Archive for September, 2014

The Me Plays**** (Old Red Lion Theatre)

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Theatre

the me playsThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Short, rotund and 30-ish, Andrew Maddock has the look of a miniature James Cordon, which makes him perfect to perform these two monologues in the guises of laddish Londoners, known simply as “Me”. But then he would be perfect, because they are described as “semi-autobiographical” and he wrote them. The plays are humorous and poignant reflections on life at a time when childhood and teenage years are gone and the harsher realities of the adult world are coming into focus. Maddock has taken the risk of writing the plays in rhyming couplets, which could have made them feel over-stylised, but the gamble pays handsome dividends. Each time that he delivers a successful rhyme, Maddock the actor seems to exude a glow of satisfaction which underscores the essential cockiness of both characters. In Junkie, “Me” is a self-conscious loner, addicted to drugs and the internet. He has set up a date with Tabatha, with whom he only communicates by text and, acting on her insistence that must wear red, he visits Top Shop to find only a tight-fitting jumper which accentuates exactly what he most wants to hide.  The digital age is supposed to have made meeting girls easier, but, for “Me”, it has done the opposite. He posts the most favourable images and descriptions of himself on dating sites, assuming that others will do the same, but, knowing that the average first date lasts just 12 minutes, he is overcome by trepidation when the time comes to reveal the truth. Ultimately, the habit which this character finds hardest to break is loneliness. Hi Life, I Win sees “Me” hospitalised, undergoing tests and facing up to his own mortality. He looks back on growing up in the 1990s, fondly remembering Grandad Fred whose death was followed by a family break-up and his own drift into unruliness. To put him back on the straight and narrow, he was sent to a religious centre in London Colney and given guidance by “Arizona Dan”, an adherent of God and Loudon Wainwright III. This “Me” has a not particularly likeable past, but there is something deeply moving about seeing him fall to his knees sobbing, a teenage thug now humbled by fate. As he takes random fragments of his life – family, acquaintances, education, religion – and starts to piece them together, he seems to be realising that his existence could have some meaning, even if he cannot yet figure out what it is. The Me Plays are insightful and sobering, yet they always entertain, adding a touch of poetry to the regular monologue format. Andrew Maddock is a talent to be watched.

Performance date: 3 September 2014

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Emilia Galotti*** (Barons Court Theatre)

Posted: September 2, 2014 in Theatre

LessingThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

Abuses of power, taking advantage of wealth, position or celebrity, are not a new phenomenon and their examination here give this 1772 play by the German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessing particular topical relevance. The play concerns The Prince of Guastalla, the overlord of a region in Italy who becomes besotted with the towns girl of its title, setting off a tragic chain of events. Written as a socio-political commentary on 18th Century European life, the play highlights the conflicts between aristocratic rule and the new enlightenment of the Bourgeoisie who sought to cast aside ancient traditions and privileges. Emilia, supported forcefully by her father, claims the right to choose her own suitor and finds the advances of the Prince repulsive. Performed today, plays from this period can often come across as comic melodramas, and Dr Mark Ewbank’s production, which has costumes that look as if they come from last Christmas’s Cinderella, often walks a very thin line between comedy and tragedy. The production crosses the line towards comedy in scenes involving the Prince. Che Watson, bewigged and decked out in green velvet, makes this character a foppish buffoon whose lustful eye would seem more likely to be fixed on the nearest mirror than to wander towards Emilia. Fortunately, Ewbank gets weightier performances in other prominent roles. Samuel Haughton is creepily effective as Marinelli, the Prince’s scheming and duplicitous fixer and Peter Wheal-Jones brings real power and conviction to the role of Emilia’s father. As Emila, Roseanne Lynch has a beguiling innocence, but it is Francesca Burgoyne who steals a large chunk of the second half; as the Prince’s spurned lover, she plots a ruthless revenge and, in a delightful touch, she leads the audience in a slow handclap to celebrate having sown the seeds of destruction. This play is at its most interesting when it focusses on the plight of its female characters who are striving to assert some measure of independence in a male dominated world. In this sense, it was very much ahead of its time. Ewbank’s production does well in bringing these themes to the fore and, although it is at times uneven in its tone, it builds to a strong, dramatic climax.

Performance date: 1 September 2014

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