Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Power of Yes

Well I had already seen and enjoyed Enron, so I thought I would balance things up and do a bit of pre-election revision by heading off to see David Hare's take on the financial crisis.

Not really a play, this was more of an illustrated lecture, and some of the people who had clearly paid the full £44 for their seats at a new David Hare play, were understandably a bit miffed! I did wonder if that was why there was no interval - so that they could be sure to have a full house until the end. Leaving that aside, this was a clear explanation of how it came to be that banks got away with such audacious risk taking with our money. It was well done enough that it made me angry in a way that Enron didn't, particularly through highlighting how little has changed.

I thought this was a worthwhile couple of hours. At least it means that my shouting at the telly during the pre-election period is a little more articulate and well informed than usual.

The White Guard

This was recommended to me on the basis that although it is Russian, is isn't Chekov.

Based on the play by Mikhail Bulgakov, this was a fast moving look at the Russian Revolution played as farce from the perpective of a bourgeois family living in Ukraine. Brilliant set and great ensemble performances, it was much more My Familythan Dr Zhivago, with some nicely paced set pieces. My favourites were the farcical turning points as the characters wave their guns at each other in succession, like something out of Dad's Army as everyone changes sides again and again. Chronicling the shifts of loyalties as various factions take charge then run away in the confusion, it brought to vivid life how difficult it must be to get on with 'normality' in such times, when a failure to pay attention for one moment may lead to being on the wrong side of a gun barrel.

It also had some brilliant explosions - the National Theatre with its permanent armourer has the best explosions in the theatre anyway, but these were good enough to make the whole audience leap in unison and then giggle at themselves. I love it when that happens.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Little Dog Laughed

The play is a revival of a Broadway production, with pretty impressive (to me at least) American accents used throughout by the all English cast. This is the story of a gay actor being persuaded that to secure his dream role in a Hollywood movie, the closet of a fake fairytale marriage is a better career choice than a loving gay relationship.

Rupert Friend and Harry Lloyd play the star crossed lovers, Gemma Atherton has the fairly thankless role of the token girlfriend, but all were acted off the stage by Tamsin Greig who appeared to be an unstoppable but persuasive force of nature in the role of devious agent Diane. Like an Iago drawing us into her schemes, she managed to make us admire her daring and manipulations and love her style, even as she ripped the lives of the other characters to shreds to suit the movie industry ideal.

I saw the play in the week that Colin Firth won an Oscar for playing a gay man, but with little sign of a gay man winning an prize for playing a straight leading role, this raises the nasty question of whether Hollywood really does behave like this. Unbelievable, but also scarily believable. I suppose we won't know how accurate this is, unless and until we get a big star brave enough to step up and out.

Vicious, caustic and cynical in the best way, but very, very funny, this was a surprise hit for me. My lasting feeling, apart from a renewed crush on Tamsin Greig and aching ribs from the laughing, was sadness. So, a good job well done I think.


It was a bit of a struggle to get discount tickets at the Noel Coward Theatre, so I finally ended up with side balcony tickets for me and the kids. Great view as long as you didn't mind leaning forward to see anything!

The play was a witty dash through the events that led to the Enron collapse, and showing how the seeds of the later global crash were set. With music, dancing and dinosaurs to help us through the story, it certainly kept us paying attention, and it was the clearest explanation I have yet seen on how we got into our current financial mess.
The whole cast was excellent, with Sam West and Tim Piggot-Smith playing the architects of the disaster but with Tom Goodman-Hill stealing the show with his portrayal of Andy Fastow, complete with his barely controlled 'Raptors'.

I had an American sitting next to me and it was interesting to hear his take on the show, as well as his explanations of where all the characters were now. Although overall, I would have preferred him to limit his comments to the interval rather than whispering to me throughout the second half......