July theatre round-up

I might have taken a break from reviewing for the last couple of months, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre. Here’s some brief thoughts on most of what I saw  in July.

On Your Feet, aka the rhythm will get you, sometimes
the end of history…, aka how can you get cheese on toast so wrong
Equus, aka hell yes for Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting design
Games for Lovers, aka straight people be crazy
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, aka the one that got my goat
The Girl on the Train, aka Philip McGinley in shorts
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, aka Another Dream? dream on
Uncle Vanya, aka I really need to stop booking for plays like this with casts like that 
Jellyfish, aka justice for the second best play of last year
Sweat, aka Clare Perkins should always be on in the West End
Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical, aka yay for lovely new musicals in the West End
The Light in the Piazza, aka Molly Lynch fricking nails it
Jesus Christ Superstar, aka was third time the charm?
Continue reading “July theatre round-up”

Review: A Streetcar Named Desire, NST City Southampton

Chelsea Walker helms a blistering update of A Streetcar Named Desire in a co-production between Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Theatr Clwyd and English Touring Theatre 

“You can’t beat on a woman and then call her back”

If Blanche DuBois were around today, then of course her go-to tunes would be the likes of Madonna and Blondie, and a glitterball would take the place of her colourful paper lantern. And as the strains of ‘Material Girl’ gets most everyone up and dancing at the end of a fateful poker night, Chelsea Walker’s contemporary take on this Tennessee Williams classic finds its happy place.

Of course, it’s A Streetcar Named Desire so that happy place lasts for a moment of seconds before Patrick Knowles’ brutish Stanley reasserts himself. And what Walker’s clever updating does is to not let itself get bogged down in minor textual incongruities, but to firmly locate its troubling sexual dynamics in the gender politics of right now.  Continue reading “Review: A Streetcar Named Desire, NST City Southampton”

Review: Machinal, Guildhall

“Tell me ma…something…somebody”

I’ve not had the opportunity to see Sophie Treadwell’s Expressionistic classic Machinal so when a Guildhall School production appeared on my radar, I seized the chance. Seeing drama school shows also provides that elusive chance of seeing stars in the making – a production of The Last Five Years I caught here in 2010 featured the fresh young faces of Freddie Fox and Lily James. Treadwell’s 1928 play though has an extraordinary power in its searing exploration of a woman’s struggle against accepted notions about marriage and motherhood in a society defined by men and in Edward Dick’s staging here with 18 members of the final year actors, the narrative expands to encompass women’s experiences more generally.

Each taking their turn to don a distinctive red curly wig to take on the role of Young Woman in the nine scenes of the play, Amber James, Elaine Fellows, Rebecca Lee, Katrina McKeever, Emma Naomi, Marina Bye, Alice Winslow, Emily-Céline Thomson and Charlie Bate all made their own impressions in their own way on this character inspired by Ruth Snyder, a US housewife convicted and executed for the murder of her husband. Amber James’ anguish at the end of the day in the stenographer’s office, Alice Winslow’s downtrodden wife and Emily-Céline Thomson’s crumbling defendant stood out for me but what was impressive was the way in which the performances of the nine actors managed cohere into a powerful single entity whilst still differentiating themselves. Continue reading “Review: Machinal, Guildhall”