Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Morning by Simon Stephens, Lyric Hammersmith, dir Sean Holmes

B….. Work-shopped by the Lyric Young Peoples’ Company, Morning recalls Eclipse and DNA, written by Simon Armitage and Dennis Kelly. All three deal with adolescence on the dark side. In Morning soul-mates separate as one is about to go to university, while the other vows to make them stay with horrific consequences. The dangerous atmosphere is unrelenting, picked out by harsh lighting; isolated ‘bits of set’ such as fridge, a fish tank, in which paper-boats float and burn; and in a nod to Filter Company, an on-stage SX technician, who makes dissonant sound. The actors do seem to play younger than their scripted personas (Stephanie and Cat are seventeen); a little too gauche and knock-kneed. And for the most part play ‘face-on.’ This raw, authentic stance suits the story and production style. Yet the 'Youth Experience’ is not all about attitude….There is also a terrifying poetry, which Armitage offers; and taut action explored by Dennis Kelly. Morning, in comparison, still feels in places like a script in development…… 

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Theatre: The Last of the Hausmanns

The Last of the Hausmanns by Stephen Beresford, Julie Walters, Rory Kinnear, Helen McCrory

Atomic. A deceptively comic play about disintegration. The Hausmanns' dynasty and family-stock are re-aligned. Judy Hausmann is the last of the bohemians – free-thinking, free-loving and free-boozing – she accepts her fate; think Chekov’s Raneveskaya. Judy’s neurotic daughter, Libby, tries to keep things together, while her son, Nicky, unfulfilled in life and love escapes as crises surface. Surrounded by sundry characters - Summer, Libby’s abrasive yet drive-in-the-wedge daughter, Peter ‘the good doctor’ who buys into Judy’s free-wheeling spirit, and speedo-clad Daniel, who has free access to the family’s outdoor swimming pool – the seasonal summer swelters. Judy Hausmann is a natural vehicle for Julie Walters - snappy one-liners, good character and observational detail - but it would be wrong to dismiss it as derivative. Walters is feisty and her timing perfect. Helen McCrory and Rory Kinnear as the siblings, crackle. While the other characters puncture this Devon idyll, with its ingenious clutter, colour and hippy sound track, in a random bid towards progress. If there is a message then it's 'be yourself.'….The Cherry Orchard it isn’t, but this is an impressive debut by Beresford. 

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Theatre: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, National Theatre, dir Marianne Elliott, Adapted by Simon Stephens, Bunny Christie, Luke Treadaway, Niamh Cusack, Paul Ritter, Nicola Walker, Una Stubbs

Awesome. Mrs Sear’s dog, Wellington, is killed by a garden fork in front of her house. Christopher obsessed with numbers, astronomy and the colour yellow decides to investigate. He unravels more than he can handle, discovers he doesn't like Batternberg Cake, while his journey takes him to London. He takes the train, negotiates the underground and ends up in Chapel Gardens, NW. Hugely impressive, Marianne Elliott's production stays faithful to Christopher’s perspective throughout: with ingenious design, choreography and lighting; and moments of real sensitivity. Playwright, Simon Stephens uses a clever narrative device: Siobhan, Christopher's teacher narrates his story and later turns it into a play. This allows for doublings, re-casting – watch the policemen - and detachment. Christopher’s attention to detail, his repetitions, patternings are all re-enacted by a committed, well-drilled, ensemble cast playing an assortment of characters. Lovely to see Una Stubbs.......While Mark Haddon’s iconic script is brought vividly to life making it a talking point all over again. Luke Treadaway as Christopher, is extraordinary, while Paul Ritter and Nicola Walker excel as his parents. And the dog? Well the dog…….a clever reality check, but you’ll have to go and discover that for yourself…… 

Friday, 7 September 2012

Theatre: London Road

London Road, National Theatre, Alecky Blythe, dir Rufus Norris, music Adam Cork, design Katrina Lindsay

New-mint. London Road is different. A musical in a spoken verbatim style, similar to recitative, which Alecky Blythe carefully crafts to commercial success. Real lives/voices are recorded with every hmm….pause, repetition and non sequitor; ‘Begonias, Petunias, Impatiens and things’……The music, by Adam Cork, feels forensic: reminiscent of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. Yet its dissonance and counterpoint perfectly suit the unconventional, production style. It's a year in the life of the London Road residents, Suffolk, as they reclaim their neighbourhood, enter Ipswich in Bloom and organise themselves into a successful neighbourhood association after the arrest of Stephen Wright, serial killer of 5 sex workers, who lives next door at No 79. There are no big numbers, no stars, yet London Road is compelling throughout. It shows sugar and starch, old and young, selfishness and atruism. Direction and pace are tight and the ensemble acting uniformly good, with ingenious, versatile design by Katrina Lindsay……Blooming marvellous - see it before it fades!......