Monthly Archives: July 2018



The celebrations of the centenary of Women’s Suffrage in Britain have reached Dalston’s cultural heartland as Spectra Ensemble present a little-known opera by Suffragette composer Ethel Smyth, The Boatswain’s Mate, at Grimeborn. Smyth had to fight hard to become a composer, and even harder to get her work on stage, but she won through on both counts, being the first woman to have an opera performed at the New York Met. You might be forgiven for thinking that any opera we are going to get from Smyth could be tough medicine: something stridently defiant, even deliberately difficult. What we actually encounter in The Boatswain’s Mate is a warmly comic operatic farce: undeniably empowering, but also incisive, touchingly romantic and, most importantly, hilarious.

An isolated country pub, The Beehive, is run singlehandedly by its queen bee, the determined and charismatic widow Mrs Waters (Hilary Cronin). Elderly retired sailor Harry Benn (John Upperton) is keen to take possession of both lovely Mrs Waters and her thriving business, repeatedly proposing to her but finding himself repeatedly and firmly refused: Mrs Waters proclaims herself “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to marriage. Unable to accept this, Benn persuades a wandering former soldier, Ned Travers (Shaun Aquilina) to carry out a fake ‘burglary’ so that Benn can finally win her heart with a dashing midnight rescue, staged to his own design. However, his plan backfires spectacularly when Mrs Waters proves herself more than capable of defending her pub from intruders, but in a brilliant twist, she may not in fact be able to defend her heart from the inconveniently dashing, open-hearted Ned. In a mounting storm of physical attraction and social convention, Smyth screws the farce tighter and tighter while creating a very real drama of courtship shot through with humour, wit and respect.

Director Cecilia Stinton slightly overeggs Mrs Waters’ prim respectability at the outset, and the drama feels a little static and lumpen to start, but just stay with it: once this opera takes off, it goes like a rocket. Christianna Mason’s sparse, effective design takes us to Margate in the Coronation year of 1953, with a pub simply suggested by a couple of tables and stools, and a revolving window alternating parlour and bedroom. Hilary Cronin’s Mrs Waters carries the piece with increasing presence, moving from schoolmistress control to magnetic emotional command with her pleasing soprano, finding increasing interest in her character’s secret inner vulnerabilities. John Upperton’s bald, tattooed Benn, a little unfocused to start in Studio 2’s very intimate setting, soon gets the laughs rolling in. Shaun Aquilina’s mellifluous Ned similarly grows in dramatic conviction, conjuring superb chemistry with Cronin. John Warner, leading the accompaniment from the piano, delivers Smyth’s score (in a piano trio) with exceptional care and skill: we have rollicking shanties, spikes of high and ribald drama and sinuous themes of thoughtful yearning, not to mention The March of the Women embedded in the overture. Disarming, surprising and brilliant.

~ Charlotte Valori

Presented by Spectra Ensemble

At the Arcola Theatre, Dalston as part of Grimeborn 2018 until 31 July. 

Box office: 020 7503 1646 or tickets here

Rating: Three 3 Meece Rating


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KING LEAR Duke of York’s , WC2



      You need not be aged – or even a man – to be a memorable Lear.  But there is an intense and concentrated emotion to it when a great actor in the last decades of life takes on the role.  Derek Jacobi, in Michael Grandage’s Donmar production, threw me seriously off-balance.  Now Ian McKellen, even older (80 near year) is  a more military, striding figure; but in dissolution equally wrenching.  The dignity of his late gentleness,  “not in my perfect mind” stops the heart;  so does his moment of pity for the long-neglected poor (who gather, silent ghosts, behind him in the storm).   For this third time in the role we are told that he deliberately chose to play it in the intimacy of Chichester’s Minerva last year;   here in the West End a reconfiguring and reduction of the Duke of York’s   (with a central walkway and false wall) maintains much of that atmosphere.   


          Jonathan Munby’s production has military uniforms and modern dress, but the theme of upward appeal to unseen gods, always strong in the text, is signalled by the Latin chant in the first scene and an almost nervous flinging up of hands by court officials at relevant lines;   in Lear himself it gives pathos to the sense that his growing mental fragility is a malignity sent down from above by the gods who toy with all frail humans,  so his own flaws of temper and self-knowledge are only feeding it.  His sudden spurt of rage at Cordelia is wholly credible,  and her unscripted gasp of “What?”  perfect.  As in the Grandage production, Cordelia is of black heritage, a dignified and touching Anita-Joy Uwajeh:  far from being “colourblind” it adds a sense that this most-loved child came from a second, southern wife, perhaps after the chillier mother of Goneril and Regan.    Since we have already heard Gloucester joshing about Edmund and the “sport at his making”,  this small detail adds to the sense of intimate family tragedy, joys and dangers cascading down the generations. 



      Little sense adding to the praise of McKellen: he is magnificent, both in emotional line and in delivery of certain well-known lines which he makes new.   Mever have I been more chilled than by his flat, prosaic reply to the more musically eloquent Cordelia’s pleading.  With deliberation the father says:  “Better thou hadst not been born than not to have pleased me better”. Brrr.    So just talk of the other excellences:  Sinead Cusack as Kent,  whose character works remarkably well as a decent straight-speaking middle-aged woman;  Lloyd Hutchinson as a Fool with echoes of Eric Morecambe,  Munby’s elegant solution to the old mystery of what happens to him,   Michael Matus a Jeeves-like Oswald, beautifully nasty;   James Corrigan giving Edmund dangerous vitality and not a little humour,  Luke Thompson’s Edgar becoming Poor Tom better than any I have seen. And, not least, Kirsty Bushell as a psychopathic sexual sadist in a flippy short skirt, fit to give you nightmares.   


         So,  heroic and beautiful and serious, the terrors of the earth.  Well worth 3 hrs 40 minutes in heat which, despite the theatre’s pretty good ventilation, made you maternally pleased for the cast when after 90 minutes Lear, Edgar, Fool and Kent get wet through to their underpants by some stonking good stage rain.     


box office   to 3 nov

rating five

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This is two hours of  treasure. Barry Humphries of course always was one, in all his characters, and this time he puts on “the most subtle and intricate disguise” as himself, amiable in a purple velvet smoking-jacket, only occasionally bothering with deadly one-liners when necessary. As when Hitler – who, as a future horror overshadows this marvellous exposition – gives him the chance to muse gently and topically “Incredible that a great nation should hand over the reins of government to a loud-mouthed psychopath with a ridiculous comb-over…”


But never mind Trump. This is his tribute to a long fascination with the short,fertile period of the Weimar Republic with its snarling cabaret songs , yearning romanticism and destructivepolitical despair: “a fusion of naked liberation and bitterly gay pathos”. Germany was ruined by the First World War, its currency chaotic, the Kaiser gone and corrupt opportunism everywhere; with a reckless sense of rolling the dice the the last chance saloon and speeding up the tawdry roundabout of life to see what it flung off . It gave us Brecht and Weill, Bauhaus, Expressionism, Klee, Schoenberg; painters, composers, anarchic thinkers, breakers and re-creators.


The rising Nazi party as the ‘30s progressed saw only decadence: dangerous and often Jewish wit subverting of the neat Aryan dream. When they rose this “degenerate art” was banned. But the fascination of Weimar years, and especially its cabaret, endures. Today there are half a dozen chanteuses, often in underwear, whose act is Weimar wannabe. But the best, the Queen of them all, immaculate in technique and reckless in sexual self-awareness, is Meow Meow from Melbourne. She and Humphries are a perfect pairing: he in exposition of the period’s music, she bringing it to life, sharp and sour and heartbreaking.


She growls into “Life’s a swindle – get what you can /from your fellow man”, into a fierce Pirate Jenny, a heartbreaking Surabaya Johnny. Once there is a terrifyIng rendering of an erotic solo Sonata Erotica by Erwin Schulhoff which consists entirely – with sheet music she flings around page on page – of a simulated orgasm. Twice she duets with Humphries, heartbreakingly in “The Ruins of Berlin”, in the three languages of the Occupying Powers of 1945 after the war.   Behind her the Australian Chamber Orchestra delivers a sawing angry passion: its remarkable violinist Satu Vänskä steps forward once to sing with her a lesbian duet by Spolianski, Meine Beste Freundin, again quite brilliantly.
Barry, with an enthusiast’s modesty, talks a little in between: remembering how he met Spolianski, who wrote for Dietrich, and asked him to write one for Dame Edna Everage; he explains how it began for him with a box of forgotten sheet-music, and how in respectable Melbourne he heard, on crackling vinyl, the orignal cast recordign of the Threepenny Opera; and how long before that, as a child collecting stamps, he would be given Germany ones – with Hitler on , latterly – by a Jewish lady down the road. Whose letters from her husband, of course, stopped one day..

It is balanced artfully between his drily bufferly scholarship and Meow Meow’s louche sexuality and impassioned growling voice: there are jokes – at one point a supposedly comatose Barry is jerked awake during a spirited jazz tango by the slinky Meow Meow hurling a black-stocking leg over his shoulder and getting stuck in ridiculous flame headdress. But always there is that intensity of emotion: as he reflects, this was a different kind of jazz age to the merrier Parisian and American 20s and 30s. Always the dark was growing.    The orchestra plays the wrenching Lament for Doomed Europe with its final pleading trumpet. Your eyes fill. They should.


box office only to 29 July.

rating: five   5 Meece Rating


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THE KING AND I Palladium, W1



       Sometimes less is more and understatement gives a show its sharpest edge. Which is not to  suggest, perish the thought , that the Lincoln Center Theatre’s much- awarded production doesn’t do sumptuous. The front cloth alone used 500 books of gold leaf:    lit in rainbow changes it shimmers , a mirage of exotic orientalism, hypnotizing you at ever scene change. The costumes have equal dazzle, from the smallest gold- top-knotted child to King Mongkut and his wives like elegant living jewels;    the Victorian governess’ crinoline is dowdy in contrast  (I had forgotten that wonderful moment when, helping to Westernize the wives, Anna explains that a  crinoline represents the circle of protection around a woman.  “Are your men so aggressive?” asks the royal polygamist, puzzled… 



    But the restraint in Bartlett Sher’s production lies, notably in the first act, in his ability to resist all temptation to break into the  musical-theatre hoofing which some other productions have embraced. Instead the  court ladies, and often their children,  are static  in pools of shining decorum and crouched obeisance.  It establishes something which  not all the whistling of happy tunes and gettings -to- know-you can disguise (the merriment of Richard Rodgers’ immortal tunes is at times interestingly at odds with the material). What Anna Leonowens took on in 1862, at a tricky political juncture and under an  absolute and alien monarchy, was unnerving and lonely.  That sense of threat really works here, for Ken Watanabe’s King Mongkut is  at times far more genuinely frightening than Yul Brynner in the film.  The ongoing fear that he is, in |Victorian language, “a barbarian” is close to the surface. His accent is at times, in his tortured unaccustomed English, hard to make out, which adds to the alien quality,   and the  twinkle in him is hardly there until the wonderful persuasion scene at the end of the first half when Anna disguises her advice as admiring guesses about his intentions.  O’Hara herself is wonderful, even a bit topical actually,  as the original “Difficult Woman” who must manipulate stubborn male power. 



         A confession:   I have known every number by heart  from early childhood, from a cracked album and the film;  as a diplo-brat my nursery school was in Bangkok a hundred years later , my schoolmates the image of the little pupils on stage, and my treasure a steepled golden hat,  identical to the ones on the  dancers in the (bizarrely watchable if rather lengthy) exotic Uncle-Tom ballet  in the second act.   But this production has, more than any other  I have seen,   a determined sense of danger alongside the teasing mutuality of Watanabe’s sometimes oafish King and Kelli o’Hara’s gloriously forthright , beautifully sung Anna .   Her showstopping imaginary reproof to his polygamy always raises applause. “A flock of sheep and you’re the only ram – no wonder you’re the wonder of Siam!”   The glorious polka of Shall We Dance, with the palace pillars moving around them as if through great spaces, lifts the heart;  but when moments later Mongkut reverts to older notions of kingship and threatens poor Tuptim with a horsewhip, you believe it.  A move into stylization in the final scenes works extraordinarily well, both alienating and intensifying the sense of a distant, half-understood court.



