Sunday, 19 June 2016

'Show Boat' New London Theatre *****

Truthfully, we all aspire for greatness no matter what they are; such as performers who desire to become a big star in the hope that it’ll be a somewhat rags to riches scenario, nonetheless, these ambitions can be just a pipe dream and their careers will only lead to them strutting their stuff in small venues. The West End transfer of Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1927 musical, ‘Show Boat’ was an exemplary tale of hopes, dreams and the reality of racism and segregation, in addition to this; the representations were dazzling throughout this showbiz extravaganza.

‘Show Boat’ is set between 1857-1927 and is set largely on the Cotton Blossom show boat where we’re accustomed to the boat’s proprietor, Captain Andy Hawks (Malcolm Sinclair) where segregation has been enforced by Jim Crow. But there is a bit of trouble on the boat where a fist fight breaks out between engineer, Pete (Ryan Pigden) and performer Steve whilst on stage as Pete has been making advances towards Steve’s wife; as such, Captain Andy deludes the crowd that it is a melodramatic preview. Riverboat crapshooter, Gaylord Ravenal appears and instantly becomes besotted with 18 year old, Magnolia Hawks, a hopeful performer who is the daughter of Captain Andy and his wife Pathenia Ann (Lucy Briers), as well as, Magnolia likes Gaylord too and asks Joe (Emmanuel Kojo), the black dock worker on the boat for advice. He specifies that there are plenty more fish in the sea and when she tell Julie La Verne (Rebecca Trehearn) about it and like Joe, Julie says the exact same thing. She says that it is not easy to prevent love from occurring and states that she’ll always be in love with her husband, Steve Baker (Leo Roberts) and when Julie sings a familiar black song, Queenie (Sandra Marvin), Joe’s wife is surprised that a “white” person would know the song completely.  Over the course of the performance, Gaylord has taken over Steve’s part as he and his wife, Julie have to run away to the Northern states of the USA as the town’s sheriff knows that Julie is in fact mixed-race, but you wouldn’t know it though.  From this, Gaylord and Magnolia, now performing the role that Julie plays have proven to be a hit with audiences and because of their undying love, he proposes to her despite Magnolia’s mother’s objections, however, we soon learn that Gaylord is a murderer, but has never been charged for his crime, yet the nuptials go ahead anyways and it’s a lovely moment to see blacks and white uniting.  The years flow on by and Magnolia and Gaylord are residing in Chicago with enough money and have a child who is being schooled in a private school, unfortunately with Gaylord’s frequent gambling means he has lost all of his money and runs away from his responsibilities as a father and a husband. In essence, Magnolia, now strapped for cash to live on is reunited with Steve and Julie where they persuade a club manager to offer Magnolia a job and luckily enough he does so. Whilst performing one night, she is perplexed when her father is at the club and thankfully with his support the audience soon changes their reactions from jeers to cheers and due to this; she becomes a big star in the club and cabaret circuit. At the finale, Magnolia and daughter Kim (Christina Bennington) are back on the Cotton Blossom in a slightly frail state and when Gaylord returns to her life is re-introduced to Kim who seems to have been affected from the lack of a father figure, yet after a lovely embrace of a hug, a lot of issues have been resolved. Hammerstein II’s narrative and lyrics with Jerome Kern’s music is unparalleled as it is a rather political and social statement about segregating blacks and whites away from each other is despicable and how those determined to gain superstardom could have their dreams to tumble down.  Moreover, with musical numbers like, “Only Make Believe”, “Ol’ Man River”, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Til Good Luck Come Mighty” they capture the spirt of the whole thing. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Show Boat’ to be remarkable as the vocals and executions of the dance sequences were faultless by such an energetic and impressive ensemble that were increasingly comprehensive. Gina Beck is outstanding as Magnolia Hawks; predominantly how we see that for someone bombarded by showbiz for the most part of her life shows that she is desperate for fame and fortune. On the other hand, because of Gaylord’s rejection as he’s run out on her, her life is falling to pieces and her vocals in “Why Do I Love You?” is a rather painful insight into her poor life. Chris Peluso is wonderful as gambling addict, Gaylord Ravenal; exclusively how one small glint in the eye could lead to him becoming instantaneously attracted to this woman who then becomes his wife, nonetheless, we are not overwhelmed when he decides to leave his family to fend for themselves and his singing in “You Are Love” is smouldering as he realises that he made a mistake in rejecting his wife and daughter as they did nothing to warrant that.

