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Review: Bomber’s Moon (Trafalgar Studios)

In London theatre, Plays, Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

In Bomber’s Moon James Bolam plays the kind of sharp-tongued and witheringly sardonic octogenarian most of us can only dream of becoming: and the first half of William Ivory’s play is peppered with funny and vulgar rapid-fire banter between Bolam’s chair-bound Jimmy and doing-it-by-the-book care worker David from his first day in the job. Since Ivory is also […]

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Photos: Final Father post-show panel on Women in the Arts

In Features, London theatre, Photos, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we went out on an absolute high. Following the past two weeks, in which we tackled “Feminism Today” and “Parenting Rights”, last night’s discussion subject was titled “Women in the Arts: Is Enough Being Done About Gender Inequality?” 

Director Fiona Laird suggested that the balance be redressed by only allowing only plays by female writers to be produced for the next 300 years

The guests gathered to debate the point were: The Stage editor Alistair Smith, director and feminist campaigner Fiona Laird, actor and Act for Change founding member Stephanie Street and Evening Standard chief arts correspondent Louise Jury (click here for full panelist biographies); and, from The Father, director Abbey Wright, leading lady and producer Emily Dobbs, and cast member June Watson, as well as, on behalf of venue owner the Ambassador Theatre Group, London programmer Charlotte Longstaff.

All good things must come to an end. Last night was the third and final post-show panel discussion in the series that I’ve programmed and hosted around Jagged Fence’s new production of The Father, starring Alex Ferns. While I’m sad the series has finished (it was such invigorating fun!), I’m happy to say that we […]

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Photos and podcast: Equal parenting, Fathers4Justice and Strindberg’s The Father

In Audio, Features, London theatre, Photos, Plays by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

I’m still reeling after the thrillingly heated and thought-provoking panel discussion I hosted last night at Trafalgar Studios 2. This was the second in a series of post-show events I’ve programmed around issues and themes raised in Jagged Fence’s explosive new production of Strindberg’s The Father, starring Alex Ferns. We set a high benchmark with last […]

The Father – Review

In by Jonathan BazLeave a Comment

Trafalgar Studios, London

****

Written by August Strindberg
In a new version by Laurie Slade
Directed by Abbey Wright

Alex Ferns

Few go to a Strindberg play looking for an harmonious depiction of the sexes and this co-production between Emily Dobbs’ Jagged Fence and Making Productions, while sharp in its execution, won’t do much to radicalise expectations. 

Written in 1887 by the deeply embittered Swedish playwright, on the brink of marital separation and in a fashion that has triggered many autobiographical interpretations, The Father pitches husband and wife into a dark custody battle that predates paternity tests and equal rights. Laurie Slade’s modern adaptation – requested by his friend, theatre director Joe Harmston for a 2012 production – is driven more by collaborative forces than real-life drama, but it retains the original’s antagonistic bite.

Director Abbey Wright takes the reins for this intimate production with great success. While the Captain’s last-minute attempt to break the fourth wall doesn’t sit well with the play’s largely naturalistic style, Wright’s depiction of conflict – whether that be between husband and wife, mother and daughter, or father and child – is as stylish as it is evocative. As the warring characters face each other in mirror image, Wright clouds the dialogue’s clear oppositions with vivid visual similarities.

Thomas Coombes is a treat as Nöjd, the playful trooper who, if rumour is to believed, has impregnated a member of the Captain’s staff. While Nöjd is unable to deny a certain degree of intimacy, it is beyond his power to prove whether or not the baby is his. Coombes excels at lacing Nöjd’s crude, pastoral expression – “no guarantee that a night in the hay means a bun in the oven” – with a cheeky, modern charm, furnishing Slade’s notion that this is “a modern play, which happens to be set in the C.19th”.

What seems like idle gossip transforms into psychologically taut obsession as the play pulls towards its inevitable conclusion. Just as Nöjd doubts his lover’s fidelity, Alex Ferns’s dazzling Captain ploughs his own memories, as he questions whether young Bertha, who calls him ‘Papa’, is actually his issue or was in fact conceived by wife Laura (excellent on-stage work from Dobbs) during a lovers’ tryst. Ferns is vibrantly volatile and while other characters are equally paired in their disputes, he retains a chilling control over the tempo of the piece. 

While the relationship between the Captain and his wife provides the thrust of this narrative, and the Captain and his Doctor (Barnaby Sax) are splendidly matched as rivals, it is the tender and trusting affinity between Captain and Nurse (June Watson) that brings the strongest emotional clout: “rest your breast on my chin”, the Captain commands his attendant, as a redundant Laura looks on jealously. This gentle, strikingly maternal relationship is complemented by James Turner’s set and Gary Bowman lighting, all stripped-back, monochrome as a Gothic aesthetic gradually melts into warmer reds.

Husband and wife may be “black and white…different species” but there’s a faith in relationships and the power of one gender to sooth and complement another. While this production doesn’t fall far from Strindberg’s tree, it’s a well-designed and interrogative take on an unfashionable play.

