The full title of this play is In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play and the use of the vibrator to cure “hysteria” is at its centre. However, it is about much more than that, an examination of the role of women in late 19th Century New York and of attitudes to science and art. It is also a very funny, uplifting play about love. The playwright, Sarah Ruhl, is new to me but this is beautifully written and superbly acted, particularly by Natalie Casey as Catherine Givings and Jason Hughes as her husband, Dr Givings, who uses the new device to produce “paroxysms” in women and the occasional man. Despite the slightly cheeky poster, the women are as well covered by their voluminous undergarments as they are in their full costumes, although the subject matter is definitely adult.
At last I’ve got round to seeing it! I was so fed up with James Corden at a period when fame seemed to have gone to his head that I gave it a miss at the National. By the time I read the reviews it was too late. When Owain Arthur took over to rapturous five star reviews saying he was even better and somehow I still didn’t get round to it. Arthur went on the international tour leaving Rufus Hound as the lead. Now Owain Arthur is back and I took advantage of a Time Out offer and yes, he is brilliant. It lies somewhere between a play and a one man stand-up show, along with some entertaining music. The evening flew by – thoroughly recommended.
First up, Chroma. I thought I detected some White Stripes riffs there, so I checked that co-composer “Jack White III” is indeed that Jack White. It is, and I love his self-deprecating website which I found when checking. The music, co-written and arranged by Joby Talbot, was terrific for dance, with strong rhythms driving Wayne McGregor’s superbly danced choreography. Next up, The Human Seasons. Greg Haines’ music was pleasant, as was David Dawson’s choreography, but it did go on and my mind wandered away a number of times.
Finally, the wonderful Rite of Spring which I still think this is the greatest ballet score ever written. I always find the Royal Opera House stage amplifies the sounds of the dancers rather annoyingly but Kenneth McMillan’s choreography gets the dancers using it, hands and feet rasping across the fabric covered stage and feet thumping as complementary percussion to the excellent orchestra. Claudia Dean was first class as the Chosen One and my attention only ever left the stage to watch the orchestra which I could see last night thanks to my more expensive ticket than usual: a whole £11! Well worth it for The Rite alone (and if they’d cut the central piece I could have been home at a civilised time).
Last night was apparently the UK premiere of this musical, although according to What’s on Stage it first appeared on Broadway as Here’s Love in 1963. It showed that it was the first night of the tour, starting 30 minutes late with technical hitches throughout. I am sure they’ll be sorted before it reaches the larger theatres later in the tour. Despite the setbacks, the cast and and danced with skill and enthusiasm. The audience was restless after the long wait and the editing down from the original left it a bit stop-start so it never really got the atmosphere going properly. That said, it’s good to see a nice, old-fashioned musical that made me smile and brought a tear to the eye in all the right places.
I didn’t realise what a brilliant playwright Philip Ridley is until I saw the revival of Mercury Fur last year. It is hard to realise from this production that the Fastest Clock was written 21 years ago. Joshua Blake is totally convincing as the preening, youth obsessed, central character, Cougar Glass, and Ian Houghton presents a perfect foil as the doting older man, Captain Tock. Throw in the excellent Dylan Llewellyn as 15 year old Foxtrot Darling and the play takes off. It’s not as violent as Mercury Fur where I sat in the front row and got splattered in blood (luckily the fake stuff from joke shops that disappears shortly afterwards) but it’s violent enough, the drama is as tense and it is wickedly funny. If you have never seen any of Ridley’s plays then you must see this. Grab it on a Sunday and it’s only a tenner: fantastic value!
This was an astonishingly intense production that deserves the five star reviews it has received. The set and the direction were stunning and it was certainly far more rewarding than The Drowned Man, based on the same story. I am not sure the balance between the orchestra and singers was quite right, with the latter sometimes overwhelmed by Berg’s use of brass but the music itself is wonderfully dramatic. Despite this, the man next to me spent 10-15 minutes sneezing and loudly blowing his nose before falling asleep for half an hour. Sometimes it can be kinder to the other members of the audience to go on sick leave.
Another lovely lunchtime concert from the Radio 3 series at this wonderful venue. The Haydn trio was pretty but my main interest was in Dvořák’s Piano Trio in F Minor Op.65 which was very good. Stefan Heinemeyer was particularly passionate on cello, flourishing his bow, throwing back his long, curly hair and relishing every moment. It is unfair to compare it to the stunning Bartók string quartet a few weeks back but Dvořák was clearly an influence on Bartók, particularly in the allegretto. Generally, for me, the string quartet is a more satisfactory combination of instruments than the piano trio, or maybe composers take it more seriously.
There seems so little interesting theatre in London at the moment. I’ve seen everything I wanted to at the NT and I’ve booked what I want to see at Covent Garden and the Coliseum. Everything else seems miscast with celebrities (like the Ladykillers which I did see and the Much Ado which I don’t want to), depressing or pretentious, so I resorted to this production from the Quint-Essential Theatre Company at the grand sounding Chelsea Theatre, which turns out to be a community centre at World’s End. The company specialise in ghost stories and that’s what this is: their biggest production yet with three whole actors (and some bits)!
Maria Victoria Eugenio was very effective as the titular character, the plot is well-structured and the special effects made me jump a few times. It could be improved by cutting out a couple of the more over-the-top effects as they stretch credulity too far but it’s fun decent value at £12 (£10 for concessions).