Review: Angela, Sound Stage

Launching new audio drama platform Sound Stage, Mark Ravenhill’s Angela is a profoundly moving account of his mother’s experience of dementia

“I don’t like it when they change the story, I wish they would stick to the story”

I don’t know why I put myself through dementia dramas. They tap into one of my deepest fears and more often than not leave me terribly distressed but who says art should ever be easy? Mark Ravenhill’s autobiographical Angela launches the Sound Stage platform created by the Royal Lyceum theatre and Pitlochry Festival theatre, adding in virtual theatregoing elements to the audio drama experience and predictably, is gut-wrenchingly yet beautifully felt.

Drawing directly on his mother’s journey with Alzheimer’s and how that impacted the whole family, Ravenhill places her experiences at the heart of his play, a boldly disconcerting move which feels entirely right. As we slip from present to past, as an encounter here triggers a memory there, a portrait is built of the richness of a life lived, even as recollections of it are slipping away from her grasp. Continue reading “Review: Angela, Sound Stage”

News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela

The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre, in association with  Naked Productions and BBC Radio 3  are delighted to announce the cast for Sound Stage’s first production; Angela, a brand-new autobiographical play by Mark Ravenhill airing 26 – 28 March.

Angela centres on the playwright’s mother, at the age of 84 and suffering with dementia, as she looks back across her life. Intercutting between Angela in her old age, her memories and mind failing her, and in her youth; growing up, moving away from her roots as the world of drama welcomed her. The Play depicts her struggle with depression and the challenges of her own aspirations, and becoming a mother, poignantly set against Mark’s experience of beginning to learn ballet, his lifelong passion, in his fifties. Continue reading “News: Cast announced for the premiere of Mark Ravenhill’s first autobiographical play Angela”

Book review: Time To Act – Simon Annand

Simon Annand’s Time To Act is a beautiful book of photos capturing actors in the minutes before they go on stage

Tackling the constraints of the pandemic in its own way, Simon Annand’s fantastic new book of photos Time To Act has launched a virtual exhibition of some of the photographs which has now been extended to until Christmas. It’s an ingenious way of sharing some of the hundreds of images from the book and should surely whet the appetite for either just buying it now or putting on your list for Santa to collect soon.

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News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release

Sonia Friedman Productions has announced that Ian Rickson’s highly acclaimed production of Conor McPherson’s new adaptation of Uncle Vanya has been filmed on stage at the Harold Pinter Theatre in partnership with Angelica Films. The new film version of the production will be shown in cinemas ahead of broadcast on the BBC (date tbc) with further distribution details to be announced soon. This makes it the first UK stage production closed by the Coronavirus pandemic to have been filmed and produced for the screen.

Directed for screen by Ross MacGibbon, the film reunites nearly all of the original cast of the production that was in its final weeks (read my review here) when the country went into lockdown in March and theatres were forced to close. Only Ciarán Hinds was unavailable and his role has now been taken by Roger Allam. Continue reading “News: Uncle Vanya to receive broadcast release”

2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations

Award season kicks into another gear with the arrival of the nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards – & Juliet, Fiddler on the Roof and Dear Evan Hansen lead the musicals pack, Death of a Salesman and Rosmersholm the plays

As ever, Laurence giveth and he taketh away and it’s all subjective anyway.

  • I’m really pleased to see the love for Amélie The Musical and The Ocean At The End Of The Lane but a little incredulous that Fairview received no nominations.
  • The weird category shuffle that often happens has landed on ‘Best Entertainment or Comedy Play’ and ‘Best Family Show’ this year, leaving Emilia and Fleabag in a weird place that isn’t ‘Best New Play’ (last year they were divided into ‘Best Entertainment and Family’ and ‘Best New Comedy’.
  • I had zero desire to see Fiddler on the Roof so can’t pass comment there but can’t help wishing the supporting role in a musical nominations weren’t quite so dominated by DEH.
  • & Juliet’s director Luke Sheppard could rightfully feel snubbed, given the wealth of recognition the rest of the production has received.
  • And whither Monica Dolan, Lucian Msamati, Melanie La Barrie, the cast of Three Sisters…(oh wait, they won the more significant award earlier in the year!)

Continue reading “2020 Laurence Olivier Awards nominations”

Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre

Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Uncle Vanya featuring Toby Jones and Richard Armitage at the Harold Pinter Theatre is so good you can forgive the “wanging on”

“I mean what I mean when I say what I say”

Above everything, the thing that stands out most about Conor McPherson’s adaptation of Chekhov’s evergreen Uncle Vanya is his use of the phrase “wanging on”, twice. It’s such a random thing but it rings out like a bell, both times, more so than any of the usages of contemporary language that pepper the script. Running it a close second though, is just how vital and vibrant Ian Rickson’s production proves.

From stacking his cast with real, proper talent (imagine your bit players being of the ilk of Anna Calder-Marshall, Peter Wight and Dearbhla Molloy) to reuniting with Rosmersholm designer Rae Smith, this is a finely tuned piece of theatre which ultimately, doesn’t do too much that is radical (though the fourth wall breaking-bits are smashing), but rather distils its Chekhovian spirit just so. Or maybe that it’s the first production of the play I’ve seen since turning 40 and its midlife crises suddenly have new resonance…! Continue reading “Review: Uncle Vanya, Harold Pinter Theatre”

Review: Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., Royal Court

Fancy a new Caryl Churchill play? Well here’s four of ’em. Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. impresses at the Royal Court

True story, I’d intended this review of Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp. to be much more formally adventurous than my usual four paragraphs. But my coding ain’t up to scratch and real life intervened to take up time and so I’m just using normal words and format to express my admiration for this quartet of new Caryl Churchill plays.

Directed by James Macdonald, they’re an often extraordinary combination, circling around ideas of myths and stories with her customary precision and linguistic expertise. Married to the ingenuity of Miriam Buether’s set designs, each cannily different to the other as they loom out of the darkness of Jack Knowles’ lighting, it is a full-on auditory treat. And that’s before we even mention a cast that includes Deborah Findlay and Toby Jones. Continue reading “Review: Glass. Kill. Bluebeard. Imp., Royal Court”

Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”