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miss julie by august strindberg

16 Nov

Miss Julie
By August Strindberg
Newly adapted by Howard Brenton
At Jermyn Street
Miss Julie was first presented in 1983 in Paris. It was of course considered shocking as it offended  too many prejudices, the characters behaved in a naturalistic manner, it criticised the great divide in the class system, and there was near nudity on stage. It was just too Real. It is a story full of real passion and much sex. The actual act is performed off stage although the lead up to it is graphically performed in front of us.
The action takes place in the kitchen of an aristocrat’s mansion. Kristin the cook  enters the excellently appointed kitchen without preamble as if she was at home and begins to prepare food. We are convinced that this is a naturalist play when the smell of kidneys cooking wafts over the audience and we wait patiently for her to finish the washing up in real time.
Kristin is somewhat loosely engaged to Jean the Count’s valet. Jean is a young man of ambition, determined to better himself in any way he can. He has travelled and discovered there other things in life than polishing boots and answering his master’s bell. We do not know why he came back. He says he is in love with Julie, the Count’s daughter but maybe he just thinks she might provide the way out of his present situation. Julie’s motives are just as inconsistent as his. She treats him with contempt and then seduces him reversing their relationship and beginning a kind of war in the survival of the fittest..
This is a new edition of the play by Howard Brenton which he wrote from a literal translation of the work. It seems very authentic, looking at a group of people as they really are, changing their minds, their attitudes, their relationships to each other.
Louie Whitemore’s set is stunning – the most perfect, practical kitchen, sparkling and clean with copper saucepans and the costumes are attractive and appropriate for the time and place.
The play is well directed by Tom Littler, Jermyn Street’s new artistic director and the piece is exceptionally acted by Charlotte Hamblin as Julie, James Sheldon as Jean and Isabella Urbanowicz as Kristin.
A highly successful interpretation of this famous play.

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eve ferret’s fabaret

15 Nov

Eve Ferret’s cabaret
At the Lounge Leicester Square

There is no cabaret artist in the world like Eve Ferret. Her thick red hair, bundled up on top of her head, her voluptuous body loosely swathed in a peignoir she is a true force of nature.
She has been a veteran theatrical presence since the days of Blitz “No not the wartime one. The night club” After appearing in several movies as an ideal heroine of the popular Hammer films, she took time off to deal with family matters and re-entered the cabaret scene three or four years ago,
Her accompanist is Simon Wallace, a genial chap who obviously has no idea what she is going to do next. He strikes up the overture and in she sweeps with her big warm smile, and begins to sing with her strong bluesy voice, then after a few bars, stops to say hello to the audience all of whom will become friends by the end of the evening even if they are not already.
Eve does a lot of talking with dozens of stories about her early days, the movies she was in and the stars she worked with. She makes mock of the fact that she is not always the luckiest card in the pack. She does a number where she describes herself as ‘Last Night’s Pate. Constantly reminding herself not to swear, she still does, but who cares? We will love her whatever she does. We happily join in when she requests it. and we throw around her big dolls when she asks us to.

Her songs are mostly autobiographical. Although she doesn’t believe in crying n public, all her emotions turn into songs. She can fall in love with the wrong person like everyone else ‘Congratulations’, she sings wryly, ‘You got me’. Her most passionate plea is ‘Don’t change me’ which is her outcry for indulgence and understanding. A woman must be her own person. Eve could be a great dramatic actress as well as a serious songstress
But whatever her adventures, she is still the Pimlico Belle-She lauds the area where she was born and where she has always lived. She loves her borough.

Towards the end of her set she gets some fun out of her parody of the Garland torch song ‘The Man That got Away’.
”The Night is bitter” she sings “I’ve spent the night on Twitter” as she enlarges on the hazards of the technological phenomena.
Here last number is ‘It’s not over till it’s over’

I overuse the word Wonderful, but in her case it is completely justified.

JAMAICA INN by daphne du maurier

12 Nov

Jamaica Inn
By Daphne Du Maurier
Tabard Theatre
Daphne Du Maurier’s creepy thriller set in deepest Cornwall is Adapted by Lisa Evans and Directed by Anastasia Revi.
It is a play heavily dependent on the set by Maira Vazou and atmospheric lighting by Ben Jacobs. Jonathan Bratoeff provides appropriate music and much of the wreckers’ scenes are sung through – adding to the general strangeness of the country side and the images of men working on the ocean, wrecking and murdering for the richness on board ships.
Kinberley Jarvis plays Mary Yellan the innocent (to begin with) heroine who has merely come to Jamaica Inn to take care of her half mad Aunt Patience. She reckons without the cruel man Joss Merlyn, who is married to her Aunt. He has beaten her into submission and she clings to him submissively and with the love of an illtreated animal – hoping for a few crumbs of kindness if she joins in his nefarious crimes. Helen Bang has her own sweetness which she brings to bear in the character of Aunt Patience. It is no wonder that Mary wants to help her, but does not know how as her aunt is so obsessed by her love for the bullying husband. An interesting casting note – both Mary and her Aunt have exactly the same shade of Titian hair. Is it an accident or where they chosen for their appearance? Even if that is the case, it succeeds brilliantly as they both did a great job in their varied roles.
Mary is made of stronger material than her Aunt. She has been running a farm on her own and she considers she has equal strength of any man. She is apprehensive but not fearful of the wreckers who come to the pub to get drunk before every wrecking. Josh protects her from molestation,– and in a way admires her courage and confidence.
Another man is secretly part of her life. Joss’s younger brother, the horse thief, played by Samuel Lawrence– he and his Brother are not on speaking terms, so he only calls when he knows his brother is absent. He is a much friendlier and kinder person than Joss and treats Mary with a measure of respect. As does her other champion she meets while lost on the moors –( which happens quite often – not surprising) He is the strangely pallid local Vicar played by Peter Rae.
This is a thriller that actually thrills and nothing turns out to be as it seems. It is often difficult to work out where they are and the time scales of the plot. This probably cannot be helped with such a big melodrama on such a small stage and with so many of the cast doubling up .
But the show is as creepy and thrilling and one feels very satisfied by the ending after all the traumas are over and the true culprits are revealed.

