Monday, 17 November 2008

Voiceless (Reading), The Royal Court, 11 Nov 2008

It's sell-out season for the Arab plays readings in the Royal Court Upstairs, which meant I could only get into one of the performances. A bit dissapointing, because I really liked the first one and would have loved to see more.

Voiceless works essentially because of its charismatic lead character read with charismatic detatchment by Justin Salinger, who had already impressed us in the reading of "Owners". Salinger is that rare breed of actor (like Steven Mackintosh or John Simm) that never gives the impression of being "acting" but rather convinces us that we are in the presence of a whole different human being each time, a complete person and not an actor playing a character. Salinger carried the weight of the story and he did it flawlessly, in a low-key, quiet manner. We have decided to add him to the "actors we love" category.

The young writer from Jordan, Amani Zawawi, surely knows how to put on an enjoyable play. There are minor problems with some of her material - at bits it felt too clichéd, at times too naive - and we are not sure how the Mystery Man figure would work, had we seen it in a proper production. But the friendship between the lead Felix and the curious little girl she has for neighbour and the almost fable-like tone of the whole thing is very nicely drawn and we are convinced this would be a cult hit were it produced here in UK. One leaves the experience strangely uplifted despite the sombre overtones of the ending.

After the Caryl Churchill readings, the LATER season at Trafalgar, IGNITION at the Actors Centre and these arab theatre readings we have fallen in love with the whole concept of going to see a reading. One wishes many were actual productions but on the bright side you get to see fantastic actors for only a few quid.

Play is dead! Long live the reading!

Saturday, 25 October 2008


I wasn't specially impressed with Rupert Goold's production of Macbeth but it was a nice enough night out, but this re-imagining of Pirandello's superb piece puts the last nail on the coffin of my relationship with this director.

Both for me and the people I went to see it with this was the most excruciating theatre experience of our lives. I'm not saying Goold doesn't have good ideas, he does, but he overworks them and puts them in your face and everything in the production turns out to be so obvious and over-stretched. He should have cut at least one hour off the production. The ending was a good idea but he overdid it so much it felt banal instead. The whole direction went against the spirit of the play. Where Pirandello succeeds in being interesting and rising questions through humour and light touches and subtlety Goold and Ben Power come in heavy and patronizing and too much "serious business". We spent the whole time screaming "WE GOT IT ALREADY! MOVE ON!" inside our heads.

A shame, because a lot of money and talent (fantastic sound design, by the way) was put into the enterprise.

The only shining light of hope in this dark evening was Dyfan Dwyfor, whom we had already liked in that underdog, cute British indie film The Baker, and who continues to be a delight even amidst this horrendous "adaptation".

West End Whingers.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

RIFLEMIND, Trafalgar Studios, Sept 08

Trafalgar Studios failed to make the hat-trick for us. After the great experiences of Elling and Dealer's Choice we went in to see Riflemind with hope in our hearts (more so since we really love John Hannah), only to have it crushed by reality.

The reality is, this is a bad play, there's no way around it. This story (?) about the strangled reunion of a rock band with their one-time lead musician (now living a normal life far from the glitter of rock glamour) is weak, unfocused and unexciting. None of the characters is particularly well-drawn or particularly interesting and it all looks like a washed-up version of a play (or movie) we've seen a thousand times before. It was predictable, and worse, it was utterly boring.

Poor John Hannah did what he could, with the script he had been given. It's a shame cause he would be amazing in a more worthy enterprise - his skills and charisma made the night almost bearable for the audience. He took the scantilly-written character of John, burned out Scottish singer and songwriter, and he tried to steered him far from the clichés he had been written into. Hannah was a courageous performer but he was ultimately foiled by the low quality of Andrew Upton's writing.

We can also save from the disaster Susan Prior, playing wife to John Hannah's has-been rocker. She wasn't spectacular but she was decent enough, which is more than I can say of the rest of the cast.

For more than 40 pounds the seat I (writer, unemployed) came out of the theatre feeling completely cheated.

The British Theatre Guide.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

CARYL CHURCHILL READINGS: Ice Cream, The Royal Court, 16 Sep 2008

Caryl Churchill and her gorgeous writing was far from my mind when I came to see the reading of her "Ice Cream".

The fact that my favourite actress on the world was going to be in it dominated my mood of the evening. I had already booked tickets for Ivanov so I knew I was going to see her at some point. Having already seen her both at the National Theatre (a magnificent season of Connections) and the Soho Theatre (in the fantastic A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians) one might think this nothing special but my admiration for Miss Riseborough have only grown since I first saw her in Chatroom/Citizenship. Since then she has been in my cult tv favourites Party Animals and Margaret Thatcher: The Long Walk To Finchley.

So nervous we entered the theatre but after an exciting real-life meeting with the lovely Miss Riseborough at the Royal Court Bar (a place of fateful meetings indeed) one could go into the auditorium a little more relaxed.

