Review: Theatre Uncut 2014 at the Soho theatre (and then Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool)

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo  Jeremy Abrahams

Ruairi Conaghan and Conor MacNeill in Ira Provitt and The Man. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

There is a danger in talking about Theatre Uncut. Set in 2010 as a response to the public spending cuts announced by the coalition government, it challenges playwrights to write fast, raw and immediate about the world around them. 2010 is a lifetime ago, and back then we might have felt we would ride any difficulties the way we always did, persevering with our daily lives, semi-committed, occasionally thinking about the political but more often not. Four years later, things only got bleaker and more urgent, so hats off to Hannah Price and Emma Callander (co-artistic directors) because they knew back then what we all know now: thinking about political solutions is not something we can leave for later or to others.

But here is the danger: Theatre Uncut isn’t just worthy and important. It is theatre (the clue is in the title) and works perfectly fine as a theatrical event. The five plays performed are rough, fast, full of questions and storytelling ideas. Continue reading

List: Top ten theatre productions for January to June 2014

Lloyd Owen as Mike and Imelda Staunton as Margaret in Good People. Photo Johan Persson

Lloyd Owen as Mike and Imelda Staunton as Margaret in Good People. Photo Johan Persson

In a pattern frequently repeated in my life, I am about six weeks late in posting my top ten list from the first half of the year. I could have easily moved on, but 2014 is shaping into a vintage year, and I wanted to put a mark in the sand before the end of the year top ten becomes a hard and merciless business. In strict alphabetical order, the best – and favourite – productions of the first six months of 2014.

A View From The Bridge at the Young Vic (aka the Revival): it’s hard to describe how brilliant Arthur Miller’s A View from The Bridge was. Directed by Ivo Van Hove with Mark Strong as Eddie Carbone, text, acting and directorial decisions came together in a seamless union. The result was a beating heart at the palm of your hand, exhilarating and horrifying in equal measures. Eddie Carbone describing the smell of coffee will stay with me forever. What do we remember, heh?

Birdland at the Royal Court (aka the Rock descent into hell): Simon Stephens’ Birdland is not perfect. Yet it lodged under my skin more than other – more perfect (and yes, I know I shouldn’t be using a comparative construct) – productions. It had the blackest black and an aching at its bones. You can see home but you can never go back.

Blurred Lines at the Shed, National Theatre (aka the feminist rock concert): in a line of plays constructed like jazz music (pieces coming together and apart at will), Nick Payne’s and Carrie Cracknell’s Blurred Lines was incendiary, prickly and put the cat among the pigeons. And it was fun. Continue reading