At more than three hours, The Tragedy of Macbeth stretches the patience at the Almeida Theatre, despite strong work from Saoirse Ronan and James McArdle
“Let not light see my black and deep desires”
The tragedy of Macbeth is that it is a notoriously difficult play to stage well and given its ubiquity on school curricula, it is staged hella often. At least it is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays but the further tragedy of this Macbeth is that it breaks the three hour mark with its running time. And as I left Yaël Farber’s production at the Almeida Theatre, I can’t say I felt it had made the case for such indulgence.
The Tragedy of Macbeth initially grabbed headlines for marking the UK stage debut of Saoirse Ronan (she has previously been on Broadway in The Crucible) and so to get your hands on a ticket in this intimate theatre is a job in itself (streaming could be your friend, details below). And much of Farber’s innovation in recalibrating this show has been to seriously beef up Lady Macbeth’s presence in the play, physically as well as verbally, something which is intermittently very effective. Continue reading “Review: The Tragedy of Macbeth, Almeida Theatre”
The National Theatre has today announced the latest productions to be made available on its National Theatre at Home streaming platform. Launching today, Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams, the Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge directed by Ivo van Hove with Mark Strong and Nicola Walker, and Rufus Norris’ production of Everyman with Chiwetel Ejiofor will be available for all audiences worldwide to stream. Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein and Sonia Friedman Productions’ Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch will also be available for audiences outside the UK and Ireland. Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds five new productions to streaming platform National Theatre at Home”
Series 5 of Jonathan Creek is an ignominious end to a show that started out so well
“Why do I know I’m going to regret this”
It started with the 2013 Easter special but the refresh of Jonathan Creek that characterises Series 5 is a spectacular misfire. Jonathan leaving the world of magic is understandable but making him a mid-level advertising executive is just baffling. And that’s before you add in the wife who appears from nowhere, Sarah Alexander’s Polly, and a move to the countryside to a rural village.
It’s a reset that makes little sense – there is ZERO chemistry between Jonathan and Polly and little evidence to convince of their relationship especially as he now directs his patronising non-explanations at her – and ultimately adds little value. The village setting adds a Midsomer Murders/Marple-ish vibe to the mystery solving which detracts from its USP and also means that there has to be increasingly convoluted ways in which to fold Jonathan back into the world of impossible crimes that he’s ostensibly left behind.
All told, there’s too little sense of fun about the whole enterprise, writer David Renwick’s inspiration perchance finally running dry unlike his continued misogynistic tendencies. An ignominious end to a series that started out so well. Continue reading “TV Review: Jonathan Creek, Series 5”
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, has announced the start of the Young Vic’s 50th birthday with a year-long programme of work entitled We are the New Tide, dedicated to the theatre’s milestone birthday.
The 50th birthday year of work begins with three major commissions:
- The New Tomorrow– for the first piece of live theatre since the pandemic closed UK theatres, this weekend festival of speeches and monologues asks what the next fifty years hold. Writers and artists Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters will explore the change that has come and is coming. Cast to be announced.
3 & 4 October, 4pm, Main House, free
“…now begrimed and black as mine own face”
For all the excitement of Kenneth Branagh’s announcement of his year long residency at the Garrick, the programme was lacking a certain diversity. So it’s pleasing to see that the Tricycle Theatre’s production of Red Velvet has been slotted in for a month, featuring a barnstorming lead performance from Adrian Lester and a fascinating insight into a piece of sorely neglected theatrical history.
My four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be found here.
“Eddie Carbone. Eddie Carbone. Eddie Carbone.”
What more is there to say about a play that was my undoubted favourite production of 2014 (out of more than 380 lest you forget!) and which did more than I could have possibly imagined to finally introduce the spectacular creative force of Ivo van Hove to a wider audience. Not much as it turns out! The Young Vic’s extraordinarily successful A View From The Bridge has now transferred into the West End, setting up shop in the relative intimacy of the Wyndham’s and remains one of the most highly recommended shows that I could urge you to go and see.
