Monday, 22 October 2012
Theatre review: Red Velvet
Opening in 1867 in Poland, we meet the 60-year-old Aldridge (Adrian Lester) about to go on stage as King Lear. A much-loved and respected actor who constantly tours the world to packed houses, he remains an intensely private man and, when a local reporter manages to get into his dressing room uninvited, proves to be an incredibly angry one with a chip on his shoulder that belies the public adulation. When the reporter asks why he's hardly ever returned to the London stage she hits a particularly raw nerve and we flash back to 1833 and his two-night run as the Moor.
14 years of work suggests a labour of love and it shows, there's a genuine fascination for the man apparent in both Chakrabarti's writing and Lester's performance (the two are married; when asked afterwards about his own research for the role, Lester suggested that 14 years living with someone obsessed with Aldridge counted as pretty thorough research in itself.) One thing I particularly enjoyed in both Rubasingham's direction and the cast's performances was the distinction in the different acting styles. The real actors are, of course, giving modern performances as the historical figures. The Othello cast we meet at the start, working in the style of the Keans, use broad acting in their performances, mined for comic effect here. And the style Ira introduces is more naturalistic, but only compared to the exaggerated version. I like that the temptation to have Ira give what would be considered a good performance today, rather than in 1833, has been resisted. (With Lester due to play Othello for real in about six months's time, I imagine it's also useful to him to be doing the extracts from the play in an exaggerated style he can easily shake off when exploring the role properly.)
Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti is booking until the 24th of November at the Tricycle Theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including interval.