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:

Kebab by Gianina Cărbunariu, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 20 October 2007

I recall this being a very powerful play/production – archived in all its detail by the Royal Court here. This resource includes plenty of reviews, from the play’s original outing in Dublin and also from the Royal Court.

With Rhinoceros on downstairs at the same time, I suppose this was Romanian month at the Royal Court.

I remember we left feeling uncomfortable; sexual exploitation is that sort of subject on the stage – you feel a little complicit in the exploitation even though you know you’ve been watching a play. In this play that exploitation is as raw as a symbolic uncooked kebab.

Lots of good reviews shown in the Royal Court link above, but Michael Billington in the Guardian absolutely hated it – see here. He felt he’d seen it all before. So did Charles Spencer in the Telegraph – see here.

It certainly wasn’t a fun play, but it was very well acted – we were more with the good reviews than the haters.

My diary is silent on what we had for dinner after the play, but it might easily, ironically, have been some form of kebabs, as we would often as not go to Ranoush or Mohsen after the Royal Court. But perhaps we went to May’s for Chinese food on this occasion, even if that choice was a change of tack after seeing the play.


Once We Were Mothers by Lisa Evans, Orange Tree Theatre, 13 October 2007

My recall of this one is extremely sketchy. I vaguely recall the scenarios, as set out in the Orange Tree Archive – click here. I remember the cast being a collection of Orange Tree regulars and a few new faces. I remember the play not really fitting together – it was basically three separate stories, merely linked by being essentially mother and daughter scenarios.

Michael Billington wasn’t too sure about it – see here.

John Thaxter in British Theatre Guide quite liked it – here.

We’ll have dined at Don Fernando afterwards, that I can say for sure.

Rhinoceros by Eugène Ionesco, Royal Court Theatre, 6 October 2007

I’ve liked this play for almost as long as I can remember; certainly since school. Janie and I saw a quirky production of this at the Lyric Hammersmith years ago, but I thought this version at the Royal Court, translated by playwright Martin Crimp might have a bit extra. It did.

Benedict Cumberbatch was a young actor on the “one to watch” list in those days; now (writing in 2016) one might pay good money to avoid him – simply because of extreme overexposure to his manifest talent, you understand.

The above link (or click here if you prefer) takes you to the Royal Court archive, which has the who’s who and excellent reviews, saving me time and effort. But the absence of Michael Billington’s name in the Royal Court resource led me to suspect that Billi-o didn’t like it and I was right – click here for his review.

Philip Fisher in British theatre Guide (also unmentioned) did like it – click here.



Life After Scandal by Robin Soans, Hampstead Theatre, 21 September 2007

This was a very interesting and entertaining piece of verbatim theatre. Robin Soans is good at this stuff; we’d seen Talking To Terrorists at The Royal Court. It was probably this sole factor which encouraged us to book the play.

We were pretty much out of love with the Hampstead Theatre at this time; during the Anthony Clark era. Clark himself directed this one and did a decent job of it.

It was deservedly pretty well received on the whole by the critics:


The Years Between by Daphne Du Maurier, Orange Tree Theatre, 15 September 2007

The Years Between is a 1940s period piece by Daphne Du Maurier. Orange Tree Theatre stubs from 2007 are a bit thin on detail, but here’s a link to the stub.

I remember this play seeming a bit slow and dated, but it did hold our attention and the acting was very good.