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Posts Tagged ‘Claudie Blakely’

This is one hell of a play. It’s ambitious and epic; a jigsaw puzzle that takes you three hours to complete. When it comes full circle at the end, you’re left with a deep sense of satisfaction. It’s why I go to the theatre so often – to come across one of these every now and again.

Joe is an American news photographer who took an iconic picture of a man’s face-off with a tank in Tiananmen Square on 4th June 1989. Many years later he gets a lead which makes him think the man survived and escaped to the US. What unravels is like a detective story. In China, we see what happens to anyone brave enough to expose things like pollution. In the US, we see how China’s economic power can bury just about anything.

Along the way, we meet politicians, market researchers, newspapermen, Chinese immigrants and policemen, but at its heart are the personal stories of Joe and his Chinese friend and source Zhang Lin. It never lets you go and fully justifies its length at just over three hours. It’s never predictable and moves from poignant to funny in a flash. I was enthralled. Es Devlin has designed a brilliant giant revolving cube on which images are projected and within which rooms open up for all of the many scenes. Lyndsey Turner’s staging is simply stunning.

Stephen Campbell Moore is on stage almost the whole time and he’s terrific. Benedict Wong can hardly have caught his breath as he left The Arrest of Ai Weiwei in Hampstead and travelled (with two other actors!) the five miles to Islington and he too is superb. There are lovely performances from Claudie Blakley as a British market researcher who falls for Joe, Nancy Crane as a US senator and Trevor Cooper as a newspaper head.

This is an unmissable theatrical feast which propels playwright Lucy Kirkwood into the premiere league.

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I haven’t seen an entire street on the Olivier stage sine John Gunter built part of the city of Bath for The Rivals in 1984. Bunny Christie’s street has an extra third storey on the houses and is a bit (intentionally) shabbier, but is spectacular nonetheless. It transforms to create an apartment block, shops, nightclub and a clinic.

There is much else to enjoy in Dominic Cooke’s NT debut, but it doesn’t really sparkle like other productions I’ve seen, most recently Propeller at Hampstead in 2010 and I’m not entirely sure why. The pacing is a bit uneven; one minute it’s zipping along, then appears to have ground to a halt. I don’t know whether it has been cut, but it came in at just 2 hours 10 mins with a 20 minute interval, so I suspect it has – though not noticeably.

I liked the idea of acting out Egeon’s opening speech describing how he lost his wife and twin sons (and their twin servants). The more frenetic scenes are given a ‘keystone cops’ style that somehow made them seem fresh though still appropriate for the material. The Abbey has become the Abbey Clinic and one half of both twins end up ‘sectioned’ there after a particularly slick chase scene involving an ambulance driving onto the stage! I also like the idea that the twins have different accents, having been brought up in different places, though Shakespeare didn’t write any lines like ‘why are you speaking funny?’ to support this, so there’s even more disbelief to be suspended than usual! Despite the comedy that preceded it, the closing scene was much more moving than I’ve ever seen it before. I wasn’t sure about the band playing familiar songs in a foreign language at first, but I warmed to it.

After what seemed like a hesitant start, the acting was first-rate. The twins are well matched, particularly Lucien Msamati and Daniel Poyser as the Dromio’s. Lenny Henry has as much presence and as good a  speaking voice as he did in Othello, but is much more relaxed in a comic role where he is able to use his full range of facial expressions. Claudie Blakely’s Adriana and Michelle Terry’s Luciana are deliciously chavvy creations.

So a good rather than great Comedy of Errors, but one I’m glad I saw.

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