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Posts Tagged ‘Nathanial Martello-White’

Well, you certainly have to put in some work with this play by Nathanial Martello-White. It’s a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. My brain was hurting trying to work out who was who, the time and sequence of scenes and what was and wasn’t true. It wasn’t completely rewarding, though I admired it’s cleverness and all of the performances.

When you enter the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs you seem to be in some sort of public hall. There’s a circle of those dreadful grey plastic chairs and we surround them sitting on similar ones. At first it seems like a family therapy session, with the focus on Angel, who may or may not have been abused. Eventually we work out that the others are her mother and stepfather, her brother, her mum’s three sisters, one a twin, with her son, Angel’s cousin. Angel’s biological dad comes in later. It moves back and forth in time and we learn the views of the various family members on the alleged abuse, together with much family history and some actual history. Doubts emerge about the truthfulness of Angel’s claims. Sometimes characters are talking about others not there, though they are looking on and acknowledged with eye contact.

It instantly grabbed my attention and held me throughout, partly because I was working hard on the jigsaw and partly because of the compelling performances, particularly from Adelle Leonce as Angel. It’s miraculous that the actors don’t lose their way given the staccato nature of the dialogue, sometimes overlapping. It wasn’t entirely conclusive and I didn’t engage with it emotionally much of the time, probably because my brain was working too hard for my heart to click in, which is why it wasn’t entirely satisfying. Still, it’s an original piece, clever, intellectually engaging and beautifully performed, and I would recommend seeing it.

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Verbatim theatre meets promenade performance in Michael Wynne’s piece about the NHS. Seeing it the day before the election and now writing about it a day after the results gives it an extraordinary resonance, relevance and poignancy.

We start and end as an audience of c.40, initially in an A&E waiting room listening to the experiences and views of doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and patients. From here we split into three groups for more intimate meetings in GP surgeries, outside a hospital, in an operating theatre etc. hearing more real testimonies and opinions before we assemble for a series of concluding scenes in the Theatre Upstairs. A lot of verbatim theatre is too dry and a lot of promenade performances allow the marshalling to interfere with the flow, but this solves both of these problems with warmth and humour and snatches of dialogue en route from scene to scene (particularly useful during the big climb up four or five flights of stairs!).

Though it’s clearly pro NHS, it’s reasonably objective, including the campaign against North Staffs incompetence and negligence and the impossibility of blank cheque funding. It’s more of an affectionate homage to the country’s best loved institution, taking us right back to its foundation through the White Paper ‘In Place of Fear’ (I never knew that). It really made me reflect on its value, it’s faults and its future. A unique institution which employs more people than any organisation in the world other than the US & Chinese armed forces, Wall Mart & MacDonald’s, and a recent and current political football.

In a uniformly fine cast, Elizabeth Berrington was very engaging as a GP and passionate as the North Staffs campaign leader, with Robert Bathurst very believable as both a dishevelled consultant and MP Andrew Lansley. Edna O’Brien is so lovely as Marjorie the old school nurse that you wish she was your mum, Philip Arditti’s character Jonathan provides effective continuity and there are excellent multiple characterisations from Paul Hickey, Martina Laird, Nathaniel Martello-White and Vineeta Rishi. I loved the way designer Andrew D Edwards uses all of the spaces, including corridors and stairs, so effectively.

It’s great to be heaping praise on the Royal Court again, doing exactly what they do best – putting up a mirror to our society and making us reflect and think.

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