Review: Next Fall, Southwark Playhouse

“I want you to love me more than you love Him”

Like the warmth of a hug you didn’t know you needed, the tender beauty of Geoffrey Nauffts’ Next Fall creeps up on you gradually as an initially comic tone melts into something infinitely more moving. Though the play hooks on a dramatically convenient device to bring together a group of people, the way that it explores the various intersecting relationships between them all is a masterpiece of quietly compelling emotion and perfectly honed construction – one can well see why it was a much-nominated success during its 2010 Broadway run.

Adam and Luke have been together for several years now, navigating the twists and turns of their relationship like old pros, like Adam’s insecurities as he’s just that little bit older than Luke and Luke’s refusal to come out to his family back in Florida even though he’s out and proud in their pokey New York apartment. At the heart of that decision though is something more fundamentally serious – Luke’s devoutly Christian beliefs which fly right in the face of Adam’s atheism, an issue which is interrogated sensitively but deeply as Nauffts asks us what it really means to have faith as we flashback to key points in their time together. Continue reading “Review: Next Fall, Southwark Playhouse”

Review: The Keepers of Infinite Space, Park Theatre

“A property developer, a fighter and a bookshop owner – of those three, it’s the bookshop owner who finds himself stuck in here. That’s Israel for you.”

There’s an interesting tension at the heart of this production of Omar El-Khairy’s The Keepers of Infinite Space and though it is one that is never really satisfactorily resolved, it is still making me think today. El-Khairy’s play is a no-holds-barred indictment of the prison system in Israeli-occupied Palestine, taking root in the shocking statistic that up to 40% of the male population has been detained under military orders at one time or another. But director Zoe Lafferty’s vision seems to locate it in a less specific context, making its issues about incarceration more universal.

This she does by having her actors speaking in (presumably) their natural accents, so one of the prisoners is a Geordie, the governor a malevolent Scot. But though there are aspects of the story that reach beyond the Middle East – the brutality of torture and its effects on the guards that commit it, the way in which the past is often its own sort of jail that imprisons generations in endless cycles of hate – too much of it is inextricably tied to the details of El-Khairy’s narrative, of an innocuous bookseller caught up in crisis by family connections beyond his ken. Continue reading “Review: The Keepers of Infinite Space, Park Theatre”

Radio Review: The Oresteia – Agamemnon / The Brick

“Things…have consequences”

Our enduring fascination with the Greek tragedies continues with this three-part adaptation of Aeschylus’ Oresteia which sees three writers create contemporary reworkings for radio, starting with Simon Scardifield’s take on Agamemnon. It’s a cracking version, featuring a brilliantly conceived three person Chorus who merge almost seamlessly into the narrative – they pass comment and provide rich detail as per usual, but feeling so much a part of the fabric of this version of Argos makes their storytelling truly integral to the work.

Elsewhere, the story follows the familiar laugh-a-minute path of Aeschylus. After taking a decade to conquer Troy, Agamemnon (Hugo Speer) returns victorious to Argos with a new concubine the prophetess Cassandra (the mellifluous Anamaria Marinca) in tow. But far from happy to see him, his wife Clytemnestra (a calculatedly fierce Lesley Sharp) has long been plotting revenge on him as he sacrificed their eldest daughter Iphigenia on divine orders. It is bloody, brutal stuff and little is spared in this effective retelling.  Continue reading “Radio Review: The Oresteia – Agamemnon / The Brick”

Short Film Review #25

Mr John from Julian Kerridge on Vimeo.

Sometimes, it’s the smallest things that are most affecting and Julian Kerridge’s 2005 film debut Mr John is full of gorgeous, intimate details that make it a most charming prospect. Benedict Wong’s Mr John is an agoraphobic television critic but the arrival of a pretty upstairs neighbour, in the form of Nicola Stephenson’s Carol, forces him to look at the limits of his world anew. Their burgeoning relationship is a delight to behold – the gift of a casserole, a love for volcano documentaries, the re-organisation of a video collection – the quirky aspects of what makes her utterly adorable is perfectly played by Stephenson, the wry smile as she walks down the steps at the end enough to melt any heart. And Wong is appealingly nerdish as Mr John, initially disgruntled at the intrusion into his hermit-like existence but soon won over and willing to confront his greatest fear. Just lovely. Continue reading “Short Film Review #25”

Review: Nation, National

“If you’re watching grandmama, look away now”

Sometimes I think there’s something to be said for just sitting down at the theatre, especially when it is a family show and just enjoying what’s front of you. I’ll be the first to admit that I have done very little of that this year but for some reason, and it wasn’t even the mulled wine, Nation at the National Theatre warmed my heart in a way I was not expecting.

The fantasy genre is one which is often hard to adapt to the stage, as the books are heavily laden with a rich level of detail, creating new worlds and mythologies, and there inevitably has to some degree of compromise between creating a coherent narrative for the timespan of a play but remaining faithful enough to respect the source material (and please the fans). And if one is being honest, there were elements of Mark Ravenhill’s adaptation of Terry Prachett’s story of two teenagers thrown together by a giant tsunami leaving one shipwrecked and the other without a home, that didn’t bear much scrutiny. But it was so swiftly directed that only the most curmudgeonly of souls would have dwelt on the plotholes. Continue reading “Review: Nation, National”