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Posts Tagged ‘Rikki Beadle-Blair’

Tom Wright’s dad-son role-reversal comedy seemed like an interesting idea, and I like the work of director Rikki Beadle-Blair, so I gave it a whirl. It didn’t really live up to expectations, I’m afraid.

William’s dad Dave is an alcoholic. He’s lost his job and mum Cath has moved out. William’s got a gap year job at her firm, but his dad wants him to have a hedonistic time and lose his virginity, so he tricks him and takes him to Thailand. William is the sober, conservative one and Dave the wild one. William meets and falls for Matias and moves in with him. Its not long before he’s a wild one too – drink, drugs and promiscuity – losing Matias in the process. Meanwhile, dad’s got himself a serious illness, and a ladyboy, Mae. Mum Cath is in regular phone contact with her son, initially encouraging him, while she’s having her own milder wild time back home.

It’s a bit frenetic and in yer face, performed on a platform with the audience on all sides, a bit like table dancing. It stretches plausibility when Cath finds her way to Thailand, locates Matias and Mae, as well as Dave & William’s flat, for the denouement, which is somewhat contrived. The performances were all rather loud in Rikki Beadle-Blair’s production, which has its moments, but didn’t really satisfy. For a comedy it wasn’t really funny enough. In all fairness, though, coming on the evening after a matinee of Our Lady of Kibeho in Northampton probably didn’t help.

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I’m very partial to a Rikki Beadle-Blair play, but I’m afraid this one has none of the sweep or depth of the other two plays of his I’ve seen (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/gutted). It’s a Rom Com, a genre I’m generally fond of, but it arrives on a wave of implausibility which sadly lost me early on.

Four homeless boys, though you’d never believe it by looking at them, compete for the affections of Summer, a Philippine woman living in London. She’s the protégé of life coach Joan, who’s romance with the boys’ friend, sandwich seller Justine, provides a sub-plot. The boys take it in turns to spend a day with Summer, a difficult job when you have no money.

We’re told it’s the first completely trans cast, which is very laudable, though I have to confess this baffled me with at least two of them. When you know this, there is a tendency to confuse the gender of the actors with the gender of the characters and I got in a right pickle trying to understand the various sexual orientations (of the characters).

I admired the ambition and I enjoyed the performances, but it didn’t really work for me, probably because I was expecting a play with more bite, as I have come to expect from Beadle-Blair.

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NEW PLAYS

Chimerica – Lucy Kirkwood’s play takes an historical starting point for a very contemporary debate on an epic scale at the Almeida

Jumpers for Goalposts – Tom Wells’ warm-hearted play had me laughing and crying simultaneously for the first time ever – Paines Plough at Watford Palace and the Bush Theatre

Handbagged – with HMQ and just one PM, Moira Buffini’s 2010 playlet expanded to bring more depth and more laughs than The Audience (Tricycle Theatre)

Gutted – Rikki Beale-Blair’s ambitious, brave, sprawling, epic, passionate family saga at the people’s theatre, Stratford East

Di & Viv & Rose – Amelia Bullimore’s delightful exploration of human friendship at Hampstead Theatre

Honourable mentions to the Young Vic’s Season in the Congo and NTS’ Let the Right One In at the Royal Court

SHAKESPEARE

2013 will go down as the year when some of our finest young actors took to the boards and made Shakespeare exciting, seriously cool and the hottest ticket in town. Tom Hiddleston’s Coriolanus at the Donmar and James McAvoy’s Macbeth for Jamie Lloyd Productions were both raw, visceral, physical & thrilling interpretations. The dream team of Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear provided psychological depth in a very contemporary Othello at the NT. Jude Law and David Tennant as King’s Henry V for Michael Grandage Company and the RSC’s Richard II led more elegant, traditional but lucid interpretations. They all enhanced the theatrical year and I feel privileged to have seen them.

OTHER REVIVALS

Mies Julie – Strindberg in South Africa, tense and riveting, brilliantly acted (Riverside)

Edward II – a superb contemporary staging which illuminated this 400-year-old Marlowe play at the NT

Rutherford & Son – Northern Broadsides in an underated 100-year-old northern play visiting Kingston

Amen Corner – The NT director designate’s very musical staging of this 1950’s Black American play

The Pride – speedy revival but justified and timely, and one of many highlights of the Jamie Lloyd season

London Wall & Laburnam Grove – not one, but two early 20th century plays that came alive at the tiny Finborough Theatre

Honorable mentions for To Kill A Mockingbird at the Open Air, Beautiful Thing at the Arts, Fences in the West End, Purple Heart – early Bruce (Clybourne Park) Norris – at the Gate and The EL Train at Hoxton Hall, where the Eugene O’Neill experience included the venue.

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I love the Theatre Royal Stratford East and I love its new tag line ‘A People’s Theatre’ because it is – and this play is in the right home. A BIG play; an ambitious, brave, epic, sprawling, passionate, angry, funny drama which wears its heart on its sleeve. It can best be summed up by Philip Larkin’s most famous poem ‘they fuck you up, your mum and dad’. In this case, sometimes literally!

The four Prospect boys are the present generation of a south London dynasty of Irish descent, two of whom are in relationships with sisters of West Indian descent. The play centres on professional footballer and eldest boy Matthew’s return from rehab, which he apparently entered to avoid a drug test (nine months earlier!). His youngest brother has converted to Islam after imprisonment at an impressionable age. Son number three is pursuing a pre-op tranny. Son number two seems to be the normal one, married with twin girls, until the skeletons in his cupboard, courtesy of his wife, come out later. Mother Bridie is devoted to her boys and you can’t help but love her – well, at first…..

It takes a while to get into the time shifts as we move back and forth to learn the sources and causes of the family’s dysfunctionality, and indeed of the family of the Lockwood girls who’ve ‘married’ into this. The characters are larger than life and the dialogue is as sharp as a knife. There is never a dull moment as you move from laughter to shock and back again on the emergence of a new fact or the use of a wisecrack. You can forgive the lurches into implausibility, melodrama and excess because it presents you with a dramatic feast the equivalent of an entire 13-part TV series in one evening.

Staged in front of mirrored walls (there’s no hiding place) its fast-moving high energy stuff with a complete set of stunning performances. All four Prospect boys (in order, Matthew Mark Luke & John!) are brilliantly cast and played by James Farrar, Frankie Fitzgerald, Jamie Nichols & Gavin McClusky. Louise Jameson is outstanding as the matriarch. Sasha Frost, Dominique Moore, Jennifer Daley & Ashley Campbell are all superb as the boys respective wives and lovers.

I’m not sure why it has taken me eight years, since Bashment at the same venue (http://www.whatsonstage.com/tickets/theatre//L2001081771/.html – mine is the top review!)  to see another play by Rikki Beadle-Blair, but I hope it won’t be another eight before the next. I said then, and will say again – Joan Littlewood would be proud. You’ll have to accept the language and you’ll have to stomach some difficult subject matter, but if you can and you do, you will be richly rewarded.

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