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"The Play's The Thing" - a theatre thread


Plus there is the cliche that if you can’t say anything nice about a play, compliment the set design and costumes. Or that if some people come out of a play talking about the set then it was a poor play. Which is a very limited way of viewing theatre obviously.

The last two plays I have seen were Wolf Hall and 1984. It would be quite impossible for me to discuss them without talking about the set and staging, and I thought those were exemplary productions on every level.


Yeah; even a minimalist set is a conscious choice and needs designed and incorporated into the overall direction. The set for A View From The Bridge last year was very stripped back - but the design was much more than that, and it paid off in a major way at the end.

I’ve seen three out of four of Goold’s recent productions and while the design was pretty good in all of them, in all of them it was the strength of the play as a whole that made them great (The Effect, American Psycho: The Musical and King Charles III)

Treasure Island was a play where you came out praising the set and set design, and it was because that was a level above the strength of the script and performance (still fun though)

Completely agree that you don’t NEED an intricate set though. That’s the beauty of theatre; when it’s done right, it boils down to people telling stories, and if the story is captivating enough, and the storytelling skilled enough, that’s all you need.


Last play I’ve seen was “Hiob”, an adaptation of a 1930 novel by Joseph Roth, a Jewis Austrian writer. The novel is actually on the curriculum currently (which also explains why it’s being adapted all over the place currently), and it’s a great book, though not one that’d immediately make you think that it needs to be staged, because the best thing about it is the beauty of its prose - there’s very little dialogue, really. It’s an immigrant story, anyway; half of it takes place in a little Jewish Stedtl in Russia, half in New York. It is, as the title (Hiob is the German variation of Job) suggests, a story about a man losing everything and maybe regaining it at the end, although the story of alienation and loss rings truer than the hopeful note on which the story ends. Anyway, this is what the theatre adaptation looked like:

(They also had a rotating stage. Apparently, that’s a thing currently.)


One time you’re in London we HAVE to take you to the Olivier Christian. It’s revolving stage is a work of wonder in its own right!


Oh, and I’m at the National tonight for a Caryl Churchill play set in the aftermath of the English Civil War.

I know very little about this period in history.

Lyndsey Turner directing though…and Sargon Yelda and Joshua James in the cast, who’re both usually good value.

Oh … and an Es Devlin set design. She gives AMAZING set.


Derek Jacobi’s been cast in Branagh’s version of Romeo and Juliet.

As Mercutio.

Now, that’s innovative casting.

Saw Everyman at the National this week and loved it. Rufus Norris’ first play as NT Director, text slammed from the 15th century to the 21st with considerable panache by the Poet Laureate, and brought to life with vigour by an excellent ensemble cast supporting the coolest man in town Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role. A bold, confident, assured statement of intent for the new regime at the National.


That is interesting. I saw the The Gate Theatre’s production a couple of weeks ago and a couple of other versions down through the years (including the movie I admit), and Mercutio has always been portrayed as a contemporary of Romeo’s. He is maybe a little bit older, and infinitely cooler, but more or less on the same level.

I will be really interested to see how this plays out.


Particularly given Richard Madden is Romeo.


One assumes that Kenneth Branagh wouldn’t be casting him if he didn’t have a plan. Plus it’s Derek Jacobi. Who wouldn’t want to see him in a Shakespeare play?


Years ago I saw Jacobi’s Macbeth. It was the early 90s so I can’t have been more than about ten, but it was a performance that’s really stuck with me over the years. Electric.

Jacobi has a long history with Branagh, anyway - he was great in his filmed Hamlet, turned up in Dead Again and cropped up again recently in Cinderella, where he had good chemistry with Madden. (I never saw Branagh’s filmed Henry V but I gather he was in that too.)

Casting a 76-year-old as Mercutio though… yeah, that’s different.


I was at the Irish Premiere of Cinderella recently and Kenneth Branagh spoke about being inspired to become an actor after seeing Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet. So, he’s a bit of a fan.

It is different, which may be what they’re counting on. If they have a unique take on it, that’s great. Let’s see it.


I may going to see “The Tempest” in Central Park tomorrow.


I always forget about this thread!

Tomorrow, going to see a West End production of a play I saw in a tiny theatre last year that’s now getting a bigger audience; a revival of William Hoffman’s ‘As Is’, one of the first plays written in the 80s about the slow realisation of the impact of HIV on the gay community. It was a great production in the tiny Finborough last year; a fascinating time capsule of an era.

Recently I’ve seen:
Rory Kinnear in Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, at the Young Vic, which was disappointing. Kinnear’s an immense actor but, despite an energetic and slightly gimmicky production, this was relentlessly tedious. I’m not that great a fan of the text though.

Simon Russell Beale being the absolute legend he is, playing the Canon of St Paul’s in ‘Temple’, which is a dramatisation of the behind the scenes political machinations in the Church when Occupy invaded the grounds of St Paul’s a few years back. Not a great play but a good one, and an excellent supporting cast that included Paul Higgins, who I have a huge amount of time for.

‘Violence and Son’ at the Royal Court which was brilliant; geeky 17 year old has to go and live in Wales with his brutish Dad after his mother’s death. It builds into a fantastically layered study of love gone wrong, and consequences of actions and - in a fine Royal Court tradition - leaves the audience unsure and unsettled at the end. Excellent acting, including Jason Hughes as the dad. (Nearly 20 years since This Life…)

‘The Motherfucker with the Hat’ - love, loss and addiction in New York City. Fast, funny, filthy and delivers a punch by the end. Also, when we saw it had a fairly typical National audience who found the language entertainingly ‘salty’

‘The Red Lion’ - Patrick Marber’s new play, looking at power and corruption at the very lowest level of British football. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. Tight cast (including Daniel Mays, who’s always good value) with sharp dialogue that again starts funny but builds to an inevitable but none the led affecting end.

‘Kafka on the Shore’, which adapted Murakami in about as effective way as I can imagine anyone ever adapting Murakami.

‘The Beaux Stratagem’ - restoration era farce; gloriously silly and again, one I liked a lot more than I was expecting to.

‘The Dead Monkey’ - leaden Nick Drake text which felt very misjudged.

‘The Angry Brigade’ - James Graham’s take on the 70s British counter-cultural terrorist group, with a really innovative production that dovetailed the police unit tasked with thinking outside the box to catch the group with the terrorists thenselves, and packed full of energy.

After a bit of initial uncertainty (I really didn’t like ‘Light Shining in Buckinghamshire’) Rufus Norris’ opening barrage of plays as Director of the National have been really good - great range and excellent quality.



Other than that, I am as sad as ever that we don’t live in the same place so we could go to the theatre together all the time!

Last play I saw was an adaptation of the 1920s novel “Cocaine”. Pretty much a one-man show, with the other guy mostly making the music and the creating the backdrop (which was a little model that was filmed and projected - an idea I’ll totally steal). It was very good.


‘Hand to God’ Performance Interrupted as Theatergoer Tries to Charge Phone Onstage


Saw “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway this weekend.

It was fantastic. I think, in total, one of my favorite theater experiences ever (a close race with “Looking Glass Alice”).

The music was fantastic and the story was wonderful.

Taye Diggs was playing Hedwig. He was actually really great. Maybe…I think…the littlest bit miscast if only because I think the character needs a physical vulnerability that Diggs doesn’t have. Put him in platform heels and up on stage with a bunch of other actors and he is gigantic. But his performance was terrific.

Still, I loved it. I want to see it again.


I always forget to post in this thread.

Finally got around to sticking my tickets for all the shows I’ve seen between November 2012 and December 2014 behind clip frames. I see a lot of shows…

Oh, and my office at work has a space on the wall for theatre flyers:


Saw a theatre version of Brave New World on Friday. They cut the novel down quite well - it starts with Bernard and Lenina already in the reservation - but that meant that the characters had even less depth than they do in the novel, with the play’s entire focus on the World State as such. But that lead to some great bits, including taking the audience in groups and leading them behind the stage, where we’d get a hypnopedic session and return with a new overshirt signifying whether you’re now an Alpha, Beta or an Epsilon Moron.


Casting announced for the Harry Potter play:

Ever since J.K. Rowling announced it would be an official Harry Potter sequel, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been one of London’s most anticipated theater events of 2016. Now, the play, which returns to the characters at the heart of J.K. Rowling’s series of novels at their middle age, will provide yet another perspective on the book series, with the role of Hermione portrayed for the first time by a black woman. According to the Daily Mail and the play’s official Twitter account, the Potter sequel will star Jamie Parker as Harry Potter, Paul Thornley as Ron Weasley, and Noma Dumezweni as Hermione Granger.


I saw Noma Dumezweni in a play called Linda the other week. She stepped into the lead role at the last minute (after Kim Cattrall pulled out) - having previously not been in the play at all - and she was bloody brilliant. Outstanding actress.