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Theatresquirrel

Member Since 12 Feb 2007
Offline Last Active Mar 22 2014 03:43 PM
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Posts I've Made

In Topic: King Lear - Nt

01 March 2014 - 01:06 AM

I'm a bit late to the party.

It was entertaining, I'll say that, but Mendes makes some very weird choices that to me don't cohere a complex play, but make it more diffuse.

By making Lear a Stalin-like dictator (of the kind that Albion has never ever had, so why bother?) the suggestion is that Goneril and Regan loathe him for that, not for any greed or shortfall in their own character. So for the first time ever, I felt sympathetic towards them. That is, until this reading falls to bits and they both act like monsters.

Secondly, why oh why would Kent keep up a spurious Irish accent when he's eventually only in the company of the mentally deluded? There's just no need, mate. That he even meticulously maintains it after the gob-smacking event Mendes imposes on the play is even more implausible.

Meanwhile, both Cordelia and Regan are overly RP. Love Anna Maxwell Martin though I do, why cast her if you want to depict Regan as a flashy tramp? She's a great actress but it's just too much a stretch to ask her to be a screechy sex-pest. I was thinking how good the brilliant Margot Robbie from Wolf of Wall Street would have been in this particular characterisation. And sorry, but if you're going to make Cordelia a plaintive Kate Middleton, it's a pretty tall order that we'd believe she might later be handy with a rifle.

Biggest gripe however is this: please, please can we call a moratorium on National Theatre productions of Shakespeare that evoke a present day setting with the same tired tropes every time: all the men in sleek Austin Reed suits; all the women in high heels; superfluous extras marching two-by-two round the front of the stage in army fatigues; helicopter noises overhead. Henry V had it. Hamlet had it. Timon of Athens had it. Othello had it. This has it. And whereas it works sometimes, it doesn't really here because who could believe five separate smart men from such a rigorous, upstanding world could all individually become such hapless wanderers in the pastoral second half? To buy what happens to Lear, Edgar, Gloucester, Kent and the Fool, Albion surely has to be a little bit eccentric to start with.

Not as wayward as the Young Vic production, and not as turgid as the Almeida's most recent one, but not a patch on the Donmar's.

In Topic: From Morning To Midnight @ National

05 January 2014 - 01:29 AM

Did we all see the same play? Glad to see a little love for this on here because I thought it was pretty spectacular. I'll say this: it's not a great play per se - it may well have been in its day, but now the story itself is an overly familiar, well-worn morality tale that you'll feel you've seen already in a hundred other plays and movies.

BUT the production is wonderful, constantly inventive, beautifully, generously designed, intricately evocative of the style and swagger of European art and society in the early 20th century, and the cast work their (amply padded) socks off.

Can't believe I'm the first person in 7 pages of posts to mention the music: in the first half, there are beautifully reinvented excerpts from Wagner, in the second half all sorts of lusty, furtive surprises: I'd never heard anything quite like the headlong accordion that accompanies the sex scenes. It's so great having the musicians onstage throughout too, intermingling, and I laughed a lot at their final deed.

Also can't believe I'm only the second person in 7 pages to mention *that scene* in the snow. Yes, we've all seen white sheets used for snow before, but wow, never like this. How it starts is thrilling. The gestures, the music. So beautiful. I'll keep this spoiler-free, but the subsequent moment when a tree appears was utterly bewildering and captivating too. How Gina Bellman ends up in this scene too is gripping. And anchoring it all, Adam Godley is so vivid and sinister and endearing all at once in this sequence - and throughout.

As someone else here said, the choreography in the first scene too is as gorgeous as anything I've seen in the theatre in the last year. Not all scenes have the same punch, but they don't in any other play either.

It does have its shortfalls and occasional longeurs (I could have done with one or two fewer confessions at the end), but you can only blame the original play for that. But I can well imagine it had a real impact in its day - and has certainly influenced so many subsequent things which it now, in turns, seems to echo - so I applaud the National for staging it, and boy they've staged it in the most lavish and loving way imaginable.

No walkouts on my watch today. A hell of a lot of laughter, and folks whooping 'Bravo' at the end.

Judge for yourself, but I definitely think it's worth seeing.

In Topic: Strange Interlude

16 June 2013 - 09:47 PM

I loved it.

O'Neill gets seriously carried away with himself in the second half, but the production elegantly goes along with the caprice. The more breathless and giddy the play gets, the more the acting and the design correspond to that. I thought the first half was absolutely cracking; the second half definitely gets more like Dynasty in terms of plotting, and there's a lot to swallow, but the NT delivers it with such style. The set is breathtaking (what is it with epic O'Neill plays in the Lyttelton turning into boats in the most spectacular fashion? Mourning Becomes Electra had a similar coup de theatre ten years ago) and the principal actors are just great. Charles Edwards and AMD are as superb as always, and Jason Watkins gives a revelatory performance: he's pitch perfect as Sam. Definitely an actor to look out for in future.

It's not - as most folks concur - a great play but I can't imagine it being given better justice. Good old NT for making it ring so vividly.