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Posts Tagged ‘Claire Foy’

This 2012 Duncan McMillan play gets a very early revival on a much bigger stage in a much higher profile production. What seemed like a nice little play eight years ago now feels like a bit of an epic. I don’t know whether this is because it’s rewritten, in a different space, a different director and performers, the topicality of the environmental debate, the passage of time or a combination of them all. Whatever, it’s a thought-provoking and entertaining ninety minutes, stunningly staged and performed.

The play starts with the man in the couple raising the idea of starting a family. This comes out of the blue and the discussion continues for days and days, with a particular focus on the environmental impact of bringing another life into the world; tens of thousands of tonnes of co2 apparently. It soon becomes a play about their lifelong relationship and its ups and downs, with the deterioration in the environment almost always in the background. The naturalistic dialogue sparkles and its often very funny, but not at the expense of the serious themes. The pace is breathless and it never lags or drags.

It’s extraordinary how much you can pack into 90 minutes; you really do feel as if you get to know these people, understanding their dilemmas and even sharing their emotions. That’s no doubt helped by two terrific performances. Claire Foy’s character talks at a manic pace, so its a tough part which she executes with great skill and emotionality. Matt Smith’s character is cooler and more measured which he invests with a more measured restraint. There’s no set as such, except some (appropriate) solar panels, so they are the focus visually, as they move around the space, in addition to the continuous dialogue. It’s really captivating.

It may be star casting that’s selling the seats, but it’s superb writing, finely nuanced direction and star performances that enthrals you.

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May 2012

The review below is from the tour of this play one year ago. It’s now at the Royal Court with a new design and a new cast, but the same director, James Grieve. The experience of a Court Friday night crowd was very different from a Northampton midweek matinée!

Despite knowing how it would unfold, I loved the play as much as I did last time. The new design by Lucy Osborne is very good (hats off to the technical team which makes two transformations in such a short time), though no better than the Paines Plough one, so one does wonder why the Court didn’t save a few quid and buy it from them! The new cast though is terrific.

Ben  Miles was so convincing as a 19-year-old in the first act that I googled him in the first interval and was shocked to find he was 44 / 45! This time they’ve cast at the second act, so each has to play both younger and older. Claire Foy is excellent as the daughter, but it was Victoria Hamilton who impressed most – a simply terrific performance(s!).

This is a great play and it occurred to me this time that people probably come out of it having seen a subtly different one, a bit like Oleanna, depending on your attitude to Mike Bartlett’s premise. I’d be surprised if this doesn’t follow Posh and Jumpy into the West End. Another cracking night at the Royal Court.

May 2011

Back in at the lovely Royal Theatre in Northampton for the second time in as many months to catch the Paines Plough tour of this Mike Bartlett three-act play.

We start in 1967 on the night the world first watched TV together and The Beatles premiered All You Need is Love (from which the play takes its title). Oxford student Kenneth is staying with his older brother and proceeds to steal his girlfriend Sandra. Jump forward 23 years and Kenneth & Sandra are now married with careers, two teenagers and a house in Reading, but they’re about to split up. Jump forward another 21 years and we’re in retired Kenneth’s home with his son as the ex-wife and daughter / sister are about to visit.

This is a slow burn because it’s not until the third act we understand what Bartlett is getting at – it’s all the baby boomers fault! Though I think this is a valid and much ignored premise, I don’t agree that the response of the baby boomers is to focus on spending their ‘wealth’ and ignoring the woes of their children in our new inaccessible property / low pay society. Though I don’t have children, most of my friends who do are making significant sacrifices (including re-mortgaging their homes) to help their children. However, it is right to hold them (US!) to account.

It’s an original, captivating and well structured piece. The jumps forward between acts do mean long intervals (with, in our case, an over-run of 20 minutes) that slow down the dramatic flow. It also means actors have to age between 21 and 44 years – a bit of a tall order – and it’s to their credit that they just about pull it off. Ben Addis does particularly well moving from irresponsible student to responsible husband & father and on to irresponsible oldie. James Barrett (so good in the Bush’s 2nd May 1997) is outstanding as both a carefree 14-year old and a troubled 35-year old. Rosie Wyatt’s performed with great passion as an angry 16-year old and an even angrier 37 year-old.

A fascinating and deeply satisfying play from a playwright who is leading the way in modern state-of-the-nation drama that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. Well worth the trip to Northampton. Only one more stop on the tour in Oxford – be there!

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