Cordelia Lynn’s Hedda Tesman renews Ibsen’s play in the light of today without in any way losing sight of the original. In this age of radical reinterpretations, that’s quite some achievement.
A couple of weeks ago I was one of the lucky few who was allowed into the Caroline, or Change rehearsal rooms for a sneak peek at how the show was coming along, as it prepared for its West End transfer.
At Chichester right now, director Michael Blakemore’s revival of Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen has opened to rave reviews. Blakemore has a remarkable history with the piece, having directed it to award-winning success in both London and New York when it premiered 20 years ago, and in the interim, staging the play in France and Australia too.
Me and My Girl’s politics may be of the dark ages – but its ability to put grins on faces and set toes tapping is the mark of a modern show that knows how to please its audience.
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.
Much of my ‘touring’ has been concentrated in Bristol and Chichester; there are a few other UK venues to add to the list, as well as some from my week in New York, of course.
It’s a layered story that opens with a pub quiz, setting the scene for the world of obsessive competition fanatics, laying a direct trail from that bar to the gameshow hot-seat.
King Lear is the jewel in the crown of Daniel Evans’ opening year as Chichester’s Artistic Director. Ian McKellen is every inch a king in Jonathan Munby’s production that is currently playing a short, sold-out season
Omid Djalili steps up to the pivotal role of Tevye the milkman. Married to Golde and with 5 daughters (3 of marriageable age) Djalili captures a hen-pecked, hardworking weariness of the poor pious family man who dreams of maybe, just a small fortune.
Sweet Bird of Youth is a 1959 play by now legendary playwright Tennessee Williams. As with many of his plays it follows the themes of age, mental illness and social standing as well as failed ambition and political corruption.
Here’s a pocket musical with huge themes, a blues opera of historic seriousness but with a singing washing-machine in a bubbled mini dress. A tiny domestic upheaval opens up deep sorrow and the sharpest of human and civil rights.
This 1968 revue-style play, a tapestry of national memory and mockery, affectionate nostalgia and determined revolution, encapsulates exactly that conflict in the British heart. To revive it in a Brexit year, as we grasp more urgently the dangers of harking-back by the wrong people, is a canny if risky move by the theatre’s new leader Daniel Evans.
I am inordinately fond of Forty Years On. In only my second ever trip to London, my mother took me to see the original production the year I was fifteen and therefore readily able to identify with the serge-trousered schoolboys it features in their end-of-term entertainment to mark the retirement of a long-serving headmaster.
Stepping Out is very much an ensemble piece, no individuals character can be classed as the lead. It is clear that this all-star ensemble – including Amanda Holden and Tamzin Outhwaite – are very comfortable working together.
The original numbers have been reworked by Stiles and Drewe with a few new songs added too, in what is a light-hearted and delightfully dated snapshot of the English class system and its social mores around the turn of the 20th century.
CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE ANNOUNCES WINTER 2015 SEASON A compelling mix of drama, family shows, comedy and music will feature in Chichester Festival Theatre’s Winter 2015 season. Penelope Keith returns […]
This is not the first time Michael Ball has been energetically mounted in Chichester. However, it may be the last as CFT director Jonathan Church leaves to head up the Sydney Theatre Company. I find it’s not wise to visit regional theatre alone, so was able to ask a willing companion what she thought of the show: […]
The post Postview: Mack and Mabel (Chichester Festival Theatre) appeared first on JohnnyFox.
There is much about Jonathan Church’s Mack and Mabel at Chichester that displays the very best of modern British musical theatre talent. Amidst a tale of humour and tragedy, the production frames a collection of performances and creative work, much of which is flawless.
As Mack and Mabel previews at Chichester Festival Theatre (to be reviewed here next week), I chanced upon a DVD of one of Mack Sennett’s famous two-reelers, Mabel’s Wilful Way, made in 1915. Not surprisingly the DVD came with no accompanying press release and nor did the movie itself list any credits. Even so, this short film (13 mins) provides a fascinating glimpse into the Tinseltown of 100 years ago.
Mabel’s Wilful Way (1915)
Directed by Mack Sennett and Mabel NormandProduced by Adam Kessel and Charles Bauman for the Keystone Studios
Mabel’s Wilful Way is a two-reeler that unusually was directed by both Mack Sennett and his (and the movie’s) glamorous star, Mabel Normand. Set in an amusement park its mischief defined the comedy of the era.
We first meet Mabel dining with her parents in the park restaurant. Her moustachioed father and celery-eating, domineering mother are formally clad, as is Normand herself. When the chance arises, Mabel slips away from her parents’ stern control and in chapter two of the tale, entitled Short Funded Pals, she meets two young miscreants, one played by Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle who are sneaking their way onto the park attractions as they have no cash.
To say too much would spoil the story, but Sennet and Normand set out to entertain as the three young people embark on an afternoon of stolen fun. Ice creams are pilfered, carousels joy ridden and water fountains and food are frequently aimed at hapless individuals’ faces. Watch the film and think of Jerry Herman’s Mack singing I Wanna Make the World Laugh and you start to get an understanding of how brilliantly crafted some of Herman’s writing was.
The excellence on screen is of course from the actors and the performances that the director has coaxed from them. By definition there is no sound to a silent movie, so aside from the occasional written captions, all emotion and interaction be it love, comedy, anger or ridicule has to be conveyed through movement and facial expression. And in that regard the performances are genius. There was no “easy way” in those days (a parallel today might be the growth of CGI in cinema, replacing what would previously have required carefully crafted physical photography) and whilst the later Hollywood classics of Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Singin’ In The Rain (1952) were to portray two very different sides of fictional silent-era movie stars, both Norma Desmond and Lina Lamont represented an era when a very different set of demands and expectations was placed upon a performer.
Mabel’s Wilful Way includes scenes of Normand and Arbuckle feeding what appears to be a genuine bear and later larking around on a helterskelter, the rotund actor generating considerable momentum on his descent, to maximum comic effect. Their behaviour soon attracts the attention of the LA Police Department, who arrive on the scene administering justice with frequent truncheon blows to the head and body. Let’s not forget that in the early 20th century Keystone police brutality was a source of comedy.
Viewed through a modern prism, the movie is troubling. There is one black character in the tale whose role is to put his head through a hole in a board and have soaked sponges thrown at him in much the same way as balls are thrown at a coconut shy. Even worse, (worse?) he is played by a white actor in black slap. 1915 was the Vaudeville era of the racist minstrel show. The civil rights movement was a long way off and in a largely segregated America, the black man was a laughing stock – an aspect of history that Jerry Herman conveniently side-stepped.
Herman’s Mack Sennett sings that Movies Were Movies when he ran the show – albeit a show built on racial prejudice, comical police brutality and an abuse of animal welfare. Since then Hollywood has largely cleaned up its act though as recent tragic events elsewhere in the USA remind us, America still has some way to go.
Time Heals Everything? Let’s hope so……
Mabel’s Wilful Way is available free on YouTube here
A Damsel in Distress is a new(ish) musical confection that feels like it’s been around for years. Based on the P.G. Wodehouse story and drawing upon the Gershwin brothers’ songs that were composed for the similarly inspired 1937 movie, Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson breathe life into a collection of classic concepts.
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