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Posts Tagged ‘Rosaleen Linehan’

This was the first Beckett play I ever saw; 35 years ago, before I left Bristol for London. I’ve seen it three times since (including this one) but it’s one of those plays where your first time will probably never be repeated. A tour de force for an actress – for me June Barrie, Rosaleen Linehan, Fiona Shaw & now Juliet Stevenson – it’s still, somewhat astonishingly, more radical than anything else current.

Winnie spends the first act buried up to her waist and the second up to her neck. In previous productions, it has been a free-standing mound; in Vicki Mortimer’s striking design there is a cliff behind and an occasional light avalanche of scree. It glistens a little like gold in the bright lighting. Though we also see and hear Winnie’s husband Willie occasionally, it’s a virtual monologue as she empties her handbag and obsessively lays out its contents, including a gun, in front of her. The dialogue seems pointless, with more than a touch of sexual innuendo, though nothing is ever pointless in Beckett, just obtuse.

In this production, the contrast between the light(ish) first act and the somewhat bleak second act is greater than I remember. Winnie seemed louder and more shrill, particularly when she is barking instructions at Willie. The infamous bell has become a loud buzz. They stay frozen in character at the end as the audience applaud, presumably until we’ve all left the auditorium. This is my first exposure to director Natalie Abrahami and she makes as much impact as her former Gate colleague Carrie Cracknell did with A Dool’s House here last year.

It probably isn’t the best I’ve seen, but it’s great to see it one more time and Juliet Stevenson makes the role her own. David Beames has to take a back seat, well hole, until his big moment in the light, dressed to kill as it were, or as it maybe, at the end.

Still ground-breaking after all these years.

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You’ll be forgiven for not being interested in my opinion of this late viewing (it closes today, and my originally scheduled visit was three months ago), but I will give it anyway.

It’s set in Italy in the early 20th century, but director Richard Eyre has populated it with Irish actors speaking in their native accents. I did speculate that the NT may have received a grant from the Irish government (who’ve got form influencing corporate decisions), but in the end accepted that it’s intention is to provide an early 21st century surrogate we can identify with – though the period, character names and location haven’t changed.

I’m fond of the work of Luigi Pirandello, albeit based on just five plays, the most famous (and fascinating) of which is Six Characters in Search of an Author, which was way ahead of its time. He may have been the first playwright to play with form, though this early play (in a new version by Tanya Ronder, wife of NT director designate Rufus Norris) seems very conventional and, frankly, a bit dull.

Liola is one of two adult male characters whose significance doesn’t seem to justify being the title of the play. He has fathered (at least) three children by three different women, but has taken responsibility for raising them (well, his mother Ninfa has) so he’s a sympathetic character rather than a rake. The other man is Simone, a 65-year old landowner desperate to father a child by his second, much younger, wife Mita. There’s much talk about this, plus speculation about the father of pregnant local girl Tuzza’s child, with fingers pointed at the man who has form. That’s about it really. Women gossiping.

To hammer home the charming, wistful surrogate environment, we have lots of music (Orlando Gough) and a fair bit of dancing, though the whitewashed walls and olive tree of the village square of Anthony Ward’s set belong in Italy. Three young boys (Liola’s sons) spend a lot of time climbing and sitting in the tree which I found a bit distracting in a rare concern for the health & safety of young actors.

The performances are uniformly good, particularly from James Hayes and Rosaleen Linehan. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t have me skipping back to Waterloo station; much of a muchness.

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Martin McDonagh was one of the freshest playwriting talents to emerge in the 90’s and this was his first play and the first in the Connemara trilogy of black comedies – well, all his work is black comedies! I think we might have lost him to films after the success of In Bruges which he wrote and directed, so we might have to make do with revivals like this.

Fourteen years on, Joe Hill-Gibbons has given us a cracking second look at this play and it’s to his credit that it still seems fresh. Ultz has designed a brilliantly realistic cottage and there’s a lovely touch in that you have a peep behind the scenes on the way to your seats.

It’s the story of a 40-something virgin spinster who falls for a local man who falls for her. She seems to have found the escape manual but underestimates the deviousness of her manipulative old mother. This is the blackest of black comedies with torture and murder and moments after you’ve stopped laughing you find yourself turning your eyes away from the stage to avoid something truly gruesome.

Rosaleen Linehan is terrific as the mother who plays psychological mind games; it may make you recollect being on the receiving end of similar! Susan Lynch is an appropriately naive yet manic daughter and David Ganley was so good as her prospective husband Pato that he got a round of applause for his monologue at the start of Act II. Terence Keeley turns Pato’s brother Ray into a bit of a caricature but it doesn’t detract from the play.

I suspect we’ll see a lot more McDonagh revivals; lets hope they’re all this good.

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