My recent theatre trips have included The Rubenstein Kiss and Mary’s Babies. Here’s a round-up of my on-the-night reactions to each – plus a must-watch video review from my 82-year-old neighbour.
All in all, Joe Harmston’s production brings James Phillips’ extraordinary empathy with his subject to a tender and sensitive conclusion in The Rubenstein Kiss whilst weighing up the noble aspirations of idealism with its harsh legacies for those who inherit them.
The award-winning play The Rubenstein Kiss from James Phillips about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who allegedly passed US atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, is currently having its first London revival at the Southwark Playhouse. Love London Love Culture rounds up the reviews.
There couldn’t be a better time to revisit James Phillips’ 2006 debut play The Rubenstein Kiss and its story of idealism, especially in the current climate of global and national uncertainty, anti-Semitism and zealotry.
Ideological hostilities across the world, fake news and paranoia, a resurgent deep left, uneasy relations with Russia, antisemites questioning the patriotism of Jews: no bad time to revive James Phillips’ powerful play The Rubenstein Kiss.
James Phillips’ award-winning drama The Rubenstein Kiss can now be seen for the first time in London since its 2005 premiere. What have critics – including Mates co-founder Mark Shenton – been saying about Joe Harmston’s timely spy revival? We’ve rounded up a selection of our favourite reviews below. Time to get booking!
It’s opening night tonight (18 March 2019) for the first London revival of James Phillips’ multi-award-winning espionage dramaThe Rubenstein Kiss at Southwark Playhouse. Check out our full gallery of production shots – and then get booking!
What is truth? In today’s crazy times, what can we learn from the past? Stars Ruby Bentall, Sean Rigby and Stephen Billington discuss the timeliness of Devil You Know’s first London revival of James Phillips’ award-winning espionage drama The Rubenstein Kiss. Watch our video interviews and show trailer – and then get booking!
We’re counting down to the first London revival of James Phillips’ award-winning espionage drama The Rubenstein Kiss. Sneak a peek inside the rehearsal room with Ruby Bentall, Sean Rigby, Stephen Billington, Henry Proffitt and the cast – and then get booking!
As Endeavour commences its sixth season on ITV this week, one of its stars, Sean Rigby, has entered the rehearsal room for a timely revival of James Phillips’ award-winning The Rubenstein Kiss. We caught up with him about swapping DS Jim Strange for the brother of an alleged Soviet spy. Time to get booking!
Poldark star Ruby Bentall stars in the first London revival of James Phillips’ award-winning espionage drama The Rubenstein Kiss. We talk to her about playing a Soviet spy and sacrificing everything for love and your political beliefs. Time to get booking!
Devil You Know Theatre Company has announced full casting for the first London production since 2005 of the multi-award-winning play The Rubenstein Kiss by James Phillips, directed by Joe Harmston for a limited season at Southwark Playhouse from 14 March to 13 April 2019, with a national press night on 18 March.
A story of alleged Soviet spies, treason and a political witch hunt… Joe Harmston directs a timely revival of James Phillips’ multi award-winning play The Rubenstein Kiss in the new year.
Southwark Playhouse has announced its new 2019 season, running from January to June, one of the final programmes in its current home before it moves into two custom-built facilities for its long-term future.
City Stories returns to London for two nights only on 20 and 21 October 2016. A suite of short plays set to music, the fully-titled City Stories: Tales of Love and Magic in London is a sequence of interwoven love stories written and directed by award-winning playwright James Phillips in an ode to our beloved capital.
What a first year of blogging for me – but what shows came out on top? Read on and find out!
As we take to our seat we see an open stage where Stephen Wight (Lee) cuts an isolated and tortured figure, pacing the stage, lost in his thoughts almost as if obsessive compulsive tendencies are playing havoc with his mind. This historic theatre is one of immense beauty, opulence, luxury and completely fitting to host this new piece written by James Phillips.
Haymarket Theatre, London
Written by James Phillips
Directed by John Caird
Making its West End transfer from the St James Theatre, James Phillips’ McQueen, a semi-biopic exploration into the psyche of fashion icon Alexander McQueen, hangs in composite parts. Just like the brown paper sizing charts we see when McQueen brings the waifish and mysterious Dahlia to his old tailors on Saville Row, Phillips has constructed a series slightly uneven vignettes, and strung them up together without stitching them into a cohesive whole. It makes for an undulating evening, that at some points is fascinating, and at others is achingly slow. However, even if seen only in glimpses, the window into McQueen’s tortured mind is worth every peep.
The play is a journey, taking us through the crushing spectre of depression, right through to the euphoric discovery of inspiration. The stage is often constructed as a dream scape, with lucid video designs by Timothy Bird latching on to the melting fragmentations of McQueen’s mind, demonstrating how his fragile thoughts project not only those around him, but the very walls of his surroundings. Stephen Wight’s Lee McQueen starts the show before the audience have even taken their seats, pacing relentlessly, muttering and clutching a belt with foreboding animosity. There is an edgy restlessness to the proceedings before the lights even go down, and it creates a sense of dramatic anticipation that unfortunately is never again matched during the night. Scenes leap through unspecified gaps in time, and the dreamy hallucinogenic atmosphere undercuts any kind of narrative tension as the stakes drop from beneath the characters feet. John Caird’s direction shows a keen eye for the visual, and has a forceful specificity, but lacks nuance in the pacing. Some scenes linger far beyond their welcome, whilst other sections come to a dissatisfying halt just as they were building some intrigue. The humour of the opening exchanges between McQueen and his unexpected intruder, Dahlia (Carly Bawden), is a delight, but is never again revisited. There is a light tone to their banter, a dance of verbal one one-upmanship, intrigue laced with fear, fascination mixed with trepidation. It’s an enticing tone to begin the show, but it falls by the wayside as the play progresses and becomes bogged down with the darker harbinger of suicide.
Wight is tasked with the exploration of these macabre themes and does fantastic work. His is a central performance of tremendous skill, investing Lee McQueen with the right amount of sensitivity, whilst also hinting at an untapped well of visceral anger towards a world that will always expect more. There’s a real empathetic power to his speeches on the constant pressure to deliver whatever is ‘next’, as Wight constructs an unflinchingly relatable portrait of a man waving to the expectant crowd with a fake smile and a shaking hand. Bawden also shows some impressive chops with her take on the murky girl from the tree. There is a spirited intensity and confidence to her scenes, but she also shows a knowing physicality that belies inescapable vulnerability.
What elevates the piece though, is the stunning choreography by Christopher Marney, expertly conducted by an ensemble of ghoulishly beautiful dancers. These balletic interludes both transition and invade scenes and are breathtaking whenever they feature. Dressed both as mannequins and runway models, the dancers are both nightmarish in their grotesque inhumanity and angelic in their perfection. Their movements can be stilted at one moment, and lyrical in the next, effectively echoing both the frustration and beauty of human thought and inspiration.
The meandering pace and lack of narrative focus threaten to undo McQueen at certain points, however, it succeeds with excellent performances and a sumptuous design in keeping with the artistic genius at its centre. When Caird is freed from the lightweight plot and able to examine visually the psychosis of creativity, and the abject terror of failure; the piece soars on great golden wings.
Runs until 7th November
Guest reviewer: Will Clarkson
McQUEEN, which received its world premiere in May at St. James Theatre, where it broke box office records, will transfer to London’s West End, opening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Thursday 27 August 2015, following previews from 13 August, for a strictly limited season until 7 November.
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