Thursday, 21 January 2010
It's nice when theatre surprises you like this.
I was regarding my assitance to a performance of The Priory at the Royal Court as something of a chore. On one hand, it was unavoidable, because Joseph Millson was in it and I always make a point of not missing any of his performances (even if that means travelling great lengths). On the other hand if it weren't for Mr.Millson's involvement in it The Priory is the kind of play I would normally avoid on a first glance: it sounded like a silly comedy and it had Rupert Penry-Jones in the cast.
So in the end I decided to get some standing tickets with really REALLY restricted view for the price of 10 pence.
And to my surprise, well, it was a pretty funny play. The setting is familiar (a group of friends decide to spend New Year's together in a country house and a series of complications and misunderstandings follow) and the situations and characters clichéd but it had a solid cast (even mediocre Penry-Jones was quite decent and not as annoying as usual) and it got genuine laughs from me, more to do with the actors' delivery than with the wit of the writing but still. A good way to spend a morning.
And of course amidst all this sitcom-esque, familiar but effective hilariousness it was Joseph Millson who stole the show as he often does (like Andrew Scott he is the kind of actor who should not be allowed to interact with other humans, because he puts the rest to shame) in a role that could have been easily disgraceful: Daniel, the gay friend this kind of farce usually has, would have been a cardboard of a character but Millson gives him unusual depth. Kudos to Charlotte Riley as well, playing energetic and irritating Laura, a stranger come into this circle of friends. And Jessica Hynes, whose character is the heart and spine of the play, she is sympathetic but sharp. It is her onstage chemistry with Millson that results in the best moments of the play, it is when these two characters connect that this entertaining but innocuous comedy achieves moments of actual and honest theatre magic. I was not expecting that.
It was nice to be proven wrong.
West End Whingers.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Despite his horrible career choices (bad movies and questionable musicals) there's no doubt Jonathan Pryce is one of the most talented actors one can ever hope to see. His performance last year in the Donmar's Dimetos was one of the most remarkable theatrical experiences of my life. And this Caretaker might not be as touching as that but it is still an intense pleasure of a night at the theatre.
The marriage between Pinter's always sharp and eternally fresh writing and Pryce's talent is a winning combination. Pryce's Davies, the tramp that finds himself inmersed in a confuse powerplay between two brothers as he just tries to land a place to sleep in, dominates the scene with more energy than one would have imagined. His principal drive is mistrust, almost paranoia but the audience begins to share his suspicions as Peter McDonald's Aston and Sam Spruell's Mick turn out to be more than meets eye in this attractive production, transferred to the Trafalgar after its success.
The production itself is a bit flat at times - I'd like more darkness, a lot more of surrealism - but it is greatly effective and I could tell the audience was having a great time, which often is a tricky thing with Pinter, so wonderfully weird he is. And the actors were superbly directed. In such a tight and tense three-handler it is vital to have everybody working at top game. Peter McDonald had already caught my eye alongside Pryce in the West End revival of Glengarry Glen Ross and here he proves to be a relieable actors with a great stage presence- his Aston is very alien and detached, he feels hollowed out and when the reveal of his past in the mental hospital comes around it all clicks into place. He can seem helpless and edgy at the same time. At first I had my doubts about Spruell and his thuggish Mick but by the end of the play I was won over; his is a complex and clever performance, he gives the character pathos and charisma without losing the sense of threat. Both actors should be very happy of not only keeping their ground against a formidable Pryce but also completing him, and achieving that often elusive animal: a united, coherent cast.