Interview with Teatro Vivo

Back in September I had the pleasure of catching Mother Courage and Her Children –  a colloborative piece between GLYPT and Teatro Vivo. They staged Mother Courage, Brecht’s famously anti-war parable, as a promenade piece through the Royal Woolwich Dockyards. Afterwards I caught up with Kas Darley and Mark Stevenson of Teatro Vivo.

You can read my interview with them on the Everything Theatre website by clicking here.

brel banner

Not alive exactly but definitely resurrected

Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Paris – Charing Cross Theatre, until 22 November 2014 (tickets)

Jacques Brel embodied his era; his musical style, evocative of a philosophical rat-packer, fitted perfectly with the picture of France seen through the envious eyes of those in the grey, dreary England of energy rationing and emergency IMF loans. For those with intellectual pretensions, how could the Paris of the 1968 student revolt, Godard and the new-wave and, of course, the Satre-quoting, Gauloises-smoking, coffee-shop David Burt, Eve Polycarpou, Gina Beck, Daniel Boys (1) in Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris Photo Scott Rylander (1)inhabitants of the left bank, possibly be resisted?

The extent of the obsession with France shouldn’t be underestimated and Brel came to personify the music (and, yes, he was actually Belgian but no matter). This obsession may explain the staggering fact that, after being scheduled for a two-week run in Cleveland in 1973, this show ran for more than two years and over 500 performances.

However all things must pass and interests move on to the next big thing. Brel has become something of a forgotten man, and nowadays I am not sure how many people under 40 have heard of him. One might suggest that the producers have taken rather a risk on reviving this rather curious show; would people who have never heard of Brel be interested in coming to see it, and would those who like Brel want to see his songs be reinterpreted through a musical revue?

These are tough questions but one of the answers lies in the talent of the performers. This is an opportunity to see a West End cast in an atmospheric and intimate venue. Gina Beck has previous as Glinda in Wicked, Daniel Boys came to prominence in the TV talent show, Any Dream Will Do, whilst David Burt and Eve Polycarpou are veterans of stage and screen. Watching up close you are reminded of the range and subtlety that West End stars possess – items that can get lost by the demands of performing in a 1000 seat venue with full-on technical wizardry.

<<Continue to full review>>

 

Simon Stephens’ takes axe to Chekov’s orchard

The Cherry Orchard – Young Vic Theatre, Until 29 November (Tickets)

Every regular theatre goer has their blind spots, the playwrights that don’t just pass them by but they go out of their way to avoid. Civilian Theatre will happily spend an evening debating the merits of the musical or delivering a polemic against those who worship at the pedestal of Sarah Kane. However in the dark, locked away from public view, is a secret shame; a failure to comprehend, or even by interested in, the merits of turn of Kate Duchêne (Lyubov Ranevskaya) and Paul Hilton (Peter Trofimov) in The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic Photo by Stephen Cummiskeythe century Russian naturalism.

Being aware that Chekov is, arguably, thought of as second-only to Shakespeare as a playwright and that the finest writers, dramatists and critics hold the likes of Tolstoy, Gorky and Dostoevsky in the highest regard only increases the sense of a personal failure. Add a disinterest in Dickens and Ibsen and the feeling there is a black hole in my cultural awareness grows.

This is not to deny the obvious talent on display; it is impossible, even if you don’t like them, not to respect Dickens’ sentences or Chekov’s details but appreciating the building blocks is a very different thing to admiring the final structure – take the ArelorMitttal Tower, it is certainly impressively constructed but that doesn’t stop it being a hideous eyesore that is nothing more than a well-captured Freudian representation of Boris Johnson’s ego.

YOUNG VIC THEATRE: THE CHERRY ORCHARD, 2014Sticking with Freud, I suspect the problems spring from childhood – an A-Level interrogation of A Doll’s House through the lens of Stanislavski is enough to break the spirit of anyone. Task, Objective, Super Objective; it may be true, it may be necessary, it certainly sucks the spirit of the unknown out of theatre. It went in hand-in-hand with experiencing a lifeless, long and boring production of Gorky’s Summerfolk at the National (although seeing the cast included Roger Allam, Patricia Hodge and Simon Russell-Beale, I am willing to concede the problem may have been with this particular reviewer).

Whether the production was good or not, it came at one of those moments you only later realise was ‘formative’. In the same year I saw Complicite’s Mnemonic and  a revival of Steven Berkoff’s East – how could a staid, hundred year old drama possibly compete with the vitality of Berkoff or a company showing an impressionable young mind all that theatre could be.

<<Continue to full review>>

 

Mimetic Festival

Today, Civilian Theatre takes a step back from its usual habit of telling its readers about shows that are halfway through a run and where tickets are harder to locate than snow leopards. Instead I will encourage people who like theatre to check out Finger in the Pie’s Mimetic Festival, which runs Tuesday 18 to Saturday 29 November 2014.

Civilian Theatre’s Five to Watch

  1. The Libertine Has Left The Building – Michael Twaits

(25 – 29 November @ 21:40) (Tickets)

It seems only fair to start with Mimetic Festival’s Bursary Award Winner (decided by public vote), Michael Twaits. Seven years ago he created Confessions of a Dancewhore and has subsequently headlined Soho Theatre. His new show takes on the myth that every cell in the body regenerates in seven years. But does that mean we become a new person or just a second rate version of the same thing? Even better – there’s a video:

 

  1. How a Man Crumbled – Clout Theatre

(18 – 22 November @ 19:00) (Tickets)

Describing the premise of a piece of absurdist physical theatre in words seems to rather miss the point. Still in their own words ‘…Expressionist silent film meets grotesque slapstick in a world where clocks have no hands and a cucumber can kill a man.’ You may recoil at the Noel Fielding-ness of such a statement. However the trailer below suggests dipping into a much richer tradition than The Mighty Boosh ever managed.

 

  1. The Greatest Liar In All The World – Familia de la Noche

(18 – 22 November @ 20:00) (Tickets)

I am basically sold on someone else’s quote on this – ‘what it would be like to stroll through the inside of Tim Burton’s and Terry Gilliam’s minds’. Hmm, yes please. The trailer isn’t half bad too.

 

  1. Marion Deprez Is Gorgeous

(25 – 29 November @ 20:20) (Tickets)

The show promises a huge fan of Tommy Cooper and trained clown who just happens to be trapped in the body of a gorgeous French women. What is not to love? Vive La France!

 

  1. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs – Kill The Beast

(25 – 29 November @ 19:50) (Tickets)

I find invoking such pomp and bombast in your trailer is often the musical equivalent of Godwin’s Law, and you have lost my interest before evening starting. So all credit to Kill the Beast that their stunning visual effects and their clear commitment to proving that Stephen Berkoff isn’t the only person allowed to slap white greasepaint all over themselves. The show looks promising too.

 

Other shows to look at for, and there are many, many more, include Antler’s Where the White Stops (which I had the pleasure of seeing at the BAC before its Edinburgh run in 2013), It’s A Kind of Magic and The Misdemeanours of Saccharine. You can check out the full programme on the Mimetic Festival website.

 

 

About

The Mimetic Festival celebrates the diverse, and occasionally hidden, ends of the theatrical spectrum. No staid Noel Cowards or Shakespeare in Elizabethan dress here. What you’ll get is two weeks of the very best emerging devised, physical and visual theatre, puppetry and cabaret.

Finger in the Pie should also be applauded for recognising that much of the best work takes place on the continent and the Festival is pushing itself to become a hub for emerging european theatre making in the UK.

Civilian Theatre applauds any group that look beyond the ‘precious stone set in the silver sea’ and seeing the wealth of talent for what it is – an opportunity, not a threat.

When

Tuesday 18th – Saturday 29th November 2014

Where

The Vaults, Leake St, London SE1 7NN

 

Civilian Theatre is proud to be an Awards Partner Reviewer for the Mimetic Festival. We will be out and about catching as many shows as possible, alongside fellow Partners: Litro, London City Nights, The Public Reviews, Savage, The Theatre Tourist, Theatrefullstop and View From the Gods. If you see us, come say hello.

Our friend, Electra.

