Monday, 30 May 2011

Rocket to the Moon

I have a lovely 'I told you so' glow after seeing Jessica Raine delivering a storming performance as Cleo, opposite Joseph Millson in Rocket to the Moon at the Lyttelton.

Keeley Hawes was replaced by Rendah Heywood for this performance, and although she did well, I think we may have lost some of the extra frisson that the similarities in physical form and apparent fragilities between the two female leads may have brought to the piece.

Millson was totally believable as the man caught between his dreams and reality, and the other characters with their different quiet desperations were all played perfectly. Raine though, caught exactly the mixture of vulnerable but vampish girl/woman, like an early Marilyn Monroe caught between the desires of men and what she wants to become.

Loved it!

The Cherry Orchard

Despite my best efforts I find it a bit difficult to find the laughs in Chekhov, but decided on the spur of the moment to give the latest version at the Olivier a try, especially as there were front row day seats available.

The production sits a bit out of its time, with telephones and electricity pylons decorating the set, and it sort of brought the play forward to a post revolutionary time, rather than the pre-revolutionary era in which it was written. It helped to create the feeling of a group of people out of synch with their times, floating through the world on a haze of orchards, borrowed money and pale linen.

The text had been brought up to date for this production, and although it occasionally jarred, it did bring the humour to the fore, and clarified the caricatures a bit. The frocks were lovely and I spent quite a few minutes admiring the cut and fabrics, particularly in the overlong scene in the gardens.

Zoe Wanamaker did strike a few classic tragic Chekhovian poses, but overall was quite restrained in the dramatics, focusing instead on the determinedly unworldly partygirl nature of Ranyevskaya. Some favourites were James Laurenson as the brother just making the best of things, and Tim McMullan as a scrounging landowner down on his luck.

Kenneth Cranham stole the show though with the excellent ending.

Uncaged Monkeys

Completely sold out, even in Basingstoke, this was a bit of a triumphal tour for the forces of science and thinking things through properly. On the bill were the perpetually smiley Prof Brian Cox, Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre and Robin Ince and more. Each presented their party trick lecture, and coupled with a Q&A session, very entertaining it was too, even when Brian Cox used a projection of a Guardian poster to illustrate the miniscule-ness of science funding in the uk.

Being in a room where everyone was in favour of science was a bit like a prayer meeting for atheists and I, for one, would be happy to sign up to this particular cult.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


I didn't get around to posting this while it was still on, but one of the highlights of my theatre year so far.

I faffed around for ages trying to decide when to go to see this, and which version of the casting to go for, so by the time I made up my mind it was sold out with overnight queues for day tickets.

So, I duly set my alarm and arrived to join the back of the early morning queue, ending up with a standing ticket.

I think I got a good deal though, as from the back you get a full view of the fantastic lighting effects which rippled above the stage, almost like an additional member of the cast. I saw the casting with Jonny Lee Miller as the creature, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Frankenstein. Miller played the role as though electrified and with a real humanity and warmth, struggling to deal with his beastly exterior, whilst Cumberbatch was all cold science. I really wanted to see the opposite casting, to see what each would do with the same role, but sadly it wasn't to be. I hear rumours of a DVD release though, so fingers crossed.

Cause Célèbre

A slightly odd play, although with excellent staging, Ann-Marie Duff was a mix of fragility and passionate hedonism, playing the woman trapped in a moral quagmire. Full of polar opposites and double standards, it felt like we would be served up a black and white ending, but it all turned out in shades of grey. Based on real events in 1935, the play was first produced in 1977, and at first looks like a period piece, but the moralistic snap judgements by people who know little of the facts seems particularly relevant when we are surrounded by super-injunctions and twitter gossip. So, it made me think and wonder.

Propeller: Richard III

I just love Propeller. Funny, irreverent, but always on the button, this was a fast and fantastic production in the tiny theatre at The Watermill in Newbury. Packed with ever more dastardly methods of murder, and with a charmingly vicious lead in the form of Richard Clothier as mad, bad Richard III, this was the most entertaining death packed theatre trip I have had in ages. Still on tour, see it if you can..