Review: The Comedy of Errors, RSC at the Roundhouse

“I will go lose myself and wander up and down to view the city”

The endless whirl of festivals continues apace with the return of the RSC to its adopted London home at the Roundhouse. As part of the World Shakespeare Festival, which in turn is part of the London 2012 Festival, the RSC’s Shipwreck Trilogy brings together one company and two directors over three plays which are bound together through their similarities, entitled What Country Friends Is This?. First up is Palestinian director Amir Nizar Zuabi’s take on The Comedy of Errors, a fresh and frenetic romp through the play which, whilst it may lack some poetry, has been invested with a great energy.

Ruled over by a maniacal gun-toting Duke, it is instantly clear that this Ephesus is a dangerous place in which the threat of death is ever-present and a genuine reality. Onto a grim looking quayside, Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse are deposited as illegal immigrants in the elusive search for their twin brothers from whom they were separated in a shipwreck. Unbeknownst to them, they’ve alighted in the right place but almost immediately they are mistaken for their Ephesan brothers and brings into motion a hectic tale of misunderstandings and madcap capers. Continue reading “Review: The Comedy of Errors, RSC at the Roundhouse”

fosterIAN awards 2011

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayEve Best, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)Ruth Wilson, Anna ChristieRosie Wyatt, Bunny
Siân Brooke, Ecstasy
Lisa Palfrey, The Kitchen Sink
Geraldine James, Seagull
Best Actor in a PlayBenedict Cumberbatch, FrankensteinAndrew Scott, Emperor and GalileanTrevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West, Othello
Jude Law, Anna Christie
Charles Edwards, Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayAlexandra Gilbreath, OthelloSheridan Smith, Flare PathSinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayRyan Sampson, The Kitchen SinkHarry Hadden-Paton, Flare PathRobert Hands, The Comedy of Errors (Propeller)
Edward Franklin, Many Moons
Craig Parkinson, Ecstasy
Adam James, Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams)
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Sweeney ToddAdrianna Bertola, Josie Griffiths, Cleo Demetriou, Kerry Ingram, Eleanor Worthington Cox & Sophia Kiely, MatildaLaura Pitt-Pulford, Parade
Beverley Klein, Bernarda Alba
Jemima Rooper, Me and My Girl
Scarlett Strallen, Singin’ in the Rain
Best Actor in a MusicalBertie Carvel, MatildaMichael Ball, Sweeney ToddDaniel Evans, Company
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalSamantha Spiro, CompanyKate Fleetwood, London RoadJosefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalDaniel Crossley, Singin’ in the RainNigel Harman, Shrek the MusicalConnor Dowling, Guys and Dolls
Jack Edwards, Betty Blue Eyes
David Burt, Crazy For You
Nick Holder London Road

2011 Best Supporting Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Supporting Actress in a Play

Alexandra Gilbreath, Othello
The main reason that I travelled to see Othello at the Crucible was not so much for the reunion of The Wire stars in Dominic West and Clarke Peters, but in the casting of Alexandra Gilbreath as Emilia. And it was totally worth it as she made a massive impact, creating a fully rounded character with a history and passions that surely far exceeds what is on the page. Her work in the Royal Court’s The Village Bike also pleased me greatly, making this a great year for fans of the Gilbreath.

Honourable mention: Sheridan Smith, Flare Path
As anyone who saw Flare Path will say to you, ‘the letter scene, THE LETTER SCENE!’. Though second billed below Sienna Miller in this Terence Rattigan revival, Smith pretty much stole the show, finding unexpected deep reservoirs of feeling in Doris, the barmaid with a heart of gold done good, whose reactions to hearing the (translated) letter from her husband were one of the most affecting moments in a theatre all year.

Sinéad Matthews, Ecstasy
Billie Piper, Reasons to be Pretty
Kirsty Bushell, Double Feature 1
Esther Hall, Many Moons

7-10
Claudie Blakley, Comedy of Errors (NT); Janie Dee, Noises Off; Imelda Staunton, A Delicate Balance; Anna Calder-Marshall, Salt Root and Roe

 

Best Supporting Actress in a Musical

Samantha Spiro, Company (Crucible)
It does seem that anyone playing Amy in Sondheim’s Company is a shoo-in for recognition here, Cassidy Janson just missed out on a nomination for her role in the Southwark Playhouse production, but the truth is when the song (Not) Getting Married is delivered well, it really is a showstopper. Janson did well, but Samantha Spiro, already so very beloved of my heart for Hello, Dolly! if not necessarily Chicken Soup with Barley, held the Crucible in the palm of her hand as the scatty bride-to-be whose jitters threaten to jeopardise her whole happiness. She radiates warmth here and never once sacrifices clarity of diction for an easy laugh in that most verbose of numbers: acting through song at its best.

Honourable mention: Kate Fleetwood, London Road
In some ways, it is a bit harsh to nominate one person out of London Road as it really is such a strong ensemble show but Kate Fleetwood emerged most as the beating heart of the show as the unassuming woman who set up the London Road in Bloom competition that forms the centre of the community’s coming together and achieves so very much. Fleetwood taps into so much empathetic normality here that somehow translates into something so special: that first “begonias and, petunias, and um, impatiens and things” is just remarkable.

