Monthly Archives: December 2019

THEATRECAT IS UNDER THE VET…

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A MESSAGE FOR THOSE KIND ENOUGH TO DROP INTO THIS SITE…

Theatrecat followers: a bit of news below, in detail for your information or in case any of you are undergoing the parallel thing.  If so, Salut, mes  camarades!

I am suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive – but they think treatable –  B-cell two-hit lymphoma, The treatment – a week inpatient, three home but not allowed theatres or trains for infection risk, then a week in again –  and so on  till about April.

So I address you from a fine unit at the James Paget hospital, tethered to an undramatic bright orange drip.  There’ll be a few cycles, though home in between.

It means obviously that I’m off reviewing until spring, as keeping the lists  organised and editing contributors  is a  one man band. And I may be very tired, and only fit to carry on work that pays the bills…

Sorry. Will be back. Still tweeting, so a ff will indicate date of return, assuming this treatment works.

Meanwhile I commend to you the ones I am missing with regret – the Palladium panto, because I am a Christmas lowbrow at heart..sure it’ll be filthy – .Stratford East’s , , and best of all the Old Vic xmas Carol. There’s the ever interesting Southwark, the new Stoppard, the Almeida’s Malfi, Tom Morton Smith’s  Ravens (damn! Hope it transfers!) , the return of the wonderful Girl from the  North Country to London  and of Albion at the Almeida. Oh,  and don’t miss the Kiln for  Snowflake – saw it in Oxford , review here, and I gather it is sharpened up nicely.

And many more.  It’s a rich time, and I am sorry not to be at the Menier even now, bopping along to The Boy Friend…or on the way to Bristol Old Vic now refurbished in splendour…or northbound..though Helen will do Gipsy, see below later. And I may attempt Red Rose Chain as it’s near home…

Arrivederci, au revoir, but not Adieu, from this page.

I may of energetic use the time to finish a memoir about ten years of  the emotional and intellectual effects of intensive theatre reviewing, in the aftermath of a son’s loss.  It is an opus now two-thirds written but scorned by dismissive literary agents   as too niche a subject.

You and I know that live theatre, grand and fringe alike from pub to Palladium, is not at all niche. That it is actually the heart’s blood of our culture and the world’s.  So I might publish that myself…

Here are some rarely seen speciality mice,   to cheer you up if you miss us…I still dislike star-ratings…but if they help, y’welcome!  Veteran Lady Producer mouse, Dame, Makeup mouse, Auteur-director mouse, and Hamlet…

Libby

Madam Director Mouse resizedDame mouse width fixed

Makeup Mouse resized

Director Mouse resized

Hamlet Mouse width fixed

 

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A Christmas Carol. Old Vic SE1

ITS BACK…THIIS TIME GUEST CRITIC BEN DOWELL IS THE PURRING THEATRE CHRISTMASCAT

libby, christmas cat

 

A Christmas Carol – with lots of carols? Whoda thunk it? The idea is almost stupefying in its simplicity, but my goodness it works wonderfully, adding weight and meaning and, yes, proper context to Charles Dickens’ oft told story of personal redemption.

 

This is a production that uses timeless songs like The Coventry Carol, O Holy Night and See, amid the Winter’s Snow to unlock so much of the mystery and meaning of Dickens’ story, each one fitting the action like a snug winter glove. What a jukebox director Matthew Warchus has at his disposal, and in these secular times it’s a pleasant surprise to have the Nativity celebrated in this way.

 

Because what writer Jack Thorne’s version of this beloved 1843 novella reminds us above all is that Dickens’ story is not about one magical night of transformation, but for everyone to remember the Christmas message of goodwill and generosity to the world at large; or as Scrooge himself puts it at the conclusion of his journey, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year”. And that is an unmistakeably Christian instruction.

 

This freshened-up production, returning to the Old Vic after its premiere in 2017, is first rate.

 

Rob Howell’s design creates a cross-shaped stage that threads its way through the stalls. Four doors rise up to admit the ghosts, creating portals that act imaginatively in ways that are inevitably both literal and figurative.

 

On a simple set Scrooge sits alone while a crew of wassailers sing around him; of course he rejects their overtures, but, like the three Christmas ghosts (all played by women), they keep returning, a crescendo of kindness he can’t ultimately resist.

 

Stepping into the lead role, and following Rhys Ifans and Stephen Tompkinson in previous years, is Paterson Joseph, familiar to fans of cult comedy  Peep Show as the idiotically vain Alan Johnson, and here giving one of the performances of his life. His humanity simply erupts onto the stage, especially in those moments when he faces up to his treatment of Rebecca Trehearn’s Belle, the woman he once loved.

 

Thorne’s script is also notable for the way it interrogates the question of what made Scrooge who he is and finds part of the answer in is appalling treatment at the hands of his drunken father. He’s not excused, of course, but understanding of that, and Joseph’s skilled portrayal of a man whose sheer humanity allows for nuggets of goodness, means we are consistently pointed us towards the possibility of redemption.

 

And when it comes it feels simultaneously inevitable and gloriously surprising. The stage becomes a cornucopia of Christmas treats and fruits and the final moments of lamplit carolling, bell ringing and snowfall at the close will make your heart leap. I urge you to go and see this truly fabulous show.

 

Until January 18. Box Office: 0344 871 7628.

Rating five   5 Meece Rating

NB here too Below is the link to my last review of it. Ben and I are of one mind…

 

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