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#301316 The Silver Tassie- National Theatre

Posted Nicholas on Today, 12:26 AM

I wasn’t so keen on this either, but stuck it out to the end.  To me it felt like four acts that crashed into each other rather than a four act play.  Act One is a leftover from Howard Davies' staging of Juno and the Paycock, Act Two is Oh'Casey What a Lovely War (and were you to cut this act the plot (well, what plot there is) would be unaffected (though it’s an interestingly bizarre way of conveying the madness of war)), Act Three is a very serious piece about Army Hospitals which is for me the first time any emotional connection is attempted, and Act Four is a bit about Post-war life and PTSD that tries to round up the plot.  There’s a joke in Act Four about the telephone, where no-one can use it.  It comes to nothing, it goes on for five minutes, it’s not funny (some people did laugh, but few) and it doesn’t advance things a jot.  There are too many moments like that, that just come, don’t do anything, and go.  If you wanted to be cruel, you could call most of Act One and all of Act Two such moments.  The tableau at the end, which should have and could have been haunting, didn’t work for me - like so much in this play, it worked in its own little context but not in the context of this strange four-acter, and what it said about war it said on its own, without the need for the rest of the play.  Act Two was my favourite act simply as it was a strange standalone scene with good staging and songs.  No idea how it might offend anyone.  Can’t fault it technically, wonderful set, and near universally strong (large) cast too.  Didn’t emotionally connect for me, and clearly intended to affect the emotions.  Not a disaster, and there's some food for thought, but I found it interesting if uneven by the interval and spent a lot of the last act waiting for the curtain.  Hohum.

Family liked it, though, but it’s a bit of a crap way to celebrate a birthday.  One particularly stubborn and enthusiastic family member said on the way back “I noticed people left at the interval, BUT IT WAS SO WONDERFULLY GREAT that I have no idea why they might” and when I offered a potential explanation that other people might not have liked it they said “I just can’t engage with that mindset”.  So whilst I’m upset I didn’t get the chance to meet you, Mrs Lovett, I can't tell you how smug I feel in reading that you left at the interval.  It's a great sense of validation.  You’ve made my day.

#301227 The Silver Tassie- National Theatre

Posted Nicholas on Yesterday, 01:47 AM

View PostMrs Lovett, on 18 April 2014 - 09:00 PM, said:

Il be the confussed looking one on row D slagging everyone off for being white and middle class

I'll be the one surrounded by my white middle class family.  I might as well be invisible at the National.  I'm sure I'll meet you one day, though - I was almost tempted to go see Henry V again just for the Mrs Lovett experience.

View PostLatecomer, on 18 April 2014 - 09:54 PM, said:

I have more or less ditched my family in favour of WOSers....my children know where my loyalties lie.....

Well, my family paid for this, and it is a birthday, so this time it might be rude, but next time...  The sad thing is sometimes I actually find myself quoting WOSsers in general conversation as if I actually know you guys, i.e. (awfully, I probably did say this) "Did you notice Electra's being directed by Ian Rickson?  I actually know someone who went to Mojo and found themselves sat next to him and ended up chatting about his productions with him!  Imagine that!"  Then I try to change the subject, simply because if someone asked "Who was that?" I'd have to answer "A woman from the internet who I think looks an awful lot like Chiwetel Ejiofer"...

#300584 The Oliviers - The Results

Posted Nicholas on 13 April 2014 - 11:39 PM

Ladies and gay men (well, I liked that joke), this is my two pennies.

The issue with theatrical awards is that, for the most part, they celebrate shows that are past and gone, and in celebrating them they've never managed to leap that hurdle.  I watched the Oscars (more fool me) and the joy of those is should I feel so inclined I can see the Documentary Shorts and ever Best Picture nominee, whilst here every best revival is closed (Private Lives available on Digital Theatre, something these awards could have flagged up...) and I think every best new play has too.  It would be lovely to bring in numbers from upcoming shows to make it a celebration of past and future, but they don’t.  I think anyone who calls theatre esoteric and with niche appeal could watch this ceremony and feel validated.  The TV Baftas, as a show, appeal as Sunday night entertainment, Graham Norton a bit tipsy and irreverent, everyone polite and gently backslapping and the tone enjoyable.  This, as a show, appealed to people who saw theatre.  It gives those of us who saw Lesley Manville something to be chuffed about and those who didn't something to be miffed about where her Bafta nomination meant we could catch up.  I think it ought to be a celebration of past and future, or else it becomes a celebration for the select.

