Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Smith’

This 2012 Duncan McMillan play gets a very early revival on a much bigger stage in a much higher profile production. What seemed like a nice little play eight years ago now feels like a bit of an epic. I don’t know whether this is because it’s rewritten, in a different space, a different director and performers, the topicality of the environmental debate, the passage of time or a combination of them all. Whatever, it’s a thought-provoking and entertaining ninety minutes, stunningly staged and performed.

The play starts with the man in the couple raising the idea of starting a family. This comes out of the blue and the discussion continues for days and days, with a particular focus on the environmental impact of bringing another life into the world; tens of thousands of tonnes of co2 apparently. It soon becomes a play about their lifelong relationship and its ups and downs, with the deterioration in the environment almost always in the background. The naturalistic dialogue sparkles and its often very funny, but not at the expense of the serious themes. The pace is breathless and it never lags or drags.

It’s extraordinary how much you can pack into 90 minutes; you really do feel as if you get to know these people, understanding their dilemmas and even sharing their emotions. That’s no doubt helped by two terrific performances. Claire Foy’s character talks at a manic pace, so its a tough part which she executes with great skill and emotionality. Matt Smith’s character is cooler and more measured which he invests with a more measured restraint. There’s no set as such, except some (appropriate) solar panels, so they are the focus visually, as they move around the space, in addition to the continuous dialogue. It’s really captivating.

It may be star casting that’s selling the seats, but it’s superb writing, finely nuanced direction and star performances that enthrals you.

Read Full Post »

The preview buzz was a bit negative and the first reviews were too, so I wasn’t expecting to laugh so much. I thought Anthony Neilson’s new play, which he also directs, was rather good. 

Film director Maxim is a prima donna ostensibly in search of the right light for his new film. He did win the Palme d’Or for his last movie, after all. The film’s producer Anastasia just wants to get the film made on time, on budget, as does Lighting Cameraman Carl and leading lady Natasha. Extra funding comes with strings called Eva to keep an eye on things. Then the leading man is replaced with Ivan, nicknamed ‘the brute’. It’s an everyday story of film folk. I thought it was a hoot.

Matt Smith is very good as the film director and Amanda Drew the perfect calming influence as the producer, and Carl’s clandestine lover. I thought Tamara Lawrence, in what appears to be her second stage role, was terrific as the matter-of-fact ‘it’s only a job’ actress and Richard Pyros is excellent as the seen-it-all Lighting Cameraman. I loved Genevieve Barr as the deaf Eva who confounds expectations, then Jonjo O’Neill turns up and steals the show as the most actorly of actors, a performance that instantly propelled itself into my Best of list for 2016. It was so good that the rest of the cast (and him!) struggled not to corpse.

Designer Chloe Lamford appeared to have an easy job – just lighting screens and kit cases – until a coup de theatre at the end. There were too many short scenes that slowed it all down, but I forgave that for the laughs. 

Good to be having so much fun at the Royal Court again! 

Read Full Post »

Very late to the party with this one, but it was a lovely party. All the best ‘jukebox’ musicals are biographical stories of the songwriters / performers whose songs populate them – Jersey Boys, Sunny Afternoon and now Beautiful, the Carole King Musical. I was surprised when I realised this ended as she found fame as a singer-songwriter with the iconic album Tapestry, but in the end it made perfect sense. I also wasn’t expecting fellow songwriters Mann & Weill to feature so much, or indeed other songs from the age of the contract songwriters.

It is an extraordinary real life story. She wrote her first commercial song – It Might As Well Rain Until September – aged 16 and was immediately put under contract by Donnie Kirshner to write songs for acts like The Drifters and The Shirelles, pairing with school friend and wannabe playwright Gerry Goffin as lyricist. They also became an item, she became pregnant by Goffin and they married. They became good friends with fellow contract songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weill but were also professional rivals. Goffin’s infidelity eventually destroyed both their marriage and their songwriting partnership, just as Mann and Weill’s long courtship finally resulted in their marriage. King found herself writing songs alone, with no-one in mind to sing them, soon realising they were her personal story and meant for her and there began her second career and the conclusion of the show.

It begins and ends on the Carnegie Hall stage at the concert which signposts this second extraordinary stage of her life. In between we follow her life chronologically. As songs are written (by both partnerships) they morph into performances by the artists for whom they are composed, as the show moves seamlessly from scenes at home into the office and the studio. Early on there’s a lovely Neil Sedaka running joke (he dated her at school and wrote Oh Carol about her. She was also at school with Paul Simon!) and lots of other nice touches, most classic New York Jewish humour. I very much liked Douglas McGrath’s book and of course the songs are wonderful.

Katie Brayben is sensational as Carole, a fine actress with a glorious voice and spot on Brooklyn accent who ages and matures before your very eyes. Her three co-stars, Lorna Want as feisty independent Cynthia, Alan Morrissey as the troubled Gerry and Ian McIntosh as hypochondriac Barry, are all excellent in both acting and vocal departments and Gary Trainor is very good in the non-singing but pivotal role of Donnie Kirshner, and there’s a nice cameo from Glynis Barber as Carole’s mom. They are supported by a fine ensemble of twelve paying multiple roles, eight dancers and a great sounding ten-piece band under MD Matt Smith (presumably not the Dr Who one).

This is a lovely heart-warming, feel-good show which is also a true story with an exceptional soundtrack that virtually defines the period from the late 50’s through the 60’s to the early 70’s. I’m so glad I caught up with it.

Read Full Post »

During the interval I was recollecting overhearing someone in the early 80’s in The City being asked why he drank champagne when he clearly didn’t like it and his answer was ‘because I can’. That’s what I hated about the 80’s. Greed. Consumerism. Superficiality. Materialism. Self-interest. Yuppies. Thatcherism. Most of all I hated the music – electronic mush. So, a black comedy musical thriller which satirises this decade? Yes please!

Patrick Bateman is a great creation, almost everything you hate in one body. Wall Street job. Designer everything. Self-obsessed. Power-crazed. Misogynist. His envy of someone with access to a table he can’t get at the latest restaurant sends him into a rage. Being mistaken for someone else by Mr. Cool is unforgivable. Embarking on a series of gruesome murders is a bit implausible though, but hey this is allegory isn’t it? All of the other characters are brilliant period creations too, yet quite a few are recognisable stereotypes 30 or so years on, a few in the audience as it happens!

No-one could create this world as well as Rupert Goold, with imagination, chutzpah and just the right amount of excess; his staging is masterly. Es Devlin has designed a brilliant white box which allows for smooth scene changes, with twin revolves and a couple of traps and onto which images and designs are projected. Katrina Lindsay’s authentic period costumes are wonderful and even Lynne Page’s witty choreography manages to capture the period. It’s a very clever idea to include a handful of actual 80’s songs in Duncan Sheik’s score, itself a parody of the period and lyrically strong.

Matt Smith doesn’t have a great voice, bit it’s good enough for a psychopath! His acting is great though; manic enough but restrained enough too. In an excellent supporting cast, Susannah Fielding is superb as Bateman’s fiancée, as is Cassandra Compton as his PA. As an ensemble, they are very slick and well-drilled – as is the production as a whole, in fact.

If you haven’t already booked, you’ll probably have to wait for the inevitable West End transfer. The only question is – will this be before or after Broadway?!

Read Full Post »