Review: Strange Interlude, National Theatre

“What am I doing here?”

When a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude was first announced as part of the National Theatre’s summer programme, the five hour running time of the original struck a note of fear in many a heart of those who are used to the cheap seats in the Lyttelton Theatre. And though it has been trimmed down to 3 hours 20 minutes in Simon Godwin’s production, it still proves something of a considerable challenge – not least because I could not see for the life of me why it has been revived.

Due to its length and winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1928, it is no surprise that it ticks the ‘rarely performed classics’ box and featuring an absolute doozy of a central female role in Nina Leeds, it is no typical piece of theatre. Sadly, its main innovation – characters speaking their many, many internal thoughts out loud as asides – is one which felt far too similar to last week’s Passion Play to really impress. And it also makes what ought to be more seriously considered drama into an unexpected campfest that feels more like an American soap opera like Dynasty or Sunset Beach but with none of the schlocky enjoyment. Continue reading “Review: Strange Interlude, National Theatre”

2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Sheridan Smith – Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic
Billie Piper – The Effect, Headlong at the National, Cottesloe
Hattie Morahan – A Doll’s House at the Young Vic
Jill Halfpenny – Abigail’s Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory & Wyndham’s
Julie Walters – The Last of the Haussmans at the National, Lyttelton
Sally Hawkins – Constellations at the Royal Court Upstairs & Duke of York’s

THE DIGITAL THEATRE BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY

Rupert Everett – The Judas Kiss at Hampstead
Adrian Lester – Red Velvet at the Tricycle
David Haig – The Madness of George III at the Apollo
David Suchet – Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Apollo
Luke Treadaway – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the National, Cottesloe
Mark Rylance – Twelfth Night & Richard III at Shakespeare’s Globe & the Apollo Continue reading “2013 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Desire Under The Elms, Lyric Hammersmith

“Ye make a slick pair of murderin’ turtle-doves”

It’s been a slow but increasingly steady journey into the world of Eugene O’Neill for me: since 2010’s Beyond The Horizon, high profile productions of Anna Christie and Long Day’s Journey Into Night confirmed his reputation was indeed well earned (I do like to be able to make up my own mind on such things, I hate being told “so and so is the greatest playwright” and being expected just to accept it). And after The Hairy Ape at the Southwark Playhouse, it is now the turn of the Lyric Hammersmith to get in on the action with Sean Holmes’ production of his 1924 play Desire Under The Elms

Drawing heavily from Greek tragedy and in particular the tale of Phaedra, O’Neill locates his story in 19th century New England but mines a similar vein of earth-shattering catastrophe. Son of his father’s second wife, Eben is determined to secure the family farm for his inheritance. He pays off his two older half-brothers as they depart for the Gold Rush, but his father Ephraim is a randy old goat and marries for the third time, scuppering Eben’s plan as his new young wife Abbie stakes her own claim. But matters are further problematized by an illicit attraction between son and stepmother and when Abbie falls pregnant…well, do you think there’ll be a happy ending? Continue reading “Review: Desire Under The Elms, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse

“Dat’s de stuff! Let her have it! All togedder now! Sling it into her! Let her ride! Shoot de piece now! Call de toin on her! Drive her into it! Feel her move! Watch her smoke!”

I loved Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie at the Donmar last year and thought his Long Day’s Journey Into Night was truly exceptional when I caught it earlier this year, so the prospect of one of his lesser known works – The Hairy Ape – at the ever-inventive Southwark Playhouse was one that intrigued and so I let myself be talked into catching it just before it closed. It is definitely closer to the former of the above-mentioned plays in its primal expressionism, tales of the sea and the search for belonging.

In the engine room of a transatlantic liner, Yank is the king of his world, leading his team of workers as they shovel away. His certainties are stripped away when a young upper class lady makes her way below-deck, leaving shocked and horrified at what she sees but opening Yank’s eyes to life beyond what he knows. His reaction is to try to find out what disgusts her but he soon discovers that she represents a whole world that doesn’t or won’t accept him. Continue reading “Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: Long Day’s Journey into Night, Apollo Theatre

“None of us can help the things life has done to us. They’re done before you realize it, and once they’re done they make you do other things until at last everything comes between you and what you’d like to be, and you’ve lost your true self forever.”

In seven days time, I will have seen Cate Blanchett onstage at the Barbican and this is something that I am inordinately excited about and I’ll probably nominate her for a Best Actress fosterIAN for just simply being Cate Blanchett no matter how the show is. But in watching Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which has arrived at the Apollo theatre after a short UK tour, I was witness to my first cast-iron certainty for a nomination this year. Indeed, I might go as far to say that Laurie Metcalf’s extraordinary performance as Mary Tyrone is one of the greatest feats of acting I think I’ve ever seen.

The play is a portrait of a deeply troubled and traumatised Irish-American family, its four acts taking place over the length of a single day, during which lifetimes of regrets, recriminations and rancour are revealed and rehashed. Mary has just returned from a stay at the sanatorium to deal with her morphine addiction yet remains in a delicate state; her husband James is an actor whose potential has wasted away and who zealously guards the money he has earned. He has placed his hopes and dreams in his two sons but is frustrated by their lack of ambition, something underpinned by a familial tendency to alcohol abuse, and blame swirls increasingly dangerously around the drawing room. Continue reading “Review: Long Day’s Journey into Night, Apollo Theatre”

Review: Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse

“If your oath is no proper oath at all, I’ll have to be taking your naked word for it and have you anyway”

Generally speaking I try to avoid reading anything about a show, especially reviews, before I’ve seen it and written about it as despite the best of intentions, one always ends up parroting certain views as one’s own and this blog is meant to be about my opinion on shows. But the internet and Twitter in particular makes that increasingly difficult these days and earlier this week I’d been notified of Billington’s 5 star review for the Guardian and the tantalising promise of a ‘glistening torso’ which meant my already-keen anticipation for the Donmar Warehouse’s Anna Christie increased just that little bit more!

As part of his farewell season, Michael Grandage is pulling out the big guns and this features the return of two big name alumni for the Donmar – Jude Law has been getting much of the attention, he was an excellent Hamlet in the Donmar’s West End season, but also Ruth Wilson, slightly less heralded though criminally so, as she is one of the brightest acting talents we have in this country, her Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire earning her an Olivier. Continue reading “Review: Anna Christie, Donmar Warehouse”

Review: Beyond the Horizon, National Theatre

“You and me ain’t like most brothers”

As part of a ‘Young America’ season, Beyond the Horizon, the first play by Eugene O’Neill is being performed in rep with Tennessee William’s second play, Spring Storm at the Cottelsoe at the National Theatre. Originally produced by the Royal & Derngate in Northampton, the two works have been transferred down with their original casts, who play roles in both works, showing the connections between these two American playwrights as they formed their artistic visions.

Set on a rural New England farm, we follow the lives of two brothers Andy and Rob Mayo. Andy has taken on his father’s mantle with a great knack for farming and an understanding of the land whilst Rob is a dreamer with no interest in farming and a hankering for discovering life and the world beyond the horizon. When a declaration of love intervenes with the plans that have been made in order for the brothers to follow their dreams, a chain of decisions is set in motion and the play then traces the consequences of these actions through the ensuing years. Continue reading “Review: Beyond the Horizon, National Theatre”

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”