Monthly Archives: June 2015

ALL THE ANGELS Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, SE1


Handel’s Messiah is a phenomenon: written in three weeks in the composer’s most disappointed phase, to this day it plays as sublimely as a chamber piece with eight singers as with the four thousand of us who annually sing it at the Royal Albert Hall in The Really Big Chorus (I operate as a semi-competent alto). It gets treated with high professionalism or as a parish singalong, truncated at the Alleluia Chorus or recorded as a “best-of” with some of the most beautiful moments missing, is done with heavy Victorian pomposity or bright original instruments, speeded up and slowed down. Nothing dents its shine.
The story Nick Drake tells in this simple three-hander by candlelight, is the story of its first performance in Dublin in 1742. Illustrated with fragments by the Portrait Choir it brings the story to musical life. Sean Campion is a scuttling, busy scene-setting narrator. Sometimes he is a ragged Irish music-porter and nocturnal bodysnatcher Crazy Crow, who merrily throws a horrid sack-wrapped corpse into the pit at one point. Sometimes he is the affable Lord Cavendish who invited Handel to try it out in the Fishambles music hall, so crowded that “the fleas went to the ceiling for a bit of air”, which was a bit of a comedown for the composer who decades earlier had ushered the King up-Thames with the Water Music. Sometimes he is the grieving, religiously anxious librettist Jennen who commissioned it and chose the Biblical verses.

David Horovich provides a gruff , demanding, perfectionist Georg Frederic Handel, and Kelly Price his contralto soloist Susannah Cibber, Who was not an oratorio singer, but an actress in low melodrama, on the run from an abusive marriage and a scandalously intimate adultery trial. Plenty of drama there, and despite a few early clunks (the Jennen moments tend to the portentous) Drake and director Jonathan Munby gradually raise it to something genuinely affecting, sometimes funny, and with pin-sharp significant interludes of aria and moments of chorus (“You are the people, all the angels, the chorus drives the music forward”).

The emotional heart of the play, one not historically incredible, is the interplay between the old composer and Mrs Cibber. At first it is about style – her actress gestures infuriate him when she fruitily attempts “But who shall abide the day of His coming”, and he berates singers who “bark, or whisper, or bellow, or puff themselves up”. He’d hate the X Factor. At one point he threatens to bury her in a barrel of sand to keep her still. He also scorns her vain terrors about “competing” with the Italian soprano whose showy high arias echo from backstage (even in the chorus we altos always slightly regard the sopranos with suspicion, even when blending with and needing them. It’s human nature).

But as their conversations – Handel often grumpily bathetic – reveal her suffering, working towards the great aria “He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” it deepens and relates to other tragedies in Jennen’s and Handel’s life. The redemptiveness, the great “Comfort Ye” and promise of salvation for lost sheep, grows in meaning. And though the effect on the cynical Crow fels a touch overwritten, a touch Blarney, you’d need a nasty heart of stone not to feel it too. Particularly if the Messiah has meant anything to you in the darker times of life.
So yes, let the trumpet sound for this curious, short-running, honourable candlelit curiosity. It deserves an afterlife.

box office Box office 0)20 7401 9919 Showing tonight, 27th June, and 3-6 July
rating four   4 Meece Rating


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The auditorium is a coliseum, with a tremendous conveyor belt slicing it in half, flappy black curtains at either end. K wakes with strange agents at his door. He’s arrested. But what on earth are his crimes? Shrugs and evasion are the reply. It’s a frustrating, but gripping , pencil pushers, forms, magistrates, hookers and lawyers curdling into madness. Scenery, furniture and people are flung down the wooden and Guantanamo-orange stage with fine precision. Trials “build up” K is told early on. The only time the conveyer reverses is to take him to his death.

This adaptation, by Nick Gill (who all of a sudden makes sense when you realise he is also a composer), is frantic, funny, strange and incredibly difficult to settle with early on. The dialogue is fine, although K’s asides and monologues are written almost in fragments. “Am almost woke ee up one morn -like baby”, are his first lines. It’s hard to tune to, you’re hardly tapping your feet along either. But this aside, the rest of the dialogue is incredibly engaging with good jokes and juicy lines.

It drifts on, we pick fragments – things he might have done wrong, solutions to his crisis, idle conversation – usually with another layer of people speaking on top of this. But it clicks. It has a strange frustrating rhythm which winds you and K up as heaps of court forms rise, unbelievable injustice is done and little sense is made. The story is clear but neatly obfuscates the legality. Richard Jones has thankfully staged this to perfection: somehow my attention was drawn to exactly the right snippets, and as people whizzed on and off it all mushed into meaning in the middle. Miriam Buether’s set is a workhorse which deserves lashings of oats for mechanically driving all this.
“We can only hope that information of tangential relevance slithers its way down to us”. Sian Thomas’s gloriously vague lawyer tells K. Rory Kinnear is excellent at the frustration, but the monologues don’t sit in his mouth properly. He has to engage all his training to enunciate, giving us clipped when what we need is panic. The rest is powerful rage, neatly drawn.

It is Kate O’Flynn, however, who steals the show as a host of characters. In this straight laced, authoritarian world, her brand of wild giver-of-no-shits perks things up brilliantly. Where many have to remain almost robotic and scenic, her, Rory’s and Sian’s performances fill in with beautiful colour.
It is maddeningly strange, but it still clings to me and haunts me.

Box Office: 020 7922 2922 22nd August.
Rating: four    4 Meece Rating

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Fortune favours the brave, and the meteorological riskiness of outdoor theatre sometimes pays handsomely. A great heron flew over, squawking doom, just as Irina screamed her frantic possession of the appalling Trigorin and Chekhov’s tragicomic household moved towards disaster. The moon rose over the card-players as beyond the window under a darkening sky Konstantin found a deranged, ruined Nina. The thunderstorm and sluicing rain from behind Jon Bausor’s strange mirrored canopy were false, but the intensity and brooding darkness of old Sorin’s struggling estate were no more or less real than the rustling trees of the real park. Perfect.