         Really, the old show could hardly be bettered.  Beautiful staging  without exaggeration, a real spark between O”Hara and Watanabe, and  perfect support . Not least from a dignified and touching Naoko Mori as Tuptim and from Jon Chew who is engaging as the upright, anxious-to-learn Crown Prince Chulalongkorn.   He did indeed, as the show has him prophesy, abolish the grovelling rules of prostration so despised by Anna.   It is oddly and personally satisfying to know, for all the romanticisation,   that such things are true and that it was the eldest son of that young Chulalongkorn who was on the throne of Thailand a century later.  When I was that small child being taught, unsuccessfully, to do those strange, angular dances in a spiked golden hat.  


box office 0207 087 7757     to 29 Sept

rating five  5 Meece Rating

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  Danny Robins’ funny, credible, sharp-tongued play pivots round four figures of central cultural importance  to modern Britain: three comedians and a comedy commissioner.   It’s set in Blackpool.    Les Dennis is the classic benign seaside comic of the 20c , , battered and baffled by change,  once in his heyday untroubled by political correctness but latterly ruined by one racially insensitive joke, spotted at a gig by a pious Guardian journalist.  For him  (to our considerable entertainment in the script early on) everything is still a feed-line .


 His son Mike (Blake Harrison), lean and hirsute,  is more of a modern  observational standup, a sort of stingless Russell Brand whose only barbs are for safe targets like Trump.  He’s big on TV with lame amiable jokes about lemon tea. They are at odds over what is comedy and what is banter,  and not least about class tastes.  The young man’s  piety is the kind which demonizes the old working class because their observational comedy  – in a fast changing 20c  –  tended to observe that suddenly their familiar town had a lot of brown strangers in it, making curry and not as yet making friends with them.      Which strand of humour  may not actually have been hostile in intent, but was of course  wounding to the minorities, and had to end. 


         The third pivotal figure is Mike’s fiancée Jenna – Tala Gouveia – who is young, glamorous and of mixed race,   and takes offence at the lightest wrong word from a minimum-wage hotel receptionist, snarling at her “clearly the black in Blackpool is ironic, I tweeted that, got a lot of retweets” .   She is  an affluent TV commissioning editor who drips with contempt for Blackpool and everyone in it  “truly horrific. Geratrics or drug addicts…true horror… they don’t have a Pret…mobility scooters and people shooting up..”.     Being a TV comedy executive she has insufficient irony to notice that her contempt for a poor working-class town  is actually not so different from the  jokes for which she lacerates Bobby. She hasn’t invited him to the wedding.


      Whether it is entirely healthy for our culture to be so vitally centred on the profession of comedy and its power, you might well ask.   But while – as Peter Cook put it – we all sink giggling into the sea,   the question of comedy as power is beautifully teased out here.  So is the question of how shallow is the liberal veneer.   On Mike’s stag night, dressed as a Smurf and lurching between bars that “smell of jäger bombs and chlamydia”, he picks a  drunken fight.  With a Bangladeshi.   Using language which can end a media career in seconds. Especially if the victim’s son has recorded it…

       In the second act, in his dressing-room,  Michael – supported by his father – meets the victim, Mohammed,  and Nitin Ganatra steals the show, .  It is a horribly, awkwardly, brilliant scene with Ganatra wholly in charge, an imp of mischief who has a neat demand and – it turns out – isa rather better comedian than either of the professionals.    Young Mike unravels into something darker and angrier than his bland  liberal TV persona;  Les Dennis, always a gem, with a face creased with pain and understanding   shows up as the more adult and thoughtful of the two.  Jenna’s attitude to Mohammed is also a beautifully uncomfortable example of patronizing BAME-on-BAME attitudes.  

       It is sharp, entertaining, actually rather important.  I hope it transfers up West and spreads its healingly intelligent discomfort further as it questions not only the past generation’s pier-end comedy but the right-on,  resentful, cruel, lucrative faux- kindliness of the new.   to  11 August

rating four  4 Meece Rating

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GENESIS INC. Hampstead Theatre



Forty years ago as a Today reporter I helped cover the first IVF baby , Louise Brown. A Scottish cardinal told me that it was sinful:  not because of interfering with nature but because of “the means the sperm was gathered” – masturbation. The sin of Onan. The editor wouldn’t play the tape because we couldn’t, on the BBC,  mention seminal fluid.  Another row followed over whether the words “fallopian tubes” were suitable for early morning.


Well, as Jemma Kennedy’s lively play marks the anniversary,  Britain  and its notions of taste have changed. And, like most others, I know half a dozen happy young twentysomethings conceived that way . And, on the downside,  several women whose lives and marriages, were capsized by the  strenuous , disruptive and expensive processes of repeated failed in vitro attempts.


The social, political and attitudinal changes IVF brought need facing, and the virtually unregulated private-clinic industry challenging.    So,  good for Kennedy and Hampstead.  And one of the stimulating things about the play is that as well as painfully expressing female need and the awful self doubt – for some –   of infertility , it considers the fallout on men too.   Women of course have the  sharp end:  who wants a talking womb voiced by Jenni Murray, interrupted by two querulous ovaries and a judgmental mother vagina,  all bickering over her while she eats disgusting fertility recipes and surfs an AIBU-laden fertility forum?    Especially if Karl Marx appears at her bedside too, pointing out that for all the (rather ironic) victories of feminism over contraception and abortion,  our innards are now a patsy of profiteering capitalism..


    This argument rages, in one of the few surreal scenes , over  Serena (Ritu Arya in  a bravely heartfelt performance). She is the most pained of the clients, or victims, of the Genesis clinic run by a beautifully oleaginous Harry Enfield (love those faux posh consultant vowels –  “wimmin bettling infertility”). She   has borrowed, spent, hoped, abstained and tried her man’s patience (Oliver Alvin-Wilson is tremendous)  having  multiple cycles of a process where only 30per cent  ever succeed.  As another richer client, Bridget the investing financier with frozen eggs, exultantly puts it,   profiting from 70 per cent failure is a unique situation in business.   Laura HOward, by the way, absolutely nails the manner, aggression and vulnerability of the affluent corporate queen. Sure I’ve met her. 


But men suffer too.  From disappointment, from being regarded as sperm banks, from the distortions of love and longing,  Geoff, husband of the desperate Serena, already has a child , foisted in him by an ex but loved.   . Miles (Arthur Darvill)   is gay,  conflicted, and unwilling to be Bridget’s donor despite a close friendship. Which had, we learn with even more irony, once went further.  


