My top ten theatre productions of 2013

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

As You Like It. Pippan Nixon and Alex Waldmann. Photo Alastair Muir

These are the 2013 productions that stuck in my dreams and didn’t want to shift. In strict alphabetical order, because selecting ten for the list was hard enough.

American Psycho, Almeida theatre: the energy and clarity of the production juxtaposed with Patrick Bateman’s nihilism made for an unforgettable experience. Hell in pastel colours and blood splatters. And eighties pop songs. Matt Smith plays the absence of a soul magnificently.

As You Like It, Royal Shakespeare Company: Discovery of love and freedom played out with such openness in Maria Aberg’s production that in the end I wanted to cry with joy. Pippa Nixon was luminous (and as Ganymede she looked like a young K.D. Lang – that can only be a plus) and Alex Waldmann matched her soulful playfulness every step of the way. Continue reading

Review: The Light Princess, a new musical by Tori Amos, National theatre, Lyttelton stage

The-Light-Princess_posterThere are productions when I want to dispense with any pretence of articulate thought and gush like an overexcited teenager. They are not merely good, they reclaim something fundamental about theatre as a wild ride. The Light Princess is such a theatrical adventure.

Adapted as a musical by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson from a Scottish fairy tale published in 1864, Marianne Elliott’s production brings together many things I love about theatre: restrictions of live performance – where laws of gravity and physical space need to be obeyed – become a virtue and not a hindrance. Continue reading

Review: Port by Simon Stephens, at the National Theatre (Lyttelton stage)

Mike Noble, Liz White and Kate O'Flynn in rehearsal. Photo Kevin Cummins.

Mike Noble, Liz White and Kate O’Flynn in rehearsal. Photo Kevin Cummins.

Port is the story of Racheal, a little girl who needs to grow up. If it was a fairy tale, she would go to the woods, slay the dragon, become the woman she wants to be. But this is Stockport in the nineties, there are no mythical feats as rites of passage but boredom, no prospects, parents who don’t know how to love, feral children left to find their way alone in the shadow of the world. It sounds grim and foreboding, but Simon Stephens’ play, as directed by Marianne Elliott, has stubbornness and determination at its heart, and the energy and beauty of youth at its side.

In recent years, Simon Stephens has become one of England’s most prominent playwrights. Continue reading

Tennessee Williams at the Old Vic and other theatre news

Melina Mercouri in Sweet Bird of Youth (1979)

In a series of irregular features, this is a roundup of theatre news and rumours that caught my eye this past week:

  • Word is Marianne Elliott will direct Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth for the Old Vic, no news on the cast yet. I have never seen the play but my enduring image of it is a black and white photo, Melina Mercouri in a 1979 greek production. The project should attract a first rate and exciting cast. (Update 11/10/2012: Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail confirmed the rumour today, with the information that Kim Cattrall will play the lead role).
  • My current theatre obsession is a play and theatre production I haven’t seen: Peter and the Starcatcher went from workshop to off Broadway production to Tony award winning Broadway hit, and indications are strong it will transfer to the West End next. Roger Rees (who developed and co-directed the play in New York) is in London for his one man show What You Will so maybe there will be news soon.
  • A few months back, the Royal Court announced,¬†as part of its upcoming season, the new Jez Butterworth / Ian Rickson play The River, and given that Jerusalem was the last offering from this playwright / director team, the interest was huge. Excitement turned to irritation as it was also announced that no tickets could be purchased in advance (membership booking or otherwise) and all tickets would be purchased on the day. A few days ago, cast was announced for the play with Dominic West, Miranda Raison and Laura Donnelly taking the roles in this intimate three-hander. This production feels like the poisoned chalice to me, as it will be difficult to live up to expectations and the whole business with the tickets didn’t buy a lot of good will (among regular – and paying – theatregoers like myself, the critics obviously don’t care). But if I ever get tickets, I ‘ll tell you what I think of it.

Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at the National Theatre

Paul Ritter (Ed Boone) and Luke Treadway (Christopher Boone). Photo Manuel Harlan

The National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is directed by Marianne Elliott, adapted by Simon Stephens from Mark Haddon’s best selling, much loved book. Clearly much of the praise that will follow (and there will be lots of it) belongs to them. But also I wanted to get their names out of the way, because, as with the best productions, plays and stories, I don’t want to talk about writers and directors. I want to talk about the story itself and the world it has created.

It is often said that The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a story through the eyes of Christopher, a teenager who has Asperger’s syndrome. The play is not so much the world through his eyes but his world: a tangible, emotional, supremely interesting world, with many things still beyond his experience. This world is so richly realised that we, the audience, don’t want to leave it behind: the consensus among my friends was we didn’t want the play to end. Continue reading