Casting announced for Theatre Royal Bath’s Racing Demon

Theatre Royal Bath Productions has announced full casting for David Hare’s Racing Demon, directed by Jonathan Church, and seemingly deliberately designed to challenge my resolve to not see the production which runs from Wednesday 21 June to Saturday 8 July.

As previously announced Olivier Award-winner David Haig will star as Lionel Espy in the multi-award winning play. He will be joined by Sam Alexander, Michelle Bonnard, Anthony Calf, William Chubb, Paapa Essiedu, Ian Gelder, Andrew Fraser, Rebecca Night, Amanda Root and Ashley Russell.

Four clergymen seek to make sense of their mission in inner-city London whilst facing their own personal crises. There’s Lionel Espy, a cleric whose faith is wavering as his parishioners dwindle; tabloid-hounded gay vicar Harry Henderson; ‘Streaky’ Bacon, a genial reverend with a taste for tequila, and a charismatic young curate, Tony Ferris whose arrival is set to fan the flames, whilst his sexual relationship with his lover turns to ash. The day of judgement is at hand for all. Continue reading “Casting announced for Theatre Royal Bath’s Racing Demon”

Review: The Meeting, Hampstead Downstairs

“It’s all a question of perception”

Opening up 2016 downstairs at Hampstead, Andrew Payne’s The Meeting starts off brightly as a sharp office-set comedy where a crucial deal looks set to be torpedoed when one of the key parties has to be escorted from the premises after suffering an emotional breakdown. Denis Lawson’s production has fun with corporate behaviour and its nameless threats (“there’s been murmurs on the 10th floor”) but is perhaps a little less sure-footed when it then tackles sexism in the boardroom.

Cleverly, for all the talk of concepts and options, entry level kits and secondary licensing, we never find out exactly what it is the beleaguered Stratton and youthfully belligerent Cole do. For The Meeting is more about the way they behave – with each other, with Frank from upstairs, with the various unseen women in their lives, and with Ellen, who is stepping in for the indisposed Jack and disrupting the old boys’ network on which they had been relying for an easy time of it. Continue reading “Review: The Meeting, Hampstead Downstairs”

Review: Uncle Vanya, St James Theatre

“This is starting to get offensive”

Proving herself once, twice, three times a lady Chekhov adapter, Anya Reiss now finds herself in the slightly odd position where (I think) she’s had more of her adaptations produced than her original writing – it’s certainly one way of casting off the mantle of ‘saviour of new writing’ with which she has often been blessed/cursed. I didn’t catch her well-received take on Spring Awakening for Headlong earlier this year but it is reimagining the work of Chekhov that has really fired her mojo – recent versions of The Seagull and Three Sisters are now followed by an equally modern Uncle Vanya for the St James Theatre.

And whilst I’d love to say these adaptation are going from strength to strength, for me it is much more a case of diminishing returns. Moving The Seagull to a contemporary Isle of Man chimed well but Three Sisters suffered a little (well, a lot) in the shift to a modern British embassy and so too does Uncle Vanya here, relocated to a Lincolnshire farm in the modern day. The sense of crippling stagnation, of an entire way of life on the precipice is present but none of the deep emotion or eternal tragedy of the characters that should elevate its concerns to the universal. Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, St James Theatre”

Review: Rough Cuts – Bytes, Royal Court

“It’s on the internet…”

Just a quickie for this as the Royal Court’s Rough Cuts season is a space for short plays, experimental readings and works in progress and so I’m just including it here for the completeness of my theatregoing records. It has previously taken place in the upstairs theatre but as this is currently occupied, they have converted the Wilson rehearsal studio – right next to the main building – into a public performance space for this group of four pieces, all based on the theme of our relationship to the internet.

This year’s cohort of writers made this a must-see from the moment it was announced, featuring as it does Alia Bano, DC Moore, Penelope Skinner and Nick Payne, and with an ensemble of six actors including Sarah Woodward and Al Weaver, I was confident of enjoying the performances too. And it was an agreeable evening from start to early finish – such a rarity to be home well before 9pm on a theatre night – and a pleasing indication of the vibrancy and variety in new theatre writing in the UK.  Continue reading “Review: Rough Cuts – Bytes, Royal Court”

Television Review: BBC HD Film Shorts

“Why won’t you listen to me”

A bit of random thing that only came to my attention because of a kind soul on Twitter, this collection of five short films from the last few years presented by the BBC Film Network and BBC HD, offered the opportunity to notch up bonus appearances from Andrew Scott and Rafe Spall, as well as appreciating some up and coming filmmaking talent.

Scott’s film is Silent Things in which he plays Jake, a guy with Asperger’s who strikes up an unlikely camaraderie with a quirky teenager, Georgia Groome’s Amy who challenges him to test his boundaries with mixed results and which in turn also threatens his friendship with Charlotte, also autistic and who resents the closeness that Jake is able to achieve with others. Written by Rob Brown and Edward Jackson, it is small but perfectly formed and elevated by all three performances from its leads, not just Scott. Predictably he is excellent, unshaven and more unkempt than we’re used to seeing him, his is a performance of great subtlety leading us to empathise strongly with Jake’s predicament. Antonia Campbell-Hughes’ Charlotte suffers more severely and so is less able to socialise, her bluntness still sensitively portrayed though and the self-determined drive neatly suggested. Groome is also good and altogether, it made for an engaging short piece.

Modern Life is Rubbish was also amongst my favourites here, Rafe Spall and Rebecca Night starring as a recently split-up couple who are going through the traumatic experience of dividing their music collection and ruminating on their relationship, their potential future friendship and what might have been. It is very well written, Philip Gawthorne picking up on so many of the tiny awkward details like attending the same social events after the split, being brutally honest about the things you didn’t like about the other and the ease with which one can fall back into intimacy without even thinking about it. And well performed too, Spall’s traditional music obsessive railing against greatest hits collections and the very existence of the iPod, his bluffness not quite able to mask his breaking heart as Rebecca Night tries to remain pragmatic as the one who has moved out and so not wanting to spend any more time there than is necessary. Continue reading “Television Review: BBC HD Film Shorts”

Review: A Flea In Her Ear, Old Vic

“What are you still doing here? Run away…”

A Flea In Her Ear is a classic French farce from 1907 by Georges Feydeau. This production at the Old Vic is using the 1966 translation by John Mortimer that he did for the National Theatre which actually played at this same theatre featuring Albert Finney and Geraldine McEwan. This time round Tom Hollander and Lisa Dillon take up lead duties in running up and down and all around the stage in this tale of frivolous fancy and manic misunderstandings.
 
The play is set in turn-of-the-century Paris at the house of Raymonde and Victor Emmanuel Chandebise: after years of happy marriage, Raymonde begins to suspect her husband of infidelity as they are having problems in the bedroom and plots to catch him out with her friend Lucienne. Inviting him to a rendez-vous at the local Hotel Coq d’Or, an establishment well known for housing many such assignations, they set their trap. But the letter ends up in the wrong hands, leaving Victor Emmanuel’s best friend Tournel under the impression that Raymonde desires him and making Lucienne’s insanely jealous Spanish husband believe she is the one having an affair. So everyone rushes off to the Coq d’Or, including the randy local doctor and Victor Emmanuel’s nephew who is off to have a tryst with the cook whose own husband, the butler, suspects something, so off he sets in pursuit as well. And just in case that wasn’t enough, things are further complicated by a hotel porter who looks suspiciously like Victor Emmanuel.

Continue reading “Review: A Flea In Her Ear, Old Vic”