Daniel Evans’ direction is superlative here as he has been able to present an extremely powerful revival of a musical that enables you to fully get into the groove of the performance and with Alistair David’s choreography I was immediately transported back to a time where black and whites were not allowed to be in communication with one another, paradoxically not on the Cotton Blossom where everyone practically gets on with each other.  Les Brotherston’s set and costume designs is gorgeous as there is such an in-depth attention to detail in capturing the actual mood of the Cotton Blossom and Chicago where the scenic art and construction by Rocket Scenery was as beautiful as you would expect, also the costumes cannot be criticised either and Paul Groothuis’ sound design and David Hersey’s lighting design finished off a prefect design. Overall, the experience of, ‘Show Boat’ to be a resounding success and it is time for West End theatre shows to re-think their ticket options especially for younger audiences who could straightforwardly fill the empty seats no matter what.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

'Kenny Morgan' Arcola Theatre *****

Some people have a lot of skeletons in their closet; especially with regards to keeping their sexuality a secret due to the fact that homosexuality was an illegal act prior to 1967, but an insight into the bumpy relationship between actor, Kenneth “Kenny” Morgan and playwright, Terence Rattigan could help us understand how hard it is to supress your sexuality and emotions. The Arcola Theatre’s production of, Mike Poulton’s new play, ‘Kenny Morgan’ was a momentous portrayal of someone who is on the verge of suicide as he can’t live with himself anymore, not to mention the executions were accomplished.

‘Kenny Morgan’ is set in a Camden Town boarding house in 1949 where we’re habituated with actor, Kenny Morgan who craves attention for some reason is rescued from two other residents in the boarding house, Mrs Simpson (Marlene Sidaway) and Dafydd Lloyd (Matthew Bulgo) as he’s decided to gas himself as he is in a suicidal frame of mind.  Thankfully, the gas meter has run out of money so his plan is unsuccessful and with a call to the GP, Mr Ritter (George Irving) he then looks through Kenny’s contact book and the first contact he sees is the illustrious playwright, Terence Rattigan; as such Mr Ritter calls the man’s home phone for him to visit. However, Kenny’s current boyfriend, Alec Lennox isn’t too impressed with Kenny’s behaviour as he is really in love with Kenny and due to Kenny’s attempt to kill himself, Alec is upset by it, yet, he grows jealous when Terence Rattigan makes an appearance.  Over the course of the performance, Kenny and Alec’s relationship is pushed to its limits as Alec is struggling to find acting work and he has been offered a meeting for a small part in a film in Birmingham, which he isn’t actually interested in pursuing, but Kenny’s attitude is making Alec’s decision a little easier.  In addition to this, the tension between Kenny and Alec accentuates where a celebration of a birthday causes an argument to occur; which in turn upsets both the men and after every confrontation, Alec resorts to venturing off to the pub and drinking heavily. Kenny who is in a pretty bad way calls Terence Rattigan for a shoulder to cry on and as usual, he is obliging and his neighbour, Dafydd comes to see how Kenny is getting on and is shocked when Terence enters the bedsit. It appears that Dafydd is a fan of Terence’s work and as an appreciation he invites Dafydd to see his latest play. Kenny’s partner, Alec brings his friend, Norma Hastings (Lowenna Melrose) into their bedsit, but as usual Kenny is annoying Alec and asks if he can stay with Norma for some time, understandably, Kenny becomes emotional by this and his suicidal thoughts are more prominent. Throughout this, Mr Ritter honestly says to Kenny that he is being childish because of his lacklustre demeanour and informs him of what happened to him in his homeland in order for Kenny to see that there are people in a worse off state than his dwindling relationship. At the finale, Alec comes back to the bedsit but with some bad news for Kenny where he states that their relationship is over and that he’ll be moving up to Birmingham for the film role, due to this, Kenny finally and sorrowfully goes through his suicide attempt and ends his life once and for all. Poulton’s narrative is cracking as we’re taken on a moving portrayal of Kenny’s emotional journey where his relationship with Alec has taken a tumble for the worse because of his attention seeking behaviour and it does hit home that even if you think your problems are really awful that there are other people who have tougher problems. 

One found the perofrmances by the company of, ‘Kenny Morgan’ to be mind-blowing as they convey the pureness of the characters’ own story i.e. Dafydd’s loneliness and Mr Ritter’s personal traumas as well as Kenny and Alec’s strenuous relationship.  Paul Keating is phenomenal as central protagonist, Kenny Morgan; especially when we see how emotional he actually is when it comes to Alec as this is the person he is in love with but due to the fact that he is an attention hogger he wants everyone to be around him conforting hem. Yet, I did like how his energy infused through his relationship with Terence Rattigan. Pierro Niel-Mee is transcendent as Kenny’s long suffering boyfriend, Alec; mainly when you can see the exasperation by Kenny’s unpleasant behaviour and this is only helping him become an alcoholic and to become distant when it comes to Kenny’s sexual advances, furthermore, when he decides to tell Kenny that their relationship is at an end it is a moving moment indeed as the two men are near to crying. Simon Dutton is supreme as the famous playwright, Terence Rattigan; essentially when he comes into the bedsit, you can see that there is an awkward tension that increases in time as Alec really dislikes him as he is also causing the relationship between Kenny and Alec to finish which for me is disgraceful, plus, as with people with money he comes across too aloof. 

Lucy Bailey’s direction is overwhelmingly good here as she has been able to transport us into an environment that is rather anxious as Kenny is the main focus of a man who is going through a turbulent time in his life and with the realisation that his sexuality is frowned upon shows us that being a member of the LGBT community in the 1940’s was not exactly a pleasant experience whatsoever and fundamentally bleak.  Robert Innes Hopkins’ design is out of this world as he has been able to grasp the dreariness of the Camden Town bedsit which in turn has allowed us to understand that the set itself has an underlying sadness within it such as the scenic art and construction through to the obscure presence of Jack Knowles’ amazing lighting design. Overall, the experience of, ‘Kenny Morgan; to be monumental, moving and excellent piece of theatre and from the Arcola Theatre which has become an admired place of mine.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

'The Invisible Hand' Tricycle Theatre ****

Goodness gracious me, this year has been atrocious with regards to terrorist activity from all corners of the globe, on the other hand, in some countries terrorism has been ongoing for years and years and with money involved, the situation couldn’t get any worse. The Tricycle Theatre’s production of Ayad Akhtar’s 2012 play, ‘The Invisible Hand’ was such an absorbing plot where someone from the Western world is being dominated by Eastern terrorists as the skills this person has is much required, side by side, the interpretations were unheard-of.

‘The Invisible Hand’ is set in a dingy prison cell in rural Pakistan where we’re familiarised with American banker, Nick Bright who is a connoisseur in the Pakistani market has been kidnapped by an establishment in Pakistan who’s attempting to prevent a positive change and the group is governed by Iman Saleem. We see that Nick offers advice to his jail guard, Dar who states that he should use the supply and demand method in native Pakistan by earning extra cash by trading potatoes as a side thing. However, due to the fact that Dar has been in cahoots with Nick, it has agitated Nick’s captor,     Bahir, who is in fact a British Asian, he gets an idea that by using Nick’s financial expertise it could be a colossal benefit to the incendiary group. When the plan is offered to Nick, he obviously agrees as it keeps his brain working. As a result of the notion to Iman Saleem has been named on the US terrorism register, this means that this is unsettling news for Nick’s ransom of $10,000,000 as his freedom could prove quite tricky. As such; Nick with Bashir’s agreement that they’ll use the stock market in order to raise the ransom money and he’ll educate Bahir on how to manage the finances of the clique. Over the course of the performance, Nick instructs Bashir with the information available on the stock market and how you can use a simple laptop to hedge your bets and from this the money comes rolling into the terrorist establishment’s accounts. Apparently the money which is benchmarked to the inhabitants of Pakistan, the fraught atmosphere between Bahir and Iman intensifies. Nick, frantic to escape has devised a Shawshank Redemption strategy and plows his way thrown the damaged all and makes a run for it, and when he is captured, he is a pretty bloody state and has lost all sense of loyalty towards Bashir and Iman. As the US government are hot on their heels, Nick suggests that Iman invests the money in residential properties but Bashir is disgusted that the capital has been spent on houses for Iman’s wife and due to Iman’s lies; Bashir decides to liquidate his powers. Now Nick has no confederate and a phone call to his wife and child makes him cry as he wants to go home. At the finale, Bashir explains that with Nick’s tutoring, he has taken the whole Pakistani currency hostage and in that event, Nick has worked for his ransom money where he is released from the cell and now a free man in a warzone.  Akhtar’s narrative is standout as you can see that a banker who is mistaken has helped a radical terrorist group obtain the upper hand on the countries money, paradoxically we can see that Nick is a family man and there’s a little venom that comes from Bashir and Iman as they manipulate his emotions to the point where he is left in tears for their own personal gain. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Invisible Hand’ to be extraordinarily poised as they conveyed the tense atmosphere that is increased over time and the conflict and alliances from Western and Eastern cultures which the tables have been turned in this instance where the Pakistani’s are in charge. Also with Rachel Brown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown’s fight direction, we can see that all the fight sequences have been worked to such precision that helps make us feel really uncomfortable and this is probable what the intentions are. Daniel Lapaine is magnificent as central protagonist, Nick Bright; generally how this innocent man has been manipulated into aiding a terrorist group with his knowledge and expertise, but, when he speaks to his wife on the phone, we can see how much of a family man he actually is as he cries as he has no idea on when he’ll return home. Sid Sagar is august as the prison guard, Dar; specifically how even though the character is a rather minor role, he comes across increasingly well as he does listen to what Nick has to express as he realises that as the country is not in that wealthy that he’ll be able to obtain some extra money to physically survive. Parth Thakerar is stately as Nick’s slightly petrifying captor, Bashir; basically how his motives may be too extreme such as the vicious beating of Nick, on the other hand, we learn that he is actually doing this for the best of the Pakistani nation, but his scary nature does come across very natural. Tony Jayawardena is awe-inspiring as the terrorist group’s actual governor, Iman Saleem; for example how imposing he is when he tries to keep Nick in solitary conditions, yet, when he is confronted by Bashir, his powerful nature quickly starts to deteriorate and on his hands and knees begging . 

Indhu Rubasingham’s direction is outstanding here as she has been able to show us how a number of countries in the Eastern vicinity have been completely bombarded by terrorist establishments i.e. Al Qaeda and now ISIS, furthermore, the concrete characterisations were compressively depicted and this is due to the excellent vision from the Tricycle Theatre’s Artistic Director.  Lizzie Clachan’s designs were gorgeous as the actual prison cell looked so harsh and brutal which is what a prison cell should look like in this country with limited resources available, in addition to this, the scenic art and scenic construction is progressively elegant and crafted to tenacity and ease. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Invisible Hand’ to be a current portrayal of what the world in 2016 has been suffering and this has been happening in drips and drabs for the past 16 years.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

'The Local Stigmatic' Old Red Lion Theatre ***

A booming proportion of us are roused on what celebrities are doing and this has been the case for decades such as the 1960’s, per contra, sociopaths can take it to the extreme as the definition states that “a sociopath is a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme attitudes and behaviour.” The Old Red Lion Theatre’s production of Heathcote Williams’ 1966 play, ‘The Local Stigmatic’ which is fitting as the play is half a century is a show that leaves you questioning what precisely is going on, withal, the performances were greatly appreciated.

‘The Local Stigmatic’ is set in 1960’s South London where we’re introduced to two working class men, Graham and Ray who are both sociopaths  who spend each and every day gambling on the dogs, debating, quarrelling and reading the tabloid newspaper gossip columns. When the two are sitting down in a pub one evening, they notice that a well-known actor, David who is one of the celebrities that Graham and Ray have read in the newspaper. Similarly to today’s celebrity culture, they pluck up the backbone to acquaint themselves with David and as such; David welcomes them to sit down with him and from this the three share a few drinks together and by the end of the evening they leave the pub as a threesome. Over the course of the performance, we can see what triggers all of Graham and Ray’s sociopath tendencies, but what is most interesting is that both Graham and Ray are the true casualties as they’re living in a rat race bewitched with fame. Their constant gambling at the dog races means that as a result of the fact they keep losing their money as they don’t place their bets on the right dogs and it appears that they are some underlying things that may be going on with them because they are sociopaths. Throughout the show, their antisocial attitudes and behaviour emancipates when they are with David who they’re completely envious of him and due to this, they unleash their annoyance by getting some form of revenge on him. It appears that Graham and Ray are really trapped with their condition and have no way to escape or recover from it which conveys how advancements in mental health studies in this current age could have helped the men with their illness. Nonetheless, in the 1960’s there wasn’t as much guidance on this. On their journey, there are a lot of challenges where their condition leaves them to tormenting David to the point where they savagely lash out on him with no motives whatsoever. What is most perplexing is that Graham and Ray do not appear to be too bothered by what they have just done to an innocent man and at the finale, both Graham and Ray simply walk away from the situation and it seems that is another part of their mad lives and they venture of to another adventure on who know what may occur on the next stage. Williams’ narrative is favourable as the depiction of two sociopaths who show no sense of remorse at the cost of ambushing an actor who at the commencement were totally transfixed by; furthermore, the plot keeps you on your toes with regards to the tone of the language.   

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Local Stigmatic’ to be shipshape and Bristol fashion as the mentally crazed characteristics looked so natural which means that nothing has been left unfinished as the South London accents were polished and portrayed the harsh and tempestuous era that was the 1960’s. Wilson James is fascinating as Graham; in particular how frightening he comes across when he turns on David and the condition has impacted on what his life has become which is full of an array of addictions that could cause him a lot of financial problems along the line. William Frazer is enthralling as the other sociopath, Ray; principally how different the intimidating characteristic appears with him and his eyes were quite scary here as this could be a way of showing who is boss through to how his body language of being a bit taught where he is ready to explode like a spring that needs to be let go. Tom Sawyer is fine as actor, David; in the main how unaffected he is by the fact that Graham and Ray come over to him to say hello which is some of the things that many celebrities have to face all of the time, conversely when he is attacked by the two men, you sometimes forget the fact that they are still human beings and go through the same things we go through. 

Michael Toumey’s direction is intriguing here as he has presented a long awaited revival of a 50 year old play that presents us with an awareness of sociopaths which to be honest I wasn’t cognisant of this, on the other hand, there is a balance from the threatening moments to the dark comedic elements which is lovely to see. The design is sparse as we can see the changes of locations, then again, I must commend Tom Kitney’s lighting design as the darkness suggests that not everything is rosy and that there is a component of the Kray brother’s in terms of the costumes but in this Graham and Ray are wearing leather jackets. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Local Stigmatic’ to be an increasingly interesting show about how similar fanatics in today’s celebrity culture is what is was like decades ago and a great insight into what a sociopath is and how they deal with it on a regular basis.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

'The Toxic Avenger' Southwark Playhouse ****

For me, a musical must contain an effective plot, energetic musical numbers and flawless choreographic sequences, plus the other elements have to be amazing too in order for us to grip us into the show. Southwark Playhouse’s production of Joe DiPietro’s musical, ‘The Toxic Avenger’ which has been adapted for the stage from Lloyd Kaufman’s 1984 film of the same name was a resplendent rendition that definitely leaves you with a smile on your face, accompanying this, the portrayals were fabulously performed.

‘The Toxic Avenger’ is set in Tromaville, New Jersey where we are cultivated with Melvin Fred the Thrid who dreams of being an earth scientist who wants to disinfect the state of the USA. When Melvin enters Tromaville Library, he meets Sarah, the Librarian who happens to be blind, he then explains what he wants to achieve and for Sarah, this is a bit of a turn on and asks to feel his facein which he is reluctant for her to do so. The town’s mayor, Mayor Babs Belgoody is actually the one responsible for permitting the disposal of the toxic waste and when Melvin confronts her and due to the fact that she desires to be New Jersey’s governor, she instructs two goons, Sluggo and Bozo to kill him. They throw Melvin into a deep drum which is packed to the rafters of toxic waste. However, when the two idiots mock Sarah, Melvin rises out of the green sludge who when he comes to Sarah’s rescue and leads to Sluggo and Bozo’s ultimate demise. When Sarah wakes up, she thinks that due to that Melvin has called himself “Toxic” that he is French and refers to him as Toxie. Over the course of the performance, Sarah is exceedingly ecstatic with her new found love, on the other hand for Toxie’s mother, Ma Ferd who is traumatised by her sons new appearance and as such; she visits the town’s eccentric scientist, Professor Ken on how to kill Toxie. He then explains that household bleach is what will do the trick. The Mayor’s deceitful actions continue where she administers the undocking of mammoth shipments of toxic waste, nonetheless, Toxie blocks her plan and announces that he’s Melvin Ferd the Third and when the Mayor states that she’ll obliterate him, on the contrary, she is shocked when Toxie has become a folk hero to the people of Tromaville. Reeling by Toxie’s hero status, the Mayor goes into Professor Ken’s lab and vows that she’ll murder Toxie  and when Melvin’s mother’s two hairdressers, Lorenzo and Lamas tell her that her childhood rival who is the Mayor of all people and an almighty brawl occurs. Throughout the show, Sarah rejects Toxie and clearly he’s upset and goes on a violent rampage, then again, Ma Ferd sits Sarah down and helps her through the fact that all men are just immature beings. Mayor Babs rallies round a group of people in order to chuck the bleach all over him, but Sarah steps in a shoots the horrible woman down, but Toxie is hit with the bleach anyway. At the finale, Toxie regains mindfulness and one year pasts and Ma Ferd makes people aware of whom the new first family of New Jersey are and the governor is Governor Toxie Ferd the Third, with Sarah as is his wife and they have a baby together. DiPietro’s narrative is wondrous as we’re taken on a very funny journey of how a human has become a somewhat superhero and how he falls in love with a blind woman, also David Byron’s musical numbers like “My Big French Boyfriend”, “The Legend of the Toxic Avenger”, “All Men Are Freaks” and “A Brand New Day in New Jersey” were and vastly side-splitting too.   

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Toxic Avenger’ to be stupendous as all the quick changes from one role to another encapsulated the tone of the shows atmosphere such as Ashley Samuels and Marc Pickering who portray White and Black Dude.  Mark Anderson is admirable as Melvin Ferd the Third/Toxie; primarily how we see that someone who has a really right future as an earth scientist feel foul to awful bullies, but through this, he mustered up the strength through his new form to fight against a Mayor who is destroying the town’s landscape and his vocals in “You Tore My Heart Out” showed his human genetics. Hannah Grower is magnificent as Toxie’s visually impaired lover, Sarah; particularly how we see that despite the fact that she is blind, she does not let that stop her as she wants to write a book, furthermore, the blossoming love with Toxie shows how much she is actually a pleasant person who does not seem to care about his deformities. Lizzii Hills is amazing as both Ma Fred/ Mayor Babs Belgoody; chiefly with the “Bitch/Slut/Liar/Whore” sequence where the two characters turn round to combat one another was quite possible one of the most hilarious moments I have seen in a musical this year. 

Benji Sperring’s direction and Lucie Pankhurst’s choreography is wonderful here as they have been able to capture the very comical aspect of the show to its full potential and the characterisations were second to none through the rapid changes that makes the musical for what it is and it was very pleasing to have the direction and choreography matching one another especially for a Fringe piece of theatre. Mike Lees’ set and costume designs were incredible as we were transported to the town of Tromaville immediately where and the lighting design by Nic Farman really complimented this and the green suggested the toxic part of the show itself. Moreover, the scenic elements such as the art and construction were impressive for a show in such a small theatrical venue that I actually like visiting on a regular basis. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Toxic Avenger’ to be a categorically ideal and flawless musical that made me so joyous that I did laugh and applaud after each musical number which is what musicals should do successfully.

Friday, 13 May 2016

'The End of Longing' Playhouse Theatre **

Debuting an original play in the heart of London’s West End can certify that it may not be the wisest choice to make; expressly if the play has as much entertainment as watching paint dry, then this show is one with ghastly humour. The West End production of Friends actor, Matthew Perry’s play, ‘The End of Longing’ was an exceedingly mind-numbingly dull and boring show about friendships, simultaneously, the enactments were really woeful.

‘The End of Longing’ is set in a Los Angeles, USA where we’re acquainted with sozzled and dishevelled 40 year old photographer, Jack who enters his favourite leisurely place which is a bar is joined by his brainless soft-lad friend, Joseph who are of course guzzling lots of alcohol become fascinated by another set of friends, high-end prostitute, Stephanie and pharmaceutical supplier, Stevie. Due to the fact that all four of them are in a drunken state end up making love in bed where each and every one of them have to face their own individual demons such as commitment, addiction and so much more. Over the course of the performance, we see how the two pairs of best friends structure a pleasant group where their meeting place is at the same bar they met, however, Jack’s behaviour causes a lot of concern and because of this, Joseph as his close friend has to walk him home and his fledgling relationship with Stephanie is already on the rocks before it has even started. As such; Stephanie is insistent that he must give up drinking. Unlike Jack and Stephanie’s turbulent coupling, Joseph and Stevie’s one is a little bit more romantic despite Stevie’s controlling character, yet, Joseph finds this quite alluring and doesn’t care about what she says to him. Nonetheless, Stevie has some out of the blue news as she learns that she is pregnant with Joseph’s baby, understandably she goes a little bit mental, but even though Joseph is goofy, he appears to have a method to calm her down and promises that he’ll support her throughout her pregnancy. The months plod on by and Jack and Stephanie’s relationship is on its last legs where Jack’s drinking is pushing Stephanie to braking point and states that if he does not go to rehab or go to AA for his boozing then their kinship will be over and from constant arguments their relationship ends.  When Stevie’s waters break, Jack and Stephanie are re-united but under rather awkward circumstances as Jack is still drinking heavily and you would think that he couldn’t be even more selfish, then again this is proven when he walks out of the hospital to get his fix of alcohol. There are complications with Stevie’s pregnancy when she falls into a coma for some time and Joseph is immensely emotional and cannot fathom why Jack has ventured out for a stiff drink and when Jack returns, Joseph confronts him for his egotistical attitude. Thankfully Stevie regains consciousness  and you can see that herself and Joseph are in love with one another and this is what Jack and Stephanie want for themselves. At the finale, because of a pact that Jack and Stephanie have with each other, Stephanie has given up her job as a prostitute and Jack has given up drinking and goes to AA meetings like he agreed. Perry’s narrative is heinous as there isn’t really a proper analysis of friendships coming together which therefore states that the plotline is pretty limited and the desired comic values doesn’t work and this is not great as it’s supposed to be a comedy play. 

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The End of Longing’ to be restricted and flimsy because the actual characters don’t appear to be that charismatic apart from Joseph, paradoxically, there is a disappointing approach to what is physically funny  to which is dead droll and the one lines were poorly executed at times. Matthew Perry is mediocre as central protagonist, Jack; especially by the fact that in how he portrays the drunken characteristic which doesn’t give us a full presentation of what he can do as a performer, moreover, the scenes with Stephanie does not appears to amorous.  Jennifer Mudge is substandard as Jack’s hopeful suitor, Stephanie; particularly how we can see that at the beginning her somewhat indiscreet job suggests that she has to be strong but this changes when she becomes involved with Jack and there is an element of suffering that radiates through Jack’s binge-drinking. Lloyd Owen is conventional as Jack’s silly friend, Joseph; specifically how his friendship with Jack does show that is largely one-sided and the way in which he confront Jack for his lack of control in a situation where he needed him makes you warm to him and he is what makes the comedic lines rib-tickling. Christina Cole is predictable as Joseph’s love-interest, Stevie; predominantly how her fixation with pills has impacted into how she treats people, but when Joseph enters her life, you can see that she has to take a step back and actually allow him to get close to her as there’s something there. 

Lindsay Posner’s direction is shameful here as I’m not really overwhelmed with what was occurring and the friendships and couplings just didn’t cut it and the characterisations made it even more harder to fully absorb into one’s senses and the tragic storyline probably did not help with how Posner directed this production. Anna Fleischle’s designs were all right as the bar in Los Angeles and the other places were clearly defined with appropriate scenic art and construction, on the other hand, there should have been more of an effort co-ordinated into the whole process, but it was okay, just not the best I have witnessed. Overall, the experience of, ‘The End of Longing’ to be an unadventurous and sloppy depiction of middle-aged problems and friendships and what you have to go through at that period of your life, this show is a rubbish attempt, whereas, ‘Reasons to be Happy’ was a more polished play about the same themes.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

