Archive | May, 2009

Simon Russell Beale as Smiley

30 May

srb_smiley

Simon Russell Beale is unique. No living actor can match his understanding of language, or his interpretation of character. He will make a superb Smiley, and I feel deeply honoured. – John Le Carre

But who is Smiley, you might ask?

George Smiley is one of the great characters of 20th century fiction and the way he threads, weaves, ducks and dives his way through the complexities of the Cold War has given us some of the century’s most enthralling stories. Be prepared to spend a lot of your Saturday and Sunday afternoons glued to the radio. Recruited into the “Circus” in the late 1920s, when he might so easily have become an Oxford don, George Smiley spends the 1930s and early 1940s working undercover in Nazi Germany in daily fear of betrayal and death. Recalled in 1943, he marries – to general astonishment – the beautiful but eternally unfaithful Lady Ann Sercomb. With the end of the war, he returns to Oxford for a life of scholarly contemplation among the lesser German poets. But rising tension between Soviet Russia and the West draw him back to the Circus as a Cold War warrior. – Jeremy Howe, Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Drama

simon_russell_beale_smiley

I caught the first serialization of Call for the Dead and I was right, I can definitely listen to Simon Russell Beale’s voice all day. Even if it was just a phonebook that he was reading, but with that mellifluous voice it will be a treat as this radio play has been. This afternoon listen to A Murder of Quality.

Click here for The Complete Smiley schedule in Radio 4
Photos courtesy of the BBC

Theatre Review: The Winter’s Tale

29 May

oldvic_winter

Plot: Leontes (Simon Russell Beale), mistakenly believes that his childhood friend Polixenes (Josh Hamilton), the King of Bohemia, is having an affair with his wife, Queen Hermione (Rebecca Hall). In his jealousy, and consumed by “tremor cordis”, he tries to murder Polixenes, who flees, and accuses his wife of adultery and that the child she is carrying is Polixenes’. Imprisoned and put on trial, the Queen collapses when the King refuses to accept divine confirmation of her innocence. The child is abandoned to die on the coast of Bohemia but when she is found and raised by a shepherd, redemption and reconciliation may just be possible.

This is the second time I have watched a company perform in repertory a Chekhov and Shakespeare revival, RSC’s The Seagull and King Lear in 2007 and this time The Bridge Project’s The Cherry Orchard and The Winter’s Tale. Why am I bringing this up in my review? I suppose it’s the fascination to the actors dedication and discipline as they switch characters every so often during a work week than most women have to deal with their mood swings. Both plays deal with tragedy and hope and I’d like to set that tone as I review this piece.

leontes

Tale2

Now I have never seen such male jealousy displayed here in great magnitude by Leontes. I always thought being jealous is more of a woman thing. Leontes is so angry, that you know he just couldnt think straight and you can see him agonising over it at the same time. I wasnt sure whether to sympathize with him or to gloat that he deserved losing his son and his wife but at the same time you also feel for him, feel his pain for his wrong judgment. This is again, another outstanding performance from Simon Russell Beale who shone the brightest in the first half of this play. His delivery of your actions are my dreams! whilst snarling at Hermione was tortured yet vulnerable. His moments with the baby whom he initially called a bastard was endearing, touched by its cooing but after another momentary lapse of confusion breaks free and wishes the child ill. I mean how he managed to even show fine acting by means of his body language, I will never know.

Not to be outdone is the luminous but talented Rebecca Hall who definitely owned the courtroom as she defended herself of the accusations hurled at her by her King. Their reunion in the end was absolutely moving. Sinead Cusack was excellent as the fierce Paulina. I thought she was better as Paulina than Ranevskaya. The most famous Shakespearean stage direction, Exit, pursued by a bear, describing the death of Antigonus elicited an appreciate laughter from the audience.

