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Posts Tagged ‘Vanessa Kirby’

Strindberg’s 130-year-old play has been successfully updated / adapted before, most notably to apartheid South Africa as Mies Julie (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/mies-julie), and this is another successful interpretation by playwright Polly Stenham and director Carrie Cracknell. I found it edgy and bleak, but brilliant.

We’re in present day North London. Julie is the daughter of a rich man who seems to ignore her. Her mum is dead and her boyfriend has dumped her. It’s her 33rd birthday and a party is in progress, though it seems to be populated by hangers on. Back in the kitchen, the maid and her fiancée the driver, go about their business – until, that is, the suppressed attraction between Julie and driver Jean comes to the surface and it progresses to its tragic conclusion.

I thought the rave aesthetic worked well, but the kitchen scenes sometimes lacked intimacy. That said, there was a real sexual chemistry between Vanessa Kirby as Julie and Eric Kofi Abrefa as Jean, whose movements around one another seem animalistic. Kirby’s Julie comes over as a lonely, very troubled contemporary thirty-something who’s lost her way. Jean is torn between his perceived place in life and his desires. Thalissa Teixeira is excellent as Kristina, loyal and loving until she is betrayed by both. There are twenty non-speaking roles to ensure we get a realistic party.

Designer Tom Scutt has created a giant white rectangular box with a kitchen up front and a screen rising to reveal the party, but it is a big space for a play that is often just a two-hander, so as much as I admired the adaptation, the staging and the performances, there were times when it did feel a bit lost on the Lyttleton stage. Well worth catching, though.

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It seems you have to go to The Cut if you like your drama intense and your productions cutting edge. Across the road at the Old Vic there’s an extraordinary interpretation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and now here at the Young Vic there’s this thoroughly modern version of Tennessee Williams’ most famous play. It seems as if there’s a game of ‘mine’s longer than yours’ going on (which the Old Vic wins by about 15 minutes!) as both productions lengthen the originals by their staging, without adding anything to the text, but both sustain their length and succeed spectacularly.

Benedict Andrews presents us with a chlaustrophobic apartment (kitchen / living area, bedroom and bathroom – designer Magda Willi) which revolves continually so that the audience which surrounds it sees the action from a constantly changing perspective. It intensifies the voyeuristic experience as we peer into these people’s lives. It’s better at showing the opressiveness inside the apartment than the oppressiveness of the neighbourhood where people live on top of one another, but the space around the revolving apartment and a metal staircase at one end (which aligns once per cycle and makes for some exacting entrances and exits!)  link the two. The atmosphere benefits from excellent lighting by Jon Clark and brilliant music from Alex Baranowski.

It’s great at polarising the world of Blanche, Southern belle on her uppers, and the rough and ready world that her sister Stella has joined by leaving Belle Rive and marrying Stanley. The culture clash is clearly defined and there’s more of an emphasis on how torn Stella is between her sister and husband. It seems to me this Stanley is even less sympathetic than usual; as he reveals Blanche’s true story there isn’t an ounce of empathy and in the end he revels in her humiliation. When he becomes violent it’s intense and as Blanche leaves his callousness comes as a shock to his poker playing friends, one of whom has of course become close to Blanche.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Sheila Gish, Jessica Lange, Glenn Close and Rachel Weisz as Blanche, but Gillian Anderson took my breath away with her range of emotions and the depth of her characterisation. It’s no star vehicle though; Ben Foster is brilliantly intimidating as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby makes much more of Stella and her divided loyalties. These are three fine performances that together provide a fresh perspective and a truly great interpretation of this 20th century classic.

The Young Vic continues to provide world class theatre that’s about as accessible as you can get and this is another feather in their feather stuffed cap! A triumph.

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There is so much incongruity in this show, about events in the early 14th century, that at first I wasn’t convinced I was going to like it. The actors are miked and there are giant screens high up on both sides of the auditorium showing scene titles plus live footage of off-stage scenes, recorded scenes & some live ones. The costumes are an eclectic collection. Kyle Soller uses his natural American accent and women pay the roles of Pembroke & the young Prince Edward. The queen chain-smokes and swigs champagne from the bottle. There’s an onstage electric piano which at one point plays the hokey cokey. Yet there is an extraordinary tension from the outset which keeps you gripped throughout. I loved it.

Playwright Christopher Marlowe, a. contemporary of Shakespeare, was only 29 when he died, yet this is one of four of his plays still regularly produced more than 400 years on. He was more radical than Shakespeare – this play focuses on the king’s male lover and the effect it has on the court and nobility of England! The lover, Galveston, is twice exiled and eventually murdered and his replacements receive the same treatment. The establishment is having none of it and it ultimately leads to the king’s downfall. Homophobia in the 14th century written about in the 16th.

Director Joe Hill-Gibbins presents it as current events unfolding and it works brilliantly. He is lucky to have such a superb ensemble of 22 actors without a weak link. I’ve never seen Vanessa Kirby before and she’s hugely impressive here as the queen. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith is wonderful as the power-crazed (young) Mortimer. Casting Bettrys Joes as the young prince makes so much sense when you see how she illuminates the role. From his dangerous first entrance, Kyle Soller is mesmerizing as Galveston and in an inspired move he’s also cast as Edward’s killer. Then there’s John Heffernan’s king, sometimes bursting with passion, sometimes restrained and resigned to the hopelessness of his plight. It’s great to see this terrific actor deliver such a stunning performance on what is arguably Britain’s most important but difficult stage.

This is Edward II out of the closet. Seeing the production made me wonder what Marlowe would have produced if he’d lived to Shakespeare’s age. The competition would have been thrilling and he may well have eclipsed the bard. This captivating production conclusively proves his talent and has to be seen.

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