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Posts Tagged ‘Samuel Adamson’

Samual Adamson’s examination of sexuality and marriage from the late 50’s to the present day uses Ibsen’s play The Dolls House, and its main character Nora, as it’s starting point and it’s both clever and intelligent.

We start in 1959, backstage after a performance of the play when Suzannah, the actress playing Nora, is visited by an acquaintance and her boorish husband Robert. It soon becomes clear that Daisy and Suzannah are much more than acquaintances, but also that Daisy is pregnant. In subsequent scenes we meet a descendent of Daisy & Robert at two points in their life, thirty and sixty years later, with encounters with different Nora’s / Suzannah’s at each point. There’s a nod to the future, but its not particularly well developed.

In effect, we’re moving from marriage as cover story to partial same sex legality (not age or marriage) to the equality we have today. To say more would be to spoil it, but I loved its cleverness and humour. There are great performances from all six actors, who play fourteen roles between them. Richard Kent has kept the design simple to facilitate speedy scene changes within acts and Indhu Rubasingham’s direction seems totally in tune with the material.

The clever structure and humour could have swamped the serious historical examination, but it doesn’t. It added much to making it such a satisfying evening.

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Perhaps I should start with the two reasons why you should see this show, because you should. This is Rosalie Craig’s big moment and she rises to it in every respect; her performance as Althea is stunning. The imagination of director Marianne Elliott and designer Rae Smith have run wild; it’s a visual feast – clever, colourful and often captivating.

To say ‘suggested by’ a story by George MacDonald is a bit disingenuous – ‘based on’ or ‘adapted from’ might be a fairer way to recognise the origin of Samuel Adamson & Tori Amos’ musical adult fairytale. In this case ‘light’ means floating rather than illuminating as Althea doesn’t do gravity. Though occasionally on wires, this is mostly created by ‘acrobats’ who move her around in a way that is simply extraordinary.

There is animosity between the two kingdoms (a wilderness divides them), both with widowed kings, one with the light princess and her brother (who dies early on) and the other with two princes. This eventually leads to war, but it’s a fairytale, so it all ends happily, with some right-on environmental stuff and some tongue-in-cheek feminism thrown in for good measure. There’s actually nothing wrong with this adult fairytale, except it’s length and unevenness.

The glorious moments sit alongside some very dull ones, which a judicious scissors would have dealt with and turned it into a much better show. There’s too much of everything really – too much story, too much music (particularly sung dialogue) and too much gratuitous spectacle. Despite this, from the whistle-stop but overlong prologue, it still seems rushed. The score is as uneven as the book. There are some nice songs hiding inside some dull recitative; it’s almost sung-through in that irritating ‘pop opera’ style.

This was the last preview, so it’s too late to change it now. This is deeply frustrating, as it’s fresh and original and has much going for it. If only Mr Hytner had given them more of those notes we’ve been told about, it could have been great rather than just good.

 

 

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You have to admire the ambition of Shakespeare’s Globe. A year after they produce all of the Bard’s plays, each in a different language, they announce a 2-year Hamlet tour to every country in the world – all 205 of them! This show is also ambitious, albeit on a smaller scale than the other two projects, and though they don’t quite pull it off, I still admire the way it stretches the Globe yet again.

I’m not sure why the play is called Gabriel. It isn’t in fact a play, it’s an ‘entertainment’ that includes a number of playets written by Samuel Adamson and a lot of music. The tales involve characters from the late 17th century, including Purcell whose music they use, and appear to be based on true stories. They also include Queen Mary and her nephew the young Duke of Gloucester, trumpeter Matthew Shore and his sons and theatre producers Rich and Betterton. The trumpet is the key as it apparently came about when trumpeter Alison Balsom (who appears / plays) expressed a wish to appear at The Globe and here is the crux of the problem – it appears to be a bit of a vanity project, and you can see the artifice.

There is a much to enjoy. The music is gorgeous and the period trumpet seems entirely at home on this stage. Some of the tales are very funny; I particularly liked the first scene involving the watermen, brilliantly characterised as the black cab drivers of their day, and a satire on opera audiences (nothing changes, it seems). It’s often racy – I can’t even begin to tell you how Kate is rewarded for giving an acting lesson – and an infectious bawdiness lingers over the proceedings. It even contains the most original use of the trumpet – using its bell to cover a man’s private parts! It has clearly been well rehearsed and the idea of staging the sort of semi-opera of the period is an excellent one. Sadly, it doesn’t produce a cohesive evening. The tone changes too dramatically at times, it comes over as a bit of a rag bag and at 2 hours 45 minutes, it’s about 30 mins too long.

The musicians play well whilst moving around and there are some fine performances, in particular from sometime Nancy Jessie Buckley who sings Purcell’s songs beautifully and acts well (including when she’s getting her reward for an acting lesson!). Jonathan Fensom’s period costumes and design are excellent and the space is well used, with a platform jutting out at the upper level, linked to the stage by a staircase. The stage itself has grown three oval wings, which opens up the action (albeit at the expense of the grounding’s space).

This was only the third performance and Dominic Dromgoole’s staging was a bit ragged at the edges, particularly with the dance and movement, but it will have to sharpen and shorten significantly to be a real success. They also need to look at the audibility issues, as some dialogue is lost when there is music in the background. That said, I don’t regret going and admired its ambition and originality, the music and the humour.

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