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Saturday, 28 March 2020

Stage-to-screen review:
Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual

More online theatre is being announced all the time to fill in the gap left by the buildings being shut, with the majority of what's coming up being shows I've already seen in person and reviewed. But that mainly applies to London and Stratford-upon-Avon, and the regional theatres I don't generally get to have been releasing material as well. In return for a donation, Leicester Curve are offering a recording of their 2018 show Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual for a week - this is an archive recording that was never intended for public release, but I guess even those have moved on in quality over the years, and instead of a static shot this is a perfectly watchable recording done with multiple moving cameras. Riaz Khan's original book was a response to the resurgence of racism on the football terraces in the noughties, through the lens of him finding an identity in the eighties in the unlikely family of the much-derided gangs of violent football hooligans known as casuals.

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Stage-to-screen review: An Ideal Husband

With London theatres now closed for the foreseeable future the focus has very quickly shifted to how those of us who spend far too much time there can get our regular fix from home. Streaming quickly jumped in to take the strain and there should be plenty of culture available soon with the BBC planning a whole online festival, and a number of individual recordings starting to show up. In the meantime there's also a few existing platforms available; Marquee TV is one I only heard of recently, and which seems to lean heavily on the side of opera and dance, so its theatre offerings consist almost entirely of shows I've already seen. Their library does include almost all of Classic Spring's Oscar Wilde season from 2017-18 at the Vaudeville, including one installment I skipped at the time, An Ideal Husband. Jonathan Church directs a Wilde play with a more overtly political slant than most.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Theatre review: The Mikvah Project

The Mikvah Project feels a bit of an unlikely play to get a major revival within a few years of its premiere, when I was interested but not entirely convinced by it. But I've got a certain reputation to live down to as far as plays with extensive male nudity go and besides, I wanted to know if a different perspective would make it feel a bit more focused than it seemed last time. And Georgia Green's production - her professional debut, following its appearance last year as part of an Orange Tree new directors' showcase - does go some way towards filling in some gaps. The Mikvah is a Jewish ritual bath, more commonly used by women, but there are ones available for men as well, like the pair in Josh Azouz' play who meet there every Friday for particular reasons of their own. 35-year-old Avi (Alex Waldmann) goes to pray for the child he and his wife are trying to conceive (or as he puts it, he's praying to his balls.)

Friday, 13 March 2020

Theatre review: Love, Love, Love

I imagine there's a hiatus coming up in my theatregoing and reviewing, thanks to a certain global situation targeting the Baby Boomers, but in the meantime here's Mike Bartlett's own dig at that generation. After the Brexit result came in I predicted Love, Love, Love would be a play that kept coming back over the years, and here it is as Rachel O'Riordan's second directing gig in her inaugural Lyric Hammersmith season. It follows Sandra (Rachael Stirling) and Kenneth (Nicholas Burns) from first meeting to happy ending - but every chapter in their story has collateral damage they've become uncannily adept at ignoring. The first of these is Kenneth's brother Henry (Patrick Knowles,) whom Sandra has just started dating at the beginning of the play; older by only four years he appears to be from an entirely different generation.

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Theatre review: Women Beware Women

Seeing two Shakespeare productions in a row isn't that unusual, especially once the summer season kicks off; two Middletons (Thomas, not Kate and Pippa) is rarer. Women Beware Women concludes the current Swanamaker season in a production by Amy Hodge that's fully aware of the potential for the play to chime with #MeToo, and gives Joanna Scotcher's design a 1980s aesthetic that nods at a time a lot of current cases date back to. The Florentine court becomes a gilded Art Deco hotel where Leantio (Paul Adeyefa) brings his new wife Bianca (Thalissa Teixeira,) only to immediately demand she be hidden away from public view because their elopement is still a dangerous secret. But on a public walkabout the Duke (Simon Kunz) spots Bianca at her window, and decides he must have her. Enter Livia (Tara Fitzgerald,) who's got a plan to get the Duke access to her in return for her own advancement.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Theatre review: The Revenger's Tragedy
(La tragedia del vendicatore)

Good though Rebecca Frecknall's take on The Duchess of Malfi was, I couldn't help but be sorry that it did away with my second favourite ridiculous Jacobean revenge tragedy murder (death by poisoned Bible.) My actual favourite ridiculous Jacobean revenge tragedy murder (death by poisoned skull) appears in Thomas Middleton's The Revenger's Tragedy; would I be similarly disappointed? No of course not, because this is Cheek by Jowl's annual visit and Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod are more likely to add their own insane fuckery to a play than get rid of what's already there. Not content with having English, French and Russian companies on the go, they've teamed up with Piccolo Teatro di Milan to create their first Italian-language show. And aptly enough Italy is the setting for a play that goes out of its way to live up to its no-nonsense title's promise of revenge, and lots of it.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Theatre review: La Cage aux Folles [The Play]

I've had misjudged or unlikely musical adaptations on the brain recently, and not just because of the obvious suspect - announcements in the last couple of weeks have suggested that Joe diPietro alone is going to be flinging a hell of a lot of insanity at stages both sides of the Atlantic over the next few months. But then there's the other extreme, where a musical adaptation has worked so well it's overshadowed the original: The Jerry Herman / Harvey Fierstein musical is what comes to mind when you hear La Cage aux Folles, to the extent that Park Theatre have felt it best to append [The Play] to the title, to clarify that Simon Callow's new version is based on Jean Poiret's original French farce. Any songs that show up are going to be lip-synced because the title refers to a drag club run by Georges (Michael Matus) in early 1970s St Tropez.

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Theatre review: Trainers, Or The Brutal Unpleasant Atmosphere Of This Most Disagreeable Season
(A Theatrical Essay)

Part of the Gate Theatre's USP is that every Artistic Director is allowed free rein on how they interpret the venue's remit as an international theatre. And while I've yet to see a cast get naked and throw food at each other, there's no doubting that Ellen McDougall's tenure is all about channeling the spirit of European avant-garde theatre. It's apparent again in Hester Chillingworth's staging of American writer Sylvan Oswald's Trainers, Or The Brutal Unpleasant Atmosphere Of This Most Disagreeable Season (A Theatrical Essay), whose cast of two greet the audience in a white room filled with random objects which will come to represent people and things in the story. Such story as there is, anyway - as the final part of the title says, this is intended to be an essay rather than a traditional play, and part of the attraction of an essay is that it's a medium without a defined form or structure.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Theatre review: A Number

A Number premiered in 2002, a few years after the Dolly the Sheep story and with the possibility and ethics of human cloning still a subject of much discussion. The amount of times it’s been revived since is a testament to the fact that Caryl Churchill created something out of that story that far transcends topical controversy, finding an enduring human side that Polly Findlay’s production at the Bridge explicitly focuses on. This is the third production of the play I’ve seen, and the first not to cast a real-life father and son, although Roger Allam and Colin Morgan have worked together in ersatz father/son roles before. And despite the genetic material there’s something ersatz about the father/son relationships they play out in A Number as well – I told the people I went to the show with to go in knowing as little about it as possible, and would recommend that to anyone planning on seeing it; in which case save this review until after you’ve been as well, as it’s a hard play to write about without major spoilers.