Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Keir Charles’

This is the third new play by the prolific James Graham in four months, the other two (Ink & Labour of Love) still running in the West End, perhaps soon to become a trio with this. He’s cornered the market with recent history plays and what I love most about his work is that he recalls history you’ve lived through, illuminates and educates, but never forgets to entertain.

This has stylistic similarities with his underrated Monster Raving Loony, where he used British comedy shows to tell the story of that indispensable political party led by Screaming Lord Sutch. Here, the focus is on the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire cheating scandal through the history of quiz shows, with examinations of the psychology of, and motivation for, participation and that very British obsession with fairness and equality along the way. It’s got the same playfulness (an audience quiz, with prizes, voting and even participation) and sense of fun, enhancing the storytelling and guaranteeing the entertainment.

We move from the creation of ITV, it’s earlier game shows and the pitch for this one to the entry and preparation by a network of very determined and thorough individuals to the show itself and the court case which followed, which itself became a bit of an entertainment in a life-imitates-art sort of way. It was fascinating on so many levels and always entertaining. Robert Jones’ terrific set takes you right into the TV studio, but also becomes the court and other locations. Lights, music, live projection and recorded video all add to the authenticity.

Gavin Spokes and Stephanie Street are excellent as the Ingram’s, the couple at the centre of the storm that became an (untelevised) courtroom drama and international media circus. Nine other actors play over forty roles between them, from three to seven each. Keir Charles gets to be Chris Tarrant, Des O’Connor, Jim Bowen, Leslie Crowther and Bruce Forsyth in quick succession; five terrific turns! We even get a Corrie cameo to illustrate a question, with Sarah Woodward and Nadia Albina bringing the house down as Hilda Ogden & Elsie Tanner respectively. The audience voted on their guilt twice and the verdict changed from one to the other, as it had in the vast majority of previous shows (but not me!)

Daniel Evans’ production zips along, captivates and entertains, but you also get an intriguing story within a frame of recent social history, this time popular culture. The return trip to Chichester was twice as long as the play, but it was well worth it.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m fond of a bit of Marivaux, though there’s been a bit of a famine of late. This early 18th century French playwright wasn’t as highly regarded as the more earnest Racine or the more grandly comedic Moliere in his day, but contemporary British audiences have rather taken to his perfectly formed minimalist romantic comedies, and there were some 37 of them over 50 years (I’ve only seen four!). This one was last seen (I think) at the NT 24 years ago, titled The Game of Love & Chance, a translation by Neil Bartlett, who was partly responsible for rekindling interest in Marivaux. This is a translation by the late John Fowles, set in Jane Austen’s Regency England, workshopped by the NT nine years before that, but not staged until now.

It’s a simple but intricate plot. The father’s of Sylvia and Richard have arranged for them to meet in the hope they will become a match, but it’s not an arranged marriage. With her father’s agreement, Sylvia decides to swap roles with her maid Louisa so that she can observe Richard’s character, but unbeknown to her, Richard has decided to do the same with his manservant Brass. Sylvia’s father knows of Richard’s plan as his dad wrote and informed him, and her brother Martin is now in the know too. It unfolds like a dance of love over ninety minutes until we have not one, but two, happy couples. It’s got bags of charm and there isn’t a wasted moment.

Paul Miller’s in the round production has great pace, with no props to slow down scene changes. Simon Daw’s simple but elegant design comprises a lamp and flower ceiling feature, an illuminated floor and sky painted canvases on each side. All six performances are excellent, with Ashley Zhangazha & Dorothea Myer-Bennett as Richard and Sylvia and Claire Lams & Keir Charles as Louisa and Brass. It never outstays its welcome and you leave the theatre with a warm glow.

Lovely to see Marivaux again. Lets hope it starts another reawakening of interest.

Read Full Post »

Playwrights normally choose their own subjects, but on this occasion Jack Thorne was asked by new writing theatre company DryWrite to produce something that explored privacy and intimacy, with a man and a woman, set in their shared domestic bathroom. Well, you can’t say he didn’t deliver!

Mydidae is apparently a family of large flower-loving flies. I only scraped a biology ‘O’ level (remember those?), so I had to go to Wikipedia to find that out. I’m still not sure why it’s called that, but perhaps it’s a reference to the audience. You really do feel like a fly on the wall as you sit in the tiny Trafalgar Studio Two space looking into an uber-realistic bathroom without walls, watching David & Marian clean their teeth, shave, pee and bath!

It all starts out very RomCom and not at all uncomfortable to watch. They appear to be a perfectly normal happy couple doing normal everyday things, both together and alone. In addition to the aforementioned acts you expect in a bathroom, they scratch in places and in a way people normally scratch and make customary overuse of the mirror. David talks to a work colleague on the phone about that day’s sales pitch and Marian calls her mum and plans a visit. Yet you know there has been some tragedy in their recent past and there’s an undercurrent of walking on eggshells.

The play takes an extraordinary turn when they take a bath together, and this was the point where, for me, realism turned into implausibility. I didn’t really buy the motivation behind the shocking turn of events and in particular the reaction to them, so as they lost the plot, so did I. The concept is original and the writing is good. Vicky Jones’ staging and Amy Jane Cook’s design are both highly effective. Keir Charles and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are exceptional and their relationship seems ever so real.

Though I’m glad I saw it, my failure to believe in the turn of events ultimately undermined my satisfaction with the play. Great that it’s getting a showcase in the West End, though, and at accessible prices too.

Read Full Post »