Review: The 47th, Old Vic Theatre

Some wickedly funny writing and tremendous work from Bertie Carvel, Tamara Tunie and Lydia Wilson can’t quite make The 47th great again at the Old Vic Theatre

“It’s not a game for gentlemen we’re playing,
Political and civilized.
This is Historic”

Much has been made of Mike Bartlett’s forthcoming omnipresence on London stages. Cock has just been revived in the West End, the Lyric Hammersmith is about to open Scandaltown and the Old Vic now hosts The 47th, all probing at different elements of Bartlett’s skill as a writer. The 47th harks back to King Charles III in some ways, a return to Shakespearean future history play mode, but one is left wondering why now, why this theatre, why this writer?

Bartlett has pressed the fast-forward button just slightly to take us to 2024 and the next US presidential election. The Republican primaries are about to start and Trump has got his beady eye on them, whilst Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in their own negotiations on the other side. And as the race to the White House heats up once again to insurrectionist levels, a case study of the perilous and precarious state of US democracy is played out in front of us. Continue reading “Review: The 47th, Old Vic Theatre”

Plays update for March

So much play casting news!

Mike Bartlett’s political comedy The 47th opens at the Old Vic on 29th March. Joining the previously announced Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump, Tamara Tunie as Kamala Harris and Lydia Wilson as Ivanka Trump will be James Cooney as Charlie Takahashi, James Garnon as Ted Cruz, Richard Hansell as Steve Richetti, Oscar Lloyd as Donald Junior, Jenni Maitland as Heidi Cruz, Freddie Meredith as Eric Trump, Ben Onwukwe as Barack Obama, Cherrelle Skeete as Tina Flournoy, Ami Tredrea as Rosie Takahashi and Simon Williams as Joe Biden, with all other parts played by the company. 

Directed by Rupert Goold, with set design by Miriam Buether, costume design by Evie Gurney, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Tony Gayle, original music and sound score by Adam Cork, video by Ash J Woodward, movement by Lynne Page, wigs, hair and make-up by Richard Mawbey, casting by Jessica Ronane CDG, US casting by Jim Carnahan, voice by Joel Trill and dialect by Brett Tyne. Continue reading “Plays update for March”

Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe

Michelle Terry arrives as Shakespeare’s Globe’s new Artistic Director with a delightfully comic As You Like It and a sombre Hamlet

We know what we are, but know not what we may be

After Emma Rice’s promises to ‘rock the ground’ found little purchase with the board at Shakespeare’s Globe, it’s fair to say there have been a few people holding their breath with incoming Artistic Director Michelle Terry’s debut season about to start. One of our finest Shakespeareans, she’s placed the actor at the heart of her programming, which opens with the Globe Ensemble performing As You Like It and Hamlet in rep.

And not to belabour the point, but the difference does feel like the gap between someone who sees Shakespeare as a challenge and someone who sees it an opportunity. Terry’s approach may be less ostentatious but it feels no less quietly radical in flexibility to gender, race, disability and more. Across the two productions it provides some blissful and thought-provoking  moments that feel quietly revolutionary. Continue reading “Review: As You Like It / Hamlet, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Cast and creatives for The Globe Ensemble’s As You Like It

Catrin Aaron – Phoebe
Yarit Dor – Fight Director
James Garnon – Audrey
Federay Holmes – Director
Colin Hurley – Touchstone
Bettrys Jones – Orlando
Richard Katz – Silvius
Jack Laskey – Rosalind
James Maloney – Composer
Nadia Nadarajah – Celia
Ellan Parry – Designer
Pearce Quigley – Jaques
Shubham Saraf – Oliver
Helen Schlesinger – Duke Frederick
Michelle Terry – Adam
Elle While – Director
Siân Williams – Choreographer
Tanika Yearwood – Amiens

Cast and creatives for The Globe Ensemble’s Hamlet

Catrin Aaron – Horatio
Yarit Dor – Fight Director
James Garnon – Claudius
Federay Holmes – Director
Colin Hurley – Ghost
Bettrys Jones – Laertes
Richard Katz – Polonius
Jack Laskey – Fortinbras
James Maloney – Composer
Nadia Nadarajah – Guildenstern
Ellan Parry – Designer
Pearce Quigley – Rosencrantz
Shubham Saraf – Ophelia
Helen Schlesinger – Gertrude
Michelle Terry – Hamlet
Elle While – Director
Siân Williams – Choreographer
Tanika Yearwood – Marcellus

TV Review: The Crown, Series 2

A quick whip through Series 2 of The Crown

“History is not made by those who did nothing”

Do I still love The Crown? Yes. Do I still find it a little hard to muster enthusiasm about it until I’m watching it. Absolutely. It remains lavish prestige drama that carries little excitement about it and that’s perhaps inevitable as it trundles through the decades of the second half of the twentieth century, little dramatic surprise can really be sprung.

