Friday 31 October 2014

Theatre review: Grand Guignol

I described 'Tis Pity She's a Whore last night as grand guignol, but here's a play that looks back at the theatre that put that phrase into the vocabulary. Carl Grose's comedy Grand Guignol arrives at Southwark Playhouse from Plymouth in time for Hallowe'en, and despite being played for laughs rather than scares, comes with enough gore and splatter to live up to the name. It's the early days of the Théâtre du Grand-Guignol in Paris, and impresario Max Maurey (Andy Williams) has scored a hit with his formula: An evening of short horror plays, each crammed with madness and violence, and invariably culminating in gory murder and dismemberment. Lead actors Mlle Maxa (Emily Raymond) and Paulais (Robert Portal) have become stars, and the pressure is on writer Andre De Lorde (Jonathan Broadbent) to come up with even bigger extremes for the next season.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Theatre review: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore

I'm reading A Game of Thrones at the moment, so blond siblings shagging each other is something of a theme as I get to the Swanamaker, whose first full winter season opens with 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. John Ford's tragedy sees a number of suitors wooing the wealthy and beautiful Annabella (Fiona Button,) who has little time for any of them. That's because her interests lie elsewhere, with her own brother Giovanni (Max Bennett.) When he admits he feels the same way, the two start a torrid and, of course, secret affair. Annabella continues to turn away her suitors, until she discovers she's carrying her brother's baby, and quickly consents to marry Soranzo (Stefano Braschi.) The deceit can't last long though, and with Soranzo having a few skeletons in his own closet, a traditional Jacobean bloodbath can't be far off.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Theatre review: Neville's Island

Plugging a couple of months' hole in the Duke of York's programme is a seemingly last-minute transfer from Chichester: Neville's Island, Tim Firth's spoof of "stranded in nature" stories like Lord of the Flies. Four middle-managers from a Salford mineral water company are on a team-building expedition in the Lake District, but having elected Neville (Neil Morrissey) as team captain, he misreads the instructions and lands them on a tiny, uninhabited island downriver. Thanks to Angus' (Miles Jupp) seemingly bottomless rucksack they have no end of supplies, except for anything they might actually need - like food. After Roy (Robert Webb) had a nervous breakdown followed by a religious conversion, the others treat him with kid gloves in fear of setting him off again; everyone except Gordon (Adrian Edmondson) that is, whose default reaction to everything is sarcasm and disdain.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Theatre review: Speed-the-Plow

Where the commercial theatre is concerned, the clue is in the name: The primary motivation is profit, it's just that some projects make this more obvious than others. It's clearly the reason for the current show at the Playhouse - Mamet's Speed-the-Plow was only at the Old Vic a few years ago, so I doubt anyone was crying out to see it again just yet, but it does feature a fairly high-profile, but not actually all that big, role for a young actress. Enter Lindsay Lohan, the former child star turned walking soap opera, and you've got a show that should generate plenty of column inches as she predictably goes off the rails. As it turns out Lohan, who joins Nigel Lindsay in Lindsay Posner's production, seems to have been getting on with the job; actually tonight it was the third star, Richard Schiff, possibly being punished for not being called Lindsay, who had lost his voice. So the role of Bobby was played by understudy Adam Morris - although let's call him Lindsay, so he doesn't feel left out.

Monday 27 October 2014

Theatre review: Here Lies Love

The Cottesloe at the National Theatre was a space whose shows regularly made it into my annual Top Ten, so it's exciting to see it reopen after 18 months of remodeling, under its new name, the Dorfman. Lord Cottesloe, who used to have the whole theatre named after him, now gets a seminar room by the bogs - Dame Theatre is a cruel mistress and her whims unpredictable. Speaking of which, the show that inaugurates the renamed theatre is a disco opera about the former First Lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos. David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's Here Lies Love follows Imelda (Natalie Mendoza) from a childhood of poverty but seemingly boundless optimism, to her escape route via a beauty pageant, which opens doors for her in Manila. Always drawn to politicians, Ninoy Aquino (Dean John-Wilson) dumps her for being "too tall" for a politician's wife, but a whirlwind romance with Ferdinand Marcos (Mark Bautista) soon sees her married to a wildly popular new president.

