Review: The 47th, Old Vic Theatre

Some wickedly funny writing and tremendous work from Bertie Carvel, Tamara Tunie and Lydia Wilson can’t quite make The 47th great again at the Old Vic Theatre

“It’s not a game for gentlemen we’re playing,
Political and civilized.
This is Historic”

Much has been made of Mike Bartlett’s forthcoming omnipresence on London stages. Cock has just been revived in the West End, the Lyric Hammersmith is about to open Scandaltown and the Old Vic now hosts The 47th, all probing at different elements of Bartlett’s skill as a writer. The 47th harks back to King Charles III in some ways, a return to Shakespearean future history play mode, but one is left wondering why now, why this theatre, why this writer?

Bartlett has pressed the fast-forward button just slightly to take us to 2024 and the next US presidential election. The Republican primaries are about to start and Trump has got his beady eye on them, whilst Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are in their own negotiations on the other side. And as the race to the White House heats up once again to insurrectionist levels, a case study of the perilous and precarious state of US democracy is played out in front of us. Continue reading “Review: The 47th, Old Vic Theatre”

Plays update for March

So much play casting news!

Mike Bartlett’s political comedy The 47th opens at the Old Vic on 29th March. Joining the previously announced Bertie Carvel as Donald Trump, Tamara Tunie as Kamala Harris and Lydia Wilson as Ivanka Trump will be James Cooney as Charlie Takahashi, James Garnon as Ted Cruz, Richard Hansell as Steve Richetti, Oscar Lloyd as Donald Junior, Jenni Maitland as Heidi Cruz, Freddie Meredith as Eric Trump, Ben Onwukwe as Barack Obama, Cherrelle Skeete as Tina Flournoy, Ami Tredrea as Rosie Takahashi and Simon Williams as Joe Biden, with all other parts played by the company. 

Directed by Rupert Goold, with set design by Miriam Buether, costume design by Evie Gurney, lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Tony Gayle, original music and sound score by Adam Cork, video by Ash J Woodward, movement by Lynne Page, wigs, hair and make-up by Richard Mawbey, casting by Jessica Ronane CDG, US casting by Jim Carnahan, voice by Joel Trill and dialect by Brett Tyne. Continue reading “Plays update for March”

News: National Theatre adds five new productions to streaming platform National Theatre at Home

The National Theatre has today announced the latest productions to be made available on its National Theatre at Home streaming platform. Launching today, Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum Dreams, the Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge directed by Ivo van Hove with Mark Strong and Nicola Walker, and Rufus Norris’ production of Everyman with Chiwetel Ejiofor will be available for all audiences worldwide to stream. Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein and Sonia Friedman Productions’ Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch will also be available for audiences outside the UK and Ireland. Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds five new productions to streaming platform National Theatre at Home”

News: National Theatre adds Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Consent to streaming platform

The National Theatre has today announced that two new filmed productions have been added to its streaming service National Theatre at Home: the Young Vic’sCat on a Hot Tin Roofandthe National Theatre and Out of Joint’s co-production Consent.Continue reading “News: National Theatre adds Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Consent to streaming platform”

Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 6

AKA the one that doesn’t work and the one that you should avoid if you’re feeling angsty about the current situation – approach Spooks Series 6 with caution

“The only option will be national quarantine and burial pits”

Series 6 is one of the trickier ones to watch right now so be warned – it opens with a two-parter called ‘The Virus’ which makes for a eerily chilling watch. It’s also a curious season as whilst the introduction of a series-long storyline – Iran seeking to gain nuclear capability – for the first time seems like it should work no problem, the reality doesn’t hang together quite as well as it ought.

The major level conspiracy theory takes too long to click into gear, and never really reaches the high-stakes territory it needs to hit home hard. The ‘mole in MI-5’ thread doesn’t pay off convincingly, recruiting another journalist off the street tests the patience (sorry Ben) and where one fake-out death of a major character might be permitted, two in the space of three episodes feels lazy. A major disappointment following the highs of Series 5.

