Love London Love Culture’s Emma Clarendon take a look at what is being said about Deborah Bruce’s new play Dixon and Daughters, making its debut at the National Theatre.
Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa is a memory play told from the perspective of Michael (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), nephew to five sisters living in a cottage near the fictional town of Ballybeg. It is slow to get going, but it gets under your skin, and you don’t realise it until long afterwards. It’s a play that is joyful and sad, charming and moving.
Sadness and failure have their own grandeur, like the bleak back-hills projected behind Robert Jones’ sweeping vista of a set. In Josie Rourke’s deeply atmospheric production of Dancing At Lughnasa at the National Theatre, rural Donegal desolation looms behind small domesticity, just as the pagan wildness of human nature threatens the threadbare sedateness of Catholicism.
It’s an architectural moment. Within the stark brutalist NT is a set in homage to a brutalist landmark: the early 1960s Park Hill Flats in Sheffield, the largest listed building in the world. In Standing At The Sky’s Edge at the National Theatre three generations of tenants interweave in the clean-lined kitchen and living room, ghosts in one another’s lives, telling in their very existence a universal story of postwar British cities.
A very interesting programme article will tell you the difference between the multiple takes (the National’s programmes remain the most informative and best value for money in the capital) but what audiences really need to know is that this is very much Simon Stone’s Phaedra, and he has once again done what he effected upon Lorca’s Yerma at the Young Vic then subsequently in New York in 2016-7.
Three hour-long plays, two intervals, three men in black frock-coats explain some financial history in a revolving glass box in front of a projected, mainly monochrome, cyclorama. When The Lehman Trilogy triumphed at the National Theatre in 2018 I wrote “this show has no right to be so much fun”. Recast and home again, it still is a treat after waltzing Broadway and LA and winning a Tony for Best Play.
Simon Stone turns his attention to another important literary woman, Phaedra as imagined by Euripides, Seneca and Racine and given a modern retelling in a production at the National Theatre written and directed by Stone. Stone’s vision for Phaedra is riveting in a piece that explores mature sexuality, fantasy and generational competition between mother and daughter.
As somebody who loves a listicle plus a bandwagon to jump on, how could I NOT compile my list of my top 20 new (to me) shows of 2022? It’s been 12 months in which live entertainment has come back with an encouraging roar, although the impending cost of living crisis is inevitably, and understandably, causing anxiety in theatrical circles. Please do get out there, if you can, and support your local venue in 2023.
Billed as an examination of gentrification, Kerry Jackson at the National Theatre has disappointingly little to say about this subject. Its main characters have clichéd opinions and stereotypical attributes, and De Angelis spends a lot of time getting them to tell us who they are, what they think and how they feel.
Everyone’s got mental health issues in Hex: which is the Sleeping Beauty story extended to the troublesome folk-tale aftermath. The tousled Fairy has no wings and low status, while snobbish ones float gorgeously overhead in light-rippling 20ft robes.
The National Theatre’s Lyttelton stage has been transformed with steps and terraces around the performance space, creating a look that is a cross between an ancient greek theatre and a fighting pit. Before the play starts, images of past productions of Othello and the year they were performed are projected onto the steps and back wall as a reminder of the story’s timelessness.
Othello at the National Theatre is a production that has thought very carefully about the things it wants to say and, particularly, what Othello has meant at different points in its performance history. Clint Dyer’s perspective is not on fire just yet but it soon will be, bringing a meaningful reflection on Shakespeare’s tale to the stage while clearly distinguishing it from all of those that have come before.
Pearl Cleage’s 1995 play Blues for an Alabama Sky creates a world, the world of dreamers in the fading Harlem renaissance, the Depression starting to bite. It’s domestic: Frankie Bradshaw’s fabulous set has two fire escapes, a hallway, steps, rooms high and low, balcony (where we glimpse other neighbours, sometimes with quiet harmonies sung). Outside the street is barred with lamplight.
We take a closer look at what critics have been saying about Amit Sharma’s production The Boy With Two Hearts now playing at the National Theatre until 12 November 2022.
This is the big one. The Crucible is the National Theatre at its strongest: unapologetic, classic, unsparing, gripping, impassioned. Here’s the heavy artillery, intellectual and dramatic, a big ensemble on a bare stage conjuring – in Es Devlin’s moody set – an illimitable blackness beyond. Hell and hysteria rage and choke and howl out across the centuries with all the power of irrationality.
Looking across cultural representations of women in the past 100 years it is possible to draw connections between characters such as Hester Collier in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, Patrick Hamilton’s Jenny from Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, even up to Kyo Choi’s Kim Han-See in The Apology, all of whom are in pursuit of a fantasy life that will never be fulfilled. Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, opening at the National Theatre, adds another unknowingly tragic heroine to that list, singer Angel who will grasp at an opportunity to get out of Harlem in 1930.
Discover what critics have made of Lyndsey Turner’s production of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, officially open at the National Theatre’s Olivier space.
It would be unsurprising, indeed completely understandable, for a new state-of-the-nation play focusing on the treatment of, and opportunities for, disabled people in present-day UK, to fetch up on stage as a furious, ranty polemic. Francesca Martinez’s dramatic writing debut, All Of Us at the National, goes down a rather more unexpected and interesting route however.
If the plotting is predictable, and the story arc unremarkable, the image of life represented is both strongly compassionate and often very pleasurable. In true welfare state style, comedian Francesca Martinez’s debut play All of Us at the National Theatre not only informs and educates, but also entertains.
A star danced, and under it was Simon Godwin’s joyful, 1930s Riviera production born. Quite apart from the fact that it is nice to have the earnest NT enjoying two outbreaks of frenetic jitterbug dancing at once – Jack Absolute upstairs at the Olivier, and here Much Ado About Nothing set in the Mediterranean hotel world of Noel Coward – where it feats with unexpected neatness.