Its the first Chekhov play to be done here, and the most obvious: its first act in a garden as Konstantin attempts his ambitious philosophical play and (very avant- garde) rips up the painted scenery. The greensward, chairs, parasols and nicely surly servants pushing a mower or morosely clipping shrubs relate nicely to the real family picnics out in the audience. Though one hopes that the characters’ troublesome, bored, self-obsessed angst and ennui do not…

Chekhov’s opening scenes – once the disastrous play is over – always risk the pre-revolutionary bourgeois ennui becoming – well, ennuyeux. But soon his deadly comedy pace quickens, as Janie Dee,vain I-am-an-actress diva mother of Matthew Tennyson’s frail thwarted Konstantin does her bouncing, preening, frightful poses, and her lover Trigorin (Alex Robertson, comedically vile) gets helplessly drunk with Lisa Diveney’s glum lovesick Masha, and leads Nina astray. Nina is given a sweet naivete by Sabrina Bartlett, though does not quite convince in her Ophelia dementia at the end. Colin Hoult is cruelly funny as whining Simon the schoolteacher (one of Chekhovs most malicious portraits), a majestically gloomy Ian Redford is old Peter, and Danny Webb as the doctor is granted his melancholy description of the pleasure of city crowds , a ” mass of souls” bringing a  sense of fellowship. Which is is one of the rare redemptive glimpses in this bleak, witty, knowing portait of a decaying society. (I always remember coming out of a rather dull Cherry Orchard and the woman behind observing, Yorkshire fashion , to her man that “Those people really had that Revolution coming!”)

But even before the majestic tragic dusk, underscored by a perhaps over-menacing musical soundscape, Matthew Dunster’s production is engaging all the way. Dee and Tennyson, mother and son, break your heart: struggling against their bond and their mutual resentment as he hurls rage at her “shallow, shitty plays” and she screams “You’re a failure, a nobody, nothing at all!”.
The free verbal adaptation by Torben Betts is slangy and vivid: overhead, the great slanted mirror lets us look down on them all like seagulls ourselves, and marvel and the struggle and absurdity of human life. And the servants, by the way, deploy the best sullen-serf body language I’ve ever seen: Fraser James as the “whingeing dullard” trying to make the damn farm pay is a gruff delight, and Lisa Palfrey’s pissed-off Paulina, eating the plums Irina can’t be bothered to take away, offers a tiny moment to cherish. And above them the trees rustle, and the night-birds in the distant zoo caw contempt. What fools we mortals be.

box office 0844 826 4242 to 11 july

rating four  4 Meece Rating

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Rejoice! In the midst of Fifa’s dismal doings musical theatre makes football beautiful again. Gurinder Chadha’s and Paul Mayeda Berges’ fable, of a British-Asian teenage girl longing to play football rather than cook dhal and live traditionally, was beloved on screen but emerges all the stronger for being driven by Howard Goodall’s music and Charles Hart’s lyrics. It’s a lovely show, with the rare quality in musicals of feeling all-of-a-piece: one solid creation by a team who understand one another and were allowed to get on with it.
It has comfortable specificity – the Sikh community in semis near Heathrow, Southall’s Asian high street, the local park and football ground all swiftly realized by Miriam Buether’s neat arc of revolving panels . Yet it is a universal fable about mothers and daughters, generational anxiety and teenage longings. We meet Jess “dreaming of somewhere where being other / Doesn’t incur the wrath of your mother”; teased for her tracksuit by her preening sister Pinky and her friends, but recruited by the footballing tomboy Jules, whose own mother (a hilarious blonde bombshell) is equally appalled by the athletic brawn of her daughter (“You’ll damage your girlybits!”).
All shine, but at the centre Natalie Dew as Jess is a new star: she has not only a friendly sweetness and lovely shy grin but sings like a bird and – crucially – can boot a ball into the coach’s netting bag from ten feet away, three times running across a West End stage. Lauren Samuels, lean and keen, is a powerful Jules, and Preeya Kalidas slinkily funny as Pinky. Jess’ gay friend Tony (Jamal Andreas) has a glorious number too, about how young people bend the truth to disapproving parents: again Hart’s lyrics hit the spot with “Don’t say your tastes incline to men – just say “have you met my flatmate Sven..?”. And Chadha is a playful director: up pops a token Sven, an instant blink and you miss it gag. Combined with Pinky’s temporarily ruptured engagement to the snobbish neighbours’ son and his surly rebellion (“She’s fit, init?”) it all adds to the lovingly anarchic celebration of teen spirit.
The last time a new musical felt this good was Legally Blonde, for in classic musical style every number pushes the story forwards: nothing ever stops it dead, even the Bollywood-style set-pieces at Pinky’s wedding. Though one moment of peacefulness, the wedding song by Shahid Khan and Rekha Sawhney, is breathtaking. Indeed what could have been a crude tale of teenage victory is fascinatingly balanced, musically and dramatically, between the exuberant footballing ambition and Jess’ parents’ anxiety to protect their girl within the community limits and not risk “shame”. It breathes a rare decency, and that likeable British-Asian willingness to mock itself without belittling. The ensemble of three censorious grey-bunned Aunties nipping up and down the aisle is pure delight, but there is seriousness in Tony Jayawardena as the father, singing baritone memories of his early days fresh in from Nairobi: best spin-bowler back home, but here never allowed to play: “People like us don’t join the clubs, jump the queues, get served in pubs…People here are decent enough. Till you call their bluff”.

Charles Hart’s words have a simple lyrical honesty, clever but never forced; Goodall gives us rising joyful tunes, melancholy conflict, duets and quartets and big choruses blending traditional Punjabi tunes with western familiarity. But oh, best of all is the ensemble dancing when the girl football team are on. It might be tempting to have choreographed them ballet-style, in tribute to those leaping moments when great players do hit a line of grace. But Aletta Collins eschews that to express, rather, the strain and sweat and grimaces of hard training: kicking, stamping, swerving, separating, pointing. Proper footballers, chanting “Girl Perfect! Keep on trying, even when you’re dying!”. It is the the least chorus-girly dancing imaginable: one big number rises to a real haka ferocity before morphing, with quick-change costumes, to a scrubbed-up celebratory disco. It is a hymn to the athletic female body, as the team in their baggy shorts and team shirts exult in effortful joy and great waves of exercise endorphins wash over us from the stage. We grin in delight, not just for Jess and Jules and the accommodation they reach with their parents, but for all girls in all communities who leap and run and laugh and won’t be bound and tethered and primped into submission. Yay..

box office 0843 316 1082
Booking to 11 July but betcha it goes on and on..

Rating five5 Meece Rating  (see how they run!  Girl mice! Goal!)
box office 0843 316 1082
Booking to 11 July but betcha it goes on and on..

