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Posts Tagged ‘Edward Bluemel’

I first saw Vicky Jones’ work as a director – Jack Thorne’s Mydidae, then Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (which became a bit of a phenomenon, stage to TV series, already re-commissioned). Then her first play, a 60-minute gem called The One. Now as both writer and director with a 90-minute play about a 30-something Welsh girl moving to London that’s just as frank, funny and fresh as the others.

Dee has taken a temporary job, maternity leave cover, and got herself a tiny flat, where untidiness rules, with every surface covered with stuff. A series of five visitors represent relationships and sexual adventures present and past. There’s ever-so-conservative, ever-so-dull Eddie, wanting a proper relationship, as long as he can be in charge. Vera’s her gym friend who becomes a gay dalliance. Older man Miles came via the internet to satisfy a fetish. Paddy’s a fun-loving toy boy from work. Sam’s the ex from Swansea, a bit old school, who clearly wants to take her back home. 

There are a lot of scenes and the pace is fast as we navigate the journey of Dee’s complex web of relationships and ambivalent sex life. Though it’s very funny, it seemed to me a realistic slice of life for 33-year-old singleton (a sort of racy Bridget Jones) which has a lot to say about contemporary attitudes to relationships and the characteristic conflict between independence and settling down at this age. Amy Morgan carries the play, on stage throughout, changing her behaviour in response to her five visitors. In the supporting cast, I particularly liked Edward Bluemel’s Paddy, a very different role to his recent one in Love in Idleness, and Matthew Aubrey’s archetypal Welsh lad.

Ultz has designed a brilliantly claustrophobic space which revolves to facilitate a 360 degree view of Dee’s world. Jones’ own staging is unsurprisingly sensitive to the material, with a great sense of life changing and moving forward. I liked it.

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In 2011, Rattigan’s centenary year, Jermyn Street Theatre gave us the world premiere of Less Than Kind, the first incarnation of this play. It had never produced in this version because Rattigan de-politicised it, at the request of its star actors. This final version hasn’t been staged in London since 1945, despite the revival of interest in the playwright, though it turns out Trevor Nunn is actually giving us a hybrid of the two versions, putting some of the political edge back. 

It’s set towards the end of the Second World War. Widow Olivia Brown is co-habiting with millionaire industrialist Sir John Fletcher, separated from his much younger wife Diana, on secondment to the government to help with the war effort. Olivia’s son Michael returns from evacuation in Canada. He’s almost eighteen, he’s developed left-wing views and he takes against her mother’s new man and their relationship. Think Hamlet, to which Sir John occasionally refers. Michael tries everything, including involving Sir John’s wife, for whom he falls, to break them up. In the end Olivia is forced to choose, and she chooses her son. They return to humble Baron’s Court, from opulent Westminster, where Olivia transforms from extrovert socialite to drab and unhappy, devoting her life to looking after her son. He’s kept his job in Sir John’s ministry and still holds a torch for Diana. It all comes good, but I won’t spoil it by saying how.

Nunn starts each scene with war newsreels projected onto the curtain in front of Stephen Brimston Lewis’ excellent set, as he did in Flare Path, but even more effective here because the curtain is 90 degrees and translucent.. The transformation from the first to second scene in Act II is entertaining in itself, as the actors busy themselves changing the set from a Westminster drawing room to a Baron’s Court bedsit, diverting our attention from the newsreel. It’s a very well structured play with radical themes (for the time) of co-habitation and the politics are fascinating as  they prophesy post-war challenges, but the big surprise is how funny it is. Eve Best has long been a favourite dramatic actress, but the revelation of her performance as Olivia is how good she is at the comedy. I haven’t seen that much of Anthony Head on stage, but here he’s very impressive indeed as Sir John. I only know Edward Bluemel from the same period’s The Halcyon on TV, in which he was very good, as he is here as pouty Michael, prone to tantrums. Helen George is a vision in pink and mink, and a delight as goodtime girl Diana.

A treat for Rattigan fans (and others) which gets a well deserved transfer ‘up West’ so you have no excuse not to catch it. 

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