Against by Christopher Shinn, Almeida Theatre, 26 August 2017

Unfortunately, this one didn’t really do the business for us.

I said to Janie at the interval, “if this play manages to pull together all of its big and disparate themes in the second half, we’re in for one cracker of a second half.” I didn’t think it would. It didn’t.

Here is a link to the Almeida resource on the play/production.

Strangely, I don’t think we’d ever seen a Christopher Shinn play before. I say strangely, because he has had so many of his works performed at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, which we frequent a lot. Perhaps the subject matter has never appealed to us before.

This sounded interesting from the Almeida blurb and indeed it was interesting subject matter. Too much of it; violence in society, sexual politics, religion, workers’ increasing sense of powerlessness…

…but the performances were all very good. They seemed, to us, wasted on this play.

Tellingly, the Almeida resource does not link to reviews, so here are a few links:

To help rescue our evening, we ran into Jilly Black sitting, with a friend, a few rows behind us. We chatted with them after the show; indeed Janie dropped them at Baker Street giving us quite a bit of very pleasant post show chat time.

It is not very often that we bemoan the extra few minutes journey time to the Almeida; normally that place is well worth the extra few minutes each way, but this piece left us warm to the interesting topics but decidedly cold to the play,

The Nether by Jennifer Haley, Royal Court Theatre, 2 August 2014

Just occasionally we see a play/production that really sticks in our minds, so much so that we are talking about it and/or referring to it for years afterwards,

The Nether was such a piece.

Here is a link to the Royal Court resource on The Nether.

It is set in a dystopian future in which many of the real things we cherish (such as trees) have gone but humans spend much of their time in virtual reality worlds.

The play grapples with some of the ethical issues we need to think through in this context; not least moral injury.

But this is no mere preachy issues play – it is a gripping drama too and you end up really grappling with many moral dilemmas in 80 minutes.

Stanley Townsend led a tip-top cast.

The production deservedly got excellent reviews – click here for a search term link to those – and it got a west end transfer.

Below is a vid of a Royal Court debate with the playwright and Professor Anthony Beech:

Wastwater by Simon Stephens, Royal Court Theatre, 2 April 2011

We do both like a bit of Simon Stephens. We’re also partial to Linda Basset’s acting. This piece reminded us why on both counts.

We actually thought it was brilliantly acted and produced throughout.

Here is a link to the Royal Court resource on this play/production.

Three seemingly different stories that sort-of overlap and sort-of don’t. It’s hard to explain why, but Simon Stephens has a way with drama that simply keeps you gripped and thinking throughout.

Here is a very interesting behind the scenes short film from Sky Arts, including interviews with Simon Stephens, Linda Basset and several of the other cast and creatives, about Wastwater:

Royal Court – Wastwater from daniel bougourd on Vimeo.

Here is a link to a search term for reviews and other resources. The reviews are not universally great – some rated it very good, some rated it poor and cold-hearted.

We rated it very highly.

The City by Martin Crimp, Royal Court Theatre, 3 May 2008

Weird play, this one. You never quite know what’s going on with Martin Crimp. This play is a companion piece to one named The Country, which we saw at the Royal Court in the summer of 2000 and rated as “very good”.

The Country was also weird, but The City was, I think, even weirder. Short play, though. I seem to recall it got us talking and thinking, which is good.

A young Benedict Cumberbatch, still emerging as a star, was in this one. Hattie Morahan and Amanda Hale were also very good in it.