Playing at Theatre Peckham before a UK tour, Tamasha Theatre’s Under the Mask – written by a junior doctor – is a haunting revisit of the early days of the pandemic
“I’m telling you now I don’t feel safe”
Given that you can’t help but expect that there’s going to be a whole lotta COVID plays coming along soon, there’s a balancing act to be made about the approach to a global pandemic that is still very much a clear and present danger. Under the Mask takes the route of almost documentary realism as junior doctor and new writer Shaan Sahota very much writes what she knows.
A Tamasha and Oxford Playhouse co-production, opening its UK tour at Theatre Peckham, Under the Mask invites audiences to an audio experience, taking us back to the beginning of the first wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in the UK. Viewed through the scarcely believing eyes of newly qualified doctor Jaskaran who is fast-tracked onto the Intensive Care Unit, it’s a haunting tale of lived experience. Continue reading “Review: Under the Mask, Theatre Peckham”
Lucy Kirkwood returns to the National Theatre with The Welkin, starring a brilliant ensemble led by Maxine Peake
“Nobody blames God when there’s a woman can be blamed instead”
There are moments in Lucy Kirkwood’s new play The Welkin that are just outstanding. The opening tableau of silhouetted women engaged in housework is one for the ages, the early montage of women being empanelled onto a jury is as compelling a piece of social history as has ever been committed to the stage as well as looking stunning, and the final scene is equally full of iconic imagery (that veil, that walk, that ribbon, that realisation!).
Set on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders in 1759, the play focuses on a quirk of English justice at the time. A child has died and Sally Poppy has been sentenced for the crime (by men) but as she is claiming to be pregnant – something which if true, would commute her sentence from death to transportation – a “jury of matrons” must decide if she is telling the truth. Thus 12 local woman are summoned and locked in a room to determine her fate. Continue reading “Review: The Welkin, National Theatre”
Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor headline a new production of Romeo and Juliet, while Callum Scott Howells and Rosie Sheehy star in Gary Owen’s Romeo and Julie, among other big news from the National Theatre
Simon Godwin returns to the National Theatre to direct Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET following his critically-acclaimed productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night in the Olivier Theatre. Set in modern Italy in a world where Catholic and secular values clash, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country) play the two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption. Fisayo Akinade (The Antipodes, Barber Shop Chronicles) is cast as Mercutio. The production will open in the Olivier Theatre in August 2020.
Set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Lucy Carter, composition by Michael Bruce and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Continue reading “News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre”
I might have taken a break from reviewing in June, but I didn’t stop going to the theatre – I had too many things already booked in. Here’s some brief thoughts on what I saw.
Betrayal, Harold Pinter
Shit-Faced Shakespeare – Hamlet, Barbican
The Knight of the Burning Pestle, Cheek By Jowl at the Barbican
Somnium, Sadler’s Wells
Les Damnés, Comédie-Française at the Barbican
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Theatre Royal Bath
Blithe Spirit, Theatre Royal Bath
The Hunt, Almeida
Present Laughter, Old Vic
Europe, Donmar Warehouse
The Deep Blue Sea, Minerva
Plenty, Chichester Festival Theatre
Pictures of Dorian Gray, Jermyn Street
The Light in the Piazza, Royal Festival Hall
Hair of the Dog, Tristan Bates Continue reading “June theatre round-up”
Vinay Patel’s An Adventure is a long night at the Bush Theatre and an ambitious one
“Home is where you fight to be”
Vinay Patel’s An Adventure certainly doesn’t lack for ambition, taking inspiration from his own family – specifically his grandparents – and constructing his own historical romance tale, folding in racism, political upheaval of differing hues and the enduring legacy of colonialism.
From India to Kenya to Britain, from the 1950s to the 1970s to the modern day, Patel traces the love story between Jyoti and Rasik, the young man she chooses from the five selected by her father. They’re both dreamers and soon find themselves swept up in the Kenyan independence movement in Nairobi and union marches in London, even as their relationship suffers. Continue reading “Review: An Adventure, Bush Theatre”
“There’s more to this magical life than the love of the ladies”
It has been impossible to ignore the reception of Ivo van Hove’s Obsession, the slight sense of glee (from some) at being able to dole out a critical drubbing to the feted director. And so I went into the Barbican with a slight sense of defensiveness – I’m only human after all – albeit with the knowledge that no-one is infallible. And whilst Obsession isn’t necessarily van Hove at his best (and lord know we’ve been spoiled there), it still makes for a fascinating piece of theatre.
