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Posts Tagged ‘Brid Brennan’

I leave director Yael Farber’s productions emotionally drained. Her work has a visceral, even mystical quality, and this adaptation of Lorca’s 1933 play about tribal and family feuds and loyalties is no exception.

Marina Carr’s adaptation is set in rural Ireland, though it doesn’t really change the play; family feuds are universal. The groom is about to marry the bride (we don’t know their names) and the play opens with his widowed mother and her widowed father agreeing the match. The bride has a past with Leonardo of the ‘gypsy’ Felix family, arch enemies of the groom’s family, but he has subsequently married and has a child, with another due. Despite this, he returns and there is a clear sexual frisson between him and the bride.

The bride disappears after the ceremony whilst the party is in progress, and it transpires that she has run away with him. When they are eventually tracked down, the two men fight and the play is propelled to its tragic conclusion. The weaver, the moon and two woodcutters provide a commentary rather than participation, much like a Greek chorus, giving the play much of its spiritual, mystical quality.

It’s a gripping account, with Isobel Waller-Bridge’s music and Natasha Chivers’ lighting combining with Susan Hilferty’s design to give the production an earthiness and brooding, sensual quality. It’s staged in-the-round, with one side containing a wall that lowers to provide a dramatic entrance. Imogen Knight’s suspenseful movement incorporates some rather hypnotic low ariel work. It’s a wonderful cast, including Olwen Fouere as the bitter, defiant mother of the bride and a mesmerising performance from Brid Brennan as the Weaver.

Lorca wrote this play in a divided country, shortly before the Spanish Civil War, and it struck me that he might have been writing about the society in which he lived. The play can be a metaphor for divisions of all sorts – tribes, neighbours, societies, factions – which in many ways makes it resonate eighty-five years on in our very divided world.

Another triumph for the Young Vic.

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When I first heard about Jamie Lloyd’s Pinter at the Pinter season – 20 of his one-act plays in seven groupings over six months – I thought it was laudable, brave and ambitious, but I’m not a Pinter fan (though Lloyd has recently lured me to a few revivals with fresh interpretations and exciting casting). I decided that it was all or nothing, and at West End prices, nothing won, but a spare evening and a great ticket deal lured me to this fourth, a pairing of plays 33 years apart, one I saw the first outing of and one I’ve never seen, and they couldn’t be more different.

In Moonlight, Andy is dying, lying in his bed with his wife Bel by his side. He reminices about events and people in his life. We also meet his estranged sons, though they don’t meet him, and two friends and a young girl also make an appearance. Lindsay Turner’s production has a dreamlike quality, but with scenes which are imagined or elsewhere played within the bedroom somewhat bewildering. I saw It at the Almeida in 1993 with a stellar cast that included Ian Holm, Anna Massey, Douglas Hodge & Michael Sheen and it seemed a very different play which this time round I didn’t find very interesting or satisfying.

Night School was a TV play and I’m not sure it’s been staged before. After the dullness of Moonlight, it seemed like a little comic gem and much more Pinteresque, or perhaps even Ortonesque. Wally returns from prison to find his family have let his room to a young teacher. He fails to get landlord Solto to loan him money to get back on his feet but he does persuade him to find out more about the new lodger, who turns out to have another occupation altogether. Brid Brennan (Bel in Moonlight) and Janine Dee are a terrific double-act as the aunts, Robert Glenister (Andy in the first play) is great as East End rogue Solto and Al Weaver (son Jake in Moonlight) excellent as Wally.

Very much an evening of two halves, only one of which I really liked.

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Timothy Sheader made a brave decision when he introduced 20th century classics to the Open Air Theatre, but boy has it paid off. The Crucible led the way, Lord of the Flies & To Kill a Mockingbird confirmed his wisdom and now All My Sons proves conclusively that this space can be great for modern drama as well as Shakespeare and musicals. Set over one day, the onset of natural darkness co-incides with the heightening of the drama – and for once planes flying overhead have some connection with what’s happening onstage!

Arthur Miller’s play is based on a true story and is influenced by both Greek tragedy and Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. It centres on the post-war all-American suburbia of the Keller family. Son Larry went missing in action towards the end of the war and son Chris now works with his dad Joe in the family engineering firm. Joe’s former business partner Steve is in prison for allowing faulty aircraft parts to be supplied to the US Air Force, resulting in more than twenty deaths. Some, including neighbour Sue, believe he’s the fall guy for Joe who is really to blame. Mom Kate is convinced Larry is still alive 3.5 years on, egged on my neighbour Frank’s horoscopes. Chris wants to marry Larry’s sweetheart Ann, Steve’s daughter. Then Anne’s brother George arrives and the truth is revealed, propelling the drama to its tragic conclusion.

This was only Miller’s second (produced) play and the first of four classics over a ten year period from 1946 to 1955.There isn’t a wasted moment or unnecessary line and every character has a purpose. In Sheader’s fine production, the first act lulls you into a false sense of security which heightens the tension of the second act before bringing a passionate emotionality to the third. I wasn’t sure about Lizzie Clachan’s billboard house at first, but it grew on me. Brid Brennan is magnificent as Kate and Tom Mannion plays Joe ‘s transition from denial to confession brilliantly. Charles Aitkin is excellent as Chris, as is Amy Nuttall as Ann and there ‘s a fine supporting cast.

Because of the weather, it took two attempts before I saw this, but I’m glad I persisted. It’s a lot better than the (paid) critics would have you believe; a fine revival indeed.

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There are lots of interesting strands to this Conor McPherson play. It’s set in colonial Ireland in the early 19th century where the landowners and their tenant farmers are struggling, the former to maintain their aristocratic lifestyles and the latter to survive. Against this sociopolitical backdrop, there’s the story of one family’s solution to their economic crisis (marry off the daughter!) and the hopelessness of love across the class divide. Add to that a supernatural layer, and you have the recipe for what should be a very good play.

Where it goes wrong is that it doesn’t make enough of the sociopolitical background and over-plays the supernatural, with a touch of implausibility in the way it handles the infatuation of a member of staff for his mistress. A lot revolves around the defrocked priest and his chum, who come to escort the daughter to her wedding in England, but I never really believed in them. The daughter’s relationship with her mother also seems a lot less respectful than you would expect at this time, as was the over-familiarity between the staff and the family.

Rae Smith’s design brilliantly evokes the stately home in decline, just grand enough but just shabby enough too. The performances of Brid Brennan, Peter McDonald and Caoilfhionn Dunne as the staff are excellent, and Ursula Jones is terrific as the virtually wordless grandmother with a nice range of expressions from indignant to wicked and everything in between. The rest of the performances didn’t convince me though.

It kept my attention but it didn’t really satisfy me. This may be another case where the playwright should not be allowed to direct his own work – no challenge and all that.  A bit of a disappointment, I’m afraid.

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