At times I felt that in its 2 hr 30 there was one subplot too many – social worker Geoff’s struggle with his own adoption and with his rough-edged client Sharon. The disco fantasy clinic scene was annoyingly self consciously theatrical.  But this is cavilling.  Overall the play is fresh and funny, (Laurie Sansom directs , and knows just how to orchestrate a row in an A and E department with an eagerly caring security man).   If it is a bit more ambitious than is prudent, who needs prudence? The ghastly doctor’s  view that “love is unnecessary now we have deregulated the conception market”  is kicked aside by a final, beautifully sentimental hymn to all kinds of messy, awkward unsymmetrical human affection.    Worth catching, one more week to run.    to  28 july  

RATING four  4 Meece Rating

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   Alan Bennett may fear he is a national teddy bear these days, but the crafty old bugger still has a gnarled finger on the nation’s trickier pulse points. This latest play, steered by his vicar-on-earth-Nicholas Hytner, delivers a proper theatrical punch. It does this the old fashioned way, by lulling you into sentimental affection in a first act rich in vintage Thora-Hirdery and affectionate laughs, then slapping you round the chops with a first act close which I hope no critic will spoil (oops,just looked, two of the previews just have, though west end whingers remain innocent).  And then he resolves it with a  mixture of black humour and genuine pathos in the second half.

   Classy. Moreover he lards it with retro song routines, both naturalistic and fantasy, from You Made Me to Good Golly Miss Molly and Get Happy, thus neatly  prodding the associative nerve in anyone from , say, 50 to 110.  Not to mention turning an aged-up Simon Williams into a  superannuated chorus captain in striped PJs , his game if wobbly ensemble in some cases still attached to drip- stands.

     It is set in the geriatric wards of a small Yorkshire community hospital, afflicted by “bed blockers” in substantial numbers because there are no care home places and families cannot or will not cope.  It’s a facility which the Minister for Health plans to close (“we don’t like small, we don’t like cosy..the state should not be seen to work”).  His pet management consultant (Samuel Barnett) an escaped local lad turned nervy gay Lycraboy, is also visiting his miner Dad, a cantankerous Jeff Rawle,  while a local TV crew prowls around, the puffed-up Trust Chairman Salter (Peter Forbes) grandstands with statements like Yesterday is the New Tomorrow, and David Moorst does an appallingly, wickedly funny turn as a hostile and gormless work-experience porter.

     But enough of the blokes: the heart and glory of the show is female.  There’s Deborah Findlay’s wearily efficient nurse whose idea of success is a “dry ward” (it’s a very urinary and bowel-haunted piece) and whose demeanour hides much.  But above all there is a  gorgeous collection of wry or wandering old ladies : Patricia England as Mavis the ex dancer, Julia Foster a vital driver of the plot, ex librarian, Jacqueline Clarke the Batley Nightingale – all eight are gems in drooping cottons, the deathless Bennett  lines well divided among them. They sing, they sort of dance, they reflect on life and death and sex and men.  Sue Wallace’s Hazel lays siege to poor Ambrose the cultured schoolteacher as barriers of class and taste melt in the universal doom of decrepitude.  And of irritatingly continuing existence: “it isn’t Death who has jaws, it’s Life”. 

     It’s resolution is not one to spoil, except to say that Mr Bennett has perhaps by chance hit two topical news hot-potatoes – barely a week old -even while deliberately tackling more obvious fave targets like NHS cuts and the Thatcher legacy. But the strength of the evening is that there are wider,  older, inescapable  themes: ageing, pathos, tenderness, moral equivalence, peristaltic progress and progress chasing, in and out of the bowel…and the indomitable spirit that dances and sings in the last gutter, because why the hell wouldn’t you?

Box office.  to 29 Sept

Rating. Four. 4 Meece Rating



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This is billed  for ten years old or more, and its protagonist is a boy of thirteen. But  warned: this  Old Vic young adult summer special is no cosy Lorax. It starts with a nightmare and ends with a deathbed.  In between come plunging, flashing, fiery, black night terrors and a voice at the dark midnight window calling the boy Conor by name. His mother has cancer,  clearly terminal though nobody is admitting it or letting him prepare. To aggravate his plight, his Dad is an oaf who has run off to America with someone called Stefanie and  had a new baby. By day Conor is  relentlessly bullied at school,  at home his Granny is a bossyboots he  dreads living with.


For thirty years or more a series of little books by “Althea” specialised in titles like “I have Cancer”, “I use a Wheelchair”, My Two Families”, “Visiting the Dentist”, etc. Useful for families facing a crisis, well respected, but giving rise to the unkind observation that any middle-class child seeing the A-word on a cover knew that some bloody awful thing was about to happen.  Patrick Ness’  novel is a subtler production, having won both the Carnegie and the Greenaway medals, and I cannot fault this ensemble adaptation under Sally Cookson, who so brilliantly evoked Jane Eyre in scaffolding at Bristol and the NT, This time she has Michael Vale design a set  of ropes dangling from high above ,  skilfully manipulated by the ensemble into a great yew tree of which the Monster is the ruling, terrifying, remorselessly storytelling spirit.  He specialises in subverting apparent fairytale morals into the direction of ambiguity and ethical  complication, preparing Conor for there being no happy ending.


Matthew Tennyson, who I have  been approving of no end ever since Flare Path, carries with intensity and honesty the emotional role of Conor,   Stuart Goodwin is a burly, wrestlerish Monster, Marianne Oldham the mother and Selina Cadell  wonderfully solid as the problematic posh  Grandma. All step in and out of the ensemble , and there’s a nice Cookson touch in the domestic scenes .   Conor dresses for school and does   the housework for his weakened Mum, and the ensemble in chairs at the side chuck his socks and blazer on the floor and hand him kettles or plates with a blank noncommittal  stare. It expresses his lonely tension and predicament : even the house is not connecting with him any more. Except  for the big old yew and its  bullying spirit…



So, excellently done. And the final message is strong and subtle and should make any family  think twice about inflicting  obtuse optimism on children, and failing to let them admit their darker thoughts .  Yet as a play there is something  too laden about it. The school is exaggeratedly feral, ineffectual teachers with no ability or will  to tackle extreme bullying or help Conor.   The father on his brief visits is cartoonishly useless too, with references to his quack  crystal-healer partner in America.   Wit or defiance could have lightened the script and doesn’t,  though Tennyson brings  strong teenage reality to the boy.  It may do service to children  in tragic circumstances and their friends, so good luck to it.   It means very well.    But it’s a heavy evening.



box office 0844 871 7628 to 25 august.  Principal Sponsor Royal Bank of Canada

Rating three   3 Meece Rating

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POLSTEAD Eastern Angles, touring




    Founding this touring company 36 years ago,  Ivan Cutting swore a great oath that one local story they wouldn’t do was Maria Marten, murdered in the Red Barn by William Corder, and  famous not least for the spooky circumstance of her body being found buried there a year later after her stepmother was guided in dreams.    The 1827 sensation spawned several Victorian plays and adaptations and a silent film,  generally adjusting reality to make her more of an innocent,   and her killer more of a toff.     But this is a good moment for female indignation, so up she comes again in Beth Flintoff’s spirited new play. It is  directed by Hal Chambers who brought this company that terrific Prudencia Hart and the elaborately bonkers Norse saga Ragnarok, and is superbly staged by Verity Quinn.      


