wake in this rundown establishment.

At the centre of everything is Jim, a bombastic performance from Trevor Cooper and blessed with some brilliantly inventive swearing, who claims to have been practically born in the pub where his mother was a singer and where he has ruled the roost ever since. Slowly but surely, more people arrive and the picture comes into focus as we come to realise exactly who the funeral was for and what his connection was to each of the characters. Continue reading “Review: The Swan, National Theatre”

Review: Honest, Queen’s Head Pub

“This department is not fit for purpose”

First staged at the Mailcoach pub in Northampton under the aegis of Royal & Derngate, Northampton followed by a highly successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, DC Moore’s 40 minute monologue Honest now arrives in London. As the set-up is simply a man talking in a pub, so this show has actually been playing pubs rather than theatres, in London it has taken up residence in the Queen’s Head near Piccadilly Circus and right next to the Piccadilly Theatre where Grease is currently playing.

Honest starts as Dave takes his seat in the pub alongside us, takes a sip from his half of bitter and starts to talk about the prevalence of lying and deceit in all aspects of modern life, something which irks him something rotten as he’s a guy who believes that honesty is the best policy whether it concerns family, work colleagues or complete strangers. He regales us with amusing razor-sharp anecdotes about the inanities of office life in an obscure government department, full of over-promoted idiots and endless office celebrations and how sickened he is by having become complicit in not telling people what he really thinks of them. But absolute honesty comes at a price and things come to a head, as they are wont to do, at a drunken work night out when he finally snaps and tells his boss exactly what he thinks of him. He then sets off on a booze-fuelled stagger through South London to find his nephew and be faced with some home truths. Continue reading “Review: Honest, Queen’s Head Pub”

Review: The Empire, Royal Court Upstairs

“Patch you up, all nice like, splint, bandage your leg. All very civilized actually. But then. Then. We hand you over.”

Played out in real-time in war torn Afghanistan, The Empire is the latest work to take up residence upstairs at the Royal Court. Only the second play by DC Moore, it promises “to dissect the politics of occupation, home and abroad“. 

In the aftermath of a bloody skirmish, a mysterious wounded prisoner is guarded a young British soldier, Gary, and his Afghan colleague, nicknamed Paddy although really monikered Hafizullah. Along with Gary’s commanding officer, they await logistical support and much needed medical assistance but in the long wait under the burning desert sun, questions are asked and frustrations boil over in the search for the truth of just what is going on. Continue reading “Review: The Empire, Royal Court Upstairs”