#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.

#142 - "Lit up by McKellen's relish of the words and emotions" - theatre review, King Lear 27/07/18

Duke of York's Theatre

What a privilege to see Ian McKellen’s matured and careworn Lear, ten years after he played the part for the RSC. The sense of an autocratic monarchy is strong in Jonathan Munby’s production from Chichester, where sycophants won’t challenge Lear’s erratic and capricious behaviour. Regan and Goneril’s cruelty is partly inherited, though Lear’s madness and his sorrow are heartbreaking in the end. Munby’s 210-minute production has a measured clarity, lit up by McKellen’s relish of the words and emotions, James Corrigan’s delicious Edmund and Kirsty Bushell’s skittishly sexy Regan. Danny Webb makes a fine Gloucester too. I watched this on the hottest night of the year, and it was worth it.

#141 - "Tough going farce-cum-satire" - theatre review, Exit the King 26/07/18

National Theatre

In Eugene Ionescu’s challenging farce-cum-sature, adapted and directed here by Patrick Marber, a mad old king refuses to die, having ruined and reduced his lands. Wow, it really does feel like everything is about Trump or Brexit or both these days, doesn’t it? The 90-minute drama is tough going, as Rhys Ifans’s King Berenger alternately whines and rages as his spirit fades. All the performances are impressive rather than affecting, but Indira Varma is superbly chilly as the King’s main wife, and it’s nice to see Derek Griffiths back on stage as a comic guard. The National has never done Ionescu before and when this ends, you sort of understand why.

 

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