Review: Blood Wedding, New Diorama

“They washed their hands of blood”

The world of Lorca is naturally imbued with the essence of his native Andalusia, the aching sense of duende that characterises much of his work and at first sight, The Faction’s version of Blood Wedding inhabits a similar realm. Martin Dewar’s lighting casts a warmly Mediterranean haze, guitar strings are plucked from afar and the design is stripped back to a border of sand around the edge of the New Diorama’s stage which has been reconfigured into the round. And in the earthen tones of the costumes, the Cassandra-like Mother foretells a tale of woe between two long-feuding families which are soon to be joined in matrimony in an attempt to force a happy ending.

But the heady scent of sexual desire lingers between the wrong people, vengeance lies heavy in the air and there’s a price that must be paid as fate winds its unwieldy way across all concerned. And in their ensemble-led physicality, The Faction – directed here by Rachel Valentine Smith – cultivate the sense of hermetically-sealed community in all its inescapable oppressiveness, ever-present observers from the sidelines and participants in the rituals of marriage. And in the midst of the hustle and bustle, lead performances come shining through. Continue reading “Review: Blood Wedding, New Diorama”

Review: Three Sisters, New Diorama

“Happiness comes from desire, not fulfilment”

Though it was not particularly to my taste, Benedict Andrew’s radical take on Three Sisters for the Young Vic was a big success last year and so it is a brave company that takes Chekhov’s play on again so soon, not least in opening with a directorial choice which references it so strongly. It is the second play to open in The Faction’s 2013 rep season at the New Diorama after Schiller’s Fiesco, but where that play made imaginative use of the ensemble and sparkled with interesting direction, there’s not quite the same level of creativity at work here in Three Sisters, as this is altogether a straighter reading of a text.

Ranjit Bolt has adapted the text quite considerably and whilst some may baulk at the contemporised truncations, I rather liked the colloquial ease with which it flowed through the trials and tribulations of the siblings trapped in their Russian backwater, determined but seemingly unable to prevent life from passing them by. Director Mark Leipacher keeps things relatively simple, utilising a set of kitchen chairs in a multitude of ways to suggest the rooms of the house that variously keeps them prisoner, offers a blanket that maintains their declining privilege and yet also forms a kind of refuge from the realities of the word. Continue reading “Review: Three Sisters, New Diorama”

Review: Fiesco, New Diorama

“Let the tyrant perish”

Last January, The Faction’s rep season at the New Diorama was an unexpected but much welcomed surprise for me as their ensemble took on Twelfth Night, Mary Stuart and Miss Julie to great effect and it seems I was not alone, as the season was a sell-out success. So they have returned in 2013 with three new plays: Three Sisters and Blood Wedding will come soon but first up is no less than a UK premiere, of Schiller’s Fiesco, a dark swirling tragedy of sixteenth century Italian city politics.

Determined to unseat the long-ruling Doge of Genoa and prevent his tyrannical nephew from succeeding him, a group of conspirators from the Genoese nobility plot to overthrow him and establish a republic. But they’re a diverse group full of individually selfish motivation and as charismatic playboy count Fiesco rises to become the head of the conspiracy, it is clear that the prospect of the ducal throne is just as appealing, if not more so, than simply deposing the ruling family. And so layer upon layer of treacherous intrigue is built up as betrayal comes as often as blinking as revolution threatens to erupt and disrupt all. Continue reading “Review: Fiesco, New Diorama”

Review: Miss Julie, Faction at New Diorama

“I have to get down but I don’t have the courage to jump”

Miss Julie is the third iteration of the Faction rep season at the New Diorama, though there’s been a bit of a gap for me between seeing this and the brilliant first two –Twelfth Night and Mary Stuart. And I’m not sure if it was the gap, my feelings that night or perhaps the company stretching themselves just a little bit too far, but I did not take to Strindberg’s play half as much as I did the others.

Part of it came from the feeling that this was more of an afterthought than an integral part of the rep season – it seems an odd choice for the company to choose with an ensemble at work as the play is a three-hander at heart. Miss Julie is a Count’s daughter but rather than attend the formal ball being put on by her father, she opts to go to the party being held by the servants where she embarks on a dangerous flirtation with footman Jean. Continue reading “Review: Miss Julie, Faction at New Diorama”

Review: Mary Stuart, Faction at the New Diorama

“Who could look at these naked walls and say that majesty lives here”

When I booked in for the first show in the Faction’s rep season, Twelfth Night, I knowingly said ‘I hope this isn’t good’ as I knew that if it were, then I would be suckered into seeing their other two shows. But it was, exceedingly so, and so I found myself back at the New Diorama for the opening of the second show, Schiller’s 1880 play Mary Stuart in a new version by Daniel Millar and Mark Leipacher.

One of my big theatrical regrets of pre-blogging times was missing the Donmar’s production of this play and so this was my first time of seeing it, though I’m fairly familiar with the history, it being an era I’ve always liked. Schiller depicts the final days of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic cousin and rival to the throne of Elizabeth I, as she is held under house arrest in England whilst the queen decides on her fate. The intrigues of the Elizabethan court are vividly captured as noblemen’s loyalties remain murkily hidden with religion and politics playing off against each other and double-dealing being the order of the day. Continue reading “Review: Mary Stuart, Faction at the New Diorama”

Review: Twelfth Night, The Faction at New Diorama

“What great ones do, the less will prattle of”

With a burst of enthusiasm and ambition that should inspire anyone who is already struggling to keep their New Year’s resolutions,The Faction Theatre company are launching into 2012 with a three play rep season for the next seven weeks at the New Diorama Theatre. First up is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a romantic comedy of assumed identities, passionate yearnings and carousing nobles with a hard edge of revenge. The play is well suited for a large ensemble – the 11 actors here will all star in all 3 plays – and in Mark Leipacher’s production, proves a considerable, imaginative success.

The black box of the New Diorama is kept bare and the use of props judiciously low thus focusing the attention on the text, which is extremely well spoken here, and on the physical language employed by the company which creates some moments of striking imagery. The cell within which Malvolio finds himself interned is created from bodies and hands pressed all around him; the tree for the gulling scene made from six actors outstretched and swaying gently in the breeze; the shipwreck is powerfully evoked through movement, and a bedtime scene is extremely wittily and cleverly portrayed. It all makes for a constantly engaging production which, with the great deal of pace, means the attention is rarely allowed to waver. Continue reading “Review: Twelfth Night, The Faction at New Diorama”