Review: Late Company, Finborough Theatre

“When you wake up in a cold sweat at night and you think someone is watching you, well it’s me. I’m watching you”

Guess who’s coming to dinner, Toronto-style. The table has been set at Debora and Michael’s oh-so-tasteful upper class home but the atmosphere is thick with tension as their guests are Curtis, the schoolboy who bullied their son Joel – who committed suicide a year ago – and his parents. The meeting has been arranged in order to try and achieve some kind of emotional closure but as it is revealed just how raw the wounds still are, there’s so much more to dig into than a bowl of seafood pasta.

The Finborough has long had a record of supporting Canadian writers and Jordan Tannahill certainly seems like one to watch. Directed with an unhurried and unfussy clarity by Michael Yale, Late Company blisters through its hot-button topics of cyber-bullying and teen suicide with real skill, presenting an even-handed look at the issues but what really impresses, is the way in which he drips revelation after revelation into his narrative to keep us constantly on the edge of our seats. Continue reading “Review: Late Company, Finborough Theatre”

Review: Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe

“Must I bite?”

Marking the final entry in the Globe to Globe festival is the UK with this production of Henry V which reunites Jamie Parker with the role of Prince Hal that he played in 2010’s Henry IV Part I and II. The boy has now become king and the play covers his attempt to reconquer the English gains in France, most notably at the battle of Agincourt, and his growth into a leader who can inspire men to follow their duty to their country. Parker clearly has a close affinity to this character and it was a clever move to wait a couple of years before taking on this particular part as he is able to bring even more clear-spoken gravitas, colour and detail to this very human king.

Around him though, is a production by Dominic Dromgoole which errs very strongly towards the broadest crowd-pleasing comedy it can manage. Bríd Brennan’s beautifully versed Chorus and Olivia Ross’ poised Princess Katherine impressed as did the multi-part antics of Chris Starkie and Beruce Khan (additionally stepping in as understudy for an indisposed Matthew Flynn). But too often, the overreliance on the comic tone just fell flat for me. The Pistol, Bardolph et al antics were as bawdy as they have ever been, which ended up undermining their darker side (is the treatment of the French soldier really a subject of comedy?) and the tragedy of their fates (Boy is particularly hard done by). Continue reading “Review: Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe”

Review: Autumn and Winter, Orange Tree Theatre

“What did you do to me?”

Autumn and Winter, at the Orange Tree in Richmond, opens powerfully with a Stockholm family dinner party coming to an end but debates over a range of subjects still coming thick and fast with predictably liberal Swedish upper-middle-class attitudes prevailing, whether about immigration, drug abuse or the economy. But this is no tidy social affair and the conversation returns over and over again back to themselves and their unique family dynamic. This is mostly driven by the behaviour of younger daughter Ann, relentlessly self-analytical and forever complaining about her struggles as a would-be playwright and single mum in the face of the comparative luxury of the rest of her family.

Lars Norén, little known in this country but one of Sweden’s best playwrights and very popular on the continent, keeps to a naturalistic style here with conversations spilling into each other, dialogue overlapping, people talking over each other whilst Ann behaves likes a spoilt brat and considering this was their first performance, the controlled energy from the cast was rather well calibrated, bouncing off each other well and creating that well-worn sense of long-suffering familial tolerance. But as the play progresses and each character gets their turn to air their long-held grievances and reveal a couple of shocking home truths, matters become a little wearing and, to be honest rather tiresome, as we slowly work our way around the table. Continue reading “Review: Autumn and Winter, Orange Tree Theatre”