I’d love to review Simon Stephens’ version of The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic but Katie Mitchell’s enthusiasm for the naturalistic approach meant I heard very little, and I mean very little of it. It’s not even as if I could see to lip-read either, the crepuscular lighting combining with a propensity to mutter and the choice that several made to speak with their backs to the audience. I’m not commenting on Mitchell’s artistic choices, I’m simply being truthful about how the basic difficulty of just hearing what was going on. And as such, I’m just not inclined to comment on anything more. If you have any sort of hearing problem, I urge you to ensure you get to the captioned performance on 27th November.
“I choose to take back my life.
Booking a return trip to anything Helen McCrory is starring in is something of a reflex action now but I was more pleased than usual to be able to revisit Medea as conversations with numerous of my friends who were not fans had left me questioning whether I had maybe over-rated the show on first viewing. And it was equally nice to find out that I had not. I can see why elements of Carrie Cracknell’s production might have been polarising but for me, the synergy between the different disciplines is alchemical.
From jerky dancing to Goldfrappian swells of music, luxury cameos through to an actor magisterially making her mark on an oft-played role to dominate the vast auditorium of the Olivier, it’s a Medeafor our time and so it was entirely correct that this performance should be part of the NTLive programme and be broadcast to cinemas across the world. Spine-chillingly remarkable stuff and that’s all I really have to say!
Running time: 100 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Booking until 4th September
“Dear Emma bears everything so well”
Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Emma for the television may have suffered by being released in the same year as the Gwyneth Paltrow-starring film version but it is infinitely superior, a much better observed version blessed with an excellent cast, many of whom have gone on to bigger things indeed. Emma herself is played by Kate Beckinsale, Mr Knightley is the recently-returned-to-our-stages Mark Strong, Samantha Morton is the willing Miss Smith and the ever-superb Olivia Williams stars as the inscrutable Miss Fairfax.
Star-spotting aside, it really works as a piece of drama. There’s a real warmth behind the whole affair which keeps it entirely engaging, Beckinsale’s Miss Woodhouse is the personification of charm and her gaucheness feels genuinely couched in innocence as she leads Morton’s Harriet a merry dance with her misguided match-making and eventually learns more about the world than her Highbury blinkers ever allowed. And Mark Strong’s pragmatically strong (ba-dum-tish) Knightley is a perfect match for her, practical in every sense as a hands-on landlord. Continue reading “DVD Review: Emma (1996 TV)”
““Terrible things breed in broken hearts”
Euripides’ Medea has long been considered one of the greatest roles for a woman to play so it is a little surprising (or perhaps not) that it hasn’t been performed at the National Theatre before. But the winds of change blow even on the South Bank so it makes great sense that one of our finest living actresses, Helen McCrory, should take on the part in a production by Carrie Cracknell, herself responsible for making some of that change with recent shows like A Doll’s House and Blurred Lines.
Ben Power’s new version relocates the betrayed Medea in a blasted contemporary setting (another ingeniously cracking design from Tom Scutt, evocatively lit by Lucy Carter) where she and her two children anxiously await news of the husband and father who has abandoned them for a newly politically expedient marriage. Trapped in a foreign land, having severely burned her bridges with her homeland, we watch helplessly along with a hefty Greek Chorus as grief inexorably transmutes into anger. Continue reading “Review: Medea, National Theatre”
“We rubbed along alright”
Master of televisual adaptation Andrew Davies turned his hand to Angela Lambert’s novel A Rather English Marriage in 1998 and watching it back now, it seems to harken back to an even earlier age, one of uncomplicated classic quality with a resolutely unfashionable straight-forwardness that we simply don’t see that much at all these days. The tale is a simple one of two retired veterans who, after being widowed on the same day, are placed together by a well-meaning social worker who reckons the companionship will do them both a world of good.
They’re an odd couple though. Albert Finney’s Reggie was an air squadron leader and having married into money, is used to a wealthy life. By comparison, Tom Courtenay’s Roy was a mere NCO and became a milkman after the war so as they move into together, Reggie naturally assumes a dominant position with Roy slipping easily into the habit of calling him Sir as their relationship settles into something imbalanced. Ultimately, both men recognise the private pain they are hiding as long-held secrets come to light but it is the return of women to their lives that proves to be the most significant change. Continue reading “DVD Review: A Rather English Marriage”
“I’m afraid they’re going to have to get used to not having me around quite so often any more”
Not a huge amount to say about a return visit to this excellent Ibsen adaptation which I first saw back in July last year – since then, A Doll’s House has won multiple awards, mainly for its leading star Hattie Morahan, returned to the Young Vic for a repeat run, moved into the West End for a further extension and announced a transfer to Broadway, not a bad piece of work really. I loved it first time round, against all expectations, and wasn’t intending to revisit but the canny pricing of the transfer meant tickets in the front rows were a bargainous £10 and so I booked for the end of the London run.
And I enjoyed it more or less just as much as last time. Being able to revisit a show, especially a play, after more than a year is a rare pleasure indeed but it was one that paid dividends as Carrie Cracknell’s production continued to deliver its excellently compelling take on the Helmers’ marriage. Though still set closer to Ibsen’s time than ours, Morahan and Dominic Rowan make Nora and Torvald into living, breathing people with the flaws that we all carry in one way or another and deserving of our empathy, if not necessarily our sympathy, as Nora finds the strength to take on society and pursue her own radical destiny. New York should embrace this production with open arms.
Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 26th October
|Best Actress in a Play||Kate O’Flynn, Lungs||Laurie Metcalf, Long Day’s Journey Into Night||Hattie Morahan,
A Doll’s House
Helen McCrory, Last of the Haussmans
Big and Small
|Best Actor in a Play||Luke Treadaway, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time||Rafe Spall, Constellations||Billy Carter, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me
David Suchet, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Hugh Ross, A Life
Dominic Rowan, A Doll’s House
|Best Supporting Actress in a Play||Niamh Cusack, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time||Laura Howard, Lost in Yonkers||Ruth Sheen, In Basildon
Nicola Walker, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
Katie Brayben, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Open Air)
Fenella Woolgar, Hedda Gabler
|Best Supporting Actor in a Play||Paul Chahidi, Twelfth Night (Globe)||Charles Edwards, This House||Robin Soans, Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me
Rory Kinnear, Last of the Haussmans
Cyril Nri, Julius Caesar
Olly Alexander, Mercury Fur
|Best Actress in a Musical||Carly Bawden, My Fair Lady||Janie Dee, Hello, Dolly!||Caroline O’Connor, Gypsy
Anna Francolini, Victor/Victoria
Rosalie Craig, Ragtime
Jenna Russell, Merrily We Roll Along
|Best Actor in a Musical||Simon Russell Beale, Privates on Parade||Mark Umbers, Merrily We Roll Along||Richard Dempsey, Victor/Victoria
Julian Ovenden, Finding Neverland
Will Young, Cabaret
Dominic West, My Fair Lady
|Best Supporting Actress in a Musical||Clare Foster, Merrily We Roll Along||Bonnie Langford, 9 to 5||Josefina Gabrielle, Merrily We Roll Along
Debbie Kurup, The Bodyguard
Helena Blackman, A Winter’s Tale
Laura Pitt-Pulford, Hello, Dolly!
|Best Supporting Actor in a Musical||Michael Xavier, Hello, Dolly!||Damian Humbley, Merrily We Roll Along||Alistair Brookshaw, A Winter’s Tale
Stuart Matthew Price, Sweet Smell of Success
Ben Kavanagh, Boy Meets Boy
Oliver Boot, Finding Neverland
Best Actor in a Play
Luke Treadaway, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
I imagine Treadaway will be appearing in many award list, both of bloggers and more official awarding bodies, but sometimes the hype is just correct. It’s all the more impressive given that the condition from which his protagonist suffers is never actually named, yet in his hands it doesn’t matter a single jot as the play becomes about a journey through someone else’s eyes, a uniquely different take on life and one which is a genuine pleasure to discover and watch. See it when it transfers.
Honourable mention: Rafe Spall, Constellations
Although my abiding memory of the play is weeping like a buffoon at the end, a close second is the proposal scene(s) in which Spall played and replayed a pre-prepared speech with varying degrees of success as far as the character was concerned, but always superbly affecting to watch and so very easy to connect with.
Best Actor in a Musical
Simon Russell Beale, Privates on Parade
I’ve already taken a bit of stick for this as we’re in ‘play with songs’ territory but to my mind, Privates… is closer to a musical than a play, some of the songs are actually narrative-driven and it’s my blog so my rules. In any case, this was the first time that I came close to actually seeing why people rate Russell Beale so much with a performance that felt essentially so very true in every single aspect.
Honourable mention: Mark Umbers, Merrily We Roll Along
An ineffably charming onstage presence, Umbers was perfectly cast as the central figure whose journey from appealing dreamer to jaded sell-out is the heart of the show and told in reverse, it provided the ideal showcase for his considerable acting skill alongside a powerful voice.
“Like sands through the hourglass…”
The quote above is not actually from Alan Hollinghurst’s new version of Racine’s 1670 play Bérénice, but to be honest, no lines from it stuck in my head long enough over a post-show drink for me to record them and thus we have Days of our Lives… The reason that that came into my mind is because the predominant image of Lucy Osborne’s striking design of Josie Rourke’s production is of streams of sand tumbling from the ceiling even as we enter the auditorium, which has been partially reconfigured into the round, with stalls right being shifted 45 degrees to where the stage usually is but the circle seats remaining where they are.
Bérénice has long been in love with Titus, but as she is a Palestinian queen and he is the new Emperor of Rome, theirs is not an easy romance. He decides to finally take her as his wife now that power is his but when he discovers that the Roman public are not that keen on the prospect of a foreign queen, Titus is forced to weigh his personal feelings against his imperial duties. He sends his best friend Antiochus to comfort Bérénice though it soon becomes apparent that he is also in love with her and so a tangle of pained feelings and unfulfilled passion plays out between the trio. Continue reading “Review: Bérénice, Donmar Warehouse”
“I’ll tickle your catastrophe”
I was mildly disappointed by the second instalment of The Hollow Crown, Henry IV Part I and so it was pretty much a given that I’d feel more or less the same about Henry IV Part II and so it came to pass. In some ways, little changed: Walters and Russell Beale continued to be themselves, Heffernan continued to be neglected as a simple serving boy, the women continued to get a raw deal of it only this time Niamh Cusack got in on the action with a mere handful of lines as Lady Northumberland (and admittedly Maxine Peake rightly got a bit more screentime as Doll Tearsheet), Hiddleston and Irons continued to be epically good and it all felt a bit too theatrical for my liking.
I did like that we got more Dominc Rowan in this one, though his hair still caused me consternation, Iain Glen and Pip Carter were great additions to the cast as Warwick and Gower respectively – Glen was particularly sonorous when speaking – and everyone has got to love a scene that looks like it could have been set in a gay sauna 😉 And though they lacked a certain something, the rural scenes with David Bamber and Tim McMullan as Shallow and Silence, were largely well-played. Continue reading “TV Review: The Hollow Crown, Henry IV Part II”