Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor, RSC at the Barbican

In the spirit of the season, I’m not commenting too much on the RSC’s The Merry Wives of Windsor at the Barbican

“I hope we shall drink down all unkindness”

Fiona Laird’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor is the third of the RSC’s show to open at the Barbican this winter and whilst it is certainly an eye-catching revival with its Only Way is Essex tendencies, it really wasn’t the one for me.

Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes ((with interval)
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Merry Wives of Windsor is booking at the Barbican until 5th January

TV Review: Press (BBC1)

Mike Bartlett’s Press has a fantastic company and big ambitions but is probably best enjoyed as feisty entertainment than an accurate portrayal of the world of journalism

“We do it through the most outrageous storytelling in the world, not statistics”

A lot of the chat around Mike Bartlett’s new series Press, as written by journalists at least, was around how the show fails to represent life at a contemporary newspaper in an accurate manner. So I hasten to remind us all, as if it were really necessary, that Press is a drama and not a documentary, and that dramatic license and a real, and frankly essential, thing.

Soapbox done, this six parter is an interesting if simplistic look at duelling newsroom as it follows the teams at Sun-a-like The Post and Guardian-a-like The Herald as they follow stories, set the news agenda and battle for the very soul of journalism. It’s all highly watchable in a popcorn-munching kind of way but – perhaps ironically given my first paragraph – the shadow of the real world occasionally looms a little too large.  Continue reading “TV Review: Press (BBC1)”

2017 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Andrew Polec, Bat Out of Hell, London Coliseum
John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Crucible
John Partridge, La Cage Aux Folles, UK Tour
Jon Robyns, The Wedding Singer, UK Tour
Michael C. Hall, Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre
Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris, Dominion Theatre

Best Actor in a New Production of a Play
Andrew Scott, Hamlet, Almeida Theatre
Arinzé Kene, One Night in Miami…, Donmar Warehouse
Brendan Cowell, Life of Galileo, Young Vic
Conleth Hill, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Harold Pinter Theatre
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus, National Theatre
Nicholas Woodeson, Death of a Salesman, UK Tour Continue reading “2017 BroadwayWorld UK Awards Shortlist”

Review: The Mentor, Vaudeville

“There is a misplaced apostrophe on page 57”

Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov studio has become quite the workhouse for churning out new European writing. Florian Zeller The Father has been the most notable and still they come with their transfers to the West End, the latest being German writer Daniel Kehlmann’s The Mentor, with Oscar winner F Murray Abraham in tow.

Read my 3 star review for Official Theatre here (at least one of those stars is for Abraham alone)

Running time: 80 minutes (without interval)
Booking until 2nd September

Round-up of news and treats and other interesting things

Hollywood and Broadway icon Stockard Channing will return to the London stage this summer, to star in a new production of Olivier Award winner Alexi Kaye Campbell’s acclaimed drama Apologia, directed by the multi-award winning Jamie Lloyd.

Opening at the Trafalgar Studios on 29th July, Apologia will see the Tony and Emmy Award winning actor performing in the West End for the first time in over a decade. Channing’s hugely popular film and TV credits include starring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, her Oscar® and Golden Globe nominated role in Six Degrees of Separation, and the iconic role of Rizzo in the film Grease. An acclaimed Broadway and West End star, Channing’s most recent performances on Broadway, It’s Only a Play and Other Desert Cities (a “peerless” performance -NY Times, for which she was nominated for her seventh Tony Award), have affirmed her position as a true theatrical legend.

Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play is a compelling drama about the importance of family and the pressures commitment and principles exert on it. Apologia follows his critical success with The Pride and his acclaimed plays Sunset at The Villa Thalia at the National Theatre and The Faith Machine at the Royal Court Theatre.

Stockard Channing plays Kristin Miller, a firebrand liberal matriarch of a dynamic family, who is presiding over her birthday celebrations. An eminent art historian, Kristin’s almost evangelical dedication to her career and her political activism has resulted in her sons – Peter, a merchant banker, and Simon, a writer – harbouring deeply rooted and barely suppressed resentments towards her. The fissures in her relationship with them are brought to the fore by the recent publication of her memoir.

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

Film Review: Suffragette

“You want me to respect the law? Then make the law respectable”

Directed by Sarah Gavron and written by Abi Morgan, Suffragette offers a rather striking perspective on the women’s suffrage movement, inventing a working class character and following her political awakening at a key moment in the fight for women’s rights. Carey Mulligan’s Maud Watts is a dutiful wife and mother, working long, thankless hours at a Bethnal Green laundry whose chance encounter with a riotous group of suffragettes slowly rouses something within her.

