Monthly Archives: October 2017
6-28 October 2017
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
When I got asked to review this one, I wasn’t sure what to expect at all… but what a gem of a play it turned out to be! It was my first visit to the Lyceum, so it was a night full of surprises. The theatre itself is beautiful, from the reception through to the bar, and then on into the very impressive auditorium itself. As we took our seats I admired the set immensely, while tattered drapes and ladders hang around the room added touches of authenticity to the illusion as we were all transported back to Germany and the end of WW2. I don’t think I have ever felt such anticipation for a performance in the air as we waited for a show to start.
The plot was quickly established; basically, we were in a theatre just after the conclusion of the war, with the British just turning up to help repatriate multiple nationalities of Europe that had been press-ganged by the Nazis into servicing the Reich. I must admit that I had prior ignorance as to the conflict between neighboring countries and different religious beliefs throughout Europe, but I was quickly educated in the select matter of everybody having something they didn’t like about everybody else, and they all had no desire whatsoever to be in the same theatre together, never mind the same truck that the British officer was hoping to get everyone in and on their way! The officer was played by Nebli Basani whose performance was sheer quality as he and his trusty sergeant (Deka Walmsley) went about conducting the staging-post proceedings in a melting-pot of DP’s (Displaced Person’s) as the Sgt rightly informed us all. I really enjoyed the Sgt’s character and thought that he stole the show a little in the first act; he had the right mix of humour and no messing that a genuine Sgt in the war would likely have needed to be able to survive with his humanity and sanity intact!
There was a sweet-paced genuineness, and the first interval was upon us in what seemed like only a few minutes… which had been, in fact, a full hour. A great sign that one is enjoying oneself. The 2nd half saw a lot more of the cast coming to the forefront of the story, and I quickly felt a connection with a few of them who gave stellar performances! The French Resistance girl played by Kaisa Hammarlund was another one of my favourites; she had a decent sized part and I was genuinely upset by her trials & tribulations. These were among some scattered, soul-touching moments that made me reflect upon the war and the terrible suffering our embattled predecessors had to endure.
Cockpit simply blew me away and I was very glad I had been asked to review. It was most thought-provoking, and I will remember all those excellent performances and the drama from which they shone for a very long time. I was genuinely moved! In today’s world of ever-increasing differences and toxic religious divides, the play remains extremely relevant, it made me think of just how similar we all are. Everyone has the same basic needs and desires, trying to please everyone in this mixed up world of ours,though just like the play would be very difficult indeed! However, just because something is difficult to achieve that should not stop us from trying! Go and see tis play where & while you can & you won’t be disappointed. You don’t need a great historical knowledge or political insight to enjoy Cockpit; the acting was first class, the story was very believable and the stagecraft painted an extremely believable setting. Remarkable theatre!
Reviewer : Mark Parker
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Based on conversations with over a hundred women, Hysteria, we are told from the stage, is not a play but a cabaret. Dialogue and song are used to show the many ways women are detrimentally portrayed in the press and unduly affected by political legislation. Judgement on the Daily Mail objectifying the legs of Teresa May and Nicola Sturgeon is delivered in the guise of a breathless horse race commentary. The polemic covers a wide range of misogyny from the predatory nature of Trump’s sexual behaviour to the DUP’s anti-abortion stance and the film Gaslight.
There’s not much in the worthy sentiments of A J Taudevin’s writing that any sane person would take issue with but citing Gaslight, on two occasions, as an example female oppression seems less sound. It is fiction after all and a great example of Victorian Melodrama, bad man does bad things then gets caught, that doesn’t suggest trying to drive your wife crazy is actually a good idea. The cast of three, Annie Grace, Maryam Hamidi and George Drennan, put plenty of energy and endeavour into getting the content across (Drennan gamely raps a call and response with the audience) but it does seem as if the jumbled show has been written by committee and is carrying its message more by camel than horse.
