Mates blogger: Michael Davis

Michael Davis is one of over 45 theatre bloggers who are part of the MyTheatreMates collective. This page features Michael's posts on MyTheatreMates. Take a look at our full list of theatre bloggers and our aggregated feed of all our Mates' posts. We’re always looking for new theatre bloggers. Could that be you? Learn about how to join us.
Michael Davis
Michael Davis is a former actor and director. He’s passionate about fringe theatre and publicising shows that don’t necessarily receive mainstream attention. He’s previously reviewed for Female Arts and The Play’s the Thing and now runs his own site, Breaking the Fourth Wall. Michael is interested and knowledgeable about all aspects of the arts. He tweets @Michael30517721.
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The latest from Michael on MyTheatreMates

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‘Sheds light on the dark corners of human behaviour’: THE RUFFIAN ON THE STAIR – Hope Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

During the sixties, Orton’s plays such as Loot and Entertaining Mr Sloane showed an hitherto unseen side of British society on the stage and challenged the double standards of the ‘moral guardians’. In his first solo play, The Ruffian On The Stair (which is directed by Paul Clayton) we meet a ‘couple’ who live in a flat in Islington (not unlike Orton’s own abode).

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‘The draw is Christie’s deft writing’: WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION – County Hall ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

Everyone loves an Agatha Christie tale. Unlike the films and programmes involving Ms Marple or Poirot that are often repeated on television, Witness For The Prosecution (which is directed by Lucy Bailey) doesn’t have a familiar marquee protagonist at the centre of its narrative.

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‘The emotions are universally relatable’: THE UNRETURNING – Theatre Royal Stratford East ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

“Four years since we lost Darren. But a vet doesn’t have to die at war for us to lose them, do you get what I mean?” – The Unreturning

All photos © Tristram Kenton

The Ancient Greeks knew their stuff. While their epic poems dealt with battles such as the fall of Troy, they were equally attentive to war’s aftermath, suffered by women and soldiers alike. For the heroes like Odysseus and Agamemnon, the journey home was where they faced their greatest crises… Similarly, Anna Jordan’s The Unreturning – which is directed by Neil Bettles – focuses on three men who return to their home town of Scarborough and continue to wrestle with their demons.

Taking place over the span of a century, the wars in the play are as idiosyncratic as the men and Britain at that time. There’s George (Jared Garfield) who has served in France during the First World War. There’s also Frankie (Joe Layton) who’s stationed in Afghanistan. Received wisdom says conflicts such as the Second World War, the Falklands or The Troubles would also be contenders. Instead, Jordan has opted for the near future where the division in today’s Britain (possibly as a result of the Brexit referendum) has escalated into civil war. Mirroring Spain from almost a century ago, there’s fighting has between ‘government forces’ and ‘the rebels’. In this scenario, Nat (Jonnie Riordan) makes the hazardous trip to the North East from Norway, where he has spent the past couple of years as a refugee who claimed political asylum. He’ll do anything to track down his younger brother Finn (Kieton Saunders-Browne) – his only remaining family.

The three storylines run concurrently and take place on a revolving cargo container that doubles as a boat, rooms and an assortment of other locales. Bettles – whose background and experience is with the physically innovative Frantic Assembly – deftly choreographs the three narratives into a cohesive whole, contrasting and reiterating the play’s themes.

The play’s prologue succinctly captures the longing for home after years abroad, where belonging and memories are intertwined. But as the characters find out, reality falls short of expectation. More often than not, the experiences of principal characters have changed them and coming home forces them to redefine what makes sense.

Not being able to talk to anyone who could – or wants – to understand is the biggest obstacle for the soldiers – estranging them from their loved ones. For George, his wife’s dismissive preconceptions about shellshock hinder any genuine communication between them. Nor would she want to understand the camaraderie between the British and German soldiers during that fateful Christmas of 1914, which had alarm bells ringing amongst the British ‘top brass’.

Meanwhile for Frankie, his mother is alarmed at the video footage of him, which doesn’t convey the mental and emotional reality of the theatre of war. Nat faces a very different obstacle – his brother Finn has disowned him and joined ‘the rebels’. Counting only his brothers-in-arms as ‘kin’, Finn has no time for anyone who would ‘abandon’ England ‘during her hour of need’…

The impressive central performances are bolstered by the set and video design by Andrzej Goulding, facilitating the fluid, kinetic nature of the show.​ Jordan makes us care for each of the characters and while we may not have direct experience in the line of fire, the emotions of anger, estrangement, frustration and self-doubt are universally relatable.

© Michael Davis 2019

The Unreturning runs at Theatre Royal Stratford East until 2nd February

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‘The beauty of the play is the way it gets at the truth’: THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW – Arcola Theatre

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

Known for classic novels about human relationships such as Sons and Lovers, Women In Love and The Rainbow, DH Lawrence also tried his hand at writing plays. The Daughter-In-Law – which was performed and received critical acclaim posthumously – takes place in the familiar region of Nottinghamshire where most of his novels are set.

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‘Nixon gives a tour-de-force performance’: ORIGINAL DEATH RABBIT – Jermyn Street Theatre ★★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews, Ticket recommendations by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

Anything on the internet stays there forever – or so they say. For the ‘Original Death Rabbit’, being at the wrong place at the wrong time has meant that she’s trapped in the past, like an insect in amber… Written by Rose Heiney and directed by Hannah Joss, Original Death Rabbit is a one-woman about a former internet sensation.

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‘Thought-provoking & naturally entertaining’: BORDERS & GAMES – Arcola Theatre ★★★★

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Reviews by Michael DavisLeave a Comment

Plays that show a number of perspectives are generally more nuanced, thought-provoking and naturally entertaining. With this in mind, the double bill of plays by Henry Naylor at Arcola Theatre does this in spades. Directed by Louise Skaaning with Michael Cabot, Borders and Games broach the subjects of personal responsibility and using one’s abilities to the fullest.

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