Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘John Heffernan’

Another half-baked new play on the high profile Olivier stage. Following hot on the heels of Common, Rory Mullarkey’s good idea doesn’t really work in its present form. This brings into question the NT’s QC process again. Were Rufus Norris, his deputy Ben Power and head of New Work Emily McLaughlin all on holiday at the same time?

It’s an allegory of the history of England which uses its patron saint St. George to take us to three periods. First he arrives in mediaeval times where the dragon ruler is about to sacrifice sweet Elsa on his feast day. He overcomes him and liberates the people. In the industrial revolution, the evil dragon capitalist is in control and George frees them again, this time by helping them to take control of their own destiny. Finally, in modern times, the dragon is within us all and liberation seemingly impossible. Here, the English football team is used as a metaphor – again, a good idea. The same characters appear in each scene, behaving as if only a short time has elapsed between them.

It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t engage, it doesn’t bite, it’s rarely funny and its too long, so you find your mind wandering, thinking about the next meal or drink or what you could be doing with your time and money. Rae Smith’s design is excellent; in fact, there’s not much wrong with Lyndsey Turner’s staging. I felt sorry for John Heffernan, a favourite actor of mine, doing his best, imprisoned in this misguided piece. In a pretty empty theatre (so rare at the NT, particularly in the very accessibly priced Travelex Season), with a fair few not returning after the interval, it just fell flat I’m afraid.

I would have thought that, during the commissioning and development process, you could see that it wasn’t ready for twenty-one actors, six musicians and the technical resources of one of the country’s biggest stages. I’m ready and willing to accept the odd mistake, but too many on such a high profile stage……

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This is one of the best Macbeth’s I’ve ever seen. It comes in at less than two hours, it integrates dance like I’ve never seen before and the fusion of stage design, costume, lighting and music / sound is seamless. The Young Vic follows it’s radically brilliant Measure for Measure with a radically brilliant Macbeth.

Lizzie Clachan has created an infinity effect tunnel which reduces in size as it recedes. There are multiple entrances at the side and a slice that moves horizontally to brilliant effect. Neil Austin’s lighting creates atmospheric shadows all over the place and there’s all-pervading sinister music and a soundscape by Clark & David McSeveney. Merle Hensel’s costumes continue the black theme with a timeless military feel. The visual imagery is stunning.

There are obviously cuts, but it hasn’t damaged the narrative and it has given it great pace and energy. It’s very film noir, tense and exciting. The witches are an almost continual presence, moving to Lucy Guerin’s edgy choreography. The battle scenes have never been better. There’s something very organic about Carrie Cracknell’s inventive and rather original staging. 

John Heffernan has become a firm favourite of mine and he doesn’t disappoint; I thought it was a fascinating, introspective interpretation with a lot of psychological depth. There are only eleven others in this cast, a lot of whom are first and foremost dancers, and its a great ensemble.

The Young Vic does it again.

Read Full Post »

Well, what a good play this is. Tim Morton-Smith has written a really meaty piece about the team that invented the bomb, and in particular it’s leader Robert Oppenheimer. It covers so much factual and ethical ground with great objectivity in an epic sweep and holds you in its grip for three hours. It makes most new plays seem flimsy and superficial.

It starts in academia where the scientists who are soon to assemble in Los Alamos, New Mexico, are surprisingly left wing, some members of the communist party. They are fundraising for Spain’s fight against fascism just before they commence a project with the objective of ending fascism in dramatic fashion. We follow the project and its key players and their relationships, so its as much a personal story as it is an historical one. During the project, the secret service is everywhere, concerned about leaks to allies as well as enemies. The pressure they are under is intense. As they reach their goal, an ethical debate is introduced – will this bomb end all wars, as it is meant to do, or will it be yet another, infinitely more lethal armament of war. It continues after its first use, exploring the consequences of this, and the affect on the scientists and the public’s attitude to them.

