I don’t normally go for adaptations of my favourite novels, but something told me this would be well worth seeing and also that Janie would like it. I was right on both counts. It was probably down to the fact that Simon Stephens was adapting it and also the stellar-looking cast and creatives boasted.
It was a fabulous evening of theatre. This adaptation deserved the plaudits it received in the press and the many transfers and re-runs that have followed.
There is even a Wikipedia entry to document the play’s progress – click here.
…and so on.
From our point of view, this was a cracking night at the theatre. It was also darned close to the 20th anniversary of our very first date, in August 1992, which happened to be at the Cottesloe. There’s cute for you.
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.
We saw a preview of this new play/production, as oft we did at the Cottesloe.
There is a strong OfficialLondonTheatre.co.uk resource on this play/production – click here. It is basically a stage adaptation of Kureshi’s novel about anti-racism and radical Islam.
Tanya Franks was in it, which was one for the NewsRevue alumni “where are they now” department.
I don’t remember much about this play, which is not a great sign. Perhaps my mind was on the Ashes match unfolding at Lord’s that weekend, but more likely, if the reviews are anything to go by, this was not a classic.
After a rare Friday night marathon with Wally Shawn at the Royal Court the evening before, we went to the Cottesloe the next night to see another affecting play.
Here is the OfficialLondonTheatre.com stub for The Observer.
It is basically about election observers in a West African country getting its first taste of democracy.
We found it interesting and thought provoking. We were a bit “theatred out” by the end of it, but that was as much Wally Shawn’s fault from the night before as anything else. I’ll guess we went to May’s (Shanghai Knightsbridge) for some Chinese food after this one. We had many issues from the two evenings to chat about over dinner and the rest of the weekend.
This one felt like a hot ticket when we booked it months before and also seemed well suited to my mind set just 48 hours after my Gresham Lecture on Commercial Ethics.
But this play was about the arguably thornier topic of political ethics and political pragmatism.
What a posse of cast and creatives for this one – click here for the Official London Theatre information stub.
I recall being most impressed by the performances and the production. Also, the play did its job of getting me and Janie talking about its big issues for the rest of the weekend. Yet this didn’t feel like premier league David Hare to me; I felt there was something lacking in the play.
It was that sort of play/production – influential people were supposed to talk about it but not all that many people got to see it. Janie and I saw a preview, so had every right to wax lyrical from an informed perspective and from the outset.
What good news for everyone that Janie and I tend to keep our counsel to ourselves on such matters.
Well worth seeing.
Janie and I both profoundly hated this play/production.
We normally like Irish plays, even if they are a bit silly. But this one seemed to us to be silly to the point of not having any point at all.
If you read the rubric, still available on the Official London Theatre site along with production details – click here – you can see why we booked it. Sounds interesting. Potentially really good.
So, as the whingers say, what do we know?
So there’s more to Uxbridge than the cricket ground.
Seriously, Janie and I both really liked this play. Simon Stephens is one of our favourite playwrights these days and this one worked really well in the Cottesloe for us.
The eponymous lead is a big part; Lesley Sharp is a correspondingly big part actress who was able to deliver big time on this play/production.
Very shocking in parts and also very moving.
A mixed bag evening, mostly good stuff in the mix, with three short plays all with a “yoof” theme, at the Cottesloe.
We weren’t going to miss this one. Roy Williams we liked a lot when we first came across him at the Royal Court a few years before. Ditto Dennis Kelly, whose work we’d very much enjoyed at the Hampstead. Lin Coghlan was new to us.
We weren’t overly familiar with Paul Miller’s name as director then, although we had seen his work before and now (writing in 2016) know his work well at the Orange Tree.
Apparently this production emerged from the National Theatre’s Connections programme, getting young people involved in performing, although this production was picked up by and delivered by professionals, albeit some of them very young professionals.
There is an excellent, free RNT education workpack for these plays, which includes synopses and other educational materials to accompany the pieces – click here to download.
LondonTheatre.co.uk provides a useful cast & crew list and a short synopsis of each play.
I think we liked the first two plays a fair bit more than the last, but two out of three really ain’t bad for this sort of evening, so we were thoroughly satisfied.
We really loved Elmina’s Kitchen and also enjoyed Fix Up, both by Kwame Kwei-Armah when we saw them at the Cottesloe, so we thought this one would be a “must see”.
In truth, Statement of Regret was nowhere near as strong as the other plays, although it was worth the trip. This one was about a black think-tank on the brink of folding. Interesting subject matter but the play was a bit all over the place.
Even Michael Billington struggled to like it, even though he wanted to, here.
Philip Fisher in British Theatre Guide agrees – lots of interesting stuff but not a coherent play, here.
Still, Ricky in NYC really enjoyed it, here, and who are we to disagree?
My recollection of this one is extremely limited. We saw this on the Saturday evening between my father’s death and the funeral. The programme helps my memory, as does Janie’s recall (also dredged with the help of the programme) and the reviews.
Victoria Benedictsson was a Swedish writer who had a difficult time as a modern woman in the early days of women’s liberation. She killed herself relatively young, but not before writing this loosely autobiographical play in the late 1880s. The play is now seen as a precursor to Scandinavian works such as Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House.
I note from the programme that Nancy Carroll played the lead; I subsequently discovered that she is an Alleyn’s alum; good for her. She is an excellent actress. I also spotted in the programme that Paul Miller (now taking the Orange Tree Richmond from strength to strength) directed this production. In the round too; good training for the Orange Tree.
It was clearly one of those slow build, late 19th century dramas. Probably just as well given my/our state of mind that weekend; a frantic, high octane play such as Cyprus Avenue – the piece we saw the other night as I write – would not have gone down well in the circumstances.
Clare Bayley, who wrote the version of the play which was performed in this production, has a good page on this project, including interviews and stuff, on her site – here. She also includes some good quotes from the critics in her piece.
Indeed, it seems to have gone down well enough with the critics that matter: