Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Jesson’

I’m fond of Shakespeare’s Roman plays, so the RSC’s four-play season is very welcome, but it took me a while to warm to this opening production, the first part of which seemed strangely unanimated and perfunctory.

The titular character is a war hero and leader, but he can’t hide his contempt for ordinary people who, stirred up by a couple of politicians, banish him. His revenge is to join his former enemy and invade Rome, until his mother persuades him otherwise, which leads to his new comrades turning against him. There’s something very resonant about it in current times!

The crowd scenes and tribunal scenes of the first, rather dull, part lack passion, but later scenes, like Coriolanus’ offering himself to the enemy, his mother’s pleading and the final scene are particularly well staged. The design has something to do with my early disappointment – I groaned when I walked in to see a forklift truck and fully loaded pallets and I tired of brick walls, metal roller doors and greyness.

Sope Dirisu, who I admired as Casius Clay in One Night in Miami at the Donmar last year, is an excellent Coriolanus and Haydn Gwynne is superb as his mother, Volumnia. I thought the casting of Martina Laird and Jackie Morrison as the tribunes worked well and there’s fine work from Paul Jesson as Menenius, Charles Aitkin as Cominius and James Corrigan as Aufidius.

If only the first part packed more of a punch and the design served the play better.

Read Full Post »

David Hare’s new play is about an art form I love and institution I loathe. The birth of Glyndeborne. It does come after a 26 day theatrical famine and a 36 day absence from London theatre, so perhaps that helped me enjoy it despite that – oh, and a brilliant performance from Roger Allam.

John Christie was clearly a true British eccentric. His plan for a 300-seat opera house on his Sussex country estate was more than a bit bonkers. When you add that he wanted it to stage Wagner, apparently with a full cast but only a string quartet and organ, even more insane. He persuaded two German pre-war exiles (though one was actually of Irish and Polish descent) and an Austrian to fulfil his ambition, though they persuaded him to start more modestly and appropriately with Mozart and to hand over much control (on condition his wife Audrey, the moderate soprano of the title, played Susanna in Figaro). Audrey was very much his muse, his visionary partner and his moderator.

It’s good subject matter, but Hare has focused so much on the role of Christie, who has all the best lines, that it comes out imbalanced, with other characters much less well developed. In the middle of a series of short scenes over just 100 minutes, there is a much longer central scene where the German’s provide background to their exile. Despite the importance of this background, it’s overlong relative to the rest of the piece. The time-hopping away from the core period wasn’t always clear enough too. There’s much to enjoy in the play, particularly it’s humour and its central character, but it is flawed and I was left feeling it could be developed into a better one.

What makes it unmissable is the central performance of Roger Allam as Christie, a very likeable character whose eccentricity charms the socks off you in Alam’s characterisation. I thought Paul Jesson was excellent too as the imported Musical Director Fritz Busch, but the part of Christie’s wife Audrey was underwritten so even an actress as good as Nancy Carroll had too little to work with. The same applies to Nick Sampson’s Carl Ebert and George Taylor’s Rudolf Bing (who went on to run The Met), both doing very well with what they had.

As much as I enjoyed it, and Jeremy Herrin’s staging and Rae Smith’s design both serve it well, it felt more like work-in-progress than the finished article. I also felt it might make a better TV play than a stage one. Worth a visit nonetheless.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Bloody families…..

A King Lear that comes in at under 3 hours! I have to confess, I can’t see where the cuts are and it makes a big difference to the pacing – this Lear races along. It’s a difficult play for me because I find it hard to understand why Lear rejects Cordelia and don’t find the subsequent relationship breakdown with the other daughters entirely plausible, but it’s still a fascinating and complex play

The Donmar has planks covering the floor, ceiling and all four sides; they’re a distressed white, though it doesn’t take long before there’s blood on the walls – literally (well, stage blood). The only props are the map and a chair; the costumes are excellent. Michael Grandage’s staging and Christopher Oram’s design allow the drama to unfold and the verse to breathe.

This is an exceptionally well cast production. I was particularly impressed by all three Gloucesters – Paul Jesson’s believable journey as the Duke, Alec Newman’s positively evil Edmund and Gwilym Lee’s sympathetic Edgar. The daughters – Gina McKee as Goneril , Justine Mitchell’s Regan and Pippa Bennett-Warner as Cordelia – took a while to get into their stride but in the second half McKee and Mitchell were appropriately vituperative.

I think Derek Jacobi is my 7th Lear – an illustrious list that includes Anthony Hopkins, Robert Stephens, Brian Cox, Ian Holm, Ian McKellen & Pete Postlethwaite – and I’ve liked them all. He’s particularly good at anger – going bright red, croaking and breathless – and grief, but less convincing in the early scenes of madness.

I still haven’t forgiven the Donmar for abandoning the performance one week earlier just 15 minutes into a power cut and then offering no alternative. I owe my second chance to Judith, who knew of my disappointment when offered her cousin Jan’s spare ticket. Huge thanks to both!

I wonder who will be my next Lear……

Read Full Post »