What is it about a great whodunnit thriller? What makes us keep turning the page? How does that inquisitive excitement translate onstage?
As part of her ongoing post-show Q&A series, on Thursday 1 August 2019, Mates co-founder Terri Paddock is in the West End for the transfer of Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, starring Samantha Womack. Unmissable! Got any questions?
Alex Ferns, Marc Elliott and Philip McGinley will join the cast of the record-breaking production of The Girl on the Train for its London run. Starring Samantha Womack as Rachel Watson, the production will run at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre from 23 July to 17 August 2019.
At the post-show Q&A with the writer, director and cast of cult-hit comedy Out There on Fried Meat Ridge Rd., we talked about the power of kindness, Fried Meat sequels, why Mountain Dew is illegal in the UK, what JD stands for and gender role-swapping among much else and much laughter.
Throughout the production we wonder how JD affords to eat without a job or any income, rather than a dark twist offering the answer, we are satisfied with a small miracle.
Keith Stevenson’s cult hit American comedy Out There On Fried Meat Ridge Rd. transfers to the West End’s Trafalgar Studios next month.
Plenty of twists combined with an increasingly tense plot make this a gripping and thrilling watch.
How far have we come with feminism since August Strindberg was writing in the 1880s? “About halfway,” said Polly Toynbee on Monday night at Trafalgar Studios, in the first of a series of post-show panel discussions I’ve programmed and am hosting around Jagged Fence’s explosive new production of Strindberg’s The Father, starring Alex Ferns and directed […]
Trafalgar Studios, London
Written by August Strindberg
In a new version by Laurie Slade
Directed by Abbey Wright
Few go to a Strindberg play looking for an harmonious depiction of the sexes and this co-production between Emily Dobbs’ Jagged Fence and Making Productions, while sharp in its execution, won’t do much to radicalise expectations.
Written in 1887 by the deeply embittered Swedish playwright, on the brink of marital separation and in a fashion that has triggered many autobiographical interpretations, The Father pitches husband and wife into a dark custody battle that predates paternity tests and equal rights. Laurie Slade’s modern adaptation – requested by his friend, theatre director Joe Harmston for a 2012 production – is driven more by collaborative forces than real-life drama, but it retains the original’s antagonistic bite.
Director Abbey Wright takes the reins for this intimate production with great success. While the Captain’s last-minute attempt to break the fourth wall doesn’t sit well with the play’s largely naturalistic style, Wright’s depiction of conflict – whether that be between husband and wife, mother and daughter, or father and child – is as stylish as it is evocative. As the warring characters face each other in mirror image, Wright clouds the dialogue’s clear oppositions with vivid visual similarities.
Thomas Coombes is a treat as Nöjd, the playful trooper who, if rumour is to believed, has impregnated a member of the Captain’s staff. While Nöjd is unable to deny a certain degree of intimacy, it is beyond his power to prove whether or not the baby is his. Coombes excels at lacing Nöjd’s crude, pastoral expression – “no guarantee that a night in the hay means a bun in the oven” – with a cheeky, modern charm, furnishing Slade’s notion that this is “a modern play, which happens to be set in the C.19th”.
What seems like idle gossip transforms into psychologically taut obsession as the play pulls towards its inevitable conclusion. Just as Nöjd doubts his lover’s fidelity, Alex Ferns’s dazzling Captain ploughs his own memories, as he questions whether young Bertha, who calls him ‘Papa’, is actually his issue or was in fact conceived by wife Laura (excellent on-stage work from Dobbs) during a lovers’ tryst. Ferns is vibrantly volatile and while other characters are equally paired in their disputes, he retains a chilling control over the tempo of the piece.
While the relationship between the Captain and his wife provides the thrust of this narrative, and the Captain and his Doctor (Barnaby Sax) are splendidly matched as rivals, it is the tender and trusting affinity between Captain and Nurse (June Watson) that brings the strongest emotional clout: “rest your breast on my chin”, the Captain commands his attendant, as a redundant Laura looks on jealously. This gentle, strikingly maternal relationship is complemented by James Turner’s set and Gary Bowman lighting, all stripped-back, monochrome as a Gothic aesthetic gradually melts into warmer reds.
Husband and wife may be “black and white…different species” but there’s a faith in relationships and the power of one gender to sooth and complement another. While this production doesn’t fall far from Strindberg’s tree, it’s a well-designed and interrogative take on an unfashionable play.
Runs until 11th April 2015
Guest reviewer: Amelia Forsbrook
Updated 1 April: New speakers now added for “Women in the Arts” debate on Tuesday 7 April – London Evening Standard chief arts correspondent Louise Jury and writer-director-feminist Fiona Laird … I just love a good post-show Q&A and, frankly, I miss doing them as often as I used to in my WhatsOnStage days. My firm belief is that a […]
If you thought £92.50 including booking fee was going it a bit for an average stalls seat at theBarbican’s Lincoln Center production of South Pacific you’ll be delighted to know that substantially the same show, with the same leads, is currently available for less than half that and your Zone 3 Oyster. When successful London […]
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