This Restless State, Ovalhouse

Review by Oliver Wake

Fuel Theatre’s This Restless State is created and performed by Jesse Fox (with additional recorded voices played in) and written by Danielle Pearson. It takes as its starting point the 2016 Brexit referendum result and Jesse’s nostalgia for his childhood as he finds himself devoid of optimism for the post-Brexit future. But – thankfully – this isn’t yet another Brexit play.

Jesse alternates his account of his own personal difficulties with an objective narration of events happening in East Berlin in 1989 and Rome in 2052. In the former, the Berlin wall is coming down; in the latter, a population explosion following a refugee crisis results in a referendum on a one-child policy. For the inhabitants of each, the world as they know it is falling apart. Jesse feels the same as he struggles as an out-of-work 20-something actor in modern London and learns that his parents are planning to leave the family home where he spent his childhood.

Fuel Theatre presents This Restless State , Jesse Fox (courtesy The Other Richard) (2).JPG

The restless state of the title might be anxious, divided Brexit Britain, the crumbling East Germany of 1989 or some sort of inundated pan-European superstate of 2052. But in a play about disunity and dislocation, it’s also the state of individuals losing all certainties in their lives, left adrift as they are overcome by events over which they have little or no control. Perhaps inevitably, given his direct address to the audience, the strongest part of the performance is Jesse’s thoughts on the insecurities of his own life. He’s a ‘sofa-surfer’ with no permanent home, endlessly failing to secure acting jobs, and finding the ruthless London dating game dispiriting, his girlfriend having made her own ‘Brexit’ from him just after the referendum.

How far Jesse’s life and problems are real or part of the play’s fiction is unclear, but I’m inclined to assume they’re drawn from life while the other segments are from Pearson’s pen. Jesse is particularly compelling when articulating with anger and humour the chasm between what society tells him he can want and what it actually allows him to achieve. It would be easy for this to come across as sour grapes brattishness from a young person who has not (yet) been able to realise his ambitions – and hasn’t the life of a young actor always been one of frustration? – but Jesse is likeable and his predicament is, if you’ll excuse a horrible word, relatable. He could just as easily be talking about the insane property prices and exploitative employment practices which disenfranchise so many young people in Britain.

This Restless State Production PhotosPhoto Credit: The Other Richard

This Restless State Production Photos Photo Credit: The Other Richard

The play is a little less successful in its other segments. The 1989 sequences work well but Jesse is too quick to reach for easy gags about David Hasselhoff’s musical contribution to the fall of the Berlin wall. The 2052 scenes hint at an unsavoury future but fail to fill-out this vision with enough detail and background to make it genuinely interesting, and it is difficult to care much for its briefly-sketched characters.

I find it hard to draw any definite conclusions from Jesse’s observations and insights, particularly as I failed to give his closing remarks the attention they should have warranted – with the play significantly underrunning its advertised 75 minutes on press night, it wasn’t clear the performance was actually reaching its end, which was a little frustrating. Ultimately, This Restless State is, I think, a timely and intermittently compelling exploration of fractured societies and disengaged individuals.

 

This Restless State is on until 24 March, Tickets from £10 http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/this-restless-state

London Box Office Theatre Bloggers meet up, 23 November 2017

London Box Office hosted a theatre bloggers and other industry types event on 23 November at the Above the Arts bar. Many thanks to London Box Office and Daniel Perks for organising and Stephen Candy for the photographs.

The attendance list is below. Please be sure to follow for all the latest in theatre blogging and the theatre world.

