Culture bound – March

First half of the month – lots of theatre going; second half of the month – none!

Theatre

Not I/Catastrophe/Rockaby by Samuel Beckett (Jack Studio Theatre) These pieces are far from easy to engage with (Not I is the one with the disembodied mouth). They are not so much pieces of drama as dramatic poems which meditate on the meaninglessness of life and the difficulties of communication. Slickly performed and carefully directed the pieces were cleverly structured to flow into one another and were warmly received by an audience of what were clearly Beckett aficionados. I found I had a similar reaction to the previous Beckett triple bill I saw at the Jermyn Street Theatre a few weeks ago ***

Sweat by Lynn Nottage (Tower Theatre) A play which looks at the dark underbelly of life in America through the prism of steel workers in an industrial town. The actual setting is a local bar and it is here that the protagonists come to wind down, celebrate, commiserate and eventually, fight and fall apart. A most realistic setting, coupled with firm direction and strong acting drove this tale to its inevitably bleak conclusion. If I felt it took some time for the audience to invest in the various tragedies that were unfolding the second half, particularly, kept us immersed and engaged ****

Once Upon A Mattress by Mary Rogers (Upstairs At the Gatehouse) Once upon a time…. a feisty princess might have been innovative but now, meh! The musical is a late 1950s American take on a Hans Andersen fairy tale (The Princess And The Pea). The story line had been fleshed out to breaking point, taking for ever to get to the central test – then suddenly everything was wrapped up in minutes. The songs were pretty unmemorable and the lyrics sometimes inaudible; I’m afraid the wide stage of this particular venue does not help. The direction of the show bordered on the pantomime and I found the whole thing unremittingly twee *

Can I Help You? by Philp Osment  (Clapham Omnibus) A little gem of a piece which features two characters who meet on Beachy Head late at night. Both have troubled souls but talking through their issues brings them some redemption. I found the production mesmerising and engaging. The two actors played not only their central character but also took on personas from each other’s pasts. Staging was very simple, direction was taut and engaging, lighting and sound highly effective and the note of hope at the end was a welcome relief from some of the more doom-laden productions I have seen recently ****

Magic Goes Wrong by Mischief Theatre (Vaudeville Theatre) More of the expected mishaps and chaos from the all-conquering “Goes Wrong” team. Full review here ****

I, Malvolio by Tim Crouch (via video)  Following a performance of I, Cinna (The Poet) – reviewed here – earlier this year Crouch revisits the character of the hapless steward in Twelfth Night. I can thoroughly recommend this piece which is totally absorbing. It raises questions about mental health, the nature of playing a character on stage and how we interact with one another ****

The Dock Brief by John Mortimer (online) My first full foray into video reviewing as the theatres shut down. Full review here ***

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde (online) A satisfactory production but not one to set the world alight. Full review here ***

BEST OF THE BUNCH

Oklahoma by Rogers and Hammerstein (online) A stone cold classic in a memorable production by Trevor Nunn. Full review here *****

 

Books

Questors, Jesters and Renegades by Michael Coveney The story of amateur theatre in the UK. A good read if you’re interested in this particular topic. Full review here ****

Out Of The Woods by Luke Turner  Very interesting because it features locations I know well and was written by an ex-student. Full review here ****

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