And of course it's always an special occassion, seeing Andre Riseborough do what she does, which is basically being the most talented actress of her generation and many other generations. "Ice cream" gave her plenty of chances to show off her skills as the story, after a more choral first half, centers on her character, Jaq. She manages to seem quirky and enigmatic yet strangely ordinary. Riseborough navigates through Jaq's rough edges with charm but refusing to sell the character to the audience. Jaq might be a bit lost, but she is not fighting your approval.

This is a strange coming-of-age story and yet it is one indeed, starting out as a culture clash between an American well-to-do couple and their British relatives, the young and down-and-out siblings Jaq and Phil. Another delight of the night was seeing Ben Whishaw take on the role of Phil. We finally understand what all the fuss about this actor was about. He was unexpectedly hilarious and had great acting chemistry with Riseborough, and had a sort of confidence to his manner that is just lovely to see on stage. I, for one, am sold and promise to see everything this man acts in (starting with the National Theatre's ...some trace of her).

Shawn Wallace as Lance, from the American part of the play, was impressive in this reading as well, with Miranda Richardson convincing as his unsatisfied wife.

Like with other Churchill readings I've been to this week I was left astounded at how fresh the writing feels, how well it sounds. I particularly enjoyed how the story tramples the expectations about itself and when we thought it is an American-British relationship statement it turns into a somehow cheap crime mystery and then it changes again into something quiet as we follow Jaq's steps into American. It becomes a road-play of sorts, introspective and surprising.

Caryl Churchill is so hardcore.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

CARYL CHURCHILL READINGS: Three More Sleepless Nights, The Royal Court, 19 Sep 2008

It's funny how a couple of months ago, when I had not open a Caryl Churchill script, I still wondered what all the fuss about her was about, and if she was really worth the hype. And now, the more I read and the more I see of her work, the more I come to understand why she's been so pivotal to British theatre in the last decades.

I wish I had seen the reading of Top Girls as well, one of her best known plays, but money is scarce and I had to choose between that one and this almost-short piece. In case of doubt I'll always pick the one with Lesley Sharp in it. Not only is she my favourite actress but I sincerely believe she is the best British actress nowadays so I knew I was in for a treat. Also, having been absolutely mesmerized by Tom Brooke in Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, I wanted to see more of him.

Three More Sleepless Nights follows three scenes between four characters that make up three different couples. The theme of communication, or in this case lack of it, is at the heart of the play. Which was written years before incommunication became the main subject of about 90% of modern theatre plays. But I am beginning to comprehend to what extent Caryl Churchill was and still is ahead of her time.

Churchill wrote Three More Sleepless Nights in 1980 but it is astounding how modern it sounds nowadays. The sound of it. What Churchill does with words very few authors can achieve. There's a very peculiar poetry to it. The first scene, between Sharp and Ron Cook, with overlapping dialogue which had to be timed to the fraction-of-a-second (and it was, despite this being a rehearsed reading), leaves the audience with the mouth open. But it's not just technical trick of it, it's the observation, the details, how well-drawn the characters are in just a few lines.

The reading was directed by debbie tucker green, which is another treat in itself, she is a great writer.

The cast was flawless. It's always an excercise in amazement, watching Lesley Sharp work. She is just one of those actors who are just a pleasure to watch, whatever she is doing, because she is so skillful and at the same time she makes it looks effortless. Ron Cook admirably stood his ground against her, he was pretty incredible too. And no, my first impression of Tom Brooke wasn't an illusion. This is one to look for. I loved the quietness and quirkiness he embedded into the character, and the very peculiar delivery he has, that voice. I am completely converted. He is the theatre discovery of the year so far.

As an aside note I should say I was very happy to take home with me Lesley Sharp's script of the play. She kindly gave it to this faithful fan. Aw. She also introduce me to Dominic Cooke and I shooke hands with the man I dream of working for someday. Amazing theatre experience.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

CARYL CHURCHILL READINGS: Owners, The Royal Court, 16 Sep 2008

The Caryl Chruchill readings at the Royal Court might just be our favourite theatre happening of the year. Such an admired author and our knowledge of her was so limited: we had, of course, read "Light Shining In Buckinghamshire" as part of our accelerated Course On The Figure Of Edward Sexby to prepare for this fall Channel 4's The Devil's Whore. We thought "Light Shining In Buckinghamshire" a masterpiece but decided to wait for the reading to get a broader taste of Churchill.

The readings kicked off with "Owners" and if the West End Whingers often value productions by the "Cranford-factor" we have decided to do the same but with a "Life On Mars-factor" -wait for the upcoming review of "Ivanov" on that subject- and thus were excited by the prospect of seeing Ian Puleston Davies on stage: not only did he contribute to the Life On Mars-factor (and from one of our favourite episodes!) but he also penned the very nice tv-movie Dirty Filthy Love with the adorable Shirley Henderson, and he was part of the cast of Conviction, a cult show for us*.

