#135 - "Delightfully unusual" - theatre review, Fun Home, 05/07/18

Young Vic

What a delightfully unusual musical this is: an adaptation of cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel about her brilliant, difficult father, who ran a funeral home, made his own house a virtual museum, was secretly gay and eventually killed himself. Three strands interweave, with present-day Alison drawing out memories of Partridge Family-style singalongs beside the coffins and her later, exuberant acceptance of her gayness at college. It’s a lovely, warm, witty show that shares DNA with Caroline, Or Change (the music for both is by Jeanine Tesori) and the child actors in particular are a delight, although the man at its centre remains a mystery.

#135 - "An angry shout of a play" - theatre review, The Jungle 06/07/18

Playhouse Theatre

This angry shout of a play by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson, who ran the theatre at the Jungle refugee camp in Calais, asks questions to which no one has answers. How does the world cope with the huge numbers of people displaced by war or persecution? Where does our charity and human fellow-feeling run out? And why do we expect refugees to be grateful? Stephen Daldry’s production is as thrilling and humane as it was at the Young Vic and interestingly posits the camp as a microcosm of any society, divisions and all. I baulk at claims this is “essential” but it is undoubtedly powerful and timely.

#134 - "Hardcore but absolutely worth it" - theatre review, Imperium 03/07/18

Gielgud Theatre

This is hardcore but absolutely worth it: seven hours of dense but fantastically lucid Roman politicking with much to say about our own era. Mike Poulton adapts Robert Harris’s novels about Cicero, showing how pivotal he was to the more familiar histories of Caesar and Antony. Gregory Doran’s production has a superb lead in Richard McCabe: sly, pliable, plausible, captivating. Even without a Pompey sporting Trumpian hair, we get the parallels about mob rule and dictatorship and Poulton’s script feels so up to the mark it’s as if he is rewriting daily. Presented with all the RSC’s familiar pomp and orotund grandeur, this is an epic that earns the attention.

#133 - "directed with verve and fibre" - theatre review, The Two Noble Kinsmen

Shakespeare's Globe

This late Shakespeare curio, written with John Fletcher, benefits from the Globe’s tendency to default to pantomime and is directed with verve and fibre by Barrie Rutter. Bryan Dick and Paul Stocker play interchangeable chums-turned-rivals Palamon and Arcite as muscly knuckleheads, closer to Abbot and Costello than Demetrius and Lysander. What comes across most vividly, though, is the awful plight of the women: Francesca Mills gives lusty three-dimensional life to the poor love-mad jailer’s daughter and Ellora Torchia is heartbreaking as Emilia, betrothed to whichever Kinsman survives. The Rutter staples of clog and Morris dancing are used with brio.

#132 - "Puckish, playful, quirky" - exhibition review, Edward Bawden 31/05/18

Dulwich Picture Gallery

In response to a note I sent via his publishers, Oliver Postgate once rang me: the voice of the Clangers and Bagpuss filled my ears. Something similar happened in this glorious survey of Edward Bawden’s landscapes and Second World War portraits, posters and book jackets. Even the unfamiliar works feel like old friends. His design work is puckish, playful, quirky, while his paintings share the exuberant lightness of his friend Eric Ravilious, but with a rural English sensibility all their own. His evocation of Liverpool Street is a poem of iron girders and remembered soot. You get to know the man through his art, and to like him.

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