Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre

Heartbreaking but fiercely essential work. Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart receives a masterful revival courtesy of Dominic Cooke at the National Theatre

“The only way we’ll have real pride is when we demand recognition of a culture that isn’t just sexual”

A flame lit in respectful silence, shirts whipped off to the pulsing synthline of ‘I Feel Love’, the opening moments of Dominic Cooke’s revival of Larry Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart are full of Pride and perfectly encapsulate one of the key dilemmas haunting its characters. It is New York City in the early 1980s and writer and activist Ned Weeks is struggling to make the wider world understand what to him seems obvious, an unidentified disease is scything through the gay community in alarming numbers.

Plays about AIDS have tended to the operatic in scale – Angels in America and The Inheritance both sprawling over two lengthy parts. So by comparison, The Normal Heart is over in a flicker, coming in well under three hours. And my lord is that a good thing, as the second half in particular is punishingly, essentially, brutal. Prior to the interval, there’s a beautiful sense of world-building – Weeks and his pals bonding over their shared need to do something, battling over the best way to do it. And Weeks also falls in love for the first time, a scene of combative flirting is as entertaining as it is erotic.

Continue reading “Review: The Normal Heart, National Theatre”

Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released

The National Theatre has released rehearsal images by Helen Maybanks for Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart a co-production with Fictionhouse, being performed in the Olivier Theatre in September 2021. Directed by Dominic Cooke, Kramer’s largely autobiographical play about the AIDS crisis in 1980 New York has not been performed professionally in London since its European premiere in 1986.

Ben Daniels will perform the role of Ned Weeks, the co-founder of an AIDS advocacy group fighting to change the world around him, with Robert Bowman, Richard Cant, Liz Carr, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Dino Fetscher, Daniel Krikler, Daniel Monks, Elander Moore, Luke Norris, Henry Nott, Lucas Rush, Freddie Stabb, Samuel Thomas and Danny Lee Wynter completing the company.

Set design by Vicki Mortimer, costume design by Lisa Duncan, lighting design by Paule Constable, sound design by Carolyn Downing and fight direction by Bret Yount. The Normal Heart will be in the Olivier theatre from 23rd September until 6th November 2021. Continue reading “Rehearsal images for The Normal Heart released”

News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022

The National Theatre will return to performances with full capacity audiences from later this month. Additional seating will now be available for performances of After Life from 27 July alongside the previously-announced productions Rockets and Blue Lights in the Dorfman theatre and Paradise in the Olivier theatre, with extra tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 19 July.  

Tickets for The Normal Heart, East is East, Manor and Hex on sale to the public from Friday 30 July. Continue reading “News: National Theatre On Sale, July 2021 – January 2022”

News: The Mono Box launch The Monologue Library

I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent! 

 

I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…

This incredible resource is free but like so many creative endeavours right now, would benefit hugely from your donations here

 

TV Review: The Split Series 2

Despite a fabulous returning cast, Series 2 of The Split is classy-looking tosh. Very watchable but tosh all the same.

“The last thing we need is for any more salacious details to come out”

Much like Series 1, the second season of Abi Morgan’s The Split treads a line between legal drama and deluxe soap opera and more often than not, it is less of a balancing act and more of a case of elements of the former sprinkled into a heavy dose of the latter.

Which in many ways in just fine. Getting to see the likes of Nicola Walker, Deborah Findlay and Anna Chancellor strutting in expensive contemporary costumery is a blessing in itself and the production values of this show never dip below the glossy magazine standards it has set itself. Continue reading “TV Review: The Split Series 2”

Review: Torch Song Trilogy, Turbine Theatre

The Turbine Theatre opens with a production of 80s gay classic Torch Song Trilogy

“Just because I said that’s what I want doesn’t mean that’s what I want. I mean, that’s what I want but that doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily ready for it”

I remain unconvinced that what London wants, needs or is ready for is yet another new theatre but regardless, the Turbine Theatre is here, lurking under the arches in the shadow of Battersea Power Station like a cross between the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Union Theatre.

