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Posts Tagged ‘Theatre Royal Bath’

This is the second in what appears to be an informal Miller mini-festival. It started with Enemy of the People at the Union Theatre last month and continues with American Clock & All My Sons at the Old Vic and Death of a Salesman across the road at the Young Vic. This fiftieth anniversary production of his 1968 play comes to London from the Theatre Royal Bath. Though I liked the productions I saw 17 and 29 years ago, I’ve never considered it up there with the big four which, with Enemy in the middle, appeared between 1947 & 1955 – Sons, Salesman, The Crucible & A View from the Bridge. On this form, though, I’m beginning to think again.

Victor and his wife Esther are in the attic of Victor’s recently deceased father, waiting for Gregory Solomon, who’s going to value and hopefully make an offer for the contents. Victor has been trying, but has failed, to get hold of his estranged brother Walter, who really should be with him. Esther leaves soon after Solomon arrives and the rest of the first half is mostly a two-hander, an entertaining and often funny discussion which leaves you wondering where its going. When Esther returns and Walter arrives, Solomon takes a back seat while the family history is played out and you realise it’s more about the price we pay for decisions in our lives than it is about the price of the contents of the apartment.

Walter is a hot-shot surgeon and Victor an NYC cop, these destinies determined by their relative responses to their dad growing old. As often with Miller, dad was a victim of the depression. Victor stayed loyal, at the expense of his career, while Warren broke away for his, decisions with had profound effects on their lives. They haven’t seen much of each other since, and there’s a lot that’s unsaid. Walter now tries to reconcile and make amends, but it’s too late, and somewhat disingenuous. Esther is at first frustrated by her husband’s intransigence, but won’t see him lose his pride and dignity. This second act confrontation is the heart of the piece and it’s simply masterly.

Simon Higglett’s brilliant design of the ramshackle apartment piles layers upon layers of family history, but provides an intimate space for the brothers’ exorcism of the past. Brendan Coyle is terrific as Victor, at first accepting the cards he’s played, but eventually showing bitterness and regret at an unfulfilled life. David Suchet is excellent as the worldly wise Solomon, wickedly funny, determined to get a deal, interjecting into the family discussions now and again. Adrian Lukis plays the unsympathetic Walter, the chalk to Coyle’s cheese, though he’s paid his own price too. I loved Sara Stewart’s interpretation of Esther, often critical of her man but ultimately loyal and loving.

The Price came at the midpoint of Miller’s playwriting career, both in terms of years and plays. Whatever you think of it, Jonathan Church’s production provides an opportunity to see this more rarely produced play as well as you’re ever likely to see it staged, and for this Miller fan it made me realise how much I’d underrated it. Until now.

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This is the third play by French playwright Florian Zeller that we’ve had in London in less than twelve months, all translated by Christopher Hampton. I worried when the second, The Mother, was stylistically similar to the first, The Father, that he might be a one-trick pony, even though I admired both. Fear not, the third is very different and quite possibly the best.

The first scene introduces us to Michel and his best friend’s wife Alice in a hotel room. They are having an affair. What unfolds over 90 minutes in seven scenes in six locations, each involving just two of the characters, is the unravelling of their infidelity, taking many twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the final moments. It’s a masterly piece of writing and it’s very funny. To say any more would spoil it. 

Lindsay Posner’s staging is as masterly as the writing and Lizzie Clachan’s design is as clever as the play’s structure, changing location with the slide of a screen. Alexander Hanson as Michel is onstage throughout, carrying the play, and he does so brilliantly, but the other three – Frances O’Connor, Tanya Franks and Robert Portal – are terrific too.

Apparently there are six more plays we haven’t seen, including a companion piece to this, unsurprisingly called The Lie. I can’t wait. Three plays in and I’m convinced he’s a find.

This is why I go to the theatre. I’ll be very surprised if this doesn’t follow The Father into the West End. Unmissable.

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It’s great that we’ve got theatres like the Park & St. James that can bring small scale shows in from outer London and the regions quickly. The thought of London missing out on this little gem from Bath, now a regional powerhouse, is inconceivable.

The play tells the story of Esther, who traveled from Carolina to New York City in her teens, after the death of her mother. In Mrs Dixon’s rooming house she works as a seamstress and is shown how to make intimate apparel, a lucrative line. When we meet her she is 35, successful (she has saved a veritable fortune) but unmarried. We meet two of her clients, a wealthy but unhappy society woman and a prostitute. We also meet orthodox Jew Mr Marks from whom she procures all her fabric. They share a love of fine cloth and there is a certain frisson between them. She receives a letter from a labourer on the Panama Canal who becomes her pen pal, though others have to read his letters and write her replies as she can’t. He proposes by letter, she accepts, he arrives in New York, they marry and her world is turned upside down.

