News: Casting for MUM, The Mirror and the Light and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

© Jeremy Freedman

Francesca Moody Productions, Soho Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth in association with Popcorn Group have announced that Sophie Melville, Denise Black and Cat Simmons will appear in the world premiere of MUM.  This provocative and unflinching portrayal of early motherhood and mental health, written by Olivier award-winning playwright Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia, The Globe/ West End) and directed by Abigail Graham (soon to also direct Aladdin at Lyric Hammersmith) will run at Theatre Royal Plymouth from 30 September – 16 October before transferring to Soho Theatre from 20 October – 20 November.

Motherhood. No one can prepare you for it. No matter how much you tell yourself you can do it – can you?  Where’s the rush of love? When will you sleep again?  What if the thing you fear most is also the thing you crave?  All you wanted was one night of unbroken sleep, what have you done? 

Nina is a new mum and tonight is her first night off. Tonight is about pizza and wine and letting go. But Nina didn’t feel prepared for motherhood and isn’t sure she fits the job description. Nina feels like she’s losing her grip.

This thought-provoking, funny and honest new play shines a light on early motherhood, anxiety and mental health. MUM examines the pressures and complex emotions many women experience when they have a baby. At a time when mothers have been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, never has it been more pertinent to explore these issues. Continue reading “News: Casting for MUM, The Mirror and the Light and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice”

Review: Tartuffe, National Theatre

Denis O’Hare shines as Tartuffe in Blanche McIntyre’s directorial debut at the National Theatre

“We don’t have orgies here, this is Highgate”

The lure of the guru is one which has always been strong for the rich and powerful and from Rasputin to Steve Hilton, there’s always some long-haired, barefoot chancer to ready step in. This partly explains why Molière’s Tartuffe remains so popular today and also why it is so ripe for adaptation, as it done here in this new version by John Donnelly, directed by Blanche McIntyre in her National Theatre debut (and how to marvellous to see her here, I’ve been a fan since her days at the Finborough).

Relocated to a hyper-rich, modern-day Highgate – Robert Jones’ opulent design is full of the type of wonderful pieces of furniture you normally only see in shop windows on the King’s Road – Orgon’s family have become concerned at his increasing devotion to his new guru figure Tartuffe. And in Denis O’Hare’s hand, you can see why – he’s quite the charismatic chancer, he spends the pre-show roaming the auditorium giving out flowers and affirmations even though it may, at first glance, just look like someone has come in off the street. Continue reading “Review: Tartuffe, National Theatre”

Review: Paddington 2 (2017)

I succumb easily to the charms of Paddington 2 and Hugh Grant having the time of his life

“Exit bear, pursued by an actor”

In a year when sequels have outperformed expectations (at least mine anyway), I should have heeded the signs that Paddington 2 heralded back last winter that sequels were ‘in’. Paul King’s follow-up to his 2014 warm-hearted original, reintroducing us to our ursine Peruvian hero, occupies a similar space of resolutely British family films that are a cut above. 

Written by King and Simon Farnaby, the film is unafraid to take its audience seriously and for every adorably sweet sequence, there’s genuine peril and even darkness in there too. Hugh Grant is the main antagonist, an actor called Phoenix Buchanan who has been reduced to making dog-food adverts and his ne’er-d-well ways see Paddington framed for a crime he did not commit. Continue reading “Review: Paddington 2 (2017)”

Review: Macbeth, Tobacco Factory

“Full of sound and fury”

For those in the know, Filter’s reinterpretations of Shakespeare’s work can be an anarchic delight but for those coming to them for the first time, as I suspect a deal of this matinée audience for Macbeth might well have been, their approach can prove a little disarming. It does presuppose a solid working knowledge of the play and an affection for the anarchic working practices of the company comes in handy too as the sound desk once again becomes an additional member, working overtime to create the truly unique soundscape of this strangely enchanting world.

I’m going to hold off too much comment about the piece as it would appear to be a bit of a work-in-progress. This is cited as the premiere of the piece here in Bristol with a UK tour coming in the new year and one imagines that changes and development will occur, it does have a rawness to it albeit one that is most appealing. More significantly, it is brimming with huge invention – the witches are brilliantly, the way that dialogue is toyed with brings a new psychological depth to play and it feels utterly contemporary in its different attacks on the main characters. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Tobacco Factory”

DVD Review: Luther Series 1

“You don’t need to be thinking about Alice Morgan right now”

By the time that the television series Luther started on BBC1, I was already keen on Ruth Wilson as an actress but the first episode of the first series – which now ranks as one of my all-time favourite pieces of television ever – confirmed her as one of the most exciting people we have working in this country. The show is a high-quality detective drama featuring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a member of the Serious Crime Unit, whose unconventional and often controversial methods frequently sets him at odds with his colleagues and his estranged wife who end up paying the price for his uncompromising genius. 