Its opening salvo is a production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy, directed by Drew McOnie in his straight play debut and in terms of appealing to – indeed finding – a new core audience (in lieu of the community of people who will actually live in this new development, heading for the gays makes for a wise choice. Continue reading “Review: Torch Song Trilogy, Turbine Theatre”

TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1

Gentleman Jack proves a huge success, for Sally Wainwight, for Suranne Jones, for lesbian storytelling, for everyone

“So much drama, always, with Anne”

Even with as reliably assured hands as Sally Wainwright’s at the tiller, I was a little nervous for Gentleman Jack in the pride-of-place Sunday evening TV slot. But I should have been surer of my faith, for it has been a stonkingly good 8 hours of drama, with an epically romantic lesbian relationship at its heart.

Anne Lister (Suranne Jones) is a wealthy Yorkshire heiress whose uncompromising nature about any and every aspect of her life rubs any number of people up the wrong way. Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) is most definitely not one of them though, she wants to be rubbed the right way and so we follow the path of true love as it winds through the prejudices of the Yorkshire Pennines and Anne’s attempts to break into the coal mining world. Continue reading “TV Review: Gentleman Jack Series 1”

TV Review: Years and Years

Years and Years sees Russell T Davies take on dystopian near-future sci-fi to startling effect

“We’re not stupid, we’re not poor, we’re not lacking. I’m sorry, but we’re clever. We can think of something, surely.”

What if…? What if…? What Brexit happens, what if Trump is voted in again and fires a nuclear bomb towards China, what if global warming happens today and not tomorrow, what if Lee from Steps is the most successful one…? Such is the world of Years and Years, Russell T Davies’ latest TV venture, a six-part drama that dares to ask what if it is already too late.

He uses the Lyons family as a prism to explore what the next 15 years of human history might look like, as technological advances make leaps and bounds alongside the political and social upheaval that strikes at the very heart of this sprawing middle-class Manchester-based family. It’s a daring piece of drama, full of Davies’ typically big heart and bold emotional colours and I have to say I rather loved it. Continue reading “TV Review: Years and Years”

TV Review: Humans Series 3

I can’t help but think Humans might have run its course as a uniquely intelligent and British sci-fi drama

“…the coming together of man and machine. You can change the course of history…”

I’ve enjoyed where Humans has taken us thus far, and the beginning of a third series seemed promising. But as I got to the end of this season and twist after twist pointed at where the story might well continue, it felt like I might have reached my expiration date with the show.

The human/synth baby that Mattie is carrying, Niska’s transformation into ur-Niska, V’s survival…it’s hard not to feel that any of these feel far less interesting than where Humans are trod thus far in its carefully balanced but uniquely British brand of sci-fi. Continue reading “TV Review: Humans Series 3”

Review: As Is, Trafalgar Studios 2

“You have HIV, you’re not radioactive” 

William M Hoffman’s As Is has the distinction of being the first play to be written about the Aids epidemic but what is more impressive about this production, which comes 30 years after its 1985 New York debut, is that it doesn’t feel a dated period piece. Director Andrew Keates respectfully looks to the past – a memorial wall is provided for audience members to pay tribute to those that have been lost – but firmly anchors us in the present with a wide range of post-show activity exploring the sexual health issues that are still a major part of our world today.

It also helps that Hoffman’s play is really rather well constructed. It may be set in the middle of a New York gay scene slowly coming to terms with its decimation but at its heart, it is a poignant love story. Self-satisfied and sexually voracious, Rich swaggers through the world but as he contracts the disease that is afflicting so many of those around him, his relationships with friends, family and society in general are forcefully redefined. Clinging to devoted ex Saul, it’s a deeply affecting personal odyssey but a defiantly proud one too. Continue reading “Review: As Is, Trafalgar Studios 2”