What in the end comes through in these readings -apart from the magnificence, courage and modernity of Churchill's writing- is what a great ensemble the Court has attracted to do them. Money couldn't pay these actors in a normal production.

Crisis in the UK! Rehearsed readings is the answer!

Fine by us. The decision of putting these readings on the Downstairs Stage is a compliment to the author but we think the mood would have been more fitting if these had been done Upstairs. Or maybe we just favour Upstairs every time (it's one of the unwritten rules of Going To The Court: the plays Downstairs are usually shite and the plays Upstairs are amazing, and so far in our experience we concur). It's not like it was packed all nights.

But anyway, "Owners". As the first one Churchill wrote it is also the one we rated the least: we enjoyed it the whole time and it has great moments of brilliance -specially in the character of Alec- but it is also a bit uneven at parts. We are not that fascinated by the house market as a whole, or the baby plot. In general we dislike plots with babies in them, or female characters with motherly instincts. Clegg's character and the whole butcher set up reminded us a lot of The Bush's "Tinkerbox" and we wondered if Churchill is of any influence on Lucy Kirkwood. Maybe we should stop obssessing over Lucy Kirkwood.

The cast was in top form, even if this was just a reading, but it really looked like they had rehearsed quite a bit, so kudos to April De Angelis for the directing. Justin Salinger, in particular, made an impression.

* The inclusion of the Conviction pic on top serves a double purpose as it turns out, what with William Ash going to visit us with the production of You Can See The Hills at the Young Vic, October 14-18. Yes, yes, to visit us particularly, shut up, as we are his biggest fans. This is clearly going to be the theatrical event of the fall, given our weakness for Mancunian accents.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Romeo And Juliet GALA PERFORMANCE, Middle Temple Hall, 12 Sep 2008

They had FREE CHAMPAGNE AND SUSHI. If that doesn't contitute a top theatre experience I don't know what does. Sushi! We were beyond us with glee. We drank and ate and approached Max Bennett in pure fangirl fashion. We also caught glimpse of OUR HEROINE Tamara Harvey in the champagne reception. Ah, high life.

The readings were also a treat, with Corin Redgrave approaching the sonnets, and Fione Shaw indulging us with our favourite twentieth century poet.

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
So intelligent
'What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street
'With my hair down, so. What shall we do to-morrow?
'What shall we ever do?'
The hot water at ten.
And if it rains, a closed car at four.
And we shall play a game of chess,
Pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

We cannot understimate the power of such a voice as Fiona Shaw's has when reading "The Wasteland". It felt somehow appropriate that in this place where Shakespeare once set foot on we should hear words from Eliot, a kindred spirit. Once more the Middle Temple Hall worked its magic on us, and we should hope to see more productions in this stage.

Now that we knew where the production's strong point were we could pay them proper attention, namely: Will Kemp, the swordfighting, Max Bennett's silence, the costumes, the sad fate of Paris, the scenes with Juliet and her parents... And we pondered and pondered and ended up deciding that Nicolas Tennant is possibly THE genius of the production, with his understated and gorgeous friar. This sudden love of ours for Nicolas Tennant, whom we had never seen on stage before, has nothing to do with our discovery that he took part in the National Theatre Studio's workshop on Simon Bent's "The Trouble With Girls" under the direction of our favourite director Paul Miller back in 1997. Or maybe it has to do a bit with that. Theatre is not for the rational.

This time around we were a bit more convinced by Juliet Rylance's performance than the first time. Despite other reservations we might have about her Juliet (the age thing, the slight lack of warmth and teenage doubts in her character) one thing we do love about her: she speaks the Shakespearean verse with wit and precision, and it's just a joy to hear her go on through the poetry of the piece.

After the performance (and some more successful fangirling of Will Kemp and Max Bennett) the whole company and audience walked the Temple streets up to the Temple Church, the way lit by cute oil lamps. It was quite magical and once inside the church Mark Rylance read some Temple prays. Very neat. Worth our money, the whole evening.

Friday, 12 September 2008

In-i, National Theatre, 11 Sep 2008

We have to start by saying we know nothing at all about dance. We know nothing about ballet and much less about modern dance. So this play might be pure crap and totally unimaginative and we wouldn't have a clue.

Ignorant as we are we pretty much loved this.

Or we just were extremely happy to get first row seat at 10 pounds.

Either way it was a great show: low key and intimate, despite the size of the stage. The bare bones of theatre there, two people and shadows and light and darkness. And their bodies as a way of communicatting. Akram Khan turned out to be an excellent actor on top of a great dancer. As for Juliette Binoche, we all know what her acting skills can do, but we didn't know she could be so expressive dancing as well.