Josefina Gabrielle, Me and My Girl
Josie Walker, Matilda
Rosalind James, Ragtime
Ann Emery, Betty Blue Eyes

7-10
Lauren Ward, Matilda; Cassidy Janson, Company (Southwark Playhouse); Joanna Riding, Lend Me A Tenor; Katherine Kingsley, Singin’ in the Rain

Review: 13, National Theatre

“Over the last year, it feels like it’s all falling apart…in this country…across the world…”

Mike Bartlett can probably lay claim to being one of the most interesting new British playwrights to emerge this century, steadily building his oeuvre of plays that pick at modern life and expose its shortcomings… And as his profile increases, so too have the stature of the commissions, moving from the Royal Court – where I saw his Cock  – to the Cottesloe at the National Theatre with last year’s Earthquakes in London and now graduating to the Olivier – the youngest writer in 10 years to be staged there – with his latest new play 13.

What is it all ‘about’ I hear you say. Well if that question is foremost in your mind then it is likely that you may be disappointed with 13, as it eschews a conventional sense of narrative for the creation of apocalyptic foreboding in a contemporary London that feels all too realistic. For it is a piece of writing that feels incredibly pertinent, full of up-to-the-minute references to public disorder, social media, student riots and the Arab Spring, concerning a society wracked with disturbing dreams and a crippling uncertainty. What Bartlett alights on is the importance of belief, not necessarily in God but having some conviction that things will be ok if we trust our instincts, and the succour that is gained from collecting as a group behind such beliefs. Continue reading “Review: 13, National Theatre”

Review: Edgar and Annabel, National Theatre

As mentioned in the main review for Double Feature 1, of which this is the opening play, the less you know about Edgar and Annabel in advance the better, as this really is one of those watching experiences that benefits hugely from being allowed to unfold in front of us without any forewarning. So this is your last warning, I will try to avoid too many spoilers but if you’re thinking about going to see this, stop reading (and then come back afterwards!)

Sam Holcroft’s tightly-crafted new play takes place in a land gripped in a police state, with people under constant surveillance in their own homes, where a brave few are attempting to stand up to the ‘Orwellian establishment’. In their kitchen, young married professionals Edgar and Annabel go about their daily business, but it is soon apparent that not all is what it seems. Continue reading “Review: Edgar and Annabel, National Theatre”

Review: There is a War, National Theatre

Tom Basden’s There is a War makes for a more entertaining second half of Double Feature 2, at least for the first few scenes. Occupying the kind of slightly surreal version of reality he has become known for, it is set in a non-specific domain where a civil war is being waged between the Blues and the Greys.

When he is being sharply satirical, Basden is at his best and it shows in the great opening third of the show and the way he skewers the group mentalities that emerge. Whether it is the meaningless bureaucracy of the military, the lengths some people are driven to to avoid certain things, the hypocrisy of the peace protestors, or the sheer ridiculousness of a conflict that no-one is 100% sure about – exactly how different is blue from grey anyway… – yet they all take part in it anyway, he mines a brilliantly dark shaft of humour through the brief appearances of some hilarious characters. Kirsty Bushell’s fantastically-unprepared dance-drama teacher, Trevor Cooper’s Big Dave – advising Richard Hope’s Field Commander Goodman on military strategy, the imprisoned yet chirpy soldier (I think played by Richard Goulding): they all help play up the absurdity of the situation. Continue reading “Review: There is a War, National Theatre”

Review: Danton’s Death, National Theatre

“I’m sick of this rigmarole”

Danton’s Death, the 1835 play about the French Revolution by Georg Büchner, marks an impressive brace of debuts: Toby Stephens making his first bow on the stage here in the title role and Michael Grandage, Artistic Director of the Donmar, making his directorial debut here on the South Bank. Setting up in the Olivier theatre for the summer, it is part of the Travelex season so there’s been plenty of £10 seats available. This was the first preview that I saw, I acknowledge this freely but stand by everything I say here.

The story is set in 1794, a period between the first and the second terrors during the French Revolution. The Committee of Public Safety has been set up in the name of the revolutionary new order and is summarily executing people whether the accusations against them are true or not. Its creator, Georges Danton, has come to regret his part in the genesis of something responsible for the killings of so many people and has been shocked at the way in which the revolution has been increasingly radicalised. His former friend and colleague Robespierre is at the head of this new faction leading the way and when Danton makes a stand for what he sees as too much, the stage is set for an almighty power struggle between the two political rivals. Continue reading “Review: Danton’s Death, National Theatre”

Review: Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall

“There is a destiny that shapes our ends…rough-hew them how we may”

Edmond saw a couple of firsts: my first promenade production and my first ever trip to Wilton’s Music Hall, the oldest and last surviving grand music hall in the world apparently: it is a venue that has only recently come to my attention with some interesting programming, indeed Fiona Shaw will be performing The Waste Land there next month. Sadly though, the hall is semi-derelict and fighting a losing battle to secure the funds to be able to keep it open and serviceable, a shame as it really is an interesting place.

Marking Elliot Cowan’s directorial debut, this site-specific production of Edmond, David Mamet’s 1982 play, makes the most of its venue, utilising varying locations within the Wilton’s complex. Telling the story of a regular white-collar American chap whose meeting with a fortune-teller, who tells him “you are not where you belong”, sets him off on a journey through the seedy underbelly of New York city life, Edmond’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic as less palatable sides of his character rise to the fore, in his search for self-discovery and redemption for his actions. Continue reading “Review: Edmond, Wilton’s Music Hall”