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Posts Tagged ‘David Burke’

Do schools like this really exist in the US? Somehow, it’s difficult to identify with the Charles R Drew school – an American all-black public school. If you replaced Pharus, Bobby, Junior, Anthony & David with  Tarquin, Justin, Oliver, Henry & Julian, you could be at a British public school (though I confess I do not have personal experience). It all feels a bit otherworldly and incongruous.

We only have five boys in Ultz’ extraordinary wood-paneled school, so we have to use our imagination (helped by a configuration which involves the audience, with the boys seated amongst us on occasion). In the attic space of the Royal Court Upstairs, he’s also fitted in a bedroom and changing room and the play really does happen all around you.

School life involves sport, a famous choir, some bullying, politics…..just like any old school really. Pharus leads the choir; he’s effeminate and gay and his relationships with his fellow pupils are complicated, particularly with the headmaster’s nephew with whom he has a power struggle. An old master is brought back to teach creative thinking, though what this contributes I’m not sure. In fact, I’m not really sure what playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney is trying to say at all. It’s a slice-of-life play that doesn’t really go anywhere and takes a long time not to do so.

Having said that, Dominic Cooke’s production is terrific, largely due to five superb performances from the boys – Dominic Smith, Eric Kofi Abrefa, Kwayedza Kureya, Khali Best & Aron Julius – two of them 2012 drama school graduates (one making his professional debut) and one still studying A-levels! The two adults, Gary McDonald & David Burke, don’t get a look in. In addition to acting, they sing as well as any young choristers I’ve ever heard. The use of music is indeed one of the play’s strengths.

Despite the fact that it didn’t seem to go anywhere, I was engaged for the duration, impressed by the creativity and staging and in awe of the talent.

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This is a pair of shorts by Arthur Miller which we haven’t seen in London for 23 years, so how can a Miller fan resist.

In I Can’t Remember Anything, we’re with neighbours Leo & Leonora. (It’s only now, 12 hours later, that I’m pondering the significance of those names – two sides of the same character / personality?). They are in life’s endgame, forever recalling the past, often disagreeing. Miller seems to be exploring how memories change depending on what we want to remember, our hindsight and disposition. He paints a rather poignant and moving picture of ageing which is beautifully staged and performed with great humanity by real husband-and-wife team David Burke and Anna Calder-Marshall.

Clara is a detective story. We’re in the apartment of Clara, who has been murdered, with her father and the detective who is questioning him. In a state of shock, her father is struggling to recall things, including the name of the ex-con who his daughter was seeing and who may be a prime suspect. He has visions of his daughter the detective doesn’t see and on one occasion they talk. Of course, it isn’t really a detective story as we’re again exploring issues of memory. Rolf Saxon as the father and Roger Sloman as the detective are both outstanding.

I’d be lying if I said I understood exactly what Miller is trying to say, but it certainly makes you think. Whatever you decide, you have to accept that director Ed Viney and designer Anna Finch have given them impeccable productions with the help of a first class cast that the best theatres in the land would be proud to have. Another gold star for Jermyn Street Theatre.

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