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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Norris’

It’s sixteen years since this Joe Penhall play, probably his most successful (if we don’t count the Kinks musical Sunny Afternoon), premiered at the National Theatre and went on to win awards and transfer to the West End. It starred Bill Nighy, Andrew Lincoln and a young Chiwetel Ejiofor. I must have enjoyed it as I went twice.

We begin at a meeting between trainee psychiatrist Bruce and his patient, afro-caribbean Christopher, the day before his scheduled discharge from hospital. Bruce clearly believes Chris isn’t ready, but Chris is desperate to go home. They are joined by senior consultant Robert, Bruce’s boss, who is very much for discharge, though maybe for reasons of expediency (to free up a bed). 

Bruce and Robert disagree on the diagnosis, somewhere between borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia, and argue, sometimes in front of their patient. We learn Bruce has been sucking up to Robert socially and of Robert’s research into connections between mental health and ethnicity. In the second act, Robert meets Chris without Bruce and this results in an investigation which threatens Bruce’s career. In the third act, the senior and junior doctor play out their disagreements in front of Chris. In all of this, the patient’s interests are somewhat buried.

The play explores the motivations of the three characters as well as issues of medical ethics and racism, but I’m afraid I found it somewhat implausible this time around. Though I am prepared to believe health policies, the need for authority, research and career interests may all affect people’s behaviour, I just couldn’t believe that these two professionals would behave like they do in front of their patient. The acting of David Haig as Robert is unrestrained and over-the-top, as is that of Luke Norris as Bruce in the final act. Somewhat ironically, Daniel Kaluuya’s outstanding performance as Chris is more restrained, subtle and intelligent and his sudden switches from funny to manic are deftly handled.

Jeremy Herbert’s design echoes his one for Hamlet here four years ago, as he requires you to walk through a replica of the stage set consulting room underneath it, on a mystery tour to find your seats in one of the four banks of seating looking down on an island stage. 

I’m afraid I thought Matthew Xia’s production didn’t serve the play well, but it’s worth seeing for another fine performance by Daniel Kakuuya. 

 

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I’m not very keen on directors messing with my favourite (dead) playwrights. I’ve seen enough disrespect of dead composers by opera directors to give me a very acute arrogant director detector. My more knowledgeable companion reminded me that Arthur Miller was particular about staging instructions; in this case, including an all-important telephone and a record player, both missing. So I approached this radical production of one of my play-writing hero’s best plays with some trepidation, unnecessarily as it turns out as I thought it was revelatory.

Ivo van Hove stages it in a rectangular space like a swimming pool. The actors can sit on three sides and there’s a door in the wall of the fourth. You only see this when the walls rise slowly as two longshoremen are washing ready for home, testosterone fills the air and the continual brooding soundscape starts. There are no props and the uninterrupted action is played out in this claustrophobic space, people pacing and prowling with increasing intensity as the drama unfolds – and here drama means drama.

The unhealthy relationship between Eddie and his niece Catherine is more overt and very physical in this production, and I think modern audiences are more attuned to such things. His obsession with her is clearly uncontrollable and the consequences inevitable and tragic. The Italian cultural background is more to the fore, with clearly defined male roles, family bonds and principles of honour explicitly laid out before you. The narrator is more integral and more involved. The drama is heightened and the intensity often cuts the air. I thought it served Miller’s play very well. The slow burn developed momentum as events unfolded in an unbroken 120 minutes. There were moments when you gasped and others where you wanted to break the fourth wall and restrain people. There’s a coup d’theatre ending which takes your breath away.

The acting is universally superb, with Nicola Walker playing a particularly tragic Beatrice and Phoebe Fox an effervescent Catherine against Luke Norris’ passionate Rodolpho. Towering over them all is a stunning Eddie from Mark Strong with extraordinary physical presence and palpable rage at the thought of anyone taking Catherine from him. My reference point for Eddie is Michael Gambon’s 1987 Olivier award winning performance at the Cottesloe, but this disappeared completely as Strong made Eddie his own.

This won’t please traditionalists, and some – like my companion – will find it overly stylised and ill-serving of the story, but I found it a thrilling interpretation which made me look at a great 20th century classic, and a favourite play, afresh. The Young Vic continues it’s roll

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Oh I do love a Greek tragedy – and I don’t mean an economic one – and it ceases to amaze me how fresh a 2500 year old play can be. This modern staging of the third part of Sophocles trilogy is no exception.

We’re in a present day tyranny like Syria, where the new leader Creon decrees that one of Antigone’s recently deceased brothers, Polynices, won’t be given the honour of a burial, which destines him to go to hell. She’s had a pretty shit life, what with her dad Oedipus blinding himself and sent into exile after discovering he’d killed his father and married his mother by mistake, and her mother committing suicide when she found out. What would Jeremy Kyle have made of it?

Of course, she defies Creon, which leads to her death and that of her intended, Creon’s son Haemon, the news of which leads to Creon’s wife taking her own life, all before Creon has had a chance to make things right after the seer Teiresias warns him that the gods are more than a bit pissed off. Sadly, all the death’s take place offstage.

Polly Findlay’s production has great pace and some welcome restraint (Greek tragedy is often OTT) and Soutra Gilmour’s set creates a government office complex with walls that match the NT’s own concrete. There’s superb lighting from Mark Henderson and a great soundscape from Sound & Fury’s Dan Jones.

Christopher Eccleston and Jodie Whittaker are excellent as Creon and Antigone and there’s very good work from Luke Norris as the soldier who brings the news of defiance and later responsibility for it and from Jamie Ballard as the blind Teiresias.

It might be 2500 years old, but it’s a completely believable story of tyrannical rule much like we still see in the world today on an all too regular basis. It fits the Olivier like a glove and makes for a crackingly dramatic 90 minutes. Loved it.

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