Entirely written and created by Neil Cross, there’s a most pleasing continuous feel to the six-part series which combines a ‘story of the week’ format featuring some extremely gory and plain icky crimes with larger story arcs which build to the shockingly climactic finish of Episode 6. Ruth Wilson stars as research scientist Alice Morgan, who is involved in the former in Episode One but soon turns into the latter as a wonderfully twisted kind of relationship builds between her and Luther. It is hard to say much more without revealing too much for those who haven’t seen it – shame on you if you haven’t, go and watch it now! – but the way in which Wilson slowly subverts our expectations in that first hour is nothing short of superlative, the gradual reveal completely compelling, the way she says the word ‘kooky’ deserves an award category of its own.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Luther Series 1”

Review: Macbeth, Crypt of St Andrew, Holborn

“Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, loyal and neutral, in a moment?”

The rise of theatre taking place in found spaces is constantly revealing hidden treasures in locations both familiar and unfamiliar to me: making my way to St Andrew church in Holborn took me through the perplexing (to me at least) geography of Holborn Viaduct where London seems to be on two levels at the same time – it’s like something out of Inception I tell you. Once I’d got past my befuddlement, I made my way to the dark depths of the crypt to take in a production of Macbeth that also poses challenges, but ones my brain was slightly more equipped to deal with.

Baz Productions’ rather unique approach sees the company of five actors dressed in civvies – Scott Brooksbank, Lucy Bruegger, Ffion Jolly, Geoffrey Lumb and Katherine Newman – share text and character out between them in a fluidly changing whirl, actors often switching roles mid-scene and passing on the simple props that denotes their character – a gilet for Macbeth, a red shawl for Lady Macbeth, red gloves for the witches etc. Breaking the play down and piecing it back together this way creates something of a kaleidoscope effect, the fragments constantly turning, changing and refracting the picture back to us in a multitude of ways, some immediately recognisable, others ever so slightly altered. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Crypt of St Andrew, Holborn”

Review: Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre

“I have just woken up”

What would happen if Russian playwright Anton Chekhov were to wake from a hundred-year-long coma to find himself slap bang in the middle of modern day London? What his keen observational eye make of this radically different society? That’s the question Dan Rebellato poses in his new comedy Chekhov in Hell which plays at the Soho Theatre after a premiere run at the Drum Theatre Plymouth late last year. Taking Hell to be our contemporary world, in particular the metropolitan excesses of London, Chekhov is exposed to a series of fashionistas, molecular gastronomists, lap-dancing clubs, Twitter, MTV Cribs, even people-trafficking gangsters in a set of interview-like situations, all the while the police are trying to track him down to reunite him with a long-distance relative.

At the centre of the play, Simon Scardifield (taking over from Simon Gregor and returning to acting after some translation work for the Royal Court with Our Private Life) was excellent as Chekhov, saying really quite little in terms of spoken dialogue but speaking volumes with his sympathetic performance, being so far removed from his time zone yet beginning to deal with his own issues by situating himself in his own comfort zone and lending a considerate listening ear to a vast swathe of this new society. Some of the funniest moments come with his struggle to comprehend the modern English of various sections of society, exposing the meaninglessness of much of what comes out of our mouths. Continue reading “Review: Chekhov in Hell, Soho Theatre”

Review: His Dark Materials Part I & Part II, Lowry

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit straight off that the production of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre ranks as my ultimate top theatrical experience ever. I am a massive fan of the books, and could not believe how well Nicholas Wright translated the three novels into two such wonderful, moving plays. Having travelled to Bath to see the youth production at the Theatre Royal there a couple of years ago, I was easily convinced to see the new Birmingham Repertory touring production at the Lowry Theatre in Salford, especially as it was so close to my parental home. So my mother and father, Aunty Jean and I settled in for the same day double bill, Part I at 2pm and Part II at 7.30pm, a little bum-numbingly daunting I’ll admit, but the only way to get the full impact of this theatrical wonder.
 
So much happens in the books and so whilst a lot is lost in the condensing of the action, this is largely to the benefit of the plays as the pacing is kept quite high, with many rapid scene changes which means that you really do have to listen carefully or else you could lose the thread quite quickly if you’re hugely familiar with the plot. That said, I was with two people who had not read the books and they had no problem following the action.

Continue reading “Review: His Dark Materials Part I & Part II, Lowry”