Thursday, 17 November 2016

'Deny, Deny, Deny' Park Theatre ***

In today’s sporting culture, athletes are resorting to taking performance enhancing drugs in order to triumph in their sports events and this has lead to the rules and regulations to be increasingly tightened, so which of the athletes are actually genuine and winning fairly? The Park Theatre’s production of, Jonathan Maitland’s play, ‘Deny, Deny, Deny’ portrays how manipulative trainers can be and how relationships are put to the test, likewise, the offerings were of a good standard.

‘Deny, Deny, Deny’ is set in the present where we are made known of runner, Eve and her sports journalist boyfriend, Tom  who even though they’re from the opposite ends of the sporting landscape, it appears that their bond is immensely strong. At first, Eve follows the rules by drinking healthy protein shakes that is full of the nutrients and this is because Eve is striving for an Olympic Gold medal but by winning it in a genuine way. However, when Eve who is currently searching for a new coach and when she meets scary and disturbing sports coach, Rona, Eve’s honestly will cease to exist as her quest for success will ultimately damage all aspects of her life. Over the course of the performance, Rona forces Eve to dump her boyfriend, Tom because Rona explains that Tom will ruin her chances of the gold medal and Rona introduces Eve to a radically awful solution where the athlete injects chemicals with a protein solution that increases levels of red blood cells that intensifies oxygen delivers into the muscles which in turn aids in the athletes performance. Rona for me personally is a vulgar piece of work where she uses transphobic language to ridicule a transgender athlete in a press interview and as such; it appears that she will resort to great lengths to promote Eve despite the fact that she is hurting a community that I most admire. Progressively, when Eve’s ex-boyfriend, Tom who forms an alliance with Rona’s former protégée, Joyce who has a few scores to settle and Tom and Joyce are increasingly keen to expose Rona’s disgraceful methods in order to get her rising star to the top and this is also due to the fact that Eve is moving more to the top of her game. Throughout the performance, we see an almighty class between Tom and Rona where again, she goads him and states that what he does for a living as a spots journalist is pathetic and that his positon in the sports world is non-existent.  A full investigation is soon launched and Rona is suspended from sport for the foreseeable future and at the finale Eve and Tom somewhat reunite and unfortunately their relationship can never be resolved which shows that Eve thought about herself and not the consequences that taking these shots would do to her career and her reputation in the sporting arena.  Maitland’s narrative is rather stylish as the scenes are slick and quick  which is a bit like an athletics event and in actual fact in today’s sporting doping scandal is quite prominent and poignant as this is exactly what is going on and many athletes are suspended for doing the same thing as Eve has done.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Deny, Deny, Deny’ to be excellent as an array of the moments in the plotline conveys the bitterness and the not truthful tensions that exudes from the characters from the proxemics specifically. Juma Sharkah is impressive as the wannabe gold medallist, Eve; principally how we see that with accepting Rona’s offer as her sports coach would lead to her downfall and it is a shame to see that as she basically pushed her boyfriend Tom to the bottom of the pile which makes her an unsympathetic individual. Zoe Waites is fantastic as the villainous sports coach, Rona; expressly the vindictiveness that she shows when she presses peoples buttons i.e. Tom and with this it suggests to me that she does not have a decent side to her and that she has destroyed Eve’s chances for success and this is not right. Daniel Fraser is lovely as Eve’s journalist boyfriend, Tom; largely how pretty upset he becomes as Eve shows a lack of trust and when she dumps him, I see that with Tom that he has to get revenge in order to make him feel much better and I liked the moments that he has with Rona and it is obvious they hate each other. Shvorne Marks is pleasing as Rona’s ex-star, Joyce; predominantly how at the beginning of the play we see that she has the correct attitude when it comes to earning her trophies and when her coach knows she won’t partake in any activity that is not appropriate then she will be sacked and pulled down to the dumper.

Brendan O’Hea’s direction is stunning here as what he has accomplished with Maitland’s plot allows the audience to be transfixed in a momentous story about what really goes on behind the scenes in the world of sport and the unjust acts that sports coaches can put on their athletes and how the relationships of people can be finished because of pressure from an individual and the movement direction by John Ross really captured the athleticism of the track and field parts that are there in the show. Polly Sullivan’s design is sound as a pound as she has tried to show how athletes are trained such as the gymnasium and the actual track and field stadiums and with the lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Mic Pool aided in the movement sequences that could be compare to the West End hit, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’. Overall, the experience of, ‘Deny, Deny, Deny’ to be an insight into what can occur and that you need to be really careful with which coach you should choose. 

Friday, 11 November 2016

'Where Do Little Birds Go?' Old Red Lion Theatre ****

For some of you, you might perceive that ‘EastEnders’ characters, Phil and Grant Mitchell are the toughest brothers imaginable, however, you would be thoroughly mistaken as the notorious sibling duo, Ronnie and Reggie Kray definitely caused an almighty stir in London during the 1960’s along with their many accomplices and proved how ruthless they were.  The Old Red Lion Theatre’s production of, Camilla Whitehill’s one woman play, ‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’ takes us on an enticing journey of one woman’s story in which she was physically kidnapped by the Kray Twins, additionally, the presentations were earnestly illustrated.

‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’ is set in 1972 where we are familiarised with 24 year old, Lucy Fuller  who at the age of 18 commenced work at the very same club in which Ronnie and Reggie Kray spent many days guzzling booze and obviously plotting some kind of criminal activity. Lucy explains how she became involved with not only the Kray Twins, but with London’s most villainous gangsters such as; Frank Mitchell. Lucy left Hastings, Kent to London at the age of 18 to become a first-class performer, unfortunately the realisation of the situation is that she ends up working in a rather sordid club which is crammed full of that are involved in criminality but she was unaware of who they were and how brutal they were. Over the course of the performance, Lucy goes on to say how she initially came into contact with the Kray Twins and how much of a smooth operator the both of them were and throughout the many conversations they had and how sleazy they became. It appears that Lucy had a rather positive relationship with her Uncle Keith and the countless good times they had; specifically when they spent Christmas with him and her Aunt Val. Progressively, with regards to Lucy’s career it seems that her career desires are falling down the plug hole which lead to her resorting to prostitution which in turn is not exactly how she figured out how her life would plan out. When another infamous criminal, Frank Mitchell escaped from Broadmoor mental institution with the assistance of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, but unluckily for Lucy, she falls victim for being somewhat involved with the Kray’s and is kidnapped and forced to have sexual intercourse with the crazed criminal and the explanation of the night with Frank suggests that Frank is physiologically damaged and his frustration show that he is a danger to everyone and himself too. At the finale, Lucy conveys that the Krays were arrested for the abundant amount of crimes and Lucy is now in a flourishing relationship with a gentleman who treats her like a princess and her career is going well too. Whitehill’s narrative is truly fascinating as we get a full understanding of the powerful influence that Ronnie and Reggie had on London and a journey where it is seen through the eyes of an employee makes you see that dreams are dreams and that these hopes and aspirations are not realistic whatsoever.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’ were compelling and for a company that consisted on one person allows you to fully concentrate on the one character, not an array of many. Jessica Butcher is dazzling as the only character of the entire play, Lucy Fuller; for example how she transported us into how manipulative the Kray Twins were towards her and what was incredible was how Butcher could carry the story without me becoming bored and learning all those lines was outstanding  as this is a challenging task for any actor.

Rosalyn Newberry’s direction is wonderful here as she what she has completed is engage an audience to just the one character and how the chilling stories of the Kray’s forcing a woman to have sex with a mentally unstable criminal portrays that in an environment on London that was a hotbed of criminal activity that Lucy could easily be messed up, but in this case, it doesn’t happen here.  Justin Nardella’s set and costume design is smart as we are brought into the life of a London bar to such panache and I liked all the textured from the set to the costumes that captured the early 1970’s vibe and the lighting by Jamie Platt and sound by Benedict Taylor complemented to dimness of being an element of the Kray Twins’ life. Overall, the experience of, ‘Where Do Little Birds Go?’ was a superb and gratifying monologue performance of working with the Kray Twins and the life of a prostitute who was pushed to having sex with crazed maniac Frank Mitchell.

