#147 - "Stark, striking images of oppression" - theatre review, Silence 27/08/18

Pleasance at EICC, Edinburgh Fringe

“Polish nutters on stilts breathing fire,” is how I recalled Teatr Biuro Podrozy’s gobsmacking Carmen Funebre from the Fringe 23 years ago. And that pretty much sums up their new show, Silence. The company deals in stark, striking images of oppression in their outdoor spectacles – here adults and dummy children from a city of “ten million people,” harassed and murdered by soldiers and giants wielding flaming wheelsand gas canisters. The obvious parallel is Aleppo and though TBP aren’t subtle their imagery is undeniably powerful, not least the final picture of paper refugee boats washed away by an indifferent jobsworth nonchalantly deploying a power hose.

#146 - "A flimsy delight" - theatre review, Little Shop of Horrors 14/08/18

Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Well, this is a flimsy delight. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s musical adds sly wit and pleasing music but precious little substance to Roger Corman’s cheap horror flick about a man-eating plant. But what it lacks in substance it makes up for in sheer joyful exuberance. Maria Aberg’s production enlivens a grey NY skid row with splashes of sci-fi green as innocent shop boy Seymour (Marc Antolin) is sucked over to the dark side by carnivorous shrub Audrey (ebullient drag queen Vicky Vox). There ‘s a nice turn from Matt Willis as the sadistic dentist, but the real star here is the music and Tom Scutt’s wild herbaceous designs.

#145 - "High expectations come up short" - theatre review, Othello 02/08/18

Shakespeare's Globe

High expectations come up short in this solid but unthrilling Othello, which sees Mark Rylance return to the theatre he once ran to play Iago opposite Moonlight star Andre Holland. There is much to like in Clair van Kampen’s production. Holland’s American accent marks him as an outsider in what is already a multicultural society. Cassio and Emilia (fabulous Sheila Atim, claiming authority for the role) are black. Nearly half the cast is female. Holland is charismatic but he lacks passion, and Rylance (whose hat and ‘tache make him look like Super Mario) verges on self-parody. It’s clear, concise and laced with exuberant music, but fails to catch fire.

#144 - "More enjoyable than believable" - theatre review - Home, I'm Darling 01/08/18

National Theatre

Laura Wade’s new play uses a fairly daft premise – that two 50s fans, a career woman and her less successful husband, would adopt the roles of housewife and provider from the era – to interrogate gender attitudes and nostalgia. It provides a great vehicle for the brittle acerbity of Katherine Parkinson and the understatement of Richard Harrington, and moves through several iterations, ending up as a very sweet portrait of a couple trying to make a go of things. Tamara Harvey’s witty and (naturally) stylish production suggests we should learn from the past rather than yearn for it. But even though I enjoyed it, I still never quite believed it.

#143 - "Stunning in its simplicity" - theatre review, The Lehman Trilogy 01/08/18

National Theatre

Theatrical storytelling of the highest order, Ben Power’s adaptation of Stefano Massini’s play uses the 2008 collapse of financiers Lehman Brothers to examine the immigrant story of the family that founded the firm, and to describe a 164-year arc of American capitalism. Simon Russell-Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley deftly play the three founding Lehmans, their offspring and wives, friends, foes and rabbis, in a production by Sam Mendes that is rich with texture and cultural myth-making. Some things niggle – gentile men play Jewish women, the first world war is missed out entirely – but this is a theatrical epic that is stunning in its simplicity.

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