#180 - "Ritualistic, repetitive, miserable" - theatre review, When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other 29/01/19

National Theatre Dorfman

It’s true: this study of gendered sado-masochistic power games starring Cate Blanchett is a hard watch for all the wrong reasons. Ritualistic, repetitive, monotonously miserable, Martin Crimp’s play – supposedly inspired by Samuel Richardson’s Pamela – is a bore. In a strip lit garage and in the car inside, the always riveting Blanchett and the Stephen Dillane – whose habitual diffidence here manifests as boredom – commit sexual and violent acts upon each other, dressed in matching black scanties. Bribed and gagged onlookers are co-opted and assaulted. The situations change without progressing much. Most of the violence is directed at Blanchett. The mood may fit our sour times, but whether this actually says anything is another matter.

#179 - "Baggy but fascinating" - theatre review, Rosenbaum's Rescue 17/01/19

Park Theatre

Alexander Bodin Saphir’s first play compares the ‘miracle’ rescue of almost all of Copenhagen’s Jews in WWII with the country’s recent swing to the right – and contains much else besides. If this one-room four-hander is overstuffed with themes, it remains an impressive and thought-provoking debut. Kvetching Abraham (David Bamber) argues with his childhood friend Lars (Neil McCaul) about collaboration, collusion, faith and the mutability of truth: Abe’s wife and Lars’s lesbian daughter are there to provide further talking points and a bold denouement. Bamber steals the show in Kate Fahy’s baggy but spirited production and the history explored is undoubtedly fascinating.

#178 - "Smart, timely, daringly witty" - theatre review, The Convert 10/01/19

Young Vic

What a hit, on so many levels, for Kwame Kwei-Armah’s first season in charge of the Young Vic. Danai Gurira’s play is a smart, timely and daringly witty study of religion and deracination in colonial Africa, and Ola Ince’s production draws nuanced stage performances from two actors on the brink of stardom. Letitia Wright – Gurira’s costar in Black Panther – is the girl put in service of Paapa Esseidu’s Chilford, a man doing God’s (and the colonists’) work. The physical and verbal precision both bring to their parts is matched by emotional depth, and the supporting performances are just as good. Bravo.

#177 - "Peerless verse speaking" - theatre review, The Tragedy of King Richard the Second 09/01/19

Almeida Theatre

The air of a drama school exercise hangs around Joe Hill-Gibbins’s production of Shakespeare’s rueful study of kingship: a small, shouty cast all in grey workout clothes, bouncing around in a black box. Perversely though, the tiresome playfulness frames Simon Russell Beale’s peerless verse-speaking perfectly. His Richard is a vainglorious and vengeful tyrant till movingly humbled, and his performance is, as ever, completely without vanity. This is not an ideal introduction to this difficult play, but the speeches have a clarity and conviction I have not heard from the younger actors usually cast in the role (yes you, Eddie Redmayne).

#176 - "Wears its heavy symbolism like armour" - theatre review, The Cane, 08/01/19

Royal Court

Mark Ravenhill’s play wears its heavy symbolism like a suit of dark, masking armour. Estranged daughter Anna (Nicola Walker) returns home for her teacher father’s retirement, to find the house besieged by a lynch mob of pupils enraged by his past use of capital punishment. Is the cane in the attic a symbol of family abuse, of old teaching norms swept aside by the Academy’s Anna represents… of what? Vicky Featherstone’s production has a lowering intensity and a potent sense of menace, and a trio of sterling performances is rounded out by Maggie Steed’s distracted, peevish mother, but this makes for an austere, un-giving evening.

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