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Posts Tagged ‘Doon Mackichan’

It’s a long way from my first introduction to Twelfth Night, for something that used to be called ‘O’ levels, to this – 50 years and 130 miles to be precise. This is the freshest production of this play I’ve seen since; it positively sparkles.

When Tamsin Greig was cast as Malvolio, I assumed it was just gender blind casting, but in fact she’s playing Malvolia; the character has had a sex change. This gives the attraction to Olivia another dimension altogether. In fact, one of the striking things about this production is the believable sexual frissons – between various combinations of Orsino, Olivia, Cesario (Viola) & Sebastian as well as Malvolia and Olivia. Another is the success of both the high comedy and the pathos in a production with an extraordinary attention to detail – visual, gestural, postural and linguistic. There are so may lovely touches.

The outstanding cast is high on established comic performers. Oliver Chris brings a humour to Orsino I’ve rarely seen. Tim McMullan and Daniel Rigby are as fine a double-act as Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek as you’ll find anywhere. Doon Mackichan’s take on Feste is delightful. Tamsin Greig creates a frumpy Malvolia dressed in black, with a bob hairstyle, that brings the house down and makes her humiliation all the more tragic. Tamara Lawrence and Daniel Ezra are both excellent as the shipwrecked twins and Phoebe Fox brings a cheekiness to Olivia. Somehow, Maria seems to play a much bigger role in the humiliation of Malvolia and is brilliantly played by Niky Wardley. The whole ensemble gels perfectly.

Soutra Gilmour’s design has a central feature which moves us between locations as it moves itself. There are cars, scooters and bikes and her costumes are witty and colourful. Though there are songs in the play, director Simon Godwin appears to put more emphasis on the music (as he did in The Beaux Stratagem) and Shelley Maxwell’s movement contributes a lot to heightening the humour of the piece. It all sits very comfortably on the Olivier stage.

It’s a while since I saw this play, so perhaps that added to my enjoyment of what is indeed a fine revival.

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The roll at the Court continues. This is the seventh gem in the main house in less than two years – that’s some roll.

This one revolves around the mid-life crisis of Hilary and in particular her relationship with teenage daughter Tilly. Her marriage is dull, her job is at risk and her actor best friend is bonkers. What preoccupies her most, though, is her daughter – her schooling and her sexual awakening. Tilly’s best friend gets pregnant as she starts sleeping with boyfriend Josh and from here we’re on an emotional rollercoaster that brings in Josh’s parents and another boy who Tilly brings home. Even these very liberal middle class professionals are severely challenged by the awesome challenge of parenthood during these teenage years.

Anyone of a certain age (mine!), whether they’ve had kids or not, will find this all totally believable (I suspect playwright April de Angelis has written, at least in part, from experience), but anyone of any age will find much to enjoy here. The characterisations are terrific and the writing sharp and funny, but at times also very moving with a really heart-warming but unsentimental ending. Compared with the other five de Angelis plays I’ve seen, this is on another level altogether. Director Nina Raine has done a terrific job, with simple white settings from Lizzie Clachan which ensure the pace isn’t slowed down by scene changes (and with a very clever transformation to a seaside setting).

Tasmin Grieg has done some wonderful work in recent years – she was a great Beatrice for the RSC and followed this with a trio of excellent performances in modern plays – Gethsemane, God of Carnage and the under-rated The Little Dog Laughed – and here she is simply terrific. She IS Hilary; every expression, shrug and glance conveying what she’s going through. Bel Powley as Tilly and Seline Hizli as her friend Lyndsey are both outstanding, the former perfectly capturing the love / hate conflict that most teenagers go through with their parents. I also liked Richard Lintern and Sarah Woodward as Josh’s parents with different perspectives on their son’s responsibilities, and Doon Mackichan is a hoot as best friend Frances (to say more would constitute a spoiler).

This is a very satisfying evening of theatre – though-provoking & funny, leaving you with a warm glow and a sense of hope. Miss at your peril.

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Ubercreative director Richard Jones’ latest makeover is Gogol’s 19th century farcical satire on Russian corruption, where an entire town ingratiates itself with what it believes to be a government inspector.

David Harrower’s version certainly makes it fresh, with some great dialogue which doesn’t jar at all with the setting and period. Miriam Buether has re-configured the Young Vic again with a wider than wide and deeper than deep stage, though I’m not sure why they have to go to the expense of building false walls at the sides of the auditorium. It’s size and shape does, though, add to the surreal quality of the proceedings, as do Nicky Gillibrand’s extraordinary costumes. Amongst the many clever coups, we have running rats, helium balloons seemingly turning up from nowhere and walking through walls. I could have done without the turd, though.

When it’s motoring, it’s great, but it sometimes lags – particularly in the first half – and some of the monologues outlive their welcome; this makes the pacing uneven and detracts from the undoubted success of the adaptation and staging. Julian Barrett is fine as the mayor, though he seems a little unsure of himself at times, which isn’t entirely in keeping with the character. Doon Mackichan is excellent as the mayor’s wife, helped by a series of panto dame costumes and French pretensions. Amanda Lawrence gives us another spectacular cameo as the postmaster, complete with false moustache and belly! It’s Kyle Soller’s tour de force as Khlestakov that steals the show, though, developing from a man who got lucky to an exploitive, manipulative monster.

If they tightened up the first half, this would be a cracker; though there’s much to admire and enjoy as it is and the Young Vic continues its role as an indispensable populist theatre.

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Well, it’s March and I’m still catching up with Edinburgh ones-that-got-away…..

When you first hear that this is a bunch of people reading from autobiographies, it doesn’t seem like an enticing prospect. The reviews were mixed but word-of-mouth and bloggers more favourable. It’s not long into the show when the show’s sub-title ‘you couldn’t make this stuff up’ rings very true indeed.

Last night, there were six excellent readers – Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan & Sally Phillips from C4’s sketch show Smack the Pony, Harry Enfield, James Lance and Sam Roukin – reading from, amongst others, David’s Hasselhoff and Cassidy, boy band ‘N Sync, Ivana Trump and Britney Spears. After initial solo turns, the readers return in different configurations, the best of which were Katie Price & Peter Andre spliced together and, lest you think this is a modern phenomena, a ‘mash up’ of Elizabeth Taylor, Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher autobiographies from the time the latter moved on from Reynolds to Taylor.

It’s a clever idea, the extracts are well-chosen and the readings were well delivered, but at £24 for 70 mins I did feel a bit cheated and wished I had caught it on the Edinburgh fringe, where it would have been better value and more at home. It’s back at Leicester Square Theatre on 11th April if you want to catch it.

 

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