Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Maggie McCarthy’

Whenever people think of late 19th / early 20th century Russian drama, only one name usually crops up – Chekov. This means Gorky rarely gets a look in; we get 50 Cherry Orchard productions for every Summerfolk. Whilst Chekov was pumping up the introspective middle classes, Gorky was trying to raise the plight of the poor. Much more up my liberal street.

This play was written whilst Gorky was in prison and produced on the eve of the 1905 revolution. It revolves around scientist Protasov. He is being pursued by widow Melaniya whilst his wife Yelena is being pursued by artist Vageen. Melaniya’s brother Boris, a vet, is in love with Protasov’s emotionally fragile sister Liza. Their attractive young maid, Feema, is being pursued by lots of men! It’s open house at the Protasov’s, presided over by Nanny with Protosov himself eccentric, weak and somewhat otherworldly.

Whilst all this is going on in the house, disease begins to wreak havoc in the village. In the second act, things begin to unravel in their relationships as rumours begin to circulate that it’s Prosotov’s work and not cholera that’s the cause of the disease and the outside begins to threaten the inside, eventually leading to an invasion which ends with an extraordinary coup d’theatre. We spend a bit too long in the interior world of the fortunate before the events outside are introduced, but from then on it’s a great piece – more because of superb characterisation than story.

The unstarry ensemble is brilliant; not a weak link amongst them. Geoffrey Streathfield is every inch the mad professor. Paul Higgins as Boris and Maggie McCarthy as Nanny each turn in another fine NT performance and Lucy Black, someone who is new to me, was hugely impressive as the besotted Melaniya. It’s another of Bunny Christie giant wild sets; she really knows how to make the best of the difficult Lyttleton stage. Director Howard Davies continues to show his affinity with this Russian repertoire with a masterly staging of Andrew Upton’s accessible adaptation.

More of a treat than the press led me to expect & something only the NT could do.

Read Full Post »

I broke my self-imposed Shaw ban last night and, on balance, I wish I hadn’t. I know he’s an important playwright, but I want more than a moving 3D museum experience when I go to the theatre. I felt I was being told ‘Look, this is a classic. It’s rarely revived. You have to see it’ and I fell for it.

It’s not as fusty as most of Shaw. It’s a (sort of) comedy but it is a bit odd. We start in the consulting rooms of a doctor who has just been knighted. His colleagues visit to congratulate him. At this point you think it’s a satire on the medical profession; they all appear to be pushing one therapy to make their name (and money).

The play turns on the arrival of a woman desperate for treatment for her artist husband who has TB. Somewhat implausibly, she and her husband join the doctors for dinner, during which they all drool over the wife and are unwittingly conned by her husband. When they discover his trickery, they visit his garret to confront him (and drool over her some more). The doctor who was to treat him now refuses and another takes over. He doesn’t survive. The doctor who declined treatment reveals his true motivation.

The play pits the morals of the medical profession against those of the con artist, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s implausibility is at the core of why it didn’t work (for me) and it takes a long time to make it’s somewhat slight points. You can’t fault the production, though. It’s an impressive NT debut for director Nadia Fall and Peter McKintosh’s sets are uber-realistic period pieces (maybe a bit too much so, adding to the museum feel). It’s a fine cast with Malcolm Sinclair particularly funny as the pompous Sir Ralph Bloomfield Bonington. David Calder was good (and unrecognisable) as Sir Patrick Cullen, though his accent wasn’t consistent and Aden Gillett and Maggie McCarthy give fine performances as the newly knighted Sir Colenso Ridgeon and his housekeeper . 

In the end though, it’s another one of those ‘great productions, pity about the play’ evenings; hopefully I will have more will-power when Shaw turns up again.

Read Full Post »

If I could time-travel, one of the things I might choose would be to attend the first night of this play in 1933 to hear the tut’s and watch the open mouths. It feels completely modern today, so it must have been positively ground-breaking then, even though I’m sure some of it went right over their heads!

It’s a menage a trois between a female interior designer, a male artist and a male playwright that starts in an artist’s attic garret in Paris, moves to the elegant London flat of the playwright and ends up on the 30th floor of an art deco apartment in a New York skyscraper where the designer is living with her unloved husband.  It has a beautifully crafted rounded structure and the dialogue absolutely sparkles. It puts sex and sexuality centre-stage and is so much more than Coward’s trademark social comedies.

The three central performances – Lisa Dillon, Tom Burke and Andrew Scott – are wonderful and the sexual chemistry between them is electric. There is a superb supporting performance from Angus Wright (who has wasted so much time in Katie Mitchell deconstructions of late) as the used man who in the final act explodes a la Basil Fawlty. Amongst the rest of the cast, Maggie McCarthy makes an exquisite contribution as the second act housekeeper. I’ve only seen the play once before, but director Anthony Page makes so much more of it here. It looks gorgeous too, with three brilliant designs from Lez Brotherston, culminating in the NYC apartment that I actually wanted to move into after the show! 

Another wonderful night at the Old Vic.

Read Full Post »