Tag Archives: Capitalism

Interview: Mark Ravenhill

*Originally written for A Younger Theatre*

“They can be quite unnerving,” Mark Ravenhill says of the Secret Theatre company, suggesting that their 12 months of working together has given way to a kind of openness he hasn’t come across in many rehearsal rooms. He elaborates further: “On the whole, everyone in British theatre is on these short contracts so everyone makes this big effort. And although you might think it’d be nice to be rid of that, it’s actually a little bit disarming for the first few days because they’re quite neutral. They’re very calm and centred. It takes a while to adjust to that.”

Ravenhill is a late addition to the Secret Theatre ensemble. He joined the company after Lyndsey Turner (who directed his adaptation of Candide at the RSC last year) suggested he write to Sean Holmes asking to be involved – “You don’t know if you don’t ask”. Continue reading Interview: Mark Ravenhill

“Mission Drift” by The TEAM

at The Shed, Wednesday 26th June 2013

“But if you believe in money, then you believe in God”

Four microphones. Dozens of water bottles. And some sand.

From a selection of very basic props, Mission Drift tells a love story which covers a period of four-hundred years, of desire for both the material and the abstract, capturing a specific moment in time and offering a searing critique of Modern American Capitalism. It is, in short, extraordinary.

First, a bit of background. I vaguely remember hearing about the show when it was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t read anything about it at the time. Then, as its run at the NT Shed was announced, I resigned myself to the fact I probably wouldn’t see it seeing as it was on during my last month at university and I didn’t want to buy a ticket when I may not have been able to make it.

Then the reviews came out. Continue reading “Mission Drift” by The TEAM

“Othello”, “The Low Road” and “Peter and Alice”

“If you have been entirely satisfied by something obviously mediocre, may it not be that you were searching for something less than mediocre, and you found that which was just a little better than you expected?” – Edward Gordon Craig

In the past week or so, I’ve managed to catch three of the “Big Openings” of the last month; Othello at the National (still in previews when I saw it), The Low Road at the Royal Court and Peter and Alice at the Noel Coward. They’re all perfectly decent pieces of theatre in their own right and each manage to hold the audience’s attention whilst saying something about their subject matter, but ultimately they each failed to have any kind of lasting impact on me. I’ll admit first and foremost that I’m probably not the target audience for any of these pieces. Continue reading “Othello”, “The Low Road” and “Peter and Alice”

“Decade”

at Commodity Quay, Saturday 10th September 2011

Anyone who believes that there are certain issues which art shouldn’t tackle is wrong. End of story. Just as there can be bad art about the most basic of issues, there can also be extraordinary art which tackles the most profound questions. Headlong Theatre has proved that no stone should be left unturned in the quest for truth, representing a wide selection of viewpoints on the World Trade Center attacks. Decade is a provocative, exciting and entertaining piece of theatre which never once shies away from the subject matter.

Rupert Goold has taken a collection of short plays from several writers and meshed them together. One thing unifies them; they all represent in some way an opinion on 9/11, delving into the lives of survivors, widows, historians, nurses and politicians who were affected, directly or indirectly. Lively, pedestrian choreography from Scott Ambler and brash, loud music by Adam Cork mix with Goold’s direction to mirror theatrically the cacophony of voices which fight to be heard. Yet even before we enter the space, the point is made that the voice of authority is always the one which prevails, as we are searched and questioned in a customs-style process – although those in power want these to be the only voices which are heard, the real human arguments cannot be suppressed.

Perhaps the most successful playlets are the monologues. Simon Schama’s Epic and Recollections of Scott Forbes, edited by Samuel Adamson, give the most direct and clear opinions, and are performed as wholly believable lectures by Tom Hodgkins and Tobias Menzies respectively.Ella Hickson’s Gift, about a gift seller who capitalises on the emotions of women after Ground Zero tours, and Harrison David Rivers’  not resentful at all give some humorous opinions on the aftermath.

We are also shown vignettes which highlight how tolerance has been compromised post-9/11. The Odds, by Lynn Nottage, shows Islamic members of the community slowly becoming ostracised, and Rory Mullarkey’s Trio with Accompaniment suggests we are all guilty of prejudice on public transport.

One storyline which runs throughout, Matthew Lopez’ The Sentinels, charts the progress of three women who were made widows by the attack as they meet on September 11th each year. We watch as the years go backwards from 2011 to 2000, seeing how their lives have changed and subsequently asking what life was like before the towers were brought down. The performances of Emma Fielding, Amy Lennox and Charlotte Randle here are mesmerising.

But Decade is far more than the sum of its parts. For, while each play makes a point on its own, it is together that they resonate. The scene changes are among the slickest and most engaging I’ve seen; Ambler’s choreography is seared onto the mind, just like the images of citizens jumping from windows. The final moments include a chilling song created by text messages sent on the day, reminding us of Cork’s recent success in London Road and asking us to feel emotion where before we were asked to think.

Miriam Buether’s design is staggering. We are in Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the North Tower. On each end of the room are views of Manhattan, and on another a glass-fronted walkway which is used to great effect. The attention to detail is astonishing; we are even given a menu to peruse before the play begins. It is lit with flair by Malcolm Rippeth, and the dust on the shoulders of Emma Williams’ costumes completes the startling picture.

Decade is collaborative art at its best. Goold brings together a selection of sources which sometimes disagree and sometimes overtly contradict, yet the production never feels anything but cohesive. There is glue in the desire to question and debate one singular event, and no one is ever deprived of their right to speak. The epic is made human and vice versa, and spectacle is never far away. This is theatre.

“The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov

in a new version by Andrew Upton

at the Olivier Theatre, Wednesday 3rd August 2011

The Cherry Orchard has always been seen as Chekhov’s most political play. Written during a time of limbo in Russia, when no one knew the shape of the future, it is a play which always feels extraordinarily apt during periods of change. Howard Davies’ imposing production at the National Theatre is perfect for our current climate, presenting on stage the dichotomy between new and old as whole strata of society shift unpredictably.

The indignation of some that Andrew Upton’s new version of the play is ‘too modern’ is mostly unfounded; Scene II of Act One does contain a few too many contemporary colloquialisms, but throughout the rest of the play the slight references to twenty-first century speech only serve to make the play easier to understand. This version focusses on setting apart the three main ‘voices’ Chekhov represents here.

Bunny Christie’s gorgeous whitewashed-wood set evokes a sense of beauty in decay, and the juxtaposition of an old structure with new telegraph poles serves to heighten the sense of estrangement the landed classes felt in Russia in the early 1900s. Neil Austin’s ambitious lighting shows time passing and Dominic Muldowney’s dulcit music reminds us we are never far away from tragedy.

Whenever Zoe Wanamaker is on stage she diverts attention to her, creating the same effect her alter-ego Ranyevskaya has when she walks into a room. Conleth Hill’s boisterous Lopakhin is presented with enough humanity to be empathetic, but when we listen to his words it’s difficult not to see him as the villain. Wanamaker and Hill represent the old and new money at odds with one another, and are given a running commentary by Mark Bonnar’s radical and ebullient Trofimov. These are the three voices, and the ones we are drawn to throughout. Charity Wakefield and Claudie Blakley show impressive range as the two daughters.

Davies manages to pin down the reason why this play can be seen as comic; the humour is found in the tension between the different social views. We find ourselves laughing not because we are told to, but because nervous energy compels us to. Then, in an instant, as the bags are packed and the door slammed, tragedy takes over and we realise the struggle to be heard is ongoing.