Instead, the thrills come from the script of Peter Morgan’s fantasia into the emotional life of our monarch, and a production that looks like the multi-millions of dollars that have been spent on it. Oh, and the cream of British acting talent popping in for a scene or two at an astonishingly high rate. Continue reading “TV Review: The Crown, Series 2”

Review: Queen Anne, Theatre Royal Haymarket

“Lie down madam and legs apart
Now brace yourself for this may smart”

Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne played a well-received run at the RSC the winter before last and it has now transferred to the Theatre Royal Haymarket for a summer season. It contains two excellent performances from Romola Garai as Sarah Churchill (stepping into the role created by Natasha McElhone) and Emma Cunniffe as the titular monarch and you can read my four star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets right here.

Running time: 2 hours 50 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 30th September

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Romola Garai will star as Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough alongside Emma Cunniffe as the eponymous monarch in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Queen Anne. They will be joined by Jonathan Christie, Michael Fenton-Stevens, James Garnon, Richard Hope, Hywel Morgan, Beth Park and Carl Prekopp with further casting to be announced soon.

After originally opening at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in November 2015, Queen Anne will transfer to Theatre Royal Haymarket for a thirteen week limited run from 30 June until 30 September. Written by Helen Edmundson (The Heresy of Love, RSC) and directed by Natalie Abrahami (Happy Days, Young Vic), this gripping play explores the life of one of England’s little-known sovereigns and her intimate friendship with her childhood confidante Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.

Continue reading “Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things”

Review: The Winter’s Tale, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

 Thou metst with things dying,
I with things new-born”

It’s easy to feel a little jaded when it comes to Shakespeare, the same plays coming round with regularity and not always inspiring such great theatre. So I’m delighted to report that Michael Longhurst’s production of The Winter’s Tale for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is probably the best version of the play I’ve ever seen. The Kenneth Branagh Company’s The Winter’s Tale was a staid disappointment for me, previously the Crucible had let me down too but in the candlelit atmosphere on Bankside, something truly magical is happening.

It’s a tricky play to get right in its split of two very different worlds but where Longhurst really succeeds is in suggesting that Sicilia and Bohemia perhaps aren’t too separate at all. Modern designers often highlight the dichotomy between the chilly stateliness of Leonte’s Sicilia with the freewheeling japery of Polixenes’ Bohemia but in the simplicity of Richard Kent’s design, they’re both very much on the same sliding scale – psychological darkness pervading the light in both worlds, the promise of redemption ultimately illuminating one and the other too. Continue reading “Review: The Winter’s Tale, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse”

Review: Pericles, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

“Few love to hear the sins they love to act”

A New Year, a new chance for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, a venue that critics love to describe as beautifully atmospheric because they’ve never had to sit anywhere apart from the good seats that press agents put them in. For it is a difficult theatre for the regular theatregoer – recreating as it does the candlelit ambience of a 17th century indoor playhouse, it also has that (possibly) Jacobean feature of premium seating at over £60 a pop. At the other end of the scale, £10 standing spots are available in the upper gallery but there, one has to deal with considerably restricted views. 

As a result, it’s thus been a theatre I’ve easily decided not to frequent that often – the levels of discomfort in the backless seats not endearing me much either – but the lure of the last Shakespeare play I’ve yet to see in Pericles and Rachael Stirling, John Light and Niamh Cusack in The Winter’s Tale has tempted me to bite the bullet. That said, I will be unflinchingly honest about the experiences, as it is a theatre where you want to be forearmed with as much knowledge as possible. For reference, I saw Pericles from standing spot D32 in the upper gallery.  Continue reading “Review: Pericles, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse”