2016 What’s On Stage Award nominations

Best Actor In A Play Sponsored By Radisson Blu Edwardian:
Benedict Cumberbatch, Hamlet
James McAvoy, The Ruling Class
Bradley Cooper, The Elephant Man
Mark Rylance, Farinelli and the King
Alex Hassell, Henry V

Best Actress In A Play Sponsored By The Umbrella Rooms:
Nicole Kidman, Photograph 51 
Denise Gough, People, Places and Things
Lia Williams, Oresteia
Rosalie Craig, As You Like It
Harriet Walter, Death of a Salesman Continue reading “2016 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Hamlet, Barbican

“The play’s the thing”

See, after all the kerfuffle and an insane (and irresponsible) amount of press scrutiny during its three week preview period (I hope all the hit chasing was worth it for everyone concerned), there’s still a regular piece of theatre at the heart of it. A company of cast and creatives trying to make art under the most trying of circumstances, a simple truth but one that seemed to have been largely forgotten in the rush to tap into the self-perpetuating frenzy around this production of Hamlet directed by Lyndsey Turner.

Visually it is undoubtedly stunning, you can see where at least some of the inflated ticket price has gone (and whilst I’m on, £65 for stalls seats with a restricted view about which there was no warning, shame on you Barbican and Sonia Friedman Productions). Es Devlin’s opulent set has an enormous palatial grandeur about it which is latterly, spectacularly, crumbled in ruin, Jane Cox’s lighting carves out performance space beautifully from the stage, and Luke Hall’s video work is impressive too. But the play’s the thing remember, not just the production. Continue reading “Review: Hamlet, Barbican”

DVD Review: The Riot Club

“I’m afraid you’re not really the right sort of chap”

Laura Wade’s Posh took the Royal Court by storm in 2010 and then the West End in 2012 with a slightly amended version, each time slipping quite easily into the contemporary political narrative with its skewering of a fictionalised version of the Bullingdon Club, an elite Oxford student dining club that has boasted the likes of David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson in its ranks. Wade’s intimation is clear, that the reckless and thoughtless behaviour of these men as students is symptomatic of their charmed future political careers as a whole and enclosed in the claustrophobic dining room of a gastropub that they proceed to thoroughly trash, the play had a horrendously compelling energy to it.

Wade has adapted her own play here into The Riot Club  and through the determined effort to make it work on screen, it has become quite the different beast. Personally, I wasn’t too keen on it, the changes detracting from the strengths of the story as I saw them, and the realities of making – and casting – a feature film have altered the whole underlying theme. A cast headed by model-handsome men (Sam Claflin, Douglas Booth, Sam Reid, Max Irons etc), most of whom get to ‘learn a lesson’ by the end, takes away from the vileness of their behaviour – it almost feels like director Lone Scherfig is letting them get away with it without ever really showing us the true ugliness of their political and personal prejudices.

Continue reading “DVD Review: The Riot Club”

Radio Review: Anna’s War, Radio 4

“Some of your publications aren’t exactly patriotic” 

Sadly, the oppressive nature of the ruling Russian regime is nothing new, as journalist Anna Politkovskaya found out to her cost when she was murdered in 2006. Up until then, she had been truly fearless, in a way that few of us could ever hope to dream of, in exposing and investigating the murkily complex relationship between Russia and Chechnya. Lizzie Nunnery’s play Anna’s War dramatizes five key moments from her life, demonstrating the personal cost of so courageous a life.

Nunnery’s bite-sized approach makes it an ideal fit for the 15 minute drama slot on Radio 4. So we see her experiences as an investigative journalist helping to evacuate nearly 100 people from an abandoned old people’s home and then discovering the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers on Chechen mountain villagers, to the perhaps better known terrorist attacks on a Moscow theatre and the siege of Beslan school – her reputation for relentless truthseeking and opposition to the Chechen conflict increasingly making her a target. Continue reading “Radio Review: Anna’s War, Radio 4”

Barely-a-Review: Richard III, Radio 3

“So wise, so young, they say, do never live long”

I picked on this radio adaptation of Richard III to be my companion on a particularly long journey over the weekend since it came in at nearly three hours of running time, but hadn’t anticipated that it would be as dull and unengaging as it was and consequently I struggled to get to the end of it. Quite why this should be I’m not entirely sure, it is competently spoken throughout – Douglas Henshall taking on the title role – but it never gripped me, it never seemed to transcend the medium to come alive and sound real rather than an academic exercise and so it left me most disappointed indeed.  