Monday, 31 October 2016

'Magnificence' Finbourough Theatre ***

Surprisingly, the United Kingdom have endured quite a few moments where poverty, homelessness, rising inequality, unemployment and industrial disputes have caused people to actively protest against the political powers of the time and in the 1970’s it occurred rather a lot. The Finborough Theatre’s production of Howard Brenton’s 1973 play, ‘Magnificence’ was an acceptable revival and poignant due to Brexit etc. moreover, the executions were modestly portrayed.

‘Magnificence’ is set in London, 1973 where we are habituated with five young activists who have sought refuge in an abandoned flat who are hell-bent at protesting against the political powers of the day. The activists consists of their leader, Jed, Cliff (Tyson Douglas), Mary, Veronica (Eva-Jane Wilkins)and Will (Will Bliss) and for all five of the group, it is integral for them to challenge how the social and political struggles are affecting the people of the United Kingdom; specifically the young men and women as they all envisage that their future is in jeopardy. Of course we see that some of the group have completely opposing views of their protest such as; Veronica thinking that some of Jed’s motives are pretty stupid. Over the course of the performance, the police are on to the group where the Constable and Slaughter (Chris Porter) are spying on the squat in which the activists are living in and due to this, they are planning to seize entry and arrest them. It appears that the group will resort to great lengths to prove their worth against government figures and it soon known that from Jed and Will that other protestors have been attacking MP’s and for this group in particular are making homemade bombs in that Jed will be responsible for the detonation of it.  Throughout the performance, Mary becomes pregnant with Jed’s baby and when the Constable forces entry into the squat and in turn he hurts Mary rather forcefully and because of this, Mary loses the baby, as well as, the rest of the group are arrested and are sent to prison for some time. We the audience are soon transported on a different tale where ancient school teacher is wanting a bit of action with a student by the name of Babs (Hayward B Morse) in which the student obliges to. At the finale, Jed who has been released from prison and despite that he has supposedly reformed his behaviour and his hate for the powers to be and when he meets Alice, he loses his marbles and viscously punches him to the ground in his own back garden and Jed tries to use one of his old homemade bombs onto Alice himself so as you can see, Jed has not really learnt his lesson and that his protest is hardly working. Brenton’s narrative is satisfactory as yes we do understand what the group are attempting to protest about but what I did not really see was what was the conclusion of the initial protest and to be honest, was the scene with Jed and Alice truly necessary? You can be the judge of that yourself.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Magnificence’ to be quite agreeable as they have captured the harshness of a group who had a plan, but then their plan of a riotous protest is soon prevented by a lovely stint in a prison cell (well not that lovely).  Joel Gilman is good as leader of the group, Jed; predominantly how we see that he has a real desire to change the treatment of the people through radical methods, however, this becomes a load of nonsense and he is convicted of acts of terrorism and this is why he takes all over his bitterness of his failure onto an innocent man and this shows he may need to have some counselling.  Daisy Hughes is adequate as Mary; especially how we see that just like Jed, she wants to make a difference but not as extreme and when she miscarries due to the Constable, she then comprehends that this fight against the government is not going to work and this fundamentally closes the door on her and Jed’s relationship and she has lost her baby because Jed would not stop.  Tim Faulkner is tolerable as both Constable/Alice; mainly how as Alice we get to see a little vulnerability that is present in this play and his versatility to the Constable to someone who is of an authority figure allows you to see that this performer can be completely different and indicates that his training has been rather fruitful as his voice changes between the two diverse characters.

Josh Roche’s direction is plausible here as he has presented a decent revived production of a play that has not been performed for a long time and with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union it has an important statement as protests are obviously going to happen but hopefully not to the extent that Jed had organised, furthermore, the characterisations were congenial too as you get into the minds of the characters; largely from Jed. Phil Lindley’s design is amenable as for me, I liked how that in the squat the layers of ripped wallpaper suggests that the country and the world keeps moving forward and the other locations were helped with the pleasant lighting by Joe Price and soundscape by Hugh Sheehan which makes it more intriguing.  Overall, the experience of, ‘Magnificence’ was an appropriate political play which actually has a number of moments that are related to contemporary issues such as Brexit. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

'The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures' Hampstead Theatre **

You can sometimes tell that a play can be a bit of a mouthful because of its title, specifically the Bush Theatre’s production of, ‘We Are Proud to Present…’ a number of years ago and for me individually the play’s title can be exceedingly pretentious and longwinded too. The Hampstead Theatre’s production of Tony Kushner’s play, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’  was rather aloof and for me it appeared there was an array of nonsense and actually quite dull, additionally, the performances were tedious.

‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ is set in Brooklyn, New York City in 2007 where we are acquainted with the Marcenatario family who have been brought together due to the fact that the Patriarch of the family, Gus (David Calder) is yearning to commit suicide as he is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is seeking acceptance from his family. Fractious energy intensifies as Gus’ three children, lawyer Empty, gay history lecturer Pill and labourer V (Lax Shrapnel) have opposing views on this as Gus is their parent, and furthermore, Gus’s sister and ex-nun, Maoist Cleo (Sara Kestleman) has her say on the subject too. Over the course of the performance, the Marcenatario’s relentlessly quarrel with one another when they talk over one another as they discuss the pressing issue of Gus’ suicide plans and this is a regular occurrence in the play. The tension becomes rather overwhelming when the ex-spouses and present partners enter the fray and begin to argue about Gus’ own self-destruction and this includes Pill’s soon to be former boyfriend, Paul Davis (Rhasan Stone), Empty’s ex-husband, Adam Harvey (Daniel Flynn), V’s wife, Sooze Moon (Katie Leung) and Empty’s girlfriend, Maeve Ludens (Sirine Saba). One sources of the conflict is who will be the new owner of Gus’ house and we soon learn that Adam has already purchased the house which leaves the family gob-smacked. On a slightly different note, Pill has a been visiting a male escort, Eli who in actual fact is one of Pill’s students and it seems that Pill does have a soft for Eli despite that Pill is seeing Paul and Eli is in need of the cash. Throughout the performance, Gus has some deep and meaningful scenes with all three of his children and how he is a much needed person in their lives. Nonetheless, Gus is adamant that he will go through his suicide plans and the instruments are placed neatly on the table and in the process he is interrupted by Pill’s toy boy, Eli and at the finale, Gus goes through with what he originally planned to do and now the children are left to mourn and of course bicker. Kushner’s narrative is enormously verbose as the political elements within the plot does not cut the mustard is just vague and boring and the actual premise is disjointed and simply ludicrous and a bit of a shambles if I am brutally honest.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ were slightly horrible as I couldn’t get into the characteristics of the roles due to an abysmal lack of emotions and this is truly disastrous and garbage. Tamsin Greig is surprisingly lacklustre as Gus’ daughter, Empty; mainly the moments where she is with her apparent love of her life, Maeve and these moments appeared rather limited and this is a shocker as Greig is an awesome actually normally and also there wasn’t a decent amount of realism within the dynamic she has with her father. Richard Clothier is average as Gus’ gay son, Pill; especially how false he comes across where he tries to persuade Paul to stay, then again, it is rather harsh to see how he treats his toy boy,Eli and this is not exactly how you should be with anyone a part from the fact that he is an escort. Luke Newberry is satisfactory as Pill’s male escort, Eli; primarily how at times he does prove quite normal because the Marcenatario family are a bunch of nutters and more often than not he has quite an intelligent mind and he must like Pill enough for the constant sexual advances.

Michael Boyd’s direction is horrendous here as he has not really been able to smooth round the edges of a plot that just doesn’t do it for me and the appalling characterisations from the company means there must have been a limited amount of rehearsal time and I just lost too much enthusiasm and excitement as the performance went on.  Tom Piper’s set and costume design is extremely cruddy as the set itself may be rather large and this could not improve the show itself and the costumes did not impress me either and I was not taken to a Brooklyn atmosphere and did not look that great on the proscenium arch stage whatsoever. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ wasn’t that appealing and probably one of the shoddiest shows I have seen at the Hampstead Theatre and a waste of three and a half hours of my life which I won’t get back. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

'A Man of Good Hope' Young Vic ****

In some continents on the globe, nationalities are enduring a troublesome experience with poverty and wars etc. and for some people, their only escape is to move out and become immigrants in countries that are more wealthy i.e. the UK and the USA. The Young Vic’s production of Isango Ensemble’s sort of musical of Johnny Steinberg’s book, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ was such an astonishingly gripping tale of a specific civilisation having no choice but to breakout of their home nation in the hope for better lives, furthermore, the depictions were tremendous all over the whole shows duration.