THE TAILOR MADE MAN

10 Nov

The tailor-made man *****
By Claudio Macor
This beautifully directed show is one of the most entertaining running in the Off West End circuit. It tells the story of William Haines who was the biggest film star A list off his generation. He was charming, intelligent, very handsome but he was an individualist. Everybody loved him except those in charge at MGM studios – names Louis B Mayer and his cohorts. They hated him because he was the lover of another young man. He was what Louis contemptuously called A Faggot – but he was a huge favourite and so his private life was kept carefully out of the papers. The two greatest gossip writers in Hollywood, Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper were sworn to secrecy and Billy’s great friend was Marion Davis, the girlfriend of William Randolph Hearst.
Even so Billy just refused to behave in the way MGM players were supposed to play – with utmost propriety – at least in public, but Billy was proudly and unashamedly in love with his partner Jimmie Shields
Mitchell Hunt is every inch the movie star Billy and Tom Berkeley is warm and loving as Jimmy. Their scenes together are full of humour and affection – never mawkish or oversentimental. They were known as simply the happiest couple in Hollywood. Louis B Mayer became more and more irritated by his number one star and tried to marry him off to Pola Negri.
Plays about the old Hollywood are always fascinating to watch, but often they are not as well presented as this one. The set is beautifully elegant and adaptable, and the costumes of the ladies are simply divine – all the work of designer, Mike Lees, who used actual twenties and thirties costumes, reinventing the dresses, and making them fit the different shapes of twenty first century actresses, Yvonne Lawler and Rachel Knowles. They play all the actresses, with huge energy, without inhibitions and obviously enjoy themselves hugely using all the affectations of the two great movie periods.
At last Billy blots his copy book completely and Louis manages to destroy every evidence of his existence at MGM. His plan was to make Hollywood rid of him for ever. Which is why we have never heard of him in list of old Hollywood movies.
The play is great fun all the way. By turns funny, witty, moving all the way through. But I must give voice to my admiration for Dean Harris who gives a positively stunning performance as Louis B Mayer. He was a man of varying moods and he tells us a little of his pre Hollywood story with great feeling. He longs for his old life without having the stress of running the studio with recalcitrant stars like William Haines. He makes us understand his fury and easily brings us on to his side at various moments throughout the story.
Such clever writing by Claudio Macor and loving, inventive direction by Bryan Hodgson..

21 Oct

ANYTHING THAT FLIES
A new play by Judith Burnley
At the Jermyn Street Theatre

A beautifully appointed flat in Belsize Park in 1991 colourful in contemporary colours and antique furniture with exquisite pictures on the walls and a viola lying on the chaise Longue. There is a very sophisticated radio system with two enormous speakers and Brahms filling the room with sound.
Otto is an irascible, elderly musician, after adjusting the sound, he picks up the instrument and begins to mime playing to the music.
The doorbell interrupts him. He shouts For two or three times ‘Go away I’m working’ and refuses to answer it , but the person behind the door is very persistent so eventually he opens the door a little and the woman outside it stops it from shutting on her.
She addresses him in German. This makes him angry. He doesn’t want German spoken in his house. He has concentrated on absorbing Englishness and is to all intents and purposes English. He wants to kill the past. He is the only member of his family not to be murdered by the Gestapo and he carries guilt by being the only survivor.
He has recently had a stroke and she has been sent by his daughter to be his Carer. It would be an obvious thought to send a German person, thinking that they would have something in common, but for most of the play they are at loggerheads. She is from an Aristocratic family, but she also is a displaced person. She had an English nanny who died in tragic circumstances – being thought of as an English spy in Germany. Otto suspects her, he sits her down and shines a light in her eyes and questions her like an inquisitor.
Lottie just a child during the war but her family were the victims of an air raid. Her English nanny had taught to be Anglophile by reading her stories from Winnie the Pooh and she has lived her life dreaming of the Hundred Acre Woods and the games of Poohsticks which she thinks is a way to live her life. Otto hates Winnie the Pooh, calling it sentimental and childish.
Finally, they begin to realise they are both Citizens of Nowhere and are trying to live their lives with the Guilt engendered by being survivors.
This is a beautifully written and produced play. The perfect period setting and costumes are by Emily Adamson and Neil Irish and lit by Elliot Griggs.
But of course, in a two hander the greatest applause must be for the amazingly truthful, funny and deeply moving performances by Clive Merrison and Issy van Randwyck. The casting and expert direction is by Alice Hamilton.
The new Artistic Director of Jermyn Street, Tom Litter, is showing his talent for finding unusual, thought provoking works for this little theatre.