      Maria (Elizabeth Crarer)  takes centre stage from the first electric moment when,  a ragged, battered and rotting ghost, she strides defiantly forward to reminisce about her killing by pistol, strangling and spade. She observes that in the moment of death she at last realized that she was not mad or criminal as Corder persuaded her:   guilt was all his, not hers.     Around her from the shadows come five other women,  friends from her childhood  who tenderly lave and dress her, singing in harsh simple harmony (Luke Potter’s music, folk or bluesy, adds a great deal to the atmosphere and so does very effective lighting and a simple barn frame).  



      The six-woman cast evoke Georgian village life with glee:  children playing,  farmwork, chickens fed and seeds sown, gnawing breadline anxiety about work,  orphaned ten-year-old Maria keeping house for her father the molecatcher and coming to affectionate terms with a stepmother.  Adolescents, they girls josh about kisses and more, excited by the new two-shilling contraceptive sponge.  Lydia Bakelmun as Sarah embarks cheerfully on serial pregnancies as they discuss “bastardy orders” for their support,   repressed shy Lucy (Lucy Grattan) is more prim and churchy ,though the religious sensibility  of an 1820s rural community is oddly underemphasised.    That, however, is probably because a strength in the play is this sense of female solidarity and peasant confidence that all in all, a baby is an asset to the hardworking community,  even on the wrong side of the blanket.



    Maria, in a time or particular hardship, submits unenthusiastically to Thomas Corder the tenant farmer’s son in return for farmwork and bread (Lucy Grattan , with a quick gender switch is oddly convincing as the man).  Maria  bears his child, which dies:  the social hierarchy is nicely nuanced when up at the manor Lady Cooke (Bakelmun , again neatly transformed) nods at the relationship and takes up Maria as a protegée.  But of course she is then horrified when the village girl  falls in love with her own brother, a cut above mere farmers (another gender switch as Bethan Nash strides on in smart breeches) .  Milady makes her give him up, his baby lives and he supports them from a distance.  But when predatory Thomas Corder dies, Maria disastrously falls for William Corder, his brother.   



           And he is the killer , but before that does the adept “gaslighting” hinted at in that opening scene, persuading her into paranoia and conviction that she , not he, kills their baby.  We never see him:  only Maria’s dissolution.  Flintoff, having worked with Lighthouse Women’s Aid and discovered the many parallels over what “coercive control” does to women,  resolved not to give Corder a voice but to take Maria through the now well-attested stages of confusion and self-laceration.   Dramatically it is very effective that we don’t see the villain.  However,  the final twenty minutes of discovery, anger, grief  and divisions among the surviving friends do take away from the dramatic energy of the play, which up to then was so bracing.  The characters are still strong and coherent,  but the anti-coercion message gets hammered home just that bit too hard.  Cut ten minutes to sharpen up that ending and it becomes a very fine and honest play.  But even without that surgery,  it’s well worth catching on its tour.  A few more days in Ipswich (nice tent on university dockside campus).  For the rest –    link below:  TOUR Touring Mouse wide

to 5 August

rating four     4 Meece Rating

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  This show has no right to be so much fun.    Over three hours,  two intervals,  three middle-aged blokes in black suits in a revolving glass Es Devlin set of a city office with a projected cyclorama.   No fights, no romance,  no rhetoric, no whizz-bang ENRON fun : they  just tell the 150-year back-story – usually  in that potentially irritating historic present – of one American bank, whose demise and bankruptcy of ten years ago we already know. 


     So we settled down in sober responsible mood, to be educated in economic history.  But we got, as well, some of the best laughs and most stimulating reflections of the year. Sam Mendes took a shine to this play by Stefano Massini in Italy, and Ben Power has done an English adaptation for this premiere.    There’s an obvious wit in airing it during the Trump visit – a story of impoverished immigrants making America economically great .   And  Mendes has a subtly brilliant cast :  Simon Russell Beale as the eldest brother  Henry Lehman,  Ben Miles as his brother Emanuel,  and Adam Godley as the lanky, earnest youngest Mayer , nicknamed “potato”,   who came over on a later boat to keep the peace between them.   


         Ghosts entering the newly deserted office after the 2008 crash,  the three simply tell the story,  playing themselves, their descendants,  and a host of others in brief, sharp, always clear impersonations.   It starts in 1844 when Chaim and his suitcase arrive from Bavaria and agree with the immigration officer that OK,  he is called Henry.  Russell Beale, bluff, twinkling-eyed and bossy, starts a shop in Alabama selling cheap clothes to planters.  The three prosper mildly until with a tremendous use of the cyclorama, the great cotton fire wipes out the neighbourhood “Everything is lost” says one  “On the other hand”  says another with that magnificent diaspora savviness  “Everything needs to be re-bought!”.  


          So they work out a credit system, are paid in raw cotton, sell it on to factories up north and explain to baffled outsiders that they are a new thing – “middlemen”.   Henry’s death meets the full seven-day shivah with the shop closed and the graveside kaddish (there’s a nice bitter irony, as years pass and each family death gets less power to interrupt trade).  A New York office is opened.   There’s the civil war.  The family evolves  as,  hilariously or touchingly, each takes  roles of wives, small children, sons: Russell Beale and Godley  are particularly adept at the skittish hip-thrust and pout and the fractious toddler roar).  


          By the second part they have become a bank and Wall Street towers are made of the same document-boxes which built the Alabama store.  The tightrope-walker  in the New York street is ever more of a symbol (obviously, Russell Beale gets to mime him).  Soon a child is taught that if they were bakers “our flour  is no longer cotton, coffee, steel, coal. Our flour is money!”.  Mayer’s son Herbert as a child argues with the aged rabbi (Russell Beale bringing the house down in hysterics)  about the plagues of Egypt “Why didn’t HaShem just kill the Pharaoh?” .  He leaves the family bank for politics. The railways come. The Panama canal must be funded.   Emmanuel’s son Philip is a s wheeler-dealer,  his son Bobby – the last of the family in the business, dying in 1969 – buys art and racehorses. 