A delightful night out.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Factory's Hamlet, The Globe, 6 Sep 2008

(Note: This was the first time I had seen a play in the Globe after the "As You Like It" production of more than a decade ago -yes, the one with David Tennant, funnily enough- when I was a wee teenage who couldn't speak two words of English but fell in love with Mister Shake-scene anyway. So coming back here to see "Hamlet" was bound to be an emotional experience)

Or not so emotional. Thank God for the Factory and its will to put the silliness back in Will. Posters and t-shirts were bought, cruel jokes about Josh Harnett were made, night buses from St. Paul's were chased at four in the morning, and there was a stuffed deer on stage. In short: a blast of a night out.

Such a mirth-inducing anniversary for The Factory!

Having the performance start at midnight set the tone for the night: there was a very healthy and childish air of mischief from the start. Sometimes we get too caught up in the medium's complications and we forget what theatre is about: a bunch of guys putting on a play and a bunch of people who go see them and have a good time. And a good time we did have. Even if it sounds blasphemous to behold "Hamlet" as a comedy, we welcomed all the silliness and cheap laughs of the long night.

The actors of the Factory always manage to remind us that yes, acting Shakespeare is hard but it's also a lot of fun. Their exercises do not only refresh the text but also the audience's preconceptions about how it should be played. The obstructions are there not because of a whim, they are there to remind both the actors and the audience that the text should always be a living thing, and in the case of "Hamlet" -the most complex, gorgeous, infuriating, rich, confusing text in western literature- the text welcomes all these variations, for its so flexible that it survives radical interpretation stronger than before.

Love the summary of the night's obstructions in the Factory's Wiki thread by one of the actors:

Well walking out in front of a baying crowd at the Globe was An Event in itself – Obstruction No 1 of the week was All That Love.

I Love
II One person on the stage level at a time (including that bloody extension)
III Voices on the balcony and bodies (those who won the toss) on the stage.
IV Doubling (or tripling or quadrupling) of characters a choix.
V John Boden played music of HIS choice – characters to move but not speak to the music, then freeze and speak when the music stopped.

The first obstruction pervaded the entire show. How lovely. Also dangerous – at times it was raining props. TC asked that the props in Act One come from the balconies not the more accessible yard… so they came – largely unsolicited and without warning.
Of the props thrown to the stage the most celebrated one was the stuffed deer that the actors playing Claudius and Polonius used to hide behind and spy on Hamlet. It made us think what a great prop it would make in a performance of "Love's Labour Lost" when the Prince declares he has been hiding behind "this bush". It prompted our only intellectual moment of the night, thinking how all the Shakespeare plays are somehow connected even via stuffed deers.

All the actors were, needless to say, exceptional. This was our second foray into The Factory adventures (having seen the Riverside Studios "Hamlet" in the spring) and we can see how capable and committed (and okay, brave) these actors are. We were specially enthused by the guy who played Claudius and the one who lost the toss with him but got to play the part in the Voices obstruction and the Doubling obstruction. This very last obstruction seemed like the most fun to us, with different versions of the character interacting with each other, almost Python-esque in spirit.

The party -oh, it was a party- ended very late and the experience of walking through the streets of London at night was in itself, very theatrical, specially crossing the Millenium Bridge in the darkness.

From the Factory "official rulebook":
17. Always offer the most beautiful versions of ourselves.
Some nights it's hard being skeptical with theatre.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Romeo And Juliet, Middle Temple Hall, 3 Sep 2008

But, let them measure us by what they will,
We'll measure them a measure, and be gone.

We all have these experiences in which an actor illuminates a character we hadn't care much for before. The title of this post could very well be "How I Learned To Relax And Started Loving Benvolio".

Max Bennet's performance puts in focus this one of the most overlooked characters of the play. His Benvolio is youthful but wise, charming but discrete; when Romeo gets banished you really get a sense of tragedy around him, now with his best friend killed and his other best friend banished, Benvolio stands totally and utterly alone. It's all done in the subtle gestures, the way Mister Bennet just stands there after the banishment, defeated, his tight, clipped tones.

First of all, this was our first time at a Theatre of Memory show. If this "Romeo and Juliet" is anything to judge them by, we are pretty sure we will be repeating whenever. The emphasis was on the haunting location, the Middle Temple Hall - haunting because it's one of the few places where one can be sure Will Shakes himself set foot on. We will not pretend we weren't excited by that. The preoduction was heavy on the pretty costumes but the prettiness worked very well. The white and gold of the clothes matched the lyricism of the play perfectly. (We wish they would have managed to get some blood on, though).

Tamara Harvey has quite a reputation and now we come to understand why. It's easy to foresee we'll be trying to attend to all of her shows in the future. The work with the actors obviously shines through, and in a production like this it would be too easy to get caught up in the place and costumes and all kinds of shiny things.

