Review: Nora – A Doll’s House, Young Vic

Stef Smith takes Ibsen as a fertile starting point for her new version Nora: A Doll’s House at the Young Vic

“Nora, what have you done”

Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House in 1879 but from 1918 to 1968 and then to 2018, stories like Nora’s endure. That’s the thesis of Stef Smith’s Nora: A Doll’s House, a radical new version that splits its narrative voice in three (and everyone knows how good that can be for a play (qv Emilia, Anatomy of a Suicide).

And it’s a smart move in many ways, drawing as much attention to the progression for feminism in the time periods as how little some other things (men?) have changed. Enfranchisement, contraception, gay rights, they all have huge societal impact but when social and class strictures remain in place, what freedom is there really? Continue reading “Review: Nora – A Doll’s House, Young Vic”

DVD Review: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

“I’ve always encouraged you Ian”

I’d heard of Ian Dury to be sure, but never really engaged with his music or life story so the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – a biography of his life – was pretty much brand new information for me. For those not to speed like me, Dury was stricken with polio at a young age, suffering lifelong disabilities as a result but also gaining the drive and determination to become one of the founder of the punk-rock music scene in Britain in the 1970s with his band The Blockheads. At the same time, his personal life wound a chaotic path as he balanced a wife and two children with the demands of a touring band and his parade of lovers.

Mat Whitecross’ film is full of boundless energy as it mixes Dury’s rise to fame with flashbacks to a childhood spent in a brutal institution and enthusiastic performance clips with Andy Serkis rocking the joint in an excellent performance as Dury. He reveals Dury to be a proudly artistic soul, a talented wordsmith and determined to weave his own path through life, even as he causes the wreckage of many others alongside him. Personally, I’m not a fan of the archetypal narrative that often accompanies genius, their gifts to the world exculpating them from being decent human beings and that is true here.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”

Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC at Theatre Royal Newcastle

“Foster’d, illumin’d, cherish’d, kept alive”

I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at making work trips coincide with theatrical opportunities and as with last year, the stars aligned to put me in Newcastle at the same time as the RSC, and to see a Shakespeare play I’d never seen before as well (only six more to go and one of those will come this weekend). Two Gentlemen of Verona doesn’t get anywhere near as much exposure as some of the others, a recognition that as an early play – possibly even the first he ever wrote – it bears the marks of a playwright still very much working his way into his craft.

It also plants the seeds of what would grow into several of his hallmark devices – the liberating freedom of the forest to solve the problems of the town or court, a woman dressed as a man, sudden and random declarations of love – but they’re deployed here with a little clumsiness as the quartet of lovers here wind their way through the trials and tribulations of love’s young dream. Where Simon Godwin’s production succeeds though is in embracing these issues and shifting the tone of the play from a comedy to more of a problem play. Continue reading “Review: Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC at Theatre Royal Newcastle”

Review: 1984, Headlong at Richmond Theatre

 

 
“You may as well say goodbye”

For a novel written in 1949, it is remarkable how much of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 has seeped into our consciousness. Not just in the phrases we have adopted – Big Brother, thought crime, Room 101, double speak – but also in the world it depicts, of constant surveillance, of the all-controlling state, of the erosion of individual liberties. From Wikileaks to Edward Snowden, David Miranda’s detention even to Paul Dacre’s indignation, the consequences of going up against the establishment, in whatever form, are never far from the headlines and it is clear that Headlong’s audacious re-interpretation of 1984 is an apposite choice.

Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation takes an unusual starting point – the epilogue-like Appendix which offers a whole new level of complication to the narrative of the novel – and uses it to present a dual layer of storytelling. Winston Smith’s trials at the hands of Big Brother as he rebels against the totalitarian state for whom he works are contextualised by a futuristic scenario in which a book group are reading about the trials of Winston Smith. We slide between the two timeframes – as Winston thinks a thought, the book group discuss it – each inextricably linked with the other as we watch this single man, this tiny act of rebellion, being obliterated. Continue reading “Review: 1984, Headlong at Richmond Theatre”

The 2011 Ian Charleson Awards

First prize

Cush Jumbo, for Rosalind in As You Like It (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Second prize

Damien Molony, for Giovanni in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

Third prize

Jodie McNee, for Masha in Seagull (Arcola Theatre)

Commendations

Hiran Abeysekera, for Valère in Tartuffe (English Touring Theatre)
Jade Anouka, for Ophelia in Hamlet (Shakespeare’s Globe)
Mark Arends, for Malcolm in Macbeth (Liverpool Everyman)
Sebastian Armesto, for Wendoll in A Woman Killed with Kindness (National Theatre)
John Heffernan, for Richard II in Richard II (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory)
Ffion Jolly, for Luciana in The Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory)
Ben Mansfield, for Sebastian in Twelfth Night (National Theatre)
Sam Marks, for Friar Peter, Froth, and Gentleman 2 in Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company)
Matthew Needham, for Nero in Britannicus (Wilton’s Music Hall)
Eddie Redmayne, for Richard II in Richard II (Donmar Warehouse)
Lara Rossi, for Myrrha and Macrina in Emperor and Galilean (National Theatre)
Sara Vickers, for Annabella in ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore (West Yorkshire Playhouse)

Review: Macbeth, Everyman Liverpool

“What’s done cannot be undone”

The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool will shortly be closing for an extensive three year renovation programme which will see the building being completely rebuilt to reinvigorate the already sterling work that the Everyman and Playhouse theatres have been doing for the last few years. The final show to be mounted here is a production of Macbeth which features the return of one of its prodigal sons in the title role, David Morrissey, a Liverpudlian by birth who trained at the Everyman Youth Theatre in the early 1980s alongside Ian Hart, Mark McGann and Cathy Tyson.

Originally cast alongside him to play Lady Macbeth was Jemma Redgrave but she had to withdraw due to personal reasons (one hopes that she is ok, that family has suffered enough hardship in recent times) just three weeks before the show was due to open, but fortunately Julia Ford (recently seen in Mogadishu) was able to join the cast and ensure this valedictory telling of ‘the Scottish play’ was able to continue. Continue reading “Review: Macbeth, Everyman Liverpool”

Review: Beauty and the Beast, National Theatre

“You’ve never heard a fairytale until you’ve heard one told by a fairy…”

First in an ever-increasing list of the family Christmas show market is Beauty and the Beast, currently in previews at the Cottesloe in the National Theatre. Devised and directed by Katie Mitchell with text work from playwright Lucy Kirkwood, they have reworked the traditional fairy tale into this delightful new confection aimed at girls and boys over the age of eight (and those young at heart too!)

Mitchell’s twist is to have the story presented to us by magical creatures Mr Pink and Cecile with their helper, and it is these interjections that provide much of the laughs and the interesting narrative drive whereas we might be familiar with the tale of Beauty and the Beast, we have no idea where these characters might end up. She has introduced all sorts of lovely touches to engage her audience, my favourites of which were the mind-reading machine which is used on the characters to reveal their true thoughts but is also turned on some audience members too and the shadow puppets used with the lightbox to great effect. The fast-forward and rewind features were neatly done, Gareth Fry’s exaggerated sound effects are great fun, there’s a charming moment as we all look up into the stars: it all serves to capture the attention of her audience and keep it, the children around me all loved it. Continue reading “Review: Beauty and the Beast, National Theatre”