Based on Luchino Visconti’s 1943 film, adapted by Jan Peter Gerrits and crucially, having its English version written by Simon Stephens, this is an altogether more abstract and expressionist affair than perhaps some were expecting. A tale of sex and murder, whose muscularity and moodiness sprawls over the vast stage with stylish languour, there’s a brooding beauty to the intensity here, captured excellently by two striking lead performances from Jude Law and Halina Reijn. Continue reading “Review: Obsession, Barbican”
An amusing tidbit from Paul Chahidi’s Twitter takeover for the Donmar Warehouse, promoting his show Limehouse and the commitment its actors have to the art of the warm-up.
“I never know when I’m going too far but I’m always so glad when I do.”
It was with no little intrigue that I approached watching the boxset of ITV sitcom Vicious – memories of its run from last year focused on the absolute hammering it got, how it had apparently set representations of gay men back centuries and basically broken television. I have to admit to having no interest in watching it from the moment I’d heard about it but clearly something had mellowed by the time I spotted a bargain in a charity shop and sat down to watch Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi as a long-partnered, long-bickering couple.
Written and created by Gary Janetti (a veteran of US TV including Will & Grace) and Mark Ravenhill (a UK playwright of no little renown), it is an homage to, or more accurately a riff off, the world of 1970s sitcoms with its single living room set where Freddie and Stuart bitch away at each other all day long. They’re frequently joined on the sofa by barely-tolerated fag hag Violet, a deliciously fruity Frances De La Tour, and their newly arrived eye candy neighbour, the handsome but heterosexual Ash played by Iwan Rheon, and that’s pretty much your set-up from which endless capers abound. Continue reading “DVD Review: Vicious”
“Gar firdaus bar roo-e zameen ast, Hameen ast-o hameen ast-o hameen ast”
Interesting art can transcend basic notions of comprehension, cutting deep to a visceral place of goosebumps and adrenalin rushes that crosses linguistic barriers, just listening to this recital of a piece of Sufi poetry moves me in an unexpectedly extraordinary way even after repeated listens. The above quote of another piece also by poet Amir Khusro (If there is a paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here) which prefaces Abhishek Majumdar’s complex Kashmir-set play The Djinns of Eidgah which provoked a similar reaction in me upstairs at the Royal Court.
Not that the play isn’t in English, but rather its reach is ambitiously grand and encompasses subjects that I would be a fool to profess any substantial knowledge of. Through the trials of young Kashmiri orphans Ashrafi and Bilal, Majumdar’s writing explores the state of being ‘inbetween’ – whether in the brutal, and ongoing, realities of being torn between India and Pakistan; or in the fable-like hinterland between life and death, explored through the Central Asian oral history tradition of dastaan and the legends of Amir Hamza. Reality and fantasy are intermingled, politics and people dissected, both head and heart engaged to create a melancholic minor masterpiece. Continue reading “Review: The Djinns of Eidgah, Royal Court”
“The question you gotta ask yourself is do you want friends or whether you want to work for the president?”
Beau Willimon may now be better known for his screen work – he was head writer on the Netflix House of Cards and also penned Oscar-nominated film The Ides of March – but he started in the theatre and that film was actually based on a play, Farragut North. Its contemporary Washington machinations are based on his own experiences working on a failed presidential campaign but as with so many takes on modern politics, the shadow of the real thing looms large.
Stephen Bellamy is a highly ambitious political campaigner, working for a major candidate for the Democrat party’s presidential nomination and at the age of 25, already a seasoned old hand of 10 years’ experience. But in the world of spin, people are more concerned about scoring the advantage rather than doing the decent thing and the trust and loyalty that Stephen cared so little for on the way up the greasy pole, bites back with a vengeance on the way down. Continue reading “Review: Farragut North, Southwark Playhouse”