Friday, May 11, 2012
Babel, billed as one of the theatrical events of 2012 (in a year that no doubt will be full of these) is currently playing at Caledonian Park in North London. It's part street theatre, part performance art, part art and craft, part singing and part muddy field. It's a lot of parts but it is a pretty ambitious piece that brings together a story of a city like London where people are from all corners of the world and representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds...
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett is now playing at the Royal Court. It's an epic drama about Kenneth and Sandra who meet in the sixties and start a fiery relationship. They have two children, divorce and then retire. But all is not well and it is the harsh economic realities that become the focus of the play. It has some sort of impact as people were filing out of the theatre Saturday night muttering amongst themselves, "Oh well, we will have to buy our children a house" or "I'm never going to be able to afford to buy on my salary".
A play that tackles the theme of the baby boomer generation as the locust generation is an interesting premise. But at three hours you will leave the theatre wondering if they could have made it shorter and called it Love, Love. As one particularly loud American couple noted in the foyer after the first act, it was fifty minutes that could have been told in five. The characters and more caricatures and there are no real surprises in this piece. Everything is telegraphed well before it happens which becomes tedious and curiously unexpected for an award-winning play.
Of course the cast are engaging and lovely to watch and they try hard to keep things moving. And moving from awful-looking wigs and retro clothing of the 1960s and 1990s to current fashion of 2011. Holding the piece together is the hard work of Ben Miles and Victoria Hamilton as the couple who are into each other and not much else... Sam Troughton has the thankless task of being the moody brother in the first act who gives menacing stares. You could be forgiven it was because Miles is wearing in open robe and has a much better physique... Troughton disappears for the rest of the show and so you do keep wondering whatever happened to him...
All told it is three hours of your life... But there are two intervals of good length and the bar staff are lovely and friendly... Hit back with the gin to keep you going and you'll leave the theatre wondering what the property prices nearby are like... It runs until 9 June.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It's not unwatchable but perplexing to think why it is on stage at all. The cast are gorgeous though and as the show plods along you feel real pity for the material they have to work with. And at times you fear they are going to injure themselves trying to get some laughs. Even Craig Gazey's flaccid penis is flopped out but it still falls a little flat.
Some members of the audience were laughing but it was hard to tell whether it was nervous laughter or just a determination to have a good time regardless. They are a bit like that in Richmond, and as two punters mentioned to us in the bar at intermission, a night out is a night out... And the theatre is lovely... But all told it is best considered a curiosity and a lesson on how not to write comedy. It runs until the end of the week...
@Johnnyfoxlondon and I eventually managed to record an Audioboo, after he left the theatre early to head to the bathroom... But to avoid any confusion the play is more a cure for constipation and less something to wet yourself laughing over...
Monday, April 23, 2012
It is a pity that the creative team decided to musicalise a story that features domestic violence so prominently. Either from shock or bewhilderment the audience were either laughing at every punch or cat calling. It was enough to make you feel like you were in the audience for the taping of a Jerry Springer show. Here's hoping as the show evolves there is a better solution to telling the Ike and Tina story on stage... And perhaps finding a punchier first act. Surely the show could have opened with a livelier number than "Private Dancer"?
Fascinating show all the same and it runs at the Hackney Empire until 5 May... For now...
Saturday, April 21, 2012
The tale of lies, deceit, a woman's place in society (and macaroons) feels fresh and alive in this no-nonsense production. Caroline Hobbs playing the role of Nora (she shares the role with Victoria Jane Appleton who is in the above clip) brought out the right balance between fragility and her awakening and is a delight to watch.
The production focuses on great performances and all of the cast are great. The staging also makes the most of the generous space of the Cockpit theatre as well. I could have done without some of the sound effects (was it children offstage or Gizmo from Gremlins?) but this is a show not to miss. It finishes today. If you are near the Church St Antique market today head over to Gateforth Street. Performances are at 4pm and 7.30pm.
