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The Lower Depths


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#1 Cogs Theatre

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Posted 13 August 2010 - 05:06 PM

Cogs Theatre are  transforming the Barons Court's cellar theatre into a cramped hostel, for a  three-week run of Gorky's masterpiece.

    

    The production is  supporting Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. Director Matt Beresford  says, "In the richest city in Europe, people still live in extreme poverty and  cope with appalling housing. Gorky's play remains all too relevant today and we  are proud that we will be raising awareness and funds to help Shelter improve  people's lives".

    

    The play explores  the lives, hopes and fears of the tenants, forcing us to look at those  living in poverty, and ourselves, to ask whether it is better to face the  truth, or make life easier with consoling lies.

    

    Beresford says, "The  way they cope is what makes the play so engaging. In many ways his  extraordinary characters are more alive than people with far more money. They  laugh, sing, fantasise and philosophise, but also argue, bicker and fight to  protect their space and dreams."

    

    The design team  are recent RADA graduates Katie Lias and Catherine Webb. Lias says, "We are  keen for the audience to feel immersed in the world of this play from the  moment they enter the theatre. As well as being inspired by the wonderful  imagery, we are keen to stress the universality of the play's themes and  utilise this theatre's special atmosphere."

    

    "Gorky's play  isn't realism. He uses the play's themes and imagery to show, theatrically, how  we treat people in society; these people, stripped of hope and possessions are  de-humanised by their poverty."




        

Barons Court Theatre

    The Curtain's Up

    28A Comeragh Road

    London

    W14 9HR

    Box Office: 0208 9324747

    

    August 31st September 19th. (Charity  Performances Thursday 2nd and 16th September)

    

    Tue Sun 7.45pm

    Matinee: Sat 18th (2.30pm)

    

    Adults : 12

    Concessions: 10

    

    In support of SHELTER



Registered Charity number 263710

    

    


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#2 El Peter

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 11:35 AM

Good luck with the production of what is a terrific little play not just about the lives of troubled individuals but which being from 1902 was also rather prescient about the 1905 Revolution in Russia. Another play by Gorky, 'Philistines', and also from 1902 but set in a larger household, lays out social contradictions and anticipates something in the air. Several years ago I saw both plays within a week of each other and could see why Chekhov had such regard for his writing and championed Gorky when his work was getting banned. Gorky had such a hard life as a child and then young worker, that when he wrote certain characters they seemed drawn from personal experience.

#3 Cogs Theatre

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Posted 27 August 2010 - 11:06 AM

QUOTE(El Peter @ Aug 24 2010, 12:35 PM) View Post
Good luck with the production of what is a terrific little play not just about the lives of troubled individuals


...many thanks - yes, we've had terrific fun exploring it.I saw the National's 'Philistines' a couple of years back which I thoroughly enjoyed. He's a writer with many more layers than one assumes on first reading.

I think it's going to be special. But then, I am just a little biased...

Cheers

Matt

#4 Guest_Guest_Jan Brock_*_*

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Posted 31 August 2010 - 12:16 PM

As the Finborough staged this play in 2007 it shows a paucity of imagination to stage it again in similar tiny fringe venue just round the corner.

#5 Cogs Theatre

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 11:53 AM

QUOTE(Guest_Jan Brock_* @ Aug 31 2010, 01:16 PM) View Post
As the Finborough staged this play in 2007 it shows a paucity of imagination to stage it again in similar tiny fringe venue just round the corner.


...well, possibly, but one might also accuse the National, the Donmar, the RSC and Sheffield Crucible for a paucity of imagination for staging Hamlet so near to each other....or indeed the multiple productions of any other classic work. I imagine there's 5/6 Othello's or Macbeths in London this year! Surely three years is plenty of time?


That was the last production of the play, true, I don't see any relevance to its location (London's a fairly large place) and, as Wilmott's version for the Finborough was an entirely new adaptation and heavily altered text I think there's plenty of room for both that version and this.



Why don't you come along and see?



