Woyzeck- Old Vic.

Tonight I saw Woyzeck at the Old Vic, starring John Boyega. Woyzeck by Georg Büchner is an exploration on how War affects young minds, and the lengths people will go to escape the clasp of poverty. Set in the rage of the Cold War and the war in Belfast, this new adaptation by Joe Murphy, brings all the tension and life of war to the stage.

I absolutely loved this production.  The industrial set, had a sinister air to it, paired with the lighting and the ominous music, it all became a bit of a sensory overload. I was overwhelmed with dread, and fear, which just encompassed the whole theatre, and set the tone perfectly.

John Boyega’s Woyzeck was loveable, but complex. The character constantly surprised me. And I can’t imagine how physically taxing that role would be on him. After the run finishes he said he would be taking a well deserved holiday. Ben Batt’s Andrews, brought a needed comedic break to the drama. Also the relationship between Boyega’s Woyzeck, and Sarah Greene’s Marie was so perfect. And the development, or perhaps deterioration was so clear and concise.

The thing I loved most about this production, apart from the set, has to be the direction. There was such a clear vision in this show, which I don’t seem to see a lot of.  The second act was so confusing. I could not tell what was real or not, this was enhanced by the lighting and the set, where the attention to detail was remarkable. You were really transported into Woyzeck’s mind. I felt stressed, and anxious, and scared. I had no idea how I was going to react to this show, and I just wanted to go home and curl up. It stressed me out. And I think that’s fantastic!

It closes this week so, if you get the chance, please go check it out.

 

 

Blink Barons Court Theatre

Last night I was invited to go see Blink at The Barons Court Theatre directed by Peter Kavanagh, starring Minnie Murphy and Joe McArdle, written by Phil Porter. Blink explores the ideas of love, relationships, between two very damaged people, Sophie and Jonah, played by Minnie Murphy and Joe McArdle respectively.

I spent a long time trying to work out how best to describe the humour, it wasn’t quite absurdist, but it wasn’t run of the mill comedy. I finally settled on quirky. You laughed where you wouldn’t quite expect it. This is largely part to the capturing performances from McArdle and Murphy. The chemistry between the two actors is apparent from the first duologue, despite the fact that they rarely interact in the first half. This all enhanced by the beautiful intimate space of the basement thrust theatre, that created a personal connection between the audience and actors. The different character skits are welcome break from an otherwise fairly slow and serious play. And in these times, McArdle uses his face more than his words, to get the comedy across. McArdle, embodied a childlike innocence, in his gentle portrayal of Jonah that had a melancholic undertone. Murphy almost paralleled this, in her melancholic, serious portrayal that had innocence strung through it.  I must say that I was surprised, that the play didn’t become stilted or clunky in its flow. Many two actor pieces can become forced, and I was worried about that. However, it was paced very well, and flowed, despite a short interval in the middle.

The attention to detail was evident in the sound and set. Simplistic, yet effective. The music however, I found to be slightly overwhelming, if not unnecessary, in the first half. It’s understandable given Kavanagh background, however I think it is too much in the theatre, especially this small space. It did, although work in the second half, and felt almost triumphant.

The idea of love, however unconventional, is prominent throughout the piece. A quirky and wholesome performance. It had me laughing, wistful, and sometimes heartbroken.

Blink is running at the Barons Court Theatre until the 20th of May.

Chatroom- SLAM Theatre

Last night I had the pleasure to see Chatroom by Enda Walsh, by SLAM Theatre, I went along, as a friend of mine was the rehearsal stage manager, so I’ll try to not be biased.

Chatroom is about a chatroom funnily enough. It’s an exploration of the problems a lot of teenagers face, and their different reactions to it, through the use of social media. This production by SLAM Theatre, produced by Andy Patterson and Anthony Papamichael, and directed by Hector Moyes, was produced in the charming etcetera theatre. The set was simplistic, which allowed the audience to focus on the acting. The use of the movement was a nice break from the intense story.

IMG_5686Pictured here, Anthony Papamichael, Emily Pearce (Rehearsal Stage Manager), Hector Moyes and Mark Teale, from left to right. 

