Shakespeare: is it good for you?

Ben Whishaw as Richard II, directed by Rupert Goold

There is Shakespeare on TV tonight. The good news is there has been plenty of coverage and it’s very very good. The bad news is the press, as always, behave like Shakespeare is something to endure. Undoubtedly good for you, but mildly unpleasant.

Sam Wollaston, in his review of Julius Caesar at the Guardian earlier this week, writes: “I’ve never had the easiest relationship with the Bard. Even now, aged however old I am, I find it hard not to associate him more with homework than with a good time.” Continue reading

In Praise of Rehearsed Readings

I always wanted to do a blog post about rehearsed readings and with the new season of Playwrights’ Playwright at the Duke of York’s, this is the perfect opportunity.

Straight to the point, for me rehearsed readings are theatre at its purest: a group of very talented actors, little rehearsal, no time to overthink it, no real props or set to hide behind. Actors are relaxed and playful. There is very little at stake (no reviews or press) which means there is everything at stake: the moment that can’t be repeated or improved upon and it can only be shared by a bunch of people in that one evening. Continue reading

Review: Birthday at the Royal Court

Stephen Mangan and Lisa Dillon. Photo by Jay Brooks

Stories about motherhood and babies are not rare, but still it seems that lately I have seen 3 or 4 plays and films about new or expecting mothers. (And no, I didn’t see What To Expect When You Are Expecting). Most of them talk about mothers who can’t be away from their babies. The one that rang the most true was the new mother who was desperate for a night out. Either way, Birthday, a new play by Joe Penhall, directed by Roger Michell, came to fill a gap in those stories: what happens during the 24 hours around child birth. Even if this child birth is not the traditional kind.

To say much more would spoil it, all you need to know is that Ed (played by Stephen Mangan) and Lisa (played by Lisa Dillon) are at the hospital expecting their second child. Labour has been induced, nerves are frayed, the miracle of birth looks more like a horror film and no one else seems to understand how serious the situation is. Continue reading

Review: Fear at the Bush Theatre (with a touch of True Love at BBC1)

Dominic Savage has been everywhere this past week: True Love on BBC1, Fear starting at the Bush theatre. It was fascinating to see these two pieces of work having parallel lives. True Love, while not perfect, achieved an intimacy and tenderness that was hard to dismiss or shake. Fear, more visceral and in your face, failed for me to capture its world or illuminate the characters’ lives.

Fear examines the intersecting moment in the lives of two Londoners from contrasting worlds. It wants to say things about modern values, aspirations, the moral complexities of having too much money, and examine the similarities of people who, in theory, have nothing in common. But it feels skin deep and it stumbles on storyline and characters too vague: I don’t care for exposition. I don’t have to have everything spelled out. But the details need to be there. Continue reading

What do David Tennant and Andrew Scott have in common?

Kyle Soller as Edmund in Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Last week, I went to see Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Apollo theatre, a pitch perfect production of a fascinating play. I will post a review soon but Long Day’s Journey Into Night also interests me for its production history: the play features demanding roles for five actors of two different generations, and while established actors are cast in the older roles, the younger roles are taken by talented, often uknown actors, who often go on to become big stars.

In the 2012 West End production, Edmund, the younger son of the family, is played by Kyle Soller, who recently won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer for his performances in three 2011 productions: Glass Menagerie and The Government Inspector at the Young Vic and the Faith Machine at the Royal Court.

In the last 25 years, Edmund has been played by, among others, David Tennant in a 1994 production for Dundee Rep, Andrew Scott in a 1998 production for Gate theatre in Dublin and Stephen Dillane in a 1991 National Theatre production. Continue reading