This is where Morgan and Gavron’s approach pays dividends, in seeing the movement through working class eyes away from the privilege and relative freedom of the leaders. Even on a shop-floor full of much-put-upon women, suffragette is spat as a dirty word and in the close-knit neighbourhoods too, the leap that Maud has to make to merely stand up for what she believes is right is that much more difficult, more life-changingly dramatic and Mulligan is truly superb in tracing this transformation. Continue reading “Film Review: Suffragette”

Review: Address Unknown, Soho Theatre

“I loved you not because of your race, but in spite of it”

Adapted for the stage by Frank Dunlop, Address Unknown started life as an epistolary novella from 1938, written by Kathrine Kressman Taylor and charting the tragic deconstruction of a once-beloved friendship. Max and Martin are German business partners, the former a Jewish art dealer residing in San Francisco and the latter a Gentile who has now returned to Munich. But the year is 1932 and with National Socialism on the rise, the pair become increasingly estranged as their lives and philosophies diverge to the point of no return.

Over a period of a couple of years, the two men exchange letters and this is what makes the play. Two desks on raised platforms are occupied by two men, each reading aloud what they write and the other reacting, over and over until bitter recrimination has swallowed the last tiny bit of affection that was ever there. Steve Marmion injects as much intensity as possible into the production which is essentially static by nature, opting to ratchet up the atmosphere with the crackle of newsreel and radio adding texture and the lighting design increasingly exposing their differences even in terms of office furniture and wall decoration. Continue reading “Review: Address Unknown, Soho Theatre”

Review: Table, National Theatre

“I have a world map on my door.
‘We’ll see if we can find Lichfield on it later’.”

As the Cottesloe becomes the Dorfman, among other changes, the National Theatre has erected a temporary space called The Shed to keep a third working venue in their complex and opening the programme there, is this original play Table by Tanya Ronder. A family saga that stretches across several generations from 19thcentury Staffordshire to modern day London, taking in trips to hippy communes and East African missions, and with a rather gentle grace, it explores the way in which the actions of our parents impact on the people we become and how easy it is to irrevocably hurt the ones we love.

It’s a densely told story, made more complex by a fracturing of the timeline which sees the focus constantly shifting between time periods, and it may take some getting used to. Rufus Norris marshals his deeply talented cast of nine, who cover thirty characters across six generations of the Best family, with a highly engaging playfulness but it does take a little time for the key pieces to come into focus and for the play to really coalesce into something affecting. But when it does get there, and it was the second half for me, its gentle energy and reflective charm make for a winning combination. Continue reading “Review: Table, National Theatre”

Review: Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Globe

“The reward of sin is death”

The tale of Faust is one which is seemingly never far from our stages in one form or another, whether it is opera, another opera or Icelandic acrobatics. But Christopher Marlowe can lay claim to perhaps being the first to dramatise this story back in Elizabethan times and this production of Doctor Faustus marks the first time it will have been performed at Shakespeare’s Globe.

A strange mixture of dark tragedy and broad comedy, the play looks at the danger of recklessly pursuing the quest for knowledge, power and wealth without due responsibility. Faustus, tired of his life of dusty scholarship, makes a pact with the Devil exchanging his soul after death for 24 years of service from his trusty servant Mephistopheles. Blinded by the material benefits that easy access to the dark arts garners him, the reality of eternal damnation doesn’t hit until far too late. Continue reading “Review: Doctor Faustus, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Little Eyolf, Jermyn Street Theatre

“Is there something troublesome that gnaws in your house?”

My history with Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen has not been an easy one, I don’t think I have really enjoyed a single production of his work but yet I put myself through it time and time in the hope that something will click and I will finally see what it is that makes others acclaim him as one of the finest ever playwrights. Little Eyolf, playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre, is one of his lesser performed work although an updated (to the 1950s) version of it by Samuel Adamson, the little-loved Mrs Affleck, played at the National Theatre in 2009.

Eyolf is a nine year old boy on crutches, crippled after an accident as a baby. His father Alfred returns from a spiritual retreat to the nearby mountains, with a new determination to abandon his writing in favour of dedicating his life to his son. This new-found devotion drives his wife Rita to insane jealousy as she is already suspicious of his close relationship with his sister Asta. But when the mysterious Ratwife arrives at their house with her offer of cleansing them of ‘bad’ things, a devastating event follows which utterly changes life for everyone. Continue reading “Review: Little Eyolf, Jermyn Street Theatre”