Runs until 11th April 2015

Guest reviewer: Amelia Forsbrook

My theatre diary: Multitudes, Gods and Monsters, Kill Me Now, How I Learned to Drive and Boa

In London theatre, Opinion, Plays, Quotes, Reviews by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

The Off-West End play has very much been the thing for me in the past few weeks of theatregoing. Here are five (four of them brand-new plays) worth squeezing into your theatregoing calendar this month – and when I say this month, I do mean this month. As usual, I’ve listed productions in closing date order, […]

BOA Trafalgar 2, SW1

In London theatre, Plays, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

THIRTY YEARS OF TURBULENCE: A MARRIAGE There is no snake. It’s a nickname for “Belinda”, the female half of Clara Brennan’s new two-hander, a 90-minute portrait of an 30-year marriage between a dancer and a war correspondent. On the other … Continue reading →

My theatre diary: Comedies The Ruling Class, Di and Viv and Rose, Diary of a Nobody and Bad Jews

In London theatre, Photos, Plays, Quotes, Reviews by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

I’ve had a heavy schedule of plays over the past few weeks, including quite a few comedies, many of them with deep, dark cores. (For dramas I’ve seen recently, see my companion Theatre Diary piece.) As usual, I’ve listed productions in closing date order. Note, the first – not the least bit dark – finishes […]

My theatre diary: Comedies The Ruling Class, Di and Viv and Rose, Diary of a Nobody and Bad Jews

In London theatre, Photos, Plays, Quotes, Reviews by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

I’ve had a heavy schedule of plays over the past few weeks, including quite a few comedies, many of them with deep, dark cores. (For dramas I’ve seen recently, see my companion Theatre Diary piece.) As usual, I’ve listed productions in closing date order. Note, the first – not the least bit dark – finishes […]

My theatre diary: ‘Tis Pity, Made in Dagenham, East Is East and Neville’s Island

In London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Photos, Plays, Quotes, Reviews by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

I’m playing catch-up. Here are four shows I caught before my turkey-filled escape to the States last week for Thanksgiving. All of which serve up entertaining evenings in the theatre. As usual, I’ve listed them in closing date order. Don’t delay with the first in particular, as it finishes its limited season in a week. […]

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Why is Jamie Lloyd and Martin Freeman’s Richard III set in a 1970s open-plan office?

In Features, Inspiring people, Interviews, London theatre, Opinion, Photos, Plays, Reviews by Terri PaddockLeave a Comment

When the production shots for Richard III were first released earlier this week, showing that director Jamie Lloyd had located the Bard’s bloody history play in a 1970s office block, my interest was piqued. After seeing the show at Tuesday’s opening night, my first reaction was to describe the resulting effect as “Get Carter meets […]

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Review: The Pride (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

For the third play in his Trafalgar Transformed series, Jamie Lloyd has re-directed his own original staging of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s two-tier gay drama The Pride, first produced to great acclaim in 2008 at the Royal Court where Kaye Campbell’s partner Dominic Cooke is Artistic Director. The play also had a successful outing off-Broadway with […]

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Review: The Pride (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

For the third play in his Trafalgar Transformed series, Jamie Lloyd has re-directed his own original staging of Alexei Kaye Campbell’s two-tier gay drama The Pride, first produced to great acclaim in 2008 at the Royal Court where Kaye Campbell’s partner Dominic Cooke is Artistic Director. The play also had a successful outing off-Broadway with […]

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Review: Chicken (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

Should a play called Chicken have quite so many ‘stock’ characters?  Sorry, no one could resist dabbling in culinary references: Michael Coveney called it “fit for a critical casserole” and Henry Hitchings in the Standard felt he could only identify “a nugget” within Mike Batistick’s play. We are in the New York melting pot of […]

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Review: Chicken (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

Should a play called Chicken have quite so many ‘stock’ characters?  Sorry, no one could resist dabbling in culinary references: Michael Coveney called it “fit for a critical casserole” and Henry Hitchings in the Standard felt he could only identify “a nugget” within Mike Batistick’s play. We are in the New York melting pot of […]

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Review: Yes, Prime Minister (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

The trouble with political satire is how quickly it dates. Yes Minister was a much loved TV programme throughout the 80s featuring the attempts to ouwit each other of politician Jim Hacker and obsequious but devious Civil Service mandarin Sir Humphrey Appleby. Whilst their badinage is still engaging, it lacks the sharpened edge of realistic situations […]

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Review: Yes, Prime Minister (Trafalgar Studios)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

The trouble with political satire is how quickly it dates. Yes Minister was a much loved TV programme throughout the 80s featuring the attempts to ouwit each other of politician Jim Hacker and obsequious but devious Civil Service mandarin Sir Humphrey Appleby. Whilst their badinage is still engaging, it lacks the sharpened edge of realistic situations […]

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Review: End of the Rainbow (Trafalgar Studios, London)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

Can you imagine what it would be like if Judy Garland were still alive? In her late eighties would she be shuffling from one tacky daytime chat show to the next still living off ancient glories like The Wizard of Oz and Easter Parade, trotting out the same old stories of booze and drugs to […]

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Review: Dream of the Dog (Trafalgar Studios, London)

In Reviews by Johnny FoxLeave a Comment

In the living room strewn with tea chests and cardboard boxes it couldbe cosy Priestley or Coward, ‘Laburnum Grove’ or ‘This Happy Breed’ as an elderly housewife packs away the last of the family belongings before the house move to a peaceful retirement by the sea. But instead of South London we are high on the windswept veldt […]

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