Daniel Perks @dperks13
Lucy Basaba @Theatrefullstop
Laura Kressly @shakespeareanLK
Maxine Evans/ Neil Docking @maxinevans
Jamie Eastlake @eastlakeprods
David Byrne @newdiorama
Shanine Salmon @braintree_
Ed Nights @ed_nights
Olivia Mitchell @RewriteThisWeb
Jo Trainor @mintpixeljo
Hayley Sprout @OHMYDAYSitsHayz
Emma Clarendon @LoveLDNLoveCul
Rosie Snell @ScatterOpinion
Rebekah Ellerby @rebekahellerby
Rebecca Usher @Rebecca_Usher
David William Bryan @DavidWBryan

 

 

 

 

Casting announced for LUV at Park Theatre

Buckland Theatre Company has announced casting for LUV, the company’s second production at PARK90 at Park Theatre. Directed by Gary Condes, Nick Barber will play Milt, Elsie Bennett will play Ellen and Charles Dorfman will play Harry. Written by Murray Schisgal (best known for co-writing the screenplay for Tootsie), LUV premiered on Broadway in 1964 directed by Mike Nichols and was Tony nominated for Best Play and Best Author. LUVwill play at PARK90 from 8 December until 7 January with an official press night on 13 December.

Playwright Murray Schisgal said: “I am thrilled that my play LUV will be returning to London to play at Park Theatre for the first since it originally appeared at the Arts Theatre in the early 1960s. I will be celebrating my 90th birthday this November, so it is a lovely celebration to see three young and brilliant actors take on these roles over fifty years after Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson played them on Broadway.”

LUV is a 1960s riotous celebration of the absurd lengths we go to when struck down with the terrible affliction known as love. After reuniting one fateful night, old school pals Milt and Harry uncover each other’s miserable life stories before hatching a plan to find their happily-ever-afters.

The production originally debuted at the Arts Theatre before opening in New York in November 1964. The original New York cast was comprised of Alan Arkin, Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson and the play won three Tony Awards whilst being nominated for Best Play and Best Author of a Play. Barbara Bel Geddes, Larry Blyden, Gene Wilder and Gabriel Dell were among the replacement performers later in the run on Broadway. LUV was later adapted into a film in 1967 and starred Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk and Elaine May.

Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock), founder of MyTheatreMates.com and StageFaves.com, will host a post-show Q&A with director Gary Condes and cast members ofLUV to discuss the show and its heritage on Thursday 15 December. Terri hosted Buckland’s previous Q&A for Some Girl(s) and a podcast and images from the event can be found here.

Murray Schisgal is a Tony and Academy Award nominated writer whose extensive career spans across plays, fiction and screenplays. Murray’s plays include LUV (Tony nominated for Best Play and Best Author), Jimmy Shine, All Over Town (Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding New Play), The Chinese and Doctor Fish, Twice Around The Park, An American Millionaire and The Typists and the Tiger (Vernon Rice Award, Outer Circle Award). In addition to his work on stage, Murray co-wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award nominated film Tootsie which starred Dustin Hoffman and his further work on screen includes the screenplay for The Tiger Makes Out, The Love Song of Barney Kempinski and Natasha Kovolina Pipashinsky. Murray has also produced and executive produced five feature-length films, A Walk On The Moon, Boys and Girls, The Devil’s Arithmetic, Clubland and A Separate Peace. Murray’s novelDays and Nights of a French Horn Player was published by Little Brown in 1980.

Nick Barber will play Milt. Nick’s previous theatre credits include Dingle/Voltaire in The Life and Times of Fanny Hill (Bristol Old Vic), Laurencio in A Lady of Little Sense (Theatre Royal Bath), Ossario in Don Gil of The GreenBreeches (Theatre Royal Bath), Federico in Punishment Without Revenge (Theatre Royal Bath), CIA Agent in Blood and Gifts (National Theatre), Happy in Death of a Salesman (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Will in His Dark Materials(West Yorkshire Playhouse/Birmingham Rep), Dumaine in Love’s Labour’s Lost (Rose Theatre Kingston), Modicum in I Saw Myself (The Wrestling School), Michael Cassio in Othello (Shakespeare’s Globe), Ralph Clark in Our Country’s Good (Liverpool Playhouse), Valentine in Faust (Punchdrunk), Palamon/Squire/Rioter in The Canterbury Tales (Royal Shakespeare Company), Eric Birling in An Inspector Calls (PW Productions), Don Alonso in The Gentleman From Olmedo (Watermill), Florindo in The Venetian Twins (Watermill), Cassius in Julius Caesar (Menier Theatre) and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Southwark Playhouse). In addition to his work on stage Nick has also appeared on television in New Blood, Cuffs, Red Dwarf, Free Agents, The Waltz King, The Brief and Midsomer Murders and on film in Colour Me Kubrick and Complete Female Stage Beauty. Nick also voices Rex Fairbrother on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers.  

