Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate

“Come unto these yellow sands and then take hands”

Multiple productions of so many of Shakespeare’s works are never far away and in its 400th anniversary year, London has already seen The Tempest tackled at great length by Trevor Nunn and Ralph Fiennes at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and reimagined in the most effective and revelatory of ways by Cheek By Jowl’s Russian company at the Barbican. It is now the turn of Jericho House to make their mark on this play, also under the aegis of the Barbican but playing at the neighbouring church of St Giles Cripplegate. There’s double-casting, gender-swapping, even omission of one character and a clear infusion of Middle Eastern influence into the world of disputed territory and clashing cultures that is created inside St Giles’ – nominally “mid-way between Europe and the East”. This connection has been reinforced by a pre-London tour of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Haifa where the show has played to both Palestinian and Israeli audiences.

Given the truncated running time of 105 minutes straight through and the approach taken to the whole interpretation, this does at times come across as a rather different Tempest. Purists may baulk at Gonzalo’s non-appearance or the gender conversion to Antonia and Stephanie, but I enjoyed the playful aspect that was employed here and the doubling by Nathalie Armin and paired by Stephen Fewell as Sebastian and Trinculo, worked mostly well. Ruth Lass’ strident Ariel was superb, her haunting yelps stalking the invaders and Nabil Stuart made for a more ‘human’ Caliban who one feels for in being oppressed but whose role also feels somewhat reduced here. Cox’s Prospero was very well spoken but sometimes felt a little bit too much of a spectator, not fully invested in the events unfolding at his behest, especially concerning his daughter, an inquisitive Rachel Lynes matching well with Gabreen Khan’s Ferdinand. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate”

Review: Blood and Gifts, National Theatre

“Russian soldiers being shot with Chinese bullets, sometimes the world is so beautiful”

JT Rogers’ Blood and Gifts started off life as one of the short plays that constituted The Great Game, the Tricycle’s hugely ambitious cycle of works about Afghanistan. He withdrew it from the recent re-run of that set of shows to work it up into a full length play which now premieres at the Lyttelton in the National Theatre. It has apparently had a few teething problems resulting in the first preview being cancelled, so this is a review what became the second preview.

The play starts off in 1981 in Pakistan, in the offices of the Intelligence Services there and up in the mountainous borders with Afghanistan, as James Warnock a CIA agent is sent to the region to try and stop the Soviets in their aggression. In order to do so, Warnock needs to negotiate with the Pakistani Intelligence Services, the KGB and MI6 presence there and most trickily, with the slippery Afghan warlords whose loyalties are easily bought but just as easily lost. We then track events for the next 10 years as the war continues, relationships develop over money and arms, watching appeals at the US senate for Stinger missiles, then finally moving to Afghan foothills for a blistering climax when some serious truths are finally revealed. Continue reading “Review: Blood and Gifts, National Theatre”