Red by John Logan, Donmar Warehouse, 5 December 2009

The more cynical reader/theatre lover might imagine this play/production having been designed for a Broadway transfer from the outset.

A two-handed, short play about the artist Mark Rothko, with an all (both) star cast and Michael Grandage directing.

Indeed, had it not been for the fact that the subject matter interests us both and that the stars in question (Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne) are both stars we like, we might have given this one a miss. We were falling out of love with the Donmar Warehouse by then.

But this was a very interesting play and it was superbly done, so we are very glad we went to see it at the very start of its transatlantic journey.

No on-line resource from the Donmar – they are far too busy arranging West End and Broadway transfers for that.

It got mostly very good reviews, but not universally so:

It did well on transatlantic transfer too – here is Ben Brantley from the New York Times the following spring.

But back to London during chilly December 2009, Janie and I were really taken with the preview we saw, which is the bit that really matters. It has also made us look at Rothko works slightly differently since. We’re still not sure about their meditative qualities though.

Finally, here is an extracts package from Playbill from the Los Angeles transfer – sadly without Eddie Redmayne by then, but still you get to see Alfred Molina as Rothko:

 

 

Cock by Mike Bartlett, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 14 November 2009

So we saw a young Ben Whishaw as far back as 2009 in this thing – who knew?

Mike Bartlett has also gone on to bigger and bolder pieces than this since.

I seem to recall that it was a fairly slight piece about someone who is confused about his sexuality; I think the modern term is “fluid”.

The Royal Court link is very slight for an archive of this age – click here.

As usual, high quality production and performances upstairs at the Royal; Court – we love that place.

Pains Of Youth by Ferdinand Bruckner, Cottesloe Theatre, 7 November 2009

What a grim evening of theatre this turned out to be.

The only ungrim thing about the evening was bumping into George Littlejohn and his good lady in the foyer before the show and then again in the interval. I have known George since 1994 when we met, for reasons that will only be explained to you if you click here, at the 1994 inaugural Accountancy Awards. Only click if you find pompous awards funny; don’t click if you take them seriously.

The play is about young upwardly mobile Viennese trainee doctors in the 1920’s, who should have been among the most happening people on earth were it not for their unfortunate juxtaposition with time and space (i.e. 1920’s Vienna) and their existential angst.

Janie and I hated the first half of the play and resolved not to stay for the second half. I’m not saying that it was either going to be members of the cast, or us, or a mixture of those two cohorts, but suicide was clearly on the cards during the second half. We made absolutely certain it wasn’t going to be us.

Unfortunately for George and his good lady, they had some sort of connection with someone involved in the production, so they stayed for the second half. We wished them luck as we waved them goodbye.

The irony of the bad straplining of that last piece will not be wasted on George Littlejohn, who was at one time the editor of Accountancy Age, no less, but has since managed to exceed even those giddy heights.

Despite their ordeal, sticking out the whole evening, I am pleasantly surprised, indeed delighted, to report that both the Littlejohns seem hale and hearty at the time of writing (January 2017).  Janie and I ran into them both again at the Curzon Bloomsbury on New Year’s Day 2017 – click here, which triggered this memory and hence this write up.

The Power Of Yes by David Hare, Lyttelton Theatre, 17 October 2009

We were not overly impressed with this play.

David Hare is very good at burrowing around all manner of interesting topics, but I suspect he was too far away from his spheres of knowledge and understanding with the financial crisis.

Hare almost admits as much, as the narrator of the play is a somewhat perplexed author.

So to me, Hare was making the obvious points about the financial crisis well enough, but there was little dramatic tension and no new insight in the piece.

Janie liked it a bit more than i did, but I suspect that she got more out of it, being less steeped in the financial crisis in the first place.

I’m glad we saw it, but this is second division work from a first division playwright. There was little a good cast and production could do to save it.