So the production was flawless and inspired, and the cast was very nicely put together. Will Kemp is everything you might want in a Mercution and a bit more: charming to the point of sickness, light-headed and light-limbed. There's something desperated in his Mercutio: the character must have really low self esteem to push himself like that and be a show off and just try to charm everybody. Oh, well, poor bastard.

Santiago Cabrera was more competent than expected. He had a good Shakesperean diction, and was likeable enough for one of the less liakeable characters in Shakespeare. Romeo has always been a kind of whiny moron, but he has poetry enough to pull that off. Meanwhile Juliet Rylance rubbed us the wrong way, even if she was very competent. Her Juliet was not teenage-y at all, and she was fesisty but not vulnerable.

Of the rest of the cast special mention deserved by Nicolas Tennant -surperb- and the wonderful Michael Brown, whose career we are going to follow closely from now on, he makes a perfect Paris, all uptight and clueless and sweet and always the innocent bystander. Paris has always been our favourite character in the play and we can't for the life of us understand why Juliet would want to marry Romeo instead of him.

The swordfighting was very good. We have been seeing a lot of good swordfighting this year, what with the two Hamlets and this. We are nothinbg if not shallow and good swordfighting is the key of any Shakespeare production for us.

We pretty much agree with everything said in the review by Interval Drinks. In particular the part about the show being hardly revelatory but enjoyable.

For us it will always be the show that Max Bennett stole. We'll have to keep an eye on him.

*photo by Alex Guelff

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Hedda, The Gate, 2 Sep 2008

Yes, yes, we definitely like Lucy Kirkwood.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Turf, The Bush, 30 Aug 2008

`I stood in Shepherds Bush station for an hour on Monday morning. 8 o’clock in the morning, ‘cos I wanted someone to touch me, brush past me, bump into me - I don’t care; just human touch…’

Fitting, actually, that the one of the London "mayor" theatres that seems more interested in the reality of London and its different experiences, a theatre with an ear to the ground most of the time, would give us this very worthy exploration of life and loneliness and paranoia in the city.

The thing starts a bit hesitantly, with your typical mosaic of short scenes to illustrate the "short cuts" topography of London life. Which, sincerely, is getting a bit old, but it also shows the ADD theatre suffers these days, with the plays getting shorter and its words getting smaller. But then "Turf" picks itself up admirably, largely thanks to an exceptional -and exceptionaly young and yes, handsome- cast: Benedict Adeyemi, Doug Crossley, Emily Penn, Esther Shelmerdine, Rachel De-lahay, Rose Romain, Ruth Wanjuco and Shafiq Mirza were all excellent, although I got my eye on Ruth Wanjuco most of the time because, really, she is a jewel.

The play talks about big issues without being a issue play, which I was gratefult for. It tackles the city's paranoia without having to resort to the usual stabbing themes - seriously, if I see one more play about London and teenagers with knifes I'm going to explode; not that I didn't love "White Boy" or anything but enough is enough. I think that where "Turf" is a triumph is in its radiography of urban solitude from the personal. Each character was complex, ambiguous and believable (except maybe the drug dealer, that seemed underwritten somehow) and you cared for each of them.

In short: and excellent portrayal of the mind-numbing, soul-crushing loneliness of London, spoke from the personal but resonating to each member of the audience.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Masterclass at the Royal Haymarket: David Eldridge & Lisa Dillon, 15 August 2008

David Eldridge: "You have to care about actors, and you have to be passionate about actors. Otherwise what's the point?"

Monday, 28 July 2008

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Bush, 28 Jul 2008

Now, now, a bit of gossip: During this, our second time seeing this play, we spotted Hugh Dancy in the audience. And indeed with him was Claire Danes, but that's mostly irrelevant. Mister Dancy is one of our favourite actors and we were inmensely happy to know he goes to the theatre and such theatres as the Bush.

The play? Pretty much as hilarious as the first time, and now we knew the words to the infamous "You Are A Cow, An Actual Cow" song so we could sing along. A cult hit.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Hamlet, The Courtyard, Stratford Upon Avon, 24 Jul 2008

I'm just happy I have tickets to see this thing four more times, because I can't make my mind up about it. I liked it, only I can't figure it out the extent to which I liked it. Maybe it was the shock of seeing my first Stratford play, or that it had to be this play, with this particular actor.

David Tennant wasn't the best Hamlet I have ever seen, but when he was at his best -and that was often enough to make the night remarkable- he was the one who came closest to the Hamlet I have in my mind whenever I read the play.

The first time a play is performed everything is still hanging by a thread so I will forgive the nerves and indecision of the first ten minutes. It was almost kind of sweet, David Tennant's reverence towards his role, the crushing pressure of just being Hamlet, that had him in the cold for a couple of scenes. Luckily, once he warmed up, he became the Hamlet we were all expecting from him: hilarious, energetic, teenage, raw. Tennant has the ability to be touching and creepy at the same time, so that the audience is put in a real moral dilemma, whether they should cheer for the hero or not. There's always a darkness barely veiled in all of Tennant's performance and that's just what was needed to give depth to this indeed very deep role.