Friday, April 20, 2012
A reflective evening at Fenton House. It runs until 1 July 2012. Be sure to explore the other rooms of this 17th century merchants house (and the the views of London from the roof) to see the impressive collection of early keyboard instruments and porcelain.
Also to coincide with Open Squares Weekend and Fenton’s Summer Tea Party, Norris will be holding a number of 30-45-minute drawing workshops on 4th and 9th June 2012 (these will be held at 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm on both days). Something a shade different to do over the summer...
Image courtesy of the artist
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Esther O'Toole's gripping play The Crossing is in London this week at Battersea's Theatre 503. It tells the story of three Ghanaian men in the last months of their journey through North Africa to Europe and what they see as a better life. It's based on various first hand accounts and given recent stories of the failure of NATO ships to assist refugees off the coast of Libya and border spats between France and Italy, it feels like it has been ripped from the headlines.
The play works so well in bringing out the stories and motivations of these three men who risk everything and pay smugglers to get them to the Italian Island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean. The performances by Michael Offei, Michael Kofi and Kwaku Boateng draw you in to a world of desperation, hope and humour. The chemistry between them also gives the story a real warmth. By the end you feel like you understand where they are coming from.
The production is also slick with some clever projections of maps to keep your bearings and some excellent lighting and sound effects that will make you jump at some tense moments in the story. Of course dreams of success and prosperity prove elusive (unless those dreams involve selling sunglasses on Italian Beaches). While the story may end up being a predictable one, it is the journey that you will remember. And in addition to being a geography lesson and cultural exchange, you'll leave the theatre wondering if there is ever going to be a better way of addressing economic migration.
A thought-provoking night at the theatre and worth catching this week. It's at Theatre 503 through to Saturday at 7.45pm.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Heading the cast as the cad Don is Baritone Duncan Rock who has a voice to match his body... It's big. He has appeared at Glyndebourne, British Youth Opera, Opera Holland Park so he isn't just there to be pretty but he is central to making this show work so well.
With a book is by David Collier and lyrics by Ranjit Bolt this update has Don living as a yuppie in 1980s London where the sex, coke and boys are all one thing... Easy. There is also some inspired costumes including a very tight set of gold lame pants worn by one of the men. It's funny and amusing without too much dwelling on the gay gore for straight members or those curious about opera. There is also a lovely interpretation of hell and damnation for this modern Don.
Monday, April 16, 2012
There are people out there that would watch a talented actress read a phonebook. Gross Und Klein is a new translation of Botho Strauss's 1978 play at the Barbican comes close to this experience. Direct from Sydney Theatre Company and headlined by Cate Blanchett it is the unravelling of a woman's life after her husband leaves her.
The play starts off well with Blanchett's character overhearing conversations from a hotel window in Morocco. It's a wonderful monologue that brings out many of the themes of the play. But unfortunately it doesn't go anywhere. Is it in her mind? Did her husband leaving her unravel her life? Is she alone? Is she depressed? We don't really know.
What follows for the next three hours is a series of scenes about isolation, loneliness, detachment and mental breakdown. Some of them are pretty, some of them creepy. But none offer much insight or are weirdly imaginative enough to sustain interest in this epic. Blanchett runs the gamut of facial expressions and actorly movements... She is attacked by a camping tent... She wrestles a fat girl having convulsions in her underwear... There is even an old man with a flaccid penis. It is all no doubt intended to provoke interest but it was hard to stifle the yawns.
The only time something happens is when a scene stops (ends) and the lights go out. The music is pumped up and it is a cue for the actors to move the furniture about on stage. It is the only time anything really happens and it makes you wonder whether the actors trained at NIDA or Pickfords.
The current translation with an Australian cast with broad Australian accents also evokes some unexpected thoughts. Does living in rude and vulgar 1970s West Germany really seem to be so similar to living in present day Australia? It appears so.
The joke is probably on the audience for going. But given the star turn it will be hard to resist. It runs through to the end of April and then tours Europe. If you dare...