Review: Little Revolution, created by Alecky Blythe, at the Almeida theatre

Little Revolution poster“What do you think about the London riots?” Few questions are as loaded as this. It’s what we think, what we want to think, what we say, what we mean. And then it’s what happened. Because something happened to someone. Alecky Blythe – of London Road acclaim – attempts to unpack meaning and fact by taking the direct approach: verbatim theatre, the words of the people, immediate access to the energy of place and time. Does she succeed? To a degree.

Unsurprisingly, the play exists in intertwined moments: the writer is at the centre of it, facilitator, observer, actor (in every sense of the word: Alecky Blythe plays herself – or rather a writer called Alecky). The play is at its best the closer it stays to the riots and director Joe Hill-Gibbins does a great job capturing those moments with brilliant adrenalised energy and a surprising clarity of thought: the conflict crystallises the argument and the staging – with the auditorium in the round and part of the wall between auditorium and foyer missing – delivers a heart-in-mouth experience. In one scene, two different arguments flare simultaneously, and we are transfixed by the threat of violence. At another time, we find ourselves one block from a burning car, with the sound carrying the action and the crowd overspilling into our space. Much of the action and energy is introduced at the foyer before it is brought into the theatre. I would be quite happy to stay with a drink at the bar for the whole performance to see how it looks on the other side. Continue reading

Review (or something like it): Mr Burns by Anne Washburn, Almeida Theatre

 

The company - photo Manuel Harlan

The company – photo Manuel Harlan

Sometimes you need a get-out clause. It’s the plays and productions you don’t want to review, not for lack of things to say but because a conventional review would be a betrayal of the experience.

So let’s do it differently. Ten cryptic puzzles, ten reasons to see Anne Washburn’s Mr Burns. And remember, it doesn’t have to make sense. But you need to remember.

1) Between beginning and end, you will travel the greatest distance (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) you have travelled in any play. You might experience g-force physical symptoms, not least your jaw dropping to the floor. Do not be alarmed. No harm will come to you.

2) It defies definitions of “good”, “bad”, “well-made”, “unconventional”. They are irrelevant.

3) It will tell you what kind of theatregoer you are. It’s not made for a good night out. Which is not to say it’s not enjoyable. But it’s made for theatre junkies and adventurers, those who boldly go where no man, woman or child has gone before.

4) Michael Shaeffer is weirdly sexy as Mr Burns. As is Justine Mitchell, especially with a wolf tail and work boots. Continue reading