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Posts Tagged ‘Kieran Bew’

It seems to me the chief reason why Michael Attenborough’s King Lear is so successful is that he hasn’t messed with it! No overwhelming concept, no directorial conceit, no gimmicks. A play as good as Lear needs none of these – just good staging, fine performances and excellent verse speaking and this Almeida production has all three.

The theatre has acquired an additional curved back wall, identical except for several entrances. A handful of props and atmospheric lighting do the rest. Simple. This gives the play great pace, unencumbered by scene changes. The tale of two dysfunctional families, ungrateful daughters and feuding sons, grips from the start and never lets you go. The verse is beautifully spoken and you seem to be hearing words and phrases you never heard before.

In a uniformly fine cast, it’s great to see one of my favourite actresses, Jenny Jules, in a classical role as Regan. Clive Wood continues his career renaissance with a superb Gloucester, the newer / younger Kieran Bew delivers another impressive performance as Edmund and my favourite Geordie, Trevor Fox, is great as The Fool. Towering over them all is a magnificent Lear from Jonathan Pryce. I’ve seen some fine Lear’s in my time – Robert Stephens, Anthony Hopkins, Brain Cox, Ian Holm, Ian McKellern, Derek Jacobi, Nigel Hawthorne, Pete Postlethwaite – and this interpretation is as good as any of them. I usually find it hard to believe he turns on Cordelia, but here I didn’t. His madness was more subtle and more authentic. For once, his journey seemed completely plausible.

I think this is Michael Attenborough’s second Shakespeare at the Almeida. The other, Measure for Measure, was also a fine production. This space suits simple interpretations of the bard, so more please!

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Well, persisting with playwright Neil LaBute has paid off at last. I’ve seen a handful of his plays before now, but never really found them particularly satisfying; too cynical for my taste. Until now, the worst of them was Mercy Seat and the best The Shape of Things & Fat Pig and this play continues his reflections on our obsession with appearance that the latter two started, but for me it’s on another level altogether….and how refreshing to have a play with ‘blue collar’ characters and a warehouse setting!

The play starts with a brilliantly staged row over something Greg is alleged to have said about his partner Steph, relayed by her friend Carly. Carly is pregnant (a late change to accommodate Billie Piper’s actual pregnancy!) by Greg’s work colleague and friend Kent. The subsequent unfolding of these relationships is absolutely fascinating and completely captivating. There is extraordinary depth to the characterisation, an authenticity to the story and brilliantly realistic dialogue. I haven’t felt so involved in a story for some time.

I’m often in awe of an actor’s talent and here I’m in awe of all four of them. You really feel for Tom Burke’s Greg, caught up in his girlfriend’s insecurities and his friend’s infidelities. Bille Piper is terrific as Carly, starting as the source of Greg & Steph’s conflict and ending as a victim. Kieran Bew has the difficult task of playing the deeply unsympathetic Kent, so the fact you want to get on stage and punch him is a tribute to how well he does. Steph’s emotional rollercoaster is beautifully played by Sian Brooke.

Soutra Gilmour’s settings in and around a container convey the workplace at the heart of the play but allow scenes to move to three other locations speedily, with the scene changes themselves very watchable. Michael Attenborough’s fine attention to detail serves the play very well in a sensitive production without a wasted moment.

So the Almeida ends 2011 as it began it – with a fine new play that will join Becky Shaw in the list of the very best new plays of the year. A veritable sky full of gold stars.

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