#163 - "Maisie Williams is better than the material" - theatre review, I and You 30/10/18

Hampstead Theatre

Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams proves better than the material she’s given for her stage debut. Lauren Gunderson’s American play is an earnest Young Adult work convinced of its own profundity. Williams is Caroline, a teen rendered snarkily abrasive by a liver complaint that restricts her life. Recent graduate Zach Wyatt is Anthony, the student who hijacks her solitude to seek help on a class presentation on Walt Whitman. Ed Hall’s production is efficient but the script is achingly eager to seem hip to youth culture and social media, and also to gain ballast via Whitman. The twist at the end is, at least, a good one.

#162 - "Angular limbs and angry genitals" - art review, Klimt/Schiele 31/10/18

Royal Academy

This is a little jewel of an exhibition, bringing together Austrian two artists, master and protégé, whose sense of form and fineness of line were matched only by their erotic obsession. Klimt’s eye was the more romantic, his swoonily embracing lovers prompting their surroundings to bloom; even his skeletons are elegant (see also the works in the Barbican Couples exhibition). Schiele is all angular limbs, angry genitals and discomfitingly youthful models, his self-portraits laceratingly frank. This small show of pencil works informs and illuminates the better-known paintings, and the early graphic designs look startlingly revolutionary still.

#161 - "Radical reworking makes the play live afresh" - The Wild Duck 30/10/18

Almeida Theatre

Once again, Robert Icke’s radical, brilliant reworking of a classic – here, a lesser Ibsen – makes the play live afresh. With a semi-updated text, an ostensibly bare stage, and a microphone through which the cast comment on the action, Icke unpeels layers of artifice to reveal truth. Within a close-woven ensemble, Lindsay Marshal stands out as a heartbreaking, compromised, malapropising Gina, wife of the ineffectual Ekdal and mother to the doomed Hedwig (an assured Clara Read, the night I saw it). Ibsen’s heavy symbolism is alleviated by a lightness of playing until the crushing denouement, which also features a brilliant coup de theatre by designer Bunny Christie.

#160 - "Beguilement gives way to exasperation" - theatre review, Wise Children 19/10/18

Old Vic

Emma Rice and Angela Carter are a good fit – romantic visionaries fascinated by sex and myth and performance, who revel in ungovernment. This new adaptation of Carter’s novel Wise Children, kick-starting Rice’s new company of the same name, is a charming, fruity, lyrical affair that eventually overstays its welcome. It’s a story of fatherless music hall twins, disappointment and transgression, and Rice’s gender fluid production has a rackety energy. But a late, shock revelation feels both unearned and frivolously dismissed, and beguilement eventually gives way to mild exasperation. Can everything be explained by a song, a dance, or a winsome puppet?

#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.

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