‘A Man of Good Hope’ in set in Africa from 1991-2011 where we are acquainted with eight year old, Asaad who along with his Mother (Zannelle Mbatha) are living in a rather precarious situation where they’re basically residing on the breadline and due to this, Asaad’s future appears rather bleak. Asaad’s young life takes a turn for the worst as this mother is brutally murdered right in front of him and due to the fact that his in now orphaned, his cousin has to take responsibility for him. When Asaad and another one of his cousins decide that their only option for a better life and that is to move to the USA, however, the two try and gain entry to the border and immigration forces, Asaad’s cousin is allowed to take the voyage but Asaad is refused a ticket for the boat so once again he is left on his own. Over the course of the performance, Asaad transforms from boy to man and it appears that in order for him to have an opportunity for a good life is that he is educated in English by an English Teacher (Noluthando Boquana) and as such; he begins to work from his mobile phone so he was earning quite a bit of money. Nonetheless, he builds up a business by running his own grocery store and he becomes married to Yindy, then again, it is obvious that Yindy’s mother (Sindywa Sityata) and Yindy’s father (Ayanda Eliki)do not think Asaad is the most suitable person for their daughter. Regrettably, for Asaad, his life is turned upside down as his wife decides ro move out of Africa and makes it clear that this is the climax of their marriage. As such; it is notable that Asaad’s life is jam-packed full of disasters and another instance is that his business is ran-sacked by a rogue force so basically it is the tip of the iceberg and due to this, Asaad’s luck is an increasingly rare existence. At the finale, Asaad’s journey culminates in his first meeting with the writer, Johnny (Mandio Dyanto) where they are sat in a car and Johnny asks him to offer his side of the story which quite frankly is tragic and therefore the commencement of a story is in the pipeline. Isango Ensemble’s narrative is rather fascinating as we are taken through a bleak life story of a boy who became a man and the countless level of terrible situations is honed in with such considerable detailing.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ to be eloquent with impressively dynamic movement sequences that grab the African environment with such vibrancy and colour. Ayanda Tikolo/Zoleka Mpotsha/Luvo Tamba/Siphosethu Juta/Phielo Makitle is resplendent as Asaad; in particular how we see that Asaad’s life really has been chaotic and with what he has been through, it would be understable if he was bitter but in actual fact he isn’t and the emotions shine through. Pauline Malefane is joyous as Asaad’s wife, Yindy;  principally how we see that she is rather bossy towards her husband and when she explains that she will be leaving Asaad with his unborn child where he will not be allowed to have anything to do with he or she, we see that Yindy has no clue what this might do to Asaad’s confidence so she is altogether not a pleasant person.

Mark Dornford-May’s direction is dazzling here as he has captured Isango Ensemble and Jonny Steinberg’s story of a boy who became a man and how each and every chapter of his life leads to nothing but despair and this is conveyed through the enthralling characterisations and the musicianship of the African beats did actually make you want to do a bit of a jig and the sadness makes you moved too. The design by an unknown designer was definitely interesting as the set itself changes through each stage of Asaad’s journey through the west of Africa and the lighting by Mannie Manim really worked in showing the hot temperatures and the loneliness that Asaad must have felt. Overall, the experience of, ‘A Man of Good Hope’ was one of such intrigue and signifies that visiting companies can bring different cultures to a British audience who may not be aware of these issues which has been done so successfully here. 

Friday, 7 October 2016

'The Go-Between' Apollo Theatre ***

For me, personally there are moments in my life that I wouldn’t appreciate being reminded of and I am sure that some other people would feel the same; on the other hand, some would like to revisit their childhood memories. The West End musical production of Richard Taylor and David Wood’s, ‘The Go-Between’ which is based on L P Hartley’s novel of the same name was quite an amiable show on a part of a person’s life and with delightful presentations all round.