Electra – Old Vic, until 20 December (Tickets)

There is no doubting Ian Rickson and Kristin Scott-Thomas make a formidable team; in their four collaborations they have covered Pinter to Sophocles by way of Chekhov, walked off with an Olivier award and garnered a hatful of plaudits. Electra, at the Old Vic, may be the least balanced of the Rickson/Scott-Thomas productions but it is hard to deny the towering performance at its centre from Scott-Thomas that cements her place as a first rate stageAnguish Kristin Scott Thomas Credit Image Alastair Muir actor.

The story of the death of Agamemnon, the duplicity of Clytemnestra, the debasement of Electra and the return of Orestes is one that retained a mythic quality from its origins in Homer and its reappearance in the Delphic Oracle before it found itself reimagined over and over as theatre found its voice and as Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides began to create the traditional boundaries of drama.

It is a story that would’ve been well known to its ancient audiences, and just as modern directors continually reinvent Shakespeare so we find ancient Greek playwrights going back to the original myth and reframing it for a new generation. The curious thing about the Old Vic’s version is that it has lost something of why the story would have been regarded as essential to an ancient audience.

Often the disconnect is in modernity jarring too heavily with the ancient world; a problem found in the National’s recent production of Medea, and that ultimately saw Ben Power’s translation tie itself in knots and changing the ending to fit between the two positions. However in Frank McGuinness’ translation the problem is the reverse – whilst the play feels authentically ancient in set and language, the actual plot is strangely pallid. It is hard to know where the tragedy is in what we are watching.

<<Continue to full review>>

1300 x 400 Henry IV banner

‘Presume not that I am the thing I was’ in Lloyd’s radical new Henry IV

Henry IV – Donmar Warehouse, until 29 November 2014 (tickets)

So here we are back at the Donmar Warehouse, back in a Phyllidia Lloyd production, back in prison, back with an all-female cast and, sadly, back to howls of protest emanating from the comment boards. Despite the compelling evidence of last year’s Julius Caesar for the benefits of seeing women perform ‘male’ roles, including Harriet Walter putting in the performance of the year as Brutus, little seems to have changed and so the old Harriet Walter (King Henry) 2 Photo credit Helen Maybanks.jpgarguments have been dusted off and trotted back out.

To incite further ire Phyllidia Lloyd has radically altered Shakespeare’s original text. This is not a snip here, a cut there. This is Henry IV Parts I and II, totalling almost six hours of performance, smashed together and pared down to 120 minutes. That really is an audacious move.

It is also a smart one. May directors have discovered how difficult it is to change Shakespeare by working around the fringes; if you are looking to show something new within something old then far better to prune the excess foliage until what is obscured below is revealed. Shakespeare’s talent did on occasion lead to an explosion of brilliance, his imagination working so fast that one play can contain more plot strands than most writers can work into several; this is his genius but the audience, unpicking the complexity of plot and language, can lose focus on anything that isn’t centre-stage.

Henry IVIn Henry IV productions almost all exclusively focus on the Hal/Falstaff dynamic; it is the interesting complexity of the prince we know will become the near-mythic Henry V, and his relationship with the greatest tragicomic creation of his age. However in Lloyd’s reduction we see this become a play that focuses on the dynamics of a father with two sons, and a son with two fathers.

With Harriet Walter as the dying king it makes sense to ensure that the most is made of an actor of her calibre. By barely cutting Henry IV’s lines, it makes the role far more central to the play. Much of Falstaff’s activities outside of Hal’s orbit are cut and this results in a balancing of Falstaff and Henry IV and creates two much clearer allegiances for Hal.

The resulting time is given over to the rebels, and in particular Jade Anouka’s sparky Hotspur – a brilliant performance that brings to vivid life Frank Kermode’s description of Hotspur’s lines being ‘anti-poetry, a contempt for poetry as flummery and affectation’. By stripping the text it aligns Hotspur and Hal as the son the king wished he had and the son that he wished he hadn’t. It also allows room for Hotspur’s wife, Lady Percy (Sharon Rooney), to shine. The scenes with her husband and mourning his death are often lost amid the action but here they are in focus and Rooney gives a heartbreakingly tender performance of someone who loses a husband and then desperately seeks to avoid losing a father.

<<Continue to full review>>