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Originally posted at Last Minute Theatre Tickets.
The story starts with the arrival of Rose and Michael, the executor of her mother’s will who is a married man in his 40s. It becomes apparent immediately that the two are lovers, a fact that does not fail to register with Rose’s relatives, the strict Helen, her sister Teresa and their brother James, a priest who is in a wheelchair. Helen is determined to keep the two apart.
The chemistry between Rose and Michael is vital to make this story believable, and sparks truly fly between the two. At one point Rose sucks on Michael’s finger, while looking up at him with eyes that sparkle with desire, and the way they keep sneaking touches behind people’s backs feels realistic despite the age gap.These small intimate moments have looks filled with promises and you feel they are just one touch away from losing control and ripping each others’ clothes off.
The oldest character, Teresa, is masterfully played by Caroline Blakiston. Teresa is kept in the dark about what transpires around her for most of the play, and while her confusion is part comic relief that works, there’s a gentle desperation to her when she realises she is being kept in the dark. Teresa is in ways the heart of the play, the gentle soul that finds strength and when she finally takes charge, it is powerful to everyone around her.
Diane Fletcher’s Helen is a very complex character who appears trapped by her religious piety and fear of death. She displays a strong need to control everyone around her, and manipulates Rose into staying with the family. You have to wonder how she grew to become like this, and if she has the capability of opening up to grief and fully dealing with emotions, which appears to be what she fears the most.
But the meat of the play is with Father James. His conversations with Rose, which are increasingly honest and without judgement, are at the same time thought provoking and amusing. Rose attempts to shock him, but as a Catholic priest who used to take confessions, he has heard everything and instead of talking down to her he challenges her and makes her think. Unfortunately that’s the last thing Rose wants, she wants to be told what to do. You feel for Father James, who wants more than anything to be able to help someone again, and has gotten a second chance to be useful by being there for Rose.
In some ways, Rose is a very passive character. She is determined and strong against her Aunt Helen, but when it comes to love she is inexperienced and naive, and when she can no longer hide from the reality of the consequences of her affair with a married man, she cannot cope.
Every character goes through a journey of growth through the play, and as you leave the theatre you find yourself wanting to stay a bit longer and see what happens to all of them next. There are many questions left unanswered, just like in life. It isn’t wrapped up with a neat and tidy happy ending, instead you feel you’ve seen something that at the core of it feels real.
If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s the odd choice of having the actors sitting with their backs to the audience during some scenes. It’s more difficult to grasp a character’s thought process when you don’t see their faces. It also takes away some of the magic when the paralysed priest keeps moving his legs under the blanket. But these are minor nitpicks on an otherwise very interesting and engaging production.
The Living Room was written by Graham Greene in the 1950s, and this is the first major revival of the play.
Review by Tori Jo Lau
THE LIVING ROOM by Graham Greene
Directed by Tom Littler
Set Design by Cherry Truluck
Lighting Design by Tim Bray
Sound Design by George Dennis
Costume Design by Emily Stuart
Caroline Blakiston, Emma Davies, Diane Fletcher, Tuppence Middleton, Christopher Timothy and Christopher Villiers.
Primavera has assembled an outstanding all-star cast for this revival.
Christopher Timothy, well known for his roles as James Herriot in All Creatures
Great and Small and Mac McGuire in Doctors, plays Father James Browne, Rose’s uncle.
Her aunts Teresa and Helen are played by distinguished actors Caroline Blakiston (Brass and, previously at Jermyn Street Theatre, Black Bread and Cucumber) and Diane Fletcher (House of Cards).
Rising star Tuppence Middleton (Tormented, Cleanskin, and the BBC’s forthcoming The Lady Vanishes) makes her theatre debut as Rose.
Mr and Mrs Dennis are played by Christopher Villiers and Emma Davies, both widely known from their extensive television and stage work.
The below is a notice from the director of my theatre company, City Academy Musical Theatre Company.
Have you ever wanted to play for a musical?!!!
We are looking for an assortment of musicians to play on our production of the Witches of Eastwick on the 27th and 28th July. Rehearsals would be on the 25th and 26th July and our MD Leigh Thompson has worked extensively all over the country and West End, he is currently running his own Cabaret season and frequently books young musicians for professional work.
We are looking for strong sight readers and the instruments we need include:
2nd Keys, Guitar, Percussion, Brass and Woodwind. We also need an excellent Cellist and violinist.
If this sounds like fun please drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is not paid but we can cover expenses and guarantee it will be a valuable experience for anyone wanting to do session or west end work, plus it will be lots of fun!
Originally posted at Last Minute Theatre Tickets
American Justice is a play set in America written by a British playwright, set during the days of the Obama administration from 2008 when Obama won the election until 2016 when his second term will end. The entirety of the play takes place inside a prison. The cast comprises of two guards, a warden, an inmate and a visitor.
We first meet Herb Stevens (David Schaal), an overweight warden who comes across as a bit of a cliché Southern republican. He makes sure everything is in order along with his two wardens, who watches the room in the prison from the balcony. They then let in John Daniels (Peter Tate), a politician who has just been elected to congress. He is there to meet Lee Fenton (Ryan Gage), a prisoner serving life for the murder of Daniels’ daughter. Daniels is at the prison with a mission – he wants to educate Fenton and has been granted permission to do so by the courts.