‘The Go-Between’ is situated in 1900 where we are introduced to elderly gentlemen, Leo Colston who guides us through some of her childhood memories; in particular when he used to go on his summer visits to Brandham Hall in Norwich with his best friend, Marcus (Samuel Menhinick/Matty Norgen/Archie Stevens). Nonetheless, when Marcus becomes exceedingly ill and as such; it is Leo’s responsibility to be the enigmatic messenger to one of the ladies of the manor, Marian and local farmer, Ted as it appears that they are having some sort of a love affair. However, Marian is in fact already engaged to Viscount Tremingham (Stephen Carlisle) and due to this very fact, Marian makes it increasingly clear that the young Leo that if the note-passing is found out by Tremingham , Leo will have to face the consequences for his failure. Over the course of the performance, when Leo is sent to deliver one of Marian’s letters to Ted, Leo has a rather nasty accident and because of this, Leo is the subject of interrogation; especially from the likes of Mrs Maudsley (Issy van Randwych) and her spouse, Mr Maudsley (Julian Forsyth) as he has been making an abundant array of disappearances. However, Leo begins to think that he sending these letters may not be such a good idea and that Marian has been vulgarly using Leo’s immaturity and youth as he would not question her motives and he wants to cease all involvement. But Marian pushes him to continue. Throughout the performance, Leo is discovered as the go-between  messenger which ultimately climaxes with horrendous consequences for Ted as he uses his shotgun to shoot himself  in the head so both Leo and Marian have questions to answer. Years and years plod on by and Leo, now an older man returns to Norfolk for what might be the last time where he meets Marian’s grandson who states that Marian indeed married Viscount Tremingham and is a widow and practically near the end of her days so he visits her to say one final goodbye. At the finale, it is obvious that the effect that being a go-between has had to Leo’s mental state and that he has been forced to keep this situation to himself for all those years and not to blab about it all over the place. Wood’s narrative and Taylor’s music and lyrics were pleasing due to the fact that because of Marian’s vindictive nature has actually impacted on a young boys life which is rather bad as he has traumatic scars and the musical numbers were of an acceptable standard too.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Go-Between’ to be quite appealing as there was a good balance of the tension of Leo’s childhood through to the scenes with Leo and Marian and the vocals and choreographic sequences were acceptable.  Michael Crawford is reasonable as Leo “Colston”; predominantly how very well cast he was in the role as someone has been forced to revisit a moment that he probably didn’t want to be reminded of, moreover, when it came to seeing his childhood self, it was interesting to see as he was standing behind him and narrate us through the whole plotline.  Johnny Evans-Hutchinson/Luka Green/William Thompson is satisfactory as the young version of, Leo; mainly how we see that as he has a big crush on the lady, Marian where at first of being the go-between he rather likes doing this task, nonetheless, when he realises what he is doing, he shows that he is starting to mature slightly.  Gemma Sutton is conventional as the sneaky vixen, Marian; for example where we see that she has a rather distasteful manner with how she speaks to the young Leo when he says he wants to stop doing her dirty work and she actually does come across vile. Stuart Ward is alright as Marian’s secret lover, Ted; essentially how when he tries to help Leo with his rather bloodied leg suggests that he doesn’t want any repercussions and throughout the show we see that if he remains alive when all is exposed that he may be murdered by the Viscount Tremingham for being her love-interest so he shockingly commits suicide.

Roger Haines’ direction was reputable here as he has been able to convey how Leo’s summer holidays as a child was not exactly the most cherished memories one could have had as an end result for one of those holidays caused someone who was pretty lovely to kill himself all because of a relationship that could not have occurred in reality due to social classes. Michael Pavelka’s design was appropriate as we were taken to the house of Brahdham Hall and its grounds will a sense of panache and this was aided with Tim Lutkin’s dark lighting design and as the set in really static the darkness does help with the whole atmosphere. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Go-Between’ was a fully clad production, then again, it could have been more flawlessly realised as there are elements that were not that outstanding so not perfect all round really. 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

'The Plough and the Stars' National Theatre, Lyttleton ***

When the beginning of World War I first exploded on the globe in 1914, no one knew what tragic consequences it would cause to not only the nations that were most effected, but to the families of soldiers who had lost a loved one. The National Theatre’s revival production of Sean O’Casey’s 1926 play, ‘The Plough and the Stars’ portrayed how an Irish community was completely annihilated and the psychological issues of a death of a husband could ensue, in addition to this, the interpretations were transcendent throughout the length of the show.

