Chains by Elizabeth Baker, Orange Tree Theatre, 24 November 2007

Truthfully, I recall very little about this one. No doubt Sam Walters was wandering around like an expectant father on the night we went; a production directed by his wife, Auriol Smith and starring their daughter, Octavia Walters. Although we were past the preview stage, so perhaps Sam wasn’t there that night.

Anyway, here’s the helpful Orange Tree stub about it.

Michael Billington in the Guardian, as usual with Orange Tree stuff, loved it, here.

Philip Fisher in British Theatre Guide is reasonably impressed but observes that there is a lot of dull chit chat, here.

The Standard suggests that it is interesting as social history but lumpen as drama, here.

I have a feeling that we found it a bit lumpen too. We tended to with Orange Tree pieces from that period, often observing that Sam’s reluctance to use an editing pencil on Edwardian revivals is a bit of a disadvantage. A shame really. Especially as so many of my great aunts and uncles made that trip to Australia 100 or so years ago, the subject really is of interest to me.

Still, we no doubt still enjoyed our evening and no doubt rounded it off with Spanish food at Don Fernando, as most often we do after the Orange Tree.

 

Free Outgoing by Anupama Chandrasekhar, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 23 November 2007

We thought this might be a good one. That’s why we made the rare decision to book the Royal Court for a Friday evening.

We were not disappointed.

The story is simple enough; a young Indian girl in Mumbai has been videoed by her boyfriend having sex with him and the video inadvertently goes viral, ruining the youngsters lives; in particular hers and those of her family.

Lots of big modern issues in there. We found the play intriguing and disturbing. The production was very well done.

The Royal Court stub on this one is excellent, with several good reviews reproduced in full – here.

Charles Spencer’s in the Telegraph is not one of those reproduced, but is still a very good review, here.

Philip Fisher also gave it a rave review in the British Theatre Guide – here.

It is a fairly short piece but no harm in that. I seem to recall it got a gig downstairs a year or so later, deservedly so.

The Dysfunckshonalz by Mike Packer, Bush Theatre, 16 November 2007

This play was good fun. It is basically a comedy about a punk band that fell out in unusual circumstances reforming many years later as Mammon comes calling. It sounds a bot “so what?” and it some ways it was, but it was an entertaining evening at one of our favourite venues.

The Bush has a good stub for this production, as the best theatres now do – see here. The reviews bit doesn’t seem to be working, but there are several reviews still to be found:

It didn’t get a west end transfer, but perhaps that idea was b*llocks, never mind. The Bush was still a room above the pub in those days, which seemed a fitting venue for this piece.

Cloud Nine by Caryl Churchill, Almeida Theatre, 10 November 2007

This is a weird play. But then, it is Caryl Churchill. Indeed, by Caryl Churchill standards, it is not that weird a play.

But Janie and I had never seen the play and this, as it turned out, was a good production of this play. Thea Sharrock directed it; we’d been really impressed with her at The Gate and this production no doubt added to her rising stardom.

There’s a good Almeida stub for this production – here, although the reviews are just quotes.

Reviews to be found that can be read in full are as follows:

Enough evidence – this was good. We enjoyed ourselves and felt thoroughly sated with good theatre that weekend, having seen a super short play, Truck Stop, at the Hampstead the night before.

 

 

Truck Stop by Lot Vekemans, Hampstead Theatre Downstairs, 9 November 2007

I think this was the first piece we ever saw at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs. It was very good indeed.

We went on a Friday evening, unusually early – the piece started at 19:00. It was a short piece, so I think the early start was because they were performing it twice per evening.

I think this production had done the rounds; The Hush House in Suffolk (says the programme) and I think also Edinburgh and the Unicorn Theatre at least. The play itself, by Dutch playwright Lot Vekemans, had been around for a few years by 2007. A chunk of Rina Vergano’s translation is in the public domain as a teaser – here.

Hampstead Downstairs didn’t generate reviews, but Eastern Angles has pulled lots of reviews for this piece – here. They are good.

Janie and I agreed that downstairs at the Hampstead seemed like a jolly good idea to us. Time and some wonderful productions has proved that thought correct.

The Arsonists by Max Frisch, Royal Court Theatre, 3 November 2007

After an aborted evening at the Hampstead Theatre the night before, this was a much better theatre experience for us.

I have liked this play ever since I read it, hundreds of years ago…well, soon after doing Andorra by Max Frisch at school. This production at the Royal Court Theatre, performed in rep alongside Rhinoceros which we saw a few weeks earlier, promised a fresh translation and another chance to see up and coming young star Benedict Cumberbatch before he became too famous to watch.

We both really enjoyed this production. It isn’t one of Janie’s favourite plays, but the translation and production were indeed fresh. Will Keen was excellent as Biedermann.

Most of the major reviews were highly favourable and are reproduced faithfully on the Royal Court stub for this production – here.

Charles Spencer in the Telegraph thought it tailed off – here. Sarah Hemming in the FT was also less than sure – here. Philip Fisher in British theatre Guide missed the epilogue – here – (I thought its omission was a good thing, on balance).

 

The Giant by Antony Sher, Hampstead Theatre, 2 November 2007

On paper, this appeared to be a seriously hot ticket. So seriously hot we booked to see the first Friday preview. Antony Sher wrote it, Greg Doran directed it, Roger Allam starred in it…

…what’s not to like?

Well, in truth we didn’t like it at all. The plot revolves around the Florentine story of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo competing for the same sculpture commission. The play might have been fine art’s equivalent of Amadeus – I suspect that’s what Sher had in mind, but we found the piece laboured, pretentious and dull.

We didn’t stick around after the interval for the second half of the play.

The reviews were not so special: