Several unexpected questions occurred to me during the performance of In The Republic of Happiness: At what level of collective boredom am I allowed to get my phone out and start surfing? How close to the edge of a row do you have to be to leave in the middle of a performance? Do the actors feel as trapped as I do?
Martin Crimp’s In The Republic of Happiness is an unusual play. Ian used the word “daring”. Is that enough? A rant of low level misanthropy and verbal violence, some of it set to songs, it could have been interesting if it wasn’t so stubbornly unprocessed – and ultimately unprocessable. Individual sentences possess elegance and beauty. Collectively, they make less sense – and have less poise – than a man ranting on a street corner. Continue reading
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Marian, Keir Charles as David. Photo Simon Annand
I first came across the company DryWrite in a visit to the Bush theatre last year, for their one off performance of “Funny / Not Funny”: half a dozen short plays written in the two weeks before the event, performed in a kitchen (the set of The Kitchen Sink to be precise) by a company of excellent actors (Tom Riley, Arthur Darvill, Jonjo O’Neill among others). The experience was a high wire act, at all times vibrant, frequently funny, occasionally transcending (a play about cute furry animals doing unspeakable things sticks to mind).
With their new production at the Soho theatre, the action has moved from the kitchen to the bathroom (requirements for functional stage plumbing remain). A couple goes through their morning bathroom routing. Intimacy, lust, tension, anticipation, bodily functions. Throughout the day, the bathroom becomes the focal point of a battle where trauma, loss of control and despair become an urgent, visceral, shocking presence. Marian and David love each other but they come to know this is not enough. Continue reading
Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett. Photo by Jayne West.
Looking at the poster, you inevitably do a double take: Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett looks astoundingly like the real thing. It’s not the face, the hair or the glasses, it’s the posture. Shoulders low but a little stiff, hands close to the body, minimal and strictly necessary movement.
And then the performance starts and the voice seals the transformation. In years to come, when visual memory fades and echoic memory holds better, I will have a hard time connecting Alex Jennings with this performance. The voice is so much like Alan Bennett’s I need to make a point to remember it’s not the writer performing his own words. Continue reading
Henry Pettigrew as Lewis and Philip McGinley as Waldorf. Photo Robert Day
In the past week I saw two plays by two young writers, both plays dealing with same sex relationships, both writers using initials as their first name. But as they say, the similarities end here. DC Moore’s Straight, adapted from a film and produced by Sheffield Theatres in association with the Bush theatre, is at first glance modest in its ambition. Recounting the relationship between a young couple and the impact an old friend’s visit has in their lives, it focuses on small gestures, tiny details and the natural joyful interactions between people. By getting the details right, it reveals a world where people reach out for intimacy, meaning, tenderness and hope. In many ways, this is the biggest ambition of all.
The first, and probably most important, thing to be said about the play: it’s very funny. Continue reading