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Posts Tagged ‘Miriam Buether’

Based on the 2002 film of the same name, this stage musical is completely faithful to the original, retains the period and adds original music by Howard Goodall to produce something even more feel-good than the film. I loved it, and have already booked to go again!

Jess is a bright British Indian 18-year-old who’s obsessed with football, and with her hero David Beckham. She’s spotted playing in the park with local Indian boys by fellow footballer and local women’s team member Jules, who invites her to try out for her team, which she subsequently joins. Her parents, who are knee-deep in preparations for their elder daughter’s engagement and subsequent wedding, don’t really approve and she continues her footballing in secret, but when the secret is out she is forced to stop.

What it is, of course, is the journey of many British born young people of Indian descent, trying to balance family and heritage culture with life in Britain. It uses the British Indian ability and willingness to find humour within, and use it to celebrate, its culture to great effect. Paul Mayeda Berges & Gurinder Chadha’s book and Charles Hart’s lyrics are very funny, but it’s also very moving and respects the underlying themes. The addition of music adds another dimension and it betters the film as a result. By interweaving Indian musical styles and incorporating heritage singers, Goodall has produced a score which retains his trademark melodic style but sounds different, rather unique and very much in keeping with the story.

Miriam Buether’s clever set has a semi-circle of seven panels which rotate to move us from home to playing field to changing rooms to park, and so on. Katrina Lindsay’s costumes are terrific, a riot of colour. Aletta Collins’ excellent choreography moves us from night club to Indian wedding, anchoring the piece wherever it is at that moment. This is director Gurinder Chadha’s first stage show but you’d never believe it. It’s clear how close she is to it; as she also co-wrote and directed the film, it’s probably running through her bloodstream.

Both Lauren Samuels and Natalie Dew are excellent, but it’s Dew who has to carry the emotional heart of the story and she does so with great warmth and charm. You find yourself sympathising with her and rooting for her to the point of having to resist the temptation to intervene on her behalf! Tony Jaywardena and Natasha Jayetileke are wonderful as Jess’ parents, themselves torn between keeping control and letting go. Preeya Kalidas was indisposed on Saturday, but having seen how good her understudy Sejal Keshwala was as Jess’ sister Pinky, I just can’t see anyone else being better. One of the few changes is that Jules mum Paula is here divorced, so the always excellent Sophie-Louise Dann has to carry all of the parental pressure and support on her shoulders and she’s great. There are too many other fine performances in this excellent ensemble to single out more.

The audience seemed to reflect the cultural mix on stage and they responded enthusiastically. Like those other British musicals Billy Elliott, Betty Blue Eyes and Made in Dagenham, it takes a heart-warming film and betters it. It’s a departure for Goodall, who has produced many other great shows but few commercial hits. Given the undeserved early baths that Betty and Dagenham got, lets hope this follows Billy as a British musical hit. For me, it already is.

 

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I’ve come to the conclusion that to say anything about this play would be to spoil it, and its too good to spoil. It certainly lives up to its title. Think bird-watching, Big Brother, Benefits Street and paint-balling.

What I will say is that playwright Mike Bartlett continues to be the master of the miniature with maximum impact. Like Cock and Bull before it, he says more and provokes you more than most playwrights do in twice the time. I found this one seriously disturbing, not at all implausible and quite possibly prophetic. We’ll have to wait and see.

Director Sachha Wares and designer Miriam Buether have created another of their extraordinary immersive environments in painstaking detail. My mouth fell open in disbelief as soon I entered the space. As we used to say in the swinging sixties, it blew my mind.

It was only an hour of my life but it has invaded much of the subsequent 36 hours. Not everyone will agree – people left the theatre expressing clearly differing views – but for me it has to be seen. It’s why I go to the theatre. Creativity. Challenge. Drama.

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Just before the interval in this show there’s a scene onstage in Cardiff where the conflict between The Kinks Mick & Dave comes to a head with an attack by one on the other. I was there! Hampstead Theatre can’t pass for Cardiff Capitol (now deceased), but a wave of nostalgia swept over me nonetheless. This bio-musical is much more than nostalgia, though, but it’s a particular treat for someone for whom The Kinks are part of the soundtrack of my life.