           A family tendency to nightmares of failure is vividly evoked: the skill of the three actors – though so frequently dropping into new brief roles – maintains a powerful sense of each personality.   The great crash comes; suicides, name by name, a dozen a day listed.    The struggle to survive  as Lehmans is Bobby’s.  You’re on the edge of your seat, both deploring the  “money is only numbers” absurdity of growing capitalism, foreseeing today’s crashes, but suffering for the men at its heart.      It’s an epic of survival and enterprise and latterly decadence into modern consumer credit ,  far from the cotton-overalls shop of  1844   “To buy is to exist.  Break the barrier of need, buy out of instinct!  The new rule is that anyone can buy anything and everything is a bargain” . Moral, intriguing, endlessly  entertaining, a fluent  masterclass from three of our finest actors.  Awed.     to  10 Oct

rating  five   5 Meece Rating

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Theatre owes a lot to Joan Littlewood: daughter of East End larkiness , music-hall jangle and tough 1930’s socialism; idealist and bully, stridingly inventive, a populist elitist (“I want only the truly disenfranchised to grace our stage”). Any theatre-maker now who chucks out the scenery, forces a cast to create the script, indicates change of character with a hat , revels in actors using their own accent and veers from earthiness to fantasy and back to make a point – every one of them is nodding to her legacy. She wrote her own story, in every sense; some swashbuckling anecdotes raise an eyebrow – did she really walk to Manchester to beard the BBC man? But her values and unshakeable self-confidence blew a breeze through the polite, Lord-Chamberlained theatre of her beginnings. She was disgusted even at school when the Porter in Macbeth had the same accent as the King, and left RADA scorning to graduate with a “West End Letter” , remarking that all you learnt there was to drink fake sherry while moving downstage to a better sightline. She championed Behan and Shelagh Delaney, and Barbara Windsor too; she transferred her work up West albeit with disgust at it being “pickled” in this way while the BBC “plundered her casts”.



All this lies before us in the Swan, and it is a joy to have Greg Doran’s RSC hosting a musical about her: itself a debut by the composer Sam Kenyon creating book, music and lyrics, and with a cast full of RSC first-timers including Clare Burt as Joan herself. At least, as the leading Joan: observing, meta-theatrically directing the action while six others portray her in different times or different moods. Particularly apposite is the fact that some of the Joans are black women: when RADA speaks patronizingly of the pupil’s “predicament” – meaning Joan’s illegitimacy and roughness – there is a dry topicality , in this age of concern about diversity in the profession, that the line is addressed to Aretha Ayeh.


It is skilfully woven, and Kenyon shows a mastery of styles from silent-movie tinkling to lush waltzes, big belting numbers, Sondheim style jerks and mellow agit-prop folk (naturally we meet Ewan MacColl, formerly Jimmie Miller of the Theatre of Action, and there is a fabulous moment when he walks out and Joan accuses him of just being jealous of young Shelagh Delaney’s new fame) .


The second act is tighter and better than the first, with a stunning evocation of the creation of O What A Lovely War, but Joan’s story rolls through always with both theatrical panache and decent human poignancy: her Gerry Raffles, debonair and devoted and unfaithful, is Solomon Israel. Emily Johnstone gives us a storming display as Barbara Windsor: though I was sorry not to have the famous moment when at her audition Joan ordered her to sit on her hands and abandon the vaudeville gestures to make the song tell its own story.



The period after Raffles’ death and Joan’s retirement when “Nothing much happened” is given us with a clever, sharp shrug of brevity. It was, as she would have wished, the shows that mattered. The art. Not a lot of “bloody acting”. In the end, she stands before us Joan Alone once more. Herself.


box office 01789 403493
rating four  4 Meece Rating

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ME AND MY GIRL Chichester Festival Theatre



     The sun has got his hat on,  England’s in the semi-final under a chap with a proper waistcoat, and Noel Gay’s 1937 musical is a great big, lovely, silly, dancing elephant of an all-British vintage musical.  It is delivered with nimble glee under Daniel Evans, with designer Lez Brotherston providing coups-de-set ,  and nicely bonkers choreographic flourishes by Alistair David (some very camp armour, top bathing-beauty towel work, and even hula-hoops ).   The musical director Gareth Valentine leads his sharp arrangements under everyone’s flying feet, his head just visible through a terrifyingly vulnerable triangular orchestra-pit in the stage , where he is imperilled nightly as The Lambeth Walk rages above him.    He even takes the trouble to pop up in full pearly-king outfit for the curtain call.  And while it takes a lot to get a Chichester audience to join in with “Oi!”,  a few actually did…



    But almost best of all, on the press night – with the star poor Matt Lucas suffering throat problems – we saw one of those storming understudy moments.  Ryan Pidgen took on the central role of Bill Snibson, the geezerish coster-and-cardsharp who finds himself unwilling heir to a Dukedom.  Provided that – in the screwball ‘30s plot – he can satisfy the trustees , Duchess Maria and Sir John  Tremayne ,   that he can fit in to high society and agree to drop his beloved Sally.    And with due respect  to the billed star, Pidgin inhabited and invigorated the part with immense, shining humour and confidence.  He was verbally nimble (there are a lot of music-hall gags  on words like aperitif and Kipling, hurrah. And lines like “This is Lady Brighton” – “Ah, I know your husband, the pier”).   As for the physical challenge, he was all there in character and springing movement, and even had the tigerskin-puppetry moment nailed.  Pidgen also has a glorious lyrical voice displayed in the beautifully staged “leaning on a lamppost” number,  before  it turns into a misty nightmare dream-sequence as  he seeks his vanished Sally.   So that exuberant, hastily rehearsed  triumph was an extra  thrill, a standing ovation, and a good theatre moment.



       But it is altogether a fine evening, and well worth reviving the old show (Rose & Furber’s book updated of course in 1985 by Stephen Fry).  Caroline Quentin is wonderful as the auntly iron-lady Duchess,  reluctantly enamoured of her Sir John (who sadly has not quite enough to do,  given that he’s Clive Rowe,  but you can’t have everything).   Jennie Dale’s Parchester, entrusted with the mischievous G & S echoes as the family solicitor, tap-dances ferociously round the stage.    Siubhan Harrison as the designing Jacquie executes a terrifying bathtime seduction scene on poor Bill and   Alex Young as Sally, out of place in her print frock, cardigan and specs,  is remarkably touching.   Evans makes sure she is  a carefully downbeat foil to all the glamour:  studiedly awkward at first,  fretting that her pygmalioned lover now “even swears posh”, she erupts  spiritedly into the pearly-king invasion,  but is  poignantly alone with“Once you lose your heart”. 