 

suddenlossofdignity.com by Zawe Ashton, James Graham, Joel Horwood, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Michelle Terry, Bush Theatre, 8 August 2009

I don’t remember a great deal about this one, so perhaps it wasn’t the hilarious romp the Bush production resource suggests that it must have been.

Interesting list of young playwrights collaborated on the piece, though; James Graham in particular having shot to playwright stardom relatively quickly since.

I don’t remember hating it – but I do recall that curates egg feeling about it. “Sounded better as an idea than it turned out to be as a play” was probably Daisy’s verdict.

 

 

Grasses Of A Thousand Colours by Wallace Shawn, Royal Court Theatre, 5 June 2009

A new play by Wallace Shawn. How exciting.

We have long been a fan of Shawn; in my case dating back to seeing the film My Dinner With Andre hundreds of years ago.

Janie and I by chance got to chat with him at the Almeida when he was over for Miranda Richardson’s amazing performance as Aunt Dan in Aunt Dan and Lemon (to be Ogblogged in the fullness of time no doubt)…

…and I had seen him perform The Fever; Janie and I sat behind him at The Designated Mourner at the Cottesloe in 1996; all to be Ogblogged in time.

So here was a new Shawn play with Wallace Shawn himself and Miranda Richardson in it. Plus Andre Gregory directing it. Ahead of the piece we were a little starstruck – a rare emotion for us.

Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk stub on the production.

In truth, this piece didn’t hit the giddy heights of some of Shawn’s others. The notion of dystopia following scientific tinkering has (in my view) been overdone by others rather more than Shawn’s political and social frets.

The play was more than three hours long, so I suspect we settled for a shawarma supper to take home. The evening certainly kept me and Janie in conversation for the rest of that evening and indeed the rest of the weekend.

When The Rain Stops Falling by Andrew Bovell, Almeida Theatre, 30 May 2009

Very interesting play, this one.

 

Lots going on, mostly in Australia, spanning eighty years. We saw this play before the Ashes started, so did not breach our “Aussie abstinence vow” during the Ashes, I’m pleased to report.

Andrew Bovell is a very good playwright; worth looking out for. Excellent cast and production too.

Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk stub on this play/production.

Amongst Friends by April De Angelis, Hampstead Theatre, 30 May 2009

We were more than a little disappointed with this one.

We’d fallen out of love with the Hampstead Theatre during this Anthony Clark era, so hadn’t been going there as much. But this cast looked terrific and the play sounded interesting…promising more than it delivered.

Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk stub on the play/production.

What a difference once the Ed Hall era started.

Anyway I’m sure we enjoyed our dinner at Harry Morgan’s before the show.

Parlour Song by Jez Butterworth, Almeida Theatre, 11 April 2009

Coincidentally, at the time of writing this (early May 2017) we have just seen a new Jez Butterworth, The Ferryman, which was excellent.

While I remember Parlour Song pretty well, it hadn’t dawned on me that it was also a Jez Butterworth play.

There’s a good trailer and stuff on the Digital Theatre Plus site – click here.

It was a very good, very funny play. All three members of the cast: Amanda Drew, Toby Jones and Andrew Lincoln were terrific.

I don’t think it sent us into quite the level of ecstasy that the critics describe, but we did enjoy this one a lot, without finding much depth; it is basically a slightly quirky, sinister comedy about suburban infidelity.

But it did for sure signal Jez Butterworth on that upward trajectory to playwriting stardom.

The Fever by Wallace Shawn, Royal Court Theatre, 4 April 2009

I saw Wallace Shawn perform this piece in early 1991, I think at the Cottesloe, but perhaps upstairs at the Royal Court…to be Ogblogged (with accurate details) in the fullness of time.

But Janie hadn’t seen it before and Clare Higgins is a cracking good actress.

Also, in the post crash times that were late 2008/early 2009 when we booked to see this production, I thought the piece might have a different, meaningful resonance.

In many ways it did.

Yet it wasn’t quite the same thing as seeing Wallace Shawn perform it himself. How could it be?