Quiz: Guess the play from the stage direction

The cover of David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust that contains Starman. The cover of the vinyl edition clearly makes an appearance in play no 2

The cover of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust that contains Starman. The cover of the vinyl edition clearly makes an appearance in play no 2

Last week, the Guardian posted a quiz about stage directions and naturally I thought I could do better. Ten stage directions, guess the play, no multiple choice but a clue. Some times the clues are more fun than the question itself.

1. “He picks up the tortoise and moves it a few inches as though it had strayed, on top of some loose papers, and admonishes it.” Clue: That should be easy enough. Additional help: the play premiered at the National Theatre in 1993.

2. “He puts the stylus on the record: ‘Starman’ by David Bowie”. Clue: it’s the only play in the list currently performing in London. For an additional clue, look at the caption of the photo.

3. “A full bottle of wine is handed to James. He drinks half of it while the others cheer, but has to stop and take a breath. He staggers. Even Rachel stops her clearing-up to watch”. Clue: The play has been turned into a film, released in the UK in September.

4. “He puts on some music. He takes a knife and cuts the fish. He puts the fish in the oven. Pulls a cork, then chops some vegetables.” Clue: if you have seen the play, you will definitely remember this scene. Additional help: the play will premiere in Broadway soon, with a high-profile actor playing the male character. Continue reading

Photo of the week: David Dawson as Gethin Price in Trevor Griffiths’ Comedians (with bonus David Tennant in the same role)

David Dawson as Gethin Price. Photo Helen Maybanks

David Dawson as Gethin Price. Photo Helen Maybanks

Tonight it’s the BBC4 broadcast of The Duchess of Malfi, as it was performed earlier in the year at the Sam Wanamaker playhouse – Shakespeare’s Globe. This is an important occasion, not least because there has been no Jacobean plays on tv since 1993 (more on the subject at John Wyver’s blog, and if you have the least bit of interest on how theatre translates into other media, you have to follow his writing).

I found the production itself bloodless – figuratively, the luminous beauty of the setting didn’t always translate to the fever of the story and text.  With one exception: David Dawson as Ferdinand, his soul twitching with forbidden desires while his face remained waxed in explosive immobility.

I first saw David Dawson in Trevor Griffiths’ Comedians at the Lyric Hammersmith in 2009. As Gethin Price, the uncompromising idealist of the group walking the line between  madness and genius, David Dawson’s impressive talents were in full display: a feverish performance that combined subtlety and extravagance, threat and charisma in equal measures. I clearly remember him in his big scene, full of drool and snot, both repulsive and attractive. Continue reading

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

Review: Lily Bevan’s The People of the Town, John Gielgud theatre, RADA

David Dawson as Antoine

David Dawson as Antoine

As we were leaving RADA after seeing Lily Bevan’s The People of the Town, my friend asked me whether I had done exercises like the ones in the play when I was taking acting lessons. The play, an acting workshop under the obsessive eye of a famous avant guard french director, finds its natural home in the RADA building, but it never feels as narrow focused as the description suggests. As I told my friend, I thought everyone had taken acting lessons at one time or another. And if they hadn’t they should. Because the  exercises might be silly, but once you commit to them with the seriousness only silliness deserves, new worlds open up. Like with this play. Continue reading