Tale6

Now Ethan Hawke. I have a soft spot for him having watched most of his films. I was thrilled to find out that he has forayed into theatre and was part of this company. I had a bit of a problem with him as Trofimov in The Cherry Orchard, but as Autolycus, he was sensational! The slow but equally powerful pace of the first half was balanced by a burning second half with great music played by Hawke himself. Richard Easton as the Old Shepherd, Paul Jesson as Camillo, Josh Hamilton as Polixenes and Tobias Segal have done noteworthy performances. I have to say Sam Mendes did it again! If you’re in the UK and a fan of Shakespeare, dont miss this stunning production.

Tale7

The Winter’s Tale: 4.5/5
Playing at the Old Vic until August 15

Photos courtesy of BAM’s Flickr photostream and the New York Times

Theatre Review: The Cherry Orchard

26 May

oldvic_cherry

Plot: Madame Ranevskaya (Sinead Cusack), who has spent five years in Paris to escape grief over her young son’s death, returns to her home in Russia ridden with debt. She is obliged to decide how to dispose of her family’s estate, with its beautiful and famous cherry orchard. Their former serf, now coarse but wealthy merchant Ermolai Lopakhin (Simon Russell Beale) suggests that Mme Ranevskaya develop the land on which the orchard sits. Eventually Lopakhin purchases the estate and proceeds with his plans for a housing development. As the unhappy Ranevskayas leave the estate, the sound of saws can be heard in the orchard.

I have been waiting so long for tonight. It’s been 7 months that I have been SRB-deprived and it shows- I am just so uninspired, bored out of my wits! Sure I still go to the theatre but I often come out unmotivated save for a couple I have seen in recent weeks, but the barometer to which I measure this seeming lack of interest is the evidence of my non-blogging for the last 2 months. Now all that will change, the buck stops here because he’s back, yes, my SRB’s come home! For starters, we’re breathing the same air tonight!

I am still riding high on the seemingly honorable mention of being touted as SRB’s devoted blogger by the Times, but as I had to see this play with fellow theatre trotters, I didn’t really want to be an embarrassment, so my normal behaviour when watching an SRB play should have to wait. Did I mention I have already plotted an attack plan having spotted the Old Vic stage door in the interval?

Seriously now, my thoughts. So after a stint in Broadway and a tour that included Singapore, Spain, Germany and New Zealand, The Bridge Project, a collaboration that came into fruition thanks to the theatre genius of Sam Mendes and Kevin Spacey has come back home. I was really looking forward to see this for I havent seen any other Cherry Orchard production and I absolutely adore Anton Chekhov’s work having enjoyed RSC’s The Seagull in 2007 and the Donmar WestEnd’s Ivanov last year. The first scene showed Lopakhin waiting, sitting on this really small chair and the minute he started speaking with that unmistakable plummy voice, he had me, hook, line and sinker. Simon Russell Beale owns this play, just like the cherry orchard he eventually possessed, the play truly belonged to him. Every nuance in Lopakhin’s character, his vulnerability, his unrequited love for Ranevskaya, the playfulness with Varya, the guilt, the joy is delivered brilliantly, you just can not wait to see him come back on that stage.

Cherry3

Cherry5

beale_hall_

This is not to say that the other performances were not good, as it was a delight seeing Sinead Cusack play a frivolous character and then eventually hit hard with the reality of her situation. And Rebecca Hall! By golly but I was jealous of her all evening! I couldnt take my eyes off SRB as he gave her all those knowing looks that it reminded me of that song from Yentl. Hall held her own pretty well as Varya, and the proposal that never happened is one to be remembered. I am a card holding member of the unrequited love fan club united so I know exactly how that feels and the agony of it all captured in essence here.

The Whingers may have observed that SRB is not himself this evening probably having sensed my presence but I digress! Besides, my restraining order expired yesterday. So bring on The Winter’s Tale Friday night!

