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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Campbell Moore’

I found this story of scientist Rosalind Franklin rather sad – the lack of recognition of her contribution to DNA science, her unfulfilled personal life and her untimely death are all brought out in Anna Ziegler’s lucid biographical drama. The play suggests the lack of recognition is a combination of sexism, her reluctance to promote herself and her work and a more cautious approach to science. It seems the Cambridge DNA team of Watson and Crick, with the collusion of her London colleague Wilkins, though fully aware of her contribution, fail to acknowledge it publicly and to include her in their Nobel Prize-winning work – which is a great tragedy in itself.

We first meet Franklin when she returns to the UK from France to work at King’s College with Maurice Wilkins. She’s cold, brittle and determined, and she’s immediately faced with the challenge of being a woman in what was still a man’s world in the early 50’s. Wilkins changes her work and status before she’s even begun and snubs her on day one to lunch in the men-only dining room. Her ground-breaking photographic techniques prove crucial to the discovery of DNA but it’s not given recognition, most probably intentionally. Just as those that are recognised are revelling in their Nobel glory, Franklin is dying of tumours which may even have been caused by her work.

Christopher Oram has created an enormous replica of Kings College, above and below ground (where their laboratories were). It’s impressive, and reflects the coldness of the scientific environment and the people and relationships played out within it. Michael Grandage’s staging is rather conservative, with actors stepping forward to narrate parts of the story that are not enacted. The costumes are as grey as the set and with 50’s behavioural restraint and scientific seriousness, the overall feel is clinical.

Nicole Kidman is completely believable in this role, and you soon forget you’re in the presence of a modern film icon. I realised how much she invested in the role at the curtain call when she changed before your eyes from the character into the actress, and this was far from instant. She has five fine performances around her, and makes no attempt to scene steal or attention grab. Stephen Campbell Moore is outstanding as the complex Wilkins, with hints of guilt and longing. Edward Bennet and Will Attenborough are great together as the livelier Cambridge pair of Crick and young American Watson respectively. Patrick Kennedy plays another American scientist Don Caspar with child-like enthusiasm, in awe of Franklin, showing his less scientific feelings for her more overtly than Wilkins. Joshua Silver is very good too as her assistant Gosling, sometimes caught between loyalty to her and their boss.

An interesting story that unfolds grippingly over just 95 minutes. The production is as restrained as the characters, so what might seem conservative may perhaps be a true reflection of this period and this world. I still haven’t forgiven myself for choosing not to see Kidman in La Ronde at the Donmar seventeen years ago now, but this is some recompense. She proves to be a fine stage actress.

 

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This is one hell of a play. It’s ambitious and epic; a jigsaw puzzle that takes you three hours to complete. When it comes full circle at the end, you’re left with a deep sense of satisfaction. It’s why I go to the theatre so often – to come across one of these every now and again.

Joe is an American news photographer who took an iconic picture of a man’s face-off with a tank in Tiananmen Square on 4th June 1989. Many years later he gets a lead which makes him think the man survived and escaped to the US. What unravels is like a detective story. In China, we see what happens to anyone brave enough to expose things like pollution. In the US, we see how China’s economic power can bury just about anything.

Along the way, we meet politicians, market researchers, newspapermen, Chinese immigrants and policemen, but at its heart are the personal stories of Joe and his Chinese friend and source Zhang Lin. It never lets you go and fully justifies its length at just over three hours. It’s never predictable and moves from poignant to funny in a flash. I was enthralled. Es Devlin has designed a brilliant giant revolving cube on which images are projected and within which rooms open up for all of the many scenes. Lyndsey Turner’s staging is simply stunning.

Stephen Campbell Moore is on stage almost the whole time and he’s terrific. Benedict Wong can hardly have caught his breath as he left The Arrest of Ai Weiwei in Hampstead and travelled (with two other actors!) the five miles to Islington and he too is superb. There are lovely performances from Claudie Blakley as a British market researcher who falls for Joe, Nancy Crane as a US senator and Trevor Cooper as a newspaper head.

This is an unmissable theatrical feast which propels playwright Lucy Kirkwood into the premiere league.

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I almost always find Racine’s plays turgid, but this was a ‘new version’, it was in the lovely Donmar space and it had Anne-Marie Duff in it, so how could I not go? Well, she was the best thing about it, but sadly also about the only good thing about it.

Josie Rourke continues the penchant for re-configuration she started at the Bush. This time, the right side four rows becomes the back two rows, the stage is sand and there’s a walkway over the top which looks like c.50 chairs glued together. When you take your seat, with sand falling from the ceiling, it looks beautiful, but after the play starts it all seems a bit pointless. The temptation to tell the actors to use the short stairs at the left rather than walk all the way over the top and down was very hard to resist.

Berenice’s proposed marriage to Titus makes infatuated Antiochus distraught. It’s quashed for political reasons (Emperor Titus marry a foreign queen – I don’t think so!) but Antiochus’ love remains unrequited. No-one marries anyone and that’s about it really – though it takes 100 minutes to tell you that and that’s where it fails as a play;  it’s very dull and doesn’t sustain its length.

The ‘new version’ by Alan Hollingshurst doesn’t really add or take away anything. Stephen Campbell Moore seems more like a school teacher than an Emperor and Dominic Rowan more like a civil servant, both devoid of passion. You spend most of the time waiting for people to make the irritatingly long walk across the top and down onto the stage.

Luckily for the Donmar, there wasn’t an interval.

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My second Arthur Miller revival of the year proves to be much more than the Suchet-Wanamaker show, though they are both at the height of their powers and give terrific performances.

The first star is Bill Dudley’s extraordinary set – a life-size American suburban house and garden surrounded by giant trees have taken over from Jerusalem’s English wood with Airstream caravan! Similar (the same?) as the National ten years ago, from the third row of the stalls you felt like you were peering over the fence into a neighbour’s garden.

The rest of the cast is excellent indeed, including Stephen Campbell Moore’s principled son, Jemima Rooper’s tortured  soul and an angry David Lapaine. Director Howard Davies has indeed assembled a uniformly excellent cast for this revival

The main star, of course, is Millers’ play – a masterpiece of the 20th century which could just as easily be about contemporary families torn apart by profiteering out of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. It has so much humanity and so much depth.

It’s great to see ‘House Full’ signs on a Monday for a modern classic, and it proved to be a thrilling evening in the theatre.

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