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Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Rowan’

This is the first of four Oscar Wilde plays in Dominic Dromgoole’s Classic Spring Theatre Company’s year-long residency at the Vaudeville. It’s a lesser performed Wilde play and it’s good to see it, and to be reminded if how sparkling Wilde’s dialogue is, and there’s the bonus of a superb cast.

Though it’s mostly set in Lady Hunstanton’s home and garden, it revolves around her friend and neighbour Mrs Arbuthnot & her son Gerald. Widow Lady Hunstanton is entertaining various members of society, including an MP, a vicar, two Lord’s, two Lady’s and a Knight! Lord Illingworth announces that he has employed Gerald as his Secretary, but when his mother turns up after dinner they realise they have history and baggage that gets in the way. What starts as a social satire gets deeper and more moralistic. A visiting American Puritan girl, Miss Worsley, gives a lecture, which doesn’t go down well with everyone, but she proves crucial to how events turn out.

It’s an old-fashioned play that gets a suitably old-fashioned production, but the dialogue does sparkle and Wilde’s plotting is very good. I liked the musical numbers between scene changes where Anne Reid showed off another talent, accompanied by four of the supporting cast on guitar, violin & clarinet. Reid is excellent as Lady Hunstanton, as is Eve Best as the more serious Mrs Arbuthnot. Eleanor Bron almost steals the show as Lady Caroline, one of the greatest nags ever written. Dominic Rowan continues to impress as baddie Lord Illingworth and Emma Fielding is terrific as feisty Mrs Allonby.

It’s a good, if conservative, production of a play worthy of revival. Hopefully, the season will up its game as it goes along.

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This is the last in this mini season of Shakespeare’s late plays and the last but one he wrote. It completes a quartet of successful staging’s of plays intended for an indoor playhouse in an indoor playhouse.

I’ve always thought it was an odd concoction. Prospero, the deposed Duke of Milan, and his daughter Miranda are shipwrecked on a remote island with the spirit Ariel and the subhuman witches son Caliban for company. When the courts of Naples and Milan are later also shipwrecked, Prospero can make mischief and right some wrongs. It has an other-worldly, magical quality, which this production didn’t get over as well as it did the royal shenanigans and the comedy. On this occasion I couldn’t help feeling Prospero was Shakespeare signing off.

Trevor Fox and Dominic Rowan virtually steal the show as royal butler Stephano and court jester Trinculo respectively, though I thought the added lines pushed it a bit too far, and Fisayo Akinade is a fine Caliban. Once he was in his stride, I very much liked Tim McMullen’s Prospero, more elder statesman than larger-than-life presence.

Seeing all four late plays has made me realise that there are fewer design and staging choices that can be made in this space. On this occasion the offstage dialogue and sounds were particularly effective, but the spirit characters less so, particularly Pippa Nixon’s Ariel, who seemed way too ordinary for me. There’s good use of music, despite the off-key singing at Miranda and Ferdinand’s wedding.

I’ve very much enjoyed this season and I suspect and hope we’ll see more Shakespeare in this lovely space.

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I’ve been a fan of Eugene O’Neill for a very long time, but I don’t recall a production of this play in London, which is rather baffling as it shows another side of O’Neill and is really rather good. It comes two-thirds through his playwriting career, but it’s much lighter than Morning Becomes Elektra and The Iceman Cometh, the plays immediately before and after respectively. I’m not sure I’d call it a comedy, as many seem to, but it does have plenty of funny moments – and a lot of fireworks; literally rather than metaphorically.

The story takes place on Independence Day and revolves around Richard, the Miller’s teenage middle son, and is really a coming of age tale. He’s a bright, very well read boy whose version of adolescence is at the intense, existentialist end of the spectrum. He’s in love with neighbour Muriel and walks around quoting literature, some considered so inappropriate that her dad David seeks to drive a wedge between them. His elder brother Arthur (Arthur Miller!) leads him astray and then abandons him at a bar frequented by prostitutes. When Richard comes home drunk, it challenges his otherwise tolerant parents. There’s a sub-plot involving the relationship between Richard’s paternal Auntie Lily and maternal Uncle Sid, which is deadlocked by the latter’s liking of a drink.

