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Posts Tagged ‘Nathalie Armin’

We’ve had lots of verbatim theatre, plus those Tricycle tribunal plays, but never a hybrid of both based on a 415-year-old trial. Well, it could have been a trial for 400 years of deaths from tobacco or obesity through potatoes!

Actor Oliver Chris has gone back to accounts of the original trial, which took place exactly 415 years ago in the very same hall (because there was plague in London) and dramatised it. The Attorney General presided, with two other ‘judges’, but to my surprise there was a jury to make the judgement, here twelve audience members. The complex case for treason was presented by two lawyers representing King James I. Ralegh had no representation. The evidence presented was written; there were no witnesses.

It’s really a duologue between Ralegh and Coke, the King’s counsel, and the case hinges on whose account you believe – Ralegh or chief conspirator Lord Cobham, who has already been found guilty and sentenced to death for the treason of the Bye (a catholic sub-plot) and confessed but not yet sentenced for the treason of the Main (for which Ralegh is now being tried). It turns out to be dry material for drama, I’m afraid, though the politics of it all are fascinating.

They haven’t retained the dress and conventions of the period, with the Attorney General, both prosecutors and clerk to the court all played by women, and everyone in modern dress. The setting is extraordinarily atmospheric and knowing you’re in the very same room adds more than a frisson. Simon Paisley Day as Ralegh and Nathalie Armin as Coke are both excellent. I think I enjoyed what I learnt about Ralegh – favourite of Elizabeth I, explorer, colonist, military man, lawyer, MP, poet and wine merchant – by reading around it than I did the re-enactment of the trial itself. He was a colourful character who had a pretty dull trial so that James could give him his comeuppance.

As event theatre, well worth a day trip to the gorgeous city of Winchester, where there was even more to see. As drama, a bit of a disappointment, I’m afraid. A Shakespeare’s Globe production that’s coming to the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next week.

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As I get older I find myself seeing plays anchored in modern history that I’ve lived through, though with unreliable memories. This is another timely one, about the creation of the SDP as a reaction to a Labour lurch to the left on a tide of member activism with a policy of EU withdrawal and an unelectable leader. Who said history doesn’t repeat itself! To add an extra frisson, I saw it on the day Article 50 was invoked, something there will no doubt one day be a play about, but probably not in my lifetime.

It takes place the day after the Labour conference which cemented the lurch, in David Owen’s fashionable East End home (uber realistic design by Alex Eales). The gang of four, as they were known, are convened by Owen. His attempts to pick the others off one by one are rumbled and seen as manipulative and divisive. His American wife Debbie is key to toning down his excesses, which are clearly winding the others up. They struggle to make decisions under time pressures of their, well Owen’s, making, but they make it in the end, after the debate on alternative options leads them back to there being only one real option. Though the initiative failed in the end, it may in some way have paved the way for New Labour’s later successful bid for power from the same middle ground and the Lib Dems eventual entry into coalition. It lags a bit in the middle, with circular debates that go nowhere (which may be true, but don’t make good drama) and it doesn’t have the pace, energy or incisiveness of something like James Graham’s This House, but it’s a fascinating piece of history and way more timely that you could ever imagine.

Roger Allam is the only actor who doesn’t have the responsibility of playing a living figure. His Roy Jenkins, then President of the EU Commission, is uncanny. He’s very old school, a touch bumbling, with a penchant for expensive French wine. David Owen comes over as a somewhat unsympathetic character and Tom Goodman-Hill captures his ambition, passion and manoeuvring well. I loved Debra Gillett’s characterisation of Shirley Williams, the one everyone loves, and the less well-known Bill Rodgers is played by Paul Chahidi as a passive follower, very much in awe of Jenkins. If the play is to be believed, Debbie Owen had a considerable influence, both on her husband and the others, and Nathalie Armin conveys this very well.

I love seeing plays anchored in real events with real people and, like his previous play Temple about Occupy’ s effect on St. Pauls, Steve Waters particularly timely piece is very welcome indeed.

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Snap crackle & pop. Rice crispy theatre (theater)! This US import, with a British creative team and 40% UK casting, oozes NYC from every pore. The expletive count of the naturalistic dialogue is higher than you’ve probably ever heard, but it’s not gratuitous. It remains electrifying and unpredictable throughout.

Jackie is a Hispanic ex-con, small time dealer, ex-addict. We meet his highly-strung girlfriend Veronica, drying-out sponsor Ralph & wife Victoria and cousin Julio as he struggles to stay clean and manage his suspicions and jealousy over Veronica’s faithfulness. The play moves back and forth between three apartments – Jackie & Veronica’s central Manhattan rooming house, Ralph & Victoria’s cool home in gentrified mid-town and Julio’s cosy space in Hispanic Washington Heights. Jackie’s relationships with his girl, his sponsor and his cousin are tested as he navigates an emotional roller-coaster. Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis is a modern day New York Mamet or Shephard with a very distinctive voice.

Robert Jones’ design sees the apartments glide in from the back, sides and above to a loud soundtrack, with iron fire escapes hanging above, anchoring the play in NYC, making the scene changes watchable in themselves. Director Inhu Rubasingham’s high-energy, fast-moving staging gives the play its own unique rhythm. I was blown away by the five performances. Ricardo Chavira as Jackie is onstage throughout, forever on the go, never still. Flor De Liz Perez as Veronica matches his spikiness, adding another level of emotional energy. Yul Vazquez’ Julio provides some welcome restraint and much gentle humour. It’s hard to believe Alec Newman and Nathalie Armin aren’t also American, both with authentic personalities and accents. Newman’s interaction with Chavira is just as electrifying as Chavira with Perez.

I felt it could have been trimmed a little – there are a few minor longeurs – but it’s a great addition to the NT repertoire as it refreshes under Rufus Norris.

 

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