I'm not so enthused about the production's desire to be sold as a thriller, downplaying the philosophical elements in Shakespeare's piece. Pity, because it's when the prince is at his most still and meditative that Tennant shines brighter and the odd intimacy of the stage plus mirrors works best.

Nor am I in agreement with Doran's choice of interval-break for the story. It makes sense with the whole let's-sell-this-as-a-thriller strategy but I think it belittles the whole production, such a cheap cry for suspense. Going for such a shameless cliffhanger effect felt wrong, and left the play unbalanced as the second half lost a lot of coherency.

A By The Way: During the intermission we discovered, to our dismay, to be in presence of Gordon Brown.

Now, it's a universally acknowledge truth (by me at least) that you shouldn't judge a Hamlet until his gravedigger scene. For many reasons the pivotal point in any performance of the role, if not of the play itself. So when I say that Tennant was better in the second half of the play that probably means I think he is a bloody good choice for Hamlet. He is. After his adventures with the pirates (that's my take on Hamlet and his ship journey) the Hamlet that comes back is much older, calmer, hollowed-out in many ways. Gone is the youthful energy, what remains is the cold philosopher. And that's when Tennant makes the role his, eventually. These scene also show how, despite his nowadays role as a media icon, David Tennant is one of the smartest actors working the stage. You can almost literally see the amount of thinking and intelectual musing that goes on in his mind during each acting choice. A good head on his shoulders, this one has.

All the cast is excellent. Patrick Stewart predictably so. He gives us a very sympathetic Claudius, a very no-bullshit head of state. A pleasant surprise was Mariah Gale as Ophelia: fierce by fragile, and with tons of chemistry with both Laertes and Hamlet. The "I'm So Glad You Are In This" award of the night goes to Peter De Jersey, because Horatio is my weak spot in all of Shakespeare's characters and De Jersey simply nails it.

PS: The stage door experience was humanity at its very worst and one had to pity this poor man Tennant and his hords of unconsiderate fans. Such a experience should be enough to put him off theatre for ever. But let's hope it's not the case. Theatre needs practitioners like him, brainy and enthiastic.

We came back the next day and contributed to the RSC's wealth by buying some of the handsome posters and indulging in some overpriced soft drinks from the Courtyard's cafe.

Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
At supper.
At supper! where?
Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service,–two dishes, but to one table: that’s the end.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about the other four times I'm seeing this.

*pictures from

Under The Blue Sky, Duke of York's, 23 July 2008

Most annoying laugh was seated behind us. Ruined the night. People need to develop manners. Or you know, a less annoying laugh.

Catherine Tate was irritating when comic and limited when dramatic. Chris O'Dowd excelled at being an asshole - great change from his usual adorable self in "The IT Crowd".

Nigel Lindsay and Francesca Annis stole the show, thankfully.

Apparently teachers are a f****d-up lot. They are still sexy, though.

David Eldridge is a bloody hero.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, The Bush, 22 Jul 2008

They weren't 50! Foul play!

Apart from that dissapointing math mistake, this was one of the most enjoyable evenings out of this summer. Coming and leaving Shepherd's Bush is nowhere as exciting -or death-defying- as our Stafford journey in search of the perfect Hamlet, but it's always a thrill to go to the Green and enjoy the variety of its sights. Not to mention that the Bush is our preferred space in London.

The hook in this case was Ralf Little. Someone who has rubbed shoulders with John Simm and Paddy Considine in that veritable masterpiece -as much as we detest the label, in this case it's necessary- that is 24 Hour Party People, clearly deserved our visit to the neighbourhood. Or maybe we just like Mancunians in our theatrical evenings.

Mister Little did not dissapoint. In fact, we vowed to follow him wherever his career takes him -which, fortunately, won't be more "Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps" because we have to draw a line somewhere. The play itself was delighfully entertaining and unbashedly commercial. We laughed until we cried. We cheered. We demanded a West End transfer - the world at large needs to know the wonders of its bestiality-themed musical number. One of many musical numbers. All of them very enjoyable.

The cast was splendid; long-limbed Ralf Little finally has grown into a likeable leading man. And a funny one, too. Claire Keelan was specially touching when one of the break-up stories turned sour via drug addiction.

Yes, yes, all terribly predictable and meainstream. But also, a very good night in the theatre.

Also, Lucy Kirkwood was part of the writing credits of the play, and we are seriously thinking about becoming part of her fanbase, if she has any, ever since we were suitably enthused by her "Tinderbox" a couple of months ago.

And dear me, I need to learn to write with few adverbs.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Behind the Image, Royal Court, 17 Jul 2008

Went because of Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who is trapped in the appallingly bad "Bonekickers" in BBC1). Didn't know Shelley Conn was in it, too! They were both excellent, heartbreaking and oh, ever so beautiful.

