ON MAIN STAGE

YERMA

A production that preceded itself, with five star reviews coming out the wazoo. We arrived at the Young Vic with nervousness: this is a hip place and the show has got an awful lot to live up to - were we going to be disappointed? Seated close to the stage: a glass box, with an audience either side of the stage, so the performance space was something of a hot-dog, we observed the characters like they were an experiment. As soon as it started, with its minimal setting, we knew we were going to see something extraordinary. It starts with Her’s husband talking about enjoying anal sex and their sheer comfort it getting gross with one another. It told you they were in love. However, her desperate need to get pregnant begins to create a chasm between the two lovers: the impeccable Billie Piper and the revelatory Brendan Cowell, causing their marriage and their lives to breakdown in front of our eyes. Seeing two people desperately in love, yet unable to give each other what they need was heart- wrenching, even before the play’s most dramatic moment, we were wiping tears from our eyes, as these problems dogging these two felt too all too real and cruel. Then comes the play’s crescendo, and
the audience became more vocal than Piper as they wept and gasped for Her and her futile attempts of birthing a child. I remember the ensemble bowing, some people standing for their ovation, but so many like me were unable to stand, too emotionally and physically wrecked to get out of our seats, we clapped and cried furiously. This is theatre that cannot be missed and restores faith that theatre is where emotions live and experience is remembered.

Who's afraid of virginia woolf?

The Pinter Theatre has a certain majesty about it, so it was no surprise this play was billed as the
“Imelda Staunton” show. With a run time of three and a half hours, one would really need a tour de
force performance to see the show through, although that may be doing a disservice to the genius
playwright Edward Albee, whose dialogue was hilarious, poignant and sad in equal measure. It would
also be a disservice to discount the performance of Conleth Hill, who matches Staunton’s energy, her
cutting remarks and emotional complexity every step of the way: he is funny in a self-deprecating
way, disappointing in a deeply human way and dynamic in an almost contradictory fashion – it is
probably my favourite stage performance ever. That being said, Staunton is the anchor, she is the
nuclear bomb, the destructive mess who fights everyone on stage, including herself. Their chemistry
and the story of the married couple incapable of confronting the real issues of their lives lends
perspective on the distractions we partake in our lives to avoid the gaping holes that would ruin us
should we dwell in them too long. The set was stunning and the lighting, especially near the end of the
play when morning comes was inspired. I think if you like a terrific story, terrific actors and terrific
staging, this is a play you cannot afford to miss.

TRUE WEST

Kit Harrington knew that he had to get on stage early, penning his script on the table in his mother’s
house before the play officially started. The wolf whistles and fans were in heavy supply, so it wasn’t
until five minutes in Johnny Flynn strutted on stage, as only a cowboy in Southern USA can. In this
time, one could marvel at the stage and the startlingly realistic portrayal of one of those houses built in
the seventies, “modern”, though never in fashion…
Both actors are good, however, it is Johnny Flynn who comes out the gates storming, holding court
and making it clear to the audience he is in control. Harrington, perhaps due to the subservient role in
the first act, plays second fiddle, however, come the second act, their roles have reversed and
Harrington proves hilarious and dynamic – it’s nice to see him away from the brooding, uninteresting
Jon Snow. Shepherd’s writing is what stands out in this play: he gives his characters long speeches
and the room to play, but the poignancy and timelessness of his words show that he is a legendary
American playwright that is sorely missed. The play was funny and exciting, however, it did not pack
the emotional intensity it was aiming for: the stakes were high enough, but it didn’t seem the actors
were terrified they stood to lose everything in their war with one another.

when we have sufficiently tortured each other

The expectations for this play couldn’t be any higher, the Dorfman at the National Theatre, with
double Oscar winning actress Cate Blanchett and Stage legend Stephen Dillane taking on Martin
Crimp’s new play that is about… something? Love? Marriage? Sex? The jury’s out and I don’t think
they’re coming back. But was the play any good? It depends on what you like.
For an aspiring actor, watching these two heavyweights battle each other must be on a par to winning
the lottery: their quality is obvious, their ability is staggering and their craft is enviable. Stephen
Dillane is not known for being a big personality, however, on stage he is the only personality you’re
watching. No one waxes lyrical quite like him, lets the role ooze out of him and makes it all look so
natural. I watched him almost exclusively, in awe of his ability as an actor. On the contrary, Blanchett
was hammering away at my fanboy gaze with a sledge hammer, like how she batters her husband,
insulting him and yet seemingly scared of his wrath. Their performance reminded me of Staunton and
Hill’s performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and you feel that if they had a play of that ilk
they’d be preparing their Olivier award speeches right now. It can be an uncomfortable viewing at
time, but I would say it’s displaced by the awe one has for the actors to make this play worth a watch.

Othello

The story of Othello is a tragedy, Iago is a conniving bastard and Othello is an enraged beast of man. Enter the Globe’s performance, with Mark Rylance at the helm…
The trick to performing Shakespeare is to keep the energy up and not to allow the dull moments to sink the atmosphere. Rylance and the ensemble achieve this, with an interesting take on Shakespeare’s play; making it more of a light hearted comedy than anything else. Although the dramatic moments do not pack as much of a punch, the rest of the play is far more enjoyable and humorous because of this. It does also show off Rylance’s versatility, as he plays and engages with the audience, including dances a jig to our heart’s content. The two hours flew by because the energy was so high. Of course, it is not what you expect, with Iago appearing something more in keeping with a hapless fool, however, it is an intriguing take on the tragedy that never actually falls into a dull moment. Does that make it a touch of genius? I’m not sure; the dramatic moments of the play are legendary, and the light-hearted nature of the scenes preceding do not amplify the tragedy, but do Othello and Desdemona a disservice for being so foolish. Nonetheless, to see Rylance perform is like watching a famous painter like Turner at work; you marvel at their creation, see how easy it comes to them and wish you could live in their skin for a day

THE FERRYMAN

On St Patrick’s Day, the same day Ireland was playing England in the Six Nations finale, there was a distinctively green feeling in the air, as we entered the Gielgud Theatre to witness the critically lauded play. The play is set in the Irish countryside, but the conflict within 1980s Ireland, concentrated mostly in the cities, seems to always be the elephant in the room, as the Carney family prepare for the Corcoran family arrival. To add to this, the patriarch Quinn is having an affair with his “missing” brother’s wife, Shena, whilst his wife hides herself away in the country home. The performances from the ensemble are fantastic, the writing is enchanting; vintage Butterworth who always gives his plays a spiritual awareness, and despite the story running for over three hours it is always engaging, with so many conflicts and secrets and burning repressions stewing beneath the surface, and on a fateful day of the IRA’s visit coming home to roost.

JULIUS CAESAR

The Bridge Theatre is the new theatre by London Bridge. It is for bold new plays, with a hydraulic powered stage that make the rest of the West End appear dated. Perhaps there is no play more fitting in these modern times than Julius Caesar, directly by the legendary Nicholas Hynter. The play alludes to Donald Trump’s dictatorial reign in the USA. With sterling performances from Calder, Whishaw, Andoh and Morrissey, this play can’t really fail, but it is the direction: the immersive nature of the play with the audience involved as the “Plebs” of the Republic, with actors acting as stewards in high-vis, moving the audience to and fro, while different areas of the stage prop up – that is the real genius of the play. The immersive festival-style party with the audience is infectious and we see how a dictator can inspire love and loyalty, even when the death of the Republic seems a foregone conclusion. It’s an impressive spectacle more than anything, especially near the end when Antony and Brutus are at war. Whishaw is impeccable as Brutus, his ability to speak verse like a human put in an impossible position: between his friend and his honour, is always marvelous, and with the ensemble being made up mostly with RADA graduates it is no surprise the play never hits a duff note.

