#108 - "lovely and loving" - theatre review, The York Realist 23/02/18

Donmar Warehouse

Peter Gill’s 60s-set rural gay romance is small and perfectly formed – I’d call it a gem but it’s too soft and giving for that. Yorkshire tenant famer George (granite Ben Batt) lives with his ailing ma and starts an affair with the young assistant director of the Mystery plays he’s appearing in. But ties of habit and geography prove stronger than sexual love, even as family connections whither. Robert Hastie’s production has consummate ease and (yes) realism thanks to its cast of seven, and paints a lovely and loving picture of a world already gone before Gill set it down in 2001.

#107 - "Clumsy and ungiving" - Theatre review, Frozen, 22/02/18

Theatre Royal Haymarket

Not sure what’s more surprising: that Byrony Lavery’s clumsy and ungiving study of child-abuse and forgiveness won so many awards on its premiere, or that the estimable Suranne Jones, Jason Watkins and Nina Sosanya were lured to Jonathan Munby’s starkly exposing revival. Watkins’s hateful serial offender rapes and kills the daughter of Jones’s Nancy: Sosanya’s psychologist, suffering glibly uncomparable guilt and grief of her own, investigates if he’s evil or ill – abused turned abuser. It unfolds mostly in clunky monologue studded with awkward attempts at humour and despite sterling attempts by the leads fails to convince either as an intellectual or human drama.

#106 - "A whimper, not a bang" - theatre review, The Captive Queen, 14/02/18

Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare's Globe

One can see the thinking behind Barrie Rutter’s final production for Northern Broadsides – John Dryden’s slice of Indian exoticism, originally titled Aureng-zebe, renamed and reclaimed by a mostly Asian cast. But the play is a confused tale of family struggle and love told in tum-ti-tum rhyming couplets, and the setting in a Bradford textile mill adds nothing. Worse, the acting is subdued and school play-ish, with Rutter himself (as the emperor, one of at least four characters in love with Neerja Naik’s titular queen) particularly stiff and strange. This ballsy company shuts up shop with a whimper, rather than a bang.

#105 - "Lesley Manville gives Mary Tyrone a lambent intensity" - theatre review, Long Day's Journey Into Night

Wyndham's Theatre

Richard Eyre brings a fresh familial realism to Eugene O’Neill’s harrowing autobiographical drama, in a production where the role of Mary Tyrone, often sidelined by the men, is given a lambent intensity by Lesley Manville. She twits and frets over her husband and sons as each family member descends into a particular self-inflicted oblivion. Jeremy Irons is well-cast as handsome ham James Tyrone, snuggling into the role like a well-worn smoking jacket. Matthew Beard impresses with his passionate delicacy as Edmund. It does grind on a bit, after the 200th minute, but a fellow critic called this “the saddest play ever written” and I can’t improve on that.

#104 - "Hayley Atwell - all raptor smirks and does-not-compute tics" - theatre review, Dry Powder

Hampstead Theatre

Sarah Burgess’s play is a smart, snappy, somewhat predictable indictment of high finance with a delicious antiheroine. Hedge fund manager Jenny is a millennial Gordon Gecko, a money-making calculator without empathy or guile, and she is brilliantly incarnated here by Hayley Atwell, all raptor smirks and does-not-compute tics. Jenny’s rival Seth (Tom Riley, a deft foil) brings their boss Rick (Aidan McArdle) a deal to restore the firm’s tarnished reputation, but our Jenny sees dollar signs. Will conscience or capitalism win? Take a wild guess! But it’s credit to Burgess, to Anna Ledwich’s sleek production, and most of all to Atwell, that we come out rooting for Jenny.

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