Also, and I'm not the first to say this, not enough focus given to plays.  I remember watching a Tony highlights where they did scenes from plays like musical numbers and it fell flat, but surely something could be done.  A song, for goodness sake, from The Amen Corner, a bit of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear, some Private Lives hilarity, maybe nothing from shows so intense and unable to decontextualise as Ghosts, one of the wittier conversations from Chimerica, even bits of Peter and Alice would have worked well on that stage.  Most shows these days have trailers, most are even filmed for posterity, so a few video clips, why not?  If not, shows from the future - Bakersfield Mist, Fatal Attraction, I don't know, just something open or opening.  The dole queue from The Full Monty!  This is easy!  I'm thinking these up on the spot!  Why couldn't the producers?

As for this show itself, Benny and Bjorn’s two lines of song didn’t seem worth the air fare (ABBA REUNION NOW), Bernadette Peters can do no wrong and most of the musical numbers came off well, mostly.  If memory serves this highlights had the same issue as last years, which is you got to see nothing of the hosts but them say “And now our next presenter…”.  Now, that might be all they do live, but that’s ludicrous.  Look at how NPH is always lively, witty, doing silly stunts…  It’s glitzy and entertaining for all, not just those in the know.  Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton were great when they did it.  Some nice speeches too, especially lovely Rory Kinnear, Gavin Creel's praising the FOH staff, Richard Eyre, the NT's two Nicks and the fact that the Frozen/Book of Mormon man didn’t give another sickening speech like at the Oscars.  How was it live, for those who went?  Worth £60?  And was there an In Memoriam that was cut from TV Broadcast, does anyone know?

And the winners seemed, for the most part, fair.  Rory Kinnear is lovely and deserved it, Lesley Manville definitely did, the many accolades Ghosts achieved were more than deserved and even if Chimerica wasn’t the best play I felt no qualms about seeing Kirkwood’s ambition rewarded and Lyndsay Turner’s direction was impeccable.  Shame nothing for The Scottsboro Boys – how will that affect its West End standing?  Unless I’m forgetting something, no-one truly undeserving went up on that stage.

As awards, when I look over the list of winners, I'm pleased enough.  But as a show it has one huge fault, which is epitomised by Samuel's comment about seeing Bakersfield Mist.  When I watch the Oscars it makes me want to go see American Hustle or Captain Philips or whatever I missed.  I didn't want to go see anything at the end of this, I only felt smug and self-satisfied at what I'd seen.  It's a two hour advert for theatre that doesn't advertise what's worth seeing at the theatre, unless it's a musical that as would luck would have it is on or that's been running since time immemorial.  And whilst the Society Of London Theatres won't award what's going on in Sheffield unless Sheffield visits us, why not a trail for what Daniel Evans is doing with shows like My Fair Lady and Oliver and The Full Monty, regional triumphs, or a nod to all those stars popping down to Chichester?  Theatre is national (like NT Live, which only the winners felt worth mentioning) and upcoming and this celebrates localised and finished theatre.  THAT's why I say those who think theatre is an esoteric hobby will feel validated.  A thumbs up for the winners, a thumbs up for the performers who did well but a thumbs down to the show's producers.

