"I regard theatre as the greatest of all art forms" – Oscar Wilde

Monday, 10 November 2014

Looking Back: Weekly Roundup (3 - 9 November)

I’ve seen a few things over the past week (having a week off can only affect theatregoing in a positive way), so I’ve resurrected my weekly roundup. Below are a few thoughts on what I’ve seen with a star rating out of five.

KING CHARLES III *****
(Wyndham’s Theatre)

I absolutely loved this when I saw it in its original run at the Almeida Theatre six months ago, so I couldn’t resist seeing it again. Mike Bartlett’s “future history play” imagines a Britain were the Queen has died, and Charles has come to the throne. Faced with a bill that will limit press freedom, Charles feels he cannot sign it, and a constitutional crisis occurs. Bartlett’s script is funny, fast-paced and written to cleverly echo Shakespeare’s history plays. While Tim Piggott-Smith is injured, Miles Richardson is playing Charles and is able to step out of Piggott-Smith’s great shadow with an excellent performance. Rory Fleck Byrne has taken over the role of Prince William from Oliver Chris, and does so with aplomb, really coming into his own in the final twenty minutes. Returning as the Duchess of Cambridge, Lydia Wilson again provides a terrific and scene-stealing performance among a uniformly high quality cast. Throw in some effective choral music and a simple but affecting set design, plus Rupert Goold’s assured direction, and you’ve got a fantastic show that has easily secured a position in my end of the year top ten list. So far this is clearly the best new play of the year for me, and I’m thrilled it’s getting a West End run. To borrow the words from a reviewer that are pasted on every poster “long may it reign”.

Review: Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (Minerva Theatre)

The lights dim, the thumping sounds of INXS's 'Need You Tonight' fill the auditorium and Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune begins with the titular characters writhing around on a sofabed midway through a sex scene. Certainly a unique opening for the Minerva Theatre's closing show of the 2014 Chichester Festival season.


Neil Stuke and Dervla Kirwan in rehearsals for Frankie and Johnny.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: Made in Dagenham (Adelphi Theatre)

After a host of West End casualties (the curtain went down on The Full Monty after five weeks, From Here to Eternity and Stephen Ward lasted only six and three months a piece) and seemingly constant rumours of shows hemorrhaging money and being in danger of closing, the musical adaptation of 2010 film Made in Dagenham had been dismissed as a creative, critical and commercial flop before it even opened. Fortunately, I found it to be an enjoyable and surprisingly moving evening at the theatre and a show I wish the best, as it deserves a healthy and successful run.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Looking Back: Weekly Roundup (2 – 8 August)

To be frank, I’ve not lived up to my promise to review everything I saw at the theatre by rounding up what I’ve seen week by week. It has been a month since my last roundup, during which I failed to review almost a dozen things. Nevertheless, I’ve decided to write about the four things I’ve seen this week, which has been included some stellar theatre as you can see below, where I’ve included my thoughts on each production and a star rating out of five.

MEDEA *****
(Olivier Theatre, National Theatre)

William Congreve once wrote that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If ever a woman lived up to such an adage, it is Medea, who is at the centre of Euripides' play from almost two and a half millennia ago. Medea was the daughter of a king, granddaughter of the sun god and later wife to Jason (leader of the Argonauts and finder of the Golden Fleece). When Jason leaves her for another daughter of another, more powerful, king, she asks for a day's grace before being exiled. A day is all she needs to exact a catastrophic revenge. I won't reveal any more details to avoid spoilers, but being a Greek tragedy you can guess that it does not end with a happy family.

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.