‘The Plough and the Stars’ is set over the course of a year from 1915-1916, in Dublin, Ireland where we are familiarised with Nora Clitheroe, the wife of respected Irish soldier, Jack Clitheroe, it appears that they are a happily married couple who live in a well-decorated flat. However, when Captain Brennan (Adam Best) comes to their home and refers to Jack as “Commandant Clitheroe”, of course Jack is extremely perplexed as he was not aware that he had indeed been promoted and has to report to General James Connolly as Nora had burnt the letter; understandably Jack is enraged at Nora as she was not honest with him. We are soon transported to a typical Dublin pub where speeches are occurring outside, yet inside, gigolo Rosie Redmond (Grainne Keenan) is disappointed that these speeches are going on outside as it may not be too great for her trade. Over the course of the performance, an array of confrontations happen from Bessie Burges and Mrs Gogan (Josie Walker) and also from The Young Gogan (Tom Vaughan-Lawler) and Fleuther Good (Stephen Kennedy) . Jack now bedecked in his army uniform enters with his colleagues, Captain Brennan and Lieutenant Langon (Kieran Gough) and all of the three men promise to fight to their deaths in order to protect the people of Dublin. Throughout the Easter celebrations, the Rebels are on top form and are obliterating the enemy and as such; the Dubliners think it is okay for them to break into the shops and shoplift, nonetheless when Jack and Brennan arrive with a wounded soldier; Nora grovels to Jack to not go back. Unfortunately, Jack refuses and a return to face the opposition and a heavily pregnant Nora goes into labour. As World War I is destroying everything, Nora, Bessie, The Young Gogan and Fleuther have fled to an abandoned flat where Nora has become delusional as she has had a still birth and Brennan has arrived with the sad news that Jack has been killed in action. As the pressure intensifies, two British soldiers lead The Young Gogan and Fluether out, at the finale as Nora and Bessie are alone where a crazed Nora goes to the window screaming for Jack and when Bessie tries to grab Nora, Bessie is shot in the back and dies because she was wrongly identified as a sniper.  O’Casey’s narrative is brilliant as we get to see what the war what was supposed to end all wars has done to excessive amount of families, moreover he presents a realistic account of the mental pressures the women had to endure and the loss of a husband can completely destroy someone’s mind.

One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Plough and the Stars’ to be sophisticated and increasingly poignant due to the hard-hitting moments throughout the show, and the annunciations of the Irish accents were spoken with such excellence.  Fionn Walton is wonderful as the soldier husband, Jack Clitheroe; mainly how we see that he is horrified by his wife’s deception for not telling him the truth about his promotion, then again, when he wears his uniform, he feels the sense of pride as perhaps this is his true calling and fight for his country. Judith Roddy is grand as the Jack’s wife, Nora; for example how she knows that due to the fact that the war itself may end up in her losing her husband forever and I liked how that with the many tragedies she has faced in a small amount of time , her mental expressions made her look rather insane.  Judith Mitchell is pleasing as the rather boisterous, Bessie Burges; expressly when how at first, she is quite unpleasant, but as the play develops, when she is caring for Nora and when it leads to her ultimate demise, we observe all areas of her person and I particularly admired how her diction and projection was in her death monologue.

Jeremy Herrin and Howard Davies’ direction is decent here as the two gentlemen have showed us how the Dublin community in that time period were pushed to the absolute limit and this was the same for many nations and the actual characterisations were polished to a degree as I would have liked a bit more tension between all characters in the fourth scene as Nora makes it harder for people to be rational. Vikki Mortimer’s design is vivid as each of the four sets that comprise of the Dublin environment work wonders here as there is an intense nature of bleakness especially in the third and fourth scenes and the scenic art and construction was awesome and the costumes were just right. 
Overall, the experience of , ‘The Plough and the Stars’ to be a somewhat riveting and strong revival performance about what war can do and that that we way be on course for another World War which would be a catastrophic disaster.