Posts Tagged ‘Ben Daniels’

OK, so maybe I’m just thick, but I left this play thinking ‘so what is it you’re trying to say?’

Joe Pentall has written some good plays, amongst them the excellent Blue, Orange. Mental health is an issue he returns to often. In this play, husband / father Douglas disappears, seemingly for no reason. When he returns ,we discover he’s been with some sort of cult – or has he? He disappears again and when he returns this time he seems to be even more under the spell of an increasingly implausible group. His wife Julie is losing her tether and his son Thomas misses dad badly. It’s two hours before we discover the truth.

Sophie Okonedo is excellent and the young actor who played Thomas was terrific. Bunny Christie’s set is a perfectly realised family home, except the ceiling twice lowers mysteriously and somewhat pointlessly…. but what on earth the play is getting at is beyond me. I didn’t find it in the slightest bit illuminating, thought-provoking or even interesting. Ben Daniels seemed to be over-acting mercilessly, though in all fairness, I’m not sure how anyone could play Douglas believably.

Sadly, the Royal Court ends 2011 on a low. For me, a waste of an evening, I’m afraid.

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There was a time when Schiller’s plays were dull and turgid. Then along came Mike Poulton with adaptations which breathed new life into them. His  adaptation of Don Carlos was masterly and now he excels with this cross between Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Romeo & Juliet.

The Chancellor’s son, an army major, is in love with court musician’s daughter Luise, but his father plans to wed him to the Prince’s mistress to provide cover for the Prince and obtain influence for himself.  The Chancellor’s private secretary, appropriately named Wurm, wants Luise himself and with the help of Lady Milford and Hofmarschall ( I wasn’t quite sure what his role is) his machiavellian plans unfold, ending tragically with its R&J moment. It’s a cracking story and the dialogue is sharp and often witty; not a word is wasted.

The Donmar space is simply but beautifully designed and lit by Peter McKintosh and Paule Constable respectively and Michael Grandage’s staging is as ever impeccable. I don’t think even the Donmar has ever assemble an ensemble this good. You totally believe in the love and passion of Felicity Jones and Max Bennett as Luise and Ferdinand. Ben Daniels has never been better than here as the Chancellor, whose craze for power unleashes such tragedy and results in his own deep remorse. John Light and David Dawson provide the intrigue in their deliciously smarmy, oleaginous fashion (and in the case of Dawson, very camp) whilst Alex Kingston is every bit the arch manipulator whose only interest is herself – at any cost . I also really liked Paul Higgins devoted passionate father who does much to illustrate the backdrop of the class divide.

This will I’m sure be one of the highlights of the year, and one of the defining productions of Grandage’s reign at the Donmar. Miss at your peril.

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