As distinct from my favourite shows of the year, this list celebrates the fact that sometimes the good and the not-so-good co-exist right next to each – some of my favourite moments.
For reference, here’s my 2020 list, 2019 list, 2018 list, 2017 list, 2016 list, 2015 list and 2014 list.
Helen McCrory, in memoriam
I still don’t really have the words to talk about how sad the passing of Helen McCrory is, such a favourite actor of mine for so long. But what was joyful was hearing the absolute esteem in which seemingly every one of her colleagues held her, a testament to the person as well as the performer.
Being scared, by women
After having declared that scary theatre just didn’t work for me, the Terrifying Women made me eat my words in quite some style with their Halloween special. Continue reading “10 top theatrical moments of 2021”
A digital production of Waiting for Lefty, updated to the modern day, breathes some sharp, fresh air into the Zoom theatre format
“Can I help it that times are bad?”
In a week when many theatres in England are preparing to open their doors again, it might seem a little perverse to be launching yet another digital production into the ether. But new company Two Lines Productions’ choice of Clifford Odets’ Waiting for Lefty – as directed here by Phil Cheadle – feels like a real shot in the arm for anyone who might be feeling jaded about another Zoom play.
The structure of Odets’ play, centred around a union meeting, lends itself to this format (Cheadle wisely steering clear of any reference to Handforth Parish Council…!). And as this group of cab drivers ferociously debate strike action for a living wage, we find ourselves fully immersed in proceedings in a radically different yet essentially quite similar way that resonates so powerfully at the play’s striking climax. Continue reading “Review: Waiting for Lefty, Two Lines Productions”
I mean, just look at this absolute treasure trove of theatrical talent!
I’m off to listen to Patsy Ferran read Tom Wells, and Gabby Wong read Alexi Kaye Campbell, and Sarah Niles read Winsome Pinnock and…and…
“This is a story about a king”
The Unicorn’s A Winter’s Tale, written by Ignace Cornelissen from Shakespeare, was something unexpectedly brilliant last year, and powerfully moving – unsure of what to expect, I didn’t think that I’d be crying for a good while after at what was ostensibly a children’s show. So you’d think I’d be pre-warned going into Henry the Fifth, likewise an adaptation of, or more accurately a response to, Henry V, but once again, I found myself weeping, most likely scaring the children around me and even now, I’m unable to look at a balloon without welling up.
Cornelissen, translated by Purni Morell, re-envisages the war at the heart of the play as a playground struggle and in Ellen MacDougall’s lucid production, we see that the actions of those concerned are as impactful whether on a school field or a battlefield. The power games of climbing to the top and grabbing it all apply equally in both scenarios but more tellingly, the effect that they have on the people around them can be absolutely devastating. It is such a simple technique but one which is spellbindingly effective. Continue reading “Review: Henry the Fifth, Unicorn Theatre”
“It’s like we’re conducting a big, massive experiment…”
Pulling together narratives and investigative work from four playwrights, Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne around the ever-current issue of climate change, Greenland is the latest play at the National Theatre to tackle this issue, following on from Mike Bartlett’s Earthquakes in London last year. Based on interviews with scientists, politicians, money-makers and philosophers, woven together by dramaturg Ben Power and directed by Bijan Sheibani, this is a highly ambitious, challenging piece of work and though this was the first preview, it seems that some of these challenges might be a little too much.
Predictably, multiple strands of story run parallel, some explored and revisited more than others as the narrative shifts around, there are occasional intersections but these are perfunctory rather than integral to the stories. Amongst everything, there’s a young woman moved to drop out of university to become a climate change activist; two women in a therapy session (there was division in the group as to whether they were mother/daughter or a lesbian couple, but it really isn’t that important) who are being driven apart by the strident ‘green’ views of one of them; two guys bird-watching in Greenland, one of whom has been doing it for 40 years; a Labour politician struggling to make a difference leading up to and at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. All are trying to make sense of the conflicting viewpoints around the issue and figuring out who to trust and what, if anything, can be done. Continue reading “Review: Greenland, National Theatre”
Our Class is a blistering look at the Polish collusion in the atrocities of the Second World War from Polish playwright Tadeusz Słobodzianek, presented here in a new version by Ryan Craig (although given this is a world premiere and someone else is credited with the literal translation, I’m not quite sure what ‘version’ actually means). Taking the Jedwabne massacre as its focal point, a massacre of the entire Jewish population of a village long thought to have been carried out by the Nazis but recently discovered to have actually been the actions of the local Polish people, the play is an attempt to try and understand how the villagers could have turned on each other in such a way and subsequently kept the terrible secret. It does this by following a class of Polish schoolchildren, some Catholic, some Jewish, starting in 1925 and working its way through to the modern day.
I have to admit to initially having my doubts as the play opened with adults pretending to be schoolchildren which is never nice to see, but there was enough humour present to see the scene through as they all talked about what they wanted to be in the future. The cast of ten actually play their characters throughout their lifespan and so my doubts were quickly dispelled as the classmates grew up throughout the 1930s with the twin shadows of Soviet and Nazi invasions shattering their childhood dreams and ultimately setting them against each other to brutal effect. Continue reading “Review: Our Class, National”