Review: Huis Clos, Donmar Warehouse at Trafalgar Studios 2

“L’enfer, c’est les autres”

Some things will never change, one of them being my complete lack of ability to say ‘no thanks’ when offered a free theatre ticket, no matter how much I know I will not like the show. Jean-Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos did not hold much interest for me when initially announced and as it apparently sold out very quickly, it seemed done and dusted. But circumstances prevailed upon me to be a plus one for a colleague and so off we went to the Trafalgar Studios studio space.

Huis Clos forms the final part of the Donmar Warehouse’s Resident Associate Director scheme and Paul Hart is the director being given the opportunity to showcase his talents here. Unfortunately for me, the play he chose was this ‘existentialist masterpiece’, written in 1944 and clearly a heavy influence on Samuel Beckett. I don’t ‘get’ Beckett, I’ve yet to really enjoy one of his plays or really understand what place he is coming from, that connection has never materialised for me. And so it was with Huis Clos: Sartre creates a hell of our own making in which three protagonists are trapped in an intolerable (or is it…) waiting game. Continue reading “Review: Huis Clos, Donmar Warehouse at Trafalgar Studios 2”

18th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees

Film
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir – A Better Life as Carlos Galindo
George Clooney – The Descendants as Matt King
Leonardo DiCaprio – J. Edgar as J. Edgar Hoover
Jean Dujardin – The Artist as George Valentin
Brad Pitt – Moneyball as Billy Beane

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Glenn Close – Albert Nobbs as Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis – The Help as Aibileen Clark
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady as Margaret Thatcher
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk About Kevin as Eva Khatchadourian
Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn as Marilyn Monroe Continue reading “18th Screen Actors Guild Awards nominees”

Review: Remembrance Day, Royal Court

“They’re old men…
‘But they’re still Nazis.’”

The second half of the International Playwrights Season at the Royal Court shifts its focus to new Eastern European writing. I attended the first reading last week, of Pavel Pryazkho’s The Harvest, but the main show, playing upstairs, is Latvian-based playwright Aleksey Scherbak’s Remembrance Day, presented here in a translation by Rory Mullarkey.

On 16th March, veterans of the Latvian Legion of the Waffen SS march through the capital Riga, increasingly being joined by other native Latvians as a celebration of their national independence against Soviet oppression. The complicating factor though, being that in order to fight the Soviets, they had to align themselves with the Nazis. The march therefore is a focal point for tensions as both anti-fascist and fascist movements in the country seek to capitalise on the emotions provoked here to promote their own agendas. Sherbak’s play uses the tensions in a Russian-speaking family to explore this struggle as teenage Anya finds herself becoming more and more radicalised as a political activist whilst her father’s attempt to preach a calmer message of tolerance is misinterpreted and whips up an intense fervour of damaging extremism. Continue reading “Review: Remembrance Day, Royal Court”

Review: Greta Garbo Came To Donegal, Tricycle

“‘So you approve of loneliness?’
I’ve made a career out if it, haven’t you heard”

Who knew penises were like buses? Having not seen one onstage all year in 2009, a couple popped up in Six Degrees… on Thursday, and a third came along today in Greta Garbo Came To Donegal at the Tricycle theatre in Kilburn. Frank McGuinness has taken a fact, Greta Garbo did in fact use a friend’s castle in Ireland as a retreat, and spun a fictional tale set in 1967’s Donegal where cultural and sexual change is threatening the established order, epitomised by the arrival of the Swedish filmstar.

Garbo (Caroline Lagerfelt) arrives at the house of an aristocratic painter friend, Matthew Dover (Daniel Geroll) with a view to maybe purchasing this property, but it is soon clear that they are both weighted down with the pressures of dealing with homosexual attractions, Dover with his wideboy South London bodyguard, Garbo with the housekeeper Paulie (Michelle Fairley), whose family in a cruel twist of fate used to own the house where she is now forced to serve. Garbo’s presence also awakes other frustrations elsewhere in the house with a young niece straining to escape the yoke of familial obligation and pursue her own dreams. Continue reading “Review: Greta Garbo Came To Donegal, Tricycle”

Review: Dancing at Lughnasa, Old Vic

Still utilising the in-the-round format introduced for The Norman Conquests, the Old Vic now hosts the first revival of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa. Telling the story of five unmarried sisters living in rural Ireland, the play is actually narrated from the memories of a seven-year-old Michael, the illegitimate son of the youngest sister, now grown up: a framing device which initially proves very effective. The play looks at the struggles faced by the women to subsist in increasingly uncertain economic times, exacerbated by their unwell brother recently returned from Africa and Michael’s father’s unexpected visit to their cottage.

The five actresses playing the sisters have a great chemistry, and I longed for more scenes with all five of them simultaneously on the stage, but Simone Kirby as Rosie is given much less stage time than the others. Niamh Cusack came close to stealing the show for me, she effortlessly showed the great strength in her character who assumes the responsibility of keeping spirits high in the household, whether it be through cooking (she displays some great bread-making skills on-stage), through her melodic singing, or just her joie-de-vivre. Her scenes with Michelle Fairley’s more matriarchal Kate were spine-tingling as their frustrations at their ever-worsening situation threaten to take over, but they can’t allow their feelings to explode as they have the rest of the family to think about. Continue reading “Review: Dancing at Lughnasa, Old Vic”