And I couldn’t say this enough, nice to have you back home. x

The Cherry Orchard: 3.5/5
Playing at the Old Vic until 15 August

Addendum 1
Twitter exchange between yours truly and Kevin Spacey the same evening:

FeignedMischief: I just came back from a preview of The Cherry Orchard and enjoyed it! You have another hit in your hands! Winters Tale Friday!
KevinSpacey: Excellent. Glad you enjoyed it. We are very excited to have such a remarkable company of actors on our stage.
FeignedMischief: Confession. I booked both shows 3 times bec of Simon Russell Beale, hope you 2 can collaborate in the future.

Addendum 2
Fellow theatre trotter, PaulinLondon who saw the play with us Tuesday evening and was also my seatmate was way too kind to dedicate a portion of his own review of the play to mention my fascination with SRB. I was so worried all evening as to how my restrained fidgeting and sighing at the sight of SRB was affecting his viewing experience but for what he had to say about it, I feel so much better now. Paul says, it helped having Feigned Mischief sit beside me. As more than just a casual fan of Simon Russell Beale, she took enjoyment of the play to a whole new level. But then again even if you’re not sitting next to a Simon Russell Beale stalker, it is still worth a look… Cheers for this Paul, and we will Audio Boo next time I hope! x

Addendum 3
Here’s the much awaited West End Whingers take on this play, and to sincerely say that I found their review much amusing. Cheers Andrew & Phil! x

Simone’s 15 Minutes of Fame

23 May

RUSSELL23RD

My SRB-stalking days are now over. I’ve just been discovered!

Thanks to Valerie Grove of The Times who has heard of my SRB exploits and shared it for all the web to see. Referring to SRB, Grove writes, “He doesn’t even seem to know that he has a devoted blogger, a nurse named Simone, who recently reported that “SRB was getting a lot of love” in New York, where The Cherry Orchard theme went down well with the newly cash-strapped audiences”.

What about that huh, my cover has been blown, now I’ve got nothing! I have to behave like a normal theatregoer!

Anyway, to read the full article please follow this link.

Welcome home SRB and be seeing you Tuesday night! x

Theatre Review: All’s Well that Ends Well

19 May

alls-well

Plot: The feisty but lowly Helena falls in love with Bertram, a haughty count. To gain his hand she is set a string of impossible tasks. Even if accomplished, they can hardly guarantee his love. He refuses to bed her and yet says he’ll only be hers if she bears his child; and he lusts after another. Nevertheless, our heroine, whether wisely or no, refuses to give him up.

This is a beautiful production helmed by the very effective and highly imaginative Marianne Elliot whose talent as a director I have come to admire after having seen her excellent revival of Ibsen’s Pillars of the Community at the National in 2006. Still not a habitue of the theatre on those days I am kicking myself for having missed her version of the RSC’s Much Ado About Nothing, and the National Theatre’s Saint Joan and Therese Raquin, not to mention that I still havent seen War Horse either! Like Ms. Elliott, I have not seen any production of AWTEW and have decided to skip reading the play text and just relied on my Shakespeare’s companion book. The plot of the woman scorned appealed to me for like Helena, I have experienced rejection quite a few times but my resilience to see it through regardless of the result was a good learning experience (if I ever learned!) and I would like to see how this translates to the stage.

I thought that the performance of Michelle Terry as Helena whom I also saw previously in the raucous yet a lot of fun England People Very Nice was exceptional, you really felt for her when Bertram refused her pointblank, he’s a snob and an idiot, and men of that same sort are sadly still about, and worse! I mean how dare he?! Claire Higgins as the Countess of Rossillion was authoritative yet affectionate, and so was Oliver Ford Davies as the King of France. And I very rarely give credit to the more technical side of the production but kudos to Rae Smith, Gemma Carrington and Jon Driscoll for a superb background of what seems llke a lost fairy land, complete with gothic towers and visual effects of crows and owls.

All’s Well that Ends Well: 4/5
Playing at the Olivier, National Theatre until 30 September

Marianne Elliott article on The Times