#127 - "A potent sense of loss and suppressed needs" - theatre review, Nightfall 11/05/18

Bridge Theatre

Like all his work, Barney Norris’s new play has a beautiful quietness, though for once the ordinary lives he depicts are over-pregnant with conflict. We’re on a Hampshire farm where the farmer has died, but still dominates his children Ryan and Lou through his widow, Jenny. Pete - Lou’s ex and Ryan’s bezzie - could offer escape, or the secret he carries could trap them all forever. There’s a potent sense of loss and suppressed needs in Laurie Sansom’s production and the family’s miscommunication is beautifully physically expressed, especially by Ophelia Lovibond as Lou. But on a big stage, Norris’s over-engineering of the story is exposed.

#126 - "It is young Fox's evening" - theatre review, An Ideal Husband 09/05/18

Vaudeville Theatre

Young star Freddie Fox as witty Lord Goring and his real dad Edward as his grumpy stage pater enliven Jonathan Church’s stylish but somewhat flabby production. This is the most engrossing revival so far in Classic Spring’s year-long Oscar Wilde season but still has longeurs whenever the Foxes or Frances Barber’s waspish Mrs Cheveley are off stage. Should one illegal or immoral move destroy a brilliant career or a marriage? Increasingly, Wilde’s plays seem exercises in autobiography, and Goring is his mouthpiece here for wisdom as well as banter. When I was there an older audience gave Susan Hampshire’s supporting role an exit round, but it is the young Fox’s evening.

#125 - "Chewy, nuanced performances" - theatre review, Mood Music 04/05/18

Old Vic

Although it’s set in the music industry and has been tagged a #MeToo drama, Joe Penhall’s play about the complex and sometimes exploitative relationships underpinning creativity surely has elements of autobiography. Ben Chaplin is Bernard, a veteran producer moulding/feeding off the raw and fragile talent of Seana Kerslake’s young singer Cat. Both actors give chewy, nuanced performances but the intricate structure – overlapping conversations between the leads and their lawyers and therapists – makes for a slow start and a lot of explanation. Roger Michell's production warms up quite a bit and makes interesting points about power, but the play is unbalanced. Bad Bernard has all the best lines.

#124 - "A devastating expression of grief" - theatre review, Nine Night 03/05/18

National Theatre

Natasha Gordon’s first play is an absorbing study of cultural and familial tension among first, second and third generation Jamaicans in London: it starts off rackety and funny and ends with a devastating expression of grief. Dead matriarch Gloria must be mourned for nine nights until her spirit passes but her family is divided over money, authority, religion and tradition, and there’s an abandoned daughter in the mix. The plot’s a bit over-engineered but Roy Alexander Weise’s production chugs along, driven by Franc Ashman’s brittle Lorraine and the superb double act of huffy Cecilia Noble and languid Ricky Fearon. The last scene really moved me.

#123 - "Pandemonium" - theatre review, Absolute Hell 27/04/18

National Theatre

Pandemonium: that’s the word for Rodney Ackland’s sprawling slice of post-war Soho in which a huge cast of characters are all pursued by particular demons. Sex, booze, jealousy, guilt and shame all slop through the door of the crumbling La Vie En Rose run by Kate Fleetwood’s brittle Christine, and it’s the play’s bold depiction of gay life – realised most fully in Charles Edwards’s feckless writer, Hugh – that really surprises. Joe Hill-Gibbins’s judicious production offers large doses of caterwauling and camp, so the intrusion of real life, in the shape of reports from the Nazi death camps feels all the more raw.

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