Closer, Donmar Warehouse

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” stated Newton. In David Levaux’s Donmar Warehouse production of Closer, we see Newton’s laws of physics personified: when you fall in love with someone completely, they eventually leave you (usually for someone else).

Written nearly 20 years ago, this production is successfully contemporary. The use of large-scale projections and a minimalist set reinforce the modern setting, and the language has not dated. Whilst this was initially surprising due to our reliance on instant communication technology, the focus of Marber’s play is the relationships; these remain timeless. Excellent performances by the ensemble cast of four (Nancy Carrol, Oliver Chris, Rachel Redford and Rufus Sewel) and Marber’s snappy dialogue fully engage the audience, reminding them of the absurdity of love and the pain of its loss.

Repeatedly throughout the play, the absurdity of love and lust is highlighted. We all want what we cannot have, and once we get it, we want someone else. The story condenses several years into an intense two hours but due to the outstanding characterisation and range of roles, the audience can relate to at least some element of the constant musical chairs of falling in and out of love. The repetitive, mindless toying with a Newton’s Cradle reminds us of the inherent pointlessness of our own relationship’s difficulties, which feel like the world is collapsing in that moment.

The performances and the play itself are the stars of this production, but it is not without its faults. During several of the regularly-occurring arguments, there were unrealistically lengthy pauses between lines. The direction was obvious in these moments, but may have been a deliberate directorial choice to emphasise the ridiculousness of the moment. Redford’s delivery could tend towards overly sarcastic and lacked some of the nuance of the others’ but again, this may have been a character choice to highlight her youth.

Despite characters that all can relate to, this is not a play that naturally reflects life. It liberally utilises humour to again draw attention to the absurd, but has a painfully beautiful ending that drops us to earth with a resounding thud. We are each surrounded by a wall of lies, falling in love with these same constructions of others. With attraction, trust and love, we take down our walls. But once we see the flaws in the other, we no longer want them. We go, looking for another perfectly constructed fabrication – the next ball in Newton’s Cradle.

Intention: ☆☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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Shipwrecked! An Entertainment, for everything theatre

“Based on the true story of Henri Louis Grien, otherwise known as Louis de Rougemont, this is a tale of Victorian high adventure and a lying man’s downfall. It is the Jack Studio Theatre’s Christmas production, and one delightfully unlike other seasonal offerings…

“As a sickly child Louis yearned to experience life outside his bedroom walls, and at the tender age of 16 he decided that it was time to find his way in the world. After arriving in London, he meets a sea captain who invites him to work on an upcoming pearling expedition in the Coral Sea. A storm leads to shipwreck and a new life in Aboriginal Australia until he decides to venture home to London thirty years later. On his return to an unrecognisable city of smoke and industry Louis’ story has turns him into a celebrity, and the audience are surprised by a revelation that something was not what it seemed…

“Written by American playwright Donald Margulies, this is the UK premiere of this wonderful play. With a solid concept by Artistic Director Kate Bannister this is a delightful holiday theatre offering. Tony Taylor convincingly portrays Louis at all ages. Rose and Durbin skilfully employ physical performance to show us characters such as the captain, Louis’ mother, his Aborigine wife and Bruno the dog (the audience’s clear favourite). Performances are excellent throughout…

“The only flaws in the production are minor…The ending critiqued the press and society’s treatment of celebrities, but glorified creativity and imagination at the same time. This left me pondering how to view the principal character, and reminded me that life is not always black and white by any stretch.”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2

Read the entire review on everything theatre:

Ivy & Joan, for everything theatre

“Ivy sits in the staff canteen at the hotel where she lived and ran a cocktail bar for 40 years. She whiles away the time before a bus will take her to a new life in her friend Inky’s spare room after losing her job, pontificating to Vic, who is there to ensure she boards that bus and leaves for good.

“Joan sits at her kitchen table with husband Eric, reminiscing over their recent holiday to Venice. Eric is annoyed at her constant mispronunciations whilst Joan romanticises their experiences. They are both waiting for taxis. Eric’s will take him to a new job near his mother’s and Joan’s will take her back to a psychiatric facility where she is receiving treatment for an unstated mental illness.

