Review: Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III, at the Almeida theatre

Lydia Wilson as Kate Middleton, Oliver Chris as Prince William. Photo Johan Persson

Lydia Wilson as Kate Middleton, Oliver Chris as Prince William. Photo Johan Persson

What’s in a premise? The tag line for Mike Bartlett’s new play King Charles III is “a future history play” and he goes at it no holds barred and makes good on that promise. The Queen is dead, prince Charles becomes Charles III, and then what? What will happen? What can happen? The play draws much of its energy from making that imaginative leap, and Bartlett follows through, jumping from stone to stone, drawing the inevitable conclusions. (The events of the play have a hardwired logic but are unlikely. Bartlett’s trick is to make then look like a parallel universe and not a magic mirror. Maybe his inspiration is The Adventures of Luther Arkwright as much as Shakespeare).  Bartlett plays effortlessly with verse and Shakespearean references and the result is very very clever.

In fact, a tad too clever.  The play can’t resist winking to the audience, as a result the dynamic in the room often turned toxic. Continue reading

My Theatre Quiz of the Year – What do you remember of 2013?

Question 1: guess the play and the character

Question 1: guess the play and the character

The National Theatre is not the only place to challenge your theatrical knowledge. And let’s face it, my theatre quiz is much more difficult. (Tip: many of the answers are somewhere in my blog. That was not done by design but it turns out this quiz is a blueprint of my obsessions).

1) Let’s start with something easy. Guess the play (and the character) from the props in the photograph.

2) Rupert Goold said: “[he is] the best verse speaker in the country, has that Zidane gift – more time than everyone else while speaking just as fast.” Who was he talking about?
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Review: American Psycho – A Musical Thriller, starring Matt Smith, at the Almeida theatre

At the end of the performance, somewhere between curtain call and the lights going up, the woman next to me turned to her companion and said “I could watch it all again right now”. And while I wasn’t quite up to it (this was my third play in as many nights, I was tired and in any case the cast wouldn’t be able to cope), I recognised the sentiment. Because, above else, the musical adaptation of American Psycho captures superbly the nihilistic but addictive exhilaration of the end of the last century. You want more of it at any cost.

The company. Photo Manuel Harlan

The company. Photo Manuel Harlan

After the book by Bret Easton Ellis and the film adaptation (that gave Christian Bale his adult film career), the idea of a musical based on the same material seemed bizarre. In  the hands of Roberto Aquirre-Sacasa (book), Duncan Sheik (music and lyrics) and director Rupert Goold, the story of a serial killer finds its natural home: Continue reading

Review: The Effect by Lucy Prebble, at the National Theatre

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