tryst

17 Oct

TRYST
BY Karoline Leach
At the Tabard
Seeing this old fashioned type thriller – was almost like holiday. So relaxing seeing a play without nudity, without politics (gender or otherwise) but one man and one woman exploring their own individual lives. Both becoming aware of the dangers of each other and yet not admitting it. We are at the beginning of the twentieth century, Edwardian times. Fred Perry plays a con man. A true charmer who begins the play by speaking to the audience. He tells us that he wears handmade suits, he adopts a PR accent and a gentlemanly demeanour. But he is a predator. He finds a suitable mark – a plain girl with a bit of money. He makes love to her, proposes to her, goes through a form of marriage, spends one night making expert love to her and then skedaddles with all her money. He tells us all this without shame, with a kind of pride. He has given the girls a wonderful experience that they will never have again. He was so convincing that on the night I was there a member of the audience was moved to cry out in the middle of his speech.
Cut to the other side of the stage and there is Adelaide. Played by Natasha J Barnes, looking unusually dumpy but almost unbearably sweet as a milliner who works in the back of a millinery shop. She too talks to the audience. Tells us about her family, her aunt who left her the beautiful brooch she is wearing, which she believes is worth a fortune – and the money she is saving to do ‘something wonderful’ she doesn’t yet know what it will be. She has dreams of travelling to romantic places in Europe
The two get to know each other of course – seemingly by accident but carefully planned by George – he goes into action almost straight away saying he loves her and knows she wouldn’t want to marry him. He is not good enough for her. Hey hye, nobody can resist a line like his – more shouts from the audience. These characters are full of surprises for each other and for the audience. So many twists and flashes of danger- like something that could have been written half a century ago. As an audience I was aware that my mind was being played with, but it was so entertaining that I didn’t mind.
The setting is just right for the seedy seaside boarding house where most of the action takes place. Max Dorey has recreated the scenes perfectly and in tune with the times – a gas lantern, an iron bedstead and incorporating a wonderful fireplace with a wooden surround which must have been painted thirty years before and colourful tiles some of which are broken
Both the actors are terrific. Fred Perry as the evil seducer and Natasha J Barnes as he plain little milliner with a will of iron.
Excellently directed by Phoebe Barran.

METROPOLIS

16 Oct

METROPOLIS
At Ye Old Rose and Crown Theatre, Walthamstow
Music by Joe Brooks
Book and lyrics by Joe Brooks and Dusty Hughes
Additional material by David Firman.
The review must begin with mentioning the incredible vocal power of the cast in this show and the orchestral and vocal arrangements by Aaron Clingham.
Metropolis is based on the 1927 Fritz Lang Science Fiction Movie set in 2029. It is a strange choice for this venue. Their shows are often dependent on the happy feeling we associate with musical theatre.
It has no happiness in it. A love story that is impossible for various reasons. A megalomaniac boss and all the poor workers who work day in day out under the ground working the machinery that powers the dystopian city of Metropolis. If they stop the city will be destroyed.
John Freeman the boss resents his dependency on the workers and is trying to get his mad scientist friend Dr.Warner to invent an army of robots that will dispose of the workers and take their place.
In addition to the Workers there are the elitist people who live in high rise apartments. They are not allowed. in the underground so have no idea what is going on beneath their feet. They sing and dance and generally behave like upper class idiots. Except for one man, Steven, the son of John Freeman. Steven happens to meet Maria one of the workers who is showing the children of the workers the wonders of the town. He falls in love with her and is determined to follow her down to the factory.
This is a depressing story and it doesn’t let up nor does the music which is mostly confined to heavy power ballads. However the singing is so stunning and the orchestral and vocal arrangements are well equal to and actually even beyond the usual high standard of shows at the A and Cat It is the music and the singing which saves this show from being thoroughly depressing.
The depression is the fault of the actual script, not the creatives or cast who are all professional and efficient.
Miiya Alexandra plays a lovely Maria and Steven is Rob Herron , John Freeman by Gareth James, Dr Warner the scientist who is responsible for providing the robot is played by Kitty Whitelaw, and John Freeman’s sidekick Jeremiah is played by Alex Ely. Michael Levi is a worker who escapes for a short time but finds he prefers the company downstairs.
Metropolis is not a barrel of laughs. But it is sty lish and beautifully directed by Tim McArthur and choreographed by Ian Pyle.
The film was the cause of much controversy and was banned for a while as Communist propaganda. It is a warning that if the people in charge don’t get themselves together and destroy the class system it may be proved true.
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