Covering just four years their their formation to Waterloo Sunset, Joe Penhall’s biography of The Kinks, with Ray Davies’ songs, takes us from Dave Davies’ band The Ravens, backing a stockbroker at posh parties, through their signing to not one but four managers, their disastrous US tour (where their refusal to toe the union line got them banned from the country), their signing by serial turnaround manager Alan Klein to the redemptive recording of Waterloo Sunset and the triumphant return to the US to play Madison Square Gardens. The music pervades it all, in snatches and full songs, a lot now iconic but many rarely heard.

I gasped when I entered to see Miriam Buether’s set of three walls of speakers. The auditorium has been reconfigured with a central platform thrust halfway into the stalls and a middle horizontal aisle and two side aisles which bring the action into the audience very effectively. The period feel is conveyed by the clothing, including those now infamous bright red suits – great retro style, looking completely authentic. Edward Hall’s staging, with choreography by Adam Cooper no less, is excellent.

The songs feel as if they belong with their scenes. Ray & Dave’s dad sings Deadend Street like he’s telling you his life story. Dedicated Follower of Fashion accompanies their first visit to the stylist who created those suits. Days is sung acapella as they look like they’re about to break up. Sunny Afternoon accompanies a summer of World Cup euphoria. Waterloo Sunset becomes their reconciliation and seems to be created for the first time before your very eyes.

It’s a great story and its great storytelling, with a soundtrack to die for of songs that seem to have been especially written. In his programme note, Penhall says he wants people to come out ‘profoundly moved, euphoric and transported’. Well, he succeeded for me. This is no juke-box musical; like Jersey Boys, it’s musical biography, but this one’s British and maybe easier to identify with. I adored it.

George Maguire looks every inch the pop star, spending most of the evening with bottle in hand and some of it in a frock! John Dagliesh’s Ray is more restrained and thoughtful as is the man himself, and the relationship between them feels very real. Lillie Flynn (Johnny’s sister!) is lovely as Ray’s child bride Rasa and Adam Sopp & Ned Derrington, as Mick & Pete respectively, complete the band with fine characterisations.

It’s still in preview, but it seems pretty ready to me – though the sound needs a bit of attention. Ray Davies’ music is like bottled London and potted Englishness. It’s the essence of living here, nostalgic but fresh and timeless. By the end I was on my feet, singing along, with a warm glow and a tear in my eye (and none of that bloody screaming at Cardiff Capitol). A triumph for all involved, but particularly for the bard of Muswell Hill. Time to book again, I think…..

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Somehow, using the title Public Enemy rather than the usual Enemy of the People for an adaptation of Ibsen’s 130-year-old play makes a difference to a modern audience. Playwright & adapter David Harrower has moved it forward c.100 years. Designer Miriam Buether has built a bloody great big Norwegian chalet. Director Richard Jones has applied his extraordinary imagination……and there you have it – a bang up-to-date morality play.

A Norwegian coastal town (with its own smart new logo!) has begun to exploit its spa waters and built fancy new baths. Medical Advisor Thomas Stockmann discovers the waters are toxic and potentially lethal and when he has proof he sends his report to the Mayor, his employer and his brother, which sets him on a collision course with him and the community, and eventually with his wife and father.

The campaigning local paper and the leader of local small business support him and he is convinced the community will do so too, but when the full implications and costs are realised they all turn and the cover-up begins. In the fourth act, the audience becomes the community at a public meeting and issues of truth and morality are debated and politicians, the press and even democracy itself come under scrutiny.

Similar issues have become commonplace in recent years (we are confronted daily with the dubious morals of politicians, business, the media….well, just about everyone!) which makes the play contemporary and topical. In its day, it was a response to the reaction to his earlier play Ghosts. Arthur Miller’s 1950’s adaptation took on a new meaning. Here it comes alive again as a fresh play for our times.

The width of the stage is sometimes challenging and it is a little stilted at the outset, but it soon gets into its stride and it packs a lot of punch in just 100 minutes. A very welcome revival and adaptation and another feather in the Young Vic’s feather-covered cap!

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Playwright Martin Crimp and I ‘have form’, but £10 Mondays invite and encourage risk-taking, so I booked for this anyway – and well before its ‘love it or loathe it’ status became clear. I had to postpone my visit and the friend who took both tickets said it was challenging but should be seen, so I rebooked. I didn’t loathe it; I just thought it was a dreadful waste of 100 precious Friday evening minutes and a depressing start to the weekend!

Somewhere there is an insightful play waiting to be written about our modern-day obsessions, but this isn’t it. It starts well, at the Christmas dinner table of a perfectly normal (dysfunctional) family. Grandad’s got dementia, one daughter’s about to be a single mum by she knows not / won’t say who and the other’s a feisty bitch. Mum and Dad try hard to keep it all together. Then Uncle Bob arrives (I know not from where as my seat was restricted, not that I was told that when I booked) and tells them how much his wife Madeleine (outside in the car) hates them. She eventually arrives (from the same place I know not where) and the character assassinations continue.

In the second act we’re in some sort of TV studio with the cast lined up, now generic characters like ‘old woman’ and ‘teenage girls 2’, on TV studio chairs. This section is called ‘The Five Essential Freedoms of the Individual’ which are, apparently, the freedom to write the script of our own lives, to separate our legs, to experience horrid trauma, to put it all behind us and to look good & live forever. It’s a cross between the Jeremy Kyle Show (without Jeremy Kyle, one of the redeeming features of the evening) and therapy.

In the third act we’re in a bright room in the country where Uncle Bob and Madeleine are talking bollocks, which given most of what went before could well be described as bollocks, somehow seemed an appropriate ending.

I admired the performances, Miriam Buether’s sets were impressive and I laughed a bit; on the whole, though, a rather pointless evening.

 

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Like Lucy Prebble’s last piece, ENRON,  Rupert Goold’s production turns a good play into a great evening, though on this occasion I’m not sure Miriam Buether’s reconfiguration of the Cottesloe is entirely necessary – in a similar way to Rae Smith’s design for This House, which is sharing the Cottesloe in rep., the Pit has been turned into a clinic, with the audience in two rows on all sides, padded walls interspersed with coffee tables on which sit magazines and vases of flowers. 

In essence this is a love story. Two clinical trials volunteers fall in love during their 6-week stay at the clinic, but as the trail is for an anti-depressant and some volunteers have a placebo, we never know whether this has impacted the relationship. The only other characters are two doctors, whose relationship was itself affected by depression, though that is in the past. Along the way, we peep into the world of clinical trials and their ethics and the workings of the brain, but not in much depth and that’s not really what the play is about.

Even more than the inventive production, what propels the evening into greatness are the performances. I’ve only seen Billie Piper three times (I think she’s only done three plays!) and on each occasion she has impressed, investing extraordinary emotionality into her charaterisations. Now I want to see her in a classical role (Ophelia, anyone?). Here she matched by a stunning performance from Jonjo O’Neill. I’ve only seen him a handful of times, but this is in another league altogether. Anastasia Hille and Tim Goodman-Hill are very good as the doctors but its the roles of the volunteers that are are at the heart of the play and enable Piper & O’Neill to shine.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by the first half, but the play goes up several notches after the interval and it proves to be a very satisfying evening. I’d like to see a more minimalist production (like Mike Bartlett’s Cock at the Royal Court) to test my theory that its the production wot does it, but I suspect I never will. 2012 really was a brilliant year for new writing at the NT – this is the fourth gem (third in the Cottesloe).

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Twitter on stage? Over 50 3D audio-visual bites. In seven sections (not sure why). Each a completely different situation. Over 100 characters, each appearing only once. 16 actors playing all roles. In each, information is passed. Some scene breaks are longer than scenes. Sound bites between scenes. 105 minutes.  No interval.

Caryl Churchill used to write plays. (Cloud Nine. Top Girls. Serious Money). Then she went all minimalist. (Blue Heart. Far Away. A Number). Like Beckett and Pinter before her. Is this creativity or a lack of ideas? A friend said it would never reach the stage. If it was a new writer.

Miriam Buether’s bright white box frames each scene. James Macdonald’s staging is slick. The speed of scene changes is impressive. The acting is superb. It must be hard to portray a character in mere moments. It’s occasionally funny. It’s occasionally profound. It’s often clever.

This review might give you a flavour of the evening. Intriguing. Innovative. Satisfying theatre? Not really.

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I wasn’t convinced I wanted to see this film adapted for the stage, despite the fact a favourite playwright of mine, Mike Bartlett, adapted it, so I was late booking and ended up at the last performance before its transfer to the West End. Ten minutes in, I thought I’d been right all along – there was so much going on it felt like a bit of a mess. It takes a while to get into the pace and rhythm of this piece, but when you do there’s much to enjoy.

