Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Amanda Hadingue’

Within minutes of it starting, I knew travelling to Stratford (upon Avon) to see this was a good idea. I’m a big fan of Joan Littlewood, even though I never saw any of her work. When my Tardis arrives, one of my first journeys will be back to the late 50’s / early 60’s to visit her Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal in Stratford (East London). She revolutionised British theatre as much as people like Peter’s Brook and Hall, but isn’t recognised as much, though she does now have a statue outside Stratford East.

Writer Sam Kenyon uses seven Joan’s to tell her story, with the wonderful Clare Burt as Joan the narrator, encouraging and instructing the others to pass the baton, her trademark cap, to the next as she ages. It briefly covers her arrival in the world, school, an early trip to Paris and RADA, before political theatre in the North West, where she meets and marries future folk royalty Ewan MacColl (then Jimmie Miller). The whole of the second half covers the Theatre Workshop period in Stratford East, using the development of productions like A Taste of Honey, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be and Oh What A Lovely War to propel the story forward.

It’s warts and all, so though it’s a homage, it shows the negative too. Along the way we meet Victor Spinetti, Barbara Windsor, Shelagh Delaney, Lionel Bart, Hal Prince (that collaboration was new to me!), Murray Melvin (whose insight Kenyon benefited from, and who was in the audience at this performance) and John Gielgud playing Macbeth! All of these are played by the ensemble regardless of age, sex or race. Her reciprocal love of Gerry Raffles shines through.

Designer Tom Piper has put a gold proscenium arch and red velvet curtains at the back of the apron stage, much like Stratford East, above which there’s a strip of screen on which projections signpost places and productions, with the band in the gallery above that. There’s an anarchic, playful quality to Erica Whyman’s production which seems entirely in keeping with the story. It feels like it’s being created as we watch, in the same way Joan’s shows were developed. It isn’t perfect, but for the first production of someone’s second musical, it’s impressive.

In addition to Clare Burt as Joan and Solomon Israel as Gerry Raffles, an ensemble of ten play the other five Joan’s and more than thirty other roles. Sophie Nomvete and Emily Johnstone give great turns as Avis Bunnage and Barbara Windsor respectively. They also play two of the Joan’s, receiving / passing the baton (cap) from / to Aretha Ayeh, Sandy Foster, Amanda Hadingue and Dawn Hope, all excellent. I felt for Tam Williams, playing Murray Melvin with the man himself just feet away; he also gets give us Gielgud’s Macbeth!

Well worth the trip to Stratford, hopefully to have a life beyond The Swan.

Read Full Post »

When I heard edgy playwright Anthony Neilson was doing a Christmas show for the Royal Court – their first – I thought they may well have lost the plot; but I couldn’t resist taking my 10-year old godson and as much as I like traditional things like panto, this is such a breath of fresh air, and so Royal Court!

Holly wants her real dad (who she’s never met) for Christmas but Santa keeps ignoring her request so she hatches a plot to ensure he takes her seriously and what unfolds is positively surreal. Her step-dad is a dog, her real dad inhabits a Teddy (or is he?), Santa’s son Bumblehole comes in through the skylight whilst Santa uses the traditional chimney. In the second half, Christmas keeps repeating itself until the spell is broken and all is revealed.

Neilson’s trademark absurdity is all over it, but it’s as accessible to youngsters as it is fun for adults. Miriam Buether’s set and costumes establish the tone brilliantly and the performances are all excellent. You can believe Gabriel Quigley’s Mum is daft enough to marry a dog, Amanda Hadingue is a deliciously batty Gran, David Sterne combines grumpy and cool as Santa and it’s impossible not to love Tom Godwin’s hapless Bumblehole. Anchoring it all, though, is a superb Holly from Imogen Doel (her professional debut no less!) who captures the contradictions of teenage years so perfectly (something tells me Neilson may well have teenage kids, so good is this characterisation). Even Nick Powell’s songs sound surreal!

A wonderful alternative to panto that the 58-year old and the 10-year old both loved in equal measure.

Read Full Post »