Elsie Bennett will play Ellen. Elsie studied at Arts Ed. She most recently starred on stage as Queen Elizabeth I in Progress (Red Rose Chain) and Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance (Tabard Theatre).  In addition to her work on stage, Elsie has appeared on screen in Birds Of A Feather and Joanna Lumley’s Little Cracker. Elsie also works extensively as a voice artist and recently completed work on the Hitman series and Squadron 42.

Charles Dorfman will play Harry. Charles studied Theatre at Trinity College Dublin and the Beverly Hills Playhouse in Los Angeles, Theatre credits include Some Girl(s) (Park Theatre), Miss Julie (Etcetera Theatre), Taking Steps,Dangerous Corner, and Wuthering Heights (all Manor Pavilion Sidmouth). On screen Charles has appeared in Myrtle (dir. James Alexandrou), The Show (dir. James Alexandrou) and Present (dir. Joe Ballerini).

Buckland Theatre Company was founded by Artistic Director Charles Dorfman. Miss Julie at Etcetera Theatre was the company’s debut production in their 2016 season of classic and modern texts followed by Some Girl(s) at PARK90 at Park Theatre.

Acorn, The Courtyard

Tatty Henderson’s production is visually and technically strong but Maud Dromgoole’s content as an adaptation of Persephone and Eurydice is baffling at times in this short play.

The play starts strong with Deli Segal’s Doctor Persephone, whose clinical approach extends not only to her patients but to her life and it is affecting her bedside manner. We get to know this character and invest but the introduction of Lucy Pickle’s Eurydice is confusing as it intertwines with Persephone’s day. Eurydice is getting married, Persephone is tired and that is pretty much the play until Eurydice gets bitten by a snake on her wedding breakfast.

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Lucy Pickle (foreground) and Deli Seagal (background) (c) Hannah Ellis

The production isn’t linear, which is forgivable in a longer, clearer production but this reminded me of Almeida’s recent adaptation of Medea, using a famous mythology as a loose base and polishing and modernising it until it becomes unrecognisable. Persephone and Eurydice aren’t tales that are traditionally merged together, and I see why Dromgoole has, but it is so different from the myth that I just wish that it had played up on the far more relevant Snow White story.
There are so many scenes that scene changes are intercut with a section involving tree surgeons, provided as audio only by Luke MacGregor and Trevor Fox, a purpose which seems to confuse rather than clarify the story. In the cold light of day, I am guessing it is to with the wood where Eurydice has her wedding reception but I mention my confusion and stupidity hoping that someone can help and as a heads up that this is not just a production you can drift from and expect to keep up with.

As a stage production it is faultless, beautiful lighting design Jai Morjaria complements Phil Lindsey’s floating, dream-like design and both performances are engaging but the content feels too filed down and smooth to engage. Greek mythology is rough around the edges and this adaptation takes that away. Tatty Hennessy’s a director I am keen to see again as there is some stunning, almost film like scenes six as Eurydice’s dancing, inter cut with Tom Pearson’s projections of cartoons and couples dancin

What saves this is Segal and Pickles engaging performances, they have chemistry, are highly watchable with great comic timing and I look forward to seeing them in other productions but it is an intense production that feels lie it requires a lot of background reading and I long to Dromgoole keep it simple and build on her strengths as a humorous writer with an eye for character.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Richard Greenberg’s sophisticated adaptation needs to be seen. It will lure in many fans of the film but this is a more loyal adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella.

