You made a first-class fool out of me

Christopher Hampton, A German Life (Directed by Jonathan Kent, Br/dge Theatre)

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I was going to London on the day that tickets for this went on sale and I did wonder whether the SouthEastern WiFi would be up to it. I was three thousand in the queue with fifty five minutes on board and got to check out just as we hit the tunnels around Stratford. I was lucky — this may well be the only time I get to see the legendary star of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads live.

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Peers vs Piers

Edward II (Directed by Nick Bagnall, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

I think this is the third production I’ve seen, although I had lost track of which came first — it was clearly Derek Jarman’s film of Edward II (1991), which is compromised by a compelling performance by Tilda Swinton as the cuckolded and cuckolding Isabella — whom you root for — and the treatment of the (spoiler) traditional execution at the play’s end. Continue reading →

Who the Hell is Alys?

Lucinda Coxton, Alys, Always (directed by Nicholas Hytner, Br/dge Theatre)

D5EA0553-E400-4DCC-BD19-426DEAB85513The Bridge has fallen into a pattern of producing three kinds of play: a premiere from a successful playwright, a Shakespeare blockbuster and an adaptation of a novel by a woman. This is the latter, from a novel by former Guardian writer Harriet Lane, a novel I confess I haven’t read.
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Life is Not a Dream

Martin Sherman, Gently Down the Stream (directed by Sean Mathias, Park Theatre, Finsbury Park)

GentlyForty years ago, Martin Sherman wrote the play Bent, which in its original version starred Ian McKellen (before he publically came out) and Tom Bell and was set in 1930s Berlin as Hitler was strengthening his power. McKellen’s then partner, Sean Mathias, directed a revival and a film version – although I have I suspect a false memory of seeing it on TV. Now Mathias has directed Sherman’s new play, which ranges across the last eighty years. It debuted last year with Harvey Fierstein in the lead, a production I wish I’d seen, directed by Mathias.

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Suite Caroline

Tony Kushner (book and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music), Caroline, or Change (directed by Michael Longhurst, Playhouse Theatre, London)

I was lucky enough to catch a day-long double bill of Tony Kushner’s extraordinary Angels in America at the National Theatre in 2017 and was intrigued enough to want to see Caroline, or Change at Chichester… but I’d only discovered it was on a day before it shut and evidently missed the transfer to Hampstead. A transfer to the Playhouse, Northumberland Avenue, seemed like a good bet and I would need to be in London on the day of one of the performances anyway.

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Sad Stories of the Death of Kings

William Shakespeare, The Tragedie of King Richard II (Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbons, Almeida Theatre, live relay)

So more bard — I have a vague memory of a Nottingham Playhouse production and at least one War of the Roses cycle, and of course Ben Wishaw played a rather fey version on the telly… Simon Russell Beale in contrast has an air of camp in what is a stripped down, eight person, single set, hundred minute version.

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Faustus Must Be Damn’d

Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus (Directed by Paulette Randal, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse)

img_7197I’d managed to forget that Pauline McLynn was in this as Mephistopheles — which is just as well as I would have been channelling Mrs Doyle. “Ah will you not sell your soul, Father Dougal? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on… Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…” It does make sense in retrospect — she brings a grotesquery to the role, as well as a cat who has got the cream (with or without tea), as she knows what is to come. There is also a moment when she licks the knife Faustus has used to get blood to sign with — and I’m reminded of Gary Oldman’s Dracula licking Keannu Reeves’s Harker’s cut-throat razor. There is even a physical resemblance.

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