Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream

“I’m stunned with wonder”

When Rupert Goold first announced the #AlmeidaGreeks season with all its familiar titles, I don’t think anyone could have predicted how genuinely epic a sweep of theatrical innovation it would usher in. From the extraordinary Oresteia to the shattering Bakkhai and Medea, the radical main house programme has been supported by a wide range of supplementary activity, not least the 16 hour, 60+ actor retelling of The Iliad (which can now be viewed in full on the Almeida website).

So it’s only natural that as the season draws to an end, it is bookended by another Homeric extravaganza in The Odyssey, again with 60 odd actors participating in a 12 hour non-stop feat of major storytelling which was live-streamed on t’internet. And conscious of raising the ante, directors Rupert Goold and Robert Icke took us on a literal journey, putting the players in taxicabs, boats, buses, trekking across rooftops and down busy streets to bring Ithaca to Islington as Odysseus winds his way home. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Almeida/Live-stream”

Review: The Iliad Online, Almeida/Live-stream

“You can’t kill me
I can’t ever die”

After three weeks away, all my initial thoughts were on a cosy night in catching up on the first two episodes of The Great British Bake-off and I couldn’t imagine anything changing my mind – how wrong could I be! When the Almeida first announced their durational performance of Homer’s Iliad, it sounded like a madcap plan, a morning ‘til night affair in association with the British Museum and featuring over 60 actors – the only thing stopping me from booking was it being the last day of my holiday!

But fortunately, the good folk of the Almeida decided to livestream the whole shebang – all 16 hours and 18,255 lines of it – so that people could dip in and out to their heart’s content as well as attending at the British Museum for free during the daytime. I switched on at about 8pm as Bertie Carvel started his section, intending just to sample its wares but sure enough, I was there until the bitter end around 1am, having been sucked into its unique brilliance and unable to miss a minute more of it. Continue reading “Review: The Iliad Online, Almeida/Live-stream”

Review: 1984, Headlong at Richmond Theatre

 

 
“You may as well say goodbye”

For a novel written in 1949, it is remarkable how much of George Orwell’s dystopian classic 1984 has seeped into our consciousness. Not just in the phrases we have adopted – Big Brother, thought crime, Room 101, double speak – but also in the world it depicts, of constant surveillance, of the all-controlling state, of the erosion of individual liberties. From Wikileaks to Edward Snowden, David Miranda’s detention even to Paul Dacre’s indignation, the consequences of going up against the establishment, in whatever form, are never far from the headlines and it is clear that Headlong’s audacious re-interpretation of 1984 is an apposite choice.

Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan’s adaptation takes an unusual starting point – the epilogue-like Appendix which offers a whole new level of complication to the narrative of the novel – and uses it to present a dual layer of storytelling. Winston Smith’s trials at the hands of Big Brother as he rebels against the totalitarian state for whom he works are contextualised by a futuristic scenario in which a book group are reading about the trials of Winston Smith. We slide between the two timeframes – as Winston thinks a thought, the book group discuss it – each inextricably linked with the other as we watch this single man, this tiny act of rebellion, being obliterated. Continue reading “Review: 1984, Headlong at Richmond Theatre”

Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate

“Come unto these yellow sands and then take hands”

Multiple productions of so many of Shakespeare’s works are never far away and in its 400th anniversary year, London has already seen The Tempest tackled at great length by Trevor Nunn and Ralph Fiennes at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and reimagined in the most effective and revelatory of ways by Cheek By Jowl’s Russian company at the Barbican. It is now the turn of Jericho House to make their mark on this play, also under the aegis of the Barbican but playing at the neighbouring church of St Giles Cripplegate. There’s double-casting, gender-swapping, even omission of one character and a clear infusion of Middle Eastern influence into the world of disputed territory and clashing cultures that is created inside St Giles’ – nominally “mid-way between Europe and the East”. This connection has been reinforced by a pre-London tour of Jerusalem, the West Bank and Haifa where the show has played to both Palestinian and Israeli audiences.

Given the truncated running time of 105 minutes straight through and the approach taken to the whole interpretation, this does at times come across as a rather different Tempest. Purists may baulk at Gonzalo’s non-appearance or the gender conversion to Antonia and Stephanie, but I enjoyed the playful aspect that was employed here and the doubling by Nathalie Armin and paired by Stephen Fewell as Sebastian and Trinculo, worked mostly well. Ruth Lass’ strident Ariel was superb, her haunting yelps stalking the invaders and Nabil Stuart made for a more ‘human’ Caliban who one feels for in being oppressed but whose role also feels somewhat reduced here. Cox’s Prospero was very well spoken but sometimes felt a little bit too much of a spectator, not fully invested in the events unfolding at his behest, especially concerning his daughter, an inquisitive Rachel Lynes matching well with Gabreen Khan’s Ferdinand. Continue reading “Review: The Tempest, Jericho House at St Giles Cripplegate”

Review: Enron, Royal Court

Premiered this summer in Chichester and now making the move to Sloane Square’s Royal Court, Lucy Prebble’s second play Enron has achieved a quite astonishing level of success. Bolstered by four- and five-star reviews earlier this year, the entire run at the Royal Court sold out before opening and a West-End transfer has already been announced. Fortunately, the play lived up to its billing and provided a highly entertaining and educational evening.

Telling the story of Enron, a much-feted energy corporation whose surprise collapse in 2001 leaving billions of dollars of debt, Prebble has done a fantastic job in making the subject of financial manoeuvring very accessible and engaging, whilst never patronising her audience, and her work is given extra strength due to the current state of the economy and our subsequent realisation that this was not an isolated incident as first believed. Continue reading “Review: Enron, Royal Court”