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Posts Tagged ‘Susannah Wise’

This takes Kat Banyard’s book Equality Illusion as it’s starting point and it’s title is a swipe at Robin Thicke’s sexist, misogynistic song of the same name. I hadn’t read the book or heard the song, but I’m glad I went to see this.

Eight excellent actresses, including Clare Skinner, Ruth Sheen, Sinead Matthews & Byrony Hannah, perform on an unfeasibly steep and high white staircase. They start by listing stereotypical descriptions of woman that you often hear in the media and move on to show typical scenes of sexism, misogyny and objectification of women in film & TV, advertising, fashion, music…..well, in the modern world really. It’s a smorgasbord of scenes and soundbites which add up to a stimulating, challenging and thought-provoking 75 minutes.

You might have expected it to be preachy or heavy, but it’s entertainingly presented, which makes it all the more powerful. There are some lovely moments which use humour to make a point, and others which have you squirming in disgust. I consider myself a feminist, but even I began to question some of my attitudes. It’s a clever way to present the issues and does so with as much attitude as the attitudes it challenges.

The text is by playwright Nick Payne (a man and a feminist), the design (the scale of which surprises you as soon as you enter The Shed) by Bunny Christie and the inventive staging by Carrie Cracknell. It helps to have such a fine cast (who have also shaped the piece). In adition to the four I’ve already mentioned, there’s Susannah Wise, Lorna Brown, Michaela Coel (who adds her poetry) and Marion Bailey, who’s turn as a male theatre director brings the house down whilst underlining the point brilliantly.

It seems to me this is what The Shed set out to do – present something different and challenging – and it succeeds in doing so.

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After a while I was wondering if it might be better to be curled up on the sofa in front of the TV with a glass of wine on a cold Friday evening. By the interval, I was interested enough to return. By the end, I was left unsatisfied and a bit disappointed. Though the subject matter, that tolerance may often be a veneer, is interesting, the play is too contrived to deal with it in any depth.

E V Crowe’s play is about a pair of primary school teachers. Danny is gay and he and his husband Joe have applied to adopt a child. Joe is a college friend of fellow teacher Jamie who, with partner Lisa, is trying a different route to parenthood through IVF. A child calls Jamie gay which horrifies him as he is soon on the receiving end of the sort or treatment he might expect if it were true. His seemingly liberal attitudes are challenged and his relationship with all three are tested. In the first half, we’re in Danny & Joe’s flat seeing things from Danny’s perspective and in the second  in Jamie & Lisa’s flat seeing things from Jamie’s perspective. We also learn that Joe was once married, and at one point Jamie’s sexuality is also questioned.

Daniel Mays is one of my favourite young actors and the role of highly strung Jamie suits him. Liam Garrigan plays Danny with a confidence, calmness and coolness. I think the fact that they are the opposite of the stereotypes is intentional, but for me if was part of the unbelievability. The parts of Joe and Lisa are underwritten so neither Tim Steed or Susannah Wise have much chance to shine.

Jeremy Herrin’s traverse staging and Mike Britton’s design, where the kitchens’ are inside a school gym, are effective and make it a somewhat voyeuristic experience. Sadly, the writing isn’t as strong as the staging or performances and though it held my attention, I left unsatisfied.

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Another deeply rewarding late catch-up and the best production of this play I’ve ever seen. Simon Stephen’s new translation of Ibsen’s play removes all the fustiness and even though the lack of restraint might seem uncharacteristic for its Scandinavian setting, it serves the story very well indeed.

Wife and mother of three Nora has a secret and expends much effort in keeping it, even though the secret is effectively covering up a kind act. When it is revealed, her relationship with her husband crumbles irreparably as he is too focused on honour and what others will think than he is on the strength of the relationship and the love that led to the secret.

Hattie Morahan’s performance as Nora is a career highlight. She is child-like, naive, highly strung and fragile. The contrast, until the final scene, with Dominic Rowan’s coolly dominant Torvald makes her plight all the more believable. Rowan’s performance is also fine, as are the smaller but key roles. Steve Toussaint is an excellent Dr Rank, the family friend who becomes obsessed with Nora as his health deteriorates. Kristine is an odd character because her sudden arrival isn’t entirely plausible, but Susannah Wise makes her so. Nick Fletcher does well to make disgraced lawyer (and Nora’s nemesis) Nils both nasty and sympathetic. I’m not sure I approve of the use of a real baby, though!

I’m not familiar with director Carrie Cracknell’s work, but for me her staging here catapults her into the premiere league. Ian McNeil’s has designed an apartment that revolves to reveal drawing-room, dining room, bedroom, study and hall and its movement is brilliantly choreographed to stage a playful lovers chase, children’s games and all the comings and goings.

The long first half is a bit of a challenge on the buttocks and the bladder, but it’s well worth suffering for what must be a definitive production of this classic which really is a classic.

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This play starts well. We are in the home of North London kosher caterers on the eve of  the funeral of their son who has died fighting for Israel in Gaza. The Rabii calls to warn the family that he anticipates protestors – other Jews angry at the boy’s sisters’  involvement in the UN investigation of that very same conflict. The trouble is, playwright Ryan Craig then throws in the kitchen sink!

The play has its moments, but it is too contrived and therefore often implausible. We move from the set-up to soap opera to a serious political debate to melodrama. Along the way, we get business problems, relationship issues and a few too many patronising history lessons. The only unpredictable thing in the evening is the arrival of daughter Ruth’s boss Stephen  – though this is also somewhat implausible, it does provide an opportunity for a reasonably objective political debate. The best drawn characters are the sister and other brother, both played well by Susannah Wise and Alex Waldmann. The problem with the rest, particularly Henry Goodman’s father and Tilly Tremayne’s mother, is that they are stereotypes.

You’d think the staging in-the-round (you’re a fly on the wall of the living room with visible corridors leading to the rest of the house) would provide an intimacy and heighten your engagement with the story and its characters, but I’m afraid it doesn’t. I wasn’t in the slightest bit moved or emotionally engaged, even from the front row in its most heartfelt moments. I found the frequent Jewish words and references a rather clumsy way of engaging a largely Jewish audience whilst making the non-Jewish audience feel excluded.

Yet another disappointing new play at the National, I’m afraid.

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