Angus Jackson’s staging zips along, making full use of the Swan space and a 20-strong cast; strong being the appropriate word. There’s a real period feel, with terrific costumes by Robert Innes Hopkins and brilliant music from Grant Olding, some danced to Scott Ambler’s dreamy 40’s style choreography. The cast doesn’t have a fault in it and it’s led by a towering performance by John Heffernan who’s shoulders seem to sink as the responsibility weighs upon him. I’ve seen him do great things, but nothing greater. This, together with his recent performance as Edward II at the NT, place him at the forefront of actors of his generation.

Well worth the trip to Stratford, but surely it will visit London, badly in need of great new plays like this?

 

 

Read Full Post »

There is so much incongruity in this show, about events in the early 14th century, that at first I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it. The actors are miked and there are giant screens high up on both sides of the auditorium showing scene titles plus live footage of off-stage scenes, recorded scenes & some live ones. The costumes are an eclectic collection. Kyle Soller uses his natural American accent and women pay the roles of Pembroke & the young Prince Edward. The queen chain-smokes and swigs champagne from the bottle. There’s an onstage electric piano which at one point plays the hokey cokey. Yet there is an extraordinary tension from the outset which keeps you gripped throughout. I loved it.

Playwright Christopher Marlowe, a. contemporary of Shakespeare, was only 29 when he died, yet this is one of four of his plays still regularly produced more than 400 years on. He was more radical than Shakespeare – this play focuses on the king’s male lover and the effect it has on the court and nobility of England! The lover, Galveston, is twice exiled and eventually murdered and his replacements receive the same treatment. The establishment is having none of it and it ultimately leads to the king’s downfall. Homophobia in the 14th century written about in the 16th.

Director Joe Hill-Gibbins presents it as current events unfolding and it works brilliantly. He is lucky to have such a superb ensemble of 22 actors without a weak link. I’ve never seen Vanessa Kirby before and she’s hugely impressive here as the queen. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is wonderful as the power-crazed (young) Mortimer. Casting Bettrys Joes as the young prince makes so much sense when you see how she illuminates the role. From his dangerous first entrance, Kyle Soller is mesmerizing as Galveston and in an inspired move he’s also cast as Edward’s killer. Then there’s John Heffernan’s king, sometimes bursting with passion, sometimes restrained and resigned to the hopelessness of his plight. It’s great to see this terrific actor deliver such a stunning performance on what is arguably Britain’s most important but difficult stage.

This is Edward II out of the closet. Seeing the production made me wonder what Marlowe would have produced if he’d lived to Shakespeare’s age. The competition would have been thrilling and he may well have eclipsed the bard. This captivating production conclusively proves his talent and has to be seen.

Read Full Post »

With a cast including favourites Simon Russell Beale, John Simm, John Heffernan, Harry Melling and Clive Rowe, it didn’t take much to break my self-imposed Pinter ban, and indeed it lived up to expectations – it was the brilliant acting that made the evening worthwhile.

It seemed a very different play to the one I saw at the NT in 2007 – Jamie Lloyd’s production is 30 minutes shorter, more hysterical than chilling and could easily be retitled ‘When did you last see the patient?’ and billed as farce. Its point about state repression and torture is still made, still obtusely, though somewhat hidden by more laughs. I still think it’s pumped up and over-rated as a play.

Simon Russell Beale continues to show us his range with a masterclass in manic comedy as Roote. When he’s got the specs on, he’s a dead ringer for Ronnie Barker and yet again he acts with those big white eyes. Like Elling, John Simm’s channelling his inner nerd again as Gibbs and it’s delicious. John Heffernan’s very physical performance as Lush is simply superb. Harry Melling’s Lamb’s electrocution is masterly. Indira Varma is a delight as the predatory Miss Cutts.

Well worth the trip for such fine acting. Pity about the play.

Read Full Post »

Sometimes plays take so long to get to the point that they lose you along the way; you either walk physically or wander mentally. For me, with this play, it was the latter.

