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Posts Tagged ‘Kyle Soller’

At the end of this play I was convinced Partick Marber’s ‘version’ was substantially different to Ibsen’s original. Then I read the synopsis and discovered it wasn’t. It’s contemporary not just in setting and dress, but also in dialogue and behaviour. The only thing that jarred with the contemporary was the guns, but even that wouldn’t have in the US. The combination of Marber, director Ivo van Hove and the mesmerising Ruth Wilson proves irresistible.

The newly married Tesmans return from honeymoon to their new home, which does indeed look as if they’re in the process of moving in. It doesn’t take long before we realise it’s a loveless marriage (well, at least on Hedda’s part) and the contrast between the coldness of George & Hedda’s relationship and the warmth of the relationship between George and his aunt Juliana, who brought him up, is striking. Lovborg, George’s former colleague, now competitor, was once in love with Hedda and is now in a relationship with her school friend Thea. Brack, a judge, is in lust with Hedda. Despite the fact Lovborg has cleared the way for Tesman’s professorship, Hedda still spikes his career in loyalty to her husband, and his relationship with Thea, perhaps through jealousy. The knowledge that Brack has a hold on her propels the play to its tragic conclusion.

It feels slow at first but when it gets going it becomes broodingly intense and eventually feels like a contemporary Scandinavian thriller. The vast one-room set adds to this atmosphere and there is some striking imagery, not least the way the light changes from dawn to sunrise through the French windows and the physicality of Hedda stapling flowers to the walls and virtually attacking the blinds. There were things I didn’t really get, most notably the continual presence of maid Berte, even illogically acknowledging her presence; she wasn’t an actor sitting on the side-lines but she wasn’t a character all of the time. It’s hard to take your eyes off Ruth Wilson, even when action and interactions are elsewhere; she is such a spellbinding presence. That said, it’s a fantastic cast with Kyle Soller’s earnest but naïve George and a very maternal Juliana from Kate Duchene. Brack’s sexual chemistry with Hedda was brilliantly conveyed by Rafe Spall and Chukwudi Iwuji was passionate and intense as Lovborg.

Patrick Marber gets more than his fair share of the National stages, but it’s great to see them welcoming world class directors like van Hove and Yael Farber. If I had seen it in 2016, this would have been one of my candidates for Best Revival of a Play, a completely fresh look at a playwright who is often produced like a museum piece.

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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.

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This is the second show I’ve caught up with late in its run and what a pleasure it is to see serious work of this quality in the commercial sector. This autobiographical play is probably Eugene O’Neill’s most depressing, featuring the dysfunctional Tyrone family, drugs and an awful lot of alcohol; not the most obvious way to spend a hot and sunny July evening!

James Tyrone is a Shakespearian actor who’s got caught up in more populist but profitable work. His wife is a drug addict and his youngest son is seriously ill. His eldest son has followed him into the profession but spends more time in bars and brothels. It’s extraordinary that this could be staged in the mid-1050’s! O’Neill wrote it 15 years earlier and died leaving instructions that it shouldn’t be published for 25 years after his death and was never to be staged. Neither wish were respected. The play has been cut for this production, though you can’t really see the joins and it doesn’t feel as if it has lost anything as a result. It’s as powerful a family drama and you’ll ever see.

The action takes place in one location, a summer home beautifully designed by Lez Brotherston, on the same August day in 1912 – after breakfast, before & after lunch and late at night. It becomes more tragic and intense as the day progresses. The strength of Anthony Page’s impeccable production lies in four well matched and stunning performances. David Suchet switches between benevolent autocrat and bully with total believability. Laurie Metcalf breaks your heart as the mother lost to addiction. Kyle Soller adds to his recent outstanding performances in The Faith Machine, The Government Inspector and The Glass Menagerie to make it a quartet of beautifully realised characterisations. Trevor White’s sparring with his dad was as real as his protection of his little brother was moving.

This is classy but risky stuff for the West End, so nine gold stars to the nine producers it took to bring it to us!

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This is one of those thought-provoking stimulating ‘state of the world’ plays that are right up my street! It’s more about morality & ethics than faith in a religious sense, with two central issues explored through the lives of Tom, Sophie and her dad – abandoning your principles for success and the Anglican church attitude to homosexuality.

