Tag Archives: The Bridge Project

Theatre Review: The Cherry Orchard

26 May

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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.

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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

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Theatre Review: The Winter’s Tale & The Cherry Orchard, Brooklyn Academy of Music

3 Mar

This is a first in FeignedMischief and hopefully not the last. I am talking about having a guest theatre reviewer, in this case reviewing The Bridge Project’s production of The Winter’s Tale and The Cherry Orchard currently playing in New York.

So how did I finagle a guest reviewer you might ask? As some of you might know, I have been shamelessly using my blog as a platform for my unrequited love for Simon Russell Beale, and you would think that nobody would bother reading it, apparently some have done and now I am shy. As if! Well, one of those who have read through my pining and yearning is Abigail who professes that since she has loved SRB longer, that she deserves him more. Last week, she just happen to cross the Atlantic and coincide her holiday to see the plays! Talk about devotion! So yes, she very kindly will share with us her thoughts of the play (and SRB!) and as a bonus treat, some bits on the Q&A that happened afterwards.

So without further ado, let’s hear it from Abigail.

During a recent trip to NY I saw both the plays featuring the skills of Simone’s (and my!) beloved SRB – Winter’s Tale and Cherry Orchard – plus a Q&A with some of the cast after the performance of the latter. As requested, my thoughts on them both I will now relate.

First overall impression – Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theatre is in a part of Brooklyn that’s quite nasty but it is a really fabulous theatre and worth a visit if you’re in the area.

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Second overall impression – the plays are doing good business and SRB is getting plenty of love! Both times I was there the theatre was sold out and there was a queue for returns. I also heard comments about how good he was and the regular BAM audiences seem know him well, since he has been in plays there previously, so I overheard quite a few people saying that they always see him when they can and wish he would go to NY more often.

So first of all – The Winter’s Tale. Beautiful set, lots of candles. SRB plays the jealous king very well – angrily, of course, but also lots of agonising so that you can see he is torturing himself and you have sympathy for him rather than just thinking he is a nutter. And the endis very, very touching – annoyingly I was sitting right at the side so a lot of the time I was seeing the back of his head rather than his face but he even acted well with that! The middle of the play changes direction sharply and it takes a moment to reconcile yourself to the sudden change of tone but it is well done, and entertaining. Whole cast excellent – Rebecca Hall as Hermione particularly so.

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And then – The Cherry Orchard. Again beautifully staged and SRB very good as the rich ex-peasant trying to persuade his family’s ex-masters to stop prevaricating and do something to get themselves out of their financial mess. There is a fab moment when he interrupts a party to tell them he has bought their estate and stamps round a circle of chairs, almost like a Russian dance, throwing them over to show that it’s his now and he can do what he wants.

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The after-show talk was very interesting. The cast agreed that the Cherry Orchard had been harder to learn than The Winter’s Tale, and SRB added that it was because the language was more ordinary, whereas in Winter’s Tale he got to say words like “sluic’d”, which stick in the brain. One question was about the relevance of the Cherry Orchard in our current economic climes. Sinead Cusack answered about people living in bubbles and not facing up to troubles ahead. SRB added that CO had played on the night of Obama’s inauguration and that had been meaningful for him (SRB) when he had said the lines about being “the master of the estate where my grandfather was a slave”.

Another question to SRB was prefaced with a lot of flattery about how he always brings out the hidden sensitivity of characters and that his Hamlet was the best she had seen, so how does he do that? After going a bit pink and modestly saying he didn’t know what she meant, he said that one key to understanding Lopakhin was the idea that he was in love with Ranevskaya because she had been kind to him as a child – that brought out the vulnerability of the character.

Those were the main bits, I think – and probably more info than anyone wanted to know, except me and thee, Simone! Both plays highly recommended when they come over here in spring/summer (though I think BAM is a much nicer theatre than the Old Vic so I’m glad I caught them there).

Talk about whetting our appetite! Thanks Abigail for this wonderful review and be seeing you soon!

Click here to book your tickets for The Bridge Project at The Old Vic that will start in the UK on 23 May

Photos courtesy of BAM’s Flickr photostream

Missing Simon Russell Beale

18 Jan

September 29, 2008 was the last time I saw Simon Russell Beale on stage, in the Pinter double bill of A Slight Ache & Landscape at the Lyttelton. I knew then that he was off to New York in preparation for The Bridge Project, a transatlantic partnership that unites The Old Vic with Brooklyn Academy of Music and Neal Street Productions, and that I wouldn’t see him on stage again until mid-May, and by then I would have been utterly miserable and inconsolable. The night I saw him last, was also the second time I met him, and this came about after a lot of deliberating whether I should say goodbye so he wouldnt forget me and all (HAH!) So like a school girl who had this huge crush on the cutest guy in campus, I stood outside waiting for nearly three quarters of an hour by the National Theatre’s stage door with a card to boot and now I dont even remember if I kissed him or what! All I can recall was how he lovingly held my hand for about a minute, listening intently to what I was trying to say like assuring him I would book the two plays when it comes to the Old Vic and I am sure I fumbled through it all after which he said, ah, you are always so kind, with those dreamy and expressive eyes of his. YAY!

So here I am, four months later and really missing him like crazy. And as promised I have booked my tickets for The Bridge Project alright but that wouldnt make him come home any sooner would it? As I am updating my blog and browsing through theatre news I decided to check on how The Cherry Orchard is doing and although the play itself is geting mixed reviews, I am really pleased about what the critics have to say about SRB.

According to Ben Brantley of the NY Times, Mr. Russell Beale, one of the greatest British stage actors, doesn’t disappoint, registering every ounce of guilt, joy, fear and wonder that comes from Lopakhin’s realization that it is he, the parvenu, who will inherit the earth.

Brian Scott Lipton from Theatre Mania shares the sentiment about SRB as the peasant-turned-wealthy landowner Lopakhin, brilliantly embodied by the suitably ordinary yet completely extraordinary Simon Russell Beale.

The evening belongs to Simon Russell Beale, who is magnetic as Lopakhin, a serf-turned-merchant with money and a plan to save the estate. This British star’s inherent comic quality and expressive, plummy voice rightly push the play toward comedy, says The New York Daily News.

This comment really got me though and I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and please dont ask me why! Simon Russell Beale gracefully captures the graceless Lopakhin’s conflicts between his serf upbringing and his upper-class ambitions. His final scene with Varya (the equally skilled Rebecca Hall) is a heartbreaking vignette in which the two are unable to speak their true feelings as they chatter about the weather. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Enough, I can’t do this anymore! Anyway, here’s some production photos to share courtesy of the NY Times and NPR.

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Well, it has to be said that I do feel a little bit better now, knowing that everything is going great for SRB across the pond. Just please come home soon! x

National Theatre’s November-February Season

17 Nov

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How do you start all over again? Will the words come out easy just like it used to be?

No, it’s not some soppy line from a cheap rom-com but it’s my thoughts (still cheap!) about where to start again with this blog. Then I figured that since most of its content are about my theatre escapades, then it will be easy to talk about what is up at the National Theatre for their November-February season. Pretty good save there huh? Having said that, I didnt realise that a year has almost gone by since I started taking up theatre as an alternative to film and what a good year for theatre has it been, but that’s altogether another blog entry.

It looks like the National is appealing to my heart all the time with their productions. For one thing this year, they brought me and Simon Russell Beale together via Much Ado About Nothing, Major Barbara, A Slight Ache and Landscape. Knowing that my heart will be missing SRB who will be in Broadway for The Bridge Project and will not return to Mother England until May, how will we keep Simone close to home? What about Captain Wentworth, she used to like him didnt she? So yes, let’s bring in Ciaran Hinds and make Simone happy!

And so you did guys! Ciaran Hinds is in Burnt By The Sun and I am so thrilled! I have seen him in films like The Phantom of the Opera, Calendar Girls, The Sum of All Fears and tv, like HBO’s Rome where he played a brilliant Julius Caesar, The Mayor of Casterbridge among others but my all-time favorite being Jane Austen’s Persuasion where he played Captain Frederick Wentworth which incidentally also had SRB playing Charles Musgrove. Big coincidence huh? I have booked to see Burnt by the Sun in one of its preview dates in February.

Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage is also another production that I am quite keen to see, having missed the one staged earlier this year, I also booked to see this 2 days after the Ides of March. I have not booked it yet but I am also planning to see England People Very Nice.

For the full season’s productions, please visit the National Theatre website.