This early 60’s German piece tackles the ethics of science and in particular how scientific discoveries, like ‘the bomb’,  are often hijacked and misused when they leave the ‘laboratory’ and enter ‘society’. The trouble is, it’s well into the second half before this very interesting debate unfolds.

Until then, we are in an asylum with Mobius (who thinks King Solomon talks to him), Beulter (who thinks he’s Newton) and Ernesti (who thinks he’s Einstein). All three murder a nurse but instead of being charged, they continue their incarceration, with two former boxers as their new ‘nurses’.

We eventually learn that Mobius is ‘hiding’ himself and his discoveries, that ‘Newton’ and ‘Einstein’ are spies trying to get hold of them and that their psychiatrist Dr Mathilde von Zahnd is really an industrialist who know’s the truth and has stolen Mobius’ work – but all of that is crammed into the last quarter of the play.

What isn’t in doubt is the quality of the production, with a brilliant design by Robert Jones which itself provides a superb climax, and a set of terrific performances from John Heffernan, Justin Salinger and Paul Bhattacharjee as the ‘physicists’ and Sophie Thompson, unrecognisable and brilliant as their doctor.

Sadly though, it’s a fatally flawed play which lost me before it got round to engaging me.

Read Full Post »

I loved everything about this production – a thing of great joy and a triumphant NT debut for director Jamie Lloyd. It’s the equal of the recent London Assurance on the same stage and for a play that’s almost 250 years old, it’s as fresh as they come.

Oliver Goldsmith’s restoration comedy has always seemed less dated and funnier than its contemporaries, but this is unquestionably the best production I’ve seen. Mark Thompson’s design somehow makes the Olivier more intimate. Most of the time, we’re in the Hardcastle’s living room in front of a huge hearth with a welcoming fire. The scene changes are accompanied by delightful jolly choruses and dances and the one from living room to woods and back is a marvel that takes your breath away. The only thing that isn’t in period is modern gestures, but rather than being incongruous they somehow add to the freshness.

City boy Marlow, accompanied by his friend Hastings, is off to the country to meet his intended Kate Hardcastle. Kate’s step-brother Tony Lumpkin convinces them the Hardcastle home is an inn – cue inappropriate behaviour and an outraged Mr Hardcastle. The tongue-tied Marlow has a stumbling meeting with confident Kate where he can’t even look at her, thus enabling Kate to subsequently pose as a barmaid (she stoops to conquer) and see a very different Marlow.

Running in parallel we have the story of Mrs Hardcastle’s niece and her love of Hastings but betrothal to Lumpkin (Mrs Hardcastle’s son by her first marriage, who doesn’t really want marriage), complete with a mix up over a box of jewels. It’s a riot of confusion with city meets country and rich meet poor providing ample opportunity for satire. The humour is broad so the playing is broad, but it manages to stay the right side of OTT. Of course, it all ends happily with both couples united and parents content.

Harry Hadden-Paton is proving equally adept at drama and comedy and here he’s terrific as Marlow. This may be a career high for John Heffernan, equally terrific as Hastings. It’s hard for Katherine Kelly and Cush Jumbo to play against these comic master classes but they do so very well. I assume there is some sort of exchange programme that resulted in Ian McKellern in Coronation Street in exchange for Kelly in this?! Well, she’s been the best thing about Corrie for years (yes, I’m a fan!) and though it was sad to see her go it’s great to see her cutting it in restoration comedy one week later – and there’s something delicious about the former barmaid at the Rovers Return stooping to conquer as a barmaid! Steve Pemberton and Sophie Thompson are great as the Hardcastles, with the latter giving us another of her over-the-top-and-higher-still performances. I was also hugely impressed by David Fynn as Lumpkin.  The ensemble is faultlessly cast and impeccably drilled.

A delightful evening from beginning to end. Miss at your peril.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »