Imogen Doel, Jonjo O’Neill (as James Bond) and Nathaniel Martello-White. Photo Alastair Muir
It’s been more than two weeks since I saw The Get Out at the Royal Court and considering the production had only three performances and hardly a week of rehearsal, it’s safe to say it took me longer to write the review than it took for the production to come together. No matter. Don’t hold my slowness against it. Because The Get Out punched way above its weight and it deserves a write-up (even if it is by a slow writer like me).
At the Royal Court website, it says this is a “new late-night revue style show conceived by writers Robin French and Anthony Neilson”. Submissions were from Royal Court staff of any capacity, the performance was put together in record time. None of these gives a sense for the actual result, that feels like a leaner, punchier version of Mr Burns. (As much as I love Mr Burns, a leaner version of it is a very attractive proposition.)
Surreal and with pop culture at its heart, The Get Out exists in a world of apocalyptic ruins, even if it’s only the subtext of the narrative. The set is a run down hollowed-out theatre, the actors are dressed in black tie and formal gowns but the clothes are torn and dirty and with a touch of vampire chic. Among the ruins, snapshots of stories play out, screamingly funny Continue reading
Jonjo O’Neill and the snake. In case you didn’t believe me. Photo Helen Murray
This is not the way I wanted to start this review. Or any review for that matter. The evening of July 17th, when I saw Talk Show at the Royal Court, the news that actor Paul Bhattacharjee had been missing for a week was hanging in the air. He had been part of the weekly rep ensemble, playing the president in The President Has Come to See You and the father in Pigeons, and was due to appear in Talk Show. But after the rehearsal on July 10th, he had gone missing. I can’t know how staff and actors at the Royal Court were feeling, but I was unnerved and sad: pit of the stomach sad, hoping that everything would be alright and wondering how this can happen to someone I stood so close to only a couple of weeks before.
With this absurd, even selfish, thought, I sat down to watch Alistair McDowall’s Talk Show directed by Caroline Steineis. The story of three generations of men, all of them struggling to survive financially, emotionally, existentially. The more they need each other, the more they drift apart. Through pride and stubbornness, they barely keep their head above the water. Continue reading
New artistic director, new bar. New adventures. Last night was my first time at the Royal Court since Vicky Featherstone took over and some of the changes were immediately apparent. Nice use of space at the bar, mismatched furniture, greater variety at the menu and food served till late. I heartily approve. I can see many more theatre friendships forged there.
New adventures, new rules. The President Has Come to See You, by georgian playwright Lasha Bugadze, is the first of six new plays performed by the same cast who only has a week to rehearse and perform each play. It’s fast, exciting, a little bit messy, and there is not enough time to feel the panic.
The play, with an exceptionally interesting premise, certainly lived up to all of the above. The story skids along the public and the private, the historical and the fictional: it’s August 2008, Georgia is at war with Russia, the BBC news readers sound as grave and as urgent as the circumstances demand. The georgian president has a nervous breakdown (who wouldn’t?), and takes to the streets. He meets people even more stressed than he is: reality tv contestants, young men forced to join the army, a dog owner who looks more unhinged than his savage dog. His chief of police bursts into tears. A (pregnant) man in a dress starts to look positively serene. Continue reading
In all the best productions there is always a moment when I, in the audience, feel this is the best place in the world to be. In The Effect, the new play by Lucy Prebble as directed by Rupert Goold, that moment came half way through the first part when, in a surprising turn, Jonjo O’ Neil displays some unexpected talents. For a play grappling with serious and fascinating questions, this was a moment of uncomplicated bliss.
But can I trust this feeling? If my feelings can be traced to and manipulated by chemical changes, are they mine? Does it matter? The four characters in the Effect struggle with these questions with various degrees of passion, desperation and urgency. At the same time, life relentlessly moves forward without waiting for the answers. Things happen faster than people can process. And Lucy Prebble’s play, sparkling with humour, wit, ideas and warmth, finds a way to capture the emotional and physical bewilderment and joy as well as the scientific questions. This is science sitting squarely in the middle of everyday life as it should be.
It’s hard to find enough words to praise the performances: Continue reading