#298922 Jeeves & Wooster

Posted Nicholas on 01 April 2014 - 12:46 AM

I saw it a fortnight ago and (is it still the same cast?) it was just 2hrs30.  I’ve got to say, and I say this as a Wodehouse fan, I laughed until I got a sore throat.  It is what it is, which is like one of those lovely radio broadcasts Richard Briers did but on stage as opposed on radio, a play consciously written in the voice of the foppish and devil-may-care Wooster, as the novels are, but performed by the ever-resilient and eternally reliable Jeeves, as the novels are.  Just as Wodehouse’s writing isn’t for everyone nor is this play, but as a farce it worked, for me, for the exact same reasons The 39 Steps worked all those years ago and as light English comedy it worked as Wodehouse does.  Waiting for Godot it ain’t, but Wodehouse himself is no Virginia Woolf in the literary world, so this being nothing more than knockabout humour didn’t matter for a second.  And Robert Webb and Mark Heap have very tough acts to follow, McFadyen being both very versatile as an actor (esp the half-and-half costume, a personal favourite) and very staunch and upright as Jeeves himself (he got the first applause for an entry I’ve heard in a long time, and I actually think that’s for the character of Jeeves rather than the star McFadyen), and Mangan was just a hoot, perfectly foppish and foolish and just constantly hilarious.  Mark Hadfield felt old fashioned vaudeville-y, which was perfect.  So an unreserved thumbs up from me.  I hope you like it!

#298921 Pests - Royal Court

Posted Nicholas on 01 April 2014 - 12:41 AM

I personally found it a really invigorating evening.  A deeply uncomfortable, a traumatic and harrowing evening, and truth betold an imperfect evening, but pretty much from start to end it really got to me.  Sinead Matthews and Ellie Kendrick are both amazing, variously rendering you unable to take your eyes off of them.  The accents take their time to settle, and once they have they come and go, but mostly secure.  The language, on the other hand, settles in absolutely no time at all – you don’t need to be au fait with this kind of language to follow it quite easily, and though I didn’t wholly believe the accents I did the voice.  Only at one point did I slightly miss the point, when they were talking about a “pup” and I’d forgotten that that meant child instead of puppy.  There is a poetry to the language – I don’t know if that’s the language itself or Franzmann’s own composite words – and as well as being surprisingly easy to follow it also veers between crude and ugly and strangely poetic.  It’s certainly a literary voice to pay attention to.

As for the play, it’s about people so trapped they make Beckett’s Winnie look like Anna Pavlova.  Culturally, intellectually and socially they’re malnourished, living in their own little world from which they can’t escape, and watching them try and repeatedly make bad choices is a really tough watch.  Certain scenes are very hard to watch and certain uncomfortable scenes and moments will stay with me for a long time.  There are bits of this that are, (I think consciously) reminiscent of Trainspotting, very uncomfortable, visually distinctive and very hard to budge from your memory.  Harrowing is the right word, especially as what hope there is in the play is dangled like a carrot for a donkey, unreachable.  One moment in particular will likely come up repeatedly in conversation and reviews, but not knowing what it is is for the best.  It's an unsettling and unforgettable moment, though.

Regarding what’s not right, this was one play where I laughed less than the audience.  Sinead Matthews’ character is pretty funny at times, but it did feel more than once that people were laughing at, not with, them – at their ignorance, at their language and culture, at what they didn’t know about society – and that made me uncomfortable.  I’m not sure if Franzmann meant this, which makes me feel uncomfortable about that aspect of the play, or if the audience were laughing at them, which makes me feel uncomfortable about tonight’s audience.  Given how she treats them elsewhere, I imagine it was the audience, for the most part.  Also, even at its brief running time, it's too long - certain scenes came and went without consequence, which I suppose was the consequence in and of itself (they went nowhere, and nor are these lives at these moments following these pathways) but weren't wholly successful dramatically for this inaction.  I didn’t mind the Wizard of Oz references and thought they worked, this beautiful tale of hope and colour married to such an uncompromisingly grim world.

I’ll be very glad to sleep on this, it’s a very uncomfortable piece of theatre and better for it.  I like it a lot.  It’s not a likeable play, though the characters are (as in Trainspotting) strangely likeable and easily empathetic – well written characters, but with lesser performers much would definitely be lost.  Very powerful, very disquieting and at moments really very shocking.

#298695 Bad Behaviour At A Show

Posted Nicholas on 29 March 2014 - 11:10 PM

At the Barbican on Wednesday, a lady a few rows ahead of me left half way through.  Then came back.  Then left a little later again.  Then came back with two beers.  Then was the only person in the auditorium to give it a standing ovation.

