Review: Jonah and Otto, by Robert Holman, at the Park theatre

Alex Waldmann as Jonah, Peter Egan as Otto. Photo Jack Sain

Alex Waldmann as Jonah, Peter Egan as Otto. Photo Jack Sain

“All my life I wished courage on me”

With the exception of well known classics, it’s not unusual for me to walk into a play without knowing anything about it. The fact this was the case for Robert Holman’s Jonah and Otto at the Park Theatre didn’t make me think twice but as the play started, what I thought it would happen wasn’t happening. Most plays and productions give you a reliable context within minutes of the performance starting. It might be poetic, abstract, absurd or fiercely naturalistic, but it’s solid, something to depend on.

Not so much with Jonah and Otto. Two men meet. That much is unquestionable. They talk a lot. They talk specifically. They talk plainly and with facts. But they don’t justify anything and they don’t hide anything. There is no context to hold them together, therefore every word uttered, exchanged and understood is an act of rebellion. They talk as if several layers of skin are missing, and suddenly this feels as courageous as stepping in front of a tank. Because no one ever does it. It’s weird and wonderful and upsetting and affecting. It’s judgement day as if judgement day was ultimately tender and illuminating and the birth of something, not the end of the world.

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Review: John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe

duchess of malfi sam wanamaker playhouse posterWhat comes first, the play or the venue? John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, with Gemma Arterton in the lead, always had the making of a significant theatrical event, but as the first production in the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (the indoor jewel in the Globe’s crown), the focus is equally divided between play and theatrical space.

Let’s briefly talk about the venue: The excitement of the new indoor theatre – part of the original Globe vision and several years in the making – shivers in the air and the space is predictably beautiful but surprising in other ways. I was somewhat unprepared for how small it was. Even to my untrained eye, the architecture is recognisably that of an Elizabethan theatre but everything is scaled down. The feel is that of a dollhouse. Not unpleasant but definitely unusual.

As for Dominic Dromgoole’s production, it bristles with attention to detail Continue reading

My top ten theatre productions of 2013

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

These are the 2013 productions that stuck in my dreams and didn’t want to shift. In strict alphabetical order, because selecting ten for the list was hard enough.

American Psycho, Almeida theatre: the energy and clarity of the production juxtaposed with Patrick Bateman’s nihilism made for an unforgettable experience. Hell in pastel colours and blood splatters. And eighties pop songs. Matt Smith plays the absence of a soul magnificently.

As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Company: Discovery of love and freedom played out with such openness in Maria Aberg’s production that in the end I wanted to cry with joy. Pippa Nixon was luminous (and as Ganymede she looked like a young K.D. Lang – that can only be a plus) and Alex Waldmann matched her soulful playfulness every step of the way. Continue reading