In Praise of The Pride (with Bertie Carvel, Ben Whishaw, Daniel Evans, Hugh Dancy and more)

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 Field (Philip) and Bertie Carvel (Oliver) in the 1950s. Photo Tristram Kenton

JJ Feild (Philip) and Bertie Carvel (Oliver) in the 1950s. Photo Tristram Kenton

Every time I go to revstan’s flat, Continue reading

Review: The Full Monty, a play by Simon Beaufoy at the Lyceum (a Sheffield Theatres production)

thefullmontyHow do you review a play like The Full Monty? Does it live in the shadow of the much loved film? Does it deliver against fond memories as well as a stand alone piece of theatre? Fortunately, the Sheffield Theatres production, as directed by Daniel Evans, doesn’t present such dilemmas: you will be swept away whether you have seen the film or not.

The production starts with a bang. Almost literally. First scene at the disused factory employs a number of pyrotechnics, and while they don’t set the tone for the rest of the production, they make a statement: films might have the advantage of vast vistas and quick succession of scenes, but it’s hard to match the excitement of slightly dangerous risque things happening live (including the full monty).

Simon Beaufoy, writing the play from his own script, sticks closely to the story he invented for the film. He knows to keep the best lines and best set ups (the scene at the dole queue is every bit as breathtaking and iconic) but he has more room to expand on some themes. Continue reading

Review: My Fair Lady, at the Sheffield Crucible

Domini West as professor Higgins, Carly Bawden as Eliza and Antony Calf as colonel Pickering. Photo Donald Cooper.

Domini West as professor Higgins, Carly Bawden as Eliza and Antony Calf as colonel Pickering. Photo Donald Cooper.

Sitting in the audience before the performance of My Fair Lady (as often with the Sheffield Crucible, an audience with a high quota of well known theatre people – Michael Grandage, Cameron Mackintosh and Iain Glen among them), the chatter of the matinee crowd was mixing with the joyous noise of make believe Covent Garden on stage. It wasn’t so much a collision of worlds, as two worlds bleeding into each other. I have a soft spot for any production that attempts to blur the line between stage and audience. In this case, this was the perfect start for the three hours of joy that were to follow.

I haven’t seen My Fair Lady on stage before, and I am not sure I have seen the film version all the way through. But the musical is such a big part of collective consciousness that songs, snippets and images connect the production with rich personal memories. Director Daniel Evans doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel or overthrow tradition: his London is a mythical place, not as grimy and miserable as we know it was, but a place of dreams, for Eliza, Higgins and all of us. The production triumphs because this dreamed place is as vivid and heartfelt as anything in real life. Continue reading

My top ten theatre productions of 2012 so far

Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins in Constellations. Photo Simon Annand

I am not good with deadlines. Not so much that I miss them but I like pushing the boundaries, doing things last minute. So blogging about my top ten theatre productions for the first half of the year some time in September is entirely in character. And everyone knows the year truly starts in September, right? (That’s my excuse anyway).

Before we move onto the actual list, a little teaser: There are four play starting with C and four plays revolving around exact sciences. It’s fair to say any play starting with C and about exact science is likely to be a huge hit with me. There are two productions from the Sheffield Crucible (more often than not, plays I see in Sheffield end up on my top ten list, Daniel Evans has done a great job), two adaptations by Simon Stephens (as well as being a great writer, he has been everywhere this year), and two plays starring John Heffernan.

In strictly alphabetical order, my top ten theatre productions for the first half of the year: Continue reading