Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride came back to London last week, timeless, tender, profound and this time unexpectedly topical: the play coincided with protests for Putin’s anti-gay russian laws.
It’s a rare modern play that I remember so many of its past productions: Although aware of the glowing word of mouth I missed the first production in 2008 at the Royal Court and I regret it ever since. Among other things, I had to wait for Almeida’s The Rope several months later to discover Bertie Carvel for myself. And in a case of ex post facto typecasting (I always wanted to use latin in my writing), I always thought that Bertie Carvel played Philip, while in fact he was Oliver.
JJ Feild (Philip) and Bertie Carvel (Oliver) in the 1950s. Photo Tristram Kenton
Every time I go to revstan’s flat, Continue reading
I love rehearsed readings. Perfect little pleasures especially if I am darting across London mid afternoon to catch one while everyone else is toiling away in offices. Last Wednesday (October 31st, Halloween no less), the Donmar Warehouse, in celebration of their current production of Berenice, held a special reading of Bajazet, another Racine play translated by Alan Hollinghurst. As it’s often the case with rehearsed readings, the cast was a theatre producer’s wet dream: Hayley Atwell as Roxanne, Alex Jennings as Acomat, James McAvoy as Bajazet, Ruth Negga as Atalide, Rosie Jones as Zatime, Georgina Rich as Zaire and Kurt Egyiawan as Osmin. Under the direction of Josie Rourke, the afternoon was a very special treat indeed. Continue reading
Amanda Lawrence as The Devil, Bertie Carvel as Enrico. Photo by Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
Do we go to heaven because we have faith or because we do good deeds? This is the central question in Damned by Despair, a play by 17th century spanish dramatist Tirso de Molina, revived at the National theatre in a new version by Frank McGuiness. The distinct possibility that heaven doesn’t exist is not part of this play’s fabric, and I am happy to leave my agnostic beliefs at the door and explore fascinating spiritual questions in their own terms.
Enrico is a total thug, doing unspeakable things (think Reservoir Dogs in Naples), but also has an unwavering faith in god and a real love for his father. He is ridiculously charismatic, not least because Bertie Carvel can be anything but: his dark streak is laced with something softer and more tender, almost as explosive as the violence itself. Paulo is a monk, whose faith in god hangs on a thread. If the thread breaks, the faith goes. As played by Sebastian Armersto, Paolo is wrapped in himself and his agony failing to engage with the real world (isn’t that more damning than the lack of faith?). The spiritual fates of these two men are locked together to the bitter end. Continue reading
For the time I have spent talking about Bertie Carvel (to my friends, to other theatregoers, to anyone who will listen frankly), you would think I have seen him on stage in everything he has done. In fact, I have only seen him in two roles: as Rupert Cavell in The Rope (Almeida) and as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda.
Bertie Carvel in The Pride. Photo Stephen Cummiskey
To my great regret, I missed him in Alexi Kaye Cambell’s The Pride (Royal Court) and his television work doesn’t really count: on tv he is allowed – or limited, depending on how you look at it – to be the handsome man that he is, but Bertie Carvel thrives when he looks nothing like himself. Or rather when he looks nothing like any human being has ever lived. It’s hard to avoid that often, on stage, he looks rather strange. And as much as I don’t care about actors who transform themselves, in his case I will make an exception. Continue reading