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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Thallon’

This is only Peter Morgan’s third play, but like the other two it’s brilliant. He’s best known for The Crown, films like The Queen and TV features like The Deal. He’s a master of true life dramas based on facts with varying degrees of speculation. This examination of Russia from 1991 to 2013 is new ground, but still masterly.

The protagonist is Boris Berezovsky, once a brilliant mathematician, a child prodigy, who moved into business and politics as the USSR broke up and Yeltsin became President of Russia. He was one of the oligarchs who cleaned up as Yeltsin proceeded to sell / give away his country’s assets, but more importantly he was the krysha (advocate, godfather) of two men who went on to very much bigger things – Abramovitch and Putin. He’s a business mentor to the former, with a verbal agreement that would give him a significant slice of the profits as his businesses grew. To Putin he’s a kingmaker, as he moved from relative obscurity as Deputy Mayor of St. Petersburg to become head of the FSB, the successor to the KGB, before Berezovsky persuaded him to become Yeltsin’s Prime Minister, and in no time he succeeds Yeltsin as President.

He was a very clever man who had studied decision-making theory and put it into action. He bought the state TV channel as well as becoming krysha to these two men. His power and success of course relied on their loyalty, but both eventually deserted him, Abramovitch after he’d outlived his usefulness and Putin as part of his plan to clean up corruption, put the oligarchs in their place and cement his position of absolute power, and as we now know get his own slice of the action. The final straw for Putin may have been his humiliation on Berezovsky’s TV channel over the Kursk submarine fiasco.

Berezovsky becomes an exile in the UK, with his security man Litvinenko, getting political asylum from the Blair government. There’s a brilliant theatrical moment when events collide with those in Lucy Prebble’s play A Very Expensive Poison, as Litvinenko goes to meet someone over tea and gets poisoned in the process. Homesick after ten years in the UK, he seeks to return to a quiet life in Russia, but Putin is having none of it. He dies, allegedly committing suicide.

Rupert Goold has a great talent for staging epic stories with great clarity and pace, as he did with Enron, and as he does here. Miriam Buether’s design is like a lap dancing club (not that I’ve been to one, of course) with people sitting at the cross shaped bar / stage and scenes played out upon it. Tom Hollander’s terrific performance as Berezovsky, determined manipulative and strong willed, is a career highlight, but there are excellent performances too from Will Keen as an emotionless Putin and Luke Thallon as a cool, calculating Abramovitch, plus a fine supporting cast of eight, most playing multiple roles. It’s good to see Jamael Westman, who originated the role of Alexander Hamilton in London, playing another Alexander, Litvinenko, here.

This is a fine drama, very timely given Putin is on our screens almost daily, informative, thought provoking and entertaining. I feel another West End transfer coming on.

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I knew nothing of the existence of Nazi camps for children of German extraction in pre-war USA. Even now, the thought is chilling. Bess Wohl’s play presents us with one such place, in Yaphank New York, seen through the eyes of two teenagers who meet there, just referred to as Him and Her.

He seems to have been a convert before he even arrived, revelling in his heritage, in admiration of what the National Socialists are doing in Germany. She’s been dragged there, and is much more ambivalent about it all, though she appears to make a journey of discovery and conversion, ending up making the major speech at the closing rally.

We follow their personal relationship as well as the camp journey. They buy into the need to reproduce for the fatherland, he considers going there to work or fight for the homeland, but there are more parochial preoccupations too, involving their fellow campmates and their friends and relatives.

In effect, we are seeing how young people can be drawn in to idealised concepts and causes, despite their incompatibility with the principles of the land of freedom and opportunity that they have been brought up to value. There’s a tension between the two, and a tension between Him and Her.

Though it’s an intimate play for such a big stage, it didn’t get as lost at the Old Vic as I thought it might, perhaps because they play almost exclusively at the front of the stage, before an impressionistic forest, or perhaps because of the power of the characterisations and the performances, or indeed both.

Patsy Ferran and Luke Thallon are both terrific, playing totally believable 16 and 17-year-olds respectively. Ferran has the biggest transformation, but Thallon has more of an emotional roller-coaster ride. For me, these performances are reason alone for seeing the play.

Brave programming for the Old Vic which may not come off commercially, but does so artistically.

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It’s less than a year since I last saw this show, a lovely production at the Watermill Newbury, but I so love my July trips to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s end of year musicals that I couldn’t resist, particularly with Martin Connor at the helm. As it turned out, one of my best decisions. I’ve had so many wonderful evenings there, but this might just top the lot. 

When this Gershwin show first appeared twenty-five years ago, it revived a practice started by Handel & his contemporaries in the early 18th century, stealing tunes from other shows to make a better one. This is packed full of some of the Gershwin’s best – Someone To Watch Over Me, Embraceable You, I Got Rhythm, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, Nice Work If You Can Get It…..woven into a show that pits Broadway against the Wild West with a pair of posh Brits added for good measure.

Failed showman Bobby is sent by his mother, on behalf of the family bank, to foreclose on a theatre in Deadrock Nevada, but instead tries to revive it, while falling in love with owner’s daughter Polly at the same time. Despite getting his friends from the Zangler Follies to come west, with Zangler himself following for reasons of a romantic nature, he fails to find an audience or bag his girl so he returns to New York where he’s given the Zangler Theatre when that defaults. Unbeknown to him, back in Deadrock the show has become a success. He returns and we get our happy ending with three love stories concluding as they should. 

The production values are as good as any West End show, with an excellent design and costumes by Adam Wiltshire. A 33-piece band is a luxury and it did indeed sound luxurious. Luke Thallon is terrific as Bobby with vocals, dancing and acting all outstanding; a star is born, I’d say. Lucie Fletcher is great as the girl growing up in a man’s world; so much so, she took my breathe away when she came on glammed up for the finale. Steffan Cennydd’s excellent turn as the real Zangler shone in the drunk scene with Bobby’s imposter which was a masterclass of both staging and performance. The class of 2017 is one of the best ensembles ever presented at the Guildhall, and that’s saying something.

Such joy to see such talent. Unmissable.

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