Review: The Herd, by Rory Kinnear, at the Bush Theatre

the herdThe Herd, written by Rory Kinnear, directed by Howard Davies and with a very fine cast, doesn’t suffer from the absence of eye catching names. Its subject matter, a family celebration of a special birthday, shows ambition in its simplicity. Yet, as the play started, I started noticing things I disliked: the mother was obnoxious,  with a suffocating flat quality. The daughter – thirty three years of age – was behaving like a spoilt teenager. First impressions can go either way, but in this occasion they started shaping into substantial objections.

First and foremost, I struggled with the characters: the women were universally unlikeable, worse they didn’t feel flesh and blood. The grandmother was a formidable character, but she was just that, a character. The daughter was meant to struggle but came across as whiny. The men fared a little bit better: they were salt of the earth, perhaps a little bit too much. Wisdom came easy to them, even for the father who abandoned the family but still was emotionally articulate to know why. Continue reading

What’s in store for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company in 2014?

August is a strange month: unless you are on a beach somewhere, it’s like time stood still. Press officers are on holiday, and for someone with attention deficit like myself the trickle of theatre news is torture. But September is around the corner, and the following teasers will lift my spirits till then.

Royal Shakespeare Company will follow Richard II with Henry IV part 1 and 2, The Taming of the Shrew and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Jane Lapotaire will play the Duchess of Gloucester in Richard II and with rehearsals starting in a couple of weeks, the announcement of the remaining cast can’t be far behind.

At the National Theatre, Rufus Norris Continue reading

Review: Othello at the National Theatre (starring Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear)

Rory Kinnear as Iago, Adrian Lester as Othello. Photo Johan Persson

Rory Kinnear as Iago, Adrian Lester as Othello. Photo Johan Persson

For pure heart-fluttering excitement,  the combination of Shakespeare and big name actors is hard to beat. Macbeth and James McAvoy earlier this year, Richard II and David Tennant from October, and somewhere in the middle Othello with Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear punctuate the theatrical year with spine tingling anticipation. Shakespeare’s plays breath with charismatic actors who can take reign of uncompromising characters, and Nic Hytner’s production, visceral and sharp, delivers in those terms.

Having said that, the first twenty minutes were not as promising. Pubs and alleyways and indistinct boardrooms, soldiers on leave in ill fitting civilian clothes (and ill at ease civilian mode),  the setting was too drab to set the imagination alight. Landing on Cyprus, the story started gathering momentum, but it was Iago manipulating Cassio in one almighty brawl that set the production on its proper course. Once the seeds of jealousy and doubt are planted in Othello’s mind, the story started hurling to the finish like a wild horse: beautiful and scary and dangerous. Continue reading