Regular reviews of new London theatre, from the West End and the National Theatre to the fringe, plus occasional dispatches from around the UK and beyond.
If I’m being generous, I could say it’s charming that these shops agreed to take part. But it is also rather odd to be paraded around shops throughout the production, just at the height of the Christmas shopping season. Commercialism and theatricality nestle side by side in an uncomfortable fashion.
There’s a vague weariness that clings to this show. It feels like Grandage is falling back on his greatest tricks so as to avoid offending this new, larger and richer, audience. Christopher Oram’s set encapsulates this elegant poise, which is just a whisker away from stagnancy. The
That forced quirkiness also impacts almost all the linking episodes, which hold the show together. There are weird explosions of sound and colour between some scenes, when a drink is spilled, lights flash, sirens blare and the cast stalks about the dining room, screaming ‘Spiiiiiiiill!’
There’s a mesmerising and hazy quality to this production, which is as soothing as it is unsettling. Sadie Jones (a translucent Stephanie Greer) describes her situation with a childlike simplicity: ‘The tall thin people surround Sadie Jones’.
Shechter’s famous signature style is a kind of three-way collision between Jewish folk dancing, the more classical structures and shapes of ballet, and the sort of dancing to dance music that was popular when I was about 15. It’s also reminiscent of the sort of dancing you maybe saw native Americans doing in some old and probably racist cowboys and ‘Indians’ films.
There’s a touch of the Wizard of Oz to this show, both in design and plot. An exceptional girl, Sunny (Katie Leung), sets off from the countryside to the city, in search of factory work. She meets friends and foes along the way but is ultimately dumped back into reality with one hell of a thud.
There’s something a touch forced about this piece, right down to Paul Wills’ attractive but overly translatable set. Simon Godwin’s production feels important and the characters, authentic - but the play is a little too calculated and concertinaed for my taste.
By the end of the play, Gorge Mastromas has been eaten up by evil. He is a crust of a man. But the journey up to this point is taken with small, tiptoe steps. We watch Gorge become possessed by his own desire. It is frightening believable everything is – how reachable and logical every step Gorge takes is, despite the horror he enacts.
The aesthetic feels familiar; all strip lights, big white screens and colourful, defiantly incongruous props (Watermelon is used a lot and I have no idea why). Everything – the props, the acting style, the music – feels odd and jolting yet weirdly measured. There is a faintly mechanised yet unbalanced air to proceedings; as if the production is being controlled by a shoddily wired robot, on the verge of self-destruction.
There’s something incredibly odd about experiencing a mute man talking to an audience through a disembodied voice. The reason he’s made this choice, apparently, is so he has ‘something to talk about’ and because he doesn’t ‘want to bore the language thinkers’ in the audience.
It’s an extraordinary piece of writing, making us guffaw with laughter one minute and then become pensive at the thought of what it means to be a ‘bad feminist’ the next. She rattles through stories with a gallop, only pausing to stroke her neck or consider whether or not she has a ‘massive arsehole’.
Some believe that finding out how things work takes away their beauty, but when Robin McLoughlin discusses the science behind his monitoring of the whale and the way these huge mammals communicate with each other, the whole thing seems all the more perfect.
This is a world made of gorgeous, visceral images. Two massive treadmills on Rhys Jaman’s surprisingly minimalist set are used throughout, allowing quick shifts in tense and location, ensuring everything is always moving. When they stop, it feels like the whole world has ceased to turn.
After pulling a pained expression, for example, Priestley then looked proud of herself, pointed to her face and shouted ‘Acting’. It’s a tiny gesture, but I genuinely wish we’d get these nods to audience more when at the theatre.