Rating five

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If you worry about language, the clue’s in the title. More f’s and assholes than you can shake a reproving finger at. But don’t. Stephen Andy Guirgis’ play is about addiction, infidelity, drugs and a gun; it is also one of the funniest, most touching, most honestly moral things you’ll see all year. Its people are as exasperatingly sympathetic as Tennessee Williams’ characters, without the despair and with a vigorous comic poetry in their very frequent rants. They make disastrous judgements and bad calls, but reach out to us across their grimy, hooting, graffiti-ed New York struggle to demand and win our love.
Within Robert Jones’ elegant, unfussy set of revolving fire-escapes and neat sliding interiors, five flawed people enact a crisis which is neither the first nor last in their lives. Jackie – ex-con, recovering alcoholic – bounds in delightedly to his childhood sweetheart Veronica, full of hope at having seen his probation officer and landed a job. He promises “grownup plans, happiness plans, next step plans!”. But there’s a hat on the table. Some Motherf***er’s hat! He tasks her with infidelity: Veronica, however, is no meek Desdemona but a Puerto-Rican spitfire with a noseful of cocaine. She kicks off and turns the air blue. Scenes slide to posher environs, and Jackie is with his AA sponsor, Ralph, being plied with prayers, 12-step wisdoms and nutritional smoothies while Ralph’s furious wife hurls obscenities offstage and storms in to watch TV. Despite Ralph’s chirpy “No stinkin’ thinkin’, be more like Abe Lincoln!” Jackie does an unwise thing with gun and hat, and – sliding to a more recherché sceneset – throws himself on the mercy of Cousin Julio, a gloriously camp and dignified gym-bunny fiddling with empanadas and trichological advice.
I wouldn’t spoil the denouement: just know that they are all glorious, giving Guirgis’ inspired lines a rare balance of absurdity and poignancy as Indhu Rubasingham directs a US-UK cast with cracking pace. Texan Ricardo Chavira as Jackie is a solid hunk of decency, Yul Vazquez – who originated the part of Cousin Julio on Broadway – is deadpan funny and momentarily touching. Also from the US Flor de Liz Perez is a firecracker Veronica; they mesh perfectly with our own Nathalie Armin (fresh from both Dara and the Beautiful Forevers) and Alec Newman as the deceptively hip, yoga-and-smoothie Ralph.

Mesh, I say: but saying the play is an immaculate polished machine, right down to a risibly incompetent fist-fight, is the least of its. Relish the killer lines, barbed insults and almost accidental wisdoms; the complexities and rows and ambiguities and always beneath them a deep beating heart that accepts flaws and failures and rejects slick cynicism. Poor old Jackie may be a recidivist but he has his code: tempted by his mentor’s wife he pounces then retires with an anguished “What are we, Europeans or some shit?” . We earnestly wish him and barmy Veronica well on some future sunlit upland without drink, coke, or guns. Just maybe some more of cousin Julio’s disgusting green spirulina eggs. We emerge feeling strangely hopeful for the human race. .

box office 020 7452 3000 to 20 aug
rating five   5 Meece Rating

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hang Royal Court, SW1


In a bleak neon office (design by Jon Bausor) a much awaited new play by debbie tucker green, always modishly lower-case in titles, takes no prisoners.Except that it is about one, unseen and awaiting a capital punishment decision by his victim in some unspecified but British dystopia. Directed by the author, it is a 75 minute study in unreconciled trauma and the awkward insensitivities of officialdom and protocol. And perhaps (to a sympathetic ear) a good evocation of the perennial inability of non-victims to understand the tearing ,incurable dislocation of personality involved in rape.
Well, we must assume it was violent intruder rape, since all the household members – husband, sister, children – are spoken of as alive, if damaged . The characters, unnamed, are three. Claire Rushbrook and Shane Zaza do rather well as awkward, witteringly nervous bureaucrats, fretting antiphonally about IKEA coat pegs and getting real glasses for the watercooler. Zaza has a particularly fine crass moment as he stamps the final document with ‘love this bit!’   And Rushbrook, slightly senior, a good defensiveness about how long it has taken the system to disgorge the  criminal’s letter to his victim

That victim is a shabby black woman on mid-life, nervous but defiant : Marianne Jean-Baptiste couldn’t be better.  The trio work round awkwardly to the point, the officials prating of decisions and offering time, supporters, literature etc, all by the book. Jean-Baptiste is uncommunicative until she breaks out into passionate testimony to her family’s utter lack of any recovery in three and a half years: the children’s terrors, neighbours’ shunning, marriage damaged.
As it becomes clear that she can choose his death, Tucker  Green goes into ghoulish execution-shed options and descriptions, of a kind tiresomely familiar to frequenters of “brave” theatre. The victim wants him hung, ideally by an incompetent who risks overlong twitching asphyxia or gruesome decapitation. Finally she reads his letter.  In the original playscript there is a moment of potential subtlety at the end as she does this: onstage only telling silence.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste is a great actress, and the author deft and verbally clever.  But not one of the trio is given full credible humanity: the two interviewers are merely symbols of officialdom ,  and the subject an avatar of bleakly ,determinedly pessimistic and vengeful victimhood.  Given any scope at all, Jean-Baptiste could have far better served a better play.
box office 020 7565 5000 to 18 July      Rating  two   2 meece rating

pessimistic and vengeful victimhood.  Given any scope at all, Jean-Baptiste could have far better served a better play.
box office 020 7565 5000 to 18 July

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WE WANT YOU TO WATCH NT Temporary Theatre, SE1

We’re all on the same page here, right? Online pornography is increasingly violent, graphically displaying real, abusive sexual acts devoid of tenderness. Rapist sex is perversely extreme, anatomically damaging and profoundly corrupting to the angry, the lonely, and – most alarmingly – schoolboys confused into thinking it normal. We despise porn-hounds, know perfectly well that the online stuffings are not the innocent ooh-Mr-Window-cleaner, stuff of old. We wish there was less of a sniggery-liberal, Chandler-from-Friends implication that it’s a harmless boy’s treat. We know how feeds a wider culture of objectifying young women: not least if we fondly remember Nick Payne and Carrie Cracknell’s brilliant BLURRED LINES, an earlier 75-minuter in this red-plank theatre.

