Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Zinnie Harris’

If you judged this play on the first and last 20 mins, you might think it was rather good. Sadly, the 80 minutes in-between are dire. The Royal Court’s Literary Manager must be away or asleep. This should never have got onto the main stage, at least not in its present form. Not even an actress as good as Maxine Peake can redeem it.

The play opens with Dana and Jarron waking from a night of passion. She thinks this relationship might have legs, he thinks it was a business transaction. He works for the UN, appears to be a demon and certainly leaves his mark, if not his money. Dana is late for her pitch for project funding, preparing in a rush with the help of her sister Jasmin, but it all goes horribly wrong. What follows, it seems, is Dana’s journey, with her pregnant sister, to Alexandria for another pitch. A librarian turns up regularly with appropriate reading suggestions and Jarron is rarely far away. It ends with a bit of a coup d’theatre (thanks to Chloe Lamford’s design) as we seem to be drowning, like illegal immigrants at sea.

The trouble is the whole middle section – a nightmare in both content and experience, an obtuse and deeply frustrating ramble, makes two hours (without an interval – very wise!) feel like a lifetime. I’m sure playwright Zinnie Harris has valid points to make, but they are buried in this incoherent mess. Maxine Peake does her very best with the material, with excellent support from Michael Shaeffer as Jarron, Christine Bottomley as Jasmin and Peter Forbes as the librarian, but it’s not enough. What used to be the home of new writing is yet again the home of shoddy writing that needs to be reigned in and whipped into better shape by a literary manager and / or director Vicky Featherstone.

I’ve spent many years trusting The Court and taking risks, most of which have been rewarded, but on recent form The Twits (surely they can’t mess that up?) may be my last blind punt. It’s very sad to watch a once great institution go down the pan.

 

Read Full Post »

Here I am again, less than 12 hours after leaving the Tricycle Theatre, hearing news that could just as easily have been part of what I’d seen earlier. I suspect there is no other theatre in the world using its stage to present an objective debate about the issues of our time and their historical perspective. This time, the bomb and its ‘Proliferation’ from 1940 to the early 90’s and its ‘Present Dangers’ – the last 10 years (and forward three).

These ten short plays, and thirteen verbatim interview extracts, take us from wartime Whitehall, where German and Austrian scientists in exile present a startling discovery to the UK government, to recent IAEA inspections in Iran. In between, we visit the 1945 Potsdam Conference, an Indian nuclear facility, post-independence Ukraine, the White House, Pyongyang and the UN.

For me, the highlights were Lee Blessing’s Seven Joys, set in a fictitious club of nuclear nations, and David Greig’s chilling yet funny The Letter of Last Resort, set in 2015 in Downing Street on the first day of our next PM. This latter play simply but brilliantly shows us the rationale (or not) for The Deterrent like a scene from Yes, Prime Minister (which it acknowledges).

Yet again, I learnt so much whilst (yes, it’s true!) being entertained. This is equal measure education, debate, drama and entertainment and if that isn’t a theatrical  achievement, I don’t know what is. In two parts and just four hours playing time, Nicholas Kent’s compelling staging  flows seamlessly on Polly Sullivan’s simple but effective set, with a superb video design from Douglas O’Connell.

Eleven excellent actors each play between two and five of the forty roles and enact the thirteen verbatim statements. Belinda Lang and Simon Chandler were superb in the Grieg play as were Daniel Rabin and Rick Warden, who played the exiled scientists in the two Zinnie Harris plays which frame the whole piece.

A suitably appropriate swan song for Nicholas Kent. I can think of no other person who has made theatre as relevant in modern times, taking plays about the history of Afghanistan into the Pentagon and about events in our own country into Parliament. Within months of the August 2011 riots, they were objectively and forensically examined on this very stage. From the man in Row G, sir, I salute you.

Read Full Post »

OK, so nine short plays on the history of women in politics (and the ‘testimonies’ of five living politicians) isn’t everyone’s idea of fun on a hot, sunny Saturday in June! Well, helped by the Tricycle’s aircon, it proved to be a theatrical feast I wouldn’t have missed for the world.

The Tricycle is the only theatre with the bravery and balls (inappropriate terminology, I know) to stage this. It’s only a year since they did a thrilling whole day history of Afghanistan in the same way and I have to confess I never thought they’d match it – but they have.

The nine plays take us from Elizabeth I to all-women selection lists and the writing, by nine different women playwrights, was even more consistent than The Great Game, with an intriguing and unpredictable selection of subjects and innovative approaches to them. There really wasn’t a dud amongst them, though Sue Townsend’s albeit funny contribution steered furthest from the theme in the cause of her cartoon-like relentless and tired snipes at the New Labour project.

Marie Jones and Rebecca Lenkiewicz gave us fascinating new historical perspectives on the suffragettes and Liz I respectively. Moira Buffini’s take on Thatch & Liz II was clever and funny yet insightful. Lucy Kirkwood reminded us how we’ve virtually eliminated Greenham Common from history. Joy Wilkinson shows us that little has changed between the 1994 and 2010 Labour leadership contests. Zinnie Harris viciously but accurately shows us many men’s attitudes to all-women selection lists. Sam Holcroft stages a very intelligent debate about pornography through a conversation between a successful pornographer and a PM let down by her husband. Bola Agbaje is bang up-to-date with her study of the power of sex. Add to that verbatim contributions from Shirley Williams, Edwina Currie, Oona King,  Jacqui Smith & Anne Widdicombe, and a late addition (?) from Nick Clegg which proves to be the most chilling of all! Well if that doesn’t live up to my ‘theatrical feast’ epithet, I don’t know what does!  

Indira Rubasingham, assisted by Amy Hodge, has given each play a fresh directorial perspective with Handbagged, Bloody Wimmin and Acting Leader getting particularly inventive staging. She’s assembled an excellent ensemble of twelve actors who play up to six roles each, except Lara Rossi who gets to play Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, John Prescott, Peter Mandelson, Clare Short and Margaret Beckett’s husband in the same play – a tremendous debut from someone still at LAMDA! It was particularly good to see Kika Markham, Tom Mannion and Stella Gonet again.

If you saw The Great Game, you shouldn’t miss this different but equally exhilarating experience. If you didn’t, suspend disbelief and go see this and you’ll be back for The Great Game when it’s revival follows it. Seeing them all together, it’s an intelligent, relevant and thought-provoking experience – and great entertainment too.  

Yet again, The Tricycle leads the way.

Read Full Post »