The production consists of two separate one acts featuring the same performers, Lynne Miller and Jack Klaff. Both are seasoned performers and excellent to watch…Both plays certainly address important issues but could have been investigated more in-depth if they were full-length and featured more of the male perspective…

“Both Ivy and Joan are victims of their age and gender…

“There is little action in either play. The writing style is akin to Chekhov or Bennett. There are some lovely moments of witty bantering, but these are few. Despite outstanding performances, the playlets feel underdeveloped.”

Intention: ☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆

Star Rating: ☆☆

Read the entire review on everything theatre:

Light, for everything theatre

“…At the start of the show, an announcement warns us that the ushers will be watching us at all times should we have any trouble with flashing lights. This announcement, whilst concerned with health and safety on the surface, suitably forecasts the world of the play where the government monitors the thoughts of every citizen.

…Light is inspired by Edward Snowden’s revelations of government spying. It gives us a world where technology is king and the government supposedly keeps us safe from terrorism. The story follows Agent Dearden in a world where speech is redundant, as every human being has an implant that allows him or her to transmit thoughts directly to the receiver’s brain…

“Whilst the story itself is typical example dystopian Big Brother fare, it balances a wider worldview with an intimate portrayal of one family. What makes this production truly compelling and unlike anything I have ever seen is its use of light and sound…The actors use precise and detailed movements to indicate character, and location, often appearing to manipulate the beams of light…Surtitles, rather than speech, contribute to the lighting element and add character and plot information, though this is used only when absolutely necessary.

“This production is part of the London International Mime Festival for a short time and then goes on tour nationwide. To experience innovative theatre that takes the art form to new heights, see this show.”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Read the entire review on everything theatre:

Greywing House, for everything theatre

“One-person shows are extremely hard to create and perform effectively. It’s easy for them to be too long, too boring, too bizarre, too indulgent or too lots of other things. Greywing House uses poetic writing and language, puppetry and movement to craft a narrative that gradually exposes the otherworldly realities of coastal Greywing House and its proprietor, Miss Amelia. The audience are the guests staying at this B&B (which doesn’t offer breakfast because it’s too hard for Miss Amelia to keep track of the time) in the fictional coastal village of Cradlehead. There isn’t much to do in Cradlehead, but the local residents and ghostly legends make it unlike any other seaside destination…

“Miss Amelia is the epitome of polite restraint, akin to a 1950’s housewife. She seems quite innocent, but with a hint a melancholic nostalgia. She is warm and friendly, though this gradually deteriorates into desperation and madness. Mary Beth Morossa, the creator of the show, plays her with detail and sensitivity…

“This is a one-person show that is not without potential but still needs development. Having debuted at the London Horror Festival last year, its creepiness works any time of year and I could imagine it in the programme of numerous fringe festivals.”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆

Read the entire review on everything theatre:

Elephant Man, for everything theatre

“Joseph Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man or John Merrick, is a hot topic in the theatre, what with Bradley Cooper’s imminent transfer to the West End in this title role. Despite this news, the current, smaller scale production at the Jack Studio Theatre in South London is certainly worth seeing… In his original adaptation, writer and director Steve Green confronts audiences with the uncomfortable social history of ownership, entrapment and public appearance in the Victorian era.

“Actor Daniel Christostomou plays Merrick as a sensitive, articulate young man caged by his physical deformities and Victorian attitudes. Rather than prosthetics or make up, costume designer Anastasia Sarajeva has created an evocative, confrontational structure of wire, chain link and mesh for Chrisostomou. Naked underneath, we see both the actor’s and Merrick’s silhouette…

“Despite Chrisostomou’s incredible performance and the unique approach to Merrick’s experience, the script falls short. The writing is choppy, with large gaps in time and no explanation of what events were excluded. Individual scenes are well-crafted, but not pieced together to form a particularly effective whole, and I found myself needing to read up on Merrick after the fact to clarify plot holes. There are two projected sequences, but they seem arbitrary and would not have been missed if excluded.

“Regardless of the confusing and unpolished script, the characters and the performances still make this a production worth catching…”

Intention: ☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Read the entire review on everything theatre:

Beautiful Damned, for

Anthony Patch, a debonair young man, begins building a house of cards on a table in a shabby bar. On the verge of collapsing, Anthony gives up on the cards almost immediately. He takes no risks, stopping before he has really begun, or grew bored. Both possibilities reflect the tumultuous years spent with his wife, Gloria. Anthony and Gloria’s relationship mirrors their Gatsbian world of excess: they are self –absorbed, often indifferent towards each other, either passionately in love or in hate. The play chronicles the highs, lows and love affairs of their 10-year relationship with energy, commitment, versatile performances in a dingy, speakeasy atmosphere.

