Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

“Great Britain” by Richard Bean

at the Lyttelton Theatre, Monday 30th June 2014

*Originally written for Exeunt*

The announcement of the opening of Richard Bean’s Great Britain was as sudden as it was, we have been told, due to legal issues, but you can’t help feeling it was also a bit of a publicity coup for the National. The unveiling of a play about the hacking scandal and our national press mere days after the conclusion to the trial which delivered verdicts on those involved would, you’d assume, make such a play supremely current. Weirdly, however, Bean’s new tabloid farce is topical without being contemporary, and though it’s full of brilliant gags it never quite hits you in the gut.

The whole plot broadly tells a fictionalised version of the phone hacking scandal. Paige Britain (Billie Piper) is a news editor at the Free Press, which is run by a foul-mouthed editor (Robert Glenister) and owned by an idiotic Irish tycoon (Dermot Crowley). Continue reading “Great Britain” by Richard Bean

“Adler & Gibb” by Tim Crouch

at the Royal Court Theatre, Thursday 26th June 2014

CONTAINS “SPOILERS”

I love how proud Tim Crouch is of John Peter’s assessment of An Oak Tree in 2007: “Some people will do anything to avoid writing a real play, possibly because they’re not sure they can.” You can find the quote in many places, not least on twitter where Crouch frequently cites it in discussion of his work. Similar things, we know, were said of Waiting for Godot and Blasted, so Crouch is in good company. What’s interesting about Adler & Gibb, however, is that it’s arguably the playwright’s most play-like play yet, and that’s not something felt only as a result of its context on the Royal Court main stage. Though formally and intellectually challenging, this is a play which has recognisable characters, a ‘proper’ set and – most strikingly of all – genuine emotional journeys. Its not that these things are absent from Crouch’s earlier work, of course, merely that here they are more visibly on the surface. Continue reading “Adler & Gibb” by Tim Crouch

“Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

at Richmond Theatre, Tuesday 24th June 2014

*Originally written for Exeunt*

The last lines of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel Catch-22 form one of those famous closing passages: “Yossarian jumped.  Nately’s whore was hiding just outside the door.  The knife came down, missing him by inches and he took off.” It’s a beautifully ambiguous ending, with the phrase “took off” having a whole plethora of different meanings, and contains within it all the contradictions of the novel itself.

In this stage version of the novel, however – which Heller adapted himself – some of that ambiguity and contradiction of this classic World War II story is unfortunately lost in its transition to a different medium. Continue reading “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

“The Notebook”

based on the book by Ágota Kristóf

at Battersea Arts Centre, Wednesday 25th June 2014

For about the first twenty minutes of The Notebook, the show – in all honesty – feels a bit like a cop-out. Two performers – Robin Arthur and Richard Lowdon – enter from a back door, each armed with a brown A4 notebook and dressed in incidental red jumpers and grey suits. They stand facing us, open their books, and begin reading. Sometimes, as when announcing a new chapter or highlighting a point, they speak in unison, but otherwise they speak in quick succession, recounting a story of two twins evacuated to their grandmother’s house in Hungary during the Second World War. With every new chapter, their positions shift slightly, but otherwise the same pattern is followed all the way through. Continue reading “The Notebook”

Night Watch Festival

*Originally written for Exeunt*

12.01 The doors open and coffee has been slurped and it’s quiet too quiet but it’ll get busier surely? and we go to see Action Hero start Slap Talk which sees the pair look into cameras and speak off autocues will last five hours which starts with the words Are you ready?

Yes. Continue reading Night Watch Festival

Mayfest 2014

So I went up to Mayfest on Saturday.

I’ve been meaning to visit my brother for a while now. He’s studying creative writing at Bath Spa and for one reason or another I haven’t had a chance to pop up for a jolly in the past couple of years. A weekend freed up, however, and I decided to book some train tickets. At which point I realised it was at the same time as Mayfest. And, well, Bristol’s only down the road, isn’t it? Continue reading Mayfest 2014

“Confirmation” by Chris Thorpe

at Warwick Arts Centre, Wednesday 21st March 2014

“Be hard on your beliefs; take them out onto the veranda and hit them with a cricket bat” – Tim Minchin

I’ve just finished reading Kathryn Schultz’s Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error which, for someone as frequently dogmatic as myself was both a painful and illuminating read. In it, Schultz discusses how our belief in our own rightness can hinder genuine dialogue and education, citing research which shows that we frequently stop listening when faced with an oppositional argument, which Schultz cites in order to demonstrate our lack of openness when faced with differing viewpoints. She suggests, rather, that being open to being ‘wrong’ in any scenario is both liberating and invigorating, with the potential to teach us more than righteous belief. Continue reading “Confirmation” by Chris Thorpe