Sunday, 20 July 2014

Review: The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Royal Shakespeare Theatre)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona has long been one of Shakespeare's least performed plays (the first confirmed performance did not occur until the 1760s), with it last being performed on the Royal Shakespeare Company's mainstage forty-four years ago. As part of artistic director Gregory Doran's ambition to stage each work from the First Folio, Simon Godwin makes his RSC debut directing this fine production of the oft-neglected work.

The RSC's own description of the piece as "Shakespeare's dark romantic comedy" is more than apt. Proteus (Mark Arends) and Valentine (Michael Marcus) both fall in love hard and fast. Proteus's advances towards Julia (Pearl Chanda) are mocked by her and dismissed, until her fickleness gets the better of her. Meanwhile, Valentine is sent from Verona to Milan, where, despite his abject denouncement of romantic love earlier in the play, he falls for Sylvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan, and who has been promised to another man by her father. As Julia and Proteus promise themselves to each other, Proteus is sent to join his friend. Further complications ensue as Proteus chooses to forget his beloved and falls for Sylvia as well.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Looking Back: Weekly Roundup (28 June – 4 July)

Last year I often wrote monthly roundups about what I've seen, but as I get to the end of the month I struggle to remember much about what I saw several shows ago at the start of the month, so have therefore decided to do brief weekly roundups instead, hoping that my thoughts will be a little clearer and more coherent. So, here goes.


(Wyndham's Theatre)

Two actors whose work I had enjoyed immensely on screen plus an acclaimed and interesting play sounded like a great mix and I was really looking forward to this, which fortunately achieved the rare feat of living up to high expectations. With a cast of three, with never more than two actors on stage and set in a poky flat in North London, it is in many ways a small play, yet it is one that tackles big issues and affected me quite deeply. Kyra (Carey Mulligan) is visited by the son (Matthew Beard) of a

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Review: Clarence Darrow (Old Vic Theatre)

To perform a one person play is no mean feat. It requires a performer of immense confidence and skill who must be able to captivate the audience and take them on a journey, all the while remembering an exhausting amount of lines and without any other actors to work with and bounce off of. Fortunately, Kevin Spacey is one of the rare breed that can carry a solo show, as ably proven in Clarence Darrow at the Old Vic.

In his first stage role since his stunning Richard III in 2011 - a performance that has stayed with me ever since - Spacey returns to a character he has previously played on both stage and screen (in television film Darrow in 1991 and in Inherit the Wind on the Old Vic stage in 2009). It is clear from this production and the abundant information in the programme that Darrow is one of Spacey's personal heroes. Yet Clarence Darrow was a name I was wholly unfamiliar with until this production was announced, yet it is apparent that he was a fascinating man who remains an iconic in legal circles and beyond nearly eighty years after his death. He was an brave, fascinating yet also flawed man that makes him an ideal subject for a one-man show.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Review: Miss Saigon (Prince Edward Theatre)

Cameron Mackintosh has been thriving to bring Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg's Miss Saigon back to the West End since its closure in 1999, and to celebrate the musical's twentieth-fifth anniversary the show returns to the city where it premiered. It is a show with a huge following, which accounts for advance sales of £15 million, yet it was one I was hardly familiar with. The material was nearly all new to me, and I'm pleased to say that it more than lives up to the hype, acclaim and following it has attracted since its premiere in 1989.

The story will be familiar to many, but I'll reflect quickly on it for those who are newcomers to the piece like myself. An adaptation of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, set in Vietnam in 1975, where a young American GI called Chris meets and falls for local girl Kim, while the inevitable Fall of Saigon draws ever nearer. Much like their Les Miserables, it is not the most conventional subject matter for Boublil and Schonberg to adapt into a musical, yet their music and its immense and at times overwhelming power transcends makes for a brilliant and moving piece.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Review: Blithe Spirit (Gielgud Theatre)

As the song says, there is nothing like a dame, and in this revival of Noel Coward's wartime comedy, the recently ennobled Angela Lansbury proves just that.

Blithe Spirit, much like Coward's Private Lives which ran at the Gielgud last year, is one of those plays that is revived almost constantly. However, it is a play which I had never actually seen, yet it was a plot which I was vaguely familiar with. Novelist Charles Condomine is writing a new story about a homicidal medium, and calls on the services of local eccentric Madame Arcati for research. He and his wife and friends scoff and guffaw at Arcati, but Charles is left eating his words when she conjures up the ghost of his dead first wife. However, only he can see her, making for much comic mayhem.

It is a brilliant play and immaculately constructed. The dialogue fizzes and is hilarious. The piece is fast-paced and never lets up, but the real making of this production is the cast. The always reliable Charles Edwards holds the piece together brilliantly as Condomine, with his cut-glass accent and perfectly coiffed hair he seems born to perform Coward. He is matched by Janie Dee as his spiky and worried wife. Jemima Rooper is clearly relishing playing the spirit of his late wife, constantly causing mischief with childish aplomb (all while dressed in a rather terrible wig). Newcomer Patsy Ferran is comes close to stealing the show in the small role of the goofy, eye-rolling maid.