Have you earned your coins for the Ferryman?

Whether or not I have earned my coins is a matter that is not up for discussion! What is on the agenda is how magnificent was Sam Mendes’ production of Jez Butterworth’s little pot of gold.

Jez Butterworth never fails to conjure up a roller coaster of emotions throughout a single setting. Granted, the IRA is a heavy topic in itself so one does come prepared (or so I thought). How can I adore, hate and want to shake a character all in one sitting?! With his writing anything is possible. In all honesty The Ferryman left me emotionally drained for a good hour afterwards, where I was in shock as to the progression of the play, with Jez teasing the audience’s conscience and steering the sinking ship in a completely new/very shocking direction. (Can you tell I am trying to give as little away as possible?) – I am not sure I will last very long…
The first time we meet ‘The Carneys” it is a wonderful scene set in the kitchen of a typical and spacious farmhouse. We see two people who appear to be smitten with one another – wouldn’t you be if you danced perfectly with blindfolds on, in sync and giggling the night away. Yeah. You get the picture. These two individuals are in fact ‘In-Law’ siblings. Meet Caitlin Carney played by the gorgeous Laura Donnelly. If anything she is the protagonist, as it is her husband that creates the ambiguous story line. Her husband is Quinn Carney’s brother and so the love triangle begins… Laura plays the part of the beautiful sister-in-law to perfection. She is seen as the mother of the house, the one who cooks and keeps the family together. Similarly to Antigone, the connection of not knowing where a loved one is or the likelihood of finding them alive can drive people to torment. Uncertainty can lead to wanting a strong and deep connection elsewhere. In this case she finds solace in Quinn.
Quinn is played by Paddy Considine who carries the show effortlessly. He captivates the audience and his on stage family we don’t even have to try to like him! We just do!

As a production it was perfect. The casting was faultless and I commend Mendes and his team for debuting over half the cast! Finally some new Irish actors coming on to the scene and in the most epic production too (lucky them). It was evident that the entire cast oozed confidence and their interaction was wonderful to watch. In particular it was a delight to witness the young ‘Carney’ family members acting along side well-established actors with such ease. In terms of a holistic performance the quality was as expected. SPECTACULAR! The cast are harmonious, receptive and incredibly endearing – and yes I include the rabbit! It is clear that they are all aware of the sensitivity of the topic yet they understand Jez’ writing. Bold, brisk, and bloody rude.

Scene it Tip 1) Whatever you’re doing. stop. Go and see The Ferryman. You’ll leave it weeping, confused or just plain starstruck. Don’t forget your coins for a programme.

Scene it Tip 2) Read another Jes Butterworth play. Here’s a good one: The River The link leads to a raving review the guardian did, Laura Donnelly featured in that one too!

Scene it Tip 3) Working with kids and animals really does work! or maybe this was just an anomaly.

 

Piping hot!

HeaderBrendan-Cowell-John-and-Billie-Piper-Her-in-Yerma-at-the-Young-Vic.-Photo-by-Johan-Persson

I am aware I am a little late to jump on the bandwagon of the ‘Billie Piper praising committee’ but it was only when watching the NT:live version of Yerma that I can now confirm I am an avid fan. God I am thankful for NT Live.  

Lorca’s tragical, poetical and deeply moving play “Yerma” is in itself a masterpiece. Drawing on the issues of a woman’s role in society, the utter devastation felt of an infertile woman and an underlying topic of obsession. How far can an individual go in obtaining or managing an obsession? How long before the dream is dispatched?  It is fair to say Yerma is a beautiful tragedy that many women will be able to relate to; making it all the more emphatic.

I hadn’t heard of Simon Stone until now and he has taken British theatre by storm. His modern adaptation of Yerma is flawless. His choice of modern comparisons of issues in Britain mirrored in the harsh ideologies of Spanish society are both lighthearted  yet moving. His choice of overlapping dialogue conveyed issues from the start between the two protagonists – both relaying contrasting views yet neither one actually listening to the other. Even at the very beginning their inability to truly support one another forebodes the tragic end.

In Yerma we see Billie Piper in a completely new light. Both powerful yet incredibly fragile when it came to her modern day dissatisfaction. Yerma suffers an immense amount of self-pressure in setting herself a goal to become pregnant; her inability to do so leads to a frantic obsession where she begins to destroy all hope and happiness that surrounds her. We see Billie convey a successful, independent woman who becomes totally dependent on John (her husband) who in turn, voiced from the beginning that he was not too keen on having kids. Billie Piper was honest, beautiful and gave one of her most elegant performances to date. She did herself proud – well… obviously. It’s not every day you see any actor experience their character’s version of ‘hell’ and perfect it. Each emotion, each hurdle we wanted Yerma to succeed and Billie made it incredibly believable. The Olivier awards got it right.

Brenden Cowell: is he the new Russel Crowe? No – Tor; not all Australian actors are the same just because of their accent. Brenden as “John” was effortlessly convincing. He was an absolute pleasure to watch from start to finish and provoked constant reactions from Billie which aided to the overall ‘trapped atmosphere’ in the glass-box set. He was forever mirroring the regurgitation of words and sentences yet emphasising poignant phrases to perfection. His timing and stage presence were faultless and his line deliverance was inspiring. Brenden has opened my eyes to performing in an entirely different style. He relied on his ability to sense changes in the other actors; it appeared he trusted himself with everything. His lines were a part of him, it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t perform them differently every night depending on his emotional state. It was clear he had the freedom every actor wants; which is to be completely comfortable to expect the unexpected. E.g. a new emotion, a new reaction, a different deliverance. Brenden executes John with subtle humour that makes the audience systematically fall in love with him. We pity him as “Yerma” begins to try for a baby and milk him dry! 