This is a different creature altogether, by Alice Birch with the physical theatre genii of RashDash – Helen Goalen and Abbi Greenland, who also star . It pitches itself somewhere between Bouffon clown-theatre and expressive dance, with dashes of crypto- Beckettian dialogue jerking – aptly like porn itself – with interruptions and crossplay. There’s even a tramp Estragon-ing through at the end. At its centre are Goalen and Greeland, neatly bobbed, henna and raven-black respectively: they appear first as jeering police interrogators accusing a young man of a graphically described, disgusting murder because he watches such things online. (Actually, it is kind of awkward to see white police, however symbolic and female, accusing a black man they have just beaten up and providing no evidence beyond his computer record). He gets the first of a few striking counter-speeches, asserting that “Millions of people watch violent porn…and then do a fun run for cancer research and give up their seat on a bus and cry at Tristan and Isolde and kiss their children and make love to their wives”.

The pair then reappear – the design , lined with tins labelled SEX and rejoicing in blackouts, roaring sound, pace and razzmatazz, is engaging (Caroline Steinbeis directs) . This time they are naive persuaders trying to get the Queen (Helena Lymbery in crude parody, crown and all) to sign a law banning all porn. They explain it to her – in wild violent dance moves, Greenland hurling Goalen to the floor and abusing her – whereon HM says that sex isn’t like that, and does a wild dance of her own expressing its joyfulness. This is not going to go down well in some quarters, not at all. And to be honest, I am not sure that the shock-value and the giggles from the audience were entirely worth it. The Queen’s too easy a symbol, a powerless one at that, and the porn industry too global for any such fantasy to bite.
A more effective sequence is also the least contrived, as the pair look down from high above at a small boy, predicting how from the first naughty picture of fellatio on a schoolfriend’s phone he will go on to wreck his own real loves and beget a new generation to suffer the same fate. That works. But the heroines don’t stay still for long (blimey, these girls are gymnastically astonishing) as an orange-suited woman with a megaphone bullies them into crazed dance for demanding that she “stop the Internet” .

Flashes of argument, never carried through, tempt you towards thought; every time though it dissolves into mere spectacle, brilliantly executed but travelling nowhere. The girls’ cry of “end it , and begin again” only underlines the impossibility of doing just that. “We should have built something” they say. But they didn’t, not really, for all the bravura . We’re back round the circle to the bit we all agree about. I hope it starts arguments about porn in society. But they’re unlikely to be new ones.
box office 020 7452 3000 to 11 july
rating three    3 Meece Rating

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THE HOOK Royal, Northampton


“You gonna have a revolution”: the last words of Arthur Miller’s angry “play for the screen”, echo here with an interrogative lift. But the filmscript was too revolutionary to handle for Elia Kazan and Columbia Studios in 1951: the FBI feared its portrait of a Brooklyn longshoreman, Marty Ferrera, defying crooked union bosses and racketeers. Hollywood unions threatened to pull every projectionist in America off from showing it. Kazan himself – unlike Miller – later caved in and testified to the House Un-American Activities committee. The writers’ withdrawal of the script – never staged until this adaptation by Ron Hutchinson directed with thrilling immediacy by James Dacre – was itself a small revolution.
And yes,t thrilling. Too easy to call it a ranging shot, a five-finger exercise before the masterly A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE. The later, greater play focuses more closely on intimate family pain and betrayal among the longshoremen. This one homes in on labour injustice and corruption, despite honest domestic moments as Marty’s wife Terry – Susie Trayling tough, wise, fine-drawn – begs him to go easy :“I don’t wanna run no orphan asylum at home”.

It’s short – two hours including interval- and in the opening scenes I found it hard to get a grip on. It hardly mattered, because Patrick Connellans’ brooding, hazy, watery, iron-industrial set and Dacre’s skilful use of the community ensemble create such a powerful sense of a trapped tough world that you’re right there. In comradeship, anxiety and – with a spectacular accident- grief. Clarity grows as we work out that Marty – after initially walking off the job in disgust at a friend’s death caused by speeding-up of crane work – is going to defy his union chair Louis (Joe Alessi, alternately smooth and panicked by his own pressures) and decide whether to hook up wit the even more threatening mobster Rocky (Sean Murray).

Jamie Sives is a terrific Marty: alpha male, gradually harnessing his innate stubbornness to moral battle, accepting not only his own peril but that of his family and colleagues. “It’s hard to be tough alone”, though, and the other men are not welfare-cushioned, too afraid for their livelihood for serious defiance. It’s a world (with unsettling parallels to ours) which took in the world’s “ huddled masses yearning to breathe free” then kept them huddled on zero-hours work where you can arrive “five thirty in the morning, and get no work that day”.

The second half, as Marty stands for election to oust Louis and finds another kind of betrayal, is electric (one usher observed in passing that she sits at the back and ‘nobody ever moves’, which is as good a criticism as any). And although it hasn’t the heartbreaking lyrical strength of Miller’s greatest work, there are lines you don’t forget. Marty says he was heard of rats on the shore, but “No big rats – little scared human being rats, screwed outa their biscuits..killed on the ships. These is little mouses!” Hauntingly, Ewart James Walters as Darkeyes the blind black pedlar wanders through at times as a sort of chorus, commenting obliquely, telling Marty he’s got to “burn, burn! and one day explode!”.
It’s Miller’s year, with the RSC Death of a Salesman, a marvellous Young Vic’s VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE on its way to Broadway and another fine UK production lately touring. And what Dacre has done is gripping, fascinating, and timely. The final election scene even echoes, though he couldn’t have known it would, the fate of our own Left in May, and some of the reason for it….

box office 01604 624811 to 27 June
Co-production with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
rating: four       4 Meece Rating
box office 01604 624811 to 27 June
Co-production with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse
rating: four

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OTHELLO Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon


The RSC made a bold statement by casting their first ever black Iago. But would it add another layer to one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies?
The theatre was full to the rafters, the demographic make up – as you’d expect- predominately white middle-aged upper class folk – a conversation for another time. Designer Ciaran Bagnall sets the scene with a stunning yet simple Venetian canal beautifully lit, and a gondola occupied by Iago (Lucian Msamati) and Roderigo (James Corrigan): grappling, threatening to capsize it:, a metaphor perhaps. The first reminder that Iago is black comes very early on. When Roderigo refers to him as “Thick lips” he stops dead in his tracks and gives Roderigo a hard look. Sadly, however this is the end of it: Director Iqbal Khan chooses not exploit the opportunity to add an extra layer.

Msamati deliveres his dialogue in his Zimbabwean accent, which gives Shakespeare’s words new life: he moves through the play effortlessly, landing every punch with precision. At times he sounded like a ‘hype man’ at a hip-hop concert, repeating words like ‘Villain’ ‘Corruption’ or whip’, finishing with ‘Boom’. The gullible Roderigo – played convincingly by Corrigan- wakes up Brabantio (Brian Protheroe) to deliver news that his daughter has been ‘abused’. Protheroe plays the concerned father well and we feel his pain when Desdemona chooses Othello over him.
As for Othello, we meet him first in good spirits; Hugh Quarshie glides onstage ultra cool, laid back, a swagger with authority. Asked by Iago if he is “fast married” he responds by dancing to a Venetian /Calypso guitar beat – nice touch. The following scene however is a little less convincing, partly because the costume worn by the Duke (Nadia Albina) and her company looked like something out of Red Dwarf. Hard to believe these guys could lead a country in war. News of activity from the Turks came by Skype, a ploy to convince us it was taking place today- sadly it didn’t work.
Desdemona (Joanna Vanderham) struts on stage, pleasing on the eye like a young Amanda Holden, but her character is quite irritating, reminding me of one the those pompous women from Chelsea who always get what they want. She seemed in love with the idea of Othello and not the man himself. The celebration after the war, though, was fantastic: soldiers drinking and dancing to Cypriot music. There’s a nice moment when Cassio (Jacob fortune- Lloyd) dances with Desdemona and Othello whispers in Cassio’s ear and takes over- a slight indication of jealousy, we could have done with more of that. Iago breaks out into a solo Zimbabwean folk song and the pay off is wonderful….’for heaven an excellent song’ says Cassio, riposting with a remix of Shaggy’s Mr Bombastic while beatboxing. A rap battle ensues between Cassio and a lively Montano (David Ajoa) which leads to blows, and had the younger generation on the edge of their seats.

But as Iago plants the seed of doubt in Othello, he moves too quickly from calm authority to jealous barbaric wreck: we needed glimpses of fragility earlier. There’s a random torture scene, blowtorches and staplers, I think put there by the Khan to prepare us for the coming violence. But it feels a little misplaced.
Something I always struggle with is why Emilia doesn’t question Iago about the handkerchief earlier- Khan’s interpretation confused me further, as a lot was made over the exchange of the handkerchief between Emilia (Ayesha Dharker) and her husband, to the point of tears from Dharker, giving the impression that she knew what Iago was capable of. Desdemona begins to find her way in the second act as we slowly begin to feel some sympathy; the strangulation was OK, “it is the cause” delivered with honesty though there were random lines missing like “I cannot give it vital growth again” and “they are cruel tears”. I’d be interested to know Khan’s thought behind this.
It didn’t ever feel as if Iago was in control, though. Msamati handles the verse very well but needs to be more sinister, with more gear changes: indeed across the cast the stakes just didn’t seem high. I didn’t care much for the characters and did inclusion of a black Iago add anything new? Not really. We lose the sense of Othello as an outsider.

box office 0844 800 1110 to 28 august
rating four     4 Meece Rating

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It is a cliché to say that over decades of TV fame, showy fundraising and hidden sexual crime Savile ‘groomed the nation”. There were indeed encomia – which Maitland pitilessly uses verbatim – from Prince Charles (“my health adviser, trusted confidant, friend”) Mrs Thatcher calling him a great man, Cardinal Hume praising his faith (the man was a Papal Knight of St Gregory, for God’s sake!) . And, of course, from ministers and NHS managers who gave him, literally, the keys to Stoke Mandeville and Broadmoor, and BBC mandarins who went on celebrating him in death despite clear warnings. What is not said often enough is that all the above were upper-middle professionals or toffs: it was partly inverted snobbery which stopped them suspecting their “token pleb”. Bevin boy, ex-wrestler, Northern DJ – prole box ticked! Beyond those charmed circles plenty of us always found him creepy and turned away shuddering. Yet nobody except his young victims knew the reality. That remains a national disgrace.
Maitland’s tightly researched, gripping 85-minute play alternates the tribute show with the testimony of “Lucy” a disbelieved victim drawn from several accounts, and flashes of the violent bullying threats with which he fended off doubters. There are nice evocations of the feeble police attempts at questioning him in his lifetime , and the even feebler, nervous questions about his dressing-room habits by the BBC man Seed. “Just Jimmy being Jimmy”. Director Brendan O’Hea keeps it moving, preventing us from laughter even at the most absurd praise or horribly telling remarks by the man himself. But I kept inwardly asking “What is this achieving? We know the horror, why dramatize it, even in this unprurient way?”

The answer is simple: because he never came to justice. That shaming truth needs expiation. In the last ten minutes comes the scene which didn’t happen. Lucy – calmly, finely played by Leah Whitaker – delivers the acccusation that when she was twelve, in hospital, he raped her. As he did many, many others. Savile, ever angrier, delivers the half-baked theological theory, from his “God’ll fix it’ book, claiming that his fundraising credit account outweighs “slip-ups” and that it was his body’s fault not his. He blusters, calls her ignorant, boasts of Papal and Royal decorations and even his Friend of Israel award .
Lucy will have none of it, and calls him to his face a “shrivelled, stinking, lonely old man who hurts people”. What happens next sends the whole audience into shock. And, I think, justifies what Maitland has done. Because for all the millions of words since, for all the smashing of his tombstone and the humiliation of his grand apologists, we’ll get no other closure.

box office 0207 870 6876 to 11 July

4 Meece Rating

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A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS Chichester Festival Theatre


Here’s a joyful thing: a confection of butterscotch and sunshine, a tale of turrets and twosomes and tap-breaks, friendship and chivalry and secret passages and great legs, with glorious, soaring Gershwin songs to punt it all along. Billed as “a new musical”, the book is crafted by Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson, but make no mistake: this is Plum. A young P.G. Wodehouse wrote the 1919 novel (later a 1937 film), about his own world daft screwball plots and of high-kicking Broadway hits: in the one half-serious message he was defying the cultural angst of those who think musical theatre rom-com ain’t real art. Even our hero George Bevan the Broadway composer (Richard Fleeshman) is being infected by cultural inferiority as he transfers a show to a London drenched with history. “Are we just skating along the surface?…saying things in a pretty way?”. Cutting the underwater ballet in “Kitty in the City” he moans“ I’ve something else to try – quite dark and edgy, I haven’t slept..”.
It’s a good joke, because we know that Wodehouse’s edgeless, immortal, puff-light merriment will win the day. .