The second half was better than the first (since we had actual interaction between character and not just reports spoken in our faces) but both were interesting and a nice piece of raw theatre.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fat Pig, Trafalgar Studios, 16 Jul 2008

Robert Webb was quite better than expected. Not that I didn't expected him to be good. He just was even better than I thought he would.

Nice, clean, effective production. I enjoyed listening to the White Stripes during the scene changes.

I still like the Spanish version (¡Gorda!) with Luis Merlo and Iñaki Miramón much, much better. But maybe because it had Luis Merlo and Iñaki Miramón in it.

Neil LaBute is always a good night out, in any case. And giving more money to the Trafalgar (it will always be my favourite theatre, for there I saw Elling) doesn't hurt quite as much.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Girlcrush Alert.

Succesfully purchased tickets for the Donmar's version of Ivanov in the fall. Matinee and extremely expensive, but still.

Am I betraying David Hare's delicious version? (I am unimpressed by Tom Stoppard as a whole)


Saturday, 12 July 2008

Hamlet, Stafford Castle, 11 Jul 2008

Not really a surprise but Joseph Millson delievered the closest thing to a perfect Hamlet I have seen (I am mildly excited but not really holding my breath for the RSC version on the 24th). Hell, he even walks like Hamlet (yes, from reading the play so many times I have a very clear mental image of how Hamlet should walk).

The man didn't strike a wrong chord, not once. He was disturbingly funny when he had to (my main theory on Hamlet: it needs to be played my someone with great comedy skills, which is why Lawrence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh fail at it and Adrian Lester excels), he was angrier than he was melancholic, he was fit and energetic, disarmingly charming, annoying and annoyed. Yes, the perfect Hamlet.

It was friggin cold that night and I, being a novice to Stafford and the whole open-air theatre experience (and it had been hard enough to actually get to the place to worry about clothes), was terribly underdressed. That I didn't die of hypothermia was nothing short of a miracle. But pain of freezing is nothing when confronted with the perfect delivery Mister Millson offered with every line.

The rest of the cast was competent but average. Louise Jameson (I was shaking with excitement upon seeing her name on the programme, pathetic Doctor Who fan that I am) seemed to try too hard most of the time. Kellie Shirley was a bit weak on the madness part of Ophelia but quite engaging otherwise. Lex Danie started on a bad note with his uncharismatic Claudius but grew on me as the play went. All in all the cast could have been better but it could have been worse. One can only hope what Joseph Millson could have done with supporting actors up to his game - if indeed, there is anyone out there capable of being up to his game.

Now, the circumstances of my trip to the Midlands were almost as dramatic as the Danish Prince's story itself. Only slightly less bloody.

Getting there was the adventure everybody guessed it would be. A mayor failure in the rails delayed or cancelled all trains from Euston that very morning. Predictable. I got there about five in the afternoon, with no map or sense of place. But I succesfully located not only my hotel (The Vine, highly recommended) but a bureau of exchange to take care of my Spanish euros at a very convenient rate. Hotel was seventy quid (but Joseph Millson's talent is priceless) but it had many tv channels. Watched my first ever Avengers episode at two in the morning - damn, Emma Peel is one cool lady.

Castle -and therefore place of performance- was IN THE MIDDLE OF BLOODY NOWHERE, just as one might guess castles should be. Very steep and very pretty, though in the MIDDLE OF BLOODY NOWHERE. Buses didn't reach there. Had to get a taxi (yet more money spent on Mister Millson's awesomeness) to go there. I had no idea how to get back from there; hopefully the girls in the improvised Box Office were very helpful and dug out some taxi phone humbers for me to write down. The taxi back to civilization never seemed to arrive to pick me up - I thought I was going to be chopped to death by some countryside psycho killers from the Midlands.

This is all very irrelevant to the fine theatrical experience that was "Hamlet" but it seemed to add to it all.


I spent 120+ pounds in going to see Joseph Millson in the MIDDLE OF BLOODY NOWHERE and boy, am I glad I did.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

New Connections Platform (with Abi Morgan and Mark Ravenhill among others), National Theatre, 8 Jul 2008

Abi Morgan: "I don't do as much research as people suppose me to."

Aw. I rather think of a masterpiece as Sex Traffic as a piece of invention than merely thurough investigative drama. Fiction will always win reality.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Thursday, 26 June 2008

2000 Feet Away, The Bush, 21 Jun 2008

The morning started omniously as I watched the very lovely ushers at the Bush wrestle a young fainted lady.

Irregular and disjointed, and not in the good way, 2000 Feet Away suffers from underdeveloped characters the most. But with some powerful stuff in it. There's an exceptional scene between the Deputy and a pre-teen nymphet that managed to make me hold my breath.