#295960 King Lear - Nt

Posted Nicholas on 10 March 2014 - 12:30 AM

I don’t think I have seen a production that so warranted the term ‘curate’s egg’, not least because SRB’s performance was a curate’s egg in itself.  And though it pains me to say it, I think the worse parts outnumbered the good.  In the first half, he seemed to very carelessly tread the line between ‘loud’ and ‘shouty’ and his motivation seemed to be simply to make as much noise as possible.  Whilst it was a nice change to visualise to men in his unit and show just what an inconvenience they are (and I enjoyed the Fool playing with them), it just served as the epitome of what was wrong with the show – lots was happening and it didn’t always feel in control.  When SRB played the foolish fond old man he did so well.  When he played the loud tyrant I felt he was playing an actor playing SRB as the shouty man, and it just felt, well, poorly performed.  The twitch, and I'm guessing many gestures characteristic of the Lewy Bodies thing, was hard to see from the back of the circle.  That meant that if his performance was nuanced by tics from researched mental illness they were very underplayed, whilst his anger was overplayed.

I liked the Fool.  Adrian Scarborough just did a good job.  He also seemed to balance SRB nicely, and made a very good foil.  He was tender and enjoyable and fun but brought the due strangeness to speeches such as “This prophecy will Merlin make”.  I thought Stephen Boxer deserved much more recognition for Written on the Heart (that it got so little recognition is still a bugbear) and thus it was great to see him here, and he was excellent.  Liked, but didn’t love, Edmund and Edgar.

Goneril was very good, Kate Fleetwood did a fab job.  My main problem with the normally excellent and always luminous Anna Maxwell Martin was that, by making her Regan such a flirt and a feminine backfooted character in the first half, she seemed ill at ease in the second half, not quite knowing what to do with her character’s violence and passion in the play as her character on stage lacked that drive and malice.  It didn’t follow.  Olivia Vinnall good enough as Cordelia and was rather nice alongside SRB, but didn’t leave a great impression.

I don’t think Mendes’ vision was entirely coherent, entirely applicable to the play, entirely intelligent and entirely enjoyable.  Some performances made it better and some bits were superb (nice to see the cast, the storm I liked, most of the minor characters were good, the wine cellar was a lovely touch and I can’t say I disliked (though I can’t say I liked) the murder of the Fool).  I’ve got a feeling that SRB will take the role again in twenty years, and that might be a treat.  Elements were.  But only elements.  Much was lost from the updating/restaging and little was gained in response.  It was uneven tonally and I don't thnk made for a wholly coherent vision.  A curate's egg.

And the most cardinal sin, regarding Lear, was that when Lear came on with Cordelia my thought was less tragedy at this most tragic moment but joy that I could catch my train.  In fact, when I saw it and he came on shouting, someone whispered, too loudly, “Oh God”.

#295927 King Lear - Nt

Posted Nicholas on 09 March 2014 - 09:15 PM

View PostMrs Lovett, on 09 March 2014 - 08:22 PM, said:

Liked the naked dude a lot

Like all the best actors, he made his talents clear to even those of us at the back of the theatre.  If that what it's like when poor Tom's a-cold, what must it be like on a warm day?

#295712 Blithe Spirit, Gielgud Theatre

Posted Nicholas on 08 March 2014 - 02:05 AM

View Postwickedgrin, on 07 March 2014 - 11:28 PM, said:

Noel Coward wrote the play in days and virtually no lines were altered. He was a stickler for the accurate delivery of his script. He would have had palpitations if he had witnessed this production.

There’s a line in Hay Fever that reads “You can see Marlow on a clear day, so they tell me” but which Edith Evans, in rehearsals, read as “You can see Marlowe on a very clear day.”  Correcting her, Coward said “No, dear, on a very clear day you can see Marlowe and Beaumont and Fletcher.”

Judy Campbell, who toured with Coward in the war, got annoyed with him.
Campbell: Oh, I could just throw something at you!”
Coward: Try starting with my lines.

And bringing it back to Blithe Spirit, and Fletcher (Jessica), Claudette Colbert was fluffing her lines.
Colbert: Oh, dear, I knew them backwards this morning.
Coward: And that’s just the way you’re delivering them, dear.

