Billie Piper in the new Richard Bean play at the National, Ivo van Hove directs Juliette Binoche in Antigone and more

Billie Piper (with Jonjo O'Neill) in The Effect, the last National Theatre production she appeared in. Photo Ellie Kurtz

Billie Piper (with Jonjo O’Neill) in The Effect, the last National Theatre production she appeared in. Photo Ellie Kurtz

In an infrequent series of posts, these are the theatre news that got me excited in recent weeks:

– Word is Billie Piper is in rehearsals for the new Richard Bean play at the National. The play – with the provisional title Hacked – is directed by Nic Hytner, revolves around the phone hacking scandal and should start performances at the Lyttelton as early as June. As there is no official announcement regarding performance dates or tickets yet, the National Theatre is cutting it very fine with this one.

– Another company cutting it fine is the new Jamie Lloyd season at the Trafalgar studios: after the announcement a month ago that Martin Freeman will be playing Richard III with performances starting in July, no further information has been forthcoming. I loved the trio of plays produced last year and I look forward to the new season with – hopefully – a full programme announced soon.

– In other exciting news, Ivo Van Hove will be directing Juliette Binoche in Antigone, with performances at the Barbican next year. Continue reading

Review: Smack Family Robinson, by Richard Bean – Rose Theatre Kingston

Keith Allen and Denise Welch in rehearsal. Photo by Alastair Muir

Keith Allen and Denise Welch in rehearsal. Photo by Alastair Muir

In recent weeks, I had the opportunity to see the earlier work of two playwrights who are now at the top of their game: Bruce Norris’ Purple Heart, written more than a decade ago, still plays at the Gate Theatre and Richard Bean’s Smack Family Robinson, written in 2003, just started its run at the Rose Theatre Kingston. Both playwrights have gone to receive much acclaim as well as win numerous awards and a look at their early plays is fascinating.

Smack Family Robinson (originally written in 2003 and set in Whitley Bay but updated to present time and Kingston for this production) tells the story of middle class suburbia but with a twist. Or is it twisted middle class suburbia? Either way, the Robinsons are typical in their strong community bonds, their family squabbles, their 60s-free-love values turning into consumerism. On the other hand, their source of income is, one hopes, unusual. The clue is in the title. Tensions between received wisdom and true morality, expectations and reality, are at the heart of the play. Continue reading