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Posts Tagged ‘Hattie Morahan’

If you’re interested in theatre, how can you resist an evening where the playwright presents his play to an actor, who has never seen it before, then stays around while the actor performs it, well actually participates in it? The actor changes nightly and I felt privileged to get Hattie Morahan – and Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpoor, of course. The trouble is, how can I possibly write about it…….

The play is fed rather than given to the actor, and its very playful. In just seventy minutes we learn about the playwright, his family and his homeland. We learn some Farsi; Hattie learns rather a lot of Farsi. We learn a bit about the actor. We learn something about ourselves. It’s a masterclass in communication and friendship. It’s funny and moving. It’s clever and surprising. It’s hi-tech and lo-tech. Above all it’s a captivating, heart-warming evening you could only ever have in the theatre.

I can say no more except urge you to catch it if you can.

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I’ve not seen an Alice Birch play before, but I have seen a lot of Katie Mitchell’s productions, which is why I didn’t book for this until after the reviews and after an invitation from friends; in short, I’ve grown to dislike her directorial dominance. However, I very much admired her work here, though it is challenging and bleak – we were given Samaritans contact details on the way out!

There are three scenes running in parallel throughout the play, the first in the seventies / eighties, the second c.25 years after and the third c.35 years later again, in the future. The years appear above every scene, but it is like a jigsaw, and it takes a while to work out that we’re with three generations of women. Carol, her daughter Anna, whose mother committed suicide in her teens and who herself commits suicide soon after giving birth to Bonnie, who is trying to avoid the same happening to her. It hints that this may be genetic, or that a mother’s suicide damages the child, however young, and later that even the house in which they all lived may play a part.

The overlapping dialogue is challenging, particularly at first. The scene changes, where other actors change the three protagonists’ clothes, are initially riveting but do become repetitive. The biggest problem though is the two-hour length – in my view, it would have been a better play if they had cut 20-30 minutes, and there are scenes, like an altercation between A&E doctor Bonnie and a patient’s relative, that seem unnecessary. Hattie Morahan as Carol and Adelle Leonce as Bonnie are terrific, but I felt Kate O’Flynn as Anna over-acted, particularly during her troubled late teens, as she did in The Glass Menagerie in the West End earlier in the year.

An intelligent and cleverly structured play that I admired rather than enjoyed, but glad I saw.

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The first word that popped into my head at the close of this play was ‘beautiful’. It was beautiful to look at with its simple evocation of the British countryside. It was beautifully written, closing somewhat appropriately with one of its subject’s poems. The performances were beautifully judged characterisations of real people. It also mentions beautiful Tooting!

Nick Dear’s play tells the story of the relationship between British poet Edward Thomas and American poet Robert Frost. Frost comes to Britain for just three years from 1912 to 1915. He makes his name here and returns to the US more famous that when he left. Thomas reviews Frost and they become friends, enjoying long conversational walks in the countryside. Frost encourages Thomas to write poetry, is in awe of his original prose style and champions him both here and back in the US. Their friendship had a depth and intensity that is extraordinary given they only spent time with one another for two years.

Thomas has a strange relationship with his brittle and passionate wife Helen. When he’s with Frost, he treats her with disdain. She is resentful of his bond with Frost and suspicious of his close relationship with family friend Eleanor Farjeon, who seems obsessed with both Thomas and Frost. Yet they are clearly in love. His relationship with his conventional Welsh father is strained when he quits the Civil Service but repaired when he enlists as an army officer. Less than two years after he enlists and Frost has returned to the US he is killed in action. His real success as a poet under his own name is posthumous.

The play is not chronological, including flash forwards the forties and fifties when Frost returns to the UK. These are fascinating people living at a fascinating time, which Dear has captured perfectly. The depth of characterisation is extraordinary and he doesn’t waste a moment. Richard Eyre’s direction is faultless and Bob Crowley’s design is just a stage of earth with opaque projections and lighting on the brick wall behind. It’s simple but its beautiful. It has been very rewarding to watch the development of both Hattie Morahan and Pip Carter in recent years and here they give perfectly judged performances as Edward and Helen. Shaun Dooley has great presence as Frost and Pandora Colin is a delight as Eleanor.

I loved everything about this play and it really doesn’t matter if you know nothing about these people or indeed poetry; the play stands alone as a captivating biographical drama. Unmissable.

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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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