#295629 Blithe Spirit, Gielgud Theatre

Posted Nicholas on 07 March 2014 - 03:40 PM

View PostGraceA, on 07 March 2014 - 03:02 PM, said:

Dame Angela sets record as the oldest performer to appear on the West End stage: http://www.dailymail...ina-memory.html

In the Vankhgatov Vanya that ran here for a week in 2012 the woman playing Nana (the best thing in it, a really interesting take on that role) was 95.  That was only for a week and not a ‘star’ role, but that’s a caveat to that claim.  Still, 88’s amazing, especially as unlike other bus-pass qualifiers who appeared in substantial roles recently Dame Angela seems to be not only on top of things but very good.  She’s a proper old fashioned star.

Incidentally, I liked that when Kevin Spacey was introducing clips of the Honorary Award ceremonies at the Oscars, he said “Angela Lansbury, who at 88 is returning to the West End stage” or something over anything about her film career.  Wondered if that was Spacey’s call or someone else’s.

#293916 Unexpected Moments!

Posted Nicholas on 23 February 2014 - 12:19 PM

View PostMrs Lovett, on 22 February 2014 - 09:31 PM, said:

have u been to a performance where something unexpected has happened???!

We went to see My Fair Lady, and Martine McCutcheon was on.

#292061 Betty Blue Eyes 2014

Posted Nicholas on 07 February 2014 - 10:10 PM

And I’ve heard a rumour that for this the pig they've got playing Betty can play the ondes martenot like it’s no-one’s business.

#291832 King Lear - Nt

Posted Nicholas on 05 February 2014 - 09:53 PM

I was at Blurred Lines and hadn't realised the platform was today until I nabbed a ticket (I think I've booked for Lear in a fortnight).  It was one of those lucky moments I've had a few of when I feel a smarter, more informed, better person for having been.  I found what he said about the relationships with the daughters, and about the 'reconciliation' scene that from now on I will have to say in inverted commas, truly enlightening.  As was the stuff about soliloquies, and it's always fascinating to hear an actor buried in the role talking about things like the way Lear and the Fool interact.  And the research.  And the fact that he quite openly said to people who'd just paid £50 to see him that, on certain matters, "I've not quite got there yet".  And he's just so eloquent!  I left this thinking I'd love to see, hear or read SRB do as Ellen Terry did with Shakespeare and deliver it as Atkins is doing at the moment.

That said, last year I attended a Q&A with Mark Rylance about Much Ado which was truly brilliant, informative, enlightening, engaging, eye-opening etc, a truly affecting night (only 45 minutes, even), and then a fortnight later saw the show and...

#291133 Dating A Musical Theatre Lover...

Posted Nicholas on 30 January 2014 - 01:37 PM

View Postajblowing, on 28 January 2014 - 03:31 PM, said:

Case in point, I have 2 tickets to see the wonderful Liz Callaway this Thursday, which would seemingly be a pretty good 'date night' but alas no takers.

I like this.  I have a 'friend' who often forces me to buy them a ticket to either the popular or romantic shows (and always pays, kindly) and then cancels a day or two ahead, so I have to ask someone else if they'd like a day at the theatre like, say, that nice young lady into whose good books I've been trying to get...

My problem (or one of my many problems), and I'm sure the problem of many others here, is it's easy to find people who 'like' theatre, but the people I know who like theatre go maybe bimonthly at most to big shows or big stars.  Spending all your money to see things, often solo, is kind of an unattractive characteristic, especially as if my prospective other half didn't want to see something I'd go without her.  The best thing I've seen in 2014 is Lisa Dwan in a poorly titled Beckett trilogy and raving about that just makes me sound like a smartarse.  Ask a lady to Phantom and she'll say yes, ask her to Urinetown and something tells me that'll be the test.  I have been to the theatre on the occasional date but more often than not I end the evening not thinking "What a lovely lady, I can't wait to see her again" but "What a good show, can't wait for my next trip!" and I can't help but feel that often I fall down in the dating game by seeing something with someone and then going alone and accidentally giving a signal that I'm a selfish pretentious smartarse.  Which I am, but I try and hide that from the ladies.

