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Posts Tagged ‘Joanna Vanderham’

Based on the two Rupert Goold Shakespeare productions I’ve seen – the exciting Stalinist Macbeth and the brilliant Las Vegas Merchant of Venice – I was expecting something a lot more radical. This is a relatively conventional take on Richard III, which is no bad thing, but it surprised me by being so.

There’s a superb contemporary preface, which I won’t spoil, references to which recur throughout. This tells you at the outset that this is history not fiction (though no doubt fictionalised history). Though it’s not that radical, it’s in modern dress, virtually the whole think in black, with comparatively low lighting levels. This contributes to its sinister atmosphere, but also made the long 100 minute first half a bit dull. After the interval, though, the production (like the play) ratchets up several notches and it’s a thrilling second half ride, with an excellent coronation scene, an emotional confrontation between Richard & Elizabeth over his proposal to marry her daughter and a well staged final battle scene. I liked the way they marked the deaths, but I thought they went too far with a violent assault in Richard’s scene with Elizabeth.

It’s superbly well cast, particularly the female roles. Joanna Vanderham is a brilliantly passionate and angry Anne, Aislin McGuckin is exceptional as Elizabeth and Susan Engel is outstanding as Richard’s mother. I’m not sure why Vanessa Redgrave is wearing a camouflage boiler suit and carrying a doll, but her performance is less stagey than her norm. Amongst the men, I was particularly impressed by Tom Canton as Richmond. Once you get over the fact he appears to be channelling Rising Damp’s Rigsby, Ralph Fiennes is a very good Richard, though he doesn’t reach the highs of my all-time favourites – Anthony Sher’s spider and Ian McKellen’s 20th century dictator.

Perhaps not a milestone Richard III, but definitely one to catch if you can.

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When Tooting Arts Club found this temporary space and used it back in October for Barbarians, it seemed so right. The material connected with the space, they used three separate parts of the building for the three short plays and the staging made great use of the space and its unique atmosphere. My first thought on this is why is it here? Does it gain anything by being here? Perhaps some intimacy, but it would have worked better in similarly priced Off-West End venues like The Donmar, Almeida, Dorfman & Hampstead. The intimacy too comes at the expense of poor sight lines (particularly on the un-raked second row and at the far sides – you have been warned) and traffic noise directly outside.

This is only the third Richard Greenberg play to be produced in London (out of 24 original works). I liked the other two but I didn’t really like this. I find it hard to like a play all of whose characters I don’t like. It’s the beginning of the 20th century in New York. Langley Collyer is a concert pianist. His brother Homer has given up his job as an Admiralty Lawyer to be his bother’s keeper. Milly enters their lives and plays psychological games with Homer, whose brother is oblivious because of his low emotional intelligence. Milly is a socialite and heiress and the possessive Homer sanctions her marriage to Langley as it will help solve their financial problems. The first act ends as they are about to marry.

When we return we discover they didn’t marry. Milly subsequently got pregnant, had a termination, her family disown and disinherit her and she falls on hard times. Langley stops playing and both brothers descend from eccentricity to madness. Homer invites Milly to stay with hints he may marry her. All three decline dramatically and it becomes deeply tragic.

The performances of Andrew Scott, David Dawson and Joanna Vanderham are all outstanding, but I still didn’t like this bleak and desolate play based on real life characters, and I didn’t feel it belonged here, as Barbarians did.

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