Review: A Number, Old Vic

Paapa Essiedu and Lennie James deliver stunning performances in a cracking production of Caryl Churchill’s A Number at the Old Vic

“I think it’s funny, I think it’s delightful
‘delightful?'”

After Timothy and Sam West, and John and Lex Shrapnel, Lyndsey Turner’s production of A Number for the Old Vic is actually the first one I’ve seen that didn’t involve a real father and son combo (I wasn’t too fussed about Roger Allam and Colin Morgan at the Bridge a couple of years ago tbh). And possibly with that slight remove of biology, something electric happens to make this the best one I’ve seen yet.

Caryl Churchill’s 2002 play about a father who clones his son has turned out to be one of her most popular (see above) and also one of her most evergreen. Ideas about actual cloning were perhaps more prevalent then, Dolly the Sheep having dominated the discourse but 20 years later, the play has only gained in depth and gravitas, its commentary on parental sin and construction of identity roaring ferociously as ever. Continue reading “Review: A Number, Old Vic”

Review: Tennis Elbow, Sound Stage

Audio-digital platform Sound Stage stumbles a little with John Byrne’s Tennis Elbow, a new play that feels terribly dated

“Park your bottie, let’s have some cheese and crackers”

After a powerfully evocative start with Mark Ravenhill’s Angela, the audio-digital platform Sound Stage stumbles a little with its second instalment Tennis Elbow. Written by Scottish arts titan John Byrne – his first play in 13 years – it acts as a follow up to his 1977 play Writer’s Cramp and thus tying its fortunes very closely with that original work.

Presented as a story-within-a-story and narrated by the fabulous Maureen Beattie, we’re treated to a succession of biographical snippets from the life of Pamela Crichton-Capers, ostensibly an undersung artist who just happens to be the wife of Francis Seneca McDade, also an undersung artist who was the subject of Writer’s Cramp. Continue reading “Review: Tennis Elbow, Sound Stage”

Radio review: Constellations / Elegy / The Meaning of Zong

Less reviews, more notifications that a wonderful radio version of Nick Payne’s Constellations is now available to listen to on Radio 3, starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw and George Mackay. It’s well worth your time but be warned, it could well lead to expensive splurges to see the four forthcoming West End casts of Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd.

Sasha Yevtushenko also directs a production of Elegy as part of this double bill, a play which I don’t remember half as fondly, despite a strong cast at the Donmar Warehouse. Here again, Juliet Stevenson, Deborah Findlay and Marilyn Nnadebe elevate the production to must-listen levels but it just isn’t as gut-wrenchingly affecting a piece of writing in the end.

Last up is Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong, the debut play for this talented performer which is now receiving its premiere on radio. It’s an extraordinary dramatisation of a shocking piece of British history that very few of us will know about, one which is vital to add to the discourse that has emerged since last summer and a play that must be put on major stages as soon as we can.

News: Casts Announced for Next Three New Sound Stage Productions

Pitlochry Festival Theatre and The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with Naked Productions are delighted to announce casts for three forthcoming Sound Stage plays.

  • Tennis Elbow by John Byrne (30 April – 2 May 2021) is directed by Elizabeth Newman and stars Maureen Beattie, Brian Ferguson, Jessica Hardwick, Cherylee Houston, Louise Jameson, Anne Odeke, Sally Reid, Kirsty Stuart, Samuel West and Fiona Wood
  • Hindu Times by Jaimini Jethwa (28 – 30 May 2021) is directed by Caitlin Skinner and stars Rehanna McDonald, Adam McNamara and Daniel Portman
  • The Mother Load by Lynda Radley (25 – 27 June 2021) is directed by Isobel McArthur and stars Nalini Chetty, Anna Russell-Martin, Wendy Seager and Rosalind Sydney

Continue reading “News: Casts Announced for Next Three New Sound Stage Productions”

TV Review: Small Axe

Steve McQueen’s anthology flm series Small Axe is an absolute triumph as it depicts the West Indian experience in London but tells us all so much about the UK

“We mustn’t be victims, but protagonists of our stories. And what better way of representing ourselves than self-representing ourselves”

Not too much to say about Small Axe that hasn’t been said much more eloquently and appropriately by many others. But I just wanted to applaud some stirring acting work across all 5 films – in particular Shaun Parkes and Letitia Wright in Mangrove and John Boyega in Red White and Blue. And writer/director Steve McQueen, with co-writing work from Alastair Siddons and Courttia Newland, who plants racism, and racist activity, so undeniably in front of a Sunday night BBC1 audience in a way that has so rarely been done before.

TV Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles, Series 1

Sean Bean does Sean Bean in the slight oddity that is Series 1 of The Frankenstein Chronicles, good work too from Vanessa Kirby

“This will be my penance”

Just a quickie for this, as it was one of those shows I’ve been meaning to watch for ages due to the list of actors in its first series (rather than its subject). Elliot Cowan, Anna Maxwell Martin, Ryan Sampson, Ed Stoppard, Sam West…a supporting company right out of Clowns central casting.

Created and mostly written by Benjamin Ross and Barry Langford, The Frankenstein Chronicles plays out as an “inspired by” Mary Shelley’s novel rather than a direct adaptation. It is essentially a 19th century police procedural but given we open with the discovery of a stitched-together body and its dramatis personae include William Blake and Shelley herself, it is clear what kind of universe we’re operating in. Continue reading “TV Review: The Frankenstein Chronicles, Series 1”