Audiences may initially struggle with the casting of Pixie Lott as Holly Golightly as she is more Marilyn Monroe (and also aspects of the Brittany Murphy) than Hepburn but as a result her appearance is more similar to Capote’s Golightly as means that Lott can make a difficult role, Golightly is spoilt, entitled but charming and beautiful, her own. It is also a showcase for Lott’s singing but it very much feels like a soundtrack within a play rather than a musical. Lott is fantastic and this reminds me of when I saw Beverley Knight in The Bodyguard. I hope Lott has a future in both plays and musicals.
The highlight is Matt Barber (well known for his appearance in Downton Abbey as Atticus) who plays ‘Fred’, the narrator and Holly’s confidant. The comparisons to George Peppard are inevitable but Barber oozes charm and is so confident in the role that he makes this stage adaptation his own. The second half is where the story really picks up and builds on the first half, where we meet the characters but don’t really get a chance to get to know them.

Set in the 1940s the set is simple but stunning, with splashes of Tiffany’s Blue and projections of New York and stunning rain scenes. The support is strong too, particularly Charlie De Melo, Melanie La Barrie and Victor McGuire as Jose, Mme Spanella and barman Joe Bell and the scenes with the cast really energise the play so the audience appreciate the intimate scenes between Fred and Holly.
There is also a wonderful and beautiful cat called Bob, who is one of the finest animal actors I have seen. This is a really sophisticated and classy production. It keeps the cinematic beauty of the film but makes its own mark. The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a stunning theatre that can often overwhelm a set and its cast but the design and direction makes this feel much more intimate, which is needed to really get to grips with Golightly’s story. Even if you do not get a chance to see this in London the production will be touring and is well worth your time.

Through the Mill (Preview), Southwark Playhouse, 6 July

Ray Rackham’s play feels like a surefire hit; a play about the various, sometimes infamous, stages of Judy Garland’s life complete with live performances of her famous hits. It isn’t a particularly original or daring story to tell but it is such a classy and warm production you can forgive the minor flaw.

The play is mainly set backstage on The Judy Garland Show (1963) with Helen Sheals, who despite looking more like Edith Piaf, completely encompasses Garland in her difficult later years as she struggles with her addictions and TV producers.  This is intercut with Judy in her younger years with Belinda Woolaston as Palace Theatre Judy and Lucy Penrose as young Wizard of Oz/MGM Judy. All women are completely convincing as Garland through the years and I particularly enjoyed watching Penrose with Amanda Bailey as Ethel Gumm, Garland’s cold and demanding mother. The play looks at her relationships with her family (only one Liza reference, sadly), with her men and ultimately herself, her lack of confidence, her ups and downs both personally and professionally make Garland’s story perfect for the stage.

There is great support with Harry Anton as Sidney Luft, Judy’s third husband,  Tom Elliot Reade as Young Judy’s supporter Roger Edens and Chris McGuigan’s Norman Jewison standing out and other members of the cast proving their multiple talents as both orchestra and performers. It feels like it could do really well on the West End, attracting a mainstream audience but it will inevitably lead to comparisons with Tracie Bennett in End of the Rainbow  and its strength is its intimacy with the audience.

Through the Mill is on until 30 July http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/through-the-mill/

 

Kenny Morgan, Arcola Theatre, 8 June 2016

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The real Kenneth Morgan

Kenneth Morgan was a young actor, who in February 1949 took his own life by overdosing and turning on the gas. Kenneth had starred in 1940’s French Without Tears, which was based on Terrence Rattigan’s 1936 play. Rattigan and Morgan were also lovers.

