Review: Don Quixote, Swan Theatre

“We are all gathering dust here, none of us have much to do”

It’s a tough job being an actor junkie. Even whilst trying to cut down on the amount of theatre I see, I find it immensely hard to turn down the opportunity to watch long-admired actors in the flesh, hence dragging myself to see A Christmas Carol for Jim Broadbent, overriding my Pinter-averse instincts to book for Timothy Spall in The Caretaker, and heading to Stratford-upon-Avon to see David Threlfall return to the RSC, over 35 years since he was last there.

Drawing him back is a new adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote by poet James Fenton (pulling the focus a bit in marking the 400th anniversary of someone else’s death) that is filled with mayhem and music and madness and melancholy. Determined to translate the world of chivalry of which he has read so much, Don Quixote sets out on his own quest to become a wandering knight, carrying out acts of derring-do with his hapless squire but finding that fictional romantic ideal increasingly hard to come by. Continue reading “Review: Don Quixote, Swan Theatre”

Review: Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre

“I see a change in this Trinidad”

Moon on a Rainbow Shawl is a 1953 play by Trinidadian playwright Errol John which has rather fallen into neglect, due to a rough time with contemporary producers who wanted it changed. But Michael Buffong has unearthed it in its original state for the National Theatre and given the Cottesloe an intimate Caribbean-infused flavour in this rather gentle production which I found to be rather enjoyable.

We find ourselves in a run-down part of Port of Spain where a group of neighbours are introduced to us along with the travails of their lives, disrupted somewhat by the raucous  troops returning from the Second World War, as some concentrate on getting through the daily grind and others dream of escape. Two main characters exemplify these differing approaches: Martina Laird’s empathetic Sophia, a stalwart matriarch figure rooted in this homestead and whose heart beats for everyone , and Danny Sapani’s Ephraim who is determined to carve out a better life for himself in England, even as family responsibilities loom large. Continue reading “Review: Moon on a Rainbow Shawl, National Theatre”

Review: Cool Hand Luke, Aldwych

“50 hard boiled eggs…in an hour”

A random fact about me is that I am terrible when it comes to having seen classic movies. It’s a constant source of amusement in pub conversations as people can’t quite believe the list of films I’ve never seen but for whatever reason, I’ve never really been particularly minded to watching them. Consequently I have a pile of unopened DVDs* that people keep giving me as presents or loans that are, honestly, on the list of things I will one day get round to watching.

This convoluted beginning should therefore present you with no surprise when I then say that I have never seen the film of Cool Hand Luke, a stage version of which has now started previewing in the Aldwych Theatre. Adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, from the original novel by Donn Pearce, the story revolves around Luke Jackson, a WWII vet left unsupported on his return to the US and forced into desperate measures, soon ends up in a Florida prison camp. There, he soon becomes a legend with his fellow chain gang inmates with his nonchalant swagger, his impervious refusal to be broken by the guards and his constant prison escapes. Continue reading “Review: Cool Hand Luke, Aldwych”