Review: Who Do We Think We Are, Southwark Playhouse

“Maybe, just maybe, there is some hope”

Hope indeed, if new theatre company Visible are anything to go by. Gathering together a group of performers to create the only professional British theatre ensemble made up of older actors (60+ if we have to put a number on it) Who Do We Think We Are? sees them work with Sonja Linden to create a tapestry of tales of their considerable lives and experiences which stretch over so many of the key events of the twentieth century.

The concept is simple – the ensemble each work through a telling of their personal histories and given the international make-up of the group, the narrative stretches across the globe as well back to the outbreak of the First World War. As tales of grandparents and parents turn into stories of themselves – sometimes told alone, sometimes assisted by fellow members – the cumulative effect turns into something gently breathtaking in scope, in meaning, in power. Continue reading “Review: Who Do We Think We Are, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, Almeida Theatre

“They are women without men, that’s all”

The list of actresses whom I adore is forever growing and changing but certain women remain constant on it, and one of them – who I never thought I would get to see on stage – is Shohreh Aghdashloo. She completely broke my heart in the film House of Sand and Fog (for which she was Oscar-nominated) and then toyed with our loyalties with a brilliant duplicitous turn in series 4 of 24. So when she was announced as taken on the titular role in the Almeida’s new version of The House of Bernarda Alba, I was ecstatic.

Emily Mann’s adaptation relocates Lorca’s Spanish story to rural Iran and changes a few of the names, but largely keeps the architecture of the play intact (although compressed into 95 minutes here). It is a relocation which is extremely successful, the oppression and repression of female sexuality sadly fitting in as easily here as in Catholic Spain and class issues are common across the world, making this a powerfully affecting, beautifully staged and haunting production that lived up to my every expectation. Continue reading “Review: The House of Bernarda Alba, Almeida Theatre”

Shows I am looking forward to in 2012

Though the temptation is strong, and the actuality may well prove so, I don’t think I will be catching quite so much theatre in 2012 as I did last year. I could do with a slightly better balance in my life and also, I want to focus a little more on the things I know I have a stronger chance of enjoying.

So, I haven’t booked a huge amount thus far, especially outside of London where I think I will rely more on recommendations, but here’s what I’m currently looking forward to the most: Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2012”

Review: The Last of the Duchess, Hampstead Theatre

“I’m trying to get at the truth.
‘Your truth, not hers.’”

The Hampstead Theatre continues its trend of featuring plays concerning real people with The Last of the Duchess by Nicholas Wright, which is based on the book of the same name by Lady Caroline Blackwood detailing her attempts to secure an interview with the Duchess of Windsor towards the end of her life in 1980 to complete her literary profile of her. But though it is Wallis Simpson who is at the heart of the issue, the central figures are her lawyer Maître Suzanne Blum who staunchly defended her client from any outside influence or visitors with something of a siege mentality and Lady Caroline Blackwood herself, commissioned by the Sunday Times to interview the reclusive Duchess but also battling her own personal demons. This was the second preview so feel free to disregard everything written here if you are so inclined.

The play focuses on the battle of wills between these two women as Caroline senses a scoop in the mysterious atmosphere that permeates this Parisian household, intrigued by this powerful figure who now completely dominates the life of the Duchess and sees an opportunity to tell the story a different way. Anna Chancellor plays the disheveled aristocrat beautifully, determined to unravel the mystery she begins to uncover but barely able to keep herself from unraveling too, the glass of vodka that is never far from her hand failing to keep the turmoil of her personal life at bay. And in the other corner, Sheila Hancock exudes a Gallic imperiousness as the fiercely protective Blum, her every breath inexplicably dedicated to protecting the legacy of her employer and clearly relishing the power of attorney she now possesses, yet even she cannot resist the lure of a moment in the spotlight, becoming increasingly susceptible to the overtures to have herself interviewed and photographed by Lord Snowden instead. Continue reading “Review: The Last of the Duchess, Hampstead Theatre”