Monday, September 30, 2013
Action to the Word at the New Wolsey Studio Ipswich
Anthony Burgess was not happy about the way his seminal novel transferred to the screen. The amoral adolescent gang-lads seemed much more vivid, more threatening, more iconic.
Whatever would he have made of this amazingly physical re-working of that 1952 tale [based on his own stage version], with ten young men giving energetic expression to the homoerotic dystopia extrapolated from the original story.
There's much he would recognize. Plenty of Ludwig Van, sonata as well as symphony, sharing the soundtrack with David Bowie, The Scissor Sisters, Eurythmics, Queen and Placebo [Battle for the Sun]. The moloko – the spiked milk which is the recreational drug of choice for young Alex and his friends the Droogs. Not forgetting the Nadsat, a crazy, casual Russian-inspired patois, heightened at times with cod Shakespearean formality. And of course the ultraviolence, much of it glamorously choreographed by director Alexandra Spencer-Jones.
Adam Search is a fine, charismatic Alex: cocky, depraved, insolent. A suitable case for the Ludovico treatment, aversion therapy with Beethoven as backing track.
And cured he is, nauseated by sex and violence, robbed of the freedom to choose, unable to respond to the temptations paraded before him, despised and rejected by family and friends, tempted to suicide.
The ending – Burgess's famous Chapter 21 – in which our hero grows up and finds a steady partner is perhaps less convincing, even with the direct appeal to the audience.
This production has boundless physical energy, spectacular movement work but relatively little in the way of real drama or believable characters. Its world is increasingly, teasingly, orange: an egg cup, a flat cap, the carrots and the clementines in the nightmare ballet. And there are welcome flecks of comic relief amongst the the kicks, the blows and the groping, the camp nurses, for instance.
Excellent work from a strong young ensemble, with the occasional standout characterization: F Alexander the Writer, the Minister of the Inferior, and the impressive doubling of Mr Deltoid, social worker, with an Irish hellfire chaplain.
Action to the Word's Clockwork Orange has been successfully revived several times – London fringe, Edinburgh – and now, slightly longer, it's on the road again, ending this tour in Hong Kong by way of Inverness.this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013
Chichester Festival Theatre at the Theatre in the Park
"They do like water at the Chichester theatre …" someone remarks in the queue for ice-cream. And yes, the front row does get damp again.
No capering Gene Kelly here, though, just four thoroughly wet middle managers from Salford. Really, thoroughly wet. We can't help but sympathise with them as they drip in the inhospitable Lake District, stranded on an island when their Blue Sky Outbound team-building exercise goes tragically tits-up …
Designer Robert Innes Hopkins has come up with a very convincing promontory for them, with conifers disappearing up into the big top, the constant, drenching rain falling onto a pebbly, rocky shore surrounded by Derwentwater, out of which, like Venus from the waves, emerges Adrian Edmondson's Gordon.
A cynical, caustic bully, he is the catalyst for the meltdown – the very opposite of bonding – that the crisis brings to Neville's team. A brilliantly observed character, the lines delivered with deadly accuracy.
Neville himself, the captain whose orienteering leads his men astray, is John Marquez. Tim McMullan is the dim, hapless Angus, with his bottomless rucksack and gnawing self-doubt, and Roy, from Finance, the Christian twitcher, is nicely done by Rufus Hound, wrestling with his demons in the look-out tree.
Angus Jackson's production of Tim Firth's classic is impressive on many levels. There are plenty of laughs, but some very uncomfortable moments too. The sausage mishap, so easy to predict, is done with finely judged suspense, and the dénouement, with manna, and marine rescue, from heaven, is thrillingly dramatic, with the chopper's down-draught as real as the rain and falco rusticolus.
I'm sure I spotted some sort of lacewing or mosquito flying through the mist on the lake. I hope there's an accredited insect handler on the production team ...
rain on Rampsholme from my seat in the front stalls
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Sunday, September 08, 2013
Shakespeare's Globe on Tour at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds
This week the grubby red and white circus tent is pitched on the stage of the wonderfully restored Regency playhouse opposite the brewery. This touring Taming of the Shrew opened in Portsmouth back in June, and has played "wet and windy Cambridge" and "boiling Malta" amongst many other venues. It'll finish in Singapore ...
This is a predominantly young company, enjoying the doubling and the disguises. A chirpy, cheeky style, reminding us of what Shakespeare's "little eyasses" must have been like, the boy companies who were so popular with the play-going public.
Christopher Sly, the drunkard who is duped in the Induction, is a cocky Geordie Kate Lamb, later Katerina, more than a match for Leah Whitaker's swaggering, flowing-maned Petruchio – "I am rough and woo not like a babe," she assures us with a knowing look and a bone-crushing handshake. Their first encounter is tense and tentative; Kate is almost eager for their first kiss, but her submissive speech in the closing moments cleverly wrongfoots Petruchio, who is clearly appalled by her effusive abasement, and is reluctant to pocket his winnings.
Excellent comic support from the company, including Remy Beasley as Tranio and Becci Gemmell as Lucentio, Joy Richardson as the Widow and an asthmatic, cricketing Gremio, Olivia Morgan as the two blondes [Biondello and Bianca], Nicola Sangster as Hortensio and Kathryn Hunt, with a variety of throaty chuckles, as, amongst others, a long-suffering Grumio and a lovely Yorkshire Baptista.
Joe Murphy's production has many moments to relish, Kate being left at the church, the horseburgers in cardboard cartons. Corin Buckeridge's music is well used [these are multi-talented actor/musicians] – some catchy period songs, a cello for the wedding party, Kate's siren sax to herald the jig. But, rather like the costumes – hunting pink, concert-party flannels, seventies wedding suit – the music lacks a cohesive style. Petruchio as aviator [flying goggles – Grumio his mechanic] is a nice touch for "what happy gale blows you to Padua ?"
It's a decade since the last all-female Shrew at the Globe, but only last year that Toby Frow's production was the hit of the season. Best if you can put those two out of your mind, and imagine this fresh and feisty show on a warm evening outdoors, with strawberries in your hamper to match those Bianca shares on stage – Minack in Cornwall will be their last al fresco date !
this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews
HA HA HOLMES!
AND THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Jamie Wilson Productions
at the Civic Theatre, Chelmsford
Hot on the heels of Ha Ha Hamlet and Ha Ha Hitler, Ha Ha Holmes, an irreverent and gloriously silly look at Sir Arthur's greatest hit.
It's been reworked to accommodate the unique talents of Joe Pasquale, who effortlessly assumes the role of the "sleuth detective".
It's the kind of show which has a warm-up before the lights go down. Ben Langley, author, director and a mean Sherlock in his time, is first up, joined by Andrew Fettes, who plays all the other parts, from Moriarty to Fanny Stapleton. And then by Pasquale, master of the stand-up throwaway line. They mercilessly rib the punters as they drift in … "Peggy Mitchell" … "J R Hartley". And they are upfront and honest about this first night of a gruelling tour that will take them from Yeovil up to Glasgow and back to Plymouth. "None of us know what we're doing … we're flying by the seat of our pants …" They're not entirely kidding either – there are some sticky moments, some soggy moments. But the audience are happy to play along, make allowances, and join the cast in a happy collaboration. Just before they don the deerstalkers and the Inverness capes, and whip the dust sheets off the furniture, they offer some advice: "Lower your standards!".
Seated stage right is Andy Pickering at the keyboard, ready to provide silent movie music, accompaniment for the songs, and the odd bit of acting.
It all feels a little like a poor man's panto, with an audience song, and "volunteers" brought on to form a Neanderthal erection, or ride the stage coach – an inspired sequence, this, using the bookcase and the stairs to make the coach, with someone in row E holding the reins, someone else blowing the horn, the whole audience singing along and builder, biker, cowboy and Indian riding behind. Another priceless routine had Fettes frantically miming the story as Langley told it.
It's quickfire, frenetic, over-the-top stuff, not always best served by Pasquale's laid-back style. He's really at his best playing himself, bumbling engagingly through the routines, looking to the audience for support and sympathy. Sometimes difficult to hear, too, what with the meerschaum, the microphone, and a delivery which recalls the late Sir Patrick Moore.
The setting is versatile and stylish – the moving staircase, the piano/reception desk, the Aga microwave. Yes, we actually see the three of them prepare and eat a meal. And in what other show could you see a man transformed into a hound, and then murder a Lionel Ritchie number as he stumbles down that impressive flight of stairs. Not to mention inflating a rubber glove on his head using only his nostrils. Worth the price of admission alone, I'd say …
Next in the canon, in case you were wondering, Ha Ha Hood in 2014.this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews