#61 - "Chips, shagging, burglary and sick" - theatre review, Road, 03/08/17

Royal Court Theatre

Time’s not been that kind to Jim Cartwright’s poetic 1986 evocation of bawdy, boozy, downtrodden but resilient northern life, here revived at its original London home by director-of-the-moment John Tiffany. The play is still refreshingly free of political specifics and full of surprise images – the Buddhist skinhead, the hunger-striking spiritual seeker – but the background melange of chips, shagging, burglary and sick has since become the stuff of Shameless fun. The cast goes at it with gusto, corralled by Lemn Sissay’s orotund master of ceremonies, Scullery, but it is the female characters who linger in the mind, especially Liz White’s monologue by an exhausted but loving wife.

#60 - "Shouty, dense, intriguing" - theatre review, Mosquitoes, 03/08/2017

National Theatre, Dorfman

Lucy Kirkwood’s sprawlingly ambitious play tackles quantum physics, parenting, sexting and much else besides, through the tale of two refreshingly abrasive sisters. Olivia Williams’s Alice is a CERN scientist, Olivia Colman’s Jenny the “stupid one” who believes in horoscopes and internet rumour. We see them through each other’s eyes, and those of their haughty but mentally declining mum and Alice’s hypertense son, and Kirkwood deliberately makes it hard to pick a favourite. Director Rufus Norris parses a shouty, dense piece of work which asks more big and intriguing questions than it rightly has answers for, and showcases two actresses at the top of their game.

#59 - "Brilliant, intuitive, deeply affecting" - theatre review, Girl from the North Country, 28/07/2017

Old Vic

This brilliant, intuitive musical is like no other I’ve seen. At the invitation of the singer’s management, Conor McPherson has woven songs from Bob Dylan’s 58-year-career into a moving tale of hardscrabble lives in a depression-era Duluth guesthouse. Ciaran Hinds’s owner Nick has a wife with dementia (Shirley Henderson: touching, funny, wonderfully physically expressive), a drinker son and an adopted black daughter who is pregnant. There are boxers, widows, con men, child-men. The terrific and varied songs flower out from the narrative as elucidations of characters’ deftly sketched interior lives, and the actors – particularly Henderson – reveal impressive voices. It’s not perfect, but it is perfectly unique and deeply, lyrically affecting.

#58 - "This show goes up to 11" - theatre review, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 27/07/2017

Apollo Theatre

This show goes up to 11. Aussie director Benedict Andrews has made a London speciality of updated and intensified classics, but you do wonder if Tennessee Williams’s overcooked, relentlessly shrill portrait of horrid, yammering humanity needs such treatment. Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell are Maggie and Brick, riveting in their lithe, thwarted sexuality, but she’s pitched too high and he too low. Shark-mouthed Colm Meaney steals the show as Big Daddy, with Hayley Squires nibbling at his heels as a supremely dislikeable Mae. The third act, where the characters overlap and break down, trapped in the metal box of the set, is the most impressive, but by then my nerves already felt sandblasted.

 

#57 - "Exquisite comic timing and wrenching sadness" - theatre review, Much Ado About Nothing, 27/07/2017

Shakespeare's Globe

What did the Mexican have under his carpet? Underlay, underlay! This joke doesn’t appear in Matthew Dunster’s lively transposition of Shakespeare’s comedy to the Mexican revolution, but it could. This is a sunny but tumultuous world, where women and men tote guns, smoke cheroots, and drink and dance because, you sense, they might soon die. Beatriz Romilly is a spirited Beatrice and Matthew Needham has exquisite timing as Benedick, but there’s wrenching sadness too when Anya Chalotra’s Hero is spurned at the author. The recasting of Dogberry as an American silent movie director is amusing but awkward: otherwise, I have seldom seen lesser characters – Leonato, Ursula, Margaret – better served or showcased.

 

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