So off it goes: young Lady Maud (Summer Strallen, displaying a sharp wit as well as the legendary legs) thinks she loves a dull pretentious poet, but her tyrannical aunt is forcing her to marry the rich twit Reggie. Reggie (Richard Dempsey, a divinely silly mover in bright red tights as he joins in the ‘tourist performance’ at Totleigh Towers) loves Alice the Butler’s niece. George loves Maud from the moment she flees into his stage door and disguises herself as a dancing fish. Billie the fading Broadway starlet (brassily glorious Sally Ann Triplett) bonds romantically with Maud’s father the pig-loving Earl, a proto-Emsworth (who knew that Nicholas Farrell could sing like that? Adorable). There’s revolution in the kitchen against the tyranny of Aunt Caroline , a whole new aspect of Isla Blair as Grand Old Boot; and all must be resolved at a medieval costume ball.

Rob Ashford’s direction – and matchlessly witty choreography – gather speed and impetus, from an opening trad-Broadway kickline to movement used as deftly as Wodehouse jokes to build character. All the characters get their moment, which supplies not only constant surprises but that rare, gleeful sense that everyone in the cast is enjoying themselves too. The six romantic principals have plenty of numbers and adventures, but there’s something for everyone on the stage: a one-liner here, a wild up-ended fandango from Pierre the chef and Dorcas the sturdy undercook, a rumbling orotund quotation from Keggs the Butler (Desmond Barritt, a proto-Jeeves). It might be a passing physical gag in a chorus line, an inspiredly absurd medieval hat in the costume-ball, or just the fact that Matt Wilman is always addressed by his full title of “McInnes the Burly Gardener”. Everyone matters, everyone’s on form. Even Austen the awful poet gets to recite, and Blair’s Lady Caroline (another splendid shock) caterwauls a mezzo number about spring still reverberating in my head next morning.
It’s all about happiness, overthrow of tyranny, true love, jokes about quinces, and dances daring to incorporate dishes of jelly and a giant croquembouche. Even Aunt Dahlia’s Anatole in the later novels is foreshadowed as Pierre the French chef , depressed at the banning of his snail-grater and lark-press.
And of course lovely Gershwin music: love sextets melt together from every corner and height of Christopher Oram’s adventurously revolving Totleigh Towers set, wistful or delighted solos tumble along. The very essence of 1920’s romance is distilled in Reggie’s immortal “I’m a poached egg”.
box office 01243 781312 to 27 June
Rating five  5 Meece Rating

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“This isn’t a church, it’s a ‘business!” What a sentiment for a theatre crowd to hear – or indeed anyone with an art, talent or craft within fifty paces of a cash register.
Back after nearly a decade in the dark, the writer Patrick Marber has mustered a slick three-hander. I am someone who actively takes against football. It’s a bloated beast which long trained its eye on the dosh, and has legions of devotees to do the explaining and the covering up for it. This play movingly demonstrates the dedication, and the devastation. All-consuming fandom and those riding it for every penny.

This is a desperate group of lonely men, just wanting to belong. Kidd (Daniel Mays) is the manager of a low-level but quietly well-performing team. He sees himself on the rise. “I’ll kick a puppy” if it will get him his way. Yates (Peter Wright), a former player – old, beaten and washed up – is washing kits.  His devotion for the club runs upsettingly deep. Stirring passions in the latter, and dollar signs in the former, is Jordan (Calvin Demba), a young player with skills too good to be true.

Above all this is a crisp piece of work: a freshly sanded, neatly varnished piece of craft. The set is nicely detailed, the lighting is warm and rose tinted . Director Ian Rickson has marshalled a punchy and funny winner.
With the crushing wit and bouncily intelligent dialogue of Marber in his mouth Daniel Mays scores yet another triumph. As Kidd he masters a confluence of sheer panic and fuck ’em nonchalance , cocky swagger and depressed paranoia. As the play moves, you feel the terrifying precipice this desperate man stands on as deals collapse and plans fail.
Peter Wright is peacefully simple but quietly brilliant at the other end of the spectrum. Where Mays’ character gives us a running rage, Wright is given only one outrage. The rest is calm tragic loyalty, Mays is struggling on the first rung of the ladder out of the club, Wright clinging on stoically as it sinks.
Their hopes and overdrafts are on Demba, as Jordan. Despite only 2 previous theatre credits he holds his own, painting confusion, principle, and the crushing weight of all their hopes.

Marber’s dialogue has a toe-tapping, thigh-slapping, lyrical majesty; the plot, slow at first, is crushingly tragic. Football – “It’s the Wild West out here”.
Box Office: 020 7452 3000 to 30 Sept
rating: five     5 Meece Rating

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In the week that Crossrail tunnellers broke through beneath London, a city and river now criss-crossed with subterranean thoroughfares, how better to celebrate than to creep through a low, narrow bricky shaft , and climb fifty feet below Shoreditch into an echoing Victorian vault?
Especially if down there you find the year 1827, union jack bunting, candlelight warming leprous bricky walls, two pacing men in frock-coats lighting cigars and worrying, and a voice intoning Thomas Hood’s mocking ode to Marc Brunel, father of Isambard:
“How prospers now thy mighty undertaking, to join by a hollow way the Bankside friends of Rotherhithe, and Wapping?” asks the poet, aware of the recent floods which stopped work. “ Poking, groping, making an archway underneath the Dabs and Gudgeons…to walk under steamboats…”
It’s the ultimate site-specific theatre: for we are sitting in Brunel’s Thames Tunnel Shaft, which began the world’s first ever carriageway tunnel beneath a navigable river. It was sorely needed, the Thames being chock-full of busy shipping under sail; another bridge would have interfered badly with that, and ferry crossings were slow and disruptive on the tideway. So Marc Brunel, French-born refugee from the Revolution, began the project and his son Isambard, who became far greater, came to work as resident engineer.

