Review: Hoard – Rediscovered

Theatrical archaeology meets real archaeology in Hoard – Rediscovered as the New Vic Theatre revisit their Staffordshire Hoard Festival for the streaming age 

“The archaeologists have of course found no evidence of dragons”

After a weekend immersed in the plummy accents of The Crown, it was wonderfully refreshing to counter-balance that with the everyday cadences of blessedly much more regular folk in Hoard – Rediscovered. Staffordshire’s New Vic Theatre has a rich tradition of verbatim work and with this characterful addition to theatre’s necessary shift to the streaming world, there’s quite the digital treasure trove in store. 

Hoard – Rediscovered sees the New Vic revisit their 2015 Staffordshire Hoard Festival, a celebration of new writing focused on the remarkable discovery of a mighty hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold in a field in 2009. Written and directed by New Vic artistic director Theresa Heskins, Unearthed is a verbatim docu-drama that shifts the attention away from the thousands of pieces of treasure to focus on the stories of the real people whose lives it impacted. Continue reading “Review: Hoard – Rediscovered”

Film Review: Twelfth Night (2018)

With Sheila Atim playing both Viola and Sebastian, this film of Twelfth Night has many a highlight even if it is ultimately overlong

“You will hang like an icicle on a Dutchman’s beard”

As a debut for both Shanty Productions and Adam Smethurst as screenwriter and director, this Twelfth Night is an intriguing thing. At a more than healthy 2 hours 45 minutes, its slavish adherence to the text can feel like a bit of a challenge as it occasionally feels like it is moving at a glacial pace. On the other hand, it has Sheila Atim doing double duty as shipwrecked twins Viola and Sebastian and so it proves a great showcase for her.

Filmed over a single month in West Sussex on an economical budget, this contemporary imagining of Shakespeare’s tale of mistaken identities and affections gone haywire benefits from some astute casting. Shalini Peiris’s Olivia is younger than the average but it’s a choice that makes sense of her impetuous nature, and leaning into Antony Bunsee’s experience makes for a compelling Malvolio, the unlikeliness of any relationship between them all the more stark for once. Continue reading “Film Review: Twelfth Night (2018)”

Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre

“That is the land of lost content”

You’d be forgiven for going with Beatrix if someone started talking about a story about children written by someone called Potter. But Blue Remembered Hills is the work of Dennis Potter, an altogether different proposition and indeed, Squirrel Nutkin would fear for his life even more than usual if he were present in this Forest of Dean setting. For this is no idyllic treatise on the joys of childhood but rather an acutely observed portrait of how brutal a time it can be and how difficult it is to cling to innocence.

Potter’s innovation here is to have his cast of seven 7-year-old characters played by adult actors. Spending a hot summer’s day in 1943 running up and down the grassy bank, playing at mummies and daddies or being aeroplanes, barely a care in the world one would think. But from the opening scene, any hint of a rose tinted glow is stripped away as the playwright lays bare a stark vision of society in all its viciousness, complexity and relentlessness – the group continually jostling for position to avoid the ignominy of being the last to be picked. Continue reading “Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre”

Review: The Globe Mysteries, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Open the clouds”

It is rare that one witnesses people encouraging the clouds to open at any performance at the Globe, it seems like a needless temptation of fate! But nevertheless, Tony Harrison works in the phrase into this play and on this occasion at least, the heavens did not open (although Mary did still get assumpted!) Starting off with God and the creation and whipping through key stories from the Bible – ostensibly with messages incorporated for us in modern life – until we reach the last judgement, The Globe Mysteries is Tony Harrison’s own adaptation of his 1977 version of The Mysteries for the National Theatre.

Played with a cast of 14 who cover over 60 roles between them, we move from the Garden of Eden through Noah to the birth and death of Jesus and then beyond. There’s a rough chronology which sees us sweeping through time so that we end up more or less in a modern-day setting around the time of Jesus’ death which means the whole range of the costume department is exploited. Harrison’s text is a rough kind of verse, with rhyming couplets and modern reference points aplenty but it is a deeply traditional set of stories which doesn’t take well to the transfer and overall, I found it to be rather problematic. Continue reading “Review: The Globe Mysteries, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s Globe

“There was a star danced, and under that I was born”

Much Ado About Nothing fans really are in for a treat this summer with two major productions running on either side of the river. The blockbuster version at the Wyndhams has the starrier casting to be sure but there is real delight to be had Bankside too as the Globe have tempted Eve Best from the world of American television (if only for a limited time) to star alongside Charles Edwards in this more traditional, but perhaps more engaging version of this most romantic of Shakespeare’s comedies. Claudio and Hero’s relationship is at the centre of this play and how Don John’s machinations threaten to thwart their true love, but it is in their friends Benedick and Beatrice’s sparring and refusal to admit their mutual love that really elevates this play into something special and that is what we have here at the Globe.

What is comes down to is the most delightful performance from Eve Best as Beatrice, my first opportunity to see her on stage and one which you should not miss. Unafraid to show the vulnerable, almost desperate side to the character as well as the customary sparky humour that serves as her distancing technique, she envelops every single member of the audience in her confiding embrace and I loved her from the start, even whilst cruelly dashing Don Pedro’s hopes. Charles Edwards’ rather foppish Benedick is a brilliant counterpart too, whose public school mannerisms are hilarious and an almost effective way of keeping his heart from bruising. And together they make a beautifully well-matched couple whose eventual union really gladdens the heart. Continue reading “Review: Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Victoria Palace

“What the hell’s wrong with expressing yourself”

Trip number three of my musicals extravaganza to Billy Elliot The Musical, a show that for whatever reason, I had no interest in going to and would never have booked for myself had it not been for this deal. I have never actually seen the film and so it was a brand new experience for me in every sense of the word, but it was strangely apt that I saw it on the day after the miners in Chile were rescued which also happened to be Margaret Thatcher’s birthday.

The other way in which this show pleased me was with its plot. As it turned out, this is another entry into the traditional dance film/show format of which I am much enamoured and which Flashdance reminded me of recently. With music by Elton John and lyrics and book by Lee Hall, the backdrop this time is the miners’ strike in the mid-1980s up in Country Durham where young Billy makes a journey of personal discovery as he trades his boxing gloves for ballet shoes and attempts to follow his dream of getting into the Royal Ballet School in the face of huge strife in his family and the community around him. Continue reading “Review: Billy Elliot The Musical, Victoria Palace”