Review: The James Plays by Rona Munro, Olivier stage (a co-production of the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre of Great Britain)

James McArdle as James I. Photo Manuel Harlan

James McArdle as James I. Photo Manuel Harlan

Some reviews come difficult and with some, I want to say everything at once. I can’t type fast enough, or think fast enough, like skipping and sliding and tripping across the immense pleasure of seeing the production and wanting to get it out there.

Because this is the thing about The James Plays. You can talk about themes (and Rona Munro leaves no stone unturned) and sweeping vision and the pregnancy of the ideas and the magnificence of the execution but what comes down to is the sheer pleasure and energy and balls of it all. It’s history plays with the audacity to be anything they want to be. What better way to set the ideas free than to sew them into the fabric of the play?

Talking of ideas, it’s obvious – but no less true – that it is about Scotland. It is. Always. Never forget that. But the specificity of the story allows it to be personal to everyone. It is about this country and then it is about every country. It is about loving and fighting what’s closer to you. It’s about men and women, together, separate, alone. It’s about death. Always.  It’s about fathers and sons. It’s about helpless, infuriating love, for a person, for a country. It’s about finding truth in yourself despite having no choices. It’s about sex. Always. And it’s about joy. About one clear day when everything is perfect.

The language has so much strength that, you imagine, with lesser actors, would break everyone in half. Continue reading

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