Carlos’ brother, Sergio, is going to be the manager of a soon-to-be-built shopping centre: not any shopping centre, but the largest in the area, ‘where people will go to take photos of each other riding on escalators for the first time in their lives and buying everything they need to make them feel less like the peasants they are’.
So we’re back to the same living room with Steve, and it’s hot and everyone’s trying to be friendly and hostile in equal measure, as this white pregnant couple who embody the concept of gentrification try to get along with their black neighbours-to-be. And because it’s 2009, ‘race’ is a word nobody uses any longer. Except, as Steve finally suggests to his wife’s horror, that are they all secretly thinking it?
Throughout the fragments, the air between them, as well as their tone, their way of negotiating the space of the stage all remain invariably the same: not threatening, and not necessarily angry or desperate, mostly just annoyed, the way you would if the person you live with had misplaced the scissors, rather than if you were worried those scissors could end up in your chest.
She teases constantly, yet almost never shows to enjoy any of it. She mirrors her lovers’ sentences, repeating almost word by word what they tell her, giving back the image they want - and in this sense works very much as a reflection of their morality or lack thereof.
David Lan’s direction maintains the richness of Wilson’s reticence and control, and counterbalances the long, wordy speeches with strong, visceral and willful movements and gestures - Bertha’s caresses and embraces to Seth, Herald’s under-the-skin violence in cutting some yams on a tin plate.
There are cigarettes, trench coats - the Nazi ones angular and thick and rigid, the American ones softer and scruffier - femme fatales in dressing gowns, and a touch of fog; there are tight-fisted demonstrations of power and confidently-handled glasses of Scotch.
Silver’s words kept leaving Cheshire cat’s smiles hanging in the air behind them, the full philosophical wit and insight only hitting us with a delay of a few seconds, or even re-emerging many hours later during a tube journey or a lunch-break walk – ‘I depend on people empathising with me in order to read my own mind’; ‘when I grow up I want to be a pilot; or a member of the cabin crew; or a passenger’.
Promises Promises is not at all a play about an issue, nor a tirade against the follies of dumbed-down multiculturalism. Instead, it is a voyage to the centre of Miss Brodie, which moves swiftly and masterfully from comedy to gothic horror story, passing through Miss Brodie’s projection into six-year-old Rosie (or Nadifa), with a definite touch of doppelgänger motives.
‘The Viennese are Jewhaters and will remain Jewhaters to all eternity’; ‘this Austrian stupidity is utterly repulsive’; Austrians are nothing else but ‘six and half million feeble-minded raving mad people/screaming incessantly at the top of their voices for a director’ - and the director, who had already come once, will come again and ‘give them the final push down the abyss’.
Jodie McNee, as the curious, fervently religious and yet independently-minded Sarah, is the force to be reckoned with. She proceeds with eyes and palms wide open, looking for names to everything under the sun and relentlessly examining life’s minutiae, eventually discovering how to fully inhabit her own force: ‘I know now I must find out the names for myself’.
Towards the end, I found myself holding my breath during a mother and daughter confrontation, hoping Oglesby would let her characters finally inhabit the same dramatic tension without interrupting, only to be disappointed again when it all suddenly turned into a slapstick chase of the robot around the hospital beds.
There is sophisticated style in this production, and there is, as Zuabi declared was his intention, remarkably little anger. Annoyingly, however, there is also a very clear intent to tell the audience what to make of the story, an intent fully embraced from the moment you step into the Young Vic until the time you leave the building.
If it was enraged indignation for Mitchell’s dilemma that Beane was after, I am afraid that it will be almost impossible to muster for most of us - watching Mitchell taking his decision, I suddenly understood Wallace Shawn’s lack of sympathy for those who lament the loss of the cherry orchard.
As demanded by the rom-com tradition (explicitly invoked during the evening), Bob and Helena, the protagonists of Midsummer, are superficially different, and belong to separate worlds (yet deep down, you don’t need me to tell you, they are similar). She is a high-flying divorce lawyer, he is a small-time crook who still exudes an aura of eye-liner-wearing, scruffy adolescent.
In Hitchcock’s movie, Rupert was played by the wholesome, clean-faced James Stewart, who does not have an ounce of malice in him. At the Almeida, Rupert is inhabited and transformed through a memorable performance by Bertie Carvel, whose presence on the stage illuminates Hamilton’s dialogue and builds up the final scene to exquisite tension.
In imagining that Valadon would be the torch-bearer of lust for life and unconventionality in art, and Degas would be the defender of dedication to work and respect for the tradition, Wertenbaker not only adheres to a tired cliché about gender, but also forces upon her characters a set of values and attitudes that belong very specifically to us.
The play was written by a very young woman and is interpreted by more young men and women, yet I have not been out of high school long enough to find their attitudes believable. The overall impression is like Dawson’s Creek set in a comprehensive inner-city high school doing an episode on religious differences.
Surrounded by tackiness and wasted abundance, Dijana is no different from any of these cheap objects around her: she is rushing, like them, towards obsoleteness, in the fastest lane of disposability, hugged then forgotten, desired only until she becomes repulsive as a reminder of the very desire she fulfilled.
Thanks to Mamet’s talent, and thanks to the splendidly staged production that the Arcola makes out of it, there is no line in the sand, in spite of our best and repeated attempts at tracing one throughout the hour, we are mostly cynical about the whole business - or are we?
The subject willingly and explicitly tackled here is faith. Or Faith, rather. The setting is a waiting room with a group of mismatched chairs and a pitiful plant. The protagonist is a ruffled, averagely awkward guy called Adam who is being interviewed, cross-examined and poked at by a God whose voice we hear intermittently as he plays both good and bad cop.
It is regrettable that, in comparison to much of the European audience, the British should still appear so firmly set, a priori, against slowness and silence and anything that can be called, generalising for practical purposes, experimental theatre. There are no linear conclusions to be drawn from Tighe’s adaptation, but there is a very stimulating invitation to make your own way into the text.
How do you turn Medea into a desirable, advertisable product? And how do you make people want every little piece of her? First of all, you turn her into a victim. The sheer violence, masqueraded as care, with which the four women of the marketing company abuse Medea physically and emotionally, making her into a savage, tangling her hair and smearing her face with dirt, is perhaps the strongest point of the production.
Kursk gives us a very interesting glimpse at what hyper-realism could do to and with theatre, as well as a very well-crafted, well-researched work - the producer, writer and co-directors visited two hunter-killer nuclear submarines to make sure to get the atmosphere right, and the sounds, the protocol, the fluid exchange of precise professional terms all testify to it.
It is fitting to the general character of Atreus’ and Thyestes’ family, and to the feelings evoked by it from ancient times through to Renaissance, that Hannah Clark’s set for this production recalls, with exactitude and gusto, the dirty basements lit by dangling lightbulbs recently seen in so many horror movies, from Hostel to the Saw series.
Whitemore’s main innovation was to distribute the role of self-deprecating narrator and protagonist among three different Simons, played in this production by Jasper Britton, Felicity Kendal and Nicholas Le Prevost. On paper, this may sound unappealing, but on stage it actually works very well as a way to render the dynamic and un-lecturing, improvising style of the diaries.
Perhaps this lack of a narrative centre would be less perceivable if Reg, who is the core of the piece, were a thoroughly convincing character - but he is not really. For a man who believes himself to be the best thing that happened to proletariat since Marx, he is considerably spoiled and aloof.
If we were to consider the play from a more strictly formal, aesthetic point of view, it would probably have received fewer stars than most critics gave it, as it is built more like a television documentary than as a theatrical work. As it is, the strength of the message and its emotional consequences make us somehow forget that, for example, the space of the stage is not used very well, and that many characters barely move as they speak.
Inua Ellams recounts his childhood and adolescence, all the while exuberantly trying to establish a significant space for himself both in the line of people who came before him, and in the cities in which he grows up, moving from Nigeria to the United Kingdom.
The fact that we switch so easily between liking and disliking the character is a lesson in the arbitrariness of sympathy, but also, and perhaps most importantly, in how uninformed our interpretations of reality must be when we are unable to see and hear things for ourselves, without linguistic and cultural mediations.
Bodie picked up on three recent issues: the fact that we are all suddenly out of money; the fact that Alexandra Burke is singing a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’; the big-snow days. She then put three characters in a closed room and made them talk to each other about these things.
Obscenity fits the kind of heightened, violent and heated atmosphere of the text much better than sexiness would have. This makes it all the more regrettable that in spite of all the boldness and explicitness of the rest of the evening, either the writer or the director chose to censor the only sexual act that would have been worth seeing staged
Paul and Trudi are not that different from most mothers and children; they remember a different past, even though they lived through the same one. Trudi thinks that Paul failed because she did not push him enough, and Paul thinks that he failed, if he did, because she pushed him too much, instead of supporting him.
Singh’s use of the small venue’s space is reminiscent of some of the Young Vic’s most brilliant productions: the Clare becomes a black, empty box, where a metal trash bin, an old public telephone and a basic wooden bench are enough to recreate any bus stop in any Western metropolitan city on any given night.