My intention is, honestly, to see less theatre this year and try and regain some semblance of a normal life again on the odd evening. But the curse of advance booking and grabbing cheap(er) tickets whilst you can has meant that there’s already an awful lot of theatre booked for 2011. Some have been booked without a huge deal of enthusiasm, but others have a dangerous amount of anticipation attached to them…and so I present to you, the shows I am most excited about seeing this year (so far).
Antonioni Project – Toneelgroep Amsterdam at the Barbican
The Roman Tragedies was hands down one of the most exhilarating and refreshing theatrical experiences of 2009 and possibly my life, I’m even headed to Amsterdam in May to see a surtitled production of their Angels in America. So when I heard that the same Dutch theatre company were returning to the Barbican in February, tickets were booked instantly and I am feverishly over-excited for this now! Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2011”
“Is the country ready for another Prime Minister called Margaret?”
Acting Leader is set in 1994 during the leadership contest for the Labour Party that was provoked by the untimely death of John Smith. Margaret Beckett was thrust into the position of Acting Leader of the Opposition and was persuaded to run for leader, but with the politicking of Blair and Prescott and the birth of New Labour on the horizon, Beckett faced an uphill struggle.
Achingly current with the Labour Party leadership contest now in full swing and yet sixteen years later, little change seems to have occurred. There’s still a female Acting Leader of the Labour Party but she isn’t even standing in the contest and the one female candidate who is there made it by the skin of her teeth after the strategic withdrawal of a rival. Continue reading “Review: Acting Leader, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”
“There’s only so much non-violence one can take”
The only play to feature the entire ensemble is Lucy Kirkwood’s Bloody Wimmin which rounds off the evening for Then. Taking the shocking fact, that many women in their 20s have never heard of Greenham Common or what it stood for as its starting point, it looks back at the protest camp set up in the name of nuclear disarmament, how it developed and what it came to mean to the women who were there, and then it moves to look at what, if any, impact it has on today’s society.
Starting off on Greenham Common itself with a delightful sending-up of the stereotypical view of the protesters, chunky-knit and wellington-boot wearing lesbians smelling of wood-smoke and obsessed with petty squabbles usually about the minutiae of cleaning and cooking rotas and missing ladles. Things take a more serious tone with the arrival of pregnant Helen, played by Claire Cox, and we follow her on her journey as a woman seeking personal liberation and enlightenment away from the daily grind and society’s expectations of her, especially as a mother and an expecting one as well to boot. Her confrontation with husband Bob (Oliver Chris) is genuinely shocking as they play a game of brinkmanship with the emotional missiles they have on each other, papering the cracks of their marriage and so we see Greenham actually as the catalyst for empowering women. Continue reading “Review: Bloody Wimmin, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”
“I am blank between the legs”
Rebecca Lenkiewicz’s contribution is The Lioness, a character study of Elizabeth I, picking out two encounters from her life to show how she dealt with the pressures of power and the political role she chose for herself, of wife and mother to the nation. The confrontation with the dour John Knox, founder of the Presbyterians and a shocking misogynist, reminding her that being Queen in a man’s world was rife with long-held antipathy to female leaders and whilst his vituperative writings were not aimed specifically at her (but rather her sister), her sense of sisterhood was sufficiently strong to never forgive him.
And her relationship with the Earl of Essex, a favourite in her later life despite being the step-son of Dudley who possibly came closest to marrying her. In this continued liaison, there’s more of a sense of her need for companionship with Oliver Chris’ Essex after a hard life of power, his handsome arrogance proving irresistible and thereby making her devastation at his ultimate betrayal despite their familiarity (‘he called me Bess…’) all the more heartbreaking. Continue reading “Review: The Lioness, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”
“They’ve got eyes in their arses in this street”
The Milliner and the Weaver is set in 1914 and looked at the relationship between Henrietta from Belfast and Elspeth from Dublin, worlds apart socially but bound together by their joint participation in the suffragette movement. However, the long-running debate about Home Rule in Ireland threatens to break this unlikely alliance as Elspeth makes an unscheduled visit to Belfast.
It was well acted, Niamh Cusack was good as the downtrodden Henrietta, resigned to the realities of her situation and the need to exercise caution in fighting for social change, after all she needs to go on living where she does no matter how unpopular her actions. And Stella Gonet, resplendent in Victorian costume (which is as close as I’ve ever seen her to her House of Elliott character, which was a thrill in itself!) matched her well with her Elspeth, clearly not used to dealing with people not from her social strata. Continue reading “Review: The Milliner and the Weaver, Women, Power and Politics at the Tricycle”
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”
Does context make a difference? Not knowing anything about Victoria Benedictsson, the Swedish writer of The Enchantment, would leave you thinking that this is just another tale of Nordic emotional angst, the doom and gloom we know from the likes of Strindberg and Ibsen. But there’s much more to it than that: Benedictsson herself had a scandalous affair with a critic which ended badly in him rejecting her both sexually and artistically and she consequently committed suicide just months after completing this play in 1888. Her story then formed the inspiration for both aforementioned writers: the seeds of both Miss Julie and Hedda Gabler could be said to arise from here.
The Enchantment is probably best described as semi-autobigraphical, clearly heavily informed by her own experiences but not a strict representation thereof. Caddish sculptor Gustave Alland captures the heart and mind of Louise Strandberg whilst she is recuperating in her brother’s Parisian art studio. She tries to forget him by fleeing back to her native Sweden and a life of domestic drudgery, but temptation is strong and she returns to surrender to an utterly unsuitable affair that cannot end happily. Continue reading “Review: The Enchantment, National Theatre”