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