#159 - "Acute, witty, sometimes savage, often warm" - theatre review, Stories 17/10/18

National Theatre, Dorfman

Writer/director Nina Raine probes thorny moral conundrums as if probing wounds. Here, writer/director Anna (canny, on-edge Claudie Blakley), 39, is desperately seeking a proxy dad to give her a much-wanted child. Having all the potential donors played by Sam Troughton makes them gentle figures of fun, but Anna’s motives don’t escape examination. Is parenting a right? Whose wants should triumph? This is acute, witty, sometimes savage, often warm, set in a boho milieu similarly to that Raine grew up and lives in, with the tale of a Holocaust survivor woven in for balance, or ballast. And it’s not quite as powerful as the 2016/17 Young Vic adaptation of Yerma by – this is awkward – a man.

#158 - "Rosalie Craig again proves herself a star" - theatre review, Company, 17/10/18

Gielgud Theatre

In Marianne Elliott’s punchy revival of Sondheim’s first big hit, the conversion of the lead character from male to female works seamlessly, and Rosalie Craig – who always looks like she’s keeping a delicious secret – again proves herself a star. A musical about marriage feels somewhat dated today but the hits roll out: Marry Me a Little, Side by Side by Side, and the tremendous Being Alive. There’s a slight air of overcooked Noo Yawk hysteria to some of the supporting performances, but Patti LuPone delivers a succinct, tart turn as the jaded and much-married Joanne. As in her previous show with her own company, Heisenberg, Elliot has her designer confine the action in boxes. Here, it works.

#157 - "This had to be staged, even if it doesn't quite work" - theatre review, Measure for Measure 15/10/18

Donmar Warehouse

First Josie Rourke gives us this distasteful play in Jacobean dress and drastically filleted form, with the usual gender roles intact: then a similar shortened text, with mobile phones and modern dress, and the genders of suppliant virgin and sexual predator swapped. That the second version is barely credible is surely the point, reinforcing that the abuse of power, especially sexual power, has been almost exclusively a male preserve since time immemorial, and largely remains so, four centuries after Shakespeare lived. Hayley Atwell and Jack Lowden give strong performances despite occasional, unavoidable awkwardness. This production had to be mounted, even if it doesn’t quite work.

#156 - As far away from a hurried Eggs Benedict as you could get- review, Jamavar's Royal Brunch 15/10/18

Jamavar Mayfair

How nice to be invited to Michelin-starred Jamavar in Mayfair on a dreek autumn day for a warming, consoling brunch. Surender Mohan’s lavish menu is as far away from a hurried Eggs Benedict or lacklustre avocado on toast as you could probably get. It’s a leisurely array of dishes spanning the nation, from a tender and delicately spiced Tulsi Chicken Tikka starter to subtle Alleppey Sea Bass Curry and finely ground, richly flavoured Salih Keema, to a surprisingly good Hyderabadi pudding off stewed apricot and almonds. It’s all served with a pleasing degree of ritual in a beautiful room, plus a glass of Laurent Perrier, for a very reasonable £55.

#155 - "Grown-up, challenging, necessary" - theatre review, The Height of the Storm 12/10/18

Wyndham's Theatre

Writing a second play about dementia, after The Father was such a hit, might seem to be overegging it for Florian Zeller. But then, it affects all of us – it’s hit my family – so maybe more dramatists should be talking about it. Different interpretations and narratives overlap confusingly in this short work, but I understood that Jonathan Pryce’s Alzheimic novelist has lost his wife (Eileen Atkins) and does not remember the fact. Pryce is by turns brash and wrenchingly frail, and I’d watch Atkins do anything. The supporting characters are cyphers, but this is a grown-up, challenging, necessary work.

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