Review: Macbeth, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Laugh to scorn the power of men”

Who’d’ve thought 2013 would turn out to be the year of the impressive Malcolm? After Alexander Vlahos’ strongly defined interpretation of a fast-maturing young man for the MIF’s Macbeth in the summer, so now Philip Cumbus makes his own successful stab at the character for the Globe’s take on the Scottish Play, making him an unmistakeable stateman from the off even if he hides it well. The production is most notable for marking the directorial debut of that product-of-a-star-dancing Eve Best and a striking one it is too – whereas Lucy Bailey went all-out Dante back in 2010, Best treats it with a much lighter, even comedic, touch.

It’s a bold choice and one that is just so different that in the trickier moments, it was hard to tell whether I felt it was genuinely unsuccessful or rather that it was just so unexpected. Generally speaking, the vein of black comedy that was teased out was stronger than the broader strokes that often appear in Globe comedies, but the sound of so much laughter in the play did feel at odds with its increasingly darkening horizons, the creeping sense of horror never really materialises as the tonal balance of the production makes it hard for the actors to shift modes and carry the audience with them. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: All New People, Duke of York’s Theatre

“We’re all in pain, Charlie”

Zach Braff’s debut play All New People premiered off-Broadway last year with the new playwright remaining behind the scenes. But for its arrival into the West End, after a short UK tour, the Scrubs star has taken up the lead role as the suicidal Charlie. He’s shut himself away in a New Jersey beach house in the depth of winter to do the deed, but his solitude is interrupted by the arrival of three misfits who set about infuriating him yet ultimately helping to shift his outlook in the subtlest of ways.

Yet the play is anything but subtle. The cutaways to flashbacks to explain why each of the characters has ended up in this particular circumstance offer amusing cameos from a range of stars, but rob scenes of their dramatic impetus; the destruction of a bead-filled piece of African art sets up some painfully contrived pratfalls; the continued recourse to (sometimes highly amusing) one-liners; the clunky shoehorning in of the show’s title in a moment of cod-philosophy in the final moments. The clumsy construction of the play’s components is frequently laid bare and the lack of finesse in the writing all too apparent. Continue reading “Review: All New People, Duke of York’s Theatre”

DVD Review: ShakespeaRe-Told – Much Ado About Nothing/Macbeth

 

You really put the w into anchorman don’t you”

Another of those random charity shop bargains was this double DVD sets of modern Shakespeare adaptations – ShakespeaRe-Told (I bet that was a smug day when that title was revealed!). The first disc features rewrites of Much Ado About Nothing by David Nicholls and Macbeth by Peter Moffatt shifting the plays to a modern context and employing starry ensemble casts.

Much Ado About Nothing has been relocated to a local news station in Dorset where Sarah Parish’s Beatrice is reunited with former colleague Benedick, Damian Lewis sporting an epic moustache – who never quite got round to getting together when they worked together before – on the news desk of Wessex TV. Hero is the weather girl, daughter of the station manager, newly engaged to Claude on the sports desk though Don from Visual Effects has been nurturing an epic crush on her too and so sets about a dastardly plan to break up the engagement. Continue reading “DVD Review: ShakespeaRe-Told – Much Ado About Nothing/Macbeth”

Review: Rocket To The Moon, National Theatre

“None of you can give me what I’m looking for”

Set in the waiting room of a dentist’s office in the oppressive heat of a New York City summer, Rocket To The Moon focuses on the midlife crisis of Ben Stark, an unhappily married dentist who encouraged by his father-in-law, a man dealing with his own frustrations in life, to pursue his own dreams. This leads him to have an affair with his new dental assistant, the luminous Cleo Singer, which starts off as a bit of fun but soon turns into something much more profound in the latest show to open at the Lyttelton.

As Stark, the handsome (and finally released from Coney Island) Joseph Millson is excellent, his nervous smile betraying his emotions all-too-easily as he struggles to balance his moral position with his desire to follow his heart and even as he tumbles for Cleo, he still maintains a certain integrity to the character which is most involving. And making her theatrical debut after a well-received television career, I was quite impressed by Keeley Hawes in the rather thankless role of his highly-strung wife. She managed to bring some humanity to this woman Belle suggesting that she is as much a victim as Ben, even if Odets doesn’t allow her character that much development beyond that of the exceedingly demanding, a heartbreaking moment as she closes the door on her husband encapsulating her performance beautifully. Continue reading “Review: Rocket To The Moon, National Theatre”

Winners of the 2011 What’s On Stage Awards

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
WINNER – Zoe Wanamaker – All My Sons at the Apollo (31.2%)
Helen McCrory – The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Warehouse (7.9%)
Jenny Jules – Ruined at the Almeida (8.5%)
Kim Cattrall – Private Lives at the Vaudeville (21.7%)
Nancy Carroll – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton (10.3%)
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios (20.4%)

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
WINNER – David Suchet – All My Sons at the Apollo (23.2%)
Benedict Cumberbatch – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton (21.4%)
Matthew Macfadyen – Private Lives at the Vaudeville (13.7%)
Rory Kinnear – Hamlet at the National, Olivier & Measure for Measure at the Almeida (14.4%)
Simon Russell Beale – Deathtrap at the Noel Coward & London Assurance at the National, Olivier (16.7%)
Toby Stephens – The Real Thing at the Old Vic (10.6%)
Continue reading “Winners of the 2011 What’s On Stage Awards”

