Tuesday, 22 April 2014

'Another County' Trafalgar Studios 1 ***

Another production from the exceptional Chichester Festival Theatre is now embracing its run in the West End, and this time its Julian Mitchell’s 1981 play ‘Another Country’. Unfortunately, this performance didn't live up to my high expectations as you'd be expecting from such a brilliant festival, that has brought such productions as ‘The Winslow Boy’, ‘Kiss Me, Kate’,  ‘Sweeney Todd’ and ‘The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui’ onto West End stages for the last couple of years . ‘Another Country’ explains the ruthlessness of public schooling and the pressures of being homosexual in a country that finds it positively sickening, as well as attempting to fight for equality in all areas of society. The play begins with a traditional military number due to the fact the setting is in 1930s Britain and performed by the all-male company, which appears to be the sign of a war zone environment. Once this has been conducted, the production makes its way into the public school that has been sculpted from Eton and Winchester influences. However, for me, the narrative and flow of the performance wasn't particularly enthralling in the first act but it improves ever so slightly in the second act where the play seems to flourish, especially when we see the strains of Bennett’s open approach to sexuality and the violent punishment he has had to suffer because of this illegal act. What did frustrate me during the performance were the woeful scene transitions and the backstage noise that soon became increasingly noticeable and incredibly loud. This is seriously appalling for a West End production and for Trafalgar Studios 1. Paradoxically, the performances were impressive throughout and this made me more comfortable in realising that this revival was performed as part of Chichester Festival Theatre last summer. Rob Calendar is remarkable as the central protagonist, Bennett as he conveys a passionate and flamboyant sense of ease and a sense of comic immaturity. Will Attenborough is exceptionally gripping as the highly intellectual school runt, Tommy Judd who reads 'Das Kapital' under his duvet covers. I became quite moved when he kindly tucks in a homesick boy and kisses him on the head to help him through his intense homesickness. A special instance within this production. I found Julian Wadham’s portrayal as the visiting lecturer, Vaughan Cunningham to be quite engaging and amusing, in particularly when he pretentiously shows off in front of the schoolboys. The other actors were as impressive too. Jeremy Herrin’s direction for ‘Another Country’ was of an acceptable standard as he has meticulously approached Mitchell’s script with style and elegance and inevitably wants me to be state “I'm proud to be homosexual”. Peter McIntosh's design was very good too as he has been able to construct a public school in the way that we can all feel an appreciation into the stressful time that was the 1930s. Even though the production had quite a few mistakes, such as this scenic transitions, it was still and agreeable performance.

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