On Set.

Mosquitoes/Dorfman Theatre/2.8.3017

The Dorfman is one of my favourite spaces in The National. I have seen several shows there this year and every time the space has felt different, and this changes how you feel about the action. Mosquitoes was set in the round, with a large central circle suspended from the rigs, copying the audience, and copying rather the play, which starts and ends in a similar place. Largely set in Switzerland close to the Large Hadron Collider where Alice works the play feels familiar as we can relate at least to the news reports that are live projected onto the screens of the LHC being booted up for the first time happening in recent history.

The ‘heavy’ science presented in the play is made cool and accessible by the help of a mop and some projections and the relationships feel very real- because they have more than one problem. It’s not just a teenage boy struggling to accept his mum’s boyfriend, he’s also struggling with love and betrayal for the first time in the form of sexting, at a time when his aunt who not only is a hypochondriac but also attempts suicide, whilst being a primary carer for her elderly mother who wants to be euthanised, after a life of her husband taking the credit for her scientific prowess. The realism, however, can make it seem flippant in some of these cases. If you have two and half hours to hold my attention traditionally one issue or theme is explored. I’m not sure how I feel about this, still. Lucy Kirkwood makes in work and you walk away after applauding a talented cast on their hard work, feeling satisfied by a plot that you know if you submitted at uni your tutor would write that there was too much going on. What added to the satisfaction was how smoothly the scenes transitioned with the set being pulled on and off using hooked poles with little effort.

This feeling of satisfaction was washed over, however, by annoyance. I don’t care if you’ve paid £5 or £150 for your ticket to any show, you don’t try and sneak out before the curtain call. For the sake of 15 minutes, you are being rude and insulting not only to the actors that have emotionally and physically drained themselves for your entertainment, but the musicians, stage crew and front of house staff by your desperate need to flee the auditorium. Please. Please.

 

-Kim

On big names delivering

Hamlet/Harold Pinter Theatre/31.07.2017

Andrew Scott takes on Shakespeare’s big name, Hamlet. Hamlet has been described as the pinnacle of an actors career. Although that may not be true anymore putting a big name behind a big name (see Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston or David Tennant) in your production can do wonders for the productions success and your box office figures. As I’m writing this it has been announced that the play is going to be shown on BBC two and I’m very excited to see how it translates onto the TV, especially as in traditional Robert Ike style the production features a lot of live projection and clever screen work.

The presentation of Hamlet and Ophelia’s (Jessica Brown-Findlay) relationship was warming and made their storyline far more tender, and in turn, heartbreaking. Though her death did (as it always does) felt swept over (but who am I to criticise Shakespeare on his writing.) Her ‘madness’ fell more in parallel with Hamlets, not raving but controlled and sorrowful for what had occurred at the time of the play. Overall I found the production spellbinding, a perfect textbook showing of ‘Modern Shakespeare’ that captures and engages an audience, mixing up the scenes and trying to turn the ‘intellectual laughs’ into real ones; demonstrating the true wit and colour of the language while not trying too hard to be ‘accessible’ and ‘hip’

-Kim

On the new musical.

Superhero/Southwark Playhouse/2017
Committee/Donmar Warehouse/7.8.2017

Anyone who has studied theatre at any point in their lives realised that there is several stages/eras of theatre. There are trends and fads that everyone wants to have a go at. At the moment this seems to be making serious and complex topics into musicals. Possibly the most famous example of one of these was London Road, a musical set in the aftermath of several murders in Ipswich. I’m going to talk about two productions; ‘Superhero’ at the Southwark Playhouse and ‘The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee Takes Oral Evidence On Whitehall’s Relationship With Kids Company’ (which I’m going to shorten to Committee) at the Donmar Warehouse.

Superhero was performed in the Little space, and as I went midweek, a relatively small audience which meant some really good seats! The premise of Superhero is that of a father, Colin, (Michael Rouse) going to court in order to persuade a judge that his wife shouldn’t be allowed to move to LA with their daughter, Emily. Colin, however, had taken part in Fathers 4 Justice like campaigns and struggles with public speaking. We gain insight into his version of events through flashbacks and songs about being a primary carer, his affair and the subsequent divorce and his experience of campaigning for better rights for fathers. The sudden launching into songs actually manages to feel like it has a purpose, to highlight a moment or transport us to another time. Being a one man show was a sheer display of human capability both on behalf of the actor and on behalf of the audience for filling in the gaps, especially in the scenes that ‘included’ Emily, who felt just as real as everything else that we were being told happened.

Committee, had its bases closer to verbatim, takes its words directly from the select committee that investigated how Kids Company had been allowed to financially fail even after millions of pounds had been pumped into the company over a 20 year period. The battle lines are drawn in such a way that the questioners follow the same line of asking why management wasn’t changed when the company was losing money, and the questioned simply replied by asking what they were supposed to do when the demand for their services were constantly on the rise. The play doesn’t fall on one side or the other, nor does it give any context other than what was said in the court and the testimony given in that space. Inherently this felt like this was a bias, we saw none of the work that was done by the company, nor did we have the paperwork the inquest had. However it didn’t feel like the inquest had the upper hand, maybe it’s because, seemingly like leading politicians, I agreed with the work Kids Company undertook and wanted to see it succeed; even though a lot of the work they were doing should have been under the state, there is the argument that it was, as the company was backed heavily by successive governments alongside private donors. Although the issues highlighted by the show were poignant, and the singing and acting faultless the framing of the situation as a musical felt a little unnecessary and at times uncomfortable, causing sniggers in the audience. It felt like it would have fit in brilliantly among the tribunal plays at the tricycle, but instead opted for being ‘accessible’ for a more west end audience.

-Kim