Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Scotcher’

There are a handful of directors whose work I so admire that I book for anything they do / bring to London, and Yael Farber is one of them. I’ve been lucky enough to see seven productions in the last eight years, from Mies Julie to this – Strindberg, Miller, Lorca, Wilde, David Harrower and the extraordinary Les Blancs by Lorraine Hansberry, but not Shakespeare, until now. Like other visionary directors such as Robert Lepage and the late Yukio Ninagawa, she has illuminated Shakespeare whilst still faithfully serving the bard in a brilliant production with a towering performance by James McCardle as Macbeth.

It’s a relatively simple design by Soutra Gilmour & Joanna Scotcher that seems both timeless and modern, very dark in tones, in keeping with the tragedy. Tim Lutkins’s lighting is superbly atmospheric and there’s an equally atmospheric, haunting, largely musical, soundscape by Peter Rice & Tom Lane with live onstage cello from Aoife Burke. It’s a very visceral production, with extraordinarily realistic fights (Kate Waters) and gory murders, and it has real psychological depth, showing how obsession with power can turn into regret and violence to remorse. Water flooding the stage creates dramatic images and reflections, but also heightens the tension. The ‘wyrd’ sisters are more like a prophetic Greek chorus, here absolutely key to the unravelling of the story. It occasionally cries out for a bigger stage, but its one of the best Macbeth’s I’ve ever seen.

Farber gets such fantastic performances from all of her cast that it seems invidious to single people out. Saoirse Ronan’s UK stage debut, and only her second stage appearance, is very impressive, showing Lady Macbeth to be the force which propels her husband’s determination for power but hugely regretful by the time the Macduff’s are despatched, with pulsating chemistry with McArdle. Like fellow Glaswegian James McAvoy just eight years ago, he seems born to play Macbeth. He throws himself around the stage, every emotion on display, as he descends into power crazed madness. A career defining performance if ever I saw one.

A thrilling evening, a highlight amongst many fine evenings at the Almeida, a triumph for all involved.

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This play with music about City traders has a cabaret bar setting. The trading firm is big and successful with a client list to die for. Astrid is one of their top traders. She’s forced to take client’s son Harrison but choses to take Priya, a hungry young British girl of Bangladeshi heritage. She pays a (female) prostitute to talk to her, but this becomes much more. 

The boys in the office are merciless with their banter and pranks, but things go too far at a lap dancing club where they consume way too much alcohol and cocaine and they set up Harrison and Priya. Back at work the firm’s top man Arthur has to resolve things. Priya decides to try and use the situation to her advantage, which won’t be good for Astrid, but it’s a boys world so can a girl really win?

There are songs and there’s dancing and playwright Melissa Bubnic doesn’t exactly hold back on the graphic descriptions and language. It wouldn’t win any awards for subtlety, but neither would the world of greed and excess it exposes and satirises. All of the roles, including the men, are played by women. I thought it was a clever idea and Amy Hodge’s production is audacious and they just about pull it off, though two unbroken hours in a stuffy space with uncomfortable seats made it challenging.

The play revolves around Astrid and Kirsty Bushell is outstanding in this role, with a rather good voice and cheeky audience engagement. Ellora Torchia brilliantly conveys the youthful ambition and ruthlessness of Priya, determined to succeed against the cultural and sexual odds. Helen Schlesinger is superb as big boss Arthur, the most masculine of the women in male roles. Chipo Chung and Emily Barber complete an excellent ensemble and Jennifer Whyte accompanies with brio on grand piano. Joanna Scotcher has ingeniously transformed Bush Hall.

Brash, bold and inventive. Much better than some of the reviews would have you believe.

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Though I knew what this play was about I wasn’t expecting to be so moved or so horrified by it. 

Both Muna and Iqra are fifteen and come from Somalia, but that’s just about where their similarities end. Muna came here when she was three and she’s now like any other fifteen year old in the UK – western clothes, obsessed with her phone and Rhianna. Iqra came here when she was ten, dresses traditionally, not really mixing with other fifteen year olds. They take the same bus to school, but Muna is upstairs and Iqra downstairs. One day Muna befriends Iqra and confides in her. This is at first reciprocated, but things take a turn when Muna pays an unexpected and unwelcome visit to Iqra’s home.

Iqra accepts her traditions but Muba is horrified by them. She was cut herself and now fears for her younger sister, who is approaching the same age when it happened to her. The two worlds collide as their lives become entwined and the extent of Iqra’s acceptance of tradition is revealed. As they get to know each other it’s a gentle and funny play, but when it confronts FGM it grabs you by the throat and punches you in the stomach, with an extraordinarily moving design coup (Joanna Scotcher) towards the end. The performances of both Adelayo Adedayo and Tsion Habte (an auspicious professional debut) are stunning and deeply moving.

In just 70 minutes, Charlene James’ excellent play confronts this barbaric and entirely unnecessary practice and must be seen, both for understanding the issue and the quality of its writing, staging by Gbolahan Obisesan and performances.

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The first of two Antigone’s in 12 days, and less than three years since the last one. Greek tragedy’s were made to last. I don’t know what Ivo van Hove and Juliette Binoche have in store, but this 2500-year-old play really suits playwright Roy Williams’ contemporary gangland setting. Gangs have military precision, familial loyalty, an obsessive aversion to disrespect and a commitment to revenge. With a little bit more tinkering, you could make it feel like a completely contemporary play.

Creo is the boss, the king of gangland Thebes. At the end of the war he instructs his soldiers to bury one of Tig’s brothers with honour and the leave the other unburied.  Tig is the girlfriend of Creo’s son Eamon. She defies him by covering her brother’s body and his revenge is to command that she be buried alive, but in a Romeo & Juliet twist Tig and Eamon take matters into their own hands. Veteran tramp Tyrese brings messages and warnings from god, but it might be too late for Creo.

Designer Joanna Scotcher has created an urban space under the highway with unfinished concrete pillars and wire gates and Sandy Nuttgens adds a brooding soundscape. Mark Monero has great presence and charisma as Creo (hard to believe he’s now old enough to play the father of an adult, but he is!) and Doreene Blackstock is great as his determined and ultimately defiant wife Eunice. Savannah Gordon-Liburd and Gamba Cole are both excellent as the star-crossed lovers. I didn’t realise Oliver Wilson, playing a soldier, was also Tyrese until I read the programme – a master of disguise indeed!

This is an excellent updating of an age old tale by one of our best playwrights which Stratford’s loyal local audience lapped up, as I did. Comparisons to follow in 12 days time…..

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