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Posts Tagged ‘Nicky Gillibrand’

In another life as a theatre investor, I lost my shirt (well, actually a wardrobe full of shirts!) on the original West End production of Steven Slater & Duncan Sheik’s ground-breaking show. It arrived from Broadway just 5 days after its production ended its highly successful and profitable two-year run there, garlanded with eight Tony’s and four Drama Desk awards. It previewed at the Lyric Hammersmith, where it played to packed houses, earning more 5* reviews than I’d ever seen before, but it lasted just two months at the Novello, failing to find an audience, despite the reviews and four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical. It launched the careers of newcomers including Charlotte Wakefield, Aneurin Barnard and Iwan Rheon, the latter two getting performance Olivier’s of their own. I’ve never really understood its commercial failure; theatre can be a surprising and risky world. So here we are 13 years later with an opportunity to re-evaluate it.

The show is based on Frank Wedekind’s 1890 German expressionist play about adolescence. The teenagers are growing up in a conservative and emotionally repressed world while they are experiencing the angst associated with these years. The issues are, somewhat surprisingly, still relevant today – coming to terms with their sexuality, mental health, suicide and teenage pregnancy – but in a world where they are told babies are delivered by storks, and both parents and teachers are disciplinarians, even bullies. The story, character names and period are unchanged, but feelings are expressed through contemporary music. It’s one of the most audacious ideas in musical theatre, yet somehow it works brilliantly.

When I walked into the auditorium to see ten rows of steps the width of the entire stage, Miriam Buether’s design reminded me of the Open Air Theatre’s semi-staged versions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, but the space is used very differently, and more theatrically, in Rupert Goold’s new staging, with great choreography from Lynne Page. Nicky Gillibrand’s costumes aren’t all identical school uniforms, as I recall in the original, which allows the personalities and idiosyncrasies of the characters to come through. It’s both more intimate and more ‘in your face’ which gives it a lot more emotional impact. Goold also references the activism of today’s teenagers, without it jarring with the rest of the story.

Raw talent was cast first time around, which gave it great energy and edginess, but here more experienced actors seem able to develop the characters, bringing out more visceral qualities which engage you with what they are experiencing. Laurie Kynaston impressed greatly in The Son, now with a brilliant Melchior he extends his range to include musical theatre. I last saw Amara Okereke play the lead in The Boyfriend, which is about as far as you can get from Wendla, but she’s just as thrilling. Stuart Thompson is terrific as the much troubled Moritz, as is Carly-Sophia Davies as the rebellious Ilse. It’s a great ensemble,who shine in chorus numbers. All of the adult ‘authoritarian’ characters are played by just two actors, Mark Lockyer and, on the night I went, an impressive stand-in by Mali O’Donnell.

A fresh new interpretation of an important contribution to the musical theatre genre. I loved seeing it again in this stunning new production.

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Well, I think its unseasonal seasonal entertainment. It felt like travelling back in time to my childhood, being given the Twilight Zone Annual and flicking through it on Boxing Day, consumed by its tales of mystery (even though it wasn’t actually part if my youth!). I rather liked it.

Anne Washburn has taken stories from eight episodes of the TV show from four series between 1959 and 1964 and created a mash-up. There are tales of aliens landing, people disappearing, space travel and other dimensions. At first the interweaving is a bit irritating, but you soon go with it. It only jarred once for me, in a scene of racism amongst neighbours during an alien invasion scare. Otherwise, it’s all very tongue-in-cheek and there’s a lot to make you smile, some to make you laugh and it somehow feels nostalgic.

It takes place inside a giant TV whose walls are covered in stars. Props enter from everywhere, brought in by cast members in camouflage that matches the walls; a lovely touch. It’s very 60’s in style and monochrome in design – a palette of black, grey and silver with a touch of blue. Paul Steinberg’s design and Nicky Gillibrand’s costumes are terrific, there are great illusions from Richard Wiseman & Will Houstoun, superbly atmospheric and authentic TZ music by Sarah Angliss and its quirky in a way only director Richard Jones can do.

Ten actors play forty-two roles plus narrator and there are four supernumeraries, and there are some delightful performances amongst them, pitched somewhere between retro, mystery, comic book and B movie.

It’s not really a play, more a selection box, but I greatly admired it’s execution and thought it was something different and jolly good fun.

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The cast list for the 1979 Trevor Nunn production for the RSC reads like a who’s who of British actors, including Zoe Wanamaker, David Suchet, Juliet Stevenson and the now departed Richard Griffiths and Ian Charleston. Suchet also featured in Edward Hall’s 2001 NT revival. It’s no co-incidence that it’s the RSC & NT that have staged this 1930 Kauffman & Hart comedy, the first of their eight collaborations, in London – it requires big resources. The RSC production famously ended with 15 minutes of song and dance by the full ensemble plus band, which sent you home hopping and skipping. This is a scaled-down, shorter adaptation by Hart’s son for 13 actors playing 22 roles. Mind you, it still needs 8 costume makers and 5 wig technicians!

So here we are another 15 years on, and its the turn of contemporary powerhouse The Young Vic in a fine production by Richard Jones with designs by Hyemi Shin, featuring Harry Enfield’s stage debut. He play’s silent film mogul Glogauer, who finds himself competing with the talkies which he first turned down. As soon as he sees the first talkie, Vaudevillian Jerry Hyland is inspired to sell his act with May Daniels and George Lewis to head West for part of the new action, initially running an elocution school (to teach the formerly silent to talk), until Glogauer comes under the spell of George, who ends up running the studios, himself under the spell of the pretty but talentless Susan Walker, who becomes an unlikley star.

It’s a satire on Hollywood and it’s great fun. Enfield is very good, as indeed is fellow comedian Kevin Bishop as Jerry (though he does have stage acting experience). Favourites Claudie Blakley and John Marquez are on fine form as May and George. Amanda Lawrence gives us another of her show stealing turns as Glogauer’s secretary Miss Leighton and there’s great work from Lucy Cohu as columnist Helen Hobart, Lizzy Connolly as Susan and Adrian Der Gregorian in no less than four roles. The star of the show, though, is Nicky Gillibrand’s magnificent costumes and Cynthia De La Rosa’s wigs, hair and make-up!

Huge seasonal fun.

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This is one of the most radical and heavily cut productions of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen, yet it retains the essence of the piece and doesn’t feel as if it’s missing much – despite running sone 40-50 mins less than any other production.

The opening scene is rather shocking – writhing bodies in a sea of blow-up sex dolls (which stay with us for most of the play, excepting those that deflate!) – but it does make it instantly clear we’re in a debauched Vienna. The Duke leaves town, placing Angelo in charge, returning disguised as a Friar to monitor events ‘in his absence’. Claudio has been arrested and sentenced to death for crimes against morality and his sister Isabella, about to become a nun, is distraught. Power corrupts Angelo and he offers to save Claudio in exchange for Isabella’s virginity, but the disguised Duke hatches a plot.

There’s great use of live video in Joe Hill-Gibbins production, both in the relatively small stage-front playing space and in a much bigger space behind, sometimes in view, sometimes not. He gives Shakespeare’s raciest play great pace and a contemporary sleaze relevance. Miriam Buether is responsible for the clever design, with Nicky Gillibrand the costumes and Chris Kondek the video. The speedy transition to the Viennese court for the final scene is masterly. I surprised myself by enjoying it so much, not really offended by the liberties taken.

The three central performances are terrific – Paul Ready as the righteous Angelo who becomes a sleazeball, Romola Garai as the virginal Isabella and Zubin Varla as a very passionate Duke. They have fine support, particularly from John Mackay, who makes much of Lucio, and Hammed Animashaun as the Provost.

The Young Vic leading the way with fresh, inventive productions again.

 

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Ubercreative director Richard Jones’ latest makeover is Gogol’s 19th century farcical satire on Russian corruption, where an entire town ingratiates itself with what it believes to be a government inspector.

David Harrower’s version certainly makes it fresh, with some great dialogue which doesn’t jar at all with the setting and period. Miriam Buether has re-configured the Young Vic again with a wider than wide and deeper than deep stage, though I’m not sure why they have to go to the expense of building false walls at the sides of the auditorium. It’s size and shape does, though, add to the surreal quality of the proceedings, as do Nicky Gillibrand’s extraordinary costumes. Amongst the many clever coups, we have running rats, helium balloons seemingly turning up from nowhere and walking through walls. I could have done without the turd, though.

When it’s motoring, it’s great, but it sometimes lags – particularly in the first half – and some of the monologues outlive their welcome; this makes the pacing uneven and detracts from the undoubted success of the adaptation and staging. Julian Barrett is fine as the mayor, though he seems a little unsure of himself at times, which isn’t entirely in keeping with the character. Doon Mackichan is excellent as the mayor’s wife, helped by a series of panto dame costumes and French pretensions. Amanda Lawrence gives us another spectacular cameo as the postmaster, complete with false moustache and belly! It’s Kyle Soller’s tour de force as Khlestakov that steals the show, though, developing from a man who got lucky to an exploitive, manipulative monster.

If they tightened up the first half, this would be a cracker; though there’s much to admire and enjoy as it is and the Young Vic continues its role as an indispensable populist theatre.

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