Ian Hart was predictably excellent. But Joseph Fiennes was somewhat a surprise, at least for me. Never cared too much for him as a film actor but on stage he is an oddly compalling presence. Meticulous, committed and above all with a perfect sense of timing. If the play feels half-cooked at times but Fiennes is a triumph.

Mixed emotions but it's always great to be in the Bush and for ten quids the ticket I don't really complain at all.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Tinderbox, The Bush, 2 May 2008

The most absurd reasons to go to the theatre often result in a good night out.

I wanted to see "Tinderbox" merely on the basis that Brian Dyck had been in Blackpool, a tv favourite of mine. He is a fine enough actor and quite pleasing to look out. I left the theatre in love with Sheridan Smith. The girl had done well enough in sitcoms and I admired her energy in portraying the new Doctor's companion in the Doctor Who audiobooks, but it's in theatre where I find she is at her best.

The play itself was promising. Irregular and oddly cast (the actors were younger than the characters by far) but fresh at times, and with some quality satire. Lucy Kirkwood also shows a healthy interest in language and relationships between rhythms and words and I, for one, am thankful for that.

Like it quite a bit, with reserves.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Never So Good, National Theatre, 19 Apr 2008

I am normally a fan of Brenton but...

God did this one drag on.

I'm not saying it's not good -it is good. Just not my thing. Kind of seemed endless to me. Or maybe I just dislike the Lyttleton stage for being so annoyingly big.

Whatever, anything to see Robert Glenister, even in a very supporting role.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Mark Ravenhill Double Bill, Royal Court, 16, 17 & 19 Apr 2008

Yes, I went to watch the "Fear and Misery/War and Peace" double bill three times.

And it wasn't just because of Joseph Millson. (Though I can't deny his flawless performance had a lot of weight in my decision).

I have no trouble admitting just how much I love Ravenhill's work and I think he is getting better and better at short plays (the New Connections assigments are really joyful to watch on stage). I like "Fear and Misery" slightly better (and then again, maybe it's just Joseph Millson) but both pieces are excellent and putting them together helps them achieve a fuller impact on the audience.

Burn Gorman was a pleasant surprise and he was quite impressive in his role. Will have to follow his next steps closely.

I can't honestly remember a night out at the theatre where I felt this satisfied in months. Well done, Royal Court, well done.

Friday, 4 April 2008

God of Carnage, Gielgud Theatre, 3 Apr 2008

I somehow had forgotten how hilarious Ralph Fiennes could be.

Great fun of a play, one is thankful for the lack of interval and although I wish Tamsin Grieg's character had a bit more flash, all in all there's little to complain about in Reza's comedy. I am sure it dealt with many great themes but seriously, I couldn't be bothered with a deep analysis of it.

As the big fan of Takin Over the Asylum that I am I enjoyed seeing Ken Stott on stage a great deal, too.

This is probably the kind of play one could recommend to practically everyone, it's a crow-pleaser and for once I don't use that expression with as much disdain as I could.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The Lover/The Collection, Comedy Theatre, 27 Feb 2008

Charlie Cox was very good in it. Like very VERY good. Colour me surprised. A star is born.

The rest of the thing was excellent as well. One has to love Pinter's playfulness, always. Great set design and with Gina McGee (I was so excited upon seeing her) and Timothy West in the cast very few things can go wrong.

Friggin expensive, though. Worth it, anyway.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Speed-the-plow, Old Vic, 1 Feb 2008

Okay, that was pretty pointless.

I love Mamet when he is at his best but he does repeat himself a lot.

Kevin Spacey seemed too artificial to me but Jeff Goldblum was quite a treat - the best thing about the production by far.

Friday, 25 January 2008

The Vertical Hour, Royal Court, 25 Jan 2008

It was Anton Lesser's Brutus at the RSC's production of Julius Caesar that toured to Madrid what made fall in love with theatre as a medium, and the first time I started toying with the idea of becoming a playwright someday myself.

So it's always exciting to see Lesser on stage, the genius that he is.

David Hare's script offers him a chance to shine but only at times; there's indeed a gorgeous, long scene between him and Indira Varma (flawed but heartfelt performance) in which Lesser takes the stage and grabs the audience and you understand why he is possibly the best at what he does. But what surrounds that scene of very good writing is weaker than this central moment. It's not a bad play but it looks unpolished and clichéd at times. I like Hare's work, but I'm not uncritical about it at all. The Verical Hour is shaky and ultimately unsatisfying for the audience as we feel that we have witnessed something that could have been great but isn't.

The production itself was well-observed and classy, a very Royal Court business, with an unintrusive set by Mike Britton that was quite wonderful.

Despite the reservations about the play Anton Lesser is always worth the money, any money. And Indira Varma is a solid presence we hope to see more of. Tom Riley was weak in his part but somehow he looks promising, you can tell he is going to get really good with time.