Reviewer : David G Moffat
King George’s Hall
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Stickman is a live show aimed at children and adults alike. It tells the story of Stickman trying to get back to his family’s house-tree, using just three performers to take on the many roles. Julia Donaldson’s books are popular in our household and my five-year-old is able to recite many of them by heart, so I took him along for his expert opinion. Taking our seats at the splendid King George’s Hall in Blackburn, the show soon bounds straight into the action and the enthusiasm of the actors is immediately apparent. There was an immediate drawback, I thought, for the set was basic & lacks visual stimulation for the kids, when a rare change of scenery does little to keep the attention of the young, and those little ones around me quickly got restless. Things did pick up though, & the show became faster paced, & as it started to utilise the audience the children quickly came to life; jumping and screaming to get involved, they giggled and cheered and willed Stickman on through his journey.
In terms of technical merit, there is clearly a talented team at work here; director Sally Cookson has taken her small team into consideration and showcased their abilities with expertise. Euan Wilson, who studied Actor Musicianship at Rose Bruford, brings Stickman to life with his energetic performance. The cast use instruments, accents and a few props to set the various scenes which work well with music composed by Benji Bower.
There is no doubt that what we saw was art, delivered impressively by talented individuals, but in places the performance was a little too sophisticated for the younger audience who have perhaps been spoilt with the instant gratification of some children’s shows. My son visits the theatre often and summed the show up in three words, ‘it was great!’ I’ll take that from a harsh critic. The Mumble recently interviewed Wilson and I am pleased to be able to quote him and say he was absolutely right. We did ‘take away the wonderful story of adventure’ and the songs were indeed ‘stuck in our head’!
Reviewer : Aimee Hewitt
Stickman is currently touring the UK
10 – 11 OCT NOTTINGHAM Theatre Royal 0115 989 5555 BOOK NOW
13 – 15 OCT WINCHESTER Theatre Royal 01962 840 4405 BOOK NOW
16 OCT LEAMINGTON SPA Royal Spa Centre 01926 334418 BOOK NOW
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21 – 22 OCT LONDON artsdepot 020 8369 5454 BOOK NOW
23 – 24 OCT PORTSMOUTH New Theatre Royal 023 9264 9000 BOOK NOW
26 – 27 OCT BURY ST EDMUNDS Theatre Royal 01284 769505 BOOK NOW
28 – 29 OCT SOUTHEND Palace Theatre 01702 351135 BOOK NOW
1 – 2 NOV BOURNEMOUTH Pavilion Theatre 0844 576 3000 BOOK NOW
4 – 5 NOV BRISTOL Old Vic 0117 987 7877 BOOK NOW
6 – 7 NOV MALVERN Forum Theatre 01684 892277 BOOK NOW
8 NOV TEWKESBURY Roses Theatre 01684 295074 BOOK NOW
12 – 14 NOV NORTHAMPTON Royal & Derngate 01604 624811 BOOK NOW
17 – 18 NOV SOUTHPORT The Atkinson 01704 533 333 BOOK NOW
19 NOV NORTHALLERTON The Forum 01609 776230 BOOK NOW
DECEMBER 2017-JANUARY 2018
18 – 24 DEC MILTON KEYNES The Stables 01908 280800 BOOK NOW
26 DEC – 12 JAN BIRMINGHAM Town Hall
(The fall of ) The Master Builder
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
30th Sept–21st October
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
(The Fall of) The Master Builder, a new modernised take on the play by Ibsen is a brave if flawed attempt to bring into the light a subject more often left in the darkness. Ibsen was famed for his tackling of taboo subjects and the psychological intensity of his plays was controversial (and even sometimes banned) in his day but how would a modern adaptation of his work fare? Would it seem a hackneyed vision from a more conservative age? Or would the coruscating insight of his story still feel strikingly relevant even now?
