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Theatre review: Love’s Labour’s Lost

25 Sep

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Plot: The King of Navarre and his courtiers have forsworn every kind of pleasure. But a visit from the Princess of France and her lovely entourage soon has this all-male ‘academe’ tearing up its own rulebook.

Shakespeare’s celebration of the claims of young love is a festive parade of every weapon in the youthful playwright’s comic arsenal – from excruciating cross-purposes to silly impersonations, drunkenness, bustups and pratfalls. It’s also his most joyful banquet of language, groaning with puns, rhymes, bizarre syntax, grotesque coinages and parody.

I’m on a mission to watch as many of the Bard’s plays as possible and as of this writing this is just my 12th Shakespeare play as opposed to fellow theatre trotter LondonTheatreGoer who has seen all of it that took him 18 years. I really wanted to see the RSC’s version last year with Tennant as Berowne and felt letdown that only Hamlet made it to London, and even if I had tickets for that, Tennant was indisposed because of his slipped disc, but we were entertained by Edward Bennett nonetheless. So when I was booking for the Shakespeare Globe’s 2009 season, I was thrilled that Love’s Labour’s Lost was part of their Young Hearts season.

Having seen As You Like It (brilliant), Troilus and Cressida (so-so), Romeo and Juliet (just about right), I had high hopes for Love’s Labour’s Lost, mainly because it had almost the same cast from the 2007 production that artistic director Dominic Dromgoole helmed which must be a good thing if they are bringing it back. I’ll try and be good as this was the first preview performance.

I got quite familiar with the actors playing the characters in this comedy (which I need after seeing two rather intense plays earlier this week) as I saw most of them in other productions and easily felt at ease to see Paul Ready as Don Armado which I think he did really well, Philip Cumbus as the King of Navarre, and Trystan Gravelle as Berowne who played their lovestruck characters to the hilt. Gravelle’s mellifluous voice was just beautiful, thanks for that Welsh accent.

Now as for Michelle Terry, whom I have seen at the National’s England People Very Nice and All’s Well that Ends Well was just comical and at the same time impassioned as the Princess of France. She is not considered the lead here but the stage loves her, and so did the audience. As with most of the Bard’s plays, again it was the wordplay that did me in, reminding us all of the briliance of Master Shakespeare in the field of writing. It was almost pantomimic but that’s perhaps because of all the intended mix ups, and beautiful music provided by musicians Nick Perry, George Bartle, David Hatcher, Claire McIntyre.

It’s not excellent as ‘As You Like It’ but there is definitely no love lost here.

Love’s Labour’s Lost: 3/5
Playing at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre until 10 October.

Theatre Review: Mother Courage and Her Children

24 Sep

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Plot: Mother Courage and Her Children is an epic drama set in the 17th century during the Thirty Years’ War. The plot follows the resilient Mother Courage who survives by running a commissary business that profits from all sides. As the war claims all of her children in turn, the play poignantly demonstrates that no one can profit from the war without being subject to its terrible cost also.

I have always wanted so see Fiona Shaw and a Bertolt Brecht play performed so imagine my excitement when I found out that the National was doing a revival of Brecht’s greatest work with Shaw playing the title role. I booked the first preview performance on 10 September which was delayed for a good 10 minutes or so until the director, Deborah Warner took the stage and apologetically addressed the audience that they were unable to complete the technical rehearsal of the last 2 pivotal scenes and what was accomplished was only good enough up to the interval. The audience were given the option to stay and watch the unfinished product or leave now, either way our tickets will be reimbursed. As I have already been physically exhausted with all the theatre I have seen the past week, the thought of sitting through 2 hours and then returning to see it in its entirety with a running time of 3 hours and 20 minutes wasnt just too appealing so I left and hoped that on the day I have decided to rebook it which was a good two weeks, everything should be done and dusted and that the wait will be worth it.

So was it worth it? I have not read nor seen this play but came prepared to what it’s about, it’s an anti-war play with Anna Fierling, aka Mother Courage, who is a war profiteer that despite losing all her children seemed to be the only one who didnt learn a lesson from it all. This was obvious from the get go and until the end but that wasnt the bone I wanted to pick. Was it just me but I felt that I would have preferred a traditional version of this play as opposed to the noisy and then melancholy and oftentimes irritating infusion of music composed and performed by Duke Special. The novelty of having live music which is supposed to put you in the mood easily wore off for me and it just annoyed me all throughout. I was basically tempted to leave at the interval which of course I didnt do. I stayed because I wanted to like the play (or is it a musical?), I stayed because I wanted to say that Fiona Shaw was a trouper, rockstress one minute, then poignant the next.

Up to this day I still dont know what to make of this production and for the first time I am not even going to rate it. Fellow theatre trotter LondonTheatreGoer might make more sense than I do so you can check his own thoughts about the play here.

Mother Courage and Her Children is playing at the Olivier, National Theatre until December 08.

Theatre trotting in September

1 Sep

Out of the 10 productions I planned to watch last month, I ended up just seeing seven of them, including the controversial Too Close to the Sun when I saw it on it’s final performance, but missed Blood Wedding (lukewarm reviews), Jerusalem (exhausted) and Helen (exhausted again). The last I heard was that there are plans to bring Jerusalem to the West End, so we’ll see about that.

