While its buildings all remain closed, the Royal Shakespeare Company will hand over its social media channels to the global community in what it’s calling the “largest-ever celebration of Shakespeare by audiences” in its history.
Despite its absurdist style, Pass Over is a political play whose message is indisputable. The evening is a powerful mixture of male camaraderie, brutality and almost casual defiance.
Here is a snapshot of my favourite theatre from the past 10 years, the plays that stand out most in my memory, the ones I talk about if people ask.
Full details of presenters, performances and special appearances have been announced for the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard, which takes place on Sunday 7 April at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Jason Manford.
The Convert, at the Young Vic Theatre, a thrilling revival of Black Panther Danai Gurira’s 2012 play about Christianity and imperialism is a heartfelt cry for justice.
Beginning with a burst of confetti and ending in a sombre drop of petals, Pinter One is the far darker side of Pinter at the Pinter
“They don’t like you either, my darling”
I found myself enjoying Pinter Two much more than expected and so momentarily forgetting that I’d sworn off the whole thing, I rashly decided to book in for Pinter One, which proves to be an entirely different kind of affair. Not just thematically – it’s an overtly political collection of works and thus considerably darker – but structurally, gathering together no less than nine short pieces, eight of which run together to make the first half.
They’re Press Conference / Precisely / The New World Order / Mountain Language / American Football / The Pres and an Officer / Death / and One for the Road (all directed by Jamie Lloyd) with Ashes to Ashes (directed by the Lia Williams) following after the interval. And so ultimately it feels a bit more like a showcase of Pinter which brings with it some challenges, alongside the interest value in unearthing some lesser-seen works, including a world premiere.
That premiere – The Pres And An Officer – manages the not-unimpressive feat of fully justifying its Trump-a-like as Pinter’s prescience in nailing the vicissitudes of a numbnuts US president is uncanny. Played by a roll-call of guest stars (I saw Jon Culshaw), its a welcome burst of comedy in an otherwise dark affair and you have to laugh, because otherwise you’d cry.
Elsewhere Paapa Essiedu and Sir Antony Sher are grippingly intense in the exquisite torture of One For The Road, and Kate O’Flynn and Maggie Steed are pointedly excellent as a pair of bull-shitting men. And what you get here that you don’t in Pinter 2 is a real sense of how imaginatively flexible Soutra Gilmour’s revolving cube design is as it reconfigures at every available opportunity.
Post-interval, O’Flynn and Essiedu tackle 1996’s Ashes to Ashes, a more typically cryptic work where a couple are talking and yet their meaning is slippery and vague and disturbing and unmissable. Both actors deliver their ‘conversation’ with the utmost conviction, its impossible to drag your eyes from them even as we get darker and more violent and stranger. It’s hard work, as is the whole thing, but worth it for its sheer quality.
Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Marc Brenner
Pinter One is booking in rep with Pinter Two – The Lover/The Collection at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 20th October
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Jamie Lloyd is embarking on an epic project: to stage every single one of the influential playwright Harold Pinter’s short plays over a six month period at the theatre which bears his name. Pinter at the Pinter. Pretty neat huh?
It seems anyone who is anyone has signed up for Jamie Lloyd’s ambitious season of Harold Pinter plays at the appropriately named Harold Pinter Theatre in the West End.
The stony word is PINTER, and this launches a short season marking his death ten years ago by assembling, in seven sets, all his short playlets, sketches and poems, with starry casts including (in this first set) Paapa Essiedu, Maggie Steed and Antony Sher.
Further all-star casting has been announced for Jamie Lloyd Company’s Pinter at the Pinter, an unparalleled event featuring all twenty short plays written by Harold Pinter in the West End theatre that bears his name.
Keith Allen, Phil Davis, Paapa Essiedu, Rupert Graves, Gary Kemp, John Simm and Maggie Steed have joined the extraordinary company of Pinter at the Pinter, the unprecedented season featuring all 20 of Harold Pinter’s one-act plays, running from September 2018 to February 2019, to mark the tenth anniversary of the Nobel Prize winner’s death.
Paapa Essiedu’s Hamlet is likely to be remembered and talked about in years to come and Simon Godwin’s production is a beautifully accessible performance of a perfect play.
The RSC’s touring production of Hamlet not only boasts engaging performances but situates them in a dynamic theatrical setting –enabling the entire cast and crew to assert this show as a compelling production that reflects the virtues of the theatre.
It feels important to recognise what the NT (and the Old Vic) were trying to achieve, though. Queer Theatre looked “at how theatre has charted the LGBT+ experience through a series of rehearsed readings, exhibitions, talks and screenings” and if only one looked at lesbian women, two of the readings were written by women.
Harrowing is barely the word to describe this dramatisation of the way in which the Nazis persecuted gay men in Germany before and during World War II.
Belonging is a public debate with poncy performance chaired by Scottee. Together with a committee of prominent queers he will explore where queer people sit in our society. A boozy, loose-tongued version of Question Time with less middle aged, middle class white men. Come and mouth off on the eve of London Pride.
Over in Canary Wharf, The Space Theatre might not necessarily be one that is on the radar of many London theatregoers but the announcement of their summer season ought to tempt the theatrically curious out East as it is full of goodies, not least a revival of Mike Bartlett’s excellent Contractions.
In addition to lists of top productions, Mates contributor Ian Foster reviews his reviews from the past year to award his personal prizes for the best performances for Best Actor and Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress in both plays and musicals…
2016 is nearly over and, despite not getting to see nearly as much theatre as we’d like at Sitting in the Cheap Seats, we’ve seen lots of performances that we will long remember. We couldn’t list all the people who have really impressed us over the past year but the folks below brought their characters to life with performances that made us laugh, cry and kept us thinking long after we left the theatre!
Transferring in to London from Stratford, Antony Sher’s King Lear is a Shakespearean masterclass. With no headline-grabbing casting to this, one of Shakespeare’s greatest works, the production is a company-driven gem, led by the RSC’s seasoned bill-topper who’s more than earned the right to make the role his own.
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