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Posts Tagged ‘Polly Findlay’

I’ve been a critic of the NT’s ability to pick new plays for some time, but based on the first pair in this interesting summer season, the tide might be turning. They’ve created a ‘pop up’ theatre in the paintframe at the back /side of the building with its own bar and a live band pre-show, post-show and during the interval. The benches are a bit uncomfortable and you have to nip next door to the Cottesloe for a pee, but this is their best showcase of new work since they created a theatre box in the Lyttleton circle foyer some time back.

Sam Holcroft has contributed a clever and original play called Edgar & Annabel set in some police state where the opposition is torn between the forthcoming election and more violent opposition. It would be a spoiler to say a lot more. It’s really well structured (though a touch too long) and its performed in a kitchen that looks like it’s in a container that (appropriately) makes you feel as if you’re spying on them. It occasionally surprises you and is often funny, but it’s ultimately rather chilling.

I missed DC Moore’s much lauded The Empire, but based on his contribution here, I won’t be missing his plays in the future. The Swan is set in a London pub immediately before the wake of Michael, whose father, wife and step-daughter are the characters at the heart of the play. The father misses his son’s funeral, the step-daughter leaves it part way through and the wife turns up just before the other guests. Michael has left a trail of lies and deception and the debate centres on who needs to and who should know. The expletive littered naturalistic dialogue sparkles and the character development extraordinary for a short play.  It makes you laugh but you’re also much engaged in the debate. The traverse staging adds an intensity to your involvement. I loved it.

Soutra Gilmour has created two excellent designs and two configurations; its like going to two different theatres. The pub is particularly evocative. In an exceptional cast of 13, Trystan Gravelle captures the political passion of Nick in the first play and Nitin Kundra and Claire-Louise Cordwell a pair of brilliant cameos in the second.

An 8.15pm start and 11pm finish is a bit of a mistake for people with post-theatre journeys and jobs the following morning, but I’m looking forward to the next pairing and very much welcome both the new venue and great new writing.

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I have fond memories of reading these tales and watching the TV adaptation (as I write, I can hear the theme tune in my head!), though it feels like forever ago and I can’t remember the detail of any of them.

What Jeremy Dyson has done for the Lyric Hammersmith is to link a number of the tales together ‘framed’ by the arrival of a stranger into the carriage of a commuter train (I think this is the adaptation rather than written by Dahl, but I could be wrong) and it’s surprisingly effective.

Some scenes were exceptionally funny, some head-turning nasty and one set in a public school positively chilling. It’s a fascinating concoction and it’s beautifully staged by Polly Findlay ,with a revolve changing scenes quickly, and played by a small cast of six. I particularly loved Selina Griffiths’ turns as grotesque predatory landlady and revengeful wife and George Rainsford and the boy (I don’t know which one was performing on the night we went) as the public school bully and his ‘fag’. There’s no set, just a few props and a great use of sound (by Nick Manning) for atmosphere and tension.

I was surprised when it ended after 80 minutes; this left me with the feeling that I’d just watched work in progress or unfinished business – as much as I enjoyed what I saw, I left feeling hungry. I can see why you wouldn’t want to halves, but the one half could maybe be more substantial – another tale or two?

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