In three acts each of two scenes, Alexi Kaye Campbell’s play spans 13 years but doesn’t do so chronologically. We move between Tom’s first meeting with Sophie’s dad to a later visit when he’s ill, their break-up, their reunion at a friend’s civil partnership, another reunion when they’ve parted from their respective new partners and a final scene which I won’t spoil but provides the last jigsaw piece for you to complete the picture. It is both the story of people’s lives and an examination of issues of our time. It occasionally feels contrived, most notably when you realise Sophie’s ultimatum was rather belated, but it’s very good writing and stimilating debate that I’m still thinking about more than 12 hours later.

Kyle Soller has already impressed at the Young Vic in both The Glass Menagerie and The Government Inspector, and he impresses again here as a gangly, highly strung and clumsy bundle of energy. Hayley Atwell plays Sophie as a much cooler worldly wise moralist. My only criticism is that neither really age the 13 years on stage that they do on the page. Ian McDiarmid has a tough task to pull off the father / bishop struggling with his beliefs and his health, but he does so very well. In a uniformly fine cast, Bronagh Gallagher is terrific as the Ukrainian housekeeper / ex-prostitute who provides most of the play’s many funny moments and Jude Akuwudike as both a Kenyan bishop and a gay Nigerian Brit (with some playfulness about the double-up along the way). Jamie Lloyd’s fine direction gives the play great pace, though I’m not convinced two intervals were necessary.

Though it’s a stimulating debate, it’s also a fine personal story as well as being hugely entertaining. The Royal Court continues to lead the way with contemporary drama that reflects what’s happening in the world and this one complements others like The Heretic, Tribes, Posh, Clybourne Park, Enron and Jerusalem. I loved it.

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Ubercreative director Richard Jones’ latest makeover is Gogol’s 19th century farcical satire on Russian corruption, where an entire town ingratiates itself with what it believes to be a government inspector.

David Harrower’s version certainly makes it fresh, with some great dialogue which doesn’t jar at all with the setting and period. Miriam Buether has re-configured the Young Vic again with a wider than wide and deeper than deep stage, though I’m not sure why they have to go to the expense of building false walls at the sides of the auditorium. It’s size and shape does, though, add to the surreal quality of the proceedings, as do Nicky Gillibrand’s extraordinary costumes. Amongst the many clever coups, we have running rats, helium balloons seemingly turning up from nowhere and walking through walls. I could have done without the turd, though.

When it’s motoring, it’s great, but it sometimes lags – particularly in the first half – and some of the monologues outlive their welcome; this makes the pacing uneven and detracts from the undoubted success of the adaptation and staging. Julian Barrett is fine as the mayor, though he seems a little unsure of himself at times, which isn’t entirely in keeping with the character. Doon Mackichan is excellent as the mayor’s wife, helped by a series of panto dame costumes and French pretensions. Amanda Lawrence gives us another spectacular cameo as the postmaster, complete with false moustache and belly! It’s Kyle Soller’s tour de force as Khlestakov that steals the show, though, developing from a man who got lucky to an exploitive, manipulative monster.

If they tightened up the first half, this would be a cracker; though there’s much to admire and enjoy as it is and the Young Vic continues its role as an indispensable populist theatre.

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Laden with superlative reviews, I suppose it was going to be difficult to live up to them – and so it proved. Perhaps I was a little over-excited. Tennessee Williams is one of my top ten playwrights. Director Joe Hill-Gibbins is new to be but I was bowled over by his Beauty Queen of Leenane earlier in the year in the same theatre. Deborah Findlay is a favourite actress who we don’t get to see anywhere near often enough.

There was a little too much of deconstructionist Katie Mitchell’s influence in the staging, like musicians and ‘backstage’ on view throughout, which I’m not convinced suits an intense drama where it seems to me realism is crucial. As much as I Love Deborah Findlay, I felt she was OTT, turning Amanda into too much of a comic creation. The concept, and Jeremy Herbert’s design, distanced the audience from the play and the characters where I feel you need to be on top of it – maybe I just can’t get the Donmar’s terrific staging out of my head.

The only scene which gripped fully was the ‘courting’ of Laura (a little over-acted by Sinead Matthews) & Jim (an excellent Kyle Soller), where a back curtain brought the scene nearer to the audience and blocked out the backstage distractions. Otherwise, the acting honours mostly belonged to Leo Bill, who brought the sort of light and shade TW needs – passion where the role needs passion, diffidence where necessary etc. The music / soundscape was very atmospheric but I think would have been more so had it not been given such visual prominence.

There was much to enjoy, but it wasn’t the exciting re-invention I was led to expect. I didn’t read the reviews, but caught the stars in passing – maybe I should avoid this in future lest it makes me expect too much (or too little!).

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