Scene it Tip 1) As per usual – check out the Young Vic‘s website. They are an avid supporter of new, innovative theatre and it’s great!  

Scene it Tip 2) Simon Stone is now channeling all things performance on the international circuit. Toneelgroep Amsterdam give a good insight into his method of developing a script – it’s pretty damn cool.  Here’s the link

Scene it Tip 3) It is interesting to notice how a performance becomes a lot more focused when you put all the actors in a glass box.

 

 

 

The Glass Menagerie

33672_full.jpg

What will it be like this time?

Indeed, it is a play done over and over again but this masterpiece created by Tennessee Williams always provides an opportunity for artistic license. Directed by John Tiffany, with the help of Steven Hoggett (movement director), he created a piece of theatre that was very gentle but at the same time filled with many little moments of perfection to enjoy.

Although it was Williams’ first play, The Glass Menagerie is what put him onto the world map. Described as a memory play, the protagonist, Tom begins to narrate the scene, explaining and enhancing our knowledge of both his mother and sister. Amanda (Cherry Jones) is a faded Southern belle who shares an apartment with her son Tom and her daughter Laura, in St. Louis. Laura, played by Kate O’Flynn, has previously suffered from polio and walks with a limp; leading her to feel very insecure about joining normal life. Amanda becomes obsessed with finding a gentleman caller (Jim) for her daughter, who is unable to integrate into society and spends most of her time playing with her collection of glass animals.

Memories aren’t necessarily accurate as Tom forewarns the audience in his initially soliloquy. However, I must admit that initially I felt like perhaps Michael Esper (who plays Tom) had forgotten how to do a convincing American accent.

Therefore, I had some sympathy with the gentleman and his wife sat next to me, who had already begun to drift off. Suddenly, the usage of physical theatre in the first act struck a cord and I was fixated on the objectives behind the movement sequences. Each actor impressively used their body to express the distress, curiosity, lust and excitement many of them experience throughout the play.

However, Cherry Jones, being an experienced older actor carried the show. Amanda as a character is highly flamboyant yet fragile and Cherry pulled everything out the bag; she performed with such elegance it seemed so natural for her. It was a pleasure to giggle my way through her scenes, hoping that my chuckle would wake up the couple to my right.

It’s obvious I am a romantic and I got excited in Act 2 that (finally) there was a kiss. Oops – spoiler! But it’s okay, as its run has finished. Which brings me on to my favorite bit of the show. Both characters (Laura and Jim) have a beautifully delicate scene in which they share a moment of true honesty. Kate O’Flynn is phenomenal in portraying the awkward innocence of Laura when put in a situation of flattery. She was so incredibly believable and her emotions conveyed a sense of relief that perhaps she could be loved, that this moment captured the essence of human desires and feelings. Perhaps the message here is that we all naturally want to feel truly accepted and Laura experiences a little snippet of lust that had a far deeper intention.

Overall a good production accompanied by music and a very realistic set which helped the actors deliver meaningful performances.

Scene it Tip 1: Watch out for Kate O’Flynn as she was fantastic and definitely up and coming.

Scene it Tip 2: Always go see shows with an open mind.

Scene it Tip 3: Check out the history behind The Glass Menagerie.

Whatever floats your goat

the goat

 

A masterpiece by Edward Albee paired with the ultimate cast makes for an intense yet captivating show. 

The dark comedy channeling Greek tragedies’ connections to the taboo subject of bestiality is spellbinding. What a privilege to sit for two hours (without an interval)  and watch Damian Lewis never leave the stage. His performance of Martin, an extremely successful architect, who subsequently admits to having an affair with the infamous ‘Sylvia’ is flawless. No surprise to see him use his, ‘practiced to perfection’, American accent once again while executing the perverse yet pitiful nature of Martin without fault. Devastatingly for the wife, played by the truly mesmerising Sophie Okonedo , Sylvia is a goat. Sophie’s performance, in my opinion, steals the show. Her dedication to embody the torment and stress of a wife left without a stable relationship is incredible. In moments of total chaos she portrays subtle humour, love and to some degree forgiveness.

‘The Goat’ provokes many issues including the destruction of an ‘ideal’ family unit, homosexuality and not forgetting bestiality.

Albee enlightens the audience with his reference to Greek tragedies and their connection to the downfall of strong, successful men such as Martin, all due to a mistake or lack of judgement. The comedic nature of the play helps us disassociate ourselves from the chaos of the situation. Billy, played by Archie Madekwe, also adds this element; from swearing to voicing what would be going through any teenager’s mind, Archie delivers a fantastic debut theatre performance. Despite being emotionally challenging, every actor having experienced their own personal/internal struggles, which has resulted in convincing performances all round. As an audience we almost cried with them….

Overall “The Goat or who is Sylvia” challenges many issues and certainly doesn’t help us get any closer to discovering why Martin’s boat stays afloat by a goat. GET YOURSELF to the theatre and prepare to giggle, gasp, and shed a tear or two.

Scene it Tip 1: Turn off your phones so you’re not the person in the stalls making Damian Lewis break character and shout “Are you gonna get that”!

Scene it Tip 2: Pay attention to the level of detail all the actors focus on. It’s the little things that create realistic performances.

Scene it Tip 3: Go check out the theatre’s website  Theatre Royal Haymarket . They always do cheap tickets (up in the Gods) and yes, you can actually see the stage!