2011 What’s On Stage Award nominations

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY
Zoe Wanamaker – All My Sons at the Apollo 
Helen McCrory – The Late Middle Classes at the Donmar Warehouse 
Jenny Jules – Ruined at the Almeida
Kim Cattrall – Private Lives at the Vaudeville 
Nancy Carroll – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton 
Tracie Bennett – End of the Rainbow at Trafalgar Studios 

THE SPOTLIGHT BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY
David Suchet – All My Sons at the Apollo 
Benedict Cumberbatch – After the Dance at the National, Lyttelton 
Matthew Macfadyen – Private Lives at the Vaudeville 
Rory Kinnear – Hamlet at the National, Olivier & Measure for Measure at the Almeida
Simon Russell Beale – Deathtrap at the Noel Coward & London Assurance at the National, Olivier 
Toby Stephens – The Real Thing at the Old Vic  Continue reading “2011 What’s On Stage Award nominations”

Review: Phantom: Love Never Dies, Adelphi

“Beneath this mask I wear, there’s nothing of me”

I hadn’t originally intended to get a ticket to see Phantom: Love Never Dies, being appalled at the ticket prices when it was announced, but when the National Lottery gods smiled on me and I got four numbers and £64 (the price of a middle stalls tickets plus booking fee) I decided to take the plunge to see if indeed love never dies or whether I needed a defibrillator in my manbag.

It has been billed as a stand-alone story, ie not a sequel despite the strapline being ‘the story continues’… and most of the main characters being taken from Phantom of the Opera, the only new addition amongst the leads is Gustave, Christine’s 10 year old son. The action here takes place ten years after the events of Phantom, the masked man having fled to New York and set up a fairground/freakshow at Coney Island called Phantasmaland. Madame Giry and daughter Meg travelled with him, Meg being one of the performers in the show and looking to make it big in showbusiness through being showcased here.

However, Phantom anonymously invites Christine Daaé to come and sing at this prestigious new venue, an offer she is forced to accept as husband Raoul is now a heavy gambler, and a drunk. So they arrive in New York with son Gustave, and it soon becomes apparent that there’s more than just singing on the menu, as secrets and lies from the past rear their head, long-suppressed feelings rise to the fore and frustrated ambitions boil over with shocking results. Continue reading “Review: Phantom: Love Never Dies, Adelphi”

2009 Most versatile actor of the year

This late addition of a category came out of a couple of things: one a conversation over Christmas mainly about how many of the actors in Cranford I had seen onstage this year but in non-bonnety roles and the realisation whilst watching Twelfth Night that I had seen onstage more than once this year. Hence this award: it’s necessarily limited by the number of plays I’ve seen this year but is still a bit of fun.

Most versatile actor
Nancy Carroll,
Arcadia & Twelfth Night / Simon Burke, When The Rain Stops Falling & La Cage aux Folles

From the aristocratic Lady Croom in Arcadia to the convincingly boyish Viola in Twelfth Night, Nancy Carroll impressed me immensely with her range this year, playing flirtatious, upper-class hauteur with as much dexterity as Shakespeare’s ambiguous, lovelorn twin.
And in equal first, demonstrating just as much versatility is Simon Burke: the very essence of Australian heterosexual blokeishness in When the Rain Stops Falling, he was barely recognisable as the same actor singing his heart out and flirting with all the boys in La Cage aux Folles


Honourable mention
Toby Jones, Every Boy Deserves Good Favour & Parlour Song
From the tormented prisoner with an orchestra in his head to a suburban husband with a cheating wife, Toby Jones displayed a full array of dramtic skills, with a particularly delicious show of comic acting in the latter, with razor-sharp timing and bags full of charisma.

Joseph Millson, Judgment Day & The Priory
James Fleet, The Observer & Twelfth Night
Elliot Cowan,
A Streetcar Named Desire & Edmond
Samantha Spiro, Twelfth Night & Hello, Dolly!

Leading Man of the Year 2009

Perhaps in one fell swoop, I am undoing all the work I have done this year to try and mould myself into a semi-serious theatre critic, but darn it, it is Christmas and I am shallow, so I proudly present to you, my top ten hottest guys I’ve seen on stage this year! And I know, there’s no consistency about whether it’s the actor or the character who I found attractive, but it’s hot guys, who cares!

NB: I did actually book my tickets to see The Priory before the casting was announced, it was purely fortuitous that all 3 main guys happened to end up on this list, true story!

Review: The Priory, Royal Court

“No-one wants to be associated with failure…”

Following on from the mammoth successes of the over-rated Jerusalem and the equally highly praised Enron, The Priory has a lot to live up to in maintaining the Royal Court’s current run. A new play by Matthew Wynne, it follows a group of 30-something old friends as they convene on a country house to celebrate New Year’s Eve away from the rat race. Brought together by their mutual friend Kate for reasons of her own, secrets are uncovered and tempers flare as the frustrations of modern living are brought into sharp relief and the question of ‘what is success’ is repeatedly challenged.

Jessica Hynes’s Kate is the emotional centre of this work. Sifting through the emotional detritus of a highly traumatic year, her search for some kind of meaning is what drives the play. Whether its seeking refuge in the company of old friends, the solace of an old love or the temptation of a new faith, Kate’s attempts to deal with her angst seem doomed to failure, and her loneliness, even when surrounded by others is heartbreaking to watch: I found Hynes to be utterly convincing in this part. Continue reading “Review: The Priory, Royal Court”