INK

Can you ever identify with Rupert Murdoch? Would you want to? Graham’s play avoids the question by not trying to justify Murdoch’s existence, but just stating: “he is there”. Performed unsympathetically by Bertie Carvel, we get the inside scoop on how the Sun newspaper took control of the country, abdicating the Daily Mirror’s longstanding reign. With a motive to end the monopoly of the Daily Mirror, it is ironic watching what the Sun did in order to grab the attention of the masses, from gifting tinned panties, trend-setting smutty stories and spear-heading itself with a story of abduction very close to home for the members of the Sun. We watch the beginnings of society choosing sensationalized stories over “the news”. The fact that the Sun starts with limited readers and then becomes the most bought tabloid is perhaps not Murdoch’s fault: he’s giving the people what they want. It’s not Murdoch, but Richard Coyle’s Larry Lamb (editor of the Sun), who has a vendetta against the Mirror, who will do anything to make the Sun the UK’s leading newspaper. Like the population, it seems Lamb will sink to new lows to get what he wants

To HAve to shoot irishmen

Ireland and the occupation of it by the British Empire is a subject having something of a renaissance.
To Have to Shoot Irishmen is a valuable piece to add to this exploration, as it looks at Dublin during
the Easter Uprising 1916 and the impact it had on the Irish people. The injustice of the death squads
on the Irish men, suspecting of being Fenians, at this time was swept under the rug along with so
many burning injustices and this play does a lot to shed some light, as well as present the difficulties
of having a relationship with one’s lover as well as a relationship to one’s country. The set intertwines
the destruction of Dublin during the uprising, as well as the emptiness of the prisons the agitators are
sent to. The music in the play is affecting, with a powerful central performance from Elinor Lawless,
who hears her husband has been murdered by the British Army, as they ransack her home looking for
Republican contraband. Staged initially at the Omnibus Theatre, this is a touring production that has
captured the human stories amongst all the confusion of Ireland whilst under occupation.

counting sheep

It is the Vault Festival’s showcase, taking place at the Forge; it’s inventive, exciting and moving in
equal measure. A story about Ukraine, specifically in 2014 during the Kiev demonstrations that led to
the Army killing over a hundred demonstrators, is from the perspective of a Canadian-Ukrainian, who
visits the Ukraine for the first time, as it moves into a tumultuous time. It is immersive theatre and it
leaves no stone unturned: the characters feeding their audience with Ukranian cuisine, drowning them
in vodka, dancing with them, enlisting them in the demonstrations: waving flags, holding riot shields,

chanting and cheering, ducking for cover, surviving through the hellish scenes the country plundered
into. The music is incredibly moving, original and works against the backdrop of scenes projected on
to the walls; evoking the tragedy the people endured. It is a heartwarming story in the end, laced in
desperate tragedy: it’s about love, community and celebration and it’s an experience you’ll learn
from; not just about Kiev, but about the kind and embracing nature of human beings through this
immersive experience.

hummingbird

The Camden Fringe pops up every summer and there are always pleasant surprises to be had. This
came in the form of the MA actors from Mountview putting on an original play: Hummingbird. The
acting was controlled, although sometimes there could have been more play and more chance for their
to be laughs, especially as the play focused on the warring dynamic on a couple in love. Nevertheless,
no one dropped a note and the actors got to the heart of their characters convincingly. It involves an
alternative reality, where Maddy McCann is alive, thanks largely to social media. Although an
alternative reality, the reality of this play is almost identical to ours: our reliance on social media to
focus our attention on something disproportionately, overlooking the suffering of others. It was at
times a bit too preachy, with the writing perhaps forced to be, with the slot at the Lion and Unicorn
Theatre being one hour, but all in all this was an interesting play that questioned a modern day
audience to ponder their autonomy in a world where technology steers our gaze.