Monday 28 February 2022

Theatre review: The Forest

Florian Zeller's written his play again, and this time it gets its world premiere not in his native French but in English, and not at the Kiln but a couple of stops down the Jubilee Line at Hampstead Theatre. As usual Christopher Hampton takes on translation duties for The Forest, for most of the characters at least - I got the distinct impression that Laurence had had her dialogue run through Google Translate. This disparity in style presumably has some significance; either that, or Gina Mckee has seriously pissed someone off, and got punished with the role of a rather dim-witted robot. Laurence is married to Pierre, a successful and influential surgeon, played in Jonathan Kent's production by both Toby Stephens and Paul McGann. We first see the Stephens version in his Paris apartment with his wife, preparing to make a speech making major recommendations on French medical policy and its relationship with Big Pharma.

Thursday 24 February 2022

Theatre review: Henry V (Donmar Warehouse)

PREVIEW DISCLAIMER: Yet another show where the press night has been pushed back due to some preview performances having to be cancelled.

Welp, a grimly appropriate day to go see a show about a country being invaded because a neighbouring ruler has a sense of entitlement to it. The first Shakespeare production under the Donald and Margot Warehouse's current team sees Max Webster take on Henry V, with Kit "Christopher" Harington in the title role. Webster's production actually begins by taking us back to the Henry IV plays that precede it, and showing us Harington's Hal partying with thieves and cutthroats, before receiving news of his father's death. Foreshadowing events in the play itself, we see him refuse to make the promises of leniency for thieves his friends ask for, before ascending the throne and coldly rejecting his former close companion Falstaff (Steven Meo.) Once in power Henry wastes no time in making it clear his interests as king lie in expansion, specifically in building a spurious case for being rightful ruler of France. He makes demands that are inevitably rejected, and begins his invasion.

Wednesday 16 February 2022

Theatre review: The Chairs

A rare appearance for Eugène Ionesco's absurdist work in a major London production - only the second in the decade I've been writing this blog - also features a more regular sight as Kathryn Hunter appears with husband and regular collaborator Marcello Magni in the first of two planned productions this year. At the Almeida Omar Elerian directs his own adaptation of Ionesco's The Chairs, and for the second show in a row here a revival gives an opportunity to address very modern concerns about climate change, as an impossibly elderly couple watch the world flood outside their windows, and remember a time when everything seemed brighter. But the Old Man (Magni) has a plan: He's been a janitor, or Master of the Mop and Bucket, all his life, but in his spare time he's been preparing and perfecting a speech that holds all the solutions to the world's problems. He doesn't feel able to deliver the message in front of an audience himself, but fortunately he's found a professional Speaker who can do it..

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Stage-to-screen review: tick, tick... BOOM!

Touch wood and everything, but I seem to be back at a point where a completely theatre-free week is a bit of a rarity for me, but I did know that a couple, like this one, were coming up. So I made sure to hang on to a few of the radio or screen adaptations of stage works that I used to keep myself and this blog going during lockdown, including the Lin-Manuel Miranda-directed adaptation of tick, tick... BOOM! This also ended up being the week Andrew Garfield got an Oscar nomination for the film, so it's turned out to be fairly apt timing as well. I seem to be regularly drawn back to Rent despite my very mixed feelings about it, but Jonathan Larson's punctuation heavy* earlier musical is one I'd only seen once in a fringe production which left me distinctly underwhelmed. But Miranda does have the advantage of a new screenplay by Dear Evan Hansen's Steven Levenson to help make sense of the story.

Friday 4 February 2022

Theatre review: Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks

Not shying away from a smuttily comic title, Sarah Hanly's debut monologue Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks maintains a similar irreverent tone throughout, taking on eating disorders, drug abuse, death and women's social inequality with an incongruously breezy tone. Hanly herself plays Saoirse, whose story begins as a rebellious teenager in an Irish Catholic school, where on the one hand she's talking back to her teachers, exposing the hypocrisies everyone just seems to go along with and demanding a meaningful sex education. On the other hand she's not as in control as she outwardly appears, disappearing into the toilets several times a day to make herself sick. The monologue is framed as Saoirse speaking to her friend Aisling, a fellow anorexic, trying to keep her enthusiastic about life by recounting wild tales from her teens, and catching her up on what's happened since she moved to Dagenham to go to drama school.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Theatre review: Hamlet (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

From Sir Andrew Aguecheek straight to Hamlet is an unusual career progression but it's the one George Fouracres has taken since joining the Globe's ensemble cast last summer. After two standout comic turns the announcement he'd be playing Shakespeare's most famous tragic lead was welcome news to me, especially after the last Hamlet I saw actively played against any trace of humour or likeability in the character. Sean Holmes' production is the first time the play's been tackled indoors in the Swanamaker, and the first in the venue since the current Artistic Director played the role in her opening season. And there's some similarities between this and the Michelle Terry version in a general approach that avoids one overarching conceit; but Holmes' production both takes this experimentation with ideas several steps further, and results in, for my money at least, a much more entertaining - if far from cohesive - evening overall.