The play opens on the dregs of a party celebrating architect, Halvard Solnes upcoming acceptance of the ‘Master Builder’ award. The set brilliantly creates a doll’s house style box for the actors to perform in albeit one which looks more like a 1970’s office than a Victorian drawing room. There is also great use of music from the beginning which is used sparingly and with deft subtly creating a sense of foggy memories and burgeoning violence.
As the play begins the audience is thrown straight into the action halfway through a conversation – a technique which though intended to create a sense of immediacy merely feels confusing. We see assistant, Knut Brovik and his trainee architect son, Ragnar bickering about their boss before the master builder himself appears. Halvard enters swaying and staggering, a jaunty and charismatic drunk trying to instil some much needed sense of camaraderie amongst his colleagues. But his mood of triumphalism is soured by an undercurrent of tension. For at the very moment of his greatest triumph Halvard is beginning to feel his sense of privilege slipping away; the women don’t want him any more, he’s making more mistakes and he’s running out of new ideas. Thrown into this heady cocktail of middle aged doubt is cocky student, Hilde with her unhealthy obsession with him, scheming and ambitious trainee, Ragnar and his neglected wife, Aline. Is it possible that Halvard will clasp defeat from the jaws of victory or will he find some way beyond these entanglements?
The play is something of a character study in which the central character, Halvard is gradually revealed to us as his mask of gregarious charm and cheek slips into something far more desperate and troubled. It’s a play about power, control and the personal cost of desire. It’s a tall order for any actor to create such a character and resist the compulsion to showboat but Reece Dinsdale as Halvard gives an excellent charismatic performance creating a compelling portrayal of a ruthless charmer which subtly flashes with hints of the inner anguish and despair of a man who recognises the wickedness of his behaviour (“I’m a terrible human being in some ways but I try…”) but though fleetingly filled with remorse lacks the will to actually stop doing it.
Though Halvard is very much the centre of the play the other actors bring nuanced performances from what at times could end up as bit part characterisations. Susan Cookson as Aline gives her character a winning mix of strength and vulnerability. Katherine Rose Morley manages to create some depth from a character which could have been a mere archetype. David Hounslow as Dr Herval captures the righteous hypocrisy of his incorrigible reprobate of a character very well just as Emma Naomi manages to create empathy for her spirited portrayal of the feisty, loving Kaja. But sadly the other actors fair less well as Michael Peavoy gives a charmless one note performance of belligerent ambition as Ragnar and Robert Pickavance wrings no pathos from his flat performance as Knut.
One aspect which is handled well by all the actors is their investment in the physicality of their performances as they lend all the characters a slightly different physical presence from the stiffness of Knut, and the sprightly Halvard to the elegant Kaja. The way the perspective is changed from that of Halvard to the other minor characters towards the end of the play has a powerful immediacy to it through the use of first person monologues which feels like a brave yet successful risk. This chorus of conflicting voices and perspectives forces the audience to see things afresh and challenges our attitudes to all the characters.
The creeping claustrophobia of the final act is conveyed wonderfully through the stagecraft as the very environment seems to crowd in upon Halvard and we see emanations of what is to come with flashes of harsh and angry white light. However the build up towards Halverd’s retribution at times feels slightly overwrought and ends in monster movie theatrics which do much to jeopardise the subtlety of some of the actors previous work. The actual ending if stopped a scene earlier would have felt marvellously brutal – like a slap in the face but instead we unfortunately have a final scene which though visually striking in its starkness patronises the audience somewhat by spelling out the ‘message’ of what we have just witnessed.
This queasy mix between the understated and the lurid is a real fault of the script as although the dialogue is at times witty and there is often a naturalism to it which flows very well some of the plot twists and turns lack finesse and give the play at times an uneven tone as it shifts from farce to melodrama to tragedy. Sometimes this is handled well and the shift is subtle yet at others it feels jarring. There are also unfortunately some aspects to the adaptation of Ibsen’s original work which feel misjudged. There are countless references to “churches” and “trolls” which have real symbolic force but which are clearly derived from Ibsen’s original play and are very much of the 19th century Norway of its origins. Combined with references to modern shopping centers and Prince Charles this leave the play’s sense of time and place muddled. I feel it would have been better to have either given up any attempt to set the play in modern times or lose these references entirely for the play to be more effective. Overall I enjoyed the play and although at times its message felt a little heavy-handed the talents of the cast brought a sense of reality to what in other hands could have been a rather contrived piece.
