News: Tristram Kenton’s stage archive – the before-they-were-famous edition

One of the joys of seeing so much theatre in London is that sense of seeing any number of actors at the beginning of their careers and Tristram Kenton has been doing that for years now. Here’s just some of those big names as whippersnappers on the British stage:
https://www.theguardian.com/stage/gallery/2020/nov/11/before-they-were-famous-stars-tristram-kenton-at-the-guardian-in-pictures

Photos: Tristram Kenton

Review: Gaslight, Royal and Derngate

“Suddenly, I’m beginning not to trust my memory at all“

I do like me some Tara Fitzgerald and reckon she’s probably under-rated both in my personal pantheon of favourite actresses and by the industry at large. So I was more than happy to get the train back up to Northampton (after last month’s Brave New World) to see her take the lead in a new revival of Gaslight, despite not having enjoyed the play the one time I previously saw it in Salisbury. And fickle as I am, I enjoyed it much more here, Lucy Bailey’s production rising to the challenges of the somewhat hokey writing.

For I don’t think anyone could truly claim that Patrick Hamilton’s play is particularly well-written or that well-constructed, its almost farcical nature needs careful treatment in this more sceptical day and age but that is exactly what it gets here. Fitzgerald plays Bella Manningham, a Victorian wife convinced that she is losing her mind as did her mother, and with her husband often away on business, the fears that her house is haunted grow near-insurmountable. But are they real or is something more cruelly manipulative afoot? Continue reading “Review: Gaslight, Royal and Derngate”

DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

Review: Tartuffe, Birmingham Rep

“I am a native of Wolverhampton”

Molière in the modern day via the Midlands? Tartuffe is Roxana Silbert’s first production as Artistic Director of Birmingham Rep and sees her bring a distinctly local flavour to this classic French comedy. Chris Campbell’s new version dispenses with the rhyming couplets and crowbars in a ton of local references and fourth wall breaking to create a highly comic atmosphere, but one which sacrifices any sense of subtlety or depth of character for the quickfire laughs which feel more reminiscent of a panto than anything else.

My main reason for booking, aside from a trip to see the new theatre, was to see Siân Brooke, too long absent from our stages, but the main draw in the case is Mark Williams as Tartuffe, the religious hypocrite who inveigles his way into the household of self-made man Orgon, with designs on both his wife and his daughter. Not everyone falls under his spell though and the situation quickly turns farcical as they try to expose Tartuffe for what he really is, with Aston Villa scarves, jokes about HS2 and funny walks aplenty. Continue reading “Review: Tartuffe, Birmingham Rep”

Review: And The Horse You Rode In On, Told By An Idiot at the Barbican Pit

“Enlightenment by demonstration”

Trotting into the depths of the Barbican Pit, And The Horse You Rode In On is the latest piece by innovative company Told by an Idiot. Conceived by Hayley Carmichael and Paul Hunter and created by the company, the show has the subtitle ‘a sequence of serious follies’, mixing together as it does five different narratives, weaving them together in an unlikely mishmash. These influences range from Hitchcock’s film Sabotage to a Dario Fo hostage story, from Are You Being Served to Bugs Bunny, taking in the Baader-Meinhof Gang and some of Günter Grass’ writing, this latter two pointing most directly (to my eyes at least) to what is being examined here, namely what drives people to commit extreme acts for their beliefs and the relative powerlessness we have to stop them.

Told by an Idiot have been working long enough to allay any suspicions about whether their approach works and it really does, but unlikely as it may seem, the strongest part of the work is the humour: this is deeply, belly-achingly, funny stuff, there was one point where I was near-helpless with laughter. I am loathe to give things away here and words could not do them justice anyway, but Are You Being Served played in German was hysterical, followed by a sequence of scenes that were acted by three actors but voiced-over by two off-stage and riotously funny with it. The story of the Italian circus troupe making a perilous journey across the Alps and then being taken hostage, singing cheerily all-the-while was another triumph with a conclusion which, though ridiculous, made perfect sense. Continue reading “Review: And The Horse You Rode In On, Told By An Idiot at the Barbican Pit”