Here’s what I am seeing this September:

5- Hello Dolly!, Open Air Theatre

LOVED everything about this production so much when I saw it last month, but Samantha Spiro was struggling with her vocals a bit, I thought she was probably just having an off night and will get better in future performances. Snapped up tickets for myself and my friend Debbie who’s also a big fan of musicals.

7- Judgment Day, Almeida

As I watch almost every production at the Almeida, this is one of their first productions for the new season. Not to mention Joseph Milson is part of the cast too.

10- Mother Courage and Her Children, Olivier, National Theatre

First time to watch Fiona Shaw. My first Bertolt Brecht play. The last time I was at the National was in June when I saw Phedre, so I can’t wait to be back there.

17- Talent, Menier Chocolate Factory

Not a West End Whingers outing of this Victoria Wood musical.

22- An Inspector Calls, Novello

Have heard a lot about this J. B. Priestley classic thriller that had a successful run at the National Theatre years back. And since I wasnt that enthused about Time and the Conways, I thought this might just change my heart.

25- Love’s Labour’s Lost, Shakespeare’s Globe

Having missed the RSC’s production of this last year and the quest to watch as much Shakespeare plays as possible, explains it all.

See you at the theatre!

Theatre trotting in August

30 Jul

Apologies again for what seems to have been another dry season here without any theatre reviews since my chance meeting with SRB. What I’ve always found that gets me going again is when I talk about the theatre outings I have planned for the month so I’d like to share where you’ll find me at the theatre for the month of August.

3- Hello Dolly!, Open Air Theatre

This is one of my favorite musicals which had Barbra Streisand play Dolly Levi so it will be great to catch it on stage. I am looking forward to be going to the Open Air Theatre for the first time. I am seeing this with gal pal Abigail, and hopefully if it doesnt rain, John is seeing it as well. Can’t wait to sing Put on Your Sunday Clothes, Ribbons Down My Hair, It Only Takes a Moment, So Long Dearie and especially Before the Parade Passes By, which has been sort of my torch song for years now.

6- The Cherry Orchard, Old Vic

It’s my 3rd time around and it will be the last time I’ll see SRB perform onstage this year. A girl in love has got to do what a girl in love has got to do!

7- Romeo and Juliet, Globe Theatre

Confession. I have not read nor seen any stage performance or film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. But thanks to Shakespeare in Love, yup, the Miramax film that beat Saving Private Ryan for the 1999 Academy Best Picture, as it sort of introduced me to one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays. It’s a theatre outing with my congregation friends as well, and I hope that our restricted view seats will not put a damper on the evening not to mention that the reviews were also not good.

11- Blood Wedding, Southwark Playhouse

It will be my first Federico Garcia Lorca play so I am quite thrilled, not to mention that it’ll be my first time at the Southwark Playhouse as well.

13- Ghosts, Arcola Theatre

My Ibsen conquest continues! And I haven’t been to the Arcola since last summer as well, it’ll be like coming back home.

14- A Streetcar Named Desire, Donmar Warehouse

Tennessee Williams. Rachel Weisz as Blanche Dubois.

17- Jerusalem, Royal Court

Fellow theatre trotters and pals West End Whingers have been talking about how great this play is and the Royal Court just extended its run until 22 August. Chuffed that I managed to get a ticket!

20- Helen, Globe Theatre

Booked this alongside Troilus & Cressida in keeping with the Globe Theatre’s Greek theme, hope this one will turn out better though.

27- Arcadia, Duke of York’s

Touted as one of Tom Stoppard’s best plays I just couldn’t resist.

What about you, what are you seeing at the theatre in August?

Theatre Review: As You Like It

16 Jun

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Plot: Rosalind (Naomi Frederick), the daughter of a banished duke, falls in love with Orlando (Jack Laskey) at a wrestling match. Her usurping uncle, jealous of her popularity banishes her from court. Disguised as a boy she leaves with her cousin Celia and the jester Touchstone, to seek out her father in the Forest of Arden. Here she meets Orlando again and, under the guise of a young man, counsels him in the art of love and wooing.

Still riding high from the National Theatre’s production of All’s Well that Ends Well, I am quite ready for another Shakespeare production, this time at the Globe Theatre. I am actually going to be spending a lot of time at the Globe this year with 5 plays and this was brought on by last year’s The Merry Wives of Windsor which I thoroughly enjoyed. I have never had so much fun in a Shakespeare play since last year’s Much Ado About Nothing and it’s not just because Simon Russell Beale and Zoe Wanamaker did well, it was altogether an excellent production and the same can be said for Thea Sharrock’s take of As You Like It. Pardon the pun, it’s exactly as you like it – funny, witty, sweet.

Naomi Frederick’s Rosalind is winning, with her wit and intelligence shining through and as a woman in love you can’t help but feel for her too. I liked the determined ruggedness of Jack Laskey’s Orlando and my favorite scenes were between them two with Rosalind as Ganymede in disguise. There’s superb support from Tim McMullan as Jaques, Jamie Parker as Orlando’s brother Oliver, Laura Rogers as Celia, and Dominic Rowan as a very funny Touchstone.