The whole cast were brilliant, the acting was subtle, but intense, which was very effective in this small theatre space. I’d love to go into detail on all of the cast’s different characters, like how I hated Mark Teale’s, William, from the minute he came on stage (which may have to do with how insulted one of my childhood memories); and how Eddie Chamberlin’s Jack, was endearing, but well-meaning. Nick Pearce’s Jim, was nervous, and easily influenced, but also really likeable. Charlotte East’s Eva, had a lot more to her character, than what her lines revealed, very similar to Tania Van Amse’s Laura, who’s last speech, definitely had a lot of the audience in tears. Susie Barton’s Emily, had an air of innocence, and sweetness. I really liked her chemistry with Pearce.

The whole show dealt with very serious issues, and it would be great to do at schools, and after talking to the cast they told me that they have done a workshop with a school, and are hoping to take it around schools. Anyway, I’m hoping for big things- they’re a great emerging theatre company with lots of potential.

Twelfth Night- National Theatre.

So tonight I went to see Twelfth Night, at the National. Another Review (lucky you, dear reader… Or Unlucky, depending on how you feel). This production, stars Tamsin Grieg, and turns the show on it’s head, into a wonderful, fast paced, and colourful queer-fest.

Directed by Simon Godwin, this new adaptation brings new life to the old classic.  It begins, with a simple, but effective outline of a ship. The attention in detail in this production was fantastic, from the way they made the smoke, seem like water, to the faint cricket’s chirping in the background in the scenes. The sound, and music was wonderful, and made the play not unlike a musical, with songs and music, aiding to the drama and the transitions. The transitions were very slick, mostly due to the fantastic set. Almost like a clock, the ‘ship’ rotated, to reveal different spaces in the island. And the dressing of the set was brilliant, again the attention to detail was fantastic. Each space, had a completely different feel to it.

The cast were brilliant of course. Tamara Lawrance, Viola, brought a brilliant innocence, to the role, whilst playing her fiercely, and wise. And her chemistry with Oliver Chris, Orsino, both as Cesario and Viola, bringing another aspect to the play, that I had completely disregarded. That Orsino, was so determined to marry Olivia, because he had feelings for Cesario. Oliver Chris, was a brilliant Orsino, and brought a David Tennant-ish quality to the role, somewhat reminiscent of Benedick. However, Daniel Rigby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Tim McMullan, Sir Toby Belch, were fantastic. They were both energetic, bringing more comedy to the show. With the drunken energy, coming from McMullan, and an innocence to the ‘tyrants’ coming from Rigby.  Imogen Doel, Fabia, or the Fool, brought the whole piece together, with a beautiful voice, and fantastic physicality in her acting. Malvolia, Tamsin Greig, was of course brilliant, her Malvolia, was stern, but still, somehow, likeable. And her ‘burlesque’ reveal of the yellow stockings was worthy of it’s own act.

All the gender-bending in this production was really great, and highlighted so many different relationships, and emotions that are often tossed aside in this play. Although, it may have dawdled in parts. This production was brilliant, because it was fun – it didn’t take itself too seriously, and every detail was thought of- from the costumes, to the bottles that Sir Toby drunk from.

The 39 Steps- The King’s Players.

So tonight, I went to see The 39 Steps directed by the wonderfully talented Carys Hughes. I had seen this show done professionally, twice, and I’m afraid to say, slightly dubious of how this show was going to turn out, as it is a tricky show to perfect. I am so glad that I was surprised, I spent the whole night laughing, and in the second half cackling.

Carys Hughes, did a brilliant job, bringing this show to life, in a particularly odd space. Of course, helpful by her energetic cast. The devilishly handsome Richard Hanny, was played by Dom Rawson, who’s composure commanded the audience, and the few moments were ‘mishaps’ occurred, were always welcome. Annabella Schmidt, and Pamela played by Holly Ludlow, was a worthy partner, and their chemistry together, especially in the hotel, was brilliant. Speaking of chemistry, Margaret, Marie-Claire Harvey, added a sweetness, and innocence to the show.  However, the ones who stole the show, were the clowns, Alan Hall; Camille Hainsworth-Staples; Arsentiy Novak. They were absoluetly hilarious. From their over dramatic cockney milkman, to the old Scottish lady who loved her scotch (and dubstep). Their physicality, and over-dramatisation, was on point. And their accents, were surprisingly good. The change of the ending was a surprisingly nice change to the usual, ‘everything is awesome’ ending, even if it is slightly sadistic.

