Today’s Advent treat is this TV version of Joe Penhall’s Birthday, making it a belated Roger Michell tribute first seen at the Royal Court
“Men can take the pain”
Joe Penhall’s Birthday was first seen onstage at the Royal Court back in 2012 and, in the strange way of these things, was chosen for televisual adaptation as part of Sky Art’s Playhouse Presents… programme in 2015. Roger Michell returned to direct with three-quarters of the original cast, only replacing Lisa Dillon with Anna Maxwell Martin (a mildly interesting decision given that’s his wife…!).
Birthday follows a couple in the final stages of pregnancy. The only thing is it is Ed who is nine months pregnant and Lisa who is pacing the hospital corridors and forgetting to pack the raspberry leaf tea. This is a world where men can have artificial wombs implanted but despite those advances, the often patronising manner that so many pregnant people experience remains very much intact. Continue reading “#AdventwithClowns Day 2 – Joe Penhall’s Birthday”
Constellations returns to the West End and how! One of my favourite plays, with four different casts?! Amazing stuff.
“One drink. And if you never want to see me again you never have to see me again.”
This summer Nick Payne’s beautiful and heartbreaking romance Constellations is revived in the West End with a twist: four different casts take turns to journey through the multiverse exploring the infinite possibilities of a relationship; each refracting the play afresh. Starring Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah (18th June – 1st August), Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker (23rd June – 24th July), Omari Douglas and RussellTovey (30th July – 11th September), and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd (6th August – 12th September).
Ever behind the curve, I present 10 of my top moments in a theatre over the last ten years (plus a few bonus extra ones because whittling down this list was hard, and it will probably be different tomorrow anyway!)
Extraordinary Public Acts for a National Theatre
The establishment of the Public Acts programme at the National Theatre offered up something sensational in Pericles, an initiative designed to connect grassroot community organisations with major theatres, resulting in a production that swept over 200 non-professional performers onto the stage of the Olivier to create something that moved me more than 99% of professional productions. A truly joyous and momentous occasion.
Released last year, Victor Frankensteinhas the ignominy of being something of a flop, a little surprising when you consider it is loaded with Brit talent like James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and was directed by Sherlock alum Paul McGuigan. But as many have learned, not least Dr Frankenstein himself, reanimating old things doesn’t always go smoothly.
Writer Max Landis’ new spin on Mary Shelley’s classic is that the story is told from (the non-canonical) Igor’s perspective, reframing the ‘hunchback assistant’ as something much more nuanced and offering a fresh set of eyes on their scientific endeavours. Here, McAvoy’s Victor is a manic medical student who rescues Radcliffe’s Igor from an undignified life as a circus freak and quite literally gives him a new lease of life as his collaborator. Continue reading “Hallowe’en DVD Review: Victor Frankenstein (2015)”
When low ratings for series 2 of Ripper Street saw the BBC decide to pull the plug on it, it was something of a surprise to hear Amazon Video would be taking it over (this was 2014 after all) in a deal that would see episodes released first for streaming, and then shown on the BBC a few months later. And thank the ripper that they did, for I’d argue that this was the best series yet, the storytelling taking on an epic quality as it shifted the personal lives of its key personnel into the frontline with a series-long arc to extraordinary effect.
And this ambition is none more so evident than in the first episode which crashes a train right in the middle of Whitechapel, reuniting Reid with his erstwhile comrades Drake and Jackson four years on since we last saw them. A catastrophic event in and of itself, killing over 50 people, it also set up new villain Capshaw (the always excellent John Heffernan) and brilliantly complicated the character of Susan, promoting her to a deserved series lead as her keen eye for business, and particularly supporting the women of Whitechapel, throws her up against some hard choices. Continue reading “DVD Review: Ripper Street Series 3”
Actor In A Leading Role
Colin Connor in A View From The Bridge at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Rob Edwards in An Enemy Of The People at Octagon Theatre, Bolton
Jonjo O’Neill in The Crucible at the Royal Exchange
Sam Swann in Pomona at the Royal Exchange
When Rupert Goold first announced the #AlmeidaGreeks season with all its familiar titles, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how genuinely epic a sweep of theatrical innovation it would usher in. From the extraordinary Oresteiato the shattering Bakkhaiand Medea, the radical main house programme has been supported by a wide range of supplementary activity, not least the 16 hour, 60+ actor retelling of The Iliad(which can now be viewed in full on the Almeida website).
So it’s only natural that as the season draws to an end, it is bookended by another Homeric extravaganza in The Odyssey, again with 60 odd actors participating in a 12 hour non-stop feat of major storytelling which was live-streamed on t’internet. And conscious of raising the ante, directors Rupert Goold and Robert Icke took us on a literal journey, putting the players in taxicabs, boats, buses, trekking across rooftops and down busy streets to bring Ithaca to Islington as Odysseus winds his way home. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream”
“How is a woman to have a husband when all the men belong to their mothers?”
You have to respect the huge ambition behindHusbands and Sons, Marianne Elliott and Ben Power’s adaptation of three DH Lawrence plays which sees each of them run simultaneously in the round in the Dorfman. It manages this by taking the Holroyds from The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, the Gascoignes from The Daughter-in-Law and the Lamberts from A Collier’s Friday Night and imagining them living on the same street in the East Midlands village of Eastwood. And spread over three weeks in October 1911, the interlocked, if not intersecting, dramas of their lives play out, dominated by the long shadow of the pit.
Initially it’s a dizzying affair, as the eye and the ear deals with the three separate domestic establishments. Bunny Christie’s design takes a visual cue from the Lars von Trier film Dogville with the fully furnished houses demarcated by white lines on the floor and labelled by name, doors (and coats, weirdly) are mimed with accompanying sound effects. And with a nod to the fixedness of this arrangement, ticket-holders in the pit swap seats at the interval, getting to sit in the corresponding place on the other side of the auditorium, offering an alternative perspective on the goings-on. Continue reading “Review: Husbands and Sons, National Theatre”