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Posts Tagged ‘Gabrielle Lloyd’

The 70’s were my 20’s and my first decade at work. Looking at the Trafalgar Studio One stage, designed by Soutra Gilmour, before the play started was a deeply nostalgic experience. Electronic typewriters, telex machines and those phones that seemed to be around for decades. By the time the the play starts, though, you can’t take your eyes off the characters crowded in the office for the duration. Many have questioned the setting, modern dictator references and the coup d’at that follows the civil war, but I thought it was all deeply intelligent and made for a riveting experience.

Richard’s relentless removal of everyone in his way en route to the top job would be entirely plausible in a 20th century dictatorship. The hunger for power fuels the manipulation, the lies and the killing without conscience, though rarely at his own hand. The claustrophobic setting adds something to the intensity of the drama. We’ve seen men like this Richard in our lifetime, which makes it very easy to relate to him and even easier to be repelled by him. As the play progresses, and the carnage is scaled up, the pace seems to increase and the blood begins to flow before your eyes.

Martin Freeman may appear a restrained Richard, at least at first, but this seemed to me to be in keeping with the concept – modern dictators all seem cool on the outside. It’s the small things – a chilling laugh, a raised eyebrow, a malicious grin; all often direct to the audience – which make you believe he’ll do absolutely anything to reach his goal. His second half entrance in bright red uniform is completely unsurprising; he’s got it and he’s going to make sure you know it. I thought it was an excellent performance; the closest I remember is Ian McKellern’s more Hitleresque one – this is more generic 20th century dictator.

He’s surrounded by a superb supporting cast. Macbeth’s excellent Banquo, Forbes Masson, channels Ernie Wise as a superbly oily Hastings. Simon Coombs has an entirely original take on loyal henchman Tyrrel. Jo Stone-Fewings is one of the best Buckingham’s I’ve ever seen and Gerald Kyd seemed to make much more of the role of Catesby. Mark Meadows inhabits both Clarence and the Lord Mayor, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t realise it was the same actor, and you completely believe Paul Leonard feigned loyalty as Stanley. The casting of the women is particularly strong, with the wonderful Maggie Steed a haunting presence almost throughout, Gabrielle Lloyd’s very regal Duchess of York, Gina McKee motherly Queen Elizabeth and Lauren O’Neil is the best stranglee ever!

Much has also been said about the audiences, but mine was amongst the most attentive and quietest I’ve ever experienced. I don’t care what anybody else thinks, I related to this Jamie Lloyd staging of Richard III more than any other and for that reason, it’s a great one – and a superb start to the very welcome return of Trafalgar Transformed.

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These two short Alan Bennett ‘plays’ have been sceduled to run for a limited number of performances concurrent with his new play People on the NT’s Lyttleton stage.  Seen separately, I don’t think either would have made for a particularly satisfying evening, but together they do add up to an entertaining, funny slice of biography.

Hymn tells the story of Bennett’s relationship with music in his early years, when his dad played violin and he attended his first concerts. It’s a slight piece, but as a monologue accompanied by a string quartet it’s rather charming and Alex Jennings impersonation of Bennett is as delightful as it is uncanny.

Cocktail Sticks belongs firmly in Talking Heads territory, though it isn’t quite a monologue as other (real life) characters step forward briefly (which for the stage, and following Hymn, was a good thing). Mam looms large (beautifully played by Gabrielle Lloyd, though without the programme I’d have been convinced it was Marcia Warren) and Dad comes back from the dead to add a droll line or two. Alex Jennings is again terrific as Bennett. This one has more depth than it first seems and you do feel as if you’ve peeped into Bennett’s life, albeit briefly.

Clearly not major Bennett, but to be honest I think I enjoyed them more than People.

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