Mike Poulton’s play, inspired by The Deep Blue Sea (which coincidentally opened on 8 June is on at the National Theatre until August) looks at Kenny Morgan’s final day, which opens with a failed suicide attempt and ends with Morgan concluding the act. It is a story of love, mostly the lack of it as well as a look at Post war England. The doctor (played exceptionally by George Irving) who initially saves Morgan is a Jewish Austrian doctor, who has been struck off.

This has been a word of mouth hit for the Arcola, mainly in part to fantastic performance of Paul Keating, known mostly for musicals, he is heartbreaking as the young Morgan, a man who loves too much and expects the same in return. He is caught in a triangle with Simon Dutton’s Rattigan and his lover Alec Lennox, played wonderfully by Pierro Niel-Mee, a man who cheats and abuses Morgan’s kindness. There is fantastic support from George Irving as Mr Ritter, who is a voice of reason despite his own downfall and demons.

It does drag in act 2 though. The scenes with Alec’s lover Norma feel like an unnecessary plot device, in a play with too many characters and too many scenes. The return of characters such as Mr Lloyd the neighbour and Morgan’s landlady Mrs Simpson from the crucial early scenes feels more like a financial justification rather than essential to the remaining plot.

It is an  interesting companion to The Deep Blue Sea but also a look at the private life of Rattigan, a playwright who has been re-appreciated in the last few years. It is also a stunning use of the small space, the misty atmosphere feels like you are in post war London and there is some beautiful sound design.

Kenny Morgan runs until 18 June at Arcola Theatre  

Cinderella: Dream Pantomime Casting

This article originally appeared on London Theatre Direct on 9 May 2016 https://www.londontheatredirect.com/post/807/Cinderella–Dream-Pantomime-Casting.aspx

London Palladium confirmed their first panto, Cinderella in 29 years. The venue used to be was once synonymous with annual pantomimes from 1948-1987, with the last production ‘Babes in the Wood’ starring Dame Barbara Windsor and Cannon & Ball. It attracted names such as Cilla Black, Ronnie Corbett and Julie Andrews but in a world where most casting is soap stars and reality tv celebrities who would be the dream names to star in Cinderella.

 

 Paul Merton

Known for his work with Comedy Store players and as panellist on Have I got News for You Merton isn’t new to pantomime; having appeared in ITV’s efforts between 1998 and 2002 but he is due a return as a campy dame or a wise cracking sidekick. 1412264381817_image_galleryimage_london_united_kingdom_mar

Sheridan Smith
Smith starred in TV drama ‘Panto!’ in 2012 with John Bishop but she would make a fabulous Cinderella(she’s completely versatile), especially if the rumoured Britney Spears is indisposed, if she can find the time amongst her busy schedule.

Helen Mirren
It would be a long awaited return to the stage since The Audience and she would make a glamorous wicked stepmother and could bring some Jane Tennyson hardness to the role.

Lily Savage
Paul O’Grady’s creation would be the ultimate pantomime dame, if Paul was ever willing to don the wig and leopard print again, cheeky, sassy I wouldn’t want to mess with this Wicked Stepmother.

Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart
Far too busy with No Man’s Land but BFFs Ian and Patrick would make excellent Ugly Sisters. McKellen is no stranger to panto, playing Widow Twanky in the Old Vic 2004 production of Aladdin.

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Tom Hardy and Idris Elba
This is from my own personal wish list as they are gorgeous but both have the cheeky charm to make a stunning pantomime appearance. Cinderella always needs a Prince Charming and a Buttons, perhaps they could alternate?

Cinderella will run at the London Palladium for a limited Christmas season from 9 December to 15 January 2016.

Bad behaviour in the theatre, 1818 style

My good friend Estelle @SkittishLibrary sent me this excellent letter to the editor in The Morning Post in 1818. Forget ice  noisily shaking in plastic cups or mobiles going off. No annoyance compares to massive bonnets and dandies in their tall hats.

Remind me to sign all my blogs

“Yours, an admirer of the drama and (too) a frequenter of the theatre”