Vassa, adapted from Maxim Gorky’s original by Mike Bartlett, is a pitch-black comedy rather than a farce, so pitch black that you struggle to see where the laughs are.
The performances are superb in The Doctor at the Almeida Theatre, Juliet Stevenson is as formidable as her character and Ria Zmitrowicz’s dry one-liners are a refreshing light relief particularly as the persistent tension can become a bit numbing.
Sonia Friedman Productions is celebrating after the Broadway transfers of The Ferryman and Ink garnered six wins at the 2019 Tony Awards, while the National Theatre had plenty to be happy about following Bryan Cranston being named Best Leading Actor in a Play for Network and Hadestown (which finished a run at the National in January this year) scooping eight awards.
Maybe in a far-off dimension of time and space, at the crossroads of imagination and reality, our descendants will discover a stage adaption of The Twilight Zone which will fill them with the wonder and mystery of the original. But not here.
Musicals Company and Come From Away top the Olivier Awards 2019 nominations with nine nods each, while The Inheritance is the most recognised play with eight nominations. The ceremony takes place on Sunday 7 April at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Jason Manford.
It’s time for Rev Stan’s best plays of 2018 overall, gleaned from everything I’ve seen – large productions and small, commercial theatres, subsidised and fringe.
Robert Icke’s conversational, documentary production of The Wild Duck at the Almeida Theatre makes this complex morality play immediately accessible.
August was dominated by Edinburgh for me but the London theatre wheels were still turning; here’s my round up of my favourite bits of news, my theatre hits and misses and few celeb spots…
While I’m having to scale back my theatregoing this year, the quality of the shows I’ve seen recently has made up for the reduction in volume. For anyone looking for inspiration, here are my latest recommendations.
There’s this terrible balance between keeping the list short enough to hold attention but making sure great shows get shared. Hence why I’ve been defeated here, yet again, and we have a top twelve.
In Robert Icke’s arresting adaptation of Mary Stuart, the scene opens with a sober-suited group of men watching two women in identical black velvet suits and white shirts, while a coin is spun to see which will be Queen Elizabeth I. One is Juliet Stevenson, one Lia Williams. They know no more than we do; they will obey the coin.
Any number of shows could have been included in this post; frankly it’s ludicrous that I decided to stick with my whole top 12 idea… As I’ve seen about 90 more individual shows than last year.
The full cast has been announced for the West End transfer of Robert Icke’s new adaptation of Mary Stuart. Following a critically acclaimed, sold out season at the Almeida Theatre in 2016-17, the production will open at the Duke of York’s Theatre from 15 January for a limited run before visiting Theatre Royal Bath, Salford Lowry and Cambridge Arts Theatre.
It’s quite audacious to put on a play looking at the way a rapacious middle-class media takes the stories of the working class, chews them up and regurgitates them as entertainment in Islington – the proud heart of luvvie land.
Simon may be from the wrong side of New York, a roughneck who ties his wife Anne to a chair and tapes her mouth for being “critical” of his neighbourhood. But he does have a way with words.
It’s Shakespeare for the Borgen generation – a slick and surveillance-heavy visual on a cool penthouse set where Juliet Stevenson’s splendid dirty dancing Gertrude can shag Claudius on a couch while the Norwegian ambassador paces the corridor.
I’ve not updated my diary of a theatre addict for six weeks now — I was last here on January 31 — since when I’ve seen all of 49 shows, including outings to Newbury, Dartford, Clwyd, Manchester, Bromley and Cardiff, plus a week in New York. I’ve also taken an active part in two more shows by appearing onstage as a contestant in a theatrical re-run of Mr and Mrs with husband (so it was really Mr and Mr, we’re pictured above with host Samuel Holmes) and as part of David Bedella and Friends, his monthly chat show at the St James Studio.
“Cleverness is not wisdom,” warn the Maenad chorus, as king Pentheus determinedly resists the rise of new god Dionysos’ cult in Thebes. Euripides’ Bacchae tells how the young god returns to his mother Semele’s home city to visit her grave, only to wreak terrible vengeance on Thebes’ young and arrogant king Pentheus, who refuses to respect his godhead. The Greek term for divine power, daimon, becomes a touchstone of Anne Carson’s new version for the Almeida: even the spelling of Carson’s title, Bakkhai, proclaims her intention to stay closer to the original texture of Greek. Euripides’ formal structure remains intact, lyrical choral odes alternating with intense scenes, and while Carson’s clear, crisp language (which retains ancient Greek cries of Euoe! Euoe!) mainly inhabits a timeless poetic world, she touches the contemporary from time to time: “Shall we call a cab?” elderly patriarch Cadmos asks the blind seer Teiresias as they set off in Bacchic regalia to join the revels. “It doesn’t sound very Dionysian,” Teiresias ruefully replies.