Marking my first visit to the National Theatre since moving to London, His Girl Friday is a play which has been adapted by John Guare from 2 sources: the 1928 play The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and the 1940 film adaptation His Girl Friday by Howard Hawks which inverted the gender of the lead protagonist. Thus a madcap romantic element to this story of energetic newshound Hildy Johnson and her editor (and ex-husband) Walter Burns who will stop at nothing to stop her impending wedding to another man. In the midst of all of this is the scoop of the century which Hildy cannot resist as she revels in the world of cutthroat journalism.
As the central couple, Zoë Wanamaker and Alex Jennings were simply fabulous, the electricity between them just crackles with suppressed sexual energy as it is clear that this couple really does belong together and their fights full of whip-sharp wisecracks and putdowns are a joy to watch as the intersection of their professional and personal relationships makes for a whole lotta farcical fun and they are both excellent at showing how dog-eat-dog their world is. Continue reading “Review: His Girl Friday, National Theatre”
Not much more to say about this as the production is largely the same as that which we saw at the National but enjoyed so much that I wanted to take my little sister who was visiting for the weekend. The major change was a sadly enforced one as one of the actors Denis Quilley died of cancer just before the transfer opened, but there’s also a few new faces in the ensemble.
I think I might even have preferred it this time round, it suits the ‘proper’ theatre building it is now housed in and knowing what to expect meant my anticipation levels were sky-high (and fortunately met). This is definitely the kind of theatre I love and hope to see much more of now I live in London: who knows, I might even try and sneak in another visit to this!
In the dying heat of a lovely Indian summer, I finished my set of Globe plays by watching the all-female version of The Taming of the Shrew, complementing the all-male shows I had seen earlier in the month. It is a funny choice for this treatment I think as it is such a questionable play in how it treats its heroine, but I suspect this was part of the challenge for the troupe.
The way they get round it is to play up the power struggle side of things and clearly demonstrating that Kate’s submission is in fact much more knowing, a way to keep Petruchio onboard in unknowing bliss, rather than a genuine capitulation. This allows Kathryn Hunter to play with Shakespeare’s text beautifully, pulling out new meanings as Janet McTeer’s blokey arrogance is tolerated with grim smiles.
But even with working it out this way, there was something a little odd about the production. As my first all-female experience, it was a little arresting and it was hard to shake the feeling that too often they were playing ‘men’ rather than the actual characters per se, something the audience lapped up but resulting in a sense of artifice that remained ever-present rather than allowing us to be subsumed in a fully realised world.
A curiosity but not a hugely successful one for me if I’m honest.
So my second trip to the Globe took me to Edward II, a play by Christopher Marlowe which was another all-male production and actually carried over almost the entire cast from Richard II which was a nice touch I hadn’t realised until I got there. I like the idea of a company doing more than one play as it means that the bonds within the group have time to really develop and become something more special than if just for a short run.
Covering most of the key events of Edward II’s reign, the play hooks around the relationship between the King and his favourite, Piers Gaveston who was showered with love, gifts, lands and titles by his royal lover. Though interestingly, the shock value from the play would originally have come from the social/class barriers that were breached rather than the sexual ones, as the barons and lords of the court would have been outraged at the fact that Gaveston was of lowly birth rather than the fact that he was a man. For at the heart of this play is a debate about politics and the lengths to which the establishment will protect what they see as theirs by right.
The relationship between Edward and Gaveston is perfectly played and completely unafraid of being physical. Gerard Kyd as the favourite brings a fabulous energy and a freedom to his movement and behaviour which instantly sets him apart from the rest of the staid court. And with Liam Brennan’s touching King matching him for passion, their’s was a moving, believable relationship. The rather refreshing liberal take on homosexuality both in the play and this production was negated somewhat by the giggling tourist-heavy audience of the Globe though.
But there is much else to the play, with the viciousness that spurned wife and Queen Isabella pursues the downfall of her errant husband’s lover and then the King himself as she takes her own lover, the fiercely ambitious baron Mortimer. Justin Shelvin was convincing as the tyrannical baron, but I wasn’t too sure about Chu Omambala as the Queen, not really hitting the emotional depths of either despair or vengeance, literally being outshone in every sense by Gerard Kyd’s Gaveston. The all-male casting actually didn’t make that much of a difference in the end, which I suppose is the point, it felt natural and worked with the material.
I loved being a groundling again, even with a show that was over three hours, as it was very musical with lots of drums, tribal dancing to represent battles and being up close to the actors makes me feel a little sorry for the people who are sat down on the hard wooden benches!
In a season entitled Regime Change, the all-male company are tackling Richard II, Shakespeare’s fast and loose take on the life of headstrong Richard II, this historical figure whose autocratic rule and unconventional approach to matters of state led to his cousin Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, deposing him with the help of a large faction of his family: this schism forming the basis for the long-running Wars of the Roses. On a personal note, this was my first trip to the Globe and standing in the Yard was the only way to get in so I took a packed lunch and wore some comfortable shoes!
Mark Rylance takes on the title role and it is very much his show and this came across as both a good thing and something of a negative too. He dominates proceedings as this melancholy monarch who is lacking the political nous to deal with the challenges in his kingdom, thereby minimising the role of Bolingbroke somewhat rather than presenting them as two sides of the same coin: for indeed both of these men come to learn the same lessons, about the loneliness of the realities of being king. Continue reading “Review: Richard II, Shakespeare’s Globe”
Anything Goes is a Cole Porter show, directed here at the National Theatre by Trevor Nunn, which has to be one of the happiest, sunniest ways to spend an evening ever, this feel-good show really does work wonders and should be seen by everyone. Set onboard a cruise liner, there’s a tangled web of romantic intentions with singer Reno in love with Billy who loves Hope who’s engaged to an English Lord who just happens to be keen on Reno. Throw in people running from the law, a minor gangster and his moll and a bunch of tap-happy sailors, plus a generous dollop of schmaltz and everyone’s a winner.
Stephen Mears’ choreography which is played out on a relatively static set, the multi-level deck of the cruise liner, was probably my favourite element of the night, if pushed, the sheer imagination and skill on display is just breath-taking and magnificent to watch – the excellent tap numbers just make me want to learn to do it properly. But there’s no real weaknesses here and Porter’s music is just so full of classic songs that everything is just so irresistible, it really was one of those evenings where I didn’t stop smiling. Continue reading “Review: Anything Goes, National Theatre”