My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/edges-tabard-theatre-london/
Given the acres of space on the Olivier stage to work with, Carrie Cracknell has decided wisely that her production of Euripedes’ play, centring on a woman who is, in effect, an ancient Grecian serial killer, could never be an intimate character study. Instead, she uses the space to paint a vivid, sometimes balletic, picture of insanity and its consequences. The time is vaguely modern day, the two-level set is the interior of a palatial mansion which is vaguely art deco period in style, there is a chill in the air from the onset and the audience are distant onlookers who are never meant to be drawn too closely into the drama. Consistent with this interpretation, Helen McCrory gives a technically accomplished performance as Medea, but allows us little insight into her character’s emotional turmoil. Like many women through the ages, she has been kicked out by her husband in favour of a younger model, but the disproportionate nature of her revenge and the knowledge that she is already a double murderer forbid us to sympathise with her, only to pity her madness. Michaela Coel and Danny Sapani give excellent support, but where this production scores most is with its visual impact. As the heinous deed approaches, the two innocent children sit playing on swings in front of an idyllic forest, waiting for their mother to appear behind them. Often, an all-female chorus appears to heighten the tension, at one point gyrating together to the sound of pounding drums as if at a rave party. Also memorable is the atmospheric music, composed by Will Gregory and Alison Goldfrapp. Ben Porter’s new version of the play is lucid and concise, spanning just 90 minutes, but the Greeks always knew how to deliver intense drama without diversions. In all, this is a production which, if not exactly moving, is always impressive.
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-tulip-tree-drayton-arms-theatre-london/
Taking a leap into the near future where the internet has expanded to become “the nether”, Jennifer Haley’s play is an all too credible detective thriller which explores a parallel universe of infinite possibilities. Morris (Amanda Hale) is an officer policing the nether and she is first seen interrogating Sims (Stanley Townsend), the creator of a role-playing site which offers “a world without consequences” where killers and paedophiles can indulge their grim fantasies unimpeded. He argues that he is providing an outlet for harmful practices and removing them from society; she counters that the site will nurture tastes and experiences which will inevitably filter back to hit the real world. The interrogation room is grey and unadorned, furnished with just a table and two chairs and then stunning computer-generated images appear on a huge screen and they lead us into the nether, which lies above and behind the room. An interior set resembles a Tenniel drawing, complete with a not so innocent “Alice” and an exterior set is a garden at the edge of a forest, which, with the aid of mirrors, appears to go on into infinity. Es Devlin’s incredible designs create a virtual world that is, at the same time, breathtakingly beautiful and horribly sinister. The play goes on to reveal who are the real figures behind the avatars that we see in the nether and to analyse the moral and ethical issues affecting modern society as it becomes increasingly dependent upon the internet, but seems incapable of keeping it under control. Haley’s writing is intelligent and suspenseful, Jeremy Herrin directs a production that is taut and brisk. The play, which is spellbinding throughout its 80 minutes, delivers something like a short, sharp shock.
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/17-finborough-theatre-london/
My review can be seen at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/shakespeare-in-love-noel-coward-theatre-london/
At the end of June, the day after a highly publicised phone hacking trial ended, the National made the surprise announcement that this new play, which depicts events not dissimilar to those which led to the trial, would take to the stage almost immediately. Only the National would have the resources to mount such an audacious venture, but, after a so-so year, Nicholas Hytner’s company has, at a stroke, justified its huge subsidy out of public funds. Written by Richard Bean (of One Man, Two Guvnors) and directed by Hytner himself, the play is a savage satire of British journalism, set mainly in the newsroom of a red top (which occasionally adapts to become The Ivy). Paige Britain (Billie Piper) is news editor, ruthlessly ambitious and prepared to use all means at her disposal to achieve her objectives; as to her political leanings, she would not even agree to have her fish and chips wrapped in The Guardian, yet she casually allows a Tory Prime Minister to be left waiting in her outer office when he calls to beg her to sleep with him again. Piper has been a big name for more than a decade, but here she shows herself to be much more than that – she is stylish, sexy and has a natural flair for comedy. Robert Glenister is also excellent as the foul mouthed, quick thinking Cockney wide boy, who is editor of the paper until being “promoted” to a sinecure in television and then to Downing Street. Dermot Crowley plays the owner, an Irish media mogul who rose to prominence in the IRA and, it is now claimed by his lawyers, has suffered from the onset of dementia since the age of six. However, Aaron Neil steals every scene in which he appears as the dimwitted, inept Sully Kassam, who is gay, Asian and, of course, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. The plot navigates the narrow straits between fiction and libel, not quite telling it as it actually happened, but getting close enough for us all to know what is being referred to. The characters too do not match exactly with people we might recognise, rather they are composites of familiar figures involved in the real life toxic tryst between the media, politicians and police. The play flounders in the brief moments when it gets serious, but, generally, the jokes, many of them very, very funny, come thick and fast and, if a few fall flat, blame can be laid on the Lyttelton’s wretched acoustics. The production may have been announced in a hurry, but it clearly took much longer than a few days to put it together; it flows slickly, with moving screens dividing the set and showing projected images and filmed sequences. At just under three hours, it is surprisingly long for a satire, but no-one seems to notice whilst having so much fun. After this run, the show is already booked into the Theatre Royal Haymarket where the more compact auditorium could suit it better and there is obvious scope for the addition of new, topical jokes, which could mean that it is even funnier by then.