I absolutely love this show, and I’m so glad this production did not disappoint. If you have a chance, go and try and see it. It’s on at KCL, at 7.30pm until Monday Night.

Amadeus – National Theatre

Tonight I went to see Amadeus, at the National, after trying to get a ticket for ages. Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, follows the story of Antonio Salieri and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1700s.

The music, as expected, was spectacular. Having the musicians on stage is a great touch, and blurred the lines between theatre and concert.  The musicians also made up the chorus, and the ensemble movement pieces, were a nice touch, stopping it from becoming a two-man show. Speaking of the two men. Lucian Msamti, Salieri, was great, his powerful stature, meant that he addressed the audience with confidence, and in the second half, truly had power. Adam Gillan, Mozart, brought the youthfulness that the show needed, with it being set in the 1700s, this was all aided by the little modern elements, that were shown every once in a while. Where Msamati spoke to the audience, Gillan, commanded the audience, or he pandered to them – I honestly can’t tell. I loved it though. It lightened up the piece, and the language, felt more 21st century, rather than 18th.  On the other hand, Karla Crome, Constanze, was also brilliant, her presence was more subtle than her counterpart, Gillan, however just as powerful. Also Fleur de Bray, Katherina, had a glass shattering voice.

The musicians stayed on stage, for most of the show, in an orchestra set-up. The centre of the stage dipped for the performances of the operas. There was also a permanent secondary stage located at the back of stage, and in moments of climax it was pulled forward, shrouding the audience in some sort of angelic light. Michael Longhurst, the director, made no effort to hide that it is a theatrical production, with the costumes visible on stage, and the vintage, operatic style, backdrops.

 

Overall a very modern look, on a classic story. Showing a rollercoaster of human emotion and human life. The madness of genius.

Wish List – Royal Court

I went to see Wish List today at the Royal Court Theatre. Wish List, directed by Mathew Xia, provides a commentary on the benefits system and lack of care for people facing mental health issues in the United Kingdom.

The play was staged in Traverse, which I personally love, as it is so much more intimate and intense, than traditional staging. The set was simple, but effective, with the left shrouded in boxes, representing the factory, and the right, showing a simple kitchen and bathroom. The centre was left empty, and was adapted to depending on the scene. The scene transitions were inventive and fun – keeping the pace of the show fast and to the times. The music aided the transitions, keeping the show light at some times, however, almost unbearable to watch at other times. It portrayed the franticness of someone dealing with mental issues, without relying solely on body language.

The show made me feel very anxious and left me frazzled as I left the theatre. Erin Doherty (Tamsin) and Joseph Quinn (Dean) shone through their respective roles, important, as the show mainly depended on them. The comedic elements, were timed well, and a welcome break from the intensity of the show. However, there were, at times, I felt the play was trying to tackle too many problems at once, and lost the focus and message of the play.

There were lots of little details that I loved, such as the symbolism of the hair gel, or the fact the bathroom doors had no handles on the outside, so it could only be opened from the inside. Overall, I didn’t feel good coming out of the theatre. I felt anxious, scared, upset, and frazzled. I didn’t like how I was feeling, which was important. I didn’t enjoy the show, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. I loved it.

Brains – Thick and Thin Theatre.

Brains, by Thick and Thin Theatre company explores the psych of the other people during pandemics. The people who exploit the public for money, rather than charity. It looks at a pharmaceutical company, not only surviving, but thriving through a zombie apocalypse.