Nicola Walker-ometer
Absolute zero, it’s as if she never existed. Fucking Harry. Continue reading “Lockdown TV Review: Spooks Series 6”

Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Young Vic at the Apollo

“The human animal is a beast that dies but the fact that he’s dying don’t give him pity for others”

Whatever the reasons behind the decision to open Benedict Andrews’ Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directly into the West End, a first for the Young Vic, you can’t help suspect that it has been informed by the extraordinary success of their 2014 collaboration on A Streetcar Named Desire. Equally, it is tempting to feel the play would be better off on The Cut, the better for its intimacy to really sizzle.

There’s certainly the attempt to raise the temperature – Andrews has his leads Jack O’Connell and Sienna Miller in various states of undress for large swathes of the play – but for all the skin exposed, there’s little sexuality between Tennessee Williams’ central couple, the reasons for which are painstakingly revealed later on. And ultimately it is a disconnect that reads better than it plays. Continue reading “Review: Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, Young Vic at the Apollo”

Review: Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre

“A man lost in time”

It’s no secret that I’m a big Ivo van Hove fan, I’ve been to New York and Amsterdam several times to see his work as regular readers will know, so booking for his latest show to hit London – Lazarus – was a no-brainer. At the same time though, I have to say that the music of David Bowie has played little part in my life, so a musical continuing the story of his 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth and based on his songs doesn’t actually carry the same appeal that I might normally have with a van Hove show.

Of course, the shock news of Bowie’s passing as the show opened in New York this past winter lends Lazarus an especial charge, featuring as it does songs from his later albums and songs that were written for this project, among some of the last he ever penned. To an outsider though, it makes for strange experience with a strong sense of mood prevailing over a defined narrative progression, Enda Walsh co-writing a book with Bowie that is labyrinthine in its own fractured, hallucinatory way. Continue reading “Review: Lazarus, King’s Cross Theatre”

TV Review: And Then There Were None

“This is for a play in the West End?”

 Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None may not have seemed like the most obvious festive programming but Sarah Phelps’ three-part adaptation was an unalloyed success for the BBC. It was a particular surprise for me, as having seen it a couple of times on the stage, most recently in a rather creaky touring production, I wasn’t sure how it could be done well. But Phelps and director Craig Viveiros have managed a remarkable job, transforming the murder mystery into a dark, oppressive psychodrama.

From the off, swooping camera shots (of the Cornish locations standing in for the Devonian Soldier Island) take us out of the dusty drawing room, and haunting flashbacks take perfect advantage of the medium to suggest the oppressive weight of guilt that is being brought to bear here. For those new to the story, a microcosm of English society is invited to an isolated country house, under varying auspices, and once fully assembled, find themselves being picked off one by one by an unknown killer. Continue reading “TV Review: And Then There Were None”

Review: A View From The Bridge, Wyndham’s Theatre

“Eddie Carbone. Eddie Carbone. Eddie Carbone.”

What more is there to say about a play that was my undoubted favourite production of 2014 (out of more than 380 lest you forget!) and which did more than I could have possibly imagined to finally introduce the spectacular creative force of Ivo van Hove to a wider audience. Not much as it turns out! The Young Vic’s extraordinarily successful A View From The Bridge has now transferred into the West End, setting up shop in the relative intimacy of the Wyndham’s and remains one of the most highly recommended shows that I could urge you to go and see. 

My original review is here and I stand by everything in it, van Hove’s recasting of Arthur Miller’s classic still burns with its unstoppable, slow-building tragic force and even in this larger space, maintains the same level of punishing emotion. I hadn’t intended to revisit in all honesty, having seen the original run twice but the announcement of onstage seating – to replicate something of the feel of Jan Versweyveld’s original staging – hooked me back in. When the pricing was finally announced, I balked but the simultaneous release of a new date, complete with tickets for the front row of the balcony (one of the best West End bargains for my money), meant I was helpless to resist. Continue reading “Review: A View From The Bridge, Wyndham’s Theatre”

11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2014

I’ll be doing a regular top 10 alongside all the other end-of-year totting up of the theatrical delights on offer in 2014 that will eventually be written up but I thought it might be interesting to first look at it from a slightly different angle, thinking about the single moments – rather than the productions as a whole – that took my breath away (or were hair-raisingly good…) Undoubtedly there will be some crossover between the two lists, but there are things here that crop up the mind just as often as the plays I’ve labelled my favourites so here we go – naturally, some production spoilers abound…
Continue reading “11 of my top moments in a theatre in 2014”