Mary Stuart, Duke of York’s Theatre

https://cdn.thestage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Lia-Williams-as-Elizabeth-I-Juliet-Stevenson-as-Mary-Stuart_credit-Manuel-Harlan-2-700x455.jpg

by guest critic Kudzanayi Chiwawa

Heads or tails – with the flip of a coin, on this evening, Juliet Stevenson is Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart is portrayed by Lia Williams.

The play opens with urgency, the stakes are high and the rhythm throughout doesn’t let up. It’s exhilarating. Williams commands the stage like a beautiful beast, burdened by captivity. We know how history reads for these two women, but the battle waged on stage, makes you wonder how will it end.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Hamilton, Victoria Palace Theatre

https://www.standard.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_large/public/thumbnails/image/2017/12/07/09/hamilton-london-cast-3.jpg

Let’s get this out of the way first – does Hamilton live up to the hype? Yes. It’s very good. Though the revolution in the plot doesn’t influence the dramaturgy, that doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic show that musically updates the genre and skillfully triggers a spectrum of emotions. It’s simultaneously epic and intimate, staged surprisingly simply with striking, sculptural choreography and utterly engaging throughout.

But this pro-immigration, hip-hop reinvention of the all-American musical about a country gaining independence from a distant, tyrannical overlord resonates rather differently in Brexit Britain than it does in America. Forget the NHS bus – could Hamilton be the new symbol of the Leave campaign?

Continue reading

Feature | Addiction and the Audience in People, Places & Things

https://i0.wp.com/thestagereview.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Denise-Hough-and-company-in-People-Places-Things.-Photo-by-Johan-Persson..png?fit=1234%2C819&ssl=1

by guest critic Steven Strauss

Heaps of deserved praise has been showered on Jeremy Herrin’s production of Duncan Macmillan’s People, Places & Things, with much directed at Denise Gough’s thrillingly committed performance of a struggling actor in rehab. Yet after seeing it at Wyndham’s Theatre in mid-2016 then its New York City run this year, it’s easy to see there’s more to it than Gough. A second, transatlantic viewing proves just how thoroughly the production theatricalises addicts’ experiences in order to generate audience empathy with the struggle to overcome addiction.

Continue reading

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, Wyndham’s Theatre

https://www.londontheatredirect.com/images/Event/HeisenbergTheUncertaintyPrinciple/Heisenberg-The-Uncertainty-Principle-13618.jpg

by guest critic Gregory Forrest

German physicist Werner Heisenberg talks of pairs and duality. The one thing against the other. The one in terms of the other. Directed by Marianne Elliott and written by Simon Stephens, this is an evening of girl meet boy, of random encounters, and the unpredictability of (human) nature.

Continue reading

Love in Idleness, Apollo Theatre

https://images.bwwstatic.com/columnpic7/3071FA67-E738-A654-BD9A7B3A6B6823FB.jpg

by guest critic Tom Brocklehurst

This is Trevor Nunn’s third production of a Rattigan play, and in his programme notes he calls it ‘a masterpiece’. On reading the plot synopsis, one might have trouble imagining this play as such.

It’s the 1940s. Olivia Brown awaits the return of her 18-year-old son Michael, whom she has not seen for four years. Whilst he’s been away, his father has died and Olivia has found love with a successful arms manufacturer, Sir John Fletcher. When Michael comes back with new-found left-wing ideas, he is horrified at the opulence of his mother’s new lifestyle, and disgusted with the man making his millions from warfare. It’s a fairly simple plot, in which Rattigan preempts a whole host of classic teenage-angst dramas, whilst happily throwing in comic references to Hamlet and Oedipus for fun.

Continue reading

The Ferryman, Royal Court

https://cdn.thestage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/03182335/TFMprod2017JP_05101.jpg

Nearly a decade after Jerusalem opened to universal acclaim at The Royal Court, Jez Butterworth finally gives us another masterpiece. A sprawling family/political drama taking place over one day in 1981 rural Armagh, The Ferryman barrels towards a predicable end. But the genius lies in the final scene, where the plot shoots off in a different direction like a rogue firework before exploding. Laden with familial craic, rebel spirit, the complexities of colonialism and rounded off with phenomenal performances, The Ferryman encapsulates the best of contemporary British playwriting.

Continue reading

An Inspector Calls, Playhouse Theatre

https://i0.wp.com/www.thegayuk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/An_Inspector_Calls_at_the_Playhouse_Theatre_-Tabitha_Douglas_Ben_Burely_and_James_Hill_-_Photo_by_Mark_Douet-e1479067631695.jpg

Seventy years ago, J B Priestley’s thriller An Inspector Calls was first staged in the UK. Twenty-five years ago, Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed, progressive production opened at the National. His approach shook up the insular, drawing room script in order to highlight the selfish elitism of the middle and upper classes and has been regularly staged since 1992. Now, in a post-Brexit, post-Trump 2016 punctuated by hate crime, polarised political views and gaping social inequality, Daldry’s production about the death of a working class woman known to all members of a posh family still feels relevant. Though there are some clunky moments and miss-matched performance styles, the crusade for accountability and justice that drives the plot keeps this play firmly in the present within a stunning production concept.

Daldry’s interpretation manifests through Ian MacNeil’s design that takes much of the action out of the Birling family home and into the dark, wet street below. Copious fog and treacherous cobbles interfere with their joyous engagement celebrations and ruling class entitlement, endowing the inspector with more power as the Birlings are actually destabilised. The family and their guests are drawn out of the warm comfort of their stilted home that quickly becomes remote and inaccessible, and made to face the dirty secrets that Inspector Goole extracts from each of them in a landscape of damp despair. As their individual facades collapse, so does the home that protects and elevates them from the working classes, the people of the streets. Some of the set transitions are a bit mechanical, but it’s otherwise a powerful visual metaphor and one that’s excellently executed.

The cast’s performances are good, though there are a few different styles. Barbara Marten’s matriarchal Sybil Birling is comedically melodramatic, earning a laugh whenever she speaks. Considering the gravity of the play’s message, this is a strange choice and one that clashes with the largely naturalistic work from the rest. Liam Brennan is an excellent Inspector Goole, earthy and immoveable. Clive Francis is a somewhat frail Arthur Birling, though his vocal power and characterful rage keep him in constant battle with the inspector.

This visually striking production is still relevant what with Priestley’s attacks on the British class system and the casualness with which the upper classes and government treat the lives of the working class and those down at heel. The energy, pace and tension keep it from descending into stale playacting that dances around a real, serious problem and the high production values give it popular appeal and spectacle. With hope, its wide reach will have a big impact and remind audiences that the unseen, working girl in the play is the entire population of impoverished people in this country at the mercy of those with more financial power.

The Inspector Calls runs through 4 February.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.