Friday, 25 September 2020

Stage-to-screen review: Romantics Anonymous

I've more or less consigned Emma Rice to the same "I'm just never going to see the appeal" box Samuel Beckett has been sitting in, for more or less the exact opposite reasons, for years. But anything resembling live theatre is still a rarity, and Romantics Anonymous is a show that's inspired a lot of love among people whose opinion I consider worth listening to. It debuted at the Swanamaker at the tail end of Rice's notorious run at Shakespeare's Globe, and after playing at the Bristol Old Vic earlier this year it's now returned there to play to an empty theatre with the live performances streamed to computers (the platform they use, TicketCo, turns out to also have an app that works on my TV so that was better than expected.) Based on Les Émotifs Anonymes by Jean-Pierre Améris and Philippe Blasband, Rice (book,) Michael Kooman (music) and Christopher Dimond's (lyrics) musical plays out the familiar French movie trope of quirky misfits finding love.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Stage-to-screen review: My Beautiful Laundrette

Leicester's Curve Theatre continues to dip into its archive recordings to provide online content and fundraise during lockdown; latest is last year's My Beautiful Laundrette, adapted by Hanif Kureishi from his own screenplay. It's something of a rollercoaster ride during the early eighties for an extended Pakistani-British family, rising above the general wave of unemployment by building a small business empire (albeit one that isn't quite as legal and respectable as it initially appears) while at the same time being regularly reminded that they're still viewed by many as an underclass. It's seen through the eyes of Omar (Omar Malik) and his complicated relationship with old schoold friend Johnny (Jonny Fines, who seems pretty spot-on casting for a play about laundry, considering he's always struck me as looking literally very clean, but metaphorically a bit dirty.)

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Stage-to-screen review: Death of a Hunter

Fond as I am of the Finborough Theatre, some of its deadly-serious, issue-based programming can be a hard sell. It does produce its share of joyous shows - I still sometimes go on about how funny Quality Street was a decade later, and only last year they camped After Dark up to within an inch of its life - but its online offerings during lockdown haven't exactly been focused on escapism. Which brings us to September's offering, the story of Ernest Hemingway blowing his brains out. Mercifully not in musical form, but in German playwright Rolf Hochhuth's 1977 play Death of a Hunter, which got its English-language premiere at the Finborough in 2018 (this archive recording is being released as a tribute to the playwright, who died in May.) We follow Hemingway (Edmund Dehn) in the last hour of his life, having already decided to follow his father's example and commit suicide.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Theatre review: Beat the Devil

My first visit in nearly six months to an actual theatre for a live show takes me to the Bridge, and while there's a kind of minor triumph to a limited number of venues finding a way around social distancing to present shows despite the indifference of the powers that be, I was also acutely aware of being in the same place where I saw my 2019 Show of the Year: The large space with its seating capacity greatly reduced to allow distance between audience groups, standing in stark contrast to the heaving bodies at last year's Shakespearean party. I guess it would also have been nice if my first tentative venture back out into live theatre had been for some escapism from what's kept us apart all these months, but instead we're right in the thick of it as playwright David Hare came down with Covid-19 at the same time that a belated lockdown was introduced in the UK; Beat the Devil is his furious memoir of his time suffering from a "mediaeval" disease and the actions of those he squarely blames for his having contracted it.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Stage-to-screen review: Three Kings

After a busy first couple of months, theatres' commitment to streaming content has been tailing off as it's become increasingly apparent how much they're being hung out to dry by the government, and their resources to create online content must be running low. But they haven't given up the ghost yet entirely, and the Old Vic's occasional series of broadcasts, "In Camera," has aimed for a particularly authentic feel of a trip to the theatre: The show is performed live and streamed via Zoom; there's the sound of audience hubbub and the ten-minute bell as you take your seat (in front of the computer) and, of course, the show starts a few minutes late. Some of the less appealing features have also come with it: The Old Vic has persisted with a system of staggered ticket prices and the related online queue, despite everyone getting the same view (in theory it promotes a "pay what you can" policy but don't tell me the Duchess of Argyll wouldn't grab a £10 subsidised ticket if she got first place in the queue) and it comes with the pitfalls of live theatre - Three Kings' entire run was postponed twice when its star Andrew Scott had to have minor surgery.