Reviewer : Ian Pepper
Love and Death in Govan and Hyndland
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Script: Stagecraft: Performance:
Trips to the toilet, cups of tea, banging your head on the desk, these are standard diversions for any scribbler with writer’s block. Time to get your mother out the cupboard and have a chat with her urn; after all it is the tenth anniversary of her passing.
Ivan (Stephen Clyde) looks back a decade, reflecting on the relationship between his mother and himself at the time she discovers she is dying. Fifty years of smoking has lead to terminal lung cancer, ashes to ashes indeed but this is a woman who knows her own mind. No daft bucket list of extreme sports thank you, she is happy in her own home. Besides, every time she’s out and coughs, the neighbours phone their weans to get their name down for the hoose. Clyde handles this demanding one-man performance with confidence, zinging Glasgow barbs in the voice of Ivan and his mother, as both use humour to cope with impending loss.
Events in Ian Pattison’s excellent play, the shift of control, the need for the younger person to communicate in the world of the older, the physical indignities, all will be familiar to those who have experienced loss of an elderly parent. An engaging piece of theatre that is poignant, funny and true.
Reviewer : David G Moffat
CASTING FOR CITIZENS THEATRE PRODUCTION OF CINDERELLA ANNOUNCED
The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, has unveiled the cast for its production of Cinderella – an alternative festive experience to round off 2017. Cinderella is recommended for ages 6+ and runs from 28 Nov – 31 Dec
Glaswegians young and old can expect a fun and lively re-telling of this classic fairytale, with plenty of the hallmark ingredients that have earned the Citizens Theatre a reputation for unique Christmas shows. Citizens Theatre Artistic Director Dominic Hill – alongside his frequent collaborator, composer Nikola Kodjabashia – will bring his inimitable style to this production, deploying a handpicked ensemble cast to present this familiar story of magic and true love, with a twist. Peter Collins, whose comic performances have been at the heart of the theatre’s past two Christmas shows, returns to the company for his third festive season in a row. Peter’s most recent appearance at the Citizens was in Dominic Hill’s highly acclaimed production of The Oresteia: This Restless House (2017). Also returning to the Citizens stage for Cinderella is Irene Allan, whose performance as the Witch in Hansel & Gretel (2016) was described by the Daily Record as “utterly fabulous.” This year, she takes on the role of Cinderella’s stepmother.
Caroline Deyga, in her Citizens debut, is expected to wow audiences with the voice and spirit that saw her jointly nominated for ‘Best Actress in a Supporting Role’ at the Olivier Awards 2017, as part of the eight-strong cast of the award winning Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour (NTS). She will be joined by fellow Citz debutant Hannah Howie who, alongside Deyga, will bring her ‘strong comic timing’ (The Stage) to the production as one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters. As part of the theatre’s commitment to nurturing new talent, the Citizens is putting its two Actor Interns Nicholas Ralph and Sinéad Sharkey centre stage for this production. Nicholas’s internship is funded by the Robertson Trust.
The company is also delighted to welcome to the stage Jatinder Singh Randhawa, who will be taking a break from the Citizens Theatre’s front of house team. Jatinder recently graduated from North Lanarkshire College with a BA in Acting. The cast is completed by actor and physical theatre practioner Malcolm Shields, who brings over two decades of experience on stage and screen to this production. Last year Malcolm made a memorable cameo in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake and first appeared at the Citz as Franco Begbie in the theatre’s landmark 1994 adaptation of Trainspotting.
Family tickets for Cinderella start from £33.50 for a family of three to £77.50 for a family of five. You can purchase tickets here.