It’s slow to take off, but when it does its a captivating and deeply moving story. There are only six characters but a lot of short scenes and a lot of locations, but with a clever design (Mark Bailey) it doesn’t lose pace in Laurence Boswell’s fine staging. Tanya Moodie is sensational in the lead role; she plays it with such delicacy and conviction. Chu Omambala as George has great presence, though I occasionally struggled with his accent, as I think he did! Dawn Hope is a lovely contrast as Mrs Dixon, who confides in Esther and relies on her. Further contrast comes with her unlikely friendship with prostitute Mayme, beautifully played by Rochelle Neil. There are fine supporting performances from Sara Topham as wealthy Mrs Van Buren and Ilan Goodman (a bit of a dead ringer for his dad Henry, who was in the audience last night) as Mr Marks.

This is a very different piece from other Lynn Nottage plays that have crossed the Atlantic – Fabulation and Ruined – and there seem to be another half-dozen plays we haven’t seen yet. She’s a fine playwright, so let’s see them please!

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I gasped as I read in the programme that it was 20 years since this was first produced at the NT. I suppose the need for a cast of 24 and a mighty fine actor to play George III must be the reasons for a lack of revivals, so well done Theatre Royal Bath, who originated this production, for the opportunity.

I have to confess it isn’t the masterpiece I remembered, but it’s still a good play. Alan Bennett tells the story of a period of madness for the king, during which he gets a whole series of excruciating but conflicting treatments from four doctors (who in reality don’t have a clue) and Tory PM William Pitt almost loses office to Whig Charles Fox (with the support of playwright turned MP Sheridan!) whilst the playboy Prince of Wales almost becomes Prince Regent.

It’s a fascinating study of madness, royalty and politics – darker, more disturbing but less funny than I remember. The second act is better than the first, which is slower and a little uneven, but there are some brilliant moments to savour in Christopher Luscombe’s production. With so many scene changes it’s a design challenge, but Janet Bird has captured the period and the regal (though I think the walls with empty picture frames are a mistake).

David Haig is terrific as George III and is in my view the real reason for seeing this revival. His transition from pompous but lovable to manic & disturbed and back again is a tour de force which is always captivating and occasionally thrilling. Perhaps because the character and performance of the King are so dominant, the rest of the ensemble make less impact and few stand out. I did like Christopher Keegan’s Prince of Wales, though it is a touch too much caricature, and Nicholas Rowe’s Pitt.

Haig’s performance will be a highlight of 2012, which is a good enough reason to go, so do!

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It’s over twenty years since I saw the original production of this play. It had a very original structure – a biographical monologue interrupted by ‘illustrations’ by characters described in the monologue (some time later, Improbable Theatre did the same with real people in Lifegame) – and a performance from Peter O’Toole which added a frisson because you couldn’t decide if he was playing drunk or actually was drunk!

Jeffrey Bernard was a journalist, gambler, raconteur and professional drunk. He was notorious to those that came across him, but after the play was staged became what we would call today a ‘celebrity’. In the play he tells his own story whilst locked into Soho’s Coach & Horses overnight by mistake. He drinks as he does and some of those he mentions and some of the stories he tells are illustrated by a host of characters, played by four actors, who come on stage briefly to introduce the character or play out the story.

It was fascinating to return to it after 20 years with a different actor, Robert Powell,  playing Bernard. It’s slightly less shocking, but still very funny and the structure remains clever, fresh and perfect for the story it tells. Powell is clearly enjoying playing this role and does so very well, with almost continual eye contact with the audience and a knowing smile that make it feel like you’re in the pub with him. That’s helped, of course, by a realistic pub set from Jonathan Fensom and in our case by front stalls seats, again within wig spotting distance! Director David Grindley’s staging serves Keith Waterhouse’s play well and is pretty faithful to Ned Sherrin’s original production – no point in messing with something that worked.

I don’t know if this Bath originated touring production is intended for the West End but I think the timing is good and it could well succeed again; my two companions were new to it and enjoyed it as much as I did.

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I studied this play for something that used to be called ‘O’ level. At the time, all I got to see was an amateur production. It was 15 years before I saw a professional one, but it was an extraordinary one; John Gunter seemed to have actually built part of Bath’s Royal Crescent on the Olivier stage (the life-size houses could be turned around and opened out to reveal their interiors) and Michael Hordern turned eating a boiled egg into a comic masterclass.

There’s a lot going on in Sheridan’s restoration comedy and it’s fun – preposterous fun, but fun all the same. The character names are particularly delicious and there are lots of parts, big and small, which actors relish. It’s impossible to dislike, but it doesn’t change your life.

This Peter Hall production comes off the Theatre Royal Bath quality-classics-staged-for-a-song production line. It fits the Theatre Royal Haymarket like a glove. Simon Higlett’s set isn’t as grand as Gunter’s but it does the job perfectly well. The cast is uniformly good, with Penelope Keith an imposing enough Mrs Malaprop and Peter Bowles a fine Sir Jack Absolute. There are great comic turns from Gerard Murphy as Sir Lucius and Keiron Self as Bob Acres and a lovely cameo from Ian Connington as Fag.

As much as I enjoyed seeing it again, it didn’t sparkle that much though and I’m afraid it falls into the category of ‘another Rivals’. Still, there are worse nights out to be had.

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