#76 - "Like listening to poetry during a firework display" - theatre review, Wings 11/10/17

Young Vic

Arthur Kopit’s play is less than the sum of its virtuosic parts. Juliet Stevenson is Emily Stilson, a pilot and wing-walker scrambled by a stroke. Her speech and perception garbled, she is suspended from a stage-flying harness as a metaphor for her confusion. Stevenson handles Emily’s synaptically misfiring language with aplomb, as well as physical moves that would challenge seasoned (or younger) circus performers. The faltering steps of Emily’s improvement are painstakingly delineated. But it’s like listening to poetry during a firework display – sensory overload. Kudos to Kopit for addressing a condition so common and terrifying in such dashing fashion, though, and to Stevenson for tackling it with such brio.

#75 - "Defeating" - theatre review, Victory Condition 10/10/17

Royal Court Theatre

This isn’t really a play, more a pair of interspliced monologues that bear no relation to the domestic setup of the man and woman relating them. The couple come home, change clothes, drink wine, eat pizza, play videogames: throughout this, he talks about shooting someone in a square – an act of political assassination or terror – while she details an office scene, a seizure and then a series of snapshots around the world, as if accessing random drone images. At its best Chris Thorpe’s detailed writing recalls Nicholson Baker but this 50-minute piece is frustratingly opaque and Vicky Featherstone’s production inert. Defeating.

#74 - "An expression of a futuristic dystopia?", dance review, Autobiography 05/10/17

Sadler's Wells

What an intriguing and oddly confrontational evening this is. Wayne McGregor has created 23 choreographic slices of life inspired by memory, art, music, science: a selection is chosen and ordered each night by an algorithm based on his DNA sequence. Unsurprisingly there is no through line, a solo of rubbery languor segueing (for instance) into one of jerky anguish. Prisms, part set and part lighting rig, ascend and descend while the audience is strafed by spotlights and battered by Jlin’s discordant music. Rather than an autobiography, this feels like an expression of a futuristic dystopia. McGregor’s dancers move through it with rigour and dash, but it feels like the audience is held at arm’s length.

#73 - "Explosive denouement can't arrive soon enough" - theatre review, B 04/10/17

Royal Court

The absurdist wit of Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderon’s play about protest and violence wears quickly thin. It takes the form of a showdown in a plywood room between two women who want to make a statement on behalf of the aggrieved and oppressed, and an older man who believes bombs should kill. There is amusement in the contortions the trio make to evade their nosy neighbour and identification (wearing masks, referring to explosives as “the Cow” and “the cheese”), and in their squeamishness. But the arch acting style and increasing use of fractured, declamatory speeches mean the predictably explosive denouement can’t arrive soon enough.

#72 - "Funny and sad, complicated and flawed" - theatre review, Labour of Love 04/10/17

Noel Coward Theatre

James Graham new play is clever but deliberately unsophisticated, funny and sad, complicated and flawed. It compresses 27 years in a Labour MP’s political life, plus the wider history of the party’s struggles, into a plot with overtones of farce, romance and tragedy. It deals in broad strokes and it sprawls: how could it not? Martin Freeman is the moderniser parachuted into a safe Midlands seat; Tamsin Greig (stepping in magnificently after Sarah Lancashire withdrew) his traditionalist agent. Their chemistry is impressive, their physical timing exquisite (though Freeman in his 90s wig looks distractingly like Michael Fabricant). Jeremy Herrin’s production powers through the chunks of exposition, but this impressive, ambitious work isn’t quite a winner.

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