Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Theatre review: A Fight Against...
(Una Lucha Contra...)

Chilean playwright Pablo Manzi's A Fight Against... (Una Lucha Contra...) was developed at the Royal Court at a time when his country was experiencing a lot of violent unrest against the state and inequality, culminating in recent elections that saw voters lean much more to the Left than had been expected. Some of the play's scenes inevitably reflect this energy, but as the ellipsis in the title suggests, not all of the characters know - or necessarily care - who or what they're fighting. In five separate, but possibly connected scenes spanning the last 140 years, we see characters trying to make sense of their own, or other people's anger: Beginning with Chilean university professor Carla (Jimena Larraguivel,) who returns from a day's teaching to announce that one of her students attacked and threatened to kill her. Her husband (Joseph Balderrama) understandably wants to know more, but something her student said might have alarmed Carla even more than the violence, and she's reluctant to say much.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Theatre review: Peggy For You

As we go into 2022 Hampstead Theatre finally gets to finish its 2020 season reviving notable works that premiered there over its first six decades. After the bleakness of the last offering we get something lighter in Peggy For You, Alan Plater's affectionate - but not uncritical - tribute to legendary agent Peggy Ramsay. She was the top name for representing playwrights, but despite her fearsome reputation she would have seen any success her clients achieved as largely incidental; and over the course of the day we meet three clients at very different stages of their careers. But first we meet Peggy (Tamsin Greig) crashing on the sofa of her office, having spent the night bailing out one of her most illustrious clients after he ran amok at the French Embassy. Arriving far too early for his appointment is Simon (Josh Finan,) a young writer who sent her a script.

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Theatre review: Force Majeure

PREVIEW DISCLAIMER: Force Majeure has had its press night pushed back by the usual.

Are steep stages going to be a 2022 theatrical meme? After Spring Awakening's set of steps comes an off-kilter, steeply raked white stage dominating the Donald and Margot Warehouse for Michael Longhurst's production of Force Majeure. The reason for these white expanses is that Tim Price's midlife crisis play, based on a film by Ruben Östlund, takes place at a ski resort in the French Alps, where a Swedish family have decided to take a rare holiday together. Ebba (Lyndsey Marshal) thinks her husband spends too much of his time at work and not enough with their kids, so she's convinced Tomas (Rory Kinnear) to revisit a place he often went to as a child, and try to forge a relationship with his own, increasingly difficult children: Vera (Bo Bragason, alternating with Florence Hunt) is entering her teenage years and has, in a detached way, decided her parents are heading for divorce, while Harry (Oliver Savell, alternating with Henry Hunt) is having an alternately clingy and shouty phase.

Saturday, 1 January 2022

Theatre review: Spring Awakening

I'm starting 2022 as I'd like it to go on, not only with a show that got cancelled at the end of 2021, but one which proves an absolutely storming opener to the year: Steven Sater (book and lyrics) and Duncan Sheik's (music) Spring Awakening is the musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's radical 19th century play about teenagers' repressed sexualities and the devastating consequences of their parents keeping the realities of the world from them. The pop-rock songs are an anachronistic jolt from the 1890s German setting of the dialogue scenes, but it's surprising how much of the plot - that encompasses teenage pregnancy, abortion, suicide and same-sex relationships - comes straight from Wedekind. Friends since childhood, the teenagers have been separated into single-sex schools and discouraged from meeting each other.