2013 British Academy Television Awards nominations

Leading Actor
Sean Bean – Accused: “Tracie’s Story” (BBC One)
Derek Jacobi – Last Tango in Halifax (BBC One)
Toby Jones – The Girl (BBC Two)
Ben Whishaw – Richard II: “The Hollow Crown” (BBC Two)

Leading Actress
Rebecca Hall – Parade’s End (BBC Two)
Sienna Miller – The Girl (BBC Two)
Anne Reid – Last Tango in Halifax (BBC One)
Sheridan Smith – Mrs Biggs (ITV) Continue reading “2013 British Academy Television Awards nominations”

2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Constellations by Nick Payne – Duke of York’s Theatre
The Audience by Peter Morgan – Gielgud
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Simon Stephens, adapted by Mark Haddon – National Theatre Cottesloe / Apollo
This House by James Graham – National Theatre Cottesloe / Olivier

Best New Musical
Loserville – Garrick
Soul Sister – Savoy
The Bodyguard – Adelphi
Top Hat – Aldwych

Best Revival 
Long Day’s Journey into Night – Apollo
Macbeth – Trafalgar Studios
Old Times – Harold Pinter
Twelfth Night – Globe / Apollo Continue reading “2013 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Review: The Effect, National Theatre

“Call it what you want, just don’t let it define you”

Though it has arguably had a variable strike rate in terms of hits and misses, the Cottesloe Theatre seems determined to go out roaring in stylish flames before it closes for renovation to re-emerge as the Dorfman, as huge successes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and This House are now followed by Lucy Prebble’s new play The Effect in a co-production with Headlong which, if there’s any justice in the world, should have some kind of further life as with the previous two plays which are transferring into the West End and the Olivier respectively.

Miriam Buether works her transformative magic once again to reconfigure the theatre into the waiting room of a modern private clinic, one in which a clinical trial is about to begin. Two people have signed up to try out this new drug and two doctors monitor them, looking for the answers that they hope will be provided. What they are looking for is to see how much their medicine can influence what we call our feelings, our emotions, as they try to figure out if the highs of love and attraction and the lows of deep depression can be controlled with just a tweak of the dosage. But though they are seeking to run a scrupulous experiment, their human subjects respond in unexpected ways as they try to tease apart what is real and what is manufactured in the world of heady emotion they are now feeling. Continue reading “Review: The Effect, National Theatre”

DVD Review: The Awakening

“This is a time for ghosts”

Released at the end of last year, The Awakening seemed to sink without trace a little. I’m not the best judge of things given how little time I end up with to see films, but I would have thought a film that starred Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton would be a surefire hit. In any case, its general spookiness and delving into the realm of the supernatural makes it a good fit for inclusion here.

Nick Murphy’s film is set in 1921, a shell-shocked England still learning how to recover from the devastating impact of the Great War. Rebecca Hall plays a rather witty anti-Yvette Fielding figure named Florence Cathcart, a very modern sceptic who is a published author on the debunking of supernatural hoaxes. After a great opening sequence in which a séance is exposed for the nonsense it really is, she is visited by Dominic West’s Robert Mallory, a schoolteacher who wants her to come and investigate some spooky goings-on at his isolated boarding school. Yet in finding trying to a rational answer, she uncovers a deeper, more personal mystery which is far from easily explained. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Awakening”

2011 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Best New Play 
Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris – Royal Court
End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter – Trafalgar Studios
Sucker Punch by Roy Williams – Royal Court
The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane – Garrick
Tribes by Nina Raine – Royal Court

Best New Musical
Fela – National Theatre Olivier
Legally Blonde – Savoy
Love Never Dies – Adelphi
Love Story – Duchess

Best Revival 
After the Dance – National Theatre Lyttelton
All My Sons – Apollo
King Lear – Donmar Warehouse
When We Are Married – Garrick Continue reading “2011 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”