You know, it's Valentine's Day soon.  Let's all report back here with good news after that.  Last Valentine's Day I saw an Ionesco at the Barbican, alone.  I think I'm doing it wrong.

Incidentally, with my ticket-buying buddy, it generally ends with me not on a date but next to an empty seat or, Frasier and Niles like, falling back on my brother.  Dating's a bloody pain, isn't it?

#291092 Coriolanus

Posted Nicholas on 30 January 2014 - 01:04 AM

Thank you all, you’re all very very kind.  It is lovely being part of such a friendly old forum.  Between 10 and 7:30 I was able to pop home, wash and change (after nine hours in the rain that was my primary concern) and, yes, nap.  Actually a lovely little day.  I wish, however, my report about the play followed on as a triumphant end to a triumphant day...

If I had to use one word to describe this, it would be uneven.  Put the good on one side and the bad on the other and the scale would be somewhat equal.  Let’s start with the good.  Mark Gatiss, brill (once or twice I thought I’d love to see him have a go at Prospero).  Played Menenius as many things – competent, Alastair Campbell-esque, brutal, comic, nasty, not necessarily likeable but oh so watchable.  Deborah Findlay, my God.  That end scene was like hearing a master violinist perform a cadenza on a Stradivarius.  THAT was worth the bloody effort.  Katrine Fronsmark was excellent despite her throat being sore tonight – one lovely moment I noticed where she was echoing Findlay somewhat awkwardly, as if trying to become the woman Coriolanus wants.  And for those interested, too, there’s a scene many enjoyed where Hiddleston wore no clothes.

And onto the bad, the emperor wasn’t wearing clothes either.  It felt a bit like Simon McBurney was commissioned to direct, then he dropped out and a second-rate Complicite imitator took over.  I didn’t feel the mishmash of ideas was organic to the text, I felt it was muddled.  Not sure why there were several eras depicted, not sure why this was both theatrically bare and rich, not sure why costumes were confused, not sure about a lot.  Text on the wall that just made me think “Romanes Eunt Domus”.  And oh lordy lord the chairs…  The second half was infinitely better than the first and that’s because even though the disparity in styles hadn’t gelled entirely there was much less chair tossing to interfere with the Shakespeare.  It lacked coherency, for my money.

But mainly I’m not entirely sure I bought Hiddleston as Coriolanus.  With his mother once or twice the words “Norman Bates” came into my mind but that seemed at odds with the soldier he presented.  There seemed to be two Coriolani – the soldier who can’t tart himself out and the mummy’s boy – and they never seemed to be two sides of the same character, more two disparate characters.  Often he struck me as alarmingly one-note – following Findlay (I do have a soft spot for actors with voices), Hiddleston just felt a bit, well, bland, monotonous.  He had moments of strength, moments of power, moments of vulnerability and indeed moments of greatness but they were moments and detached, whilst Findlay could deliver a sentence and completely blow you away.  Vocally he did little and as a performance it felt, well, a little like a performance (and not in the way that Coriolanus is a performer, in the way that Hiddleston was thinking as he was going along).  I last saw him as the wonderfully two-faced Dr Lvov and I wish he’d brought that duality to this.  It felt either one thing or tother, never a coherent whole.  Coriolanus is probably the toughest Shakespeare to act as he's so much yet reveals so little, and what I felt is rather than one character with so much Hiddleston presented many characters and didn't quite unify them.

So, having spent the morning as I spent it, I do think it was worth it, but that's because I liked bits of it as opposed to I loved it.  Overall, it’s never boring, it’s never uninteresting, importantly it’s never un-entertaining, it’s lively, it’s got its moments and oh my the acting.  But somewhere in this production I think there’s a truly interesting Coriolanus, once all the window dressing is taken off – and I do think much of the chairs and the painting and the music and the all of it was window dressing as opposed to genuine insight.  But goodness knows if you're seeing this in the future you get to see Mark Gatiss at his best and Deborah Findlay work wonders, and though you have to suffer through some clutter to get to them, because you get to see those two performances I'm envious.  Good and bad in equal measure.

I did, however, see Katrine Fronsmark in the flesh.  You cannot imagine how happy that made me.