#6 Cogs Theatre

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 11:56 AM

First Review in - 4 star Remote Goat....
Orphaned at the age of ten, a runaway by twelve and a suicide attempt at nineteen. Is it any wonder then, that Gorky (incidentally a pseudonym literally meaning 'bitter') went on to write a play called "The Lower Depths"? Subtitled "Scenes from Russian Life", much of the raw material would have been mined during his nomadic years traveling across Russia on foot, changing jobs and collecting impressions which would be used in his later writing.

Descending the staircase down into the Barons Court Theatre, one immediately gets the sensation of being drawn into those lower depths, where designer Katie Lias has done a remarkable job transforming the space into a hideous and foul lodging house, in which the characters are forced to camp in cramped cages like battery-farmed animals. The audience is invited to share the poisonous air of these social derelicts.

Cogs Theatre, with Matt Beresford at the helm directing a strong cast of fourteen, have collectively managed to place Gorky's classic work into the twenty-first century with such ease that you can imagine it was written yesterday. Okay, some of the credit must be given to the timeless quality of the original text, but this company breathe real character and life into Gorky's withering world.

Central to this world is the art of storytelling from the herded gathering of lost souls: the thief, the gambler, the aristocrat, the actor, the prostitute and the Muslim to name a few. In fact, Rajan Sharma, as the nameless Muslim, probably has the least dialogue but the most presence of all. Russell Barnett also stands out, as the realist and pessimistic Satin, who imbues an unspoken danger into his prophetic character.

Overall, however, what is missing is the inherent comedy within the drama, and when it does come across it is at the expense of characterisation. Jez Jameson is initially a little too much of a caricature to believe wholly in the inevitability of his fate. These shortcomings, however, are more than compensated for in atmosphere, and what works particularly well in this production is the absence of a boundary between actor and audience. For two hours we all become members of this depraved society.

The arrival of Luka (played with fine understatement by Sandy Myles) brings a certain faith to the downtrodden characters. But he has come too late into their lives and, fate having already overtaken them, they are always thrust back into the depths. One can do much worse than to join these disparate and desperate souls in the lower depths of the Barons Court Theatre. It's not perfect, but life isn't - particularly the lives depicted here. But it is gritty and moving, and very relevant today. 'Shelter' - the housing and homeless charity - will undoubtedly be proud to have their name associated with it.



#7 Guest_Guest_Jan Brock_*_*

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 01:57 PM

QUOTE(Cogs Theatre @ Sep 6 2010, 11:53 AM) View Post
Why don't you come along and see?


Because I saw it at the Finborough.

#8 Cogs Theatre

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Posted 06 September 2010 - 02:15 PM

QUOTE(Guest_Jan Brock_* @ Sep 6 2010, 02:57 PM) View Post
Because I saw it at the Finborough.


...er, right. Well done, I wish I had - I've heard it was amazing. I don't think that changes my argument - I saw Tenant's Hamlet, Law's Hamlet, can't wait to see Kinnear's Hamlet and wish I could see Simms too in Sheffield.

If you believe you've seen the definitive version and don't want to see another that's fine. Just seems a little odd to be quite so snooty and dismissive, rather than just deciding not to go.

What would be enough time for you to feel happy with us doing it - 5 years. How far away would I be allowed to stage it - 3 miles, 6?

The following productions of Macbeth were performed in London in 2009 - perhaps they shouldn't have bothered given we had Goold's breathtaking one two years earlier:

Bloomsbury Theatre
Brockley Jack Theatre
Bridewell Theatre
Rose (Bankside)
St.Leonards Church
Roundhouse
Rosemary Branch
Hen and Chickens
Pentameter
Tabard.

Gorky's hardly Shakespeare, but different interpretations are what keeps the classics alive.







#9 Guest_Guest_Jan Brock_*_*

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 09:17 AM

QUOTE(Cogs Theatre @ Sep 6 2010, 02:15 PM) View Post
...er, right. Well done, I wish I had - I've heard it was amazing. I don't think that changes my argument - I saw Tenant's Hamlet, Law's Hamlet, can't wait to see Kinnear's Hamlet and wish I could see Simms too in Sheffield.


It's just that when you are drawing the majority of your audience from exactly the same West London area it would have been better to choose a different play. It meant I didn't go to see it for a start. I saw your "Timon of Athens" production, incidentally, which I enjoyed, so it is nothing personal.




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