Monday 29 March 2021

Stage-to-screen review: BKLYN

An original offering from the service, Dean Johnson's production of BKLYN unearths a 2004 musical by Mark Schoenfeld and Barri McPherson (book, music and lyrics) I don't think I'd ever heard of before; having now watched it, its obscurity is no suprise. That particular American mix of maudlin and saccharine I have no truck with, BKLYN is like Rent (a show whose success it's blatantly trying to capitalise on) without the decent songs or any attempt at coherence. A storytelling musical told by a group of homeless people under the Brooklyn Bridge, the Street Singer (Newtion Matthews) narrates the story of Brooklyn (Emma Kingston,) a young French girl whose mother (Sejal Keshwala) commits suicide when her American father never returns from the Vietnam War. Brooklyn returns to the city she was named after to become an overnight singing superstar, but this is just a coincidental sideline to finding her lost father Taylor (Jamie Muscato.)

Friday 26 March 2021

Stage-to-screen review: INSIDE

Necessity has made for a lot of different interpretations of what "online theatre" consists of over the last year, ranging from the lo-tech to shows barely distinguishable from TV or film. For their first tentative return to new programming the Orange Tree go for the most literal version, which for my money is the closest thing to the frisson of the real theatre experience: A show presented on their stage, with the actors performing live, and the audience have to be in their seats on time - albeit their seats in front of the computer or TV. After Hymn this is only my second live-streamed show of 2021, and perhaps it had an extra touch of nostalgia for me as the Orange Tree is where I saw my last in-person show before the first lockdown. Their streaming commision is six short plays from a mix of writers who've worked there before and others who haven't; presented in two triple-bills, they're reactions to the last year's events under the rough themes of Inside/Outside. Directed by Anna Himali Howard, the INSIDE collection is first.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Stage-to-screen review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray is a story that's endlessly popular for stage adaptation, although in my experience it always seems to struggle there - perhaps that's why it's the one story Wilde chose to tell as a novel rather than a play or poem. It now surfaces again as the latest pandemic-era streaming production, from co-producers the Barn Theatre, Lawrence Batley Theatre, New Wolsey Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Theatr Clwyd - filmed largely at the Barn, adapted by the Lawrence Batley's Artistic Director Henry Filloux-Bennett and directed by Clwyd's AD Tamara Harvey, a number of other partner theatres also benefit from one of the more star-studded of the recent online shows. Keeping Wilde's core characters intact but going for a much looser adaptation of the actual story, Filloux-Bennett turns it into a parable about social media that's firmly rooted in last year's events.

Monday 15 March 2021

Stage-to-screen review: One Night In Miami...

In recent months both of the original big streaming services have offered, on the more "prestige" end of their output (coincidentally today it was announced both films had received multiple Oscar nominations,) film adaptations of stage plays that imagine the behind-closed-doors life of iconic 20th century black figures. A few weeks ago I watched Netflix's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which I found good but lacking some of the dimensions of the original; today I tackled Amazon Prime's offering, One Night In Miami... which if anything has the opposite effect of building up the play's world. Part of that is simply down to time: Ma Rainey cut at least an hour off the original play's running time, but when I saw Kemp Powers' play at the Donmar Warehouse in 2016 it ran at a tight 90 minutes, meaning this nearly two-hour film is actually longer than the original. Powers himself adapts the screenplay for Regina King's film, which takes place in 1964, hours after a boxer still known as Cassius Clay (Eli Goree) first becomes heavyweight champion of the world.

Wednesday 10 March 2021

Radio review: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Two Gentlemen of Verona consist of one of Shakespeare's douchiest romantic leads in Proteus (Blake Ritson,) and one of the thickest in Valentine (Nikesh Patel,) who leaves Verona to seek his fortune in Milan, falling in love once there with the Duke's daughter Silvia (Kate Phillips.) Proteus eventually follows him there and falls for her himself; despite having sworn love to Julia (Lyndsey Marshal) back at home, and despite Valentine supposedly being his best friend, he immediately starts plotting to sabotage the relationship and steal Silvia for himself. Originally produced for BBC Radio 3 in 2019 and now available on BBC Sounds' Shakespeare Sessions, this version adapted by Sara Davies and directed by Celia de Wolff is a companion to the production of The Two Noble Kinsmen I listened to a few weeks ago, using the same cast and production team.

Friday 5 March 2021

Rehearsed reading review: Girl on an Altar

Alongside the more finished works that have been appearing online during the last year of lockdown, it's perhaps surprising that more rehearsed readings haven't also been on the menu - perhaps theatres have been too busy trying to ensure they can eventually reopen their doors, to spend much time trying out the shows they hope to put on when they do. But if the latest in a long line of promises actually turns out true there might be light at the end of the tunnel, and Marina Carr’s new play Girl on an Altar is one Indhu Rubasingham hopes to add to a future Kiln season. So she and Susie McKenna direct a one-off reading that was live-streamed tonight from the Kiln stage, and in a companion piece to her Hecuba, Carr returns to the aftereffects of the Trojan War to look at the Greek side of the story. The play focuses on the first major murder of the Oresteia, but like Robert Icke she first looks back ten years to the inciting event: The sacrifice of Iphigenia.