I have a very strong desire of seeing this again. As I really liked it.

As You Like It: 4/5
Playing at the Globe Theatre until 10 October

Musical Review: Company

2 Jun

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Plot: Set firmly in, and often about the humour and pitfalls of living in New York, ‘Company’ follows five married, once married, or soon to be married couples and their mutual friend Robert, a 30-something bachelor who has been unable to commit to a long-term relationship even with himself! The relationships are presented in a series of ‘sketches’, through Bobby’s eyes, so that we see the less than ideal aspects of duodom. However, it is obvious to the audience that the committed are happier. Eventually, Bobby learns that while relationships aren’t perfect, they are a necessary part of ‘Being Alive’. ‘Company’ is, in effect, a memory play.

I have never been this excited over a musical since I found out that Stephen Sondheim’s Company is coming to town. I just don’t know where to begin!

Here’s the thing; I have been dying to catch a revival of this musical since I was introduced to it nearly 5 years ago now by a fellow Sondheim enthusiast. Company and Passion are just but two Sondheim creations that hold a very special place in my heart. I have the original Broadway cast albums for both and know the songs by heart, at one point in the past it’s the most played albums in my iPod. Anyway, I had booked to see it with Abigail who just wanted to see a really good musical and to catch up on our SRB exploits. The Stage’s Mark Shenton twittered about how excellent the production was and fellow theatre trotters Johnny Fox and webcowgirl have seen the production ahead of me and gave it glowing recommendations so I was even more thrilled to see it.

It was my first time at the Union Theatre and instantly fell in love with the place, there is something about fringe venues like the Arcola for example that I find really attractive. We sat at the front row but wherever you sit wouldnt probably make any difference. So what did I think? Was it worth all the pining and yearning? If singing all the songs alongside this excellent, talented cast was any indication of how much good time I was having then that’s it, I had one helluva evening!

My favorite moments were the trio of Bobby’s supposed 3 girlfriends in You Could Drive A Person Crazy with the melodious, pitch perfect voices of Samantha Giffard, Katherine Eames, and Lucy Evans. Then there’s the hysterically funny Getting Married Today performed extremely well here by Marisa Leigh Boynton as crazy Amy laced with Jane Quinn’s fine operatic voice, and of course there’s the bring your house down performance of the classic ditty Ladies Who Lunch powerfully sang by Lucy Williamson as Joanne who, correct me if I am wrong but sounded a tad like Elaine Stritch from the original. Ensemble songs like Company and Side by Side/What Would We Do Without You was staged with fine, jazzed up choreography.

But how did Lincoln Stone, who played the quintessential male who’s afraid to commit fare as Bobby? I thought he was the perfect choice to play him. Not only did he sang very well but he also looks good, (it was a little bit distracting!) for a while there I couldnt stop but think which actor he did remind me of, then it clicked that he looked a lot like Eddie Cahill from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and CSI:NY. I was there singing with him as to the choices he had to make in Someone is Waiting, and his poignant, and highly emotive solo in probably every single’s person lamentation theme Being Alive, which by then I already had tears in my eyes.

This was an excellent revival of a Sondheim classic that didnt rely on unnecessary props, but relied heavily on such a fine and talented company of actors whose energy pulsated throughout. A must see if you still havent done so and if its director, Michael Strassen will eventually bring this to a bigger venue as it will now finish its run shortly, I am telling you now I will gladly have another serving of this wonderful Company and so should you.

Company: 5/5
Playing at the Union Theatre until June 13

Theatre Review: A Doll’s House

1 Jun

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Plot: Nora loves her husband above all else. But when she risks her reputation in order to save his, she begins to question her devotion and finds herself fighting for her own life.

Zinnie Harris’ new version is set against the backdrop of British politics at the turn of the last century, in a world where duty, power and hypocrisy rule.

When I booked this play in November, I already knew Gillian Anderson was cast as Nora and I would have booked it anyway because of my ongoing quest to watch as much Chekhov, Shakespeare and Ibsen whenever possible. I always get drawn into the characters that Ibsen has created notable ones like Borkman, Bernick, and Stockmann. For his heroines, after Ellida, from The Lady from the Sea, Nora has now become my next favorite.

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Gillian Anderson was just stunning and gave a very fine performance as the devoted wife then changed woman. Her Nora is beautiful yet vulnerable. And that purple velvet dress she wore in the second act, ehr, do they have that in my size? Toby Stephens as husband Thomas Vaughan played his self righteous role of a politician with much bravado, kudos as well to Anton Lesser as the faithful Dr. Rank, and I thought that the sub-plot rekindled romance between Kelman and Christine -excellently played here by Christopher Eccleston and Tara Fitzgerald was superbly played.

I still would have liked to see a faithful adaptation of the play although this new version was quite engaging. Overall an inspired and wonderful production with high octane performances from all members of the cast.

A Doll’s House: 4/5
Playing at the Donmar until July 18