In Natalie Abrahami’s production, O’Neill himself is an ever present ghost, often mouthing the dialogue he wrote and perhaps emphasising that the play may be autobiographical. Dick Bird’s extraordinary design has sand pouring out of the waterfront house, with a bit if a coup d’theatre as water flows later. George Mackay is hugely impressive as Richard, capturing the the full range of teenage emotions. Janine Dee shows her versatility yet again as mum Essie Miller, and I was impressed by Martin Marquez (John’s lesser known brother) as dad Nat Miller. Dominic Rowan is very believable as a drunk and David Annen is excellent as the omnipresent playwright, neighbour David and bar tender George.

It took a while to take off, but I fell in love with it nonetheless. The Young Vic proving to be indispensable yet again.

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The first Medea I saw was 29 years ago in Japanese in an Edinburgh University courtyard in the open air in the pouring rain with the title role played by a man! Medea’s exit was in one of those hydraulic arms they use to reach the higher floors of buildings. It was an evening I will never forget. This production came to the Olivier stage, where this new modern adaptation is now staged, two years later.

Ben Power’s modern adaptation takes fewer liberties than Mike Bartlett’s 2012 touring version (which I liked, and which featured Rachael Sterling, whose mother Diana Rigg I had seen in the same part twenty years earlier!) and it’s the most credible and chilling version of this 2500 year-old play that I’ve seen. You really do believe this woman could kill four people, including her two sons.

Carrie Cracknell, one of our best new directors, and designer Tom Scutt, set it in a shabby building with French windows leading out to a wood and an upper level where Jason’s wedding to Kreusa takes place behind glass. There’s a large chorus of thirteen women looking spooky in matching frocks, a brilliant soundscape by Goldfrapp and Michaela Coel delivers the prologue and epilogue superbly in complete silence. For once, my front row seat added to the intensity and engagement with the piece.

I’ve always thought Helen McCrory would make a brilliant Lady Macbeth or Medea and she certainly does with the latter. She invests her interpretation with bucket-loads of emotionality, often visibly shaking, eyes welled up, nose running, tears flowing. It’s a stunning performance. Danny Sapani is a commanding Jason, more restrained but able to make the switch from anger to forgiveness completely believable. There’s luxury casting in support, with Dominic Rowan and Martin Turner as the two kings. Clemmie Sveaas’ Kreusa’s demise in a poisoned costume is an extraordinary dance of death.

This is a riveting 90 minutes, perfect for the Olivier stage and an opportunity to see a fine actress give a career defining performance. Unmissable indeed.

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I almost always find Racine’s plays turgid, but this was a ‘new version’, it was in the lovely Donmar space and it had Anne-Marie Duff in it, so how could I not go? Well, she was the best thing about it, but sadly also about the only good thing about it.

Josie Rourke continues the penchant for re-configuration she started at the Bush. This time, the right side four rows becomes the back two rows, the stage is sand and there’s a walkway over the top which looks like c.50 chairs glued together. When you take your seat, with sand falling from the ceiling, it looks beautiful, but after the play starts it all seems a bit pointless. The temptation to tell the actors to use the short stairs at the left rather than walk all the way over the top and down was very hard to resist.

Berenice’s proposed marriage to Titus makes infatuated Antiochus distraught. It’s quashed for political reasons (Emperor Titus marry a foreign queen – I don’t think so!) but Antiochus’ love remains unrequited. No-one marries anyone and that’s about it really – though it takes 100 minutes to tell you that and that’s where it fails as a play;  it’s very dull and doesn’t sustain its length.