Nadia Cavelle and James Hyde skillfully portray the journey of the couple’s relationship as they meet for a drink to relive their past. Even with pianist and barman Fitz (Guy Hughes) to support the plot, the production is essentially a two-hander. Their first date is tea at The Plaza; Anthony clearly loves Gloria at this point, but she only loves herself. As their relationship develops, so does Gloria’s empathy but we see that Anthony is equally self-absorbed and lazy. They want to drink and dance, but cannot be bothered to put the work in to pay for their indulgences. Other friends and acquaintances from their past join them, played by Hyde and Cavelle using costume pieces to signify the character change. Altering their voices and movement style, the actors show the character transitions clearly and demonstrate their characters’ absurd behaviour extends to their social circle. They fight and make up constantly. Everything is high drama in Anthony and Gloria’s world as the action flips back and forth between past and present.

Whilst the actors make the transitions well, the lights are slow to keep up. Obvious changes in the lighting state support these episodic time leaps, but are ill timed and not actually needed. The stage space is used effectively by director Ben Weaver-Hincks, but the audience has little breathing space. £3.50 mint juleps help ease the discomfort and the theatre will want to maximize audience capacity, but the seats could have used a bit more space around them. Direct address is used occasionally to include the audience, but could have been employed more. Having not read Fitzgerald’s novel, I cannot comment on the adaptation quality. The piano accompaniment certainly aids in creating atmosphere, but the highlight of this show is the performances.

The story must come to an end, however. Anthony reveals a certain indiscretion whilst stationed down south during the war. They are older, jaded and really quite damaged. There is a strong element of faded glamour, obviously reflected in the set design and decoration. The world they knew and relished so fully has collapsed and been rebuilt unrecognizably to them, a house of cards pushed to its limits again and again. Do they genuinely love each other? Perhaps. Like two playing cards able to stand because they lean on each other, these two childlike individuals cannot navigate reality on their own.

Intention: ☆☆☆☆

Outcome: ☆☆☆

Star Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2

Originally posted on remotegoat:

Othello, for

The Rose Playhouse is one of the most unique fringe theatres in London. On a small wooden platform, theatre productions and their audiences overlook a dim, concrete cavern surrounding a pool of water. At the bottom of the pool, illuminated by red rope lighting, are the foundations of the Rose Theatre. Built in 1587, it hosted some of Shakespeare’s plays; Shakespeare may have even performed here himself. It is fitting that amongst these ruins, Time Zone Theatre produces a version of Othello set in modern London that addresses the universal themes of greed, ruthlessness and jealousy.

Five actors perform a 90-minute edit of the play. Clothed in black, white and gray business dress, they initially personify conformity and professionalism. The free flowing champagne and 24-hour schedules gradually break down this image, framing Cassio’s fight and Iago’s ambition very well. The intimate relationships within the play are less realistic within this context, but not wholly unbelievable.

The opening of the play is a fantastic, fast paced, televisual montage of Iago’s monologues, movement, sound and tableaux. The sound design by Philip Matejtschuk and movement direction by director Pamela Schermann were the most effective elements of the production. The pace evoked the city environment, and actors often had a laptop or paperwork with them. This performance style was not maintained, however. The characters stopped working so frequently, focusing the action on the characters’ relationships rather than the intensity of their lifestyle. The place slowed and the urgency was lost, transforming into a generic Shakespeare production in modern dress.

Of the five performers, Trevor Murphy as Iago is the highlight. He effectively transitions b a power-hungry middle manager determined to undermine his boss to a subservient yes-man. Denholm Spurr as Cassio also delivers a high-calibre performance. Both have a natural, watchable intensity.

These contemporary city workers driven by money and excessive lifestyles provokingly juxtapose the backdrop of 16th century ruins. In both worlds, those at the top of society hold inordinate power over the little people, social progression is an illusion and human life is disposable. Whether or not you believe life is better now than it was back in the good ole’ days, Time Zone Theatre bleakly demonstrates that despite modern technology and globalization, human nature certainly has not evolved.

Intention:  ☆ ☆ ☆

Outcome: ☆ ☆

Star Rating: ☆ ☆ 1/2

Re-posted from