Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre

“That is the land of lost content”

You’d be forgiven for going with Beatrix if someone started talking about a story about children written by someone called Potter. But Blue Remembered Hills is the work of Dennis Potter, an altogether different proposition and indeed, Squirrel Nutkin would fear for his life even more than usual if he were present in this Forest of Dean setting. For this is no idyllic treatise on the joys of childhood but rather an acutely observed portrait of how brutal a time it can be and how difficult it is to cling to innocence.

Potter’s innovation here is to have his cast of seven 7-year-old characters played by adult actors. Spending a hot summer’s day in 1943 running up and down the grassy bank, playing at mummies and daddies or being aeroplanes, barely a care in the world one would think. But from the opening scene, any hint of a rose tinted glow is stripped away as the playwright lays bare a stark vision of society in all its viciousness, complexity and relentlessness – the group continually jostling for position to avoid the ignominy of being the last to be picked. Continue reading “Review: Blue Remembered Hills, Richmond Theatre”

Review: Mongrel Island, Soho Theatre

“Administrate it to buggery”

Steve Marmion’s opening season as artistic director for the Soho Theatre continues with Mongrel Island, a new play by Ed Harris, which follows on both thematically, in its utterly surreal exploration of the mind and memory and in retaining part of the same company, who played in Anthony Neilson’s Realism which has just finished its run in the main theatre. Harris sets his play in the workplace, an office where a group of people are going about the deathly dull business of a massive data transfer, a job so mind-numbing yet all-compassing that it soon starts to take over their whole lives.

Marie, Only Joe and Elvis toil away under the watchful, twitching eye of boss Honey, but when Marie, a charming turn from Robyn Addison, takes on extra hours in order to try and get a few days off to visit her father, the already odd atmosphere in the office takes a turn for the even more surreal. Harris’ writing is strongest when he is evoking the grim realities of an uninspiring working life, the inane chat to fill the silence, the casual cruelty born simply of the need to entertain, the sexual connections made to alleviate the boredom. Simon Kunz’s vicious Only Joe and Shane Zaza’s Elvis with his head seemingly in the clouds entertaining greatly here, Elvis’ storytelling having a particularly surreal poetic beauty even when talking about giant prawns battling polar bears. Continue reading “Review: Mongrel Island, Soho Theatre”

Review: Realism, Soho Theatre

“What good is it going to do you, moping about your flat all day”

New Artistic Director for the Soho Theatre, Steve Marmion, has chosen an ambitious way to start his tenure using one company to perform two plays – one English premiere of an Edinburgh hit and one new commission – both exploring matters of the mind and sanity. The first of these is Anthony Neilson’s Realism, the story of a man who wants to spend his Saturday doing ‘f*** all’, just curled up on his sofa. This he does, but what Neilson explores is that even in the act of physically doing nothing, the mind remains highly active and can take us on a marathon of a journey that can be just as exhausting as actually running one.

So the tiniest action our protagonist carries out: opening the post, putting a load of washing in, making some toast, triggers memories and trains of thoughts, delving into the full gamut of the emotionally bruising recent past, sexual fantasies and as far back as childhood but also spinning off into fantastical moments and imagining his own funeral. The hugely endearing Tim Treloar takes us on his journey with great skill, negotiating the peaks and troughs as his conscious and sub-conscious clash in the most bizarre of ways. Continue reading “Review: Realism, Soho Theatre”