The ‘new version’ by Alan Hollingshurst doesn’t really add or take away anything. Stephen Campbell Moore seems more like a school teacher than an Emperor and Dominic Rowan more like a civil servant, both devoid of passion. You spend most of the time waiting for people to make the irritatingly long walk across the top and down onto the stage.

Luckily for the Donmar, there wasn’t an interval.

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Another deeply rewarding late catch-up and the best production of this play I’ve ever seen. Simon Stephen’s new translation of Ibsen’s play removes all the fustiness and even though the lack of restraint might seem uncharacteristic for its Scandinavian setting, it serves the story very well indeed.

Wife and mother of three Nora has a secret and expends much effort in keeping it, even though the secret is effectively covering up a kind act. When it is revealed, her relationship with her husband crumbles irreparably as he is too focused on honour and what others will think than he is on the strength of the relationship and the love that led to the secret.

Hattie Morahan’s performance as Nora is a career highlight. She is child-like, naive, highly strung and fragile. The contrast, until the final scene, with Dominic Rowan’s coolly dominant Torvald makes her plight all the more believable. Rowan’s performance is also fine, as are the smaller but key roles. Steve Toussaint is an excellent Dr Rank, the family friend who becomes obsessed with Nora as his health deteriorates. Kristine is an odd character because her sudden arrival isn’t entirely plausible, but Susannah Wise makes her so. Nick Fletcher does well to make disgraced lawyer (and Nora’s nemesis) Nils both nasty and sympathetic. I’m not sure I approve of the use of a real baby, though!

I’m not familiar with director Carrie Cracknell’s work, but for me her staging here catapults her into the premiere league. Ian McNeil’s has designed an apartment that revolves to reveal drawing-room, dining room, bedroom, study and hall and its movement is brilliantly choreographed to stage a playful lovers chase, children’s games and all the comings and goings.

The long first half is a bit of a challenge on the buttocks and the bladder, but it’s well worth suffering for what must be a definitive production of this classic which really is a classic.

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This isn’t a particularly good Shakespeare play. It was his last, may have been written with John Fletcher and it’s really just a slice of history with some pageantry and a prophetic / sycophantic ending. It’s rarely performed and the Globe is a great place to see it.

The play covers the period from the last years of his marriage to Katherine of Aragon through to the birth of Elizabeth I soon after his next marriage to Anne Boleyn. No executions (you have to go to the National for those) but you do get a coronation and a christening! You also get a historically accurate game of real tennis (squash), the demise of a corrupt and manipulative cardinal (you don’t get that in 2010!) and a rather drawn out death scene during which one is sorely tempted to shout ‘get on with it’. Apart from the royals themselves, there are other’s we know from our history – Cardinal Wolseley, Thomas Cromwell and Thomas Cranmer. It ends by telling you how good the newly christened Elizabeth is going be as queen – from the point in history when the play ends, it’s prophetic but from the point when it was written (she had already reigned) sycophantic.

Mark Rosenblatt’s production is very good, bringing out the best of the play. It plays the humour and pagentry well and there are terrific costumes (acres of silk, satin and taffeta and lots of ermine!) by designer Angela Davies, great music (Nigel Hess) and some fine performances. Henry is presented as a bit of a good guy (for a man whose main claim to fame is despatching wives in significant numbers) and Dominic Rowan plays him well, far from the fat king stereotype. Kate Duchene plays Katherine as a histrionic Spaniard complete with accented English. Miranda Raison (the lovely Jo from Spooks, almost unrecognisable as a long-haired brunette) is a very good Anne, though occasionally upstaged by Amanda Lawrence’s terrific lady-in-waiting (doubling up as an equally terrific fool). Ian McNeice is perfect as the baddie Wolsey. It  took a while to forget all of his turns as the Stratford East panto baddie before one could appreciate Michael Bertenshaw’s deliciously funny Lovell and Porter (and rather more serious Cardinal Campeius).

It might be a long way from being the best of Shakespeare, but it’s one of my most enjoyable visits to the Globe.

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