Sunday 26 October 2014

Theatre review: Damn Yankees

The Landor reviving Damn Yankees wasn't an opportunity I was going to miss, largely because it's one of those musicals I know absolutely nothing about, but which I've always been vaguely aware of as it's such a regular pop-culture reference in US TV and film. The 1955 musical with songs by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, and book by George Abbott and Douglass Wallop, is inspired by the decades-long losing streak of Washington's baseball team, the Senators, while at the other end of the league the New York Yankees seemed unbeatable. Senators fan Joe Boyd (Gary Bland) is willing to sell his soul just to see his team win the pennant, and the satanic Mr Applegate (Jonathan D Ellis) also throws in the chance for Joe to be the one to win it for them: He'll be made younger and, calling himself Joe Hardy (Alex Lodge,) will become the team's new star player.

Friday 24 October 2014

Theatre review: Uncle Vanya

Uncle Vanya is Anya Reiss' third Chekhov adaptation with Russell Bolam at the helm, and hopefully that'll let her view it as a trilogy and return to her own original plays, which in the past have been rather good. (Although here's a fun game, see if you can spot the bit on the website where it actually says this was written by Anton Chekhov. It's there somewhere. Like Wally.) This is one of the Chekhov plays I've seen less often, and I've yet to see a production that convinced me of its greatness. Spoiler alert, but this production didn't either. John Hannah plays the titular Vanya, who's spent most of his life taking care of the farm owned by his late sister, and now passed on to her widower, the elderly academic Serebryakov (Jack Shepherd.) The latter has now retired and come back to the farm with his new young wife Yelena (Rebecca Night,) where he's not entirely welcome.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Theatre review: East is East

Ayub Khan-Din's East is East is a play about British Asians that became a big crossover hit in 1997, getting made into a hit film as well. Its first major West End revival comes from Trafalgar-Still-Transformed-But-Just-How-Transformed-It-Is-Is-Becoming-Less-And-Less-Readily-Apparent, with Jamie Lloyd handing over the directing reins to Sam Yates, and Khan-Din now old enough to take on the role of George Khan, based on his own father, himself. Khan is a Pakistani man who left his wife and family behind in the 1930s to move to England, where he promptly married a new, English wife, Ella (Jane Horrocks,) and had a new family with her. They've lived in Salford ever since, and by 1971 when the play starts there's plenty of tension between George and his sons. The eldest is, he says, dead to him, having refused an arranged marriage and left to become a hairdresser. George is now more determined than ever to impose what he sees as proper Pakistani rules on his remaining five sons, and daughter Meenah (Taj Atwal.)

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Theatre review: Memphis

PREVIEW DISCLAIMER: The papers get invited in tomorrow.

Usually when a show has a creative whose previous work had quite a healthy London run, that fact is plastered across the publicity, but funnily enough the latest feel-good, big-budget Broadway musical import doesn't say "FROM THE WRITER OF FUCKING MEN!" on the posters. Joe DiPietro provides the book for Memphis, with music by David Bryan and lyrics by both. Set throughout the 1950s, the titular city is still segregated, something that extends to the radio, with the mainstream stations playing songs by white artists, and black music restricted to specialist stations with a limited range. Killian Donnelly plays Huey (Jon Robyns alternates at certain performances*, the rest of the time getting a cheesy turn as Perry Como,) a white DJ who's gone to black clubs and churches to hear their music, and manages to get black artists played on a mainstream station.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Theatre review: Our Town

Occasionally I see productions of shows I was in at University, but tonight something a bit rarer - a play I was in at school. Of course it wouldn't be quite as rare in America - the cliché about Thornton Wilder's Our Town is that on any given day there's a production playing somewhere in the world, most likely in the US. Its simple staging conceit, decent-sized cast and homespun feel make it popular with local, amateur and school productions, but if it's notable for its simplicity it's definitely of the deceptive kind. In a production that originated in Chicago in 2008, David Cromer directs as well as playing the Stage Manager, the businesslike narrator who pieces the story together out of the barest theatrical techniques. It's the story of Grover's Corners, a small New Hampshire town, in the first decade or so of the 20th century; but the Stage Manager is looking at it from 1938 when the play debuted, so he knows from the start how everyone's story will end.