Before us is young Isambard aged 21, already dreaming of the great bridges and railways and ships he will one day create alone, but dutiful in his painstaking supervision of the clay, the piles, the tunnel-shield and the labouring men, often sleeping below ground. With him his irascible mentor-father : lame, curmudgeonly and short-tempered, veteran of a debtor’s prison (his engineering brilliance not matched by business acumen) and resenting the young man’s confidence. Their tunnel is halfway, 549 feet and a recent flood repaired, but the backers and bankers are nervous, rival engineers“circling like sharks. So tonight there is to be a banquet underground to persuade them to keep on.
Nick Harrison’s play, directed by Martin Parr, is little more than an hour, and broken by an interval; slight enough but magnified by its setting, and the sense of wonder and gratitude which the name Brunel (especially the younger) brings to those of us who travel nightly through Paddington and often to the deep west. Drama is provided by their interaction, and atmosphere by the setting and sound – a distant band, cheering, rumbling (Yvonne Gilbert’s sound design). The two performers are strongly drawn: Peter Harding gives the father an arrogant curmudgeonly foul-mouthed impatience, and the very likeable Ben Eagle makes young Isambard a grave, dutiful, sturdily handsome youth with the edge of youthful unease that first apprehends a revered father’s flaws, and nerves himself to defiance. References surface to his over-studious childhood and the terror of his parents’ three-month imprisonment when he was fifteen; at one point the pair actually grapple physically in their mutual frustration at one another and the flood-ridden, imperilled task before them.

By the second half, there is a kind of reconciliation as the pair work through the seating-plan for the underground banquet: it could be any modern fundraiser, as they calculate where most advantageously to seat the “Iron Duke” of Wellington, who backed them all the way. And at last – though we may know that a year later another flood stops it again and injures the young man – there is hope again. And the brass quartet descend from the scaffolding ladders overhead and play. And speaking as a sucker for engineers, pioneers, Victorians and hope, I have to say that once you give me a tuba reflecting candlelight and blasting out the opening bars of Judas Maccabeus ten feet away from me in an ancient brick tunnel-shaft, I’m generally pretty happy.
8 – 14 June 7.30pm plus 3pm matinees on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday    3 Meece Rating
Tickets: £20

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BETA TESTING Udderbelly at the South BAnk SE1


With August looming over the horizon, there comes a time when the critic needs to harden up, sit on some prickly astroturf leaning on a dustbin, eating a falafal wrap and staring up forebodingly at an enormous upturned purple inflatable cow. Just to remember that it’ll soon be time to brace up for the Fringe. Luckily, London has its own Udderbelly season now, with every kind of oddity and adventure and showoff and physical-theatre explosion. So down I went to see the Circus Geeks explain the nature and psychology of juggling.
And so they do. This hour-long session is an oddity, even amid the circus-variety-standup Udderbelly world, because Matt Pang, Aaron Sparks and Jon Udry are accomplished jugglers – of clubs, balls, hoops, chairs, diabolos, top hats, anything life throws at them – but rather than merely dazzling and demonstrating, they want to discuss. And deconstruct. And admit what it’s like when you drop one. A vox pop (bits of sound are fed in, and bits of video, breathtaking, on the screen) says among other things that it is a metaphor for life, and less kindly that “only other jugglers” are really interested: the cruel paradox being that the better a juggler is, the longer he or she can go on, the more likely the audience are to get a bit bored….theatricality demands danger and conflict, and a really sucessful performer makes this art look smooth and easy. Bummer, as the lads would say.

It’s an entertaining hour, and has taught me something of the lexicon of the trade: I now know the difference between oldschool, newschool, Russian, Mexican (very fast) and French (interpretative mimetic lecoq-y stuff). I know how to breathe the word “Gatto!” after a great child prodigy when something is superb. So there you are. Can face the Fringe programme now. Been in my first purple cow. Summer’s begun… to 21 June

rating There’s really no point. Read the above and you’ll see if you fancy it. I did.

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The Oresteia is probably one of those stories you don’t know. Until you start watching it again. Only then, piecing together fragments, does it slowly resurface. It’s a muddle of murders. Each one justifying the next, avenging the last.
This is a sleek stage – all glass screens, marble floor and the full sweep of the bricky back wall exposed. But the play is drawn thin. Action is bunched and the pondering spaced out, as if we cannot be trusted with too much entertainment. The reworking by Robert Icke leaves tremendous voids in the interest. Spectacular murders – limbs flailing, blood oozing and lights, walls and eyes flashing – are a sick joy to watch. God Only Knows skips and pulses from the speakers, Luke Thompson’s brilliant Orestes screams and Clytemnestra marches slowly, knife in hand. Brilliant. \
But 6 minutes, tops.  The run-up is dull dialogue and simple flourishes, which pay off late late in the evening, but just confuse and bore at the time. Angus Wright has been slowly bled of any charisma as Agamemnon. His voice is like an audiobook and he moves like a pile of ironing. He doesn’t know what to do with himself. As the spark for all these subsequent crimes he sets the ball rolling at a mighty slow pace.
Lia Williams’ Clytemnestra is much more accomplished, squeezing him out of every scene. She even throws herself fully into a strange TV interview and dreary victory speech – two indulgent moments by Icke. Their only addition was to justify a camera on stage, so the actors’ faces could be seen 4ft behind them but bigger. Stop it, Icke.
As we see more of Jessica Brown Findlay (Electra) or Luke Thompson (Orestes) – the true stars of this play – they mop up all the charisma Angus leaked, and soak up the most passionate scenes. You’re with them and you barely notice the others. Lia Williams, even in the throes of her most emotional scenes, enunciates perfectly. Where she was too crisp, they were nicely rough.
The gems make it hard to hate the rest. It seems unfortunate, but this play only mobilised any merit when there was a knife in hand or an eye brimming with tears. The endless chatter, darting from the meaning of justice and the meaning of words (yes….words!) to the exclamation “why do we do things” does the rest a terrible injustice. In the end some bite comes back but above all it is the masterful set-pieces and the brief chilling, thrilling asides which take hold.  There are treats along the way – but only if you stomach a hefty amount of roughage.

Box Office: 020 7359 4404  to 18th July

Rating:  three    3 Meece Rating

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Box Office: 020 7359 4404
Until 18th July

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STOP! The Play Trafalgar 2, SW1

In a tatty rehearsal-room, the title reflects the director’s frequent cry, stopping for new stage directions or rewrites from the unseen playwright, “Hildred McCann”. I admit I am a sucker for plays about plays: some are works of genius like Frayn’s NOISES OFF, some physically adept larks like THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG. But on the whole they parody traditional, creaky, Mousetrappy drama: it was time somebody took the mick out of grandiosely ‘edgy’ modern work, and I was glad to see David Spicer having a go.
The first act shows a cast of five, under Ben Starr as an unjustifiably self-confident director, struggling with Hildred’s constant revisions; the shorter second act puts the result on stage. During this process it morphs from an earnest drama about a teacher who wants to be an artist (“How was your day, teaching at that school you teach at?” enquires the wife.) The anxious SM reads out overwritten stage directions involving a fountain, spiral staircase and pet monkey. But rewrite by rewrite the lead becomes a silent cipher, and has to be pacified by directorial flattery about how silence “makes him a stronger presence”. Stage directions alarm the ingenue with instructions to be “pinkly naked”, throwing off clothes like “the peelings of her sexual fruit”. A lesbian subplot causes her to shriek at her script “Holy shit! I’m not doing that!”.
An entirely new character, a millionaire American rapper, is introduced; in the background the veteran Wilfred forgets his lines, demonstrates that he can still orate most of Murder In The Cathedral, and reminisces about doing a Stoppard in Reading in 1982 and not understanding a word. Eventually it becomes a pan-sexual psychodrama about Banksy and the metaphor of “a man with a spray can painting a picture of a man with a spray can painting a picture” . The director in a beret becomes a narrative chorus (“I am Art”) and the male leads resist directions to kiss.

Promising, then, and certainly the first half is stuffed with good jokes, not least about flowery stage-directions (“they laugh like cut glass baubles tinkling on a mountain stream… as soft as an elf on butter…art strikes like a cobra in a babygro” etc). The author writes a lot for stand-ups, and it shows, sometimes in a good way. Adam Riches is fun as the miffed leading man and Hatty Preston as the ingenue; there is a spirited turn by Tosin Cole as the rapper, conveying the mystification of a straight black actor forced into a streetwise stereotype while the others try not to be racist while questioning what the hell he is there for. Like Riches, Cole walks out at one point and has to be lured back: it did the show’s pre-publicity no harm that Peter Bowles really did quit at the start of rehearsals, to be replaced by James Woolley.
Who, it turns out, walks away with all the best laughs. White-haired and amiably vague, Woolley rises above the standuppy jokes to give real heart and humour to the part of Wilfred, who no longer remembers lines but is a fund of long experience (“I stripped off once in Leatherhead, in Equus. I was only an usher, mind, but it got me noticed”).
So far, so good. But there are problems for director John Schwab to tackle before this romp finds its way. The first half is all on one note – shouting – with no calms to give it bite and contrast; we could also do with a line of explanation as to why the hell Hildred gets away with all these rewrites. The second part, the Banksy play itself, is too broadly nuts to hit its target properly. Which is a shame, because the target deserves it: as anyone who has survived a few experimental fringe festivals can tell you.
box office 0844 871 7632 to 27 June
rating three (just)    3 Meece Rating

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THE ELEPHANT MAN Theatre Royal, Haymarket SW1

It was David Lynch’s 1980 film – monochrome, moody, with an unforgettable performance by John Hurt – which brought to modern awareness the story of Joseph, known as John, Merrick: a monstrously deformed young man rescued from a freak-show by Dr Frederick Treves of the London hospital in 1884. The film, drawing on Treves’ memoirs and medical photographs of the day, used horrifying prostheses within which Hurt created the gentle, romantic, intelligent bible-reading character of Merrick. Lynch’s achievement, unveiling the terrible head only late on, was to make us more repelled by the rubbernecking cruelty of the crowds than by the deformity.
But this is the 1970’s play by Bernard Pomerance. Scott Ellis’ production is transplanted whole from a Broadway success, set with bare artistry on hospital floorboards and matchboarding, and done without prostheses. Bradley Cooper is first seen as himself: fit, buff, six-packed: as Alessandro Nivola’s Treves displays archive photographs and reads the medical report – “immense head…sacklike flesh..repulsive cauliflower growths, fungus, stench” etc, Cooper distorts himself limb by limb: his movement discipline throughout is faultless, even managing to look as if his head, like Merrick’s, is too heavy. He remains crooked for the rest of the play.
As a device that is effective enough. ; the sly showman taking money before a fairground screen stresses the humiliation, and in hospital – different screens, in a neat parallel – the reactions of the first outsiders (shrieking “Oh my God in heaven!” or “Indecent” in improbable accents) help too.
Treves recruits an actress, Mrs Kendall (finely and sensitively, if somewhat slowly, played by Patricia Clarkson) since she is trained to hide her feelings. She visits Merrick, and by the end of the interval he is a social lion, visited by Royalty and aristocracy and plied with silver-backed hairbrushes which he clearly cannot use. His physical condition declines to death while Treves, for reasons only sketchily achieved in the clunking script, has a verbose and tedious nervous breakdown.
I wanted very much to like it: a fascinating story, a Hollywood A-lister and Broadway cast, programmes a tenner, stalls tickets up to £ 100 `(cheaper upstairs and just as good a view btw): event theatre, this, and a palpable sincerity in Cooper’s pride in bringing Merrick’s memory back to London.
But it’s not a good play. Sketchy, plodding, and repetitively determined to drive home its point – that he is being whored to the social set as much as to the fairground punters, and that all the characters who praise him just want reassurance of their own goodness-within-metaphoricall-deformity. In two hours including interval, it still dragged. The only credible relationship is between Merrick and Mrs Kendall, notably when he wistfully says he has never seen a lady naked (only pox-ridden fairground doxies) so with a nimbleness barely credible in the age of corsets she shows him her breasts. That is actually touching.

I can’t not mention the awful speech problem: struggling with Pomerance’s cod-1880s phrases most of the cast sound like beta-minus graduates of a crash Berlitz course in Let’s Speak Victorian. They talk slowly, in worryingly improbable accents with unaccountable flat pauses. Cooper himself has to keep up a strong speech impediment, and does it (like the physical work) with admirably sensitive skill and modesty. But for some reason he is given, despite a workhouse upbringing, a posh and orotund English accent. So he does, at times, sound like a rather drunk 1950’s Etonian. Conviction wavers, more than he deserves.

box office 020 7930 8800 to 8 August
rating three (and the third is for Cooper alone)      3 Meece Rating

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