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!

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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

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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.

RADA meets Fringe

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Two actors and THIRTEEN characters – what could possibly go wrong?

Nothing. The two leads are spellbinding in every role. Okay, so RADA grad Jeremy Legat plays the 13 suspects conveniently showcasing the true talent training that RADA gives you. However Ed McArthur is just as convincing. They both portray different ways of getting into the industry and have conjoined to produce something spectacular.

First show cased in Broadway, Murder for Two has glided across the pond ready to entertain our nation. I’d say it’s the ‘Play that goes wrong’ sort of humour meets Agatha Christie, only twice as sophisticated.

Yes there are songs, but if you enjoyed La La Land then this is no different. Both are incredibly skilled on the piano – and the improvisation is energetic and uncalled for but most of all the occasional slips emphasise the authenticity of the play. Both actors are brilliant at playing with the audience. Every night is unique according to the stewards!

Both actors are charming in spirit and in voice. Their resumes are very different but their similarity lies in their love for music, specifically the piano. Imagine a two hour show with incredible jazz numbers with actors singing and playing with no need for any backing. As many will say – four hands are better than two.

Sadly, sitting amongst the older generations at the Watermill Theatre is no longer an option as it is now beginning its tour before being rightfully placed on the iconic West End for a run! Starting in London at The Other Palace this really isn’t one to miss.

Scene It Tip 1: Enjoy the music – it is not often a soon-to-be West End musical consists of two actors!

Scene It Tip 2: Look out for more Fringe inspired actors. Yes the Drama schools will always remain prestigious but it is great to see other routes into stardom!

Scene It Tip 3: Check out the Watermill Theatre in Newbury, for local and touring companies. It is a major pre West-End talent hub!

Sex With Strangers

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When has anyone ever been afraid of hard pecs, sex and strangers?

Yes, Theo James!  You did provide the audience with plenty more reasons to love you. As if the shirtless scenes in Divergent weren’t enough already- prepare yourself for a comedy filled with heated arguments, twists and most importantly SEX. (not really).  Oh, and a huge… bonus is the fact that Bristol Old Vic grad Theo really delivers the goods. Forever captivating the audience with his endearing yet comical portrayal of Ethan a famous internet blogger; it was difficult not to be entirely on his side.

In other words… Not just a pretty face.

Sex With Strangers is a cheeky yet realistic portrayal of a relationship that obviously began with them being merely strangers. Cast your eyes to the two protagonists that are both talented in their own right and carry loaded CVs that help convince us they were worth the 36 pounds.

Be prepared to sit down and need a little time to warm up to the actors. In particular it was a little challenging to succumb to Emilia’s portrayal of Olivia. Needless to say once you got past the slightly odd take on an American accent she was intelligent, fearless and I truly believed Olivia’s struggle in every way. This show really captures the struggles modern couples can face with the internet making everything public.

Together the cast create humorous sexual tension from about 5 minutes into the show which is riveting and therefore extremely hard to ignore. Allow yourself to become immersed in the naturalistic set that’s been furnished with things that my apartment could never own and enjoy how comfortable the actors appear in the space.

Overall it was a pleasure from start to finish. Perfectly advertises the quality of acting in the London scene.  If you have the chance to grab a last minute ticket this week. Go go go!

Scene it Tip 1: Watch out for the chemistry between the 2 actors. Whether or not you truly believe the lust it was interesting to see how these actors dealt with the age difference.

Scene it Tip 2: Think about how far can you relate to the characters? Personally I love shows and performances that are brutally honest so that we walk out beginning to reflect on our own lives.

Scene it Tip 3:  Check out the Hampstead Theatre-They always have quirky, Off- West End Shows.