The play chronicles three meetings between the two men, coinciding with election years. The first meeting takes place in 2008, the second in 2012 and the third in 2016. What has happened in the time between the meetings? How has the relationship between the men changed? And finally, what will happen after the last meeting we witness? American Justice leaves a lot to interpretation, with just hints to fill in the blanks of how the characters got to where they are when we see them.
It is a bit refreshing to go and see a short play. American Justice clocks in at 75 minutes, slightly less than your average animated family movie. It can be good to see a story unfold without the break of the interval, and if done well it can keep the intensity up. On the other hand, it can be a bit too shallow a dig into a story, and at times American Justice suffers from this.
Without spoiling the end, the play’s last minutes reveals information and character motivation that makes you see the play from start to finish with a different point of view. It is not a particularly surprising twist, but it’s interesting to see where the play takes it.
More than anything it’s a thrill to see the dynamic between the two characters as it changes over time, and how Fenton changes into a very different man by the end, while still keeping his edge. Fenton is never tamed, his anger remains under the surface, but by controlling it and himself he becomes much more powerful and interesting. Daniels on the other hand fades, and his desperation or grief never hits you emotionally in the way Fenton’s rage does. It is an interesting moment when Fenton points out that Daniels never did come across as a grieving father, and turns the tables on him.
As Fenton is led out of the room a final time, he smiles. You leave the theatre without clear answers and have to make up your own opinions, after seeing a play that kicks in both liberal and conservative directions, without offering a solution. It is a somewhat frustrating end, but much more interesting to take away than if it was neatly tidied up.
This play will not appeal to everyone and is likely to feel dated in only a few years as we approach the later years depicted in the play, especially if it turns out reality and fiction are very different to each other. It failed to wow the patron to our left as he fell asleep towards the end and managed to get a few loud snores out before his companion shook him awake. And I suppose you can argue that not that much happens in the play, which is basically three meetings in the same sparse room. But it is an interesting character piece that asks questions that are relevant to where we are at this moment in time, and makes the point that is easy to agree with for us in Europe: that criminals should be educated and rehabilitated rather than just punished.
American Justice is playing until February 9 at the Arts Theatre. If you like intense material with a strong political foundation, this is a good one to go see.
Originally posted at Last Minute Theatre Tickets.
War Horse is one of those theatrical pieces you hear of and think can’t deliver a show to the level of hype that inevitably follows after all the success of the West End show, the Tony winning Broadway production and the motion picture adaptation by Stephen Spielberg. And with a plot like this, about the journey of a horse from birth through his experiences of being an army horse in the first World War, you may be worried that it will be soppy and melodramatic. War Horse is neither of those things.
Our main character, Joey the horse, is at the beginning of the play only a foal. He is bought by a man named Ted in a drunken attempt of upstaging his brother, and becomes the best friend of his son Albert, who trains him and bonds with him. Joey grows to become a large magnificent horse and is eventually sold by Ted to be used as an officer’s horse in the war, much to Albert’s despair. As Joey’s new master dies very early in the war, Albert then decides to follow Joey to war in a desperate attempt to save his horse. The play follows the path of the two characters, one human boy and one exceptional horse, as they both do what they can to survive the war and return home to safety.
I’d urge potential visitors to not see the movie before the stage version as it is most certainly a more harrowing experience to see the plot played out with real horses. But there’s a true magic the puppeteers bring, that while you can see they are not real animals, they feel real in the way they move from the tails to the ears, all the while every sound made feels authentic and genuine, and when you see one of them suffer it breaks your heart. When Joey struggles and suffer, you believe in him as a character despite seeing two people under him controlling his body and legs, and another playing his front and face. Joey forms bonds and aches, and experiences loss and sadness.
It’s not all sad though, there are some wonderful moments that make you smile, particularly in the village with Joey’s owner Albert and his family, with a runaway performance by the family’s goose and its failed attempts to enter the house. The music that moves through the play as part narration and part breather as we move from scene to scene works perfectly and has more a feel of soundtrack and score to it than a musical, laying a foundation rather than demanding too much attention. The sparse staging with props sometimes going out into the audience with bunting over the heads of the first few rows is helped by video background that again, as with much of this play, is subtle and gentle rather than overpowering.
The ensemble are at times part of the set, acting for example as pillars to gates, holding long sticks between them to form a fence and so on. They move effortlessly and without hesitation from being a part of the scenery to a character. At times the actors also appear between the seats in the stalls, while never interacting with the audience or even acknowledging their presence. It brings us as an audience further into their world as they go about their business around us.
Between the magical performances of the puppeteers of Handspring Puppet Company and the strong acting by their more conventional human counterparts, War Horse is a deeply moving experience of war, loss and the innocent love between human and their animals. It’s a homage to the souls lost in the mess of war, horse or man, civilian or soldier. With showing real characters from both sides, with their dreams and their loves, the reality of war is made almost too real. It’s a painful experience at times and it’s a useful lesson in our life where our war is a thing on the television that doesn’t touch most of us directly in our daily life. The play is at times loud and powerful as it would be in a war zone, but at the same time it’s full of quiet moment and subtle performances that leave space for your own interpretation.
War Horse is a masterpiece of craft, beauty and aching pain. I would advise you to bring tissues.
Hi all, I’m excited to tell you I’ve once again been a guest on the Made Of Fail Podcast for Episode Fifty-Nine: Everybody Dies and Lives Happily Ever After.
Beware: the entire episode is about Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 2. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!