Monthly Archives: September 2013

Review: A Doll’s House, Duke of York’s Theatre

This Young Vic production of what is probably Ibsen’s greatest play is every bit as good as the rave reviews said.  Hattie Morahan plays Nora with astonishing power. She certainly deserved her Best Actress awards from the Evening Standard and the Critics Circle. I can add nothing to the professional reviews. The Daily Telegraph said “If you only see a production of this play, see this one” and I can only agree. It is certainly one of the best productions of any play in London right now. The run ends soon so grab one of the special offers (I went with Time Out Offers) and see it.

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Review: Snow White, Vienna Festival Ballet (Beck Theatre)

Tonight was the first full performance of this new ballet which will be touring for the rest of the year. There were some slight glitches with, for example, the backdrops but I am sure these will be ironed out very soon. The ballet itself is great fun, with some terrifically energetic dancing in the first act, good humour from the dwarves and a marvellously sumptuous final act with some excellent dancing. I would certainly recommend it, particularly as a first ballet for a young child. Sorry it’s a hurried review – it’s late and I’m out tomorrow.

My one slight criticism is that each half starts with a traditional overture with curtains drawn. This is great with a live orchestra but with pre-recorded music there is nothing but a red curtain to watch. It would be better to provide some visual interest such as the tableaux which are common now with the larger ballet companies. Do take a look at their Facebook page to see some great pictures.

Review: Springs Eternal, Orange Tree Theatre

It is wonderful how the Orange Tree keeps finding unjustly neglected playwrights. I saw Susan Glaspell’s play Alison’s House there and looked forward to this, her final play, receiving its premiere 70 years after it was written. This is both its problem and its fascination – it was written in the middle of World War II. Many people in America had clearly not made up their minds whether the war was worth fighting and this confusion is reflected in the play. This leaves it not as well constructed as Alison’s House but offers a fascinating insight into the period. As always at the Orange Tree, the acting is of a high standard and the direction by Sam Walters is perfect.

Review: Edward II, National Theatre (Olivier)

Some aspects of this production don’t work but the strength of the play and the excellence of the central performances carry it through. Vanessa Kirby, who I loved in Three Sisters at the Young Vic is again exceptional as Edward’s wife Isabelle and is matched by a first class performance by John Hefferman as Edward himself. Some of the action is filmed live on stage and shown on video screens at the side. This can be absurd, as when the barons are plotting against Edward inside a wooden box on stage, only shown on the monochrome video projections, but it can be very effective, e.g. Edward wordlessly led around by his captors, steadily walking towards the backward-moving camera while the main action takes place on stage. Marlowe’s play may well be the first in the English language to depict a gay relationship which Edward’s description of his love for Piers Gaveston makes quite explicit, as does the homophobic contempt of the barons and the manner of Edward II’s death.

Review: Tosca, OperaUpClose, Soho Theatre

Maybe I do like Puccini after all! I certainly enjoyed this very small scale production (five singers, three musicians) more than the might of the ENO. I hadn’t expected to – I saw the OperaUpClose version of Britten’s Turn of the Screw which was terrific but that was a chamber opera to start with and only had five characters anyway. In the event, this was terrific. The updated libretto placed it in East Germany shortly before the collapse of Honecker’s government which suited the plot well. The good value programme (£3) included the full English libretto but every word was clear (no need for surtitles here). Grab a ticket while you can – it finishes this Sunday. My only complaint is that the programme lists both casts, two singers per role, so it wasn’t clear which singers I saw and I can’t credit them – Scarpia was particularly excellent.

Review: Lindsay Kemp’s Varieté, YMT

Another good student production at the Riverside Studios which I was keen to see as I’ve never seen any of Lindsay Kemp’s productions live. He gave special permission for this performance, directed by Kinny Gardner who has worked with hi regularly. I think of Kemp as primarily a dancer but this was very much music theatre (YMT is Youth Music Theatre, after all). The music was superbly played, with a specially updated score from Carlos Miranda, and the acting was very good. I couldn’t fault the direction or the performances and it’s well worth seeing. However, it’s taken me a week to review, trying to work out what was missing: whether it is dated, whether Kemp’s productions just don’t work properly without his presence, or maybe this is just not his best work (it never entered his regular repertory).