Culture bound – January

Culture bound – January




The Tell Tale Heart by Anthony Neilson (National Theatre – Dorfman)   The National’s Christmas offering – as long as creepy weirdness, lashings of gore and theatrical in jokes are your definition of seasonal good cheer. Based on a very short story by Edgar Allan Poe (though a reimagining might be nearer the mark) it concerns a blocked psychopathic playwright, a pizza obsessed porno loving landlady and two versions of the same police inspector. It had more than a touch of The League of Gentlemen about it and was completely bonkers in a good way. Highly entertaining. ****


The Cane by Mark Ravenhill (Royal Court Theatre)  When I first started teaching the cane was still in use – though not, I hasten to add, by me, so I was very keen to see this. Top notch cast to die for – Alan Armstrong, Maggie Steed and Nicola Walker – in a tautly directed (Vicky Featherstone) gem of a piece about education, dysfunctional families and (teasingly) the state of the nation. Punchy, powerful, provocative, unsettling and just about the best new play I’ve seen in a long while. No wonder it’s been box office dynamite. *****

In Conversation with Graham Norton by Simon Perrott (Hope Theatre, Islington)   17 years old, isolated and repressed, Mark confides in a signed photo of Graham Norton. His “conversations” (actually a one way monologue) allow him to open up about his life, his sexuality, his lack of friends, his unsupportive family, his dealings with the cat and most movingly what he plans to do now that he has found kindred spirits online. Jay Parsons gives a solid and perceptive performance of writer Simon Perrott’s script in a sparse setting which makes poignant use of some early 80’s pop songs. ***

Rosenbaum’s Rescue by A. Bodin Saphir (Park Theatre, Finsbury Park)  An intelligent, generally well-crafted first play, though here and there the employed dramatic mechanisms show through; it is a little too convenient, for instance, that the daughter has never been told about her father’s wartime experiences. The play deals with history, myth, memory, revelations and recriminations and poses as many questions as it attempts to answer. The four strong cast, led expertly by David Bamber, are very good and the Copenhagen based setting is well realised. There are a number of witty one-liners which leaven the tension. Thought provoking ***

Violet by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley (Charing Cross Theatre)  A young woman with a disfigurement sets out (literally and metaphorically) across America seeking a miracle cure; inevitably, she finds out a great deal about herself and life. The show is generally engaging, though the music and lyrics are rather stronger than the somewhat predictable book. The sound mix obscures some of the lyrics and direction is a little pedestrian. The whole is taken to another level by the central powerhouse performance of Kaisa Hammarland, clearly a coming star of musical theatre. ***

Charles III by Mike Bartlett (Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington)   An excellent piece of theatre with some standout performances and direction **** Full review here

Cuzco by Víctor Sánchez Rodríguez (Theatre 503, Battersea) A couple try to find inspiration for their failing relationship while on the Inca trail in Peru. It doesn’t work and neither, sadly, does this wordy and often static piece. Well enough acted and compactly scripted, some of the deeper mystical meanings may well be lost on audience members who have not visited Peru (fortunately I have) although the theme of lovers growing apart is universal enough. Spanish guilt about their historically bad treatment of the Incas is foregrounded. The ending was ambiguous to the point of being deliberately baffling **


Stan and Ollie directed by Jon S. Baird. A little gem reflecting on the best (probably) comedy duo ever. Ultimately is is quite moving as the film focuses on the end of their career – a true twilight of the gods. Spot on performances from Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly looking and sounding uncannily accurate. They recreate some classic routines with aplomb but also show the tears behind the laughter. The double act of the wives (Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda) is a big bonus ****


A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey    Disappointing novel from a , usually, masterful writer**  Review here

Apart from that I’ve been running (well, shuffling actually) around the Barbican stage again as part of Peeping Tom’s production of Vader . More to come on this little adventure next week.

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