My original review is here and I stand by everything in it, van Hove’s recasting of Arthur Miller’s classic still burns with its unstoppable, slow-building tragic force and even in this larger space, maintains the same level of punishing emotion. I hadn’t intended to revisit in all honesty, having seen the original run twice but the announcement of onstage seating – to replicate something of the feel of Jan Versweyveld’s original staging – hooked me back in. When the pricing was finally announced, I balked but the simultaneous release of a new date, complete with tickets for the front row of the balcony (one of the best West End bargains for my money), meant I was helpless to resist. Continue reading “Review: A View From The Bridge, Wyndham’s Theatre”
“You’ll see, you’ll get a blessing for this”
Too often, I leave a play thinking I really want to see it again and never quite manage to get round to booking for it. But I loved Ivo van Hove’s extraordinary take on A View from the Bridge so much on first viewing that I knew there was no chance I wouldn’t make sure a repeat visit would be inked into the diary. And it was just glorious getting to experience this transcendent production of Arthur Miller’s classic play again, to really soak in its textures and further appreciate the acute psychological insight it brings to the work.
There’s not too much more that I can say about the play that wasn’t already mentioned in my original review and being a part of it again simply reaffirmed how I felt that first time. The tension that it creates in the Young Vic almost immediately is exquisitely painful, the knowledge of that final scene coming an additional pleasure, that central scene between Phoebe Fox and Luke Norris (I noticed this time that the way she jumps on him here is identical to the way she jumps on Eddie at the beginning of the play, showing just how complex these relationships are) – I really can’t imagine a better piece of theatre emerging in this country this year.
Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Tristam Kenton
Booking until 7th June, sold out but day seats and return are available from 10am on the day – you will kick yourself if you miss this
“Most of the time we settle for half and I like it better”
And so one of the theatre industry’s best kept secrets is blown wide open – Ivo van Hove is one of the most exciting directors in the world at the moment. I have been near-evangelical about his Dutch-spoken work for a while now (2 of his productions have been shows of the year for me) – booking six hours of Shakespeare here, four hours of Ingmar Bergman there, even going to Amsterdam to see his work with the Toneelgroep Amsterdam company he has so gloriously led for 14 years. So it is a bit of a coup for the Young Vic to secure him for this production of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge which sees him work with British actors for the first time.
From the slow rise of its beautiful opening to the excoriating tragedy of a final montage that will live long in the memory, this production simply confirms van Hove as a man whose theatrical vision is just extraordinary. Here, he takes an already magisterial play, strips it of all theatrical fripperies and pretensions, and distils it into a blisteringly acute psychodrama that is just devastatingly precise in its forensic detail. The experience of watching it in akin to taking a deep breath and then being unable to exhale until the very end, its interval-less momentum carrying the audience right through its two hours and it is hard to see how this will be beaten by any other piece of theatre this year. Continue reading “Review: A View from the Bridge, Young Vic”
“Do you know what would make me feel less old?”
Tom MacRae’s 2011 sitcom Threesome was the first original scripted comedy commissioned by British satellite channel Comedy Central. Starting off as a flatshare comedy about 3 college friends making the most of carefree living in their twenties, the big shift comes after a huge night out which ends up with them regretting a drunken threesome. And this being tv-land, it is not Amy’s boyfriend Mitch who impregnates her but rather their friend Richie, who just happens to be gay. And really being tv-land, they opt to have the baby altogether, raising it as a threesome.
Working their way through the tropes of pregnancy-based comedy, this offers a rather neat twist on the standard gags (Sylvestra Le Touzel makes a great ante-natal class leader), allowing for the complementary characteristics of the trio to make up just about enough maturity for one adult – at least at the beginning of the series – as they each come into their own, Stephen Wight’s Mitch doing the most obvious maturing as the father-to-be of a son who isn’t genetically his. Continue reading “DVD Review: Threesome (Series 1)”
“Condemn the fault, and not the actor of it?”
First things first: this has a double revolve, a double revolve people!! Two bits that move independently from each other! And a table that rises up from the ground! And now breathe… So, from the Shakespeare play I know the best, to one which I’ve never seen before in two days. Measure for Measure sees one of the largest casts ever at at the Almeida, 17 if you’re wondering, and I caught a preview last night.
Set in a Vienna which is riven with sexual depravity and political misdeeds, the Duke of the city decides to leave it in the hands of his hardline deputy Angelo, whilst remaining about incognito in order to see how he fares in restoring order. He disguises himself as a friar where he encounters the highly religious Isabella, who is faced with the prospect of sacrificing her virginity in order to save her brother’s life, that brother having been sentenced to death by Angelo for getting a girl pregnant before they were married. There is then all sorts of gameplaying that ensues, both political and personal, as we rush headlong to the conclusion which may or may not include lots of weddings. Continue reading “Review: Measure for Measure, Almeida Theatre”