Tag Archives: Major Barbara

Theatretrotting in May

4 May

Since I started going to the theatre on a regular basis, I now look forward every month in filling my diary with productions to watch. This month looks a bit busy with about 5 productions already booked. Now that’s probably not a lot for other avid theatregoers who probably go and see 3 or 4 productions per week, but I also have other things to do during the week, and I do get exhausted with all the late nights! And this new hobby of mine is not really cheap.

Now that I have discovered the joys of going to matinee performances which I did with Happy Now? last month it will allow me more flexibility on weekends, and then there’s Nicholas Hytner’s plans of having the National open 7 days a week now, which means even Sundays you can go to the theatre, just imagine all the productions to see!

But let’s focus on the now though Simone. So what am I going to see this month?

May 3 & 15- Major Barbara, Olivier, National Theatre

It’s my third (and then fourth!) time around and although I was supposed to watch it with my pal eddie who had to beg off because of her allergies, it didnt stop me from still going. I am bent on beating my record for the production I have seen the most number of times, with The Phantom of the Opera leading at 4 but it looks like there’s gonna be a tie soon, and about time too!

May 9- The Lady from the Sea, Arcola

It will be my 4th Ibsen production, and looking forward to be back at the Arcola again after last month’s brilliant An Enemy of the People.

May 12- The City, Royal Court Theatre

I have become a Hattie Morahan fan since the recent BBC version of Sense and Sensibility so I booked this from quite a while back. It will also be my first Katie Mitchell experience.

May 28- Beau Jest, Hackney Empire

A romantic comedy directed by Susie McKenna right in my local theatre. And you don’t have to be Jewish!

May 30- Pygmalion, Old Vic

It will be my 2nd George Bernard Shaw of this much raved about production that will set up camp at the Old Vic. Best way to end this merry month eh?

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National Theatre’s May-August Season

12 Apr

This is it. It’s official. I am absolutely theatre-crazy and I need to be committed soon and commenced on some kind of treatment. But what exactly would do me good? I’d say doses and doses of productions with Simon Russell Beale please! And you know what, I am getting it alright, thanks to the National’s upcoming new season of plays from May to August which will include Harold Pinter’s A Slight Ache starring my dear SRB and Clare Higgins. It will play before Never So Good at the Lyttelton, all tickets only for £10. More performances have also been announced for Major Barbara and it looks like I am going to see it again more than once! YAY!

I thought Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis is quite interesting with Corin Redgrave reviving his NT performance from 2000, it will play before sister Vanessa’s The Year of Magical Thinking also at the Lyttelton. Director Katie Mitchell is back at the National this time on …some trace of her, inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot which she also adapted. It stars Ben Whishaw (Perfume) and Hattie Morahan (Sense & Sensibility) whom Mitchell also directed in Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, also at the National.

There are a lot of new productions at the National for this summer but these are the ones I was very keen on seeing so I just booked them. Public booking is not open until 22 April but if you join as an advanced member you can start booking now.

Visit the National’s website here

Theatre Review: Major Barbara

28 Feb

Plot: Major Barbara (Hayley Atwell) works tirelessly for the poor at a Salvation Army shelter until a large but morally dubious donation is welcomed from her estranged father Andrew Undershaft, (Simon Russell Beale) a millionaire weapons manufacturer. But when she visits the factory itself, the well-fed workers in their thriving model town make a devastating case for arms trade profits and a whole new set of ideals.

This is my first time to watch the inimitable Simon Russell Beale on stage although I have seen him in a couple of made for tv films such as Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time where he played the enigmatic but awkward Widmerpool which earned him a BAFTA. Mr. Russell Beale is truly larger than life and I can now comprehend as to why he is dubbed -now let me get this right- by The Independent as “the greatest stage actor of his generation”. In a recent article from the Times, he is fast in garnering the most brownie points as “the perfect actor to have ever played Hamlet”. Now, I have yet to see him in a Shakespeare production (the horror! I know, I missed them all!) but I have managed to get tickets for Much Ado About Nothing on March 17.

Going back to this production, it was very clear that Russell Beale owned it. His Undershaft was not overdone, he played it quite subtly well, and it seems like with Russell Beale, less is more. And with the intelligent actor that he is, he used that again wonderfully here. Having been reunited with his family, and seeing that he has got more in common with Barbara, you can palpably feel this quiet admiration of a father to his daughter without a barrage of words, but just silent approval, for love, even in silence can still be heard.

The rest of the company were just as compelling particularly Claire Higgins as the Undershaft matriarch, her opening scene with John Heffernan unforgettable, and was reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell. Hayley Atwell did quite well as the zealous savior of souls, but it’s not her fault that Barbara is a one dimensional character, I also thought she became more interesting in the final act. What I have to give the direction its due respect and recognition is the staging of the Undershaft & Lazarus weapons factory with rows and rows of missiles that quite expectedly drew an applause of recognition from the audience. The use of sound effects depicting the Great War added a chilling effect to this brilliant, and what could be considered as Shaw’s greatest literary work. Thanks to Nicholas Hytner having gotten over his Shaw skepticism.

Major Barbara: 4/5

Playing at the National Theatre until May 15