Miriam Buether gives us another of her extraordinary design transformations. Hampstead Theatre becomes a stadium with a race track around the lower level, behind the audience – rather like the original production of Starlight Express but without the budget (or the roller skates). Scott Ambler’s choreography is brilliant and Edward Hall’s staging manages to make both the epic and intimate moments work; the personal stories of Abrahams and Liddell both come through well and the race scenes take your breath away. The music is an effective combination of Vangelis’ iconic soundtrack and Gilbert & Sullivan with a tear-jerking finale of Jerusalem. It’s patriotic & sentimental, but hey who cares, it’s the London Olympics in a minute, this is great timing and we’re entitled!

The young cast of athletic actors, excellently led by James McArdle as Abrahams and Jack Lowden as Liddell, is outstanding, and there are lovely cameos from oldies Nicholas Woodeson as Abrahams’ coach, Nickolas Grace as the Master of Trinity & the Duke of Sutherland, Simon Williams the Master of Caius & Lord Birkenhead and Simon Slater in four roles (and as MD!). Tam Williams also stands out as Andrew, Lord Lindsay.

I’m glad I saw it at Hampstead pre-transfer and I’m glad I sat in the second level; I’m not sure how its going to work in the much bigger space of the Gielgud.

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The space is superbly theatrical. A large rectangular room with picture windows at both ends, restaurant booth seating on three sides & a bar on the fourth and a long elevated corridor on one side overlooking the main space, which contains an oval platform surrounded by tables and chairs. We’re in Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top the World Trade Centre, another one of Miriam Buether’s extraordinary designs and the most comfortable place I’ve ever seen ‘site-specific’ theatre!

A large number of ‘playlets’ take place (sequentially not concurrently!) on the platform, on tables, in booths, in the elevated corridor and on the floor. There’s a fair bit of ‘dance / movement’ between scenes (and sometimes part of them) with fine choreography from Scott Ambler.  There’s a superb cast of 13 who play many more roles than that. In conception and execution, it’s all wonderfully theatrical. The trouble is the material…..

……..I was expecting interesting and objective responses to 9/11 from many perspectives, but what I got were some rather slight sketches, few of which said much on their own, let alone together. Regular visits to the annual meetings of 9/11 widows (backwards in time) provides the only link, but not enough was made of this clever device. Many were monologues whose dramatic inertness was amplified by the theatricality of the space and staging. It didn’t educate or enlighten me, it didn’t illuminate anything and it didn’t really entertain me.

I suspect the multiplicity of writers doesn’t help; six more than there are actors (look what three did for Greenland!), but the key issue for me is that it just isn’t bold enough. It seems to be hinting at and skirting over issues rather than tackling them head on. I admire the ambition, but the rewards are limited.

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The space is superbly theatrical. A large rectangular room with picture windows at both ends, restaurant booth seating on three sides & a bar on the fourth and a long elevated corridor on one side overlooking the main space, which contains an oval platform surrounded by tables and chairs. We’re in Windows on the World, a restaurant at the top the World Trade Centre, another one of Miriam Buether’s extraordinary designs and the most comfortable place I’ve ever seen ‘site-specific’ theatre!

A large number of ‘playlets’ take place (sequentially not concurrently!) on the platform, on tables, in booths, in the elevated corridor and on the floor. There’s a fair bit of ‘dance / movement’ between scenes (and sometimes part of them) with fine choreography from Scott Ambler. There’s a superb cast of 13 who play many more roles than that. In conception and execution, it’s all wonderfully theatrical. The trouble is the material…..

……..I was expecting interesting and objective responses to 9/11 from many perspectives, but what I got were some rather slight sketches, few of which said much on their own, let alone together. Regular visits to the annual meetings of 9/11 widows (backwards in time) provides the only link, but not enough was made of this clever device. Many were monologues whose dramatic inertness was amplified by the theatricality of the space and staging. It didn’t educate or enlighten me, it didn’t illuminate anything and it didn’t really entertain me.

I suspect the multiplicity of writers doesn’t help; six more than there are actors (look what three did for Greenland!), but the key issue for me is that it just isn’t bold enough. It seems to be hinting at and skirting over issues rather than tackling them head on. I admire the ambition, but the rewards are limited.

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