Written and directed by Cameron Szerdy, the mix of the characters complimented each other well. The full ensemble scenes were the best of the show. Ursula, the cold, badass, ball-grapping, CEO (Stephanie Overington); Harry, the rich, drug-addled arsehole (Aidan Parsons); Tina, the young, social media obsessed, and slightly dim teenage intern (Aine Nettleton); Jeff, the punchline to most of the jokes, however definitely a character in his own rights (Jack Dent); Stewart, scientist, and friend of Jeff – a lot of the comedy coming from their duo (Tom Spencer); Rosie, the idyllic, moral-compass, new recruit (Jo Mance); and finally a cameo of a cleaner, who has to deal with the mess from the other characters.

The fast pace of the show, equipped with quirky one liners, and some wonderfully terrible puns, created a quaint, interesting performance. The actors themselves, had great chemistry and their strong performance as an ensemble, really made the show.  I loved the intimate environment, which connected us, as an audience even more. The plot was interesting, and a great exploration of the human psych, with dark undertones, and definite political undertones, looking at corporate exploration.

A great piece of Fringe Theatre, which I enjoyed thoroughly.

On a personal note, I went to see it on press tickets, granted it wasn’t through this blog, but regardless it was still very exciting, and I felt I should write a review.

Top productions of 2016

Another year has passed, and despite this one being particularly bad, there was still lots and lots of theatre. So here are my top five productions of 2016, excluding the fringe- it just became impossible to narrow down to five, if I included the fringe. I may do another post describing my top five fringe productions.

5. Lazarus at the Kings Cross Theatre

08lazarusjpsub-master675Now this may be, that it is the last production I saw, but at No.5, it’s Lazarus. The new musical, written by David Bowie, another icon we lost this year. It was a melancholic and thought-provoking story, with suitable music, and a very dystopic production. The visual images created were something to be in awe of. As I said a beautiful chaotic mess of a show.

 

4. I am Thomas at the Lyceum

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Politically charged and hilariously funny, it’s I am Thomas from the Lyceum, which I saw in March. The Direction and the ensemble’s work pulled off a fantastic show with a great vision, all about freedom  of speech, in the height of the Je Suis Charlie movement. The music was brilliant, adding another layer to this piece- it was like an onion…

3. The Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar.

donmar-the-tempest

Okay, so I know I’m cheating a little bit, but I struggled picking just five shows, and they did have the same cast and director- basically. The Shakespeare trilogy consisted of The Tempest, Julius Caesar, and King Henry IV. It was an entirely female cast, and set in a female prison. I had some qualms about Julius Caesar, however the production was made clear, when I saw Henry IV. The Three shows worked as an entity, but also separately. The productions were creative, heartfelt and sorely needed. Setting Shakespeare in a modern environment was something that needed to be explored in mainstream theatre, also with a diverse and female cast it broke the stereotype of an old white english man performing Shakespeare.  The productions were fantastical, mythical and scary at some points. Definitely some of the best Shakespeare I’ve seen.

2. The Glass Menagerie at the Edinburgh International Festival.

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I wasn’t actually going to go see this, I absolutely  hated the play when I studied it – it was boring and nothing happened in it. The ending was not satisfying, and I just didn’t get the characters, except maybe Tom, though I even found him to be a bit of a lad. I even wrote an epilogue for it, which was how unsatisfying I found the ending. (It was a terrible epilogue by the way. When I was younger I was under the delusion I could write scripts…) Anyway a friend convinced me to go with the one sentence ‘there is such beauty in the mundane’  And he was so right. I managed to snap up one ticket for the last night- I may have left work early for it… oops, but I decided I had to see it. And I am so glad I did. It has to be one of the most poignant and beautiful productions I have seen this year. The set was unbelievable, the direction and acting was brilliant, and I saw the beauty in the mundane. In the characters I hated, I found redemption, and the ending turned from unsatisfying to almost hopeful. The music was amazing. The whole production was poetically serendipitous, showing these damaged characters as fragile as glass. It brought meaning to the meaningless. And a quote – “Time is the longest distance between two places” , has earned a place on my laptop.

 

Drum roll please for my top production of 2016…. (It won’t come as a surprise I assume…)

 

  1. In The Heights at The King’s Cross Theatre

In the Heights

In the Heights is at my No. 1. spot, as  I said is probably not a surprise. I saw this back in February, and I managed to get tickets for £15. In The Heights was written by Lin Manuel Miranda, and it set in the lower east side of Manhattan, in a Latino community in Washington Heights. The main selling point of this show, is of course the music. I watched it in February, and I am still listening to it constantly.  The complex lyrics, with Latino roots was the perfect way to show the core of the inspiration, as Lin Manuel Miranda is an immigrant from Puerto Rico.  I’m absolute sucker for Lin Manuel Miranda, but that is not the only reason. The actors were brilliant, and lovely as well. The youthful charm and energising tone to the performance made it an incredible night. I felt a part of the cast and the community. For once I didn’t want to run up and perform with the actors, because I was already up there. I cringed at what the characters said, and cried when they cried. I could not stop smiling, except you know, when I was crying.  The political connotations came through the comedy, and identity and immigration, were the core aspects of the show. It was full of life and symbolism, and I absolutely loved it.

 

Notable few:

Okay, so I said top 5, but here a few notable ones that I couldn’t just not mention. –

Aladdin: Full of colour and childlike imagination.

The Libertine: The writing in this was brilliant. The characters and story was so sad, but it was shrouded in comedy.

A Night in Miami: The political statements made in this were amazing, and heartbreaking. Along with a beautiful rendition of ‘A change is gonna come’ 

Kinky Boots: An extremely fun night, with fabulous costumes, and an amazing message to help change society for the better.

 

This was a longin. And this is without Fringe productions- eek.  There may be a post coming soon for that. But all in all. I hope 2016 has been great, and here’s hoping 2017 will be even better, and here’s to less loss in the arts world next year.  See you all in 2017!

-Charlie

 

Lazarus- King’s Cross

Where to begin? Perhaps a description of the show? That in itself is hard enough. Lazarus is a musical by David Bowie and Enda Walsh, based off the book, The Man Who Fell To Earth by Walter Tevis. It’s a fairly new musical, however calling it a musical, is slightly an understatement, as, I would say, it was indefinable.

The production, was very Bowie-esque, obviously, as it was written by him. The story, characters and execution was very futuristic and dystopic. The plot itself is not something I can describe. It is an absurdist musical, with a very odd plot, if you take it metaphorically or literally, it is still a beautiful story. If you look it, as the latter, it is a melancholic, and beautiful story of a man slowly losing his grip on reality, surrounded by characters doing the same. Either way it doesn’t make much sense. The music fitted surprisingly well, and of course, with Bowie’s passing earlier this year, it made the songs and the whole story, that much more emotional. (2016 really fucked us over didn’t it?)

Michael Esper, Valentine, was brilliant. His dark energy captured the psychotic elements of the musical, with such presence on stage, despite playing a socially awkward character for most of the show. I had previously seen him in The Glass Menagerie in Edinburgh, and it was such a different performance. Amy Lennox, Elly, again an actress I have seen before, perfectly portrayed the image of someone slowly losing her identity, and losing all sense of herself. Finally, Michael C. Hall, and Hannah Rose Thompson, Newton, and Girl, had brilliant chemistry with each other, a beautiful father/daughter relationship. Their wistful rendition of ‘Heroes’ at the end of the production, had me in tears. There are so many moments in this production that I could point out and exclaim how much I loved the images created, however I will refrain.

Speaking of images, visually, it was astounding. I don’t even know where to begin with it. The band where visible throughout the whole piece, through glass windows at the back of the stage. The use of projection throughout the whole piece was something remarkable, it immersed you within the show, despite the stage having very clear boundaries. It plunged the audience into Newton’s mind. I can’t explain it any further. It has to be something you see.

I went to see it, not sure of what to expect, actually thinking, that I wouldn’t even like it. I left in awe, I also got the chance to meet Michael Esper, which was amazing. But definitely go and see it if you have the chance, even if you don’t think it’s your cup of tea. It’s an experience.

A beautiful, incoherent, chaotic, mess of a show.