'Les Blancs' National Theatre, Olivier *****

I have been critiquing theatre for some time now, and I am always jubilant when productions are of the perfect standard where an illustrious theatre becomes daring enough to present a play that hasn’t been performed in such a long time. The National Theatre’s production of Lorrain Hansberry’s play, ‘Les Blancs’ which was polished up by her ex-spouse, Robert Nemiroff is a phenomenally compelling show on how a nation is desperate to gain its independence, to boot, the representations were world class.
‘Les Blancs’ is set in a non-existent African territory where we’re habituated with American journalist, Charlie Martin who drops anchor with his camera and notebook in hand, but he soon finds out that he has arrived in a place where racism and political contention are at the forefront of such conflict. Due to the rising tautness the locals only use the mission for medical purposes only which is making it hard for Dr Willy Dekoven (James Fleet) and Dr Martha Gotterling (Anna Madeley) and they inform Charlie on what pressure they are under. One of the significant factors for this clash is the fierce and racist, Major George Rice (Clive Francis) who uses his power by terrorising the Africans with a whip and this is evidenced when he drags a bloodied person on a chain which in turn horrifies Charlie wholeheartedly. Over the course of the performance, another element to the entire scenario is when African born, Tshembe Moteshe returns to his homeland because of the demise of his father and attends his funeral, nonetheless he is rather stunned to find that his family are at war with one another and that the place is like a battleground. Tshembe’s brother, Abioseh (Gary Beadle) who has become a Catholic priest and for Tshembe this is a huge aggravation for him, in addition to this, he is not pleased with the impeding terrorist activity that could instigate a war against the whites and blacks. His younger half-brother, Eric (Tunji Kasim) who is mixed-race and as such; his is in a precarious situation due to the fact that his skin colour he could be an easy target, moreover, Tshembe realises that something must be done but is finding it tough to work on a plan to sort this out.  Throughout the pressure intensifies for both Charlie and Tshembe as they’re witnessing the destruction of this land and when the radical terrorist group begins to unleash their attacks on the whites which is particularly distressing for Madame Neilsen who has lived there for the majority of her life and is in fear that she’ll be evicted from her own home.  In order to rescue Eric from getting into wrong crowd, Tshembe thinks that it is essential that he joins his in Europe with his wife and children in the hope that this will improve Eric’s life. The division between the whites and blacks are gargantuan where the blacks want more control and the whites decide to leave the un-named location, yet, Madame Neilsen declares that she’ll be staying as this is her home. At the finale, there’s a tender moment with Tshembe and Madame Neilsen as it depicts that that not all whites and blacks hate one another and at times, you simply have to leave a country to its own devices to escape a possible war. Hansberry and Nemiroff’s narrative is sensational as you can see how a nation is determined to regain its control  and power , and the pure racial disgust from some people  have no understanding of what is creating a large wedge and the viewpoints of a journalist and a local who has decisions to make.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Les Blancs’ to be categorically remarkable as we can observe how they have interpreted the friction that is building between the opposing cultures and colours of skin which is one of the central factors of harsh realities of  life in a world where acceptance is unimaginable.  Elliot Cowan is champion as visiting journalist, Charlie Morris; especially how we see that he has a hefty task ahead of him by the fact that he has to try and forget his own opinions and work on balancing an equal argument for his articles, on the other hand, this proves a challenge when he despises the racist language and behaviour from Major George Rice and this suggests that he has a conscience.  Danny Sapani is priceless as African, Tshembe Matoseh; chiefly the way in which he is perplexed to find that his place of birth has become a shambles and there is a somewhat battle between the Matoseh brothers, but they comprehend  that because of Eric they need to forget their differences as their half-brother is at risk of death. Sian Phillips is transcendent as the older woman, Madame Neilsen; mostly what a change it is for her to be living in such a hard and dangerous situation, however, she is one of the only ones which actually encapsulate the small element of humour in the show.
YaĆ«l Farber’s direction is atmospheric here as she has allowed us to process through the information about how this place in Africa has become the combat zone that it has become; also we can see that people from the different sides want power and this can only be done through a warlike which really does not help the situation at all. Soutra Gilmour’s design is flawless as we are really engrossed into the harsh place that is overbearing through the racial loathing from both side of the trenches, furthermore, the scenic art and construction is elegant through to Tim Lutkin’s dreamy lighting and Adam Cork’s misty music and sound design. Overall, the experience of, ‘Les Blancs’ was honestly extraordinary and the aroma of the smoky atmosphere really helped make this show a delight and all aspects were second to none.