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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Luscombe’

This is the second collaboration between British musical theatre team George Stiles & Anthony Drewe and American book writers Ron Cowan & Daniel Lipman and it’s just as quintessentially British as their previous offering, Betty Blue Eyes (a musical adaptation of the Alan Bennett film A Private Function). This musical adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel isn’t as good as the previous show, but it still has much to commend it.

I rather wish I’d had an Aunt Augusta; someone to lead you astray, show you the world and encourage you to live life to the full, as she does with her somewhat old, recently retired nephew Henry Pulling. Come to think of it, I didn’t really need an Aunt Augusta. Their adventures take them from London on trains, boats and planes to Paris, Milan and Istanbul, and even further afield to Argentina and Paraguay, where she is at last reunited with her former lover Visconti. It lends itself well to musical adaptation and the songs are particularly good at emphasising the location of scenes. I wouldn’t say it was a great score, but it’s OK. The feel of the novel is maintained and the characterisations are spot on.

Patricia Hodge is perfectly cast as Aunt Augusta – stern, strong willed and more than a bit naughty. She’s not really a singer, but her sung dialogue seemed in keeping with the character. Steven Pacey also perfectly captures the conservative Henry, more than a bit dull, torn between continuing to be stuck in the mud and being led astray, but plumping for the latter in the end. In a fine supporting cast, I particularly liked Hugh Maynard’s Wordsworth, the life and soul of the party. Colin Falconer’s clever design anchors it in an old-fashioned railway station, with the band in an elevated signal box, a waiting room that moves, destination board and those iconic cast iron pillars. His costumes are great too. Christopher Luscombe’s staging benefits from the intimacy of the Minerva Theatre.

I’m not sure why it doesn’t quite sparkle, but there’s enough to make it a worthwhile adaptation and a decent night out.

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This was my sixth and last visit to The Globe this year, and my favourite. Playwright Jessica Swale follows her brilliant Blue Stockings, one of the best new plays staged here, with this hugely entertaining one about Charles II’s mistress.

We first meet sometime prostitute Nell as an orange seller. She is befriended by actor Charles Hart who offers her acting lessons and then suggests the King’s Company cast her, now women are allowed on stage, much to the consternation of their regular male leading lady, Edward Kynaston. Charles’ obsession with her begins with visits to see her perform but it’s not long before she’s doing private performances and is provided with a home and ultimately two children. The relationship lasted some 17 years and the play covers that whole period. What makes it so successful is its humour, cheeky, bawdy and irresistible.

I loved Hugh Durrant’s simple design – a few giant gold tassels and plush curtains (most of it takes place in a 17th century playhouse after all) and superb costumes. The play really suits the Globe stage. Christopher Luscombe’s irreverent, nifty staging teases out great performances all around. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is sensational as Nell – feisty, sexy, cheeky – clearly relishing this terrific role. Greg Hastie is brilliant as Kynaston with a wonderful array of actorly strops and speeches about role motivation which bring the house down. Amanda Lawrence gives us another of her scene-stealing turns as Nell’s dresser Nancy and there are two delightful cameos from Sarah Woodward as Charles’ Portuguese queen and Nell’s mum (a performance one groundling with a beer in hand will never forget).

All hail la Swale. This was one of those joyous occasions that make The Globe unique and indispensable. Proper entertainment. Go!

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I gasped as I read in the programme that it was 20 years since this was first produced at the NT. I suppose the need for a cast of 24 and a mighty fine actor to play George III must be the reasons for a lack of revivals, so well done Theatre Royal Bath, who originated this production, for the opportunity.

I have to confess it isn’t the masterpiece I remembered, but it’s still a good play. Alan Bennett tells the story of a period of madness for the king, during which he gets a whole series of excruciating but conflicting treatments from four doctors (who in reality don’t have a clue) and Tory PM William Pitt almost loses office to Whig Charles Fox (with the support of playwright turned MP Sheridan!) whilst the playboy Prince of Wales almost becomes Prince Regent.

It’s a fascinating study of madness, royalty and politics – darker, more disturbing but less funny than I remember. The second act is better than the first, which is slower and a little uneven, but there are some brilliant moments to savour in Christopher Luscombe’s production. With so many scene changes it’s a design challenge, but Janet Bird has captured the period and the regal (though I think the walls with empty picture frames are a mistake).

David Haig is terrific as George III and is in my view the real reason for seeing this revival. His transition from pompous but lovable to manic & disturbed and back again is a tour de force which is always captivating and occasionally thrilling. Perhaps because the character and performance of the King are so dominant, the rest of the ensemble make less impact and few stand out. I did like Christopher Keegan’s Prince of Wales, though it is a touch too much caricature, and Nicholas Rowe’s Pitt.

Haig’s performance will be a highlight of 2012, which is a good enough reason to go, so do!

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