Monday 20 October 2014

Theatre review: The House That Will Not Stand

Carrying distinct echoes of The House of Bernarda Alba, Marcus Gardley's tragicomedy The House That Will Not Stand is, thankfully, possessed of a much lighter touch despite taking on issues every bit as troubling as Lorca. The setting is New Orleans in 1836, a place and time in American history when black rights - for a select few - were a reality, but one that was already being threatened by new laws. Most of the characters are "free colored women," but as Gardley's play explores, freedom may be illusory, just as there's more than one form of slavery. As the play starts, a wealthy white Louisiana man, Lazare (Paul Shelley,) has just died. Although he had a wife, he actually lived with his black mistress Beartrice (Martina Laird) and their daughters. As things stand, Beartrice is due to inherit the house, but she needs to do so quickly before the law changes. Meanwhile her daughters want to be allowed out of mourning to go to a ball and capture white men of their own before it's too late.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Theatre review: The Massacre at Paris

Surviving only in a short, probably bastardised version that sounds not unlike Hamlet's Bad Quarto, The Massacre at Paris sees Christopher Marlowe treat Catholics with much the same tact and sensitivity as he did Jews. Based on very recent French history that would have still been gossiped about when it premiered, it sees a marriage between Catholic Princess Margaret (Ella Road) and Protestant Henry of Navarre (Rhys Bevan) as only the pretense of reconciliation between the warring nobles. In fact it riles hardline Catholics so much they plot a bloody massacre of Protestants, but this isn't enough for the power-hungry Duke of Guise (John Gregor) and Queen Mother (Kristin Milward.) They dispatch with the King and Queen and install child-king Henry III (James Askill) as a puppet ruler. But as he gets older Henry has his own style of ruling that's less than pious, so Guise continues his plotting to get power into his own hands once and for all.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Theatre review: Four Minutes Twelve Seconds

What with the front-of-house remodelling that's been going on at Hampstead Theatre, the current Downstairs season was announced quite late in the day, allowing for some topicality. Of course, rape culture and victim-blaming have been prominent topics for some time now, but the recent hacking that's made celebrities' private nude photos and sex tapes public makes James Fritz's first full-length play even more of-the-moment. Four Minutes Twelve Seconds is the running time of a sex video made by 17-year-old Jack and his girlfriend Cara, and at the start of the play it's been leaked to all their school friends. As his father David (Jonathan McGuinness) tells it, Jack got the blame for releasing the video, and Cara dumped him for it. But David is holding back some of the details, such as why Cara's family have attacked Jack in the street: A more serious accusation's been made against him, and the tape may in fact prove whether it's true or not.

Theatre review: Notes from Underground

I'd never been to the original location of The Print Room, a theatre in Notting Hill that had been steadily gaining a strong reputation, but it's now taken on ambitious new premises in what used to be the Coronet Cinema. There's still clearly a lot of development to be done (and I'm not sure the dolls hanging from the toilet doors make it look any less haunted than it already does) but they've already launched a debut season in a studio space. First up, Harry Lloyd and director Gérald Garutti adapt Dostoyevsky's existential novella Notes from Underground into a monologue for Lloyd to perform, and as we enter the space we find him wrapped in a blanket on a stage made out of old hardbacks. Silent and wild-eyed, he gestures to the audience to take a seat, and today seemed quite pained by the fact that one in the front row remained unoccupied until the last minute.

Friday 17 October 2014

Theatre review: The Cherry Orchard

Katie Mitchell uses a new translation by Simon Stephens to present a streamlined version of Chekhov's final full-length play at the Young Vic. The Cherry Orchard's action takes place over a few months, a comparatively short period for Chekhov, made to feel even shorter in just under two hours without interval. Ranevskaya (Kate Duchêne) returns to the country estate she grew up on after a long absence. While her family's old money has been dwindling, their estate manager Lopakhin (Dominic Rowan,) the son of serfs, has been gradually amassing a fortune of his own, and has some ideas about how they can keep their land. Too absorbed in their own personal dramas, though, and unwilling to face the prospect of change, Ranevskaya and her family ignore his warnings until it's too late.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Theatre review: James III - The True Mirror

Another change of pace from writer Rona Munro and director Laurie Sansom as we reach the end of the epic trilogy The James Plays with James III - The True Mirror. And if the first two Scottish kings to bear that name were complex characters whose actions weren't always easy to sympathise with, Jamie Sives' James III turns out to be an out-and-out dick. Flamboyant, bisexual, and preferring the grand gesture over the actual business of ruling, he's fond of squandering the country's meagre budget. A cathedral is the legacy he speaks of most, but in the meantime he'll settle for a choir to follow him around everywhere commentating on his actions. His relationships with courtiers Cochrane (Andrew Rothney) and Ramsay (Mark Rowley) as well as laundry girl Daisy1 (Fiona Wood) are barely disguised from the court, least of all the queen. On the surface, his court is a place of safety and pleasure.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Theatre review: Henry IV (Donmar Warehouse)

Following 2012's Julius Caesar, which saw the inmates of a women's prison perform the play but find some of its themes too close to home, for the Donmar's 2014 Shakespeare production they've returned to Phyllida Lloyd's concept to see the prisoners try again. Lloyd has now said she enviasages these all-female Shakeaspeares as a trilogy; the third play hasn't been revealed yet but the middle installment is a merging of the Henry IV plays. Although in practice it's a shortened version of Part 1, with Part 2 represented by its two most iconic scenes, plus a third that mops up some plot points. So this is largely the story of Prince Hal (Clare Dunne,) his life of petty crime and carousing with drunken knight Falstaff (Ashley McGuire,) and the first major indication that he's more of a formidable figure than he chooses to present: An uprising against his father, led by the charismatic Hotspur (Jade Anouka,) is crushed partly due to Hal's unexpected transformation into a fighting machine.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Theatre review: The Infidel

As he documented in Fame earlier this year, David Baddiel missed out on his chance at becoming a millionaire writer of musicals when Andrew Lloyd Webber couldn't tell the difference between him and Ben Elton. He's making up for it now with the book and lyrics to the musical adaptation of his own film The Infidel, with music by Erran Baron Cohen. Another very silly comedy about religion, this one has a definite feel that nothing is out of bounds. Mahmud (Kev Orkian) is a minicab driver and self-styled fun guy to be around, whose son Rashid (Gary Wood) feels like he's the one having to parent his father. He's well-liked and though hardly the most devout Muslim, is quietly a believer. He has a major crisis of identity though when his mother dies and he discovers adoption papers proving he was actually born to Jewish parents. Hoping to be allowed to meet his dying biological father, he tries to learn enough about Judaism to impress the rabbi, while keeping this development from his family.

Monday 13 October 2014

Theatre review: Next Fall

After the all-out energy of In The Heights, director Luke Sheppard returns to Southwark Playhouse - the Little space this time - with something a lot more intimate and thoughtful. In Geoffrey Nauffts' Next Fall, Adam (Charlie Condou) has been living with boyfriend Luke (Martin Delaney) for a few years, and their relationship seems strong despite a major point of disagreement that's persisted since the day they met: Adam is an atheist but Luke is a committed, Evangelical Christian who has managed to reconcile his sexuality with his faith, and is still hopeful of converting his boyfriend. Their relationship is told in flashback, as we first meet Adam in a hospital waiting room after his partner's been in a serious car accident. His friend Holly (Sirine Saba) is little support in the face of Luke's bigoted father Butch.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Theatre review: Free As Air

Bonkers 1954 musical Salad Days was a hit when revived at Riverside Studios a couple of years ago, which makes it not quite obscure enough to fit the Finborough's "lost classics" strand. So instead, to mark that show's 50th anniversary, they're reviving Julian Slade and Dorothy Reynolds' 1957 follow-up, Free As Air. The fictional Channel Island of Terhu is preparing to celebrate its annual Independence Day, but is struggling to find a May Queen because their laws stipulate nobody can fill the role twice, and every woman and girl on the island has already had a turn. So when a stranger, Geraldine (Charlotte Baptie) is picked up by the supply boat, she not only solves this thorny problem, but steals the heart of the heir to the island, Albert (Daniel Cane.) But Geraldine turns out to be a wealthy heiress and favourite of the gossip columns, and the press won't let her hide so easily.

Saturday 11 October 2014

Theatre review: Love's Labour's Lost (RSC / RST)

The RSC's six-year run through the Shakespeare canon now comes to a pair of comedies that possibly share a greater connection than is immediately apparent: There's a theory (one that I personally find very likely,) that the "lost" play Love's Labour's Won is in fact simply an alternative title for one of the extant comedies. The most likely candidate is Much Ado About Nothing, as its warring lovers Beatrice and Benedick could well be older versions of Rosaline and Berowne, the sparring partners separated at the end of Love's Labour's Lost. To test the theory, the two plays are being paired in productions by Christopher Luscombe at the RST, with Michelle Terry and Edward Bennett playing the lovers in both. They also see the RSC make their own contribution to the First World War centenary, as they're being set either side of the Great War, which is here what parts the couple.

Friday 10 October 2014

Theatre review: Altar Boyz

After a successful off-Broadway run, Kevin Del Aguila, Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker's boyband spoof Altar Boyz finally debuts in the UK, in a production running for just two weeks in Greenwich. Maybe this low-key run is just testing the waters as there's nothing half-baked about Steven Dexter's production, and the show's remarkably silly sense of humour seems to me a good fit for this side of the pond. Altar Boyz takes the form of a concert, the final night of a tour by the titular Catholic boyband. Matthew (Liam Doyle) is the leader, Mark (Jonny Fines) the closeted pretty-boy, Luke (Jamie-Ray Hartshorne) the "streetwise" one, Juan (Faisal Khodabukus) the latin lover-boy with a tragic backstory, and Abraham (Alex Jordan-Mills) is Jewish, but is in the band because he happened to be in the room when God (the recorded voice of Luke Kempner, doing an impression of The X Factor's Peter Dickson,) gave them their calling.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Theatre review: Electra

The current in-the-round configuration at the Old Vic is a suitably exposed setting for a good, but stark production of Sophocles' Electra. Perennially one of the most popular Greek Tragedies, it takes place near the end of the saga of the House of Atreus, so by the time we join the story it comes with a lot of baggage, well into a cycle of revenge and counter-revenge. Before the Trojan War, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to secure the Greek army's fortunes. Never forgiving him for it, his wife Clytemnestra (Diana Quick) waited for his return then murdered him, with help from her lover Aegisthus (Tyrone Huggins.) Now they rule together, to the continuing dismay of her eldest daughter Electra. Driven mad by grief, she haunts the palace making threats; forbidden to leave or marry because of her continuing loyalty to her dead father, she vows revenge when her brother Orestes is old enough to return and carry it out.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Dance review: Lord of the Flies

Sweaty topless dancing boys made Matthew Bourne's name when he first gender-flipped the swans in Swan Lake a couple of decades ago, and he obviously knows they still don't hurt if you've got tickets to sell. An obvious source of raging testosterone, though a less obvious choice for ballet, is a novel I studied at O'level, and I'll hazard a guess so did both the people reading this: William Golding's Lord of the Flies is rarely absent from the GCSE English curriculum. If by some chance you haven't read it, or did and have blocked it from your memory, it's the story of a group of schoolboys during World War II, who survive a plane crash that kills all the adults. Trapped on a desert island they follow very proper, English rules of behaviour led by Ralph (Sam Archer.) Until, that is, the rest of the boys realise these rules no longer apply to them, and the island descends into violence and chaos.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Theatre review: James II - Day of the Innocents

Rona Munro's James Plays are a trilogy, but each is meant not only to stand alone, but also to have its own distinct flavour. So it is with James II - Day of the Innocents, although arguably it's got two of them: After the epic action of James I we have something more intimate, centred on friendship and family, but before we can have that the hero, and the audience, have to face horrors. James I having been murdered, James II (Andrew Rothney) becomes king at the age of six. Too young to rule, he is a pawn in the wealthy earls' power struggles, even to the point of being kidnapped a couple of times as leverage. Livingston (Gordon Kennedy) finally gets the upper hand thanks to the infamous Black Dinner1, in which the Earl of Douglas and his young brother are invited to dine with the king and, in violation of all the laws of hospitality, captured and killed. A childhood of bloodshed done in his name has left James with nightmares that persist well into his teens.

Monday 6 October 2014

Theatre review: Seminar

The publicity image for Seminar shows Roger Allam throwing sheets of papers into the air, leading some people I know to be disappointed when more cast were announced, as they'd been hoping for two hours of Allam throwing paper around. Personally I was glad - after all, he needs someone to chuck the paper at. Of course, the throwing is (mostly) metaphorical, as Theresa Rebeck's play is about the ambitions, pretensions and easily bruised egos of aspiring writers. Allam plays Leonard, at one time a respected novelist, but nowadays better known as a talented and influential editor of other people's work. As a nice little earner on the side he holds exclusive writing courses, tearing into the efforts of the most promising new writers who can afford him - or go into debt to get him. Martin (Bryan Dick,) Douglas (Oliver Hembrough,) Izzy (Rebecca Grant) and Kate (Charity Wakefield,) whose vast flat they meet in, are in for the 10-week course.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Theatre review: Rachel

Notable as the first play by an African-American woman to be professionally staged, Angelina Weld Grimké's Rachel was written in the wake of Birth of a Nation, and describes the experience of black Americans in the early years of the 20th century through an intimate domestic tragedy. Her husband and eldest son having been murdered for talking back to a white mob, Mrs Loving (Miquel Brown) moved her remaining children from the Deep South to an unnamed Northern state. Here the treatment of black people as second class citizens is not as overt, so Tom (Nakay Kpaka) and Rachel (Adelayo Adedayo) have grown up relatively happy and normal. The older they get, though, the more their equality seems an illusion, as they're reminded more of their true status in society every day. Tom's cheery, boisterous persona hides an increasing frustration at his inability to get a job he's more than qualified for; but it's the maternal, relentlessly optimistic Rachel whose mind will be most affected when the reality of being born the wrong colour for America's liking is forced on her.

Saturday 4 October 2014

theatre review: dirty butterfly

it's that time of year when the young vic's clare studio plays host to a handful of productions from award-winning young directors. first up is the genesis future directors award, which this year goes to tinuke craig. craig's chosen play is debbie tucker green's dirty butterfly, a short, brutal but poetic look at domestic abuse. jo (seline hizli) is almost constantly beaten up by her husband. next door her stuttering neighbour jason (anthony welsh) listens through the wall of his bedroom, imagining himself her knight in shining armour and whispering his support to jo when her husband's out, but not actually doing anything. jo's screams are also audible in jason's sister's room, but amelia (estella daniels) can't bear to listen to them. she sleeps downstairs on the sofa instead, ignoring what she knows is going on next door.

Theatre review: Flowers of the Forest

Both written and set in 1934, as the consequences of Hitler's ascent started to become apparent, John Van Druten's pacifist drama Flowers of the Forest looks with some concern at the increasing possibility of a Second World War, by looking back to the First. Naomi (Sophie Ward) lives in London with her well-off husband Lewis (Mark Straker,) their lives largely revolving around books and art. Many of their generation still hold onto the romanticised view of World War I as a noble sacrifice, but the couple are among those who view it as a pointless and ruthless waste of life. So when Lewis' secretary Beryl (Victoria Rigby) reveals her boyfriend contributed to a new book exposing the horrors of the front, he's invited to meet them. Leonard's (Max Wilson) enthusiasm for his subject, as well as some papers from her recently-deceased father's house, set Naomi off remembering her relationship with a doomed war poet, and the play's middle act flashes back to her childhood home in 1914 and 1916.

Friday 3 October 2014

Theatre review: The Edge of Our Bodies

The Gate has recently played host to a number of memorable monologues, and although Adam Rapp's The Edge of Our Bodies features, for a few moments, a second character1, in practice it's another one-woman show. Shannon Tarbet plays Bernadette, who's 16, pregnant, and has run away from her Connecticut boarding school to visit her boyfriend in New York. But before she gets a chance to break the news it becomes obvious he's trying to avoid her. Instead, Bernadette spends some time with her boyfriend's dying father, before an ill-advised encounter in a bar, as she resolves to decide on her own what to do about her situation. The Edge of Our Bodies is the first in a new season focusing on female identity entitled "Who Does She Think She Is?" and the journey of a teenage girl is an obvious fit to this theme.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Theatre review: Pitcairn

In his most recent play Great Britain a couple of months ago, Richard Bean gave the Queen a line about "looking forward to our visit to the Pitcairn islands." So Bean's critics can add product placement to his list of crimes as Pitcairn is in fact the title of his next project, a production from Max Stafford-Clark's Out of Joint with Shakespeare's Globe, where it lands as part of its tour. The last war play in the Globe's 2014 season comes with the depressing message that a civil war can break out even in a nation that consists of a couple of dozen people. These are the former mutineers of the Bounty, led by Fletcher Christian (Tom Morely,) who after stopping off in Tahiti to pick up wives and convince a couple of local men to join them as well, have sailed to the uninhabited island of Pitcairn, where they hope to build a Utopian society - and hide from the Royal Navy who'd quite like to hang them all.

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Theatre review: The Vertical Hour

Like Skylight, David Hare's The Vertical Hour sees him pit political ideologies against each other in the middle of a complicated personal relationship, in a conversation that runs on well into the night. In this 2006 play though, the political subject - the Iraq War - is made clear from the outset. Nadia (Thusitha Jayasundera) used to be a war correspondent, but after her time in Sarajevo moved back to America, settling at Yale as a politics lecturer. The play is bookended by seminars with two of her students (Cameron Cuffe, Pepter Lunkuse,) who like many have a degree of undisguised contempt for her support of the "liberation" of Iraq. Her views are so high-profile she's been invited to advise George W. Bush in person, and she can't escape discussion of the subject even when she goes on holiday with her English boyfriend Philip (Finlay Robertson) to meet his (now-divorced) parents.