Review: Nora – A Doll’s House, Young Vic

Stef Smith takes Ibsen as a fertile starting point for her new version Nora: A Doll’s House at the Young Vic

“Nora, what have you done”

Ibsen wrote A Doll’s House in 1879 but from 1918 to 1968 and then to 2018, stories like Nora’s endure. That’s the thesis of Stef Smith’s Nora: A Doll’s House, a radical new version that splits its narrative voice in three (and everyone knows how good that can be for a play (qv Emilia, Anatomy of a Suicide).

And it’s a smart move in many ways, drawing as much attention to the progression for feminism in the time periods as how little some other things (men?) have changed. Enfranchisement, contraception, gay rights, they all have huge societal impact but when social and class strictures remain in place, what freedom is there really? Continue reading “Review: Nora – A Doll’s House, Young Vic”

Emphatically-not-a-review: Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre

I’d intended to let Bitter Wheat languish unthought-about forever more but last week’s Harvey Weinstein episode provoked this

Amber Anderson,
Lysette Anthony,
Asia Argento,
Rosanna Arquette,
Jessica Barth,
Kate Beckinsale,
Zoë Brock,
Juls Bindi,
Cynthia Burr,
Cate Blanchett,
Liza Campbell,
Alexandra Canosa,
Rowena Chiu,
Marisa Coughlan,
Emma de Caunes,
Hope Exiner d’Amore,
Florence Darel,
Cara Delevingne,
Paz de la Huerta,
Juliana De Paula,
Sophie Dix,
Lacey Dorn,
Kaitlin Doubleday,
Caitlin Dulaney,
Dawn Dunning,
Lina Esco,
Alice Evans,
Lucia Evans, formerly Lucia Stoller,
Angie Everhart,
Claire Forlani,
Romola Garai,
Louisette Geiss,
Louise Godbold,
Judith Godrèche,
Trish Goff,
Larissa Gomes,
Heather Graham,
Eva Green,
Ambra Gutierrez, formerly Ambra Battilana,
Mimi Haleyi,
Daryl Hannah,
Salma Hayek,
Lena Headey,
Anne Heche,
Lauren Holly,
Dominique Huett,
Amy Israel,
Angelina Jolie,
Ashley Judd,
Minka Kelly,
Katherine Kendall,
Heather Kerr,
Mia Kirshner,
Myleene Klass,
Emma Loman (alias),
Laura Madden,
Natassia Malthe,
Julianna Margulies,
Brit Marling,
Sarah Ann Masse,
Ashley Matthau,
Rose McGowan,
Natalie Mendoza,
Sophie Morris,
Katya Mtsitouridze,
Emily Nestor,
Jennifer Siebel Newsom,
Connie Nielsen,
Kadian Noble,
Lupita Nyong’o,
Lauren O’Connor,
Gwyneth Paltrow,
Samantha Panagrosso,
Zelda Perkins,
Vu Thu Phuong,
Sarah Polley,
Monica Potter,
Tomi-Ann Roberts,
Lisa Rose,
Erika Rosenbaum,
Melissa Sagemiller,
Annabella Sciorra,
Léa Seydoux,
Lauren Sivan,
Chelsea Skidmore,
Mira Sorvino,
Tara Subkoff,
Melissa Thompson
Uma Thurman,
Paula Wachowiak,
Paula Williams,
Sean Young

Continue reading “Emphatically-not-a-review: Bitter Wheat, Garrick Theatre”

Review: Trust, Gate

Trust, Gate Theatre, London

Jude Christian offers up something excitingly experimental with the German play Trust at the Gate Theatre in West London

“I have to keep being original here and that’s really hard work
I CAN’T BE FUNNY AND ORIGINAL ALL THE TIME”

Between the Mandarin lessons and the sleep masks, the tequila shots and extended yoga, there’s an awful lot going on in Trust. A hell of a lot. But given that the last time Jude Christian directed a show here at the Gate she put two actual piglets onstage, it should come as little surprise that she’s challenging us once again. Plus the play’s German, so of course it’s batshit.

From the minute you walk into the Gate, having been handed your guide to the art installation and gingerly stepping over the Roomba that’s beavering away, we know we’re not in Kansas any more. Or Notting Hill. Or anywhere the likes of Billers or DomCav will consider safe. And over the next 100 minutes, Christian experiments with this theatrical space in breathtaking ways, performing in the play as well as a kind of guide on its bewildering path. Continue reading “Review: Trust, Gate”

Review: Rachel, Finborough

“I hear people talk about God’s justice and I wonder.”

Written in response to the glorification of the Ku Klux Klan contained in 1915 film The Birth of a Nation,Angelina Weld Grimké’s Rachel has the remarkable tag of being the first play by an African-American woman to ever be produced professionally. Despite that, it has languished mostly unseen since then and this revival by the Finborough marks the European premiere and a contribution to the work of Black History Month. It’s easy to dismiss work such as this saying it has collected dust on the shelves for a reason but this fascinating context alone surely negates that and in Ola Ince’s production, dramatic reasons emerge too.

Commissioned by the NAACP (about whom I wrote my undergraduate dissertation oddly enough), it set out “to use the stage for race propaganda in order to enlighten the American people” about the African-American experience and given that it is still an ongoing struggle for playwrights today, what Weld Grimké achieved in the early 20th century is significant. There’s a lack of sophistication to her writing that is undeniable, the overly expositional dialogue clunks once too often in asking its searching questions about comprehension and compromise, as the educated but endearingly naïve Rachel comes to terms with the racist world she must engage with.

Miquel Brown’s superb Mrs Loving swept up her children Rachel and Tom after tragedy hit their Southern home and relocated them to a northern city where things have been better, just. The problem being that the expectations that accompanied their education remain unfulfilled, society may have moved a little quicker up here but not that much. Napay Kpaka’s hugely appealing Tom can’t get work as an engineer for love nor money and Adelayo Adedayo traces the dampening of Rachel’s optimism with real power, the girlish dreams of the play’s opening slowly shattered by the revelation of how sheltered she has been from the ugliness of the racist world at large.

Rachel may not be without its issues but as it hits its devastating final beats, you’ll be hard-pressed to remember what they are. Weld Grimké’s gift for character is clear and there’s a sad timelessness to many of the issues that they face – prejudice remains as it ever was. A worthy revival indeed.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 25th October