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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Price’

This black comedy is a stage adaptation of a much garlanded 2014 Swedish film by Ruben Ostlund. The American 2020 remake, Downhill, was a lot less successful it seems, and the stage version by Tim Price may illuminate why. I haven’t seen either film.

Tomas, Ebba, their teenage daughter Vera and young son Harry take a skiing holiday in the French Alps. On their first full day, whilst having lunch at a cafe at the top of the slopes, a controlled avalanche looks as if it is getting out of control and Tomas’ reaction has a profound effect on his family. That evening Ebba relates the tale to a guest she has befriended and the following day to Tomas’ friend and colleague Mats, who has by now arrived with his young girlfriend Jenny, during a drunken evening. In doing so, she embarrasses and humiliates Tomas. Things escalate as Tomas & Ebba’s relationship appears to disintegrate, affecting their children and contaminating Mats and Jenny’s relationship in the process. Whilst all this is going on, others party and the staff go about their business, but everyone knows there’s something up.

It’s often very funny, but also often uncomfortable. It makes us consider how we deal with different perceptions of the same event and our own and others’ flaws, and what happens when the acceptable / unacceptable line is crossed. The problem for me was the uneven pace, particularly in the multiple short scenes of the first 30 or 40 minutes. We were entertained during the scene changes by skiing, choreography and skiing choreography (!), but it still hampers the dramatic flow. The meatier scenes, like the drunken evening and Tomas and Ebba’s confrontation are excellent, though.

It isn’t easy to set a play in the Alps, but Jon Bausor’s design gives us ski slopes, restaurants & bars, bedrooms and an elevator on his brightly lit set. The four central characters are well played by Rory Kinnear, Lyndsey Marshal, Sule Rimi and Siena King, and there’s a fine supporting cast in Michael Longhurst’s production. As much as I enjoyed the evening, though, I couldn’t help wondering if it was really worth adapting for the stage.

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The interval can be a difficult time when you’re getting nothing out of a play, deciding whether to go back, wondering what your companion really wants to do. I don’t often walk, but on Monday night I did.

The 70 min first half was an incoherent, anarchic mess. I know it was supposed to be anarchic, but incoherent? I know I’m older than the target age, but my much younger companion agreed. Reading reviews afterwards (I never read them before, though its almost impossible not to pick up the buzz and the stars) they seemed to suggest it made more sense in the second half and reading up on the subject beforehand pays off. Surely if a play doesn’t get your attention in 70 minutes it’s failed? If prior knowledge or research is required, shouldn’t the theatre tell you?

I’ve liked the other Tim Price plays I’ve seen – the brilliant Radicalisation of Bradley Manning in Edinburgh, Protest Song at the NT Shed and (though a bit laboured) I’m With The Band, also in Edinburgh. The Royal Court covered similar(ish) territory very successfully earlier in the year with The Nether. The subject of hacking is ripe for staging, but this doesn’t do it justice. From what I saw it lacks depth and the first half was largely incomprehensible. Why should anyone be expected to return from a 70 min self-indulgent infantile ramble?

I’m afraid the new regime at The Royal Court is proving to very patchy indeed.

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I broke my ‘no monologues’ resolution on the first day of the New Year. This time (for it has happened before) enticed by the playwright (Tim Price, responsible for National Theatre Wales’ out-of-town 2013 highlight The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning), the actor (Rhys Ifans, not on our stages often enough) and the subject matter (Occupy London, something that captured both my imagination and my heart). As it turns out, a resolution well worth breaking.

Danny is a rough sleeper whose world is turned upside-down when Occupy turn his nighttime spot at St. Paul’s into a bloody great big protest camp. At first angry (he pisses on their tents), he eventually becomes drawn in – first taking advantage of the hospitality of their canteen, then participating in the work of the kitchen, building relationships with protestors and enjoying the company as well as the food, As the camp becomes more of a society, Danny becomes more of an outcast and his resentment rises.

Ifans prowls around the bare black space talking directly to the audience, collectively and individually. It stirs a whole host of emotions in you – sympathy, anger, repulsion, hopelessness, fear…..The mood is lightened by some of our interactions, most notably an audience rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas where the things brought by ‘the system’ include two racist policemen and a vote in a democracy, and five gold rings becomes Boris is a c*** The levity is cut off halfway through and the play turns towards it’s coup d’theatre ending.

I hope Ifans won’t mind me saying that he doesn’t have to do much to get the look of Danny, but he goes way beyond the look, inhabits this character and conveys his loss, regret, rage and disillusionment. We learn about the lives of the rough sleepers as well as the characters and motives of the protesters. The play is no homage to Occupy and your attitude to rough sleepers is more likely to change (positively) than your views of Occupy. I can’t get rid of that ‘that could be me’ feeling and the change in me was visible a matter of minutes later as I passed a rough sleeper on the way to Waterloo station.

So my theatrical 2014 starts with a broken resolution, but also with a stimulating, challenging and thought-provoking hour that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

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