      She gets it back all right. ‘Course she does.    Because it’s  a joyful, hopeful fairytale of  a show. Just what we need. 

box office 01243 781312   to 12 May

rating  five  4 Meece Rating

if you think one’s missing, it is because  in shows like this, the fifth always should be the official musicals-mouse for choreographer and musical director… Musicals Mouse width fixed

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IDOMENEO Buxton Opera House


On his way home from victory at Troy, Cretan king Idomeneo’s ship is caught in a dreadful storm. In desperation, he vows to Neptune to sacrifice the first thing he sees if he reaches dry land safely. Tragically, that turns out to be Idomeneo’s own son, Idamante, who has fallen in love with captured Trojan princess Ilia, herself secretly smitten with Idamante but hostile to all Greeks since the destruction of her city. Idomeneo spends the rest of his opera trying work out how not to kill Idamante without bringing the wrath of Neptune on his Cretans: he fails spectacularly, alienating his bewildered son in the process and exposing Crete to the rampages of a terrible seamonster. Here, in Stephen Medcalf’s vision, the ‘monster’ is Idomeneo’s own guilt, which possesses him physically, turning him into a gurning, rampaging menace on stage. Eventually, Neptune relents on the condition that Idomeneo hands his crown over to Idamante, with Ilia as queen. Varesco’s plot contains several problems, not least of which is Neptune’s volte face from requiring human sacrifice to ordaining just and sensible rule over Crete – a scarcely credible cop out for an ancient deity. But the bashed, hashed version of Apollodorus’ myth is merely a jumping off point, for this is an opera about Enlightenment leadership, nobility and personal sacrifice, in which duty and love are placed in dramatic conflict.

Stephen Medcalf’s thoughtful direction, and Isabella Bywater’s glorious design of a room choked by tidal waves of sand looking out to a distant sea, which magically transforms into a beleaguered ship during a terrifying storm scene, make Buxton’s unquestionably the best Idomeneo I’ve yet seen. In military uniforms and puttees, the Greeks seem to have just got home from the First World War, good cultural shorthand for the level of psychological devastation wreaked on all sides by the fall of Troy. Paul Nilon is compellingly vulnerable and haunted as Idomeneo, his seasoned tenor sometimes almost raw with emotion. Heather Lowe’s stylish, freshly voiced and dramatically focused Idamante is brilliantly boyish and affecting, nicely paired with Rebecca Bottone’s steely, determined Ilia, a princess riven with horror at her own love for the enemy. Madeleine Pierard’s sassy, charismatic Elettra, a Greek princess who wants Idamante for herself, is a show-stopping sensation, bristling with passion and bitterness. The chorus scenes are magnificent, and conductor Nicholas Kok produces a clean, majestic sound from the Northern Chamber Orchestra, and though timing can fall a little oddly, it’s a satisfying, often stunning listen.

Visually powerful, psychologically compelling, and superbly well sung, Buxton’s production effectively masks Idomeneo’s inherent drawbacks. But they still remain: Idomeneo is no sprightly Da Ponte human drama, but a long, serious and inward-looking piece, carefully unpicking its moral dilemmas with Baroque beauty and grandeur, but without any sense of urgency or narrative thrust, which is why it so often falls flat. This Idomeneo works because it is seriously well acted within a clear directoral vision: Lowe, Bottone, Pierard and Nilon deliver intense, deeply felt characters driven to actions we can comprehend by emotions we can feel.


Until 19 July at Buxton Opera House, as part of Buxton International Festival

Production supported by Friends of Buxton Festival; Buxton International Festival sponsored by Arts Council England and the University of Derby

Box office: 01298 72190

Rating: five

5 Meece Rating

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ALZIRA Buxton Opera House


Verdi’s little-known opera about Peruvian Incas and Spanish conquistadors, Alzira, has finally received its UK premiere at Buxton International Festival. It is 173 years since its whirlwind composition, completed in a scant month during Verdi’s “galley years”, when he was churning out operas at extraordinary speed, a period about which he would grumble endlessly. Cammarano’s libretto is based on Voltaire’s Alzire, ou les Américains, an iconoclastic play which sought to poke holes in religion (and problematise European cultural pre-eminence) by showing harshness and nobility on both sides in Latin America, with both conquerors and conquered equally capable of mercy and vice, generosity and greed. Ideas of honour, faith and love become explosive in conflict as psychotic Spanish governor Gusmano (velvet-voiced baritone James Cleverton) fights with Inca warrior Zamoro (brooding, vocally dextrous tenor Yung Soo Jun) over who gets to marry the beautiful Inca princess Alzira (a frankly stupendous Kate Ladner).

Although Cammarano excised much of Voltaire’s revolutionary firepower in order to get past the censors, director Elijah Moshinsky reinvigorates those political dynamics by placing Alzira in a troubled Peru of the 1980s, where an imaginary Spanish government struggle to quell native guerrillas (and Verdi’s echoes of Italian Risorgimento stay clear). Grainy CNN footage during the overture suggests a pattern of failed coup, renewed control, increased injustice, street violence and coup; a lurching, familiar cycle. Designer Russell Craig dresses the stage simply with grimy floor tiles and vast sliding panels to evoke the faded grandeur of Latin America, while stage flotsam – fuel cans, packing cases, an old red leather couch – suggests post-coup chaos. Dynamic lighting and video projections give the stage a hallucinogenic edge. The Spanish are power-dressed in sober black suits or black military fatigues, their women all wearing nationalistic red; the Incas, with ponchos or scarves slung over their crumpled mufti, look desperate as they skulk in a digitally projected jungle (complete with flying parrots) plotting rebellion. Alzira is clearly a treasured princess, with a lavishly embroidered belt around her peasant skirt and Frida Kahlo flowers in her hair, while her final wedding costume is a breathtaking vision of blue and gold, powerfully channelling the iconography of the Virgin Mary. As with Moshinsky’s previous two instalments of his trilogy of early Verdi for Buxton (Giovanna d’Arco, 2015 and Macbeth, 2017), we get imported sound effects of guns and bombs across the story, but not so as to disrupt the score.

