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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Ogbomo’

When my father was in his late 70’s, recently widowed, he announced ‘I didn’t have seven children for nothing’ and spent the remaining two years of his life ‘on tour’ giving away what little money he had in cash as birthday and Christmas presents. I hadn’t considered the parallels with Lear until seeing this. Of course, he received hospitality at every stop, there was no kingdom to divide and no-one died, but it was a similar decision as the one Lear outlines in the opening scene.

Helena Kaut-Howson’s production is refreshingly free of the directorial conceit and gimmicks which often pervade Shakespeare productions these days (The case for the prosecution cites The Globe’s 2017 and 2021 Romeo & Juliet’s!). It serves Shakespeare’s play very well. Though faithful to the verse, it has a great physicality, and uses the Globe space to its advantage. The direct audience engagement is limited and better for it. Claire van Kampen’s music is particularly good. It’s the sort of production I expect and want from the Globe, balancing the seriousness of the play with the playfulness of the venue.

Kathryn Hunter navigates Lear’s complex web of emotions brilliantly. The Globe’s AD Michelle Terry doubles up as Cordelia and Lear’s Fool and proves what a great interpreter of the bard she is. The rest of the cast is first class, with Ann Ogbomo’s Goneril and Marianne Oldham’s contrasting Regan both having great presence, Ryan Donaldson a charismatic Edmund and Kwaku Mills interpreting the role of Edgar very differently and very effectively.

This is what the Globe is for, one of their very best productions in recent years.

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This is an impressive playwriting debut by Alex Mackeith. I don’t know much about education, but it oozed authenticity and seemed to me to present a well researched understanding of some of the issues facing a primary school Head. 

The school in question is trying hard to improve, with an immediate target of a pupil premium award which would open extra-curricular doors that these South London working class kids could never otherwise open. The governors have forced the Head to take an unqualified but bright agency temp to help get the SATS up, but he’s preoccupied with what he enjoys. The Head’s administrator is her retired predecessor’s daughter who’s desperate to qualify as a teacher but has been set back by having to look after her dad. 

The picture it paints is the Head’s struggle to reconcile the need to teach an imposed curriculum, having to follow instructions from the governors that she doesn’t necessarily agree with. the obsession with testing over learning and the expectations of parents (illustrated by a father who expects the school to shoulder all of the responsibility for his sick daughter whilst he shoulders none), all in a world where social media means nothing is secret, not even the her personal problems, going through a divorce. It took a while to take off, but when it did it was riveting.

Anna Reid’s uber-realistic, finely detailed design contributes greatly to the authenticity. There’s a terrific performance from Ann Ogbomo as Head Jo, who has to switch from distress to full emotional control in an instant. Fala Evan-Akingbola conveys her character Lara’s vocational passion and conscientiousness really well and Oliver Dench does well as posh boy Tom who’s rather let them down. Though it’s a small part, Kevin Howarth’s performance as dad David was pivotal in underlining one of the issues. It’s really well staged by Charlie Parham.

Fine new writing at Southwark Playhouse.

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