And what a score it is. The Northern Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Barlow, revel in it. The opera cracks along at whip-like pace, its moods and colours changing with lightning brevity. Alzira has often been dismissed as ‘just another love triangle’, but this triangle is skewed by two complex father-child relationships, another key Verdi hallmark: Alzira is being forced into marriage with the enemy by her harassed father Ataliba, while Gusmano’s gentler, urbane father Alvaro (Graeme Danby) is horrified that his son’s lust pushes him past the reach of compassion or Christian restraint. When Gusmano is fatally wounded by Zamoro, his climactic final repentance, and acceptance that Alzira and Zamoro should at last be together, is as sudden as it is unexpectedly sublime.


Until 20 July at Buxton Opera House, as part of Buxton International Festival

Production supported by Longcliffe and The Old Hall Hotel, Buxton; Buxton International Festival sponsored by Arts Council England and the University of Derby

Box office: 01298 72190

Rating: five

5 Meece Rating


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JERUSALEM Watermill, Nr Newbury



A heatwave in  festival season, everyone’s muzzy yearning for  greenwood misrule:  it’s perfect timing for the dangerous, beguiling Rooster Byron  to slam out of his shabby caravan once more,  douse his head in the water-butt and revel in disruption and disobedience.   A perfect setting too:  the play born at the Royal Court, West End and Broadway  nearly a decade ago finds a perfect home in the rustic-beamed Watermill.  There’s bunting overhead and maypole ribbons round the pillars.  Pretty and civilized though this theatre may be,  when Rooster’s scruffy band enter running up the side- aisles you can believe they came from a darker, wilder, poorer  rural scene.


   At the end  of its epic London run with the peerless Mark Rylance creating the part, I went back to decide whether – without him at its core – Jez Butterworth’s play would really last. This first revival proves it can: thanks to Lisa Blair’s unfussy direction but above all to an extraordinarily powerful, utterly complete performance by Jasper Britton.   His Rooster Byron is rough,  dangerous, fascinating but never fey.   He is both   credible as a former daredevil biker and disgraceful provider of booze and drugs to bored rural teenagers ,  but shows us with finesse that beneath the grey-haired, ragged, tattooed and filthy exterior lie are edges of intellectual depth , battered personal sorrow, and the curious consoling sense of underlying virtue which made Butterworth’s play so memorable.    


And there is extra fascination in seeing the author’s tough, mystical-disreputable take on rural England from the far side of his extraordinary Irish-set Ferryman, with its parallel sense  (remember Aunt Maggie Far-Away.) of  a modern world alienated from,  but needily haunted by,  its dark old myths and magic.



       For Rooster’s Power over the disaffected, the eccentric, the  aimless teens and Peter Caulfield’s touchingly needy Ginger lies in more than drugs (though dammit, that’s topical as ‘county lines’ flourish) .   His defiance of eviction notices and the law is bolstered by something older and wilder:  legends, giants, earthy magic.   Butterworth’s monologues for the myth-maker are notably clever in mixing banalities – canasta, motorway service areas,  Nigerian traffic wardens – with giants at Stonehenge and miracle births.  And with the ensemble, there’s a wonderful riff about how BBC Points West merged with Bristol –  and for all they knew Belgium – and abandoned them. 


         These are David Goodhart’s “Somewheres”, no doubt kneejerk Brexiteers, bereaved of identity by cultural homogeneity and rural neglect.  Every character stands out:  Robert Fitch as Wesley the landlord under the brewery’s thumb,  Natalie Walter as the ex-partner who has to fight  to deny herself the ragged grey hair and bottomless black eyes of her lost but essential lover,  Rebecca Lee as Tanya pleading for attention from Sam Swann’s awkward, aspiring, reluctant Lee who may never actually get that bus to a new life.


           So you laugh, and shudder, and watch the gradual darkening of the picture.    Ever more you sense that through the human warmth of bantering, intoxicated comradeship , in all our private woods the old werewolf is waiting.  Britton’s great roaring finale stops the heart.  

to  21 July.  Still tickets.  Go!

Box Office 01635 46044

rating five 5 Meece Rating

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This is as violent as anything I’ve seen on the stage. And I’m including in this survey that Titus Andronicus at the Globe which saw half a GCSE class collapse before the interval. And by ‘violent’ I don’t just mean execution by hand gun at close range, I mean the subsequent vivid red splatter which streaks up the wall, the cat ‘brained’ at short distance with a hand gun, a man’s face being rubbed in the corpse, and the nonchalant request of a torturer for a cheese grater and something to muffle the screams.Each one is punctured with a top notch gag.


Martin McDonagh’s play can be summed up thus; an INLA (the IRA wouldn’t have him) paramilitary comes back to his home of Inishmore because he gets wind that his cat is ill. ‘Wee Thomas’, his only friend in the world, is in fact dead and when Mad Padraic finally arrives and realises he died, many others follow suit. For all the wistful nonsense literature we’ve had to endure about this part of the world, this is a firm sharp slap round the face.


McDonagh wanted to write a play, he says, that would make the IRA want to kill him. I can only imagine what impact the play would have had in 2001 when it was finally first staged. It’s a ferocious satire on the terrorist mindset. Blinding people, murdering them, pulling their toes out is fair game but leave the cat alone.


But it’s the sparky bickering and distracted conversation which really sets this play alive. Who said what, is this the right cat, should you feed it Frosties? Lines shouted at the peak of panic like “do you want a happy cat or a free Ireland?”. Also is there a better accent for the word “knickers” than Northern Irish (try it). Michael Grandage orchestrates this brilliantly. The Irish accents (perfect to my Nottinghamshire ear), the gags, the thumps all bounce along perfectly, and you feel every jab and shot.


Aidan Turner (Poldark sans sythe) is Mad Padraic. At first I thought well he’s the straight man so easy peasy but as the absurdity ratchets up his perfect comic timing is what keeps things ticking. The dufus duo of old man Donny (Denis Conway ) and young man Davey (Chris Walley) works beautifully as they natter endlessly as the carnage unfolds around them. Charlie Murphy as the young, aspiring paramilitary is eerily dead behind the eyes. Just like the Childish Gambino video for This is America which swept round the internet like wildfire (Google it) this has a spookily unfeeling quality. The gags have us all roaring but when someone with a blank expression “brains” someone with two handguns 2 feet from their head, 900 gobs took a sharp intake of breath. It lampoons terrorism but also gives you a flavour of the giddy mindless